UT, A&M to learn fate of Los Alamos bids by end of May, if not sooner


The UT System has at least one corporate partner in its bid to operate Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The Texas A&M University System and the University of California System have teamed up.

The University of Texas System and the Texas A&M University System will learn by the end of May, if not sooner, the outcome of their competing bids to operate a major federal nuclear weapons laboratory.

The UT System has at least one undisclosed corporate partner in its proposal to run Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. The A&M System is partnered with the University of California System and likely with one or more companies.

Purdue University in Indiana has confirmed that it also submitted a bid, and news reports say it has teamed with San Francisco-based engineering and construction company Bechtel Corp.

The lab’s current operator is Los Alamos National Security LLC, a private consortium of the University of California, Bechtel, BWXT Government Group Inc. and the URS unit of engineering design firm AECOM. The National Nuclear Security Administration signaled in late 2015 that the group would lose its contract, which expires at the end of September, because it failed to earn high enough performance reviews.

The security administration, a semi-autonomous arm of the U.S. Energy Department, estimates the cost of running the lab for 10 years at more than $23 billion. Bidders were required to propose fixed and award fees that could amount to millions of dollars a year. The administration says the government “is more concerned with obtaining a superior technical and management proposal than making an award at the lowest evaluated cost/price.”

Federal officials have not said exactly when they will announce the winning team. However, the government said in a question-and-answer document that it “is committed to ensuring a contract is awarded in time to allow a four month transition before the current contract expires on September 30, 2018.” That would mean a contract would have to be awarded by the end of May.

Secrecy has shrouded much of the bidding and review process. There could be other bidders that have not surfaced publicly, and the government has not disclosed the identities of any bidders.

UT System officials have said they established a limited liability company and a corporation as part of the system’s bid, but they have declined to release the names of those entities or any other information about them. In response to an open records request by the American-Statesman, the system sought and received backing from the state attorney general’s office for its position to not release the information.

Filings to establish such entities are public records, but the university argued that release of the information would undermine the system’s bidding and negotiating position. State law includes an exception for disclosure of “information that, if released, would give advantage to a competitor or bidder.”

In granting the system’s request, the attorney general’s office cited a 2015 ruling by the Texas Supreme Court involving the Boeing Co. and the Port Authority of San Antonio in which the court said the test was whether knowing another bidder’s information “would be an advantage, not whether it would be a decisive advantage.”

The UT System Board of Regents voted 4-3 in November to pursue the Los Alamos contract. Regent Rad Weaver was not on the line for the meeting by telephone, and Chairwoman Sara Martinez Tucker did not vote. Tucker told the Statesman later that if it had been a tie vote or if she were not head of the board, she would have voted to go after the contract, citing opportunities for public service, research, student internships and management fees.

A&M regents voted unanimously in October to compete for the contract, which is part of the portfolio overseen by Energy Secretary Rick Perry, an A&M graduate.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Texas News & Politics

OVERNIGHT: Man injured in crash on I-35 at U.S. 183; fuel spill briefly closes road
OVERNIGHT: Man injured in crash on I-35 at U.S. 183; fuel spill briefly closes road

A man in his 30s was critically injured after a collision with a dump truck caused a fuel spill that briefly closed Interstate 35 in Northeast Austin near the U.S. 183 interchange early Monday. Medics responded just after midnight to the 7600 block of I-35 North where a driver was found unconscious before being taken to Dell Seton Medical Center with...
Onyeri to testify again in his trial linked to Judge Kocurek’s shooting
Onyeri to testify again in his trial linked to Judge Kocurek’s shooting

Chimene Onyeri, who is on trial for fraud and racketeering, will return to federal court Monday to continue his testimony about the 2015 shooting of Travis County District Judge Julie Kocurek. From the witness stand last week, Onyeri confessed to shooting Kocurek outside of her West Austin home, but insisted it was a mistake and that he had not targeted...
FORECAST: Sunshine, high near 84; clear at night, low around 58
FORECAST: Sunshine, high near 84; clear at night, low around 58

Monday forecast for Austin: Happy Monday! The work week will kick off with sunshine and seasonable (for Central Texas) springtime temperatures that could reach 84 degrees. At night, the National Weather Service expects clear skies with temperatures bottoming out around 58. Tuesday should be just as sunny as the day before, but with temperatures...
Texas Digest: No charges after pupil in walkout hit by truck

EL PASO No charges in boy’s death during walkout No charges have been filed in the death of an 11-year-old boy struck by a pickup during a school walkout to protest gun violence. El Paso police spokesman Darrel Petry said Sunday that the investigation into Jonathan Benko’s death is continuing after Jesus Diaz, 61, struck Jonathan with his...
Police: 2 teens escape from Giddings detention facility
Police: 2 teens escape from Giddings detention facility

GIDDINGS Police: 2 teens escape from detention facility State and local officials in Lee County are searching for two juveniles who escaped a juvenile detention facility Saturday, and are asking the public to be on the lookout, according to the Texas Juvenile Justice Department. Brice Ryan Karalis and Bryan Ernando Villanueva, both 16 years old, escaped...
More Stories