ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Kirtland Air Force Base has more than 100 “mission partners” on its 51,588 acres, including Sandia National Laboratories – which employs nearly half of the base’s nearly 21,000 employees – the National Nuclear Security Administration, which oversees Sandia, and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, charged with countering weapons of mass destruction.
Here are brief overviews of those three agencies.
Sandia National Laboratories
A multi-program national security laboratory, Sandia evolved from the Manhattan Project that developed the world’s first atomic bombs. Sandia has major research and development responsibilities in national security, energy and environmental technologies and economic competitiveness.
Since 1993, Sandia has been operated by Sandia Corp., the Lockheed Martin subsidiary that operates the lab for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration.
Sandia has participated in a major nuclear weapons modernization program representing one of the lab’s biggest endeavors since the end of the Cold War.
Today, keeping the U.S. nuclear stockpile safe, secure and effective is a major part of Sandia’s work.
Sandia is responsible for a life extension program on the B61-12 nuclear bomb; alterations on the W88 nuclear warhead; and is involved in the Mk 21 fuze-replacement program for the W87 nuclear warhead.
But Sandia also addresses other complex threats facing the nation by carrying out research and development in:
• Nuclear Weapons: Supporting U.S. deterrence policy by helping sustain, modernize and secure the nuclear arsenal.
• Defense Systems & Assessments: Supplying new capabilities to U.S. defense and national security communities.
• Energy & Climate: Ensuring the stable supply of energy and resources, and protection of infrastructure.
• International, Homeland & Nuclear Security: Focusing on the protection of nuclear assets and nuclear materials, and addressing nuclear emergency response and nonproliferation worldwide.
Sandia’s employees work at the laboratories’ headquarters on Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque; at a second lab in Livermore, Calif; and at other sites including Carlsbad, N.M.; Las Vegas, Nev.; Tonopah, Nev.; Amarillo, Texas; and Kauai, Hawaii.
As of February 2015, Sandia National Laboratories has about 10,500 employees. It’s annual operating costs are $2.78 billion.
The lab spent about $983 million on goods and services in fiscal year 2015, which ended on Sept. 30. About $381 million of that went to New Mexico businesses, accounting for about 39 percent of the total, according to its most recent economic impact report.
National Nuclear Security Administration/Albuquerque Complex
Since 1958, federal agencies with oversight of the nation’s nuclear assets have had a presence at Kirtland Air Force Base.
Today, that agency is the National Nuclear Security Administration, established by Congress in 2000 as a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy.
The NNSA is responsible for the safety, security and effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile – a mission that has to be fulfilled without nuclear explosive testing. It also works to reduce the global danger from weapons of mass destruction; provides the U.S. Navy with safe and effective nuclear propulsion; and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the U.S. and abroad.
In New Mexico, the NNSA has oversight over Sandia National Laboratories and Los Alamos National Laboratory.
The roughly 1,200 employees and contractors housed at NNSA’s Albuquerque Complex at Kirtland provide programmatic, business, technical, financial, legal and management services, according to Al Stotts, a public affairs specialist with the NNSA here.
But that expertise is struggling in an aging cluster of 25 buildings – some built in the 1950s – that is in dire need of replacement, retired Lt. Gen. Frank G. Klotz, undersecretary for nuclear security and administrator for the NNSA, said here earlier this year.
“They’re just not the quality work spaces we need for the quality of workforce we have,” Klotz said.
Plans call for a new 324,000-square-foot, multimillion-dollar building to be built near Kirtland’s Eubank Gate. Construction could begin as early as 2018. Congress has provided $8 million this fiscal year to begin designing the building, and President Obama has requested $12.9 billion for the NNSA for fiscal year 2017 – $15 million-plus of which, Klotz said, will go toward completing a final design, Klotz said.
NNSA will request about $50 million to begin construction in the fiscal year 2018 budget. An NNSA “fact sheet” on the project estimates the final cost at $204.5 million.
Speaking at an annual meeting of the Kirtland Partnership Committee here in January 2015, Klotz said the importance of Sandia National Laboratories, the NNSA Albuquerque Complex and their home – Kirtland Air Force Base – to the nation’s nuclear capabilities can hardly be overstated.
“Ever since Gen. (Leslie) Groves established the Z Division here in September 1945, Albuquerque and Kirtland have been at the very heart and soul of America’s nuclear weapon and nuclear security program – and remains so today,” Klotz said.
Groves was the Army Corps of Engineers officer who directed the Manhattan Project, which produced the world’s first nuclear bomb.
The NNSA traces its roots from the Atomic Energy Commission’s former Albuquerque Operations Office, which moved into surplus Air Force barracks on Kirtland in early 1958. The AEC became the Energy Research and Development Administration in 1975, which in turn became the Department of Energy in 1977.
Defense Threat Reduction Agency
Using the unique national test facilities at Kirtland Air Force Base (and White Sands Missile Range), the Defense Threat Reduction Agency – the Department of Defense agency charged with countering weapons of mass destruction – tests methods and equipment designed to defeat chemical and biological weapons, tests sensors designed to detect nuclear and radioactive materials, and conducts realistic training for select military personnel.
The agency’s main functions are threat reduction – including chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and high explosives – threat control, combat support and technology development, according to its public affairs office in Fort Belvoir, Va.
Kirtland is also home to the Defense Threat Reduction Information Analysis Center, storing information on nuclear weapons and radiological effects to provide an accessible library for the DOD and other federal agencies. The center holds nearly 230,000 documents, 10 million linear feet of film and 2 million photos.
DTRA traces its legacy to the establishment of the Armed Forces Special Weapons Project at Kirtland on Jan. 1, 1947. AFSWP was replaced by the Defense Atomic Support Agency in 1951, and DASA was replaced by the Defense Nuclear Agency in 1971. In 1996, the DNA was replaced by the Defense Special Weapons Agency and, two years later, was followed by – and remains part of – the Defense Threat Reduction Agency.
DTRA has satellite offices throughout the world, but outside of its headquarters at Fort Belvoir, the largest of those is at Kirtland.
The local office employs about 210 people – 120 civilians and 90 military. At any given time, it can house an additional 30 Reservists who come to Kirtland to attend the Defense Nuclear Weapons School, which provides war-fighters with training related to nuclear and radiological weapons, accident and incident response, and chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear modeling.
In Fiscal Year 2014, DTRA’s contracts in New Mexico totaled about $41.7 million. Of that, about $31.9 million went to 10 New Mexico-based companies. The annual civilian-only payroll for DTRA’s Kirtland facility is approximately $18 million.