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Big names show interest in Sandia contract

Technical Area 1 of Sandia National Laboratories. (Source: Sandia National Laboratories)

Technical Area 1 of Sandia National Laboratories. (Source: Sandia National Laboratories)

Copyright © 2016 Albuquerque Journal

WASHINGTON — The National Nuclear Security Administration late Wednesday formally announced the opening of competition for a $2.9 billion management contract at Sandia National Laboratories, and 19 organizations from around the country are jockeying for a piece of the action.

With some heavy hitters in both the corporate and university arenas expressing interest, one observer with NNSA experience predicted a “robust” competition.

The NNSA, which oversees the Albuquerque-based nuclear weapons lab, released its final request for proposal and said it “will conduct a full and open competition” for awarding the contract, which will consist of a four-month transition phase and a five-year base period with options for up to five additional years.

The Department of Energy first announced in 2011 that it planned to open the contract to new bidders but then granted a series of extensions to Sandia’s current manager, defense giant Lockheed Martin. A new Sandia contract must be in place by April 2017 under the current schedule.

A list of companies and organizations that have expressed at least preliminary interest in the contract includes major national defense contractors such as Lockheed, Boeing, Battelle and Fluor, as well as institutions of higher learning, including the University of New Mexico, the University of Texas, Texas A&M University and the University of Arizona.

One possibility would involve a corporation partnering with a university to run Sandia, much as the University of California teams with the Bechtel Corp. to manage Los Alamos National Laboratory in northern New Mexico.

With headquarters at Kirtland Air Force Base, Sandia is one of the Albuquerque area’s largest employers, with more than 10,500 people on its current payroll and an annual budget of $2.9 billion. Sandia’s primary task is research, development and maintenance of U.S. nuclear weapons, but in the past decade its workload has broadened to include a range of other missions, including a growing amount of work for the Department of Defense and U.S. intelligence agencies.

Tyler Przybylek, a former chief counsel to the National Nuclear Security Administration during the administration of President George W. Bush, said an initial review of the entities interested in the Sandia contract indicates there is serious interest from the corporate and academic communities.

“A list of almost 20 firms does not mean that there could be almost 20 proposals,” Przybylek told the Journal on Wednesday. “It just means that these firms have some interest. There are firms on that list that could lead proposal teams. You can see the large contractors who have proposed on DOE/NNSA work in the past. My review of the list tells me that there is a good likelihood that NNSA will enjoy robust competition for the Sandia contract.”

A 45-page “statement of work” released as part of the NNSA’s request for proposals at Sandia reflects much of the cutting-edge science already taking place at the lab, including “defense, energy efficiency, industrial competitiveness, engineering sciences, atomic physics, computational sciences, biological sciences, nano-science and other areas of national interest.”

Sen. Tom Udall, a New Mexico Democrat, told the Journal on Wednesday that as NNSA considers bids to manage Sandia, “the most important thing is that we have an entity or entities that have experience, that are going to work well with people who are there (existing lab scientists and others) and in particular have an expertise in science.”

Interest expressed

The NNSA on Tuesday released the names of companies and universities that have expressed interest in conducting some of the work at Sandia. They are:

  • BAH
  • Battelle
  • Boeing
  • BWXT
  • CGI Federal
  • Comanche Nation Construction
  • Definitive Logic Corp.
  • Fluor
  • Information Technology Company, LLC
  • Innovative Technology Partnerships, LLC
  • Lockheed Martin
  • Orbital ATK
  • Pro2Serve
  • Project Performance Company, LLC
  • System 1
  • Texas A&M University System
  • University of Arizona
  • University of New Mexico
  • University of Texas System

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