Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Terry Wallace Speaks To Community Leaders At Quarterly Breakfast

Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Dr. Terry Wallace, center, chats with Santa Fe Mayor Alan Webber and Santa Fe Community College President Dr. Cecilia Cervantes at the quarterly LANL Community Leaders Breakfast Thursday at Santa Fe Community College in Santa Fe. Photo by Maire O’Neill/ladailypost.com

Los Alamos Daily Post

“I’m extremely both proud and humbled to be the director of Los Alamos National Laboratory. It is my home and it means a lot to me being a Northern New Mexican and to be able to come back to the world’s greatest national security laboratory anywhere and see friends, and to be able to be part of the community,” LANL Director Dr. Terry Wallace told those gathered Thursday at Santa Fe Community College for the LANL Community Leaders Breakfast.

“We often talk about Los Alamos in the abstract. It’s a laboratory! They do stuff up there! We don’t know what they do! They have aliens buried! But the fact is that for 75 years it has been part of the fabric of our community. In that 75 years more than 110,000 New Mexicans have worked in Los Alamos doing the work of national security. It is part of the fabric of who we are,” Wallace told attendees.

He explained that he graduated from Los Alamos High School, got his undergraduate degrees at New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology and was a professor “somewhere else” for 20 years, but that he always got to work with Los Alamos and knew he would get to return 16 years ago.

“We’re 75 years in but we’re at the center of some extraordinary things that are happening around the country and the world, and some of these things are some great anxiety-producing events. But we’re here to do the business of that country in terms of national security,” he said.

Wallace said the technology change in humanity and in the world is greater since the millennia, 2000, than the rest of history.

“If you just look at the extraordinary changes that are there. In 2000, that was the birth of flash memory believe it or not. The smart phone, plus Wikipedia, plus flash memory put in everyone’s hand the ability to have access to information at an extraordinary rate. I refer to this as the rise of the individual. Every single person suddenly, and that is democracy, had access to all the information out there, with computational power people can’t even understand,” he said.

He said from information warfare, which is discussed in the news every day, to the fact that all this technology, available to everyone, gives rise to the non-state actors and ISIS.

“At the center of that is our sense of our national security and that’s the job of Los Alamos and all its employees. And so, the future may be unpredictable, but we will be there to try to work on those problems as we go forward,” Wallace said.

He said LANL has a mission that can’t wait.

“So, we will execute our mission, it’s our top priority, that’s always our top priority. People that come to Los Alamos every day are proud of what they do. We have to execute our mission. Nobody else can do it for us. We try to make sure we’re empowered and accountable. We will always manage through the contract not to a contract. It is a date on a calendar that is significant to some people but not to our mission,” Wallace said.

“Los Alamos is an iceberg … only 10 percent is what you see with an iceberg. You just see what’s above the surface and what’s above the surface is often how we celebrate what we do by our open science. We can’t accomplish what we do by our open science. We can’t accomplish what we do by world-class science and engineering, but we celebrate those discoveries we can talk about. Ninety percent of what we do, we don’t talk about in public. We can’t – it’s classified – it’s promotion of other things but that 10 percent is extraordinary if it’s done right and it gives you that little glimpse of all we do,” he said.

Wallace said the LANL budget right now is quite healthy.

“We’re at $2.65 billion. Anybody who knew me 10 or 12 years ago would say, “You’re the guy in charge of $2.65 billion? That’s a real bad idea,” Wallace joked.

He said about 90 percent of the budget goes for national security and that it goes to fund the solution of problems that are really hard to solve. He said LANL is now in a period of time where people his age are leaving.

“And we’re unique in many ways. Not alone are we older so we’re seasoned, but some of us take a certain set of skills and knowledge that nobody else presently has. We haven’t done a good job necessarily of passing that on,” Wallace said. “I personally have looked at 1,700 different nuclear explosions, every other country’s and all ours. I don’t know if there’s anybody else that has done that. And I’ll be gone at some point. We have to hire to the workforce that can look into the future and can pull through the great part of the past. So, we’re going to be hiring thousands of people in the next couple of years.”

In conclusion, he said the community faces something extraordinary this year.

“At Los Alamos we’ve been measuring weather with some precision since 1942 and the winter for the Jemez, or at least for our weather stations, is the least amount of precipitation in our history. We’re four sigmas, unbelievably far from an average winter, and our precipitation in Los Alamos at our weather stations there is only one-tenth of a normal winter,” he said. “So, we know that we have extraordinary fire danger coming in the fire season outlook for the next month and a half.”

Wallace said LANL has taken on a lot of fire mitigation and is now more worried about a fire onsite than one coming back in. He added that everyone has probably seen that Santa Fe National Forest had already put their first set of restrictions in for activities and asked everyone to be vigilant.

“Unplanned demands are placed on the Lab. When North Korea does something, we get a call in Los Alamos, when something strange happens in Ukraine we get calls in Los Alamos. We can’t predict those. But that’s our job, so we must push the frontiers and the way we do that is science and engineering and everything that supports the science and engineering. We can’t succeed if we don’t have a good RCT, or a good technician or a good person doing the CFO or a good person doing the administrative work,” he said, and asked the community leaders gathered at the breakfast to help as LANL continues to protect the nation and move forward.

“The challenges to all of us are extraordinary,” Wallace said.

Los Alamos National Laboratory officials, from left, Environmental Management Field Office Manager Doug Hintze, Deputy Director for Technical Operations Ted Wyka of the National Nuclear Security Administration Los Alamos Field Office and LANL Director Dr. Terry Wallace answer questions following their presentations Thursday morning in Santa Fe. Photo by Maire O’Neill/ladailypost.com

Attendees at the LANL Community Leaders update breakfast Thursday include, from left, UNM-LA CEO Cindy Rooney, Los Alamos National Bank Private Clients Officer Karen Easton and Los Alamos Public Schools Foundation Executive Director Laura Loy. Photo by Maire O’Neill/ladailypost.com

Los Alamos National Laboratory Community Partnerships Office Director Kathy Keith, right, welcomes Community Leaders to Thursday’s breakfast. Photo by Maire O’Neill/ladailypost.com

Deputy Manager Ted Wyka of the National Nuclear Safety Administration Los Alamos Field Office chats with Los Alamos County Council Chair David Izraelevitz following Thursday’s event. Photo by Maire O’Neill/ladailypost.com

Environmental Management Field Office Manager Doug Hintze and LANL Deputy Director Rick Kacich visit prior to presentations Thursday morning. Photo by Maire O’Neill/ladailypost.com

Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Dr. Terry Wallace enjoys a lighter moment prior to his presentation Thursday at the LANL Community Leaders Breakfast. Photo by Maire O’Neill/ladailypost.com

Scene from breakfast Thursday during the LANL Community Leaders Update. Photo by Maire O’Neill/ladailypost.com

Students from Luna Community College are recognized Thursday by Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Dr. Terry Wallace. Photo by Maire O’Neill/@ladailypost.com

Cris Balzano of Balzano Government Services, left, chats with former U.S. Rep. Bill Redmond who now works at Tech Source in Los Alamos. Photo by Maire O’Neil/@ladailypost.com


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