WASHINGTON, D.C. – Members of the Regional Coalition of LANL Communities (Coalition), along with representatives from Gov. Susana Martinez’s Office, the Los Alamos, Santa Fe and Albuquerque Chambers of Commerce, and other New Mexico business leaders visited Washington, D.C., last week to discuss the importance of funding for Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) and the impact of funding cuts on New Mexico’s economy and employment rate.
The group met with members of the New Mexico delegation and U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) officials to express support for lab funding, specifically stressing the importance of cleanup and lab modernization funding.
The group included Los Alamos County Council Chair Sharon Stover, the governor’s Chief of Staff Keith Gardner, Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce representative Lillian Montoya-Rael, Los Alamos Deputy County Administrator Brian Bosshardt, Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Simon Brackley, Los Alamos Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kevin Holsapple, Greater Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Terri Cole, Regional Development Corporation Executive Director Kathy Keith, SOC Los Alamos Director of the Community & Economic Development Division Liddie Martinez, and Technology Integration Group (TIG) Regional Manager Jeff Lunsford.
During the two days the Coalition spent in Washington, they met with Sen. Jeff Bingaman and Sen. Tom Udall; Rep. Ben Ray Luján and Rep. Martin Heinrich and Rep. Steve Pearce’s Chiefs of Staff; NNSA Principal Deputy Administrator Neile Miller; Senior Advisor for Environmental Management Dave Huizenga; Environmental Management Deputy Assistant Secretaries Frank Marcinowski and Mark Gilbertson; Former Sen. Pete Domenici at the Bipartisan Policy Center; various Senate and House committee staff members; Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board staff; and other DOE and Washington officials.
In their meetings, the group discussed the need for DOE and the New Mexico Delegation to support LANL.
They heard that the decisions made now will impact the Lab’s future 10 and 20 years from now. Without strong support in Congress, LANL may continue to face funding challenges.
The group’s goal is to ensure that LANL has a strong presence in New Mexico for many years to come.
The group discussed the devastating impacts that budget cuts have already had in the region.
This year Lab operations have decreased by more than 700 direct employees, the largest loss since 1945.
In addition, hundreds of contractors have also been laid-off as a result of funding cuts.
The group expressed their concerns not only about the decrease in employment, but also that the Lab may lose its capability to perform certain specialized work in the future if laid off workers relocate.
The local government and business leaders relayed their fears that these continued cuts will cause even more damage to the New Mexico economy.
The group was receptive to comments from officials that the region needs to continue to explore opportunities presented by the Lab and on-going cleanup activities.
These opportunities extend beyond direct contracting.
DOE officials challenged the group to identify industries that can be located in the region to take advantage of cleanup and other work being done at the Lab and, in turn, create jobs.