I. Overview

A. Introduction

This Task Force was asked to propose alternate futures for the Department of Energy laboratories noted in Figure 1(see inside front cover). The Task Force Charter is provided in Appendix C. Our intensive ten months' study revealed multiple missions and sub-missions - traditional missions and new missions - programs and projects - each with factors of merit. Each iteration of our study would nevertheless still confound even the members of the Department and laboratory community, as evidenced by the oft-quoted statement: "the laboratories, and indeed the Department, require a clearer, more focused statement of mission!". Our sorting of these matters has led us to a synthesis which when first revealed may appear too simple, too limiting or even too much of a play on words. But we respectfully suggest that this synthesis identifies an essence - the essence of what the Department, and particularly the laboratories, should and do stand for: the energy agenda.

Virtually everything the laboratories do "is" energy. The original laboratories' first assignment was a nuclear energy bomb - developing the fuel, storing and containing the energy, and releasing the energy. More laboratories were formed and/or augmented in response to other energy needs which occasionally were identified as crises. Newer laboratories have credentials (among other credentials) for conservation and renewable energy. Most of the laboratories are concerned and resourced to deal with the various effluents of energy and its applications vis-a-vis the environment. The aggregate of science and technology competencies of the laboratories has served, and continues to serve, as one essential resource for the study of energy.

At many given points in time energy is the paramount issue in our lives. A blackout in a nearby neighborhood or industrial plant is always headline news. Long lines of vehicles responding to (infrequent) fuel shortages capture everyone's self-interest. Although we are privileged to more often take energy availability for granted in the United States, we still press for longer battery life for our cellular phones and worry that some day we will run out of petroleum. Energy is so central to the vitality of our dynamic country that it has to be a priority concern as an ongoing national strategic issue. It may be legitimately referred to as an issue of importance to our general long-term national security.

As we were in the latter stages of writing this report, occasional speculation surfaced concerning the continuing role of the Department of Energy, and suggesting in part that energy is not all that important. Such major agency structure issues are beyond our purview, but we do feel justified in asserting that the energy agenda which we will profile in this report does require central, federal, senior cognizance and appropriate government sponsorship in the interest of the short-term and long-term overall quality of life in America and the world. We will shortly make the point that the laboratories are essential (with appropriate changes, of course) in these regards. The laboratories we studied require a strong federal financial support and linkage or sponsorship, at least for a goodly number of years, for reasons that will be evident throughout this report. The Department can serve this role, appropriately redefined, well.

Returning to the subject of mission, we find ourselves comfortable with a mission whose meaning is bound up in serving energy opportunities. We introduce the thought with words that are not capitalized because we do not want to presume to capture as graphic art an all-encompassing meaning in a few short words. Nor do we believe that the Department or laboratories have been adequately served by articulating virtual slogans in some of its noble efforts at projecting its purposes. Yet, even if one flashes the message "Serving the Energy Opportunities" on the proverbial screen, in its own quiet way it conveys what almost every other existing mission or program or project intended.

Our working definition of Energy is: Energy is power capable of doing work. The Physical, Chemical, and Biological Sciences which are used to derive fuels from natural resources are in turn enabled by Energy. Conventional energy sources include wood, water, oil, gas, coal, and nuclear fuels. The growing U.S. and world population requires all these, as well as new source such as solar energy, biomass, and wind energy. All must be made clean, safe, less expensive, and in the aggregate, abundant. Energy may be sourced centrally, locally, or portably. It must be generated, transformed, distributed, and properly utilized from all these sources. Future sources may include, for example, hydrogen, which is abundant in water, gas, and biomass; albeit a challenge to "extract" and store. DOE laboratory scientists have decades of experience with hydrogen and other basic sources. Their multidisciplinary competencies hold the promise of solving many such challenges.

Let us narrow in on the word energy and its meaning. The word serves as the remarkable root word for defining mission(s) within a progressive parameter. At one and the same time, it gives focus and gives a wide-ranging field of relevant explorations.

