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UC Given 8-month Contract Extension To Manage LANL


Associated Press
      LOS ALAMOS — The University of California has been given an eight-month contract extension to run Los Alamos National Laboratory for the federal government.
    The National Nuclear Security Administration said Friday the contract was extended to next May 31 allow more time to pick the next lab manager and to give lab workers more time to examine their employment options.
    The UC contract was to have expired Sept. 30.
    The NNSA has an option to extend the contract until Sept. 30, 2006, but NNSA officials do not think that will be necessary, said Kevin Roark, a lab spokesman.
    Linton Brooks, the head of the NNSA, told lab employees that a decision on a new lab manager will be made in November, and the six-month transition to the new contractor will begin Dec. 1, Roark said.
    The university has run the nuclear weapons lab since the lab was founded in 1943.
    A series of fiscal and security lapses at the lab in recent years has drawn criticism of the university's performance as lab manager.
    The U.S. Department of Energy announced in April 2003 that it would seek bids for a new lab manager. The deadline for bids is July 19.
    The impact of the potential switch in lab managers on employee benefits and pensions has generated concern within the lab and among state leaders and the state's congressional delegation.
    Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M., whose district includes the lab, had pressed the federal government to extend the UC contract as soon as possible to help alleviate employee angst.
    Lab employees will have until May 31 to decide among three employment options:
    _To become an employee under the new contractor and roll their existing benefits into the new plan.
    _To retire and try to seek employment from the new contractor.
    _To freeze their UC benefits and roll their vacation time and sick leave into the new plan.
    The university has teamed with Bechtel Corp., Washington Group International and BWX Technologies Inc. to try to keep the contract.
    Also vying for the contract is Lockheed Martin Corp. which is leading a team including the University of Texas System, Fluor Corp. and CH2M Hill.
    The Los Alamos lab, with about 8,000 UC employees and 3,000 contract workers, is one of the nation's three chief installations responsible for maintaining the nation's nuclear arsenal.