A Report by
The University of California President's Council on the National Laboratories

February 8, 1996


The University of California is approaching a decision as to whether to continue the contract for managing the three laboratories: LBNL, LLNL, and LANL. Since it was formed three years ago at the beginning of the current contract, the UC President's Council on the National Laboratories has reviewed the scientific and technological programs, and the management and leadership of the Laboratories. The Council has concluded that continued University management of these Laboratories is in the best interest of the nation and is of major value both to the Laboratories and to the University of California. This report states the Council's reasons for arriving at this conclusion.

The Council assesses the scientific and technical excellence of the Laboratories to be consistent with the highest UC standards and a credit to the University. The Council applauds the increased collaboration occurring between the Laboratories and the campuses, which it believes to be of mutual benefit to the University and the Laboratories. With regard to the nuclear weapons and national security programs at Los Alamos and Livermore, there has been important progress in achieving improved cooperation and coordination of their efforts into a single national program that retains the crucial elements of scientific independence and peer review. The Council believes the current oversight structure under the UC contracts aided effectively in the Laboratories' accomplishing the goals of a strong stockpile stewardship and management program that underlies the nation's current commitment to negotiate a true zero-yield comprehensive test ban treaty.

Based on the arguments discussed in the body of this report, the Council recommends that the University negotiate new contracts for continued management of the three Laboratories.


The University of California (UC) President's Council on the National Laboratories (hereinafter referred to the "Council") was established in 1992 as one part of President Gardner's 1991 plan entitled, "Enhanced University Management of the Department of Energy Laboratories. " The Council, which is chaired by Dr. Sidney Drell, is appointed by the President and is responsible for advising him on all matters related to the management and operation of the three DOE Laboratories: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), and Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).

The general goal of the Council is to improve the effectiveness with which the University discharges its overall responsibilities in managing the Laboratories under the contracts between the University and DOE. The charter of the Council defines its functions and is attached as Appendix 1.

The Council is composed of some twenty members who represent the University faculty, academia in general, government, private industry, and the UC Office of the President. The Council members are individuals who have extensive management, policy, or technical expertise across a broad spectrum of science, technology, and defense topics. Council members were selected with an effort to balance the expertise of the membership across the issues and areas of concern that the Council addresses. The membership of the Council is attached as Appendix 2. It should be noted that, for purposes of this recommendation to the President, the Office of the President officers and the Laboratory Directors who serve as ex-officio members of the Council were recused from participation.

On August 25, 1995, the Council wrote to then President Peltason to express its belief that continued management of the Laboratories by the University of California is in the best interest of the nation and also is of major value both to the Laboratories and to the University of California system. In that letter, the Council urged that the University take initial steps toward contract negotiations with the DOE for continued University management of LBNL, LLNL, and LANL. This paper provides specifics regarding the Council's recommendation and the benefits that it sees for continued UC management of the Laboratories. Because the Council believes that decisions regarding continued UC management of the Laboratories should be based on the national interest, this paper emphasizes those benefits that accrue to the nation. While the Council believes that the national benefits fully justify continued UC management, this paper also stresses that continued management of the Laboratories is good for the University as a whole. While many of these reasons have been elucidated in previous debates on this issue, the Council wishes to provide those in the UC Community that are new to this question with more comprehensive arguments for continued UC management of the Laboratories.

The Council understands that controversy regarding management of the Laboratories has centered on operation of the two weapons Laboratories, LLNL and LANL. For that reason, most of the Council's recommendation regarding continued management also centers on the reasons that the University should continue operation of those specific Laboratories. The Council believes that LBNL and the University are so integrated in their history, location, and scientific personnel and interactions that operation of that Laboratory by any entity other than UC would not be realistic and certainly would be detrimental to LBNL's continued scientific health and growth.


