The 2011 review evaluated each facility in the nuclear weapons complex.
Let’s examine the one that looked at how Los Alamos National Security LLC (LANS), the company established to run the Los Alamos National Laboratory, carried out NNSA objectives for 2011.
“NNSA specifies ‘what’ it wants rather than dictating to the contractor ‘how’ to get it done,” according to the report.
The reviews are important for many reasons, but one critical one is money. Built into the contract are incentive fees awarded based on results of these performance reviews.
How much? LANS, the Los Alamos management group — made up of the regents of the University of California, Bechtel, Babcock & Wilcox, and URS Energy and Construction — got a fixed-fee award of $26 million for running the lab. There was a pool of $60.7 million more in what are termed “at-risk fees” to be earned by LANS based on performance ratings. Also, a very good performance can add an additional year to the contract.
Because LANS was found to have had “another strong performance year,” it received an additional $50.1 million, or 83 percent, of the at-risk fees, plus the additional contract year.
The one area in which LANS was awarded 100 percent of its incentive fee, some $6.1 million, was in major weapons programs carried on with other facilities in the national complex. Two of these were programs to extend the lifespan of warheads of deployed weapons — the W-76 warhead for the Trident sub-launched intercontinental ballistic missile and the B-61, the tactical nuclear bomb deployed with NATO forces in Europe.
The W-76 award, $1.1 million, was for ensuring that the production program remained on the contract schedule. The W-76 is the most numerous warhead in the U.S. stockpile. Modernization of 800 W-76 warheads began in 2000 under the Bill Clinton administration; in 2005, the George W. Bush White House increased the number to 2,000.
The W-76 update stirred debate in Washington when the Obama administration’s budget for the NNSA called for slowing that work so more money could be devoted to B-61 modernization. At a March 14 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) asked NNSA Administrator Thomas D’Agostino: Was it true that the Obama budget “would delay the completion of the W-76 life extension program by four years and that the Navy in response has publicly expressed concern over that?”
D’Agostino replied that the production change still met “the Navy’s operational requirements.”
Sessions also said the Obama budget would “result in a two-year delay in the B-61 life extension program, moving the first production unit from 2017 to 2019.” Again, D’Agostino replied that the Defense Department supported the change. LANS also received a $1 million award for completing the life extension study for the B-61.