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          Front Page




Udall Calls for Help on Labs

By John Fleck
Journal Staff Writer
    New Mexico's state leadership needs to band together to discuss the future of the state's national laboratories, much as state leaders did to deal with a proposal to close Cannon Air Force Base, Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M., said in a letter Friday to his colleagues.
    Udall's call comes as members of the House of Representatives prepare to act on a budget proposal that could mean the loss of more than a thousand jobs at Los Alamos and Sandia National laboratories.
    That vote is expected early next week, after which the Senate will take up the spending plan. The proposed House budget makes large cuts in nuclear weapons spending— the core of the labs' work.
    "We need a bipartisan, statewide effort to ensure our scientists have the funding needed to do the nation's work in the post-Cold War, post-9/11 world," Udall wrote. "I believe we need an open discussion about the best way our labs can contribute to these efforts and diversify their missions."
    Udall's letter got a lukewarm response from his colleagues. Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M., has been a vocal critic of the proposed cuts. She believes the emphasis now has to be on maintaining the labs' "core national security mission," said spokesman Enrique Knell.
    Chris Gallegos, spokesman for Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., echoed that argument, saying the emphasis now has to be on heading off the "colossal budget cuts" at the labs.
    Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M, said in a statement that Udall's idea "makes sense" but said that, in the meantime, effort is needed to head off cuts at the labs.
    Gov. Bill Richardson issued a statement supporting Udall's effort.