For over fifty years, the nation's elected officials have mandated that the country will follow a policy of nuclear deterrence. Throughout that time, those leaders have assigned various aspects of the nuclear weapons mission to LANL and LLNL. Although the end of the Cold War has brought significant changes, nuclear deterrence will continue to be a part of U.S. national security for the foreseeable future. As recently as August 11, 1995, President Clinton stated, "...the United States must and will retain strategic nuclear forces sufficient to deter any future hostile foreign leadership with access to strategic nuclear forces from acting against our vital interests and to convince it that seeking a nuclear advantage would be futile." To that end, the President considers "the maintenance of a safe and reliable nuclear stockpile to be a supreme national interest of the United States." However, at the same time, the President placed a new and extremely challenging demand on the Laboratories in meeting this mission by asserting his commitment to negotiate a zero yield Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

As result, the Laboratories retain a critical and challenging nuclear weapons mission, but it is a very different one than in past history. The mission is now to safeguard the nuclear deterrent without nuclear testing and to retire thousands of weapons and weapons components in a safe and environmentally sound manner. They further have the emerging crucial mission of helping to protect the nation and the world from those aspiring to acquire and use nuclear weapons for terrorism or to contribute to regional or international blackmail.

If the United States is to enter into an era without nuclear weapons testing, the physics and chemistry of these weapons will have be understood more comprehensively than in the past in order to assure the safety and reliability of the stockpile as it ages. Under current national policy and under a CTBT, a weapon cannot simply be detonated at the Nevada Test Site to perform a spot-check of its performance reliability. To compensate for this inability to test, the Laboratories will have to develop new and creative means to understand and confirm the effects of the aging process. This challenge will require the best scientists to work on these tasks -- those with the most creativity and the best comprehension of a complex and arcane science. It should be noted that the President determined that the nation could enter into CTBT negotiations only after assurance that the Laboratories could meet this challenge. On September 25, 1995, President Clinton stated:

"I was able to make that [decision to seek a zero yield CTBT] based on assurances by the Secretary of Energy and the Directors of the Department of Energy's nuclear weapons labs that we can meet the challenge of maintaining our nuclear deterrent under a CTBT through a Science Based Stockpile Stewardship program without nuclear testing. To meet the challenge of ensuring confidence in the safety and reliability of our stockpile I have concluded that the continued vitality of all three DOE nuclear weapons laboratories [LLNL LANL and the Sandia National Laboratories] will be essential In accordance with this conclusion I have directed the Department of Energy to maintain nuclear weapons responsibilities and capabilities adequate to support the science-based stockpile stewardship program required to ensure continued confidence in the safety and reliability of the nuclear-weapons stockpile in the absence of nuclear testing."

Only with confirmation of the effectiveness of the enduring stockpile will the nation have the confidence in its deterrent capability required to remain a signatory to a CTBT. It is a testament to the Laboratories that the President and the Department of Energy had sufficient confidence in the ability of the Laboratories to meet this challenge that a national policy of pursuit of a CTBT could be initiated. It also should be noted that the President's statement reinforced the need to maintain the continued vitality of both LLNL and LANL to fulfill this challenge.

Similarly, with ratification of START I in 1994, the nation committed itself to a significant drawdown of its strategic arsenal by the year 2001. (Although START II, which would commit the nation to substantially larger reductions in the arsenal by 2003, was signed in 1993, it has not yet been ratified by Russia.) The safe dismantlement and environmentally-sound disposal of these aging weapons and weapons components have presented and will continue to present challenges to this research community.

Further, with regard to the nuclear weapons and national security programs at LANL and LLNL, University oversight through the Council has been instrumental in the development of improved coordination of the two Laboratories' work into a single national program without unnecessary competition and duplication, but retaining strong and important scientific independence and peer review.

In addition to providing the nation's leaders with enough confidence in the stockpile to enter a CTBT, the Laboratories are very involved in many related efforts, including nonproliferation, counterproliferation, treaty verification, and international nuclear inspections. These efforts are even more critical in the present-day world with its many would-be proliferants than in the past. With respect to these nations, our scientific and technological expertise and superiority are critical components of our deterrent, particularly as we continue to reduce the size of our nuclear arsenal.

In a related effort, the Laboratories have made great progress with a new initiative to work with Russia to provide enhanced security for their nuclear material and weaponry. Since the breakdown of the military state of the Former Soviet Union, its nuclear material and weapons have become particularly vulnerable to theft and sale. At their initiative, the Laboratories began a lab-to-lab program with the Russian scientists and labs to enhance the safeguards on the Russian nuclear materials. This initiative has been very successful to date and has received increasing funding from the U.S. government.

