April 11, 1996
Diverse opinions exist on the campus about the University of California's management of the three DOE Laboratories: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).
The issues involved are complex. The purpose of this booklet is to provide highlights of the most relevant information relating to the contractual relationships between the University of California and the DOE Laboratories.
For those faculty members interested in greater detail, hard copies of many documents and reports bearing on this issue are available for consultation at the following locations on UC Berkeley campus:
These documents can also be accessed through a web page located at UC Santa Cruz at the following address: http://scipp.ucsc.edu/~haber/UC_CORP/ (note: the final "UC_CORP" must be typed in upper case).
Prepared by Professor T.N. Narasimhan, Chair, UCB Committee on Research and Michelle L. Barer, Senior Policy Analyst, UCB Academic Senate
For more than forty years the University of California, through an initial accident of history, has operated the Nation's only two nuclear weapons design laboratories, at Los Alamos and Livermore. In 1996, the Regents will decide whether to renew the current five-year contract between the University and the US Department of Energy for operation of these two Laboratories as well as the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Prior to 1990 when the contract last came up for renewal, there had been no significant faculty input into this decision. Nine years ago, however, the Statewide Academic Council of the University of California appointed a committee (Advisory Committee on the University's Relations with the Department of Energy Laboratories) to assist the faculty in forming an opinion on the renewal. The Report was released in November 1989, and copies were sent to all members of the Senate. The Committee concluded (by a six-to-two majority) that the time had come for the University to turn its managerial role over to others. This advice was not taken and the contract was renewed for another five years.
The contract comes up for renewal in September 1997. By way of preparation, the Academic Council charged its University Committee on Research Policy (UCORP) , over eighteen months ago, to evaluate the contractual relationships between the University of California and the three national laboratories. In February, UCORP submitted its report to the Academic Council, recommending that UC phase out, in an orderly manner, the management of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and that UC continue its management of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL).
Meanwhile, the Council on DOE Laboratories, an advisory body of the President of the University of California, submitted a report to the President in February recommending that the contract between the University of California and all the three laboratories be continued.
Now, as the Board of Regents prepares to make a decision on this important matter, the entire faculty-at-large of the University of California has a second opportunity to play a significant role in the contract renewal decision process. It is hoped that the Berkeley faculty members will study the two opposing reports, inform themselves on the issues, participate in informed discussions and, if decided, take part in a general ballot under the auspices of the Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate.
(based on remarks delivered at the UCSB Academic Senate Informational meeting on January 31, 1996 by Professor Lawrence Badash, History of Science, Department of History, UCSB.)
The programs of these laboratories represent long-standing commitment to vital national needs. Technical competence in nuclear weapons technology is vital to the nation. The University performs a great public service by managing these programs. Although the University may not be the perfect institution to manage these laboratories, it is preferred to the available alternatives; the military, the civil service or private corporations. Because of profit motives, private corporations will not be fully committed to technical excellence and long-term vision.
These laboratories have contributed an impressive body of valuable, unclassified science to the general public. These laboratories are known world-wide for their scientific excellence. Several generations of highly qualified scientists and engineers have been trained in these laboratories. Why abandon a proven system in favor of some other unspecified and untried system and jeopardize national interest?
The synergism between the three laboratories and the University brings great benefit to faculty and students by way of research support and access to unique scientific equipment not normally available to academia. Many joint research institutes foster research collaboration between the laboratories and the University in diverse disciplines ranging from planetary sciences to public policy. In return, the name and the stature of the University helps the laboratories to attract the best scientific talents to work on extremely challenging research problems.
The effects of severing management ties between UC and the weapons labs on research are unknown. Because of the contractual agreement, the laboratories have a self-interest in encouraging laboratory-academic collaboration. Such collaborations are likely to be significantly hampered by the severance of contractual ties. The impact of severance of UC ties with LLNL and LANL on the future of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is uncertain. Even if DOE and UC agree to manage LBNL, it may well be that LBNL will find it extremely difficult to maintain its strength and stature. Consideration must also be given to the fact that financial support currently available to many hundreds of graduate students through these laboratories will be at risk.
