University of California President Richard C. Atkinson today (January 2, 2003) announced sweeping management changes at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), including the resignation of Director John C. Browne.
Atkinson immediately appointed as interim director retired Vice Admiral George P. “Pete” Nanos, the former commander of the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) and of the Navy’s strategic nuclear program. Nanos currently is principal deputy associate director for Los Alamos’ Threat Reduction Directorate.
Nanos will serve as interim director for a period of several months while the University conducts a nationwide search for a new permanent director.
Atkinson stressed that Browne’s resignation, which was submitted on Dec. 23, 2002, is “a mutual decision,” but went on to say, “Director Browne deserves full credit for recognizing that recent allegations regarding LANL business practices were distracting from his many accomplishments and the work of the laboratory’s extraordinary scientific community. Befitting Director Browne’s integrity and his depth of feeling for Los Alamos and the service it provides to the nation, he has chosen to step down in order to make way for new leadership as a major step toward restoring confidence in the laboratory’s business practices.”
Atkinson added that the University continues to have confidence in the high quality of the weapons program and the scientific and technical work of Los Alamos. “By taking these steps, we are recognizing that the business and administrative practices of the laboratory need to be addressed so that they will rise to a similar level of quality,” he said.
The unprecedented action by the University, which manages the laboratory for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration, also includes the resignation of Joseph Salgado, principal deputy director. During the interim, the following oversight changes involving administrative and business operations at the laboratory will also be implemented:
• All administrative and business operations will report to Anne Broome, Vice President of Financial Management at the University of California Office of the President, for the purpose of ensuring that the recommended changes to laboratory business practices are implemented in a timely and effective manner;
• The Laboratory Auditor will report to Patrick Reed, University of California Auditor, also for the purpose of ensuring timely and effective implementation of recommended changes in audit practices;
• President Atkinson will appoint an oversight board to guide the interim laboratory director on general laboratory management issues.
“These changes reflect the University’s deep concern about the allegations that have been made about Los Alamos business practices and our absolute and steadfast commitment to addressing them in a timely manner,” said Atkinson. “We will continue to cooperate fully with the legislative bodies and agencies investigating these matters, and to support the thousands of dedicated employees at Los Alamos so that they can remain focused on their valuable work on behalf of the American people.”
Atkinson continued: “My hope in accepting Director Browne’s resignation is that he will be recognized for the many contributions he has made to our nation’s security during his career at Los Alamos, including during his five years as director. He has led the laboratory through times of difficulty but also through times of significant achievement, further distinguishing his own service to our nation during his long career as a scientist and senior administrator. It is to our nation’s considerable benefit that he has agreed to stay on in a senior research capacity.”
Browne, in his resignation letter to President Atkinson, wrote: “I believe that I made substantial progress in improving mission focus, security, safety, project management and community relations. Although I have had initiatives underway for several years, additional improvements are still needed in facility operations and business systems, among other areas. I regret that all the needed changes did not come fast enough to prevent the current procurement situation.”
“I have been a loyal and dedicated employee of the University of California for over 32 years,” Browne continued. “I have served our nation in a variety of national security positions. I believe strongly and deeply in the national security mission of Los Alamos and in its employees.”
Browne added, “Perhaps my greatest regret is that the recent apparent wrongdoing by a few employees has reflected badly on the extraordinary work, conducted day in and day out, by so many others who devote themselves to the nation’s security.”
The Browne and Salgado resignations are effective January 6, 2003.
Nanos will serve as interim director while the University conducts a nationwide search for a permanent successor.
“In Pete Nanos, Los Alamos gains a talented and experienced interim leader who will carry on the tradition of outstanding science and technology in service to our nation’s security that has been the hallmark of the laboratory since the Manhattan Project,” said Atkinson. “Pete’s experience and background will be valuable resources in helping to implement the changes needed in the laboratory’s business practices, while at the same time providing leadership to its ongoing scientific contributions to our national security.”
“I came to Los Alamos because of my great respect for the institution and its contributions to our nation’s security,” said Nanos. “It will be an honor and privilege to help Los Alamos through this challenging transition period.”
Nanos’s naval career began with graduation from the U.S. Naval Academy in
1967. His sea duty included service in destroyers and a tour as engineer officer in the aircraft carrier America (CV-66).
While serving as the manager for technical development for the Navy’s High Energy Laser Program he became an Engineering Duty Officer specializing in the acquisition of ordnance and combat systems.
Nanos spent almost ten years in the Navy’s strategic weapons program including service as Director, Strategic Systems Programs, responsible for development, acquisition and support of all U. S. and U. K. submarine launched ballistic missiles and reentry systems. For the past four years he commanded the Naval Sea Systems Command, the Navy’s largest major acquisition organization responsible for design, development, repair and support of all Navy ships and shipboard weapons systems. This included oversight of the Navy’s four public nuclear repair shipyards with 22,000 employees and seven Navy laboratory divisions with approximately 20,000 employees.
Nanos earned a PhD in Physics from Princeton University in 1974.
The appointment of Nanos, who will be paid an annual salary of $334,700, requires approval by the Board of Regents. The Board will take action by the end of its next scheduled meeting on Jan. 15-16, 2003.