Elsewhere in this report one will find our recommendation of need for focus - a parameter of sorts to the roles of the laboratories. Yet it is not inconsistent that simultaneously we recommend the laboratories must be free to renew and press the frontiers in all relevant affordable ways in behalf of their energy agenda, broadly defined.

The rest of the world has an energy agenda of sorts as well. This agenda is to - obtain for their people access to energy supplies comparable in all respects to - those we now enjoy. This global energy agenda represents a huge opportunity for the U. S. energy industries. It also represents a competitive threat to those industries if they have not prepared and committed first to serve the right "product." Finally, it represents a threat to our country and other countries if some nations employ technologies for energy production and usage which increase global pollution levels. Our purveyors to those expanding producing and using societies must be prepared to offer better. While serving the needs of our country with the leading edge of technology, we can best serve the needs of other countries, both environmentally and commercially, when we support them with technologies derived or derivable by the laboratories. All these self-evident contributions from the laboratories are in addition to the national security, defense and weapons stewardship role that gave birth to the first laboratories. This latter role will be a continuing irrevocable obligation for a minimum of two score more years.

The laboratories' research role is a part of an essential, fundamental cornerstone for continuing leadership by the United States. We know that the studies and discoveries of science unravel the elements of nature and shower benefits on mankind. We know by intelligent estimates that there is much more to be learned and shared. We know that these scientific revelations will unfold from many sources: a brilliant insight by an individual, a research team at a university, a corporate or government laboratory - by accident, or on purpose. We know progress is hastened where diversity of personnel and institutions is encouraged.

We note that many of the least exploited investigative paths involve the need for extraordinarily sophisticated multidisciplinary teams using sophisticated instruments and tools. It is that role for which the national laboratories are uniquely qualified. It is the case for - the justification of - the existence of the DOE laboratories.

Yet most citizens do not know enough about the laboratories. We do not know the thousands of insights, new directions, new phenomena, new principles, materials and processes that blanket these laboratories' science spectrum, all relevant to an energy agenda. Examples include the world's most intense X-ray sources; biomedical isotopes; chlorofluorocarbon substitutes; computer models of combustion for cleaner energy; laser isotope separation; lasers for pollution monitoring; neutron sources to probe materials and biological systems; the unraveling of the puzzles of the human genetic code; the harnessing of the wind, sun and earth for renewable energy; superconductivity; global ocean and atmospheric studies; detection and tracking of nuclear materials; fossil, fission, fusion energy; novel semiconductor materials and devices; laser destruction of blood clots; bioremediation of radioactive and hazardous waste; accelerator technology for medical applications; and remediation of radioactive storage tanks. These are but a few examples.

We are inclined to typecast these institutions simplistically by a few prominent contributions such as yesterday's bomb or the discovery of an element on the periodic table (both grand achievements), but overlook the multitude of other continuing achievements. We must reach out to know enough of this vast spectrum of accomplishments to justify our deserved support of these institutions that have contributed, are contributing, and will in the future contribute vital knowledge while continuing to revitalize themselves - just as science always renews itself. We must be in quest of that which we do not know in the field of science in every relevant way. Each revelation will enrich us manyfold. The laboratories we review here are essential to the fulfillment of our need to know.

Under the overarching energy agenda - the labs serving the energy opportunities - we will comment on their national security role, the all important energy role, all related environmental roles, the science and engineering underpinning for all the above, a focused economic role, and conclude with governance / organization change recommendations.

B. Missions of the National Laboratories

The Task Force believes that a change of governance of the national laboratories is necessary regardless of the missions of these multi-program institutions. However, we also have strong views regarding the appropriate mission activities for the laboratories. One general observation of the Task Force is that the national laboratories, and the Department, appear to believe that they have the potential to serve an extraordinarily broad role in scientific investigation and technical research for the nation. The Task Force does not support this view. Rather, we see the laboratories as having clear areas of expertise, yet limited to their traditional mission areas of national security, energy, and environmental science and technology, as well as in the fields of fundamental science which underpin these missions and in basic science associated with high energy, nuclear, and condensed matter physics.

