Democratic News

Energy Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman today urged President Bush not to ignore the many attributes of Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories as he fleshes out his proposal for creating a Department of Homeland Security. Bingaman is both chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Department of Energy, and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, which authorizes funding levels for DOE laboratories. The Department of Homeland Security proposed last week by President Bush would inherit 169,000 employees and $37.4 billion from the agencies it would absorb, including Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. In a letter to the president, Bingaman said he is concerned that the Bush administration has focused too narrowly on the Lawrence Livermore and not enough on the capability of the Department of Energy complex as a whole. Bingaman noted that there are 11 DOE facilities, including Sandia and Los Alamos, which have much to offer. “Many of these laboratories have centers of excellence in homeland defense and would be duplicative if recreated at Lawrence Livermore. For instance, since the 1950s, Los Alamos National Laboratory has been our nation’s center of excellence for radiation detector development. Another example is Sandia National Laboratories, which is our nation’s center of excellence for microchip sensors to detect chemical and biological agents. I ask that, as you refine your proposal to Congress, you integrate the full capacity across the DOE,” Bingaman wrote. Bingaman emphasized that tapping into the labs will not require transferring any laboratory out of DOE’s jurisdiction. He said that such a move could, in fact, have a negative overall impact on national security. “Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is an integral part of the stockpile stewardship mission, your recent nuclear posture review, and the proposed drawdown in nuclear weapons pursuant to your recent treaty with Russia. Lawrence Livermore’s contribution to homeland security would occupy only 20 to 30 percent of its total research mission. Rather than moving the entire laboratory to the Department of Homeland Defense, it would be more appropriate to retain its facilities and core mission within the DOE and utilize a portion of its capabilities under a 'work for others' effort for homeland defense,” Bingaman wrote. # # #