Managing and operating the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the birthplace of the atomic bomb, will soon be the responsibility of the Texas A&M University System and two other partners.
The U.S. Department of Energy announced Friday that Triad National Security, LLC -- which includes the A&M System, the University of California and Battelle Memorial Institute, a research and development company -- was awarded the multi-billion dollar contract to manage and operate the laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico.
Lisa E. Gorden-Hagerty, administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration, said in a statement that she is "confident that Los Alamos' world-class workforce will continue to answer the nation's call" under Triad National Security. The five-year contract has an estimated value of $2.5 billion annually and can be extended up to five additional years.
In a statement from Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp's office, the company said it is unable to provide more information about its plans until it is given the official notice to proceed from the National Nuclear Security Administration.
"We are committed to building on the legacy of world-class research, unparalleled innovation and service to public good that have been the hallmark of the laboratory since it was founded in 1943," the company said in the statement.
The federal facility employs more than 11,000 people and has an annual operating budget of about $2.6 billion, 65 percent of which goes toward weapons programs. Los Alamos National Laboratory's primary mission is national security, which includes the design, qualification, certification and assessment of nuclear weapons. It is one of three National Laboratories charged by Congress to report each year to the president and U.S. secretaries of energy and defense on the state of the nuclear stockpile.
The 35-square mile lab northwest of Santa Fe was established in 1943 as the site of the Manhattan Project, which produced the first atomic weapons. Its current management contract expires at the end of September, but will be extended to allow for a four-month transition period.
"We are committed to working with the new management team to ensure a seamless transition," Terry Wallace, Los Alamos lab director, said in a statement. "While the contract change will bring in a new team of parent companies, the lab's mission remains the same: to serve the nation with excellence."
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott congratulated the Texas A&M University System and Sharp on securing the contract in a news release Friday, saying it will provide "significant opportunities" for skilled workers in Texas to make contributions to the country's national security.
"Today's announcement charges the Texas A&M University System with the management of one of the world's premier laboratories in the areas of defense, nuclear weapons and nuclear nonproliferation," Abbott said in the statement. "The award links Texas with one of the world's premier R&D institutions, and I am proud of the expanded contributions our state will make towards our nation's defense."
Federal officials announced in late 2015 that the contract with Los Alamos National Security LLC wouldn't be renewed because of missed performance goals, the Associated Press reported. Other bidders included the University of Texas System.
The contract award to Triad National Security comes after another A&M coalition lost out on a contract to manage another New Mexico-based weapons and research lab about a year and a half ago. The A&M System, along with the University of Texas, the University of New Mexico, Boeing Corp. and Battelle in a partnership called "Together Sandia," announced a joint bid in May 2016 to take over management of Sandia National Laboratories. That $2.6 billion contract was awarded to a subsidiary of Honeywell International.