While the Task Force supports innovative application of the national laboratories' core technical competencies (for example, high performance computation, advanced materials, energy technologies, and systems engineering) to new problem areas, these activities should be carefully managed, are not likely to evolve into "new missions" per se, and should not be a license to expand into areas of science and technology which already are being addressed effectively or more appropriately by other Research and Development (R&D) performers in government, academia and the private sector.

The Task Force does believe that the national laboratories serve a distinctive role in conducting long-term, often high-risk R&D, frequently through the utilization of capital-intensive facilities which are beyond the financial reach of industry and academia, and generally through the application of multidisciplinary teams of scientists and engineers. We believe that an appropriate division of labor among the national laboratories, industrial research institutions, and research universities can be established but does not sufficiently now exist.

The Task Force concluded that the work of these laboratories contributes in an important, though generalized fashion to the security interests of the nation, when security is defined broadly to include factors such as:

One general observation about the missions of the laboratories is that the Task Force found it ironic that these institutions seem to be searching so hard for "new missions" when there remains a compelling agenda of important work to be performed in their traditional mission areas. The Task Force believes:

Later we identify savings through reorganization which can be variously used to reduce budget, redeploy resources, and increase research in appropriate areas.

1. National Security

The primary national security mission of the DOE laboratories is to provide for a safe, secure and reliable nuclear stockpile in the absence of explosive testing of nuclear weapons. Continued scientific, engineering, and managerial excellence will be required at the laboratories to meet the complex and demanding stewardship role. A vital extension of this mission involves work in non-proliferation, counter-proliferation, arms control verification, and intelligence support. Another critical and daunting national security task for which the weapons laboratories have special expertise involves the safe tracking and disposition of fissionable materials.

2. Energy

The primary mission for the laboratories in relation to energy technologies is to pursue a research and technology development agenda which enhances the long-term prospects for adequate energy supplies and efficient end use technologies which minimize adverse environmental impacts. The primary role for the laboratories should be in areas where long-term research holds the prospect for significant payoffs, and where a clear public purpose is being served through Federal support. To the maximum extent possible, energy R&D at the laboratories should be coordinated with the private sector and be guided by technology road maps.

3. Environmental Science and Technology

The Department faces a monumental task in dealing with the radioactive and hazardous wastes at its former nuclear weapons production sites and national laboratories. This task cannot be addressed in an affordable fashion using today's technologies. The national laboratories have expertise and untapped potential which could accelerate the scientific and technological base which is urgently needed for the cleanup mission.

The laboratories also have significant contributions to make in research and development related to more efficient utilization of energy and materials, such as pollution prevention and waste minimization techniques, and also in areas associated with the environmental impacts of energy use, as in global climate modeling. The Task Force believes that the laboratories have areas of demonstrated expertise that could provide the basis for an expanded mission in environmental research and technology development, but such expansion should occur only in areas where the laboratories have a comparative advantage to other R&D performers in academia, industry, or other government agencies.

4. Fundamental Science

The national laboratories have a major mission to serve in contributing to the scientific foundation which underpins the Department's other mission areas: national security, energy, and the environment. The laboratories also have important responsibilities in certain discrete areas of science for which mission applications are not immediately apparent- such as in high energy, nuclear, and condensed matter physics- but where contributions to the nation's scientific enterprise have been significant.

Such contributions often have derived from large-scale scientific user facilities that have been built and operated at the national laboratories (as well as at the Department's program-dedicated laboratories). Such facilities have enabled government, academic, and industrial researchers to explore scientific frontiers that have not been accessible in other ways. Long-term, fundamental research of this form has been part of the national endeavor to create a better future through investments which could have a transforming, yet unknowable impact on society. The Department should sustain and strengthen its support of fundamental science.

