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New LANL contractor should make ‘community commitment’

SANTA FE, N.M. — Los Alamos National Laboratory persists as the largest job supplier in northern New Mexico, generating the greatest economic impact throughout the region. The Regional Coalition of LANL Communities has been closely following the process and progress of naming the next LANL manager and operator, to oversee 10,000-12,000 jobs and a plethora of duties for the National Nuclear Security Administration and the Department of Energy.

NNSA is just 10 months away from selecting a new prime contractor to take over lab operations on Oct. 1, 2018. While the safety and security of all employees and contractors is, and should be, the highest priority to the oncoming contractor, the Regional Coalition monitors and engages in LANL efforts beyond daily activities, looking closely at its overall impact on our communities, especially in areas of economic and environmental impact.

Northern New Mexico is heavily dependent, both economically and politically, on the laboratory’s success. The current structure of LANL’s operating contract provides healthy tax contributions to state and local communities, and superb philanthropic investments that show positive effects throughout our region. The Regional Coalition views these two issues among the highest priorities for northern New Mexico.

The choice of the right LANL contractor is palpable for the region. The coalition has been working to preserve gross receipts tax from both Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories, which provide over $200 million in revenues while New Mexico suffers a deficit. The current law on the books would prevent the state from being able to collect on those funds should a nonprofit entity apply and be selected for the next management and operations contract. The Regional Coalition is working diligently at the Legislature to ensure this taxation law can be changed to preserve the revenues for the state and local communities from lab operators.

Moreover, moving beyond technical capacity, the next contractor should be focused on community commitment. The communities surrounding LANL are indeed the primary customers of safety and environmental protection, and also benefit through the existence of the lab. With the myriad needs of northern New Mexico, LANL can continue to have a meaningful impact by amplifying economic development, educational and workforce opportunities, and community giving through a strong community commitment plan. The Regional Community leadership wants to enact a vetted plan that includes the interests of all area communities and stakeholders.

We ask that the next prime contractor commit a minimum $3 million per year to ensure that these formerly established and essential programs continue to thrive, with a collaborative mindset, engaging communities to envision the future of our region.

Given that NNSA has mandated that the management and operations contract provide a measurable community commitment goal, the Regional Coalition and area stakeholders are developing a community commitment plan rooted in tackling northern New Mexico’s fundamental goals and interests. The coalition requests that the oncoming prime contractor discuss the potential adoption of our plan to ensure the overall success of the contractor’s tenure at LANL.

The achievements of Los Alamos National Laboratory add a tremendous economic, social and educational value throughout the region. We call on the next contractor to work directly with the Regional Coalition and other community leadership groups to ensure that the integrity, quality and efficacy of community commitment continues without interruption, and that ample investment is made to advance the efforts developed in this past decade.

In the collective interest of the region, northern New Mexico communities look forward to partnering in the work of the oncoming contractor to help achieve its management, operations and community commitment goals in the best way possible.

Romero is executive director of the Regioal Coalition of LANL Communities and Rendleman​ is the coalition’s communications and administrative manager. The coalition consists of cities, counties and pueblos in northern New Mexico.