WASHINGTON – Defense giant Lockheed Martin announced Thursday that it will bid to retain management of Sandia National Laboratories.
Matt Kramer, director of external communications for Lockheed Martin’s Space Systems division, told the Journal that the company is “proud” of its 23-year partnership with the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration, which oversees work at the nation’s nuclear weapons labs, including Sandia.
“Lockheed Martin intends to submit a bid for the Sandia National Laboratories Management and Operations contract competition,” Kramer said. “Lockheed Martin has helped Sandia maintain a steadfast focus on its core nuclear deterrence mission, delivering on-time and on-budget performance for five major life extension programs. At the same time, Sandia has advanced its role as a premier research and development institution, leading cutting-edge efforts in cybersecurity, energy technologies, nonproliferation and advanced computing.”
The Department of Energy first announced in 2011 that it planned to open the Sandia contract to new bidders but then granted a series of extensions to Lockheed Martin and its wholly owned subsidiary Sandia Corp. A new Sandia contract must be in place by April 2017 under the current schedule.
Sandia labs, based at Kirtland Air Force Base, is one of the Albuquerque area’s largest employers, with more than 10,500 workers 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 more work for the Department of Defense and U.S. intelligence agencies. The University of New Mexico last month announced it would join in a bid to manage the lab with Battelle, The Boeing Co., the University Texas System and the Texas A&M University System.
Critics of Lockheed Martin have said the company should be disqualified based on a 2014 report by the Department of Energy’s Office of Inspector General that concluded the firm wrongfully used federal funds for lab operations to lobby for the no-bid contract extension it received several years ago. Sandia Corp. and its parent company, Lockheed Martin, paid the federal government a $4.8 million fine for using tax dollars to lobby Congress and federal agencies for renewal of its then-$2.4 billion Sandia contract with the Department of Energy in violation of federal law.
“How can Lockheed Martin be entrusted to run the country’s biggest nuclear weapons lab when it intentionally violates established U.S. law?” asked Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, which scrutinizes budgets and operations at Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories.
Sandia got an “outstanding” overall performance rating in its annual federal evaluation, released last month, and the lab was awarded a $27.3 million fee, almost the full amount available based on performance in 2015. However, in the “leadership” category, Sandia Corp. was dinged because of the results of the Justice Department investigation.
“The allegations and subsequent settlement damaged the reputation of the Laboratory and the parent company,” the fiscal year 2015 NNSA evaluation said.
Undeterred, Kramer said Lockheed Martin and its subsidiary, Sandia Corp., are eager to continue their work in New Mexico.
“Sandia Corporation agreed last year to settle with the Department of Justice to put the matter behind it, learn from it and focus on its important national security mission,” Kramer said. “We believe we have successfully addressed the issue, and we’re focused on the future.”