5. Industrial Technologies

Development of technologies for which private sector companies are the major beneficiary is not an appropriate mission for the national laboratories. Rather, the economic impact of R&D performed for such general benefit by the national laboratories should be viewed as a derivative, or outcome, of the other core missions. Collaborations between the national laboratories and the private sector serve the important function of providing dual benefits to the partners, but such collaborations generally should be closely aligned with core mission areas of the Department. To the extent appropriate, such collaborations should be cost-shared and tied to technology road maps developed by and with industrial sectors.

C. Laboratory Governance

Our study revealed a counterproductive federal system of operation (Department, Contractor, Laboratory and substantially driven by Congressional policies). A far-less-federal system must be authorized by the Congress, adopted by the Department and implemented at the laboratories, possibly involving contractors. Certain far-less-federal systems promise large productivity gains with attendant major economies along with refreshed motivation by empowerment of the laboratory's greatest assets - its devoted professionals. We urge embracing such a new concept promptly, adopting one or more new configurations early, and moving into a perfectible system apace, much as many non-federal institutions are doing with rich rewards.

The Task Force observed multiple symptoms of institutional stress at the national laboratories, including the following:

The Task Force recognizes that many of the Department's laboratories are considered to provide some of the highest quality R&D among the federal laboratory system. With this understanding, the Task Force had the option of simply concluding that the problems facing the national laboratories were simply a fact of life of federal governance and that little more could be expected. The Task Force has no comfort with such an assessment, feels that it is reasonable, and indeed necessary to have much higher expectations for performance from these institutions, and believes that incremental solutions will not likely provide the major improvements that are, at once, achievable and necessary.

We arrived at this conclusion recognizing that conventional wisdom likely would provide a range of reasons why establishing a new system of governance for the laboratories might be impractical or jeopardize these assets. In our view, however, the long-term quality and effectiveness of these laboratories already is in serious jeopardy, owing to patterns of management and organization that have grown in complexity, cost, and intrusiveness over a long period. For those who have been long time employees, managers, or observers of the national laboratory system, perhaps it is easy to rationalize that the system in place is simply the way it is and the way it always will be. For those without lengthy associations with the Department or its laboratories - which was the case for a majority of the Task Force members - it is hard to reach any conclusion other than that the current system of governance of these laboratories is broken and should be replaced with a bold alternative. The Task Force seeks not to be bold for boldness sake, but because it believes that a far more effective system of governance is necessary.

While this report provides a general description for a not-for-profit framework for governance of the laboratories, we do not presume to know what the precise alternative architecture should be. That can and should be developed by Congress, the Department, and the laboratories, based on experience gained from existing research institutions which receive substantial funding support from the Federal Government, but which have an independent management structure which makes the decisions on how best to deliver the services which the Government is procuring. Insight also should be gained from the experiences of other nations, including the United Kingdom, which recently has maneuvered a disengagement of several of its government laboratories into a semi-privatized status.

A major experiment implementing wholly new management practices for the national laboratories does invite risks, and certain hazards must be recognized and guarded against within any implementing legislation. For example:

D. Configuration of the Laboratories

The Task Force believes that the national laboratory system is oversized for its current mission assignments. This appears to be the result of inefficiencies that stem from the current management practices of the laboratories and the DOE; excess capacity in areas associated with nuclear weapons design and development; and political considerations which have inhibited downsizing and laboratory restructuring. The Task Force believes that the national laboratory system serves many vital functions, but that the system could be productively downsized (or "rightsized") through the elimination of functions and redundancies. The Task Force further believes that one goal of any downsizing should be enhanced focus on specific mission assignments. Through downsizing, there may be opportunities in the future to convert one or more multi-program laboratories into institutions dedicated to only one primary mission.

The Task