Thus, the Council believes that the Laboratories are faced with performing a vital, but increasingly difficult mission. As a result, it believes that it is critical that the Laboratories continue to be defined by the highest standards of scientific quality and by other more elusive, but no less important, characteristics, such as openness, scientific freedom, and independence. In this regard, the Council endorses a 1978 statement of the Gerberding Committee (a University committee commissioned to study UC management of the Laboratories) that stated " ...although the University cannot formally and directly influence national nuclear weapons and energy policy, it can beneficially affect the character and quality of the Laboratories and thus perform a valuable service to the public." The Council believes there are a number of ways in which UC management beneficially affects the character and quality of the Laboratories' work, especially in the area of nuclear weapons, and thus provides a national service.

Congressional passage of the Atomic Energy Act in 1946, which placed nuclear weapons research under civilian control, institutionalized a form of "checks and balances" in this extremely critical area. The University is not only a civilian institution; it is a public entity. Thus, it is fully accountable to the State of California and its taxpayers in all facets of its operation. This lays it open to full public scrutiny, thus mitigating the closed culture that can develop in an institution where secrecy is often required. Furthermore, the tradition of open academic debate is deep and pervasive in the UC way of operation.

It must be acknowledged that nuclear weapons decisions are based upon information that must be kept guarded. Thus, it is more incumbent that the nation's policy-makers be exposed to the full spectrum of scientific and technical opinion in these matters. They must be given independent advice that is founded only in the science and not in the policies of any Department or Administration. The Laboratories, under UC management, have demonstrated on a number of occasions in recent years that they feel confident and free to present views that are independent of those expressed by officials in government. One key reason they are able to do so is that they have the backing and the support of the University based on its policy of intellectual freedom. The prestige and the mere size of the University of California mean that it will never become dependent on any income or other benefits that it might derive from managing the Laboratories. The University's intrinsic culture allows it to pursue a long-range vision in its Laboratory management that is not tied to an immediate or parochial "bottom line." The University can resist pressure to conform to the sponsor's positions. The Council believes that the values instilled into the Laboratories by the University's management of them have contributed, and will continue to contribute, essentially to their high quality.

The Council has stated its belief that having the best scientists and managers committed to the Laboratories' difficult new challenges remains crucial. In no position is this more critical than in the selection of the Laboratories' Directors. University management of the weapons Laboratories has always provided the research environment that attracts and retains the best scientists and that is conducive to this most important national endeavor. The Council agrees with a 1979 Energy Research Advisory Board Report (the "Buchsbaum Report") that determined the following: "It is of the utmost importance that the U.S. retain, in the crucial and controversial area affecting nuclear deterrence, people who are at once technically outstanding and as independent as possible from bureaucratic and political restraints on the expression of unpopular views. The combination of the University, laboratory, and relevant Government management has served this end to date. We believe this combination should be preserved." Indeed, the Council believes University management has brought a tradition of scientific excellence and innovation to all aspects of Laboratory work, including that involving national security. This emphasis on scientific excellence becomes particularly important in those areas where Laboratory management has some flexibility in establishing its scientific direction and initiatives.

Finally, there are ground swells of change occurring in Washington, both in Congress and in the Administration with regard to the future of the Laboratories. Some of the changes are likely to result in further reductions in their size and scope. These are times when stability and experience are desperately needed in order to keep the very best scientific and technical staff on whom the Laboratories must rely for a strong and successful program that is focused on the important tasks at hand. University management spanning some fifty years provides the stability and the long term, first-hand knowledge to lead these Laboratories through the turbulent and challenging times ahead.


The Council believes it is important that it also express the advantages for the University of California, as a whole, that the Council sees for continued management of the Laboratories. Many members of the Council are faculty of the University of California and believe that their colleagues and the University's students should be aware of these benefits.

