The National Nuclear Security Administration, still uncertain about the long-term future of the contract to manage Sandia National Laboratories, has granted incumbent Lockheed Martin a six-month extension of its current deal to manage the nuclear weapons research center.
Lockheed Martin’s contract expires Sept. 30. The NNSA said in December 2011 that it planned to put the contract out to bid, but that process has stalled, forcing the agency to extend Sandia’s current contract while it makes a decision about how to proceed. After its December 2011 announcement, the agency never issued the formal “request for proposals” that would formally kick off the bidding process.
“NNSA has exercised contract options to provide for continued performance through March 2014,” agency spokesman Josh McConaha said in a statement Thursday in response to questions from the Journal.
McConaha would not answer questions about what would happen after March 2014. But with an estimated 18-month lead time for the contract bidding process, and provisions in Lockheed Martin’s current contract that allow for further extensions, it is widely expected that the company will continue to manage Sandia until a new bidding process is complete.
Lockheed Martin has said it wants to bid on the contract, hoping to continue to manage Sandia. University of New Mexico officials have said they are in discussion with potential bidders about joining in some sort of partnership arrangement with a future Sandia manager.
Lockheed Martin and its predecessor, Martin Marietta, have managed Sandia since 1993. With headquarters at Kirtland Air Force Base on Albuquerque’s south side, Sandia is one of the nation’s three nuclear weapons design and maintenance laboratories. Its budget of $2.4 billion supports 8,700 employees.
NNSA officials have been publicly silent on the reasons for delay. But it coincides with a conflict over the agency’s other large bidding process, a joint contract to manage the Pantex nuclear weapons plant in Texas and the Y-12 plant in Tennessee. In January, the agency had awarded the contract to a joint venture headed by Lockheed Martin and Bechtel National. But losing bidders successfully appealed that decision and the agency is still sorting out the conflict.
While no request for proposals has been issued, there have been clues about what the NNSA might be looking for in a new contract management structure. In August 2012, the agency said it was looking at options for combining management of some work at Sandia and the agency’s Kansas City plant, which manufactures nuclear weapons parts. The agency also pursued such joint site management in the Pantex/Y-12 contract that is now under appeal.