Congressional Record: September 5, 2000 (Senate)
Page S7985-S7991ENERGY AND WATER DEVELOPMENT APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2001 [...] Mr. DOMENICI. [...] But it is not just the physical infrastructure that is deteriorating within the weapons complex, morale among the scientists at the three weapons laboratories is at an all-time low. For example, the last two years at Los Alamos have witnessed security problems that greatly damaged the trust relationship between the government and its scientists. Additionally, research funds have been cut and punitive restrictions on travel imposed. As a result, the labs are having great difficulty recruiting and retaining America's greatest scientists. To help address this problem, the bill has increased the travel cap from $150 million to $200 million, and increased Laboratory Directed Research and Development. And I intend to offer additional amendments to increase LDRD and travel. [...] I want to make sure everybody understands that right now, this day, 5 weeks before the new fiscal year, the nuclear defense laboratories, which essentially are made up of a piece of the [[Page S7988]] National Laboratory in Tennessee called Oak Ridge, called Y-12, plus Los Alamos National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque and Livermore, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, are the laboratories that maintain our nuclear weapons activities that measure the performance and ability of our nuclear weapons, and their safety and reliability. Right now, they are fragile because the morale is low. Throughout this short debate, I will keep mentioning to Senators that we better be careful with reference to the scientists who have done the big defense work who we must retain at these laboratories to perfect our Stockpile Stewardship Program, which allows no weapons testing while we are still going to protect the reliability of our weapons. We need to retain the old heads who have done this work for so long. At Los Alamos there are about 40 of them who are in the X division, including NEST or the Nuclear Emergency Search Team. Their morale is very low because, my colleagues will recall, that is the area where that hard drive was found behind a machine, and they did not know how it got there. They have now been under investigation for 14 weeks. Fourteen weeks is a long time to have the very best scientists in the world who have maintained our nuclear capacity, some of them for 30 years, some for 25, some more 40, under investigation. We do not want them to leave the laboratories, and we want to attract the best new scientists to follow in their footsteps and have them educated by the other scientists. We are not succeeding at either. The new recruits of the very best scientists are at an all-time low, and that is measurable. In other words, we know how many scientists we invited to work and how many accepted. I will put that in the Record. It is very low compared to 5 years ago. We also know how many are planning to leave, and it is very high compared to other years. Everybody knows I have a parochial interest. At least they would assume that. If one of my colleagues had a laboratory like Los Alamos in his or her State, I say to any Senator, I assume they would be concerned about it. If they had a Sandia National Laboratory, which is the engineering laboratory for nuclear weapons, I assume they would be concerned. I am concerned, and I have to try to convince the Senate that we have to put back some money in terms of morale builders, and we have to start telling those great scientists that they have done a wonderful job for America. So something got messed up. If you can't prove there is spying or espionage, pretty soon you ought to get off their backs and you ought to say to them: We are going to fix this administratively. I could go on tonight and tell you how we are going to do that because we have a new administrative approach to running the nuclear weapons activities of America. We have a great man, General Gordon, heading it. Give him a chance. Give him a chance to restructure. At the same time, let somebody who knows their problems lead this effort. He is about as knowledgeable as anyone we could get to head the NNSA, the National Nuclear Security Administration. It is hard to remember that name, but it will not be hard in a couple years because this general is going to make sure we know about it. He is already showing some real leadership in terms of our understanding what NNSA is. It is the entire package of activities for our nuclear safety as far as our weapons and nonproliferation. We know he is going to fix this morale issue if we give him a chance. For now we have to be very careful. For instance, the House limits their travel again, even lower than the President recommends. Does it ever occur to anyone that the great scientists travel? Was that ever an astonishing conclusion? If you did not know it, let me tell you: Great scientists travel. They love to go to conventions and conferences to share ideas. And if you say to a young crop of the best scientists in America: Come and work at Los Alamos, but you had better remember that you can only make one trip a year--well, what they are telling us already is: Hey, I have a company that doesn't limit me. They are offering me some stock options. They want me to come. Pay isn't a problem. We pay our scientists pretty well at these laboratories, as a matter of fact. I must tell you, if they like their work they will stay there. So my concern is a very serious one. We could not do what I think we must do and live with the House number on defense in this bill. We are $600 million higher than the House. We tell the Senate that with much pride because you have to give these laboratories what they need. Let me give you just one area. The National Laboratory structure, with reference to nuclear weapons, is in need of an entire new, let's say, 10-year plan for rebuilding ancient buildings. I use the word "ancient'' because some of them are so old that if you could apply the historic preservation statutes in the State of New Mexico, some of them would be untouchable because they are too old. That is how old they are. I do not want to tell you how old. But it is not very old to be labeled "old'' anymore if you are a building. But we started a plan. We started an approach for $100 million in this bill, to start some of that--for lack of a better word, we will call it infrastructure. But it is buildings; it is equipment. We must go on beyond that for a few years and get the nuclear weapons complex, so to speak, built up or decide we are going to have an inferior one. We would not be able to tell Americans the best people work there. The best brainpower of America is devoted to making sure our nuclear weapons are right and safe. As we lower the numbers--which we are going to be doing; that, we can all say--even with lower numbers, we know what we are doing. We do not have to have tests because we know they are safe. If we do not, I am going to support people who come to the floor and say: Let's start testing again. Have no doubt about it. We voted in the Mark Hatfield amendment to start a moratorium. We are doing it unilaterally. They are saying: Why don't we sign the treaty? We are not doing any testing by statute right now. So these great scientists have to substitute brainpower and equipment for what underground testing used to give them, with information about the adequacy, the safety, the reliability. Now we have to do it by computers, by new machines, new, fantastic x- ray machines that look inside bombs. We had better have the very best people in America working there, wouldn't you think? I would. My distinguished friend from Nevada wants to speak. I yield the floor. [...]