The Laboratories have a record of scientific excellence for which the University of California can be proud. They conduct extensive basic and applied research across many disciplines, often integrating these disciplines into large teams that tackle the complex problems of the current world. Many such research programs require large research teams, multi-million dollar machines and facilities, and multidisciplinary and multi-institutional networking. The Laboratories excel at such "big science" efforts and, in those particular cases where it may be relevant, can carry the research through the developmental phases that are required prior to demonstration of commercial viability. This is an aspect of scientific endeavor that complements the excellent, but generally smaller-scale, research conducted by faculty at the University. Indeed, some of the Laboratories' significant contributions have been possible only through such collaborative work with the University campuses. Important research areas in which such synergies have proven particularly fruitful include development of the world's first third-generation soft x-ray facility and associated advances in crystallography and lithography; global climate modeling; computer simulation of the generation and evolution of the earth's magnetic field; an accelerator mass spectrometry research facility and associated innovations in biomedical and environmental sciences; and experimental astrophysics. The University's spectrum of research capability and opportunities for the academic staff and faculty are greatly enhanced by this important Laboratory strength. Its experience in managing big science places the University in an exclusive set of academic institutions with this special capability.

The faculty and students at the UC campuses are greatly advantaged through collaborations with the Laboratories. The Laboratories can provide scientific and technological expertise and state of-the-art facilities that are unique in the nation. The Council notes that the issue of increased collaboration has received considerable attention during the present contract period and that substantive progress has been achieved. The Council strongly believes that even greater collaboration should be fostered and supported through whatever means possible and that barriers to such interactions should be eliminated to the extent possible. Exposure to the unclassified parts of the Laboratories' R&D environment is an educational opportunity for students that should be capitalized on and utilized whenever possible.

UC management of the Laboratories has been highly beneficial to developing a degree of campus laboratory collaboration that the Council applauds. In particular, the Laboratories devote a significant amount of their own discretionary funding to collaboration with the UC campuses. While the UC Office of the President funds a small number of collaborations through a fund derived from the compensation that it receives to manage the Laboratories, the Laboratories support campus collaborations at a level many times that of the President's Office. Specifically, the Laboratory Directors have targeted such collaboration as one of the primary uses to which they apply the discretionary funds that they receive as a performance incentive from the contract management compensation fund. The fact that the Directors apply their incentive money to collaboration with the campuses indicates their conviction that these efforts are of great benefit to their Laboratories.


The Council is aware that there are some costs to the University for managing the Laboratories, but these costs do not include actual dollars that would otherwise go to the University's educational efforts. State funds are not used to support Laboratory work. Funds and resources are not directed from campus educational, research, or administrative activities to support Laboratory activities. Further, the University is reimbursed by the Department of Energy for both direct and indirect costs associated with its management of the Laboratories.

The Council is aware that some would question the amount of time that UC's senior managers devote to management of the Laboratories. Since the Council strongly believes that the Laboratories perform a vital service to the nation and that the University's management of them is integral to their success, it of course believes that this time is well spent and well justified Since the Council believes these Laboratories to be unique and critical enterprises, it endorses and applauds the University's commitment of its senior administrators to this public and national service. The University has also filled and/or created several senior positions as needed to perform Laboratory oversight and management. Nonetheless, if the UC President feels that campus issues require the full time and attention of his two most senior managers, other management structures could be devised to assign a senior official full-time to issues regarding management of the Laboratories and that official could be paid solely by the management compensation fund.

The Council is also aware that some contend that the controversy that sometimes results from Laboratory operations or that often surrounds nuclear weapons has been at times an unwelcome burden on the University. The Council regrets the controversy that sometimes involves the Laboratories, particularly when that controversy is used to propagate inaccurate or slanted information. However, the Council believes that the University should not retreat from an issue simply because there is controversy, such as will always exist in consideration of issues like genetic research and nuclear weapons. Differences of opinion and the controversy that follows such differences are part of our democracy. The Council is sensitive to the fact that the Laboratories and the University should cooperate to better understand each other's needs, activities, and sensitivities. As part of its agenda, the Council continues to work to improve this understanding and communication.


