UCOP NewsRoom

Friday, September 10, 1999
Rick Malaspina (510) 987-0l05


Officials at the University of California and the Los Alamos National Laboratory have acted in response to a request from Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson to take disciplinary action against two laboratory employees and a laboratory contract worker in connection with a national security investigation.

UC President Richard C. Atkinson and Los Alamos Director John C. Browne based their actions on the findings of an expert panel they convened to advise them in the matter. The university manages the Los Alamos laboratory for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

Names of the individuals are being withheld in accordance with UC policy. The actions would include, for the first individual, a formal letter of reprimand, a restricted job assignment for at least five years, a freeze in salary and probationary-type measures. The second individual will be precluded from providing consulting services to the laboratory for at least five years. The third individual will receive a letter from the UC president regarding his responsibilities at Los Alamos during the security investigation.

The actions taken by Atkinson and Browne were guided by the panelís recommendations and other available information, but in each case were more severe than those the panel proposed.

The special UC panel had three members: Andrew Goodpaster, a highly decorated retired U.S. Army general who was commander of NATO forces in Europe and currently is chairman of the George C. Marshall Foundation and senior fellow at the Eisenhower World Affairs Institute;

Robert Wertheim, a distinguished retired U.S.Navy rear admiral who was director of Navy Strategic Systems Projects and currently is a consultant on national security programs and related issues; and Edward Frieman, director emeritus of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, former director of the DOE Office of Energy Research, former director of the National Academy of Sciences and an adviser to many federal officials and agencies in the areas of defense and energy.

The panel examined information provided by the DOE. The information consisted of two classified reports, one by the DOE Office of the Inspector General and one by the DOE Office of Counterintelligence, and an unclassified report of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee. In addition, Atkinson and Browne personally reviewed this and other information before reaching their decisions.

"Secretary Richardson raised important national security concerns in requesting action in this matter," Atkinson said. "Our review was especially mindful of those concerns and sensitive to the rights of the three individuals in question. I am confident that the university and the laboratory have acted appropriately."

Browne said: "We worked hard to ensure this process was as fair as possible to the individuals involved and in full compliance with the policies and procedures of the laboratory and the University of California. I believe we have done so and that the actions we have taken are consistent with the factual information available to us, the rights of these individuals and our responsibilities to the nation.

Atkinson and Browne said the information provided by Richardson points to the need for significantly improved communication at the highest levels among the laboratory, the DOE and other federal agencies.

"The university accepts its responsibility for making improvements at the laboratories," Atkinson said. He credited Richardson for initiating a number of reforms to improve laboratory security and address systemic problems that led to communication deficiencies and other concerns. "We support the secretaryís reforms and we will continue to work closely with the DOE and other federal agencies to make our relationship as effective as possible," Atkinson said.

The president is taking related action. He will ask the UC Presidentís Council on the National Laboratories to review the management situation surrounding the handling of the Los Alamos case and to recommend management process changes needed to prevent future problems. The 20-member panel of experts from academia, the scientific community, private industry and the military advises the university on matters related to its management of the DOE laboratories.

In addition, Atkinson will issue an advisory letter to Browne pointing out his responsibilities as laboratory director and an officer of the university with regard to security and counterintelligence. The letter will make clear that the laboratory director is accountable for making changes at Los Alamos to guard against any recurrence of past problems. Atkinson also will ask Browne to discuss aspects of the security investigation with the UC presidentís advisory council in an effort to analyze aspects of management and communication processes that have been and can continue to be improved to strengthen security and counterintelligence operations.