Acting on the recommendation of University of California President Richard C. Atkinson, the UC Board of Regents today (June 21) authorized the start of negotiations to continue the university's management of the Lawrence Berkeley, Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos national laboratories.
The Regents' action, taken at their June business meeting in San Francisco, was unanimous. The university has managed the laboratories as a public service since their inception, a total of nearly 54 years. The current contracts with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) run concurrently for five years and expire in September 1997.
Preceding the Regents' action was a presentation by the university's faculty leadership showing strong faculty support for continuing UC's management of the Livermore and Los Alamos laboratories in particular. In voting by academic senates at six of UC's nine campuses, 61 percent of faculty were in favor and 39 percent opposed to continuing the relationship.
Discussion of President Atkinson's recommendation came Thursday (June 20) in a meeting of the Regents' Committee on Oversight of the Department of Energy Laboratories, which moved the recommendation to the full board for its consideration today.
In the committee session, V. Wayne Kennedy, UC vice president for business and finance, told Regents that "two themes will be central to our discussions with the DOE." Energy Secretary Hazel O'Leary sounded both themes last month when she announced the DOE's decision to seek five-year extensions of the laboratory management contract with the university.
"One theme is the scientific and technical excellence the university brings to its management of the three laboratories," Kennedy said. "This has been a hallmark of our relationship with the federal government over the years, and it has resulted in an unparalleled record of achievement by the laboratories."
The other theme, Kennedy said, addresses the business and operational management of the laboratories. He said the university, working with the DOE and the laboratories, has made significant progress through a "new and innovative" system of performance-based management instituted as part of the current contracts in 1992.
Noting that O'Leary cited this progress in her announcement of the DOE decision, Kennedy said "our contracts truly were forerunners of the quality-focused management principles and practices the DOE is requiring of contractors."
O'Leary also pointed to the need to consider in negotiations with the university additional features of the DOE's Contract Reform Initiative, which calls for increased efficiency, accountability and cost-effectiveness on the part of federal contractors.
"All aspects of contract reform will be open for discussion with the DOE," Kennedy told the Regents. "We believe we can embrace many additional aspects of the Contract Reform Initiative while also recognizing the university's status as a not-for-profit contractor and an instrumentality of the state of California."
In addition, Kennedy said the university would work with the DOE to address issues related specifically to the Los Alamos laboratory in New Mexico. These include the management of environmental, safety and health programs; joint efforts with educational institutions in New Mexico to enhance academic collaboration and educational outreach; and appropriate participation in new initiatives to help stimulate economic growth and diversification in northern New Mexico.
The results of faculty voting on the university's laboratory management were presented by Arnold L. Leiman, chairman of the UC Academic Council and a non-voting faculty representative on the Board of Regents. He is a UC Berkeley psychology professor.
The votes were in response to a report by an Academic Council committee on research policy. It recommended ending UC's management of the Los Alamos and Livermore laboratories, mainly because of the two laboratories' work in nuclear weapons research and development.
A total of 2,519 faculty members cast mail-in ballots, with 1,524 voting in favor of retaining the relationship and 995 against. The voting took place on the Berkeley, Davis, Irvine, Riverside, San Diego, and Santa Barbara campuses. In all cases except Santa Barbara -- the vote there was 172 to 185 -- faculty voted in favor of the university's continued management of the two laboratories.
Leiman attributed the favorable outcome to political factors affecting the laboratories' mission in recent years and "significant changes" in the current laboratory management contracts, including operational improvements and enhanced opportunities for collaborative research in the national interest by the laboratories and UC campuses. He also cited "the prospect for future engagement with laboratory scientists."
The Regents also heard from UC Provost C. Judson King on current and potential collaborative research activities bringing together researchers and students at the laboratories, UC campuses, and other academic institutions, including those in New Mexico. "We feel we can go further with this," King said.
More information on faculty votes on UC's lab management is available from David Krogh, special assistant to the chair of the Academic Council, (510) 642-6068. See also the summary of campus activities and other relevant documents pertaining to the renewal of the contracts for UC management of the DOE Labs by clicking on the UCORP Web page on the DOE Labs.