Finally, the Council would like to express its optimism that the progress which the 1992 contracts between the DOE and the University have brought about is indicative of further improvements that might be accomplished in the negotiation of new contracts for continued management of the Laboratories. The most recent contracts sought to address some of the criticisms that had been leveled at management of the Laboratories, and the Council believes that improvements have been realized. The University has increased its oversight of the Laboratories in a number of ways. On the programmatic side, President Gardner, prior to signing the new contracts, announced that he would form this Council. Several of the present Council members also served on the predecessor UC Presidential advisory bodies, including the Scientific and Academic Advisory Committee (SAAC) and the Scientific and Educational Advisory Committee (SEAC). Those members all agree that the current Council has surpassed these committees in service to the UC President and to the Laboratories by enhancing and broadening the level of review of the Laboratories' scientific programs, and by the extent of its advice and counsel, both to the President and the Laboratory Directors. As one example, the Council believes that its assessment of the Laboratories' scientific and technological performances has proven constructive and beneficial to the Office of the President, the Laboratories, and the DOE. For this assessment, the Council has utilized the scientifically-accepted standard of peer review without placing excessive demands on the Laboratories. The Council's performance measures have been fully consistent with those appropriate to the academic programs of a university as great as UC. While the Council believes that the process could be improved through modification of certain contractual requirements for numerics, it also feels that the process has instilled a discipline in the evaluations that is hard to maintain without such a process. The Council is committed to continued improvement in the evaluative process to increase its efficiency and its benefit to the University, the Laboratories, and the DOE.

As previously mentioned, the Council heartily applauds the increased collaboration that is occurring between the Laboratories and the campus faculty, and it endorses contractual modifications that could further enhance and facilitate these efforts. The Council notes that the University recently established the position of Vice Provost for Research to oversee the quality of the scientific programs of the Laboratories and to increase research interactions and synergies with the campuses.

In response to previous criticisms of administrative aspects of Laboratory management, the University established a new Laboratory Administration Office (LAO) to perform administrative oversight and to administer these contracts with the DOE more actively. In this regard, the contracts were rather innovative for their time in establishing good performance as the metric for satisfactory execution of the contracts. The LAO has worked with the Laboratories and the DOE to improve administrative performance and the Council understands that significant and measurable improvements in performance have been accomplished. The Council is hopeful that such performance-based, rather than compliance-based, evaluation will begin to lead the DOE's management into the direction espoused by the Galvin Task Force, that being a marked reduction in nonproductive and extraneous bureaucracy. This is a direction that the Council wholeheartedly endorses as necessary to maintain and enhance the scientific health of the Laboratories. The current contracts also recognize the importance of environment, safety, and health issues at the Laboratories. The University Administration acknowledges and accepts that managerial responsibility and public accountability demand that both the UC and Laboratory managements give serious attention to these matters. The Council also recognizes this responsibility and has committed through its ES&H Panel to assist the Laboratories in performing these programs in an exemplary manner consistent with the University's overall standards.


As stated in the Council's August 25, 1995 letter to the University's President, the Council has reviewed the scientific and technological programs, and the management and leadership of LBNL, LLNL, and LANL for over three years. This review has led the Council to conclude that continued University management of the Laboratories is, first and foremost, of benefit to the nation. Thus, the Council believes that the University's management is a national service, and one that the University should undertake wholeheartedly. While the Council believes that this should be sufficient motivation to the University's leadership, the Council believes that this management is also of major value to the entire University of California system, as well as to the Laboratories themselves. Therefore, the Council is hopeful that the DOE will engage and the University will actively participate in negotiation of contracts for management of the Laboratories that would extend through the year 2002.

Finally, the Council understands that the possibility exists that either the University or the DOE could decide to continue UC management of only one or two of the three currently-managed Laboratories. The Council would like to encourage both parties to continue common UC management of all three Laboratories. The Council believes that common oversight led to the previously mentioned consolidation of the two nuclear weapons programs at LANL and LLNL into a single, greatly-improved national program. The Council believes that the current budgetary climate presents the opportunity for such common management of all three Laboratories to facilitate additional scientific and administrative efficiencies and consolidations. This budgetary stringency has also required cuts at the Federal level in the infrastructure support that had previously been afforded to the local and regional economies of the various government laboratories. The Council urges the University to lend its expertise and assistance, in particular, to the Northern New Mexico regional community to enable diversification and strengthening of its economic structures. The Council is pleased that the University has already initiated a study to determine how it could best assist in this process.

The Council is honored to assist the University in the important task of managing the Laboratories, and it will continue to monitor and review their management.