The University of California Board of Regents today (Jan. 15) took action that would preserve the university's option to compete for the contracts to manage three national laboratories.
While the board did not make a decision as to whether the University of California would compete to continue to manage the national laboratories, its action allows the university to continue to prepare as if it will participate. Action regarding whether UC will enter into the competition is expected to be made by the regents after the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) releases its request for proposals.
"The regents' action allows UC to take the necessary steps with the Department of Energy, including the extension of the laboratory contracts for up to two years, to ensure that the vital missions at each laboratory continue to be met," said UC President Robert C. Dynes. "This action is about ensuring that the university is able to compete, and compete successfully, should the regents make a decision to move forward with competition."
The regents' action allows the UC president, with the concurrence of the chairman of the Board of Regents and the chairman of the regents' Committee on Oversight of the DOE Laboratories, to execute contract term extensions with the Department of Energy for continued management of the national laboratories, to respond to requests by DOE for an expression of interest and a statement of qualifications on behalf of UC, and to acquire professional assistance in drafting potential bid documents and in the preparation for possible competition.
Competition preparation activities and the costs associated with these activities would not obligate the university to bid. UC would not use funds from its general account or state funds, and the costs therefore would not have an impact on UC's state budget situation.
"The regents' decision today allows us to move forward and continue to prepare for a competition without obligating the university to compete," said Robert Foley, UC vice president for laboratory management. "This action ensures that UC is in the best position to participate in a competition should the regents make a decision to do so."
Foley told regents that UC officials are in discussions with industrial partners that would like to team with the university to strengthen business and operations at the Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore national laboratories.
"While the regents would remain the prime contractor, our joining with industrial partners would allow us to strengthen effective management practices in managing the national laboratories," he said. "The potential partners with whom we are having discussions would bring a set of innovative and unique qualifications that would bolster the University of California's management of the national labs, now and in the future.
In pursuing their missions, the three laboratories are major sources of scientific and technical strength for the nation in fields ranging from national and homeland security to basic physics, biotechnology, climate studies, supercomputational capability development, materials science, energy, and the environment. As a consequence of their work, the laboratories occasionally enter into research partnerships with industry, which contributes to our country's economic well-being. The laboratories also are called on to lend some of its personnel and expertise to engage in mathematics and science education for students and teachers, primarily in their communities.
The Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos national laboratories each employ more than 8,000 UC staff and have combined annual operating budgets exceeding $3.5 billion, while Lawrence Berkeley Lab has approximately 4,000 employees and an annual budget of nearly $500 million.
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