Congressional Record: September 7, 2000 (Senate)
Page S8163-S8187ENERGY AND WATER DEVELOPMENT APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2001--Continued [...] Mr. DOMENICI. [...] The second thing is there is a huge morale problem among the very best scientists, who have been with us a long time and know everything one could know about our nuclear weapons. There is a serious problem that is objectively recorded that says the young brilliant scientists coming out of our schools with Ph.D.s and post-docs are coming to the laboratories in smaller and smaller numbers per year when we go out to try to encourage them to come. In fact, it is tremendously off this year. The morale problem is so bad that the superscientists are beginning to quit. They are being offered an enhanced retirement program by the University of California. The professors and the university want this program because the University has too many senior professors. They need to tenure more new professors. But when this University program comes along it applies to the great scientists, too, at our laboratories. There is a morale problem built around the FBI and Justice Department from this last episode at Los Alamos, making a whole group of scientists in one of the most secret, most sophisticated, most important operations in nuclear weaponry in America feel as though they are criminals. They just do not appreciate this. They do not like that. Some of them have been there 35 years. They just do not like the FBI treating them all like criminals or even suggesting that, as patriotic scientists, they ought to take their lie detectors and be treated as if there is some criminal in their midst. Frankly, some have decided they are just not going to do that. I do not know where that ends up, but I submit it ought to end up soon for those who are threatened by prosecution from that last episode of a hard drive being found behind some kind of a multipurpose machine. If there is no evidence of spying and no evidence of distributing information, they ought to get on with this. They ought to get on with it. They ought to even talk to some of these scientists, who have been working for us 30, 40 years, about their attorney's fees, because every one of them has been looked at, and told: You might be the one we're looking for. It couldn't be all of them. When you put that kind of thing out, it labels everybody in a national laboratory. It includes our most patriotic nuclear physicist, who is one of the greatest design people in all of nuclear history. You are telling him: We are not quite sure about all this, but you may be the one, you could go to jail for 24 months--or whatever number is used. There is no spying. So why don't we get on with it? I have not said this publicly, but I thought I would use this opportunity tonight. It is serious business. Did you know that we keep saying the only thing the Soviet Union is doing well, in spite of their economic depression and all the rest, is to maintain a pretty adequate and sophisticated nuclear delivery system? I could spend the evening telling you about the difference between the two. They can maintain their weapons much easier than we can keep ours, because they make nuclear weapons differently. We make them sophisticated, complicated, and that is part of their greatness. They make them simple, robust, and re-make them very often, like every 10 years. They are not as worried about us. We keep them for many years, and then we try to prove they will last longer with this new program we are funding called the Stockpile Stewardship Program. That is my little summary. There is much more to talk about. I thought it would be good tonight to put in perspective the significance of this bill. It is not just for the harbors of America. It is for those laboratories and plants that harbor the scientists, the manpower, and the equipment to keep our nuclear weapons on the right path. That is pretty important stuff, it seems to me. My job is to make sure everybody at least understands part of it, so they will help us get out of the dilemma we are in and have a much more robust, much more positive atmosphere around these laboratories soon. [[Page S8177]] In conclusion, there is a new man in charge. We ought to be hopeful. General Gordon has been put in charge of this under the new law which you helped us with, I say to the Presiding Officer--and many did--which put one person in charge of the nuclear weapons aspects at the DOE. We are so fortunate we got a four-star general, CIA oriented, Sandia Lab- trained individual who in retirement took this job. If it is going to be fixed, he will fix it. With that, I yield the floor.