With the end of The Cold War and the push towards non-proliferation and comprehensive test ban, the University must continue to serve the nation by managing these laboratories. Weapons research constitutes only a portion of the budget of these laboratories. Enormous opportunities exist to develop technologies for social benefit through non-classified research.
University's mission is education through open inquiry and free dissemination of knowledge. These ideals are diametrically opposed to weapons-directed research necessitating secrecy, control, and restraint of information and debate. To the extent that the Laboratories engage in classified research, this work is fundamentally in opposition to central values of the University.
The University does not manage the weapons laboratories in any real sense. Most substantive management tasks are fully delegated to the directors. Recurring major problems (such as Teller-Wood representations to the Congress about X-ray laser, improper congressional lobbying, treatment of whistle-blowers, restrictive personnel policy issues) have raised serious public questions about the quality of UC's active participation in management.
Contractually UC is obligated to implementing governmental policies related to weapons research. As a free and open institution, the University jeopardizes its values by unilaterally accepting policies related to the sensitive issue of research related to weapons of mass destruction. UC's role is inherently weakened because of the contractor-customer relationship between itself and DOE. The illusion that true University oversight is indeed in place leads to the incorrect assumption that UC has had a substantive role in seeing that advice flowing from the labs to the government is technically reliable, objective, and balanced. UC stewardship helps shield the labs from scrutiny. In the process, UC's credibility is at risk.
The only real oversight the laboratories receive is the self-oversight of the DOE. The opposing nature of the University and of the weapons labs makes it impossible for the University to provide adequate oversight and management. UC imprimatur on Laboratory activities is artificial and to some extent deceptive, since UC management is so limited.
Cooperation in the areas of teaching and research at National Laboratories is open and on an equal basis to all American Universities, regardless of their management relation; and UC's contractual fee is explicitly on the basis of no loss and no gain.
A separate contract agreement exists for the open Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory whose UC management poses no problem. LBNL can continue to perform outstanding public service to the nation through active interactions with UC faculty and students. LBNL does not do classified research, so the essential conflict with core University values is mitigated.
The post-war relationship between the University of California and the Department of Energy laboratories was set up in 1943 as part of the Cold War and has functioned under the jurisdiction of the executive branch largely outside the normal process of review and oversight essential in a democratic society . Whatever justification such an arrangement might once have had no longer exists.
The arguments against the ability of private corporations to manage the laboratories has to be viewed with caution. Until recently, AT&T managed the Sandia Laboratories with distinction on a non- profit basis. More thought on institutional alternatives are necessary before dismissing the possibility of corporate management. For example, a non-profit management structure could be developed for these Laboratories as has been developed for Argonne and others. Also, other universities have expressed interest in managing Los Alamos.
True. The weapons labs employ a collection of outstanding scientists, engineers and technicians whose technical productivity is internationally renowned. At the same time it must be noted that many industrial laboratories in the country are also known for their technical excellence.
What criteria should one use to evaluate this complex issue? Benefits to the University? Serving the nation without any profit?
What is the mission of a great public University? Does it include taking responsibility for very large complex institutions not directly concerned with education but dealing with matters of great sensitivity? To what extent should the University rise to serve the nation under extraordinary circumstances? To what extent should extraordinary service to the nation be weighed against the University's commitment to openness of inquiry and freedom of speech?
What constitutes the University? How critical is UC's shared governance with respect to management of the DOE labs? Is shared governance adequately functioning in this area?
Is the University providing a great service to the nation by giving stature to national policies of extraordinary importance? Or is the University's name recognition merely being used to legitimatize such policies?
Will the effectiveness of the weapons laboratories be diminished if they are managed by private corporations with profit motives? Will the strength and stature of Berkeley's own LBNL be diminished, in the long run, if the synergism between it and the other two laboratories is altered?
How does one distinguish between pragmatism and principle? In this era of shrinking research resources, how does a public University, of great stature, strike a balance between the practicality of funding and its moral values?
Is the issue of UC management strictly one of science and technology? Or does it intrinsically involve other branches of knowledge, such as humanities and social sciences?