breaking news

Cap Metro board names four transit executives as finalists for CEO job

UT System regents commit up to $4.5M for a bid to run Los Alamos


Highlights

Regent Sara Martinez Tucker is the new leader of the UT System Board of Regents.

A bid to run Los Alamos would be a quest for prestige, national service and legacy.

The University of Texas System Board of Regents on Monday authorized spending up to $4.5 million to prepare a bid to operate Los Alamos National Laboratory, a key part of the nation’s nuclear weapons complex.

The UT System board also elected Regent Sara Martinez Tucker to chair the board, which oversees 14 academic and health campuses. She succeeds Paul Foster, who has led the board through a sometimes-fractious four years.

The spending vote was not a surprise, as the board encouraged its staff last month to explore development of a bid. The regents still would have to vote again before submitting a proposal to the federal government to operate Los Alamos, which is tucked into the mountains of northern New Mexico.

The UT System, partnering with Lockheed Martin Corp., lost a bid to operate Los Alamos in 2005. The system later joined with the Texas A&M University System, the University of New Mexico, the Boeing Co. and Battelle Memorial Institute in a failed bid to run Sandia National Laboratories, also based in New Mexico.

Sandia and Los Alamos are part of the Energy Department, whose current secretary, Rick Perry, is a former Texas governor.

A bid to run Los Alamos, which has 11,200 employees and a $2.5 billion budget, would be a quest for the prestige, the opportunity for national service and the legacy that attach to the institution charged with ensuring that the nation’s nuclear weapons would work as intended, without actually detonating them.

Running the lab wouldn’t necessarily be pure glory, though, because mistakes could damage the UT System’s reputation.

Industry partners, and perhaps academic partners, would be part of the UT System team, and UT-Austin would have a key role, officials have said. But unlike the previous bids involving the UT System for Los Alamos and Sandia, the system would be the lead player if it goes forward with the initiative.

Los Alamos is currently operated by Los Alamos National Security LLC, a consortium of the University of California, the Bechtel Corp., BWXT Government Group Inc. and the URS unit of AECOM.

The University of California was the first operator — and the only one for decades, ever since one of its physicists, J. Robert Oppenheimer, led the lab’s development of “Fat Man” and “Little Boy, ” the atomic bombs that were dropped on Japan during World War II.

Tucker’s ascendancy to chairwoman of the nine-member UT System board took effect at the conclusion of the meeting. She was appointed to a six-year term as a regent by Gov. Greg Abbott and confirmed by the Senate in 2015. Although by outward appearances the regents select their own leader, in actual practice the governor’s office signals the choice and the regents follow suit.

Tucker is a former undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Education, having been nominated to be the nation’s top higher education official by President George W. Bush and confirmed by the Senate. She oversaw all policies, programs and activities related to postsecondary education, vocational and adult education, and federal student aid.

UT System Chancellor Bill McRaven said it has been “a real honor” to work with Foster and predicted that Tucker would be a “fabulous” chairwoman.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Texas News & Politics

Judge: Greg Kelley should be declared innocent in sex assault case
Judge: Greg Kelley should be declared innocent in sex assault case

State District Judge Donna King has ruled that the conviction of Greg Kelley, a former high school football star sent to prison on child sexual assault charges, should be overturned and that he meets the state’s legal threshold to be declared innocent, Kelley’s lawyer said. Under Texas law, a defendant meets the standard for “actual...
Once homeless teen receives laptop for school, needs more help
Once homeless teen receives laptop for school, needs more help

Lyric Wardlow didn’t have much of a childhood. The 19-year-old Austin woman spent most of her time caring for her mother, who had mental illness and hoarding problems. Wardlow didn’t have toys or friends to play with. She entertained herself by singing in the park. Life got much harder when Wardlow was 9 years old after she and her mother...
JUST IN: Austin police ID officer, stabbing suspect shot on Sunday
JUST IN: Austin police ID officer, stabbing suspect shot on Sunday

Austin police have identified a man suspected of stabbing a person in Northwest Austin on Sunday and the officer who shot him. Officers responded Sunday morning to a home in Northwest Hills, where they say 59-year-old Quinton Wiles stabbed another man multiple times. Police said Wiles is being charged with aggravated assault and was booked into the...
Namesake of Jack Brown Cleaners dies at 89

Jack Brown, the namesake of the ubiquitous Central Texas dry cleaning operation, has died. An obituary in Monday’s American-Statesman said Brown died Friday in the presence of his family. He was 89. A 1949 University of Texas graduate, Brown worked as a civil engineer for the Texas Highway Department before joining his father in the laundry business...
Austin among districts piloting a new way to rate schools
Austin among districts piloting a new way to rate schools

The Austin school district is one of 20 districts and charter systems chosen to participate in a pilot program to develop its own system of grading itself. The pilot was established under a new law House Bill 22, which also scaled back the A-F accountability system, unpopular among school district officials. READ: Austin district calls on lawmakers...
More Stories