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Heinrich Highlights National Labs R&D Program

on September 8, 2014 - 11:46am

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich


ALBUQUERQUE - During a visit to the University of New Mexico's Science & Technology Park Aug. 28, U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., was briefed on Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) projects from Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories.

The projects ranged from software that helps prevent cybersecurity attacks to reducing water usage for the energy industry.

In an effort to foster and develop research in the area of national security, Congress in 1992 authorized national laboratories to begin the LDRD program. Investments in this initiative help advance the security missions of the laboratories in fields of science and engineering.

"Sandia National Laboratories and Los Alamos National Laboratory play a tremendous role in our country's national security. As we continue to face energy, security, and environmental challenges, investments in science and technology are more important now than ever," Heinrich said. "The LDRD program is a powerful tool that helps attract and retain top researchers from around the world, fosters collaborations with both large and small businesses, and promotes innovation in areas such as advanced manufacturing. I am committed to keeping this program funded and ensuring our labs' national security missions remain intact."

One of the projects Senator Heinrich was briefed on was Sandia National Laboratories' High-Performance and Energy-Efficient Computed Tomography (CT) Reconstruction Algorithm for Big Data. Industrial X-ray CT, like medical CAT Scans, creates a 3D representation of the internal and external structure of an object from a series of 2D X-ray images.  This technology is used in medicine and industry to noninvasively identify and diagnose features of interest within the object.  Industrial CT requires vastly more data to form an image than medical CT, so that current methods of computing a 3D image from the data cannot be used.

"The LDRD program plays a pivotal role in the ability of Sandia National Laboratories to fulfill its mission," said Julia Phillips, vice president and chief technology officer at Sandia National Laboratories. "The program helps Sandia strengthen its science and technology foundation, is key to our ability to attract and retain top scientists and engineers by allowing them to pursue high-risk, high-payoff ideas, and enables the Laboratories to develop capabilities that anticipate emerging national security needs."

"Los Alamos National Laboratory serves the nation by solving national security challenges through scientific excellence," said Alan Bishop, principal associate director for Science, Technology and Engineering at Los Alamos National Laboratory. "Capability development through the Laboratory Directed Research and Development program is guided by those missions, and this program makes it possible for the Laboratory to invest in the scientific vitality needed to execute today's programs and meet tomorrow's challenges."

Heinrich, who serves on the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy & Natural Resources, is a staunch supporter of the LDRD program. In 2009, then-Rep. Heinrich offered an amendment to the fiscal year 2010 House Energy and Water Appropriations Bill to raise LDRD investments from 6 to 7 percent. The amendment was adopted unanimously. After a conference with the Senate, the final appropriations bill allowed the labs up to 8 percent investments for the LDRD program; the bill became law Oct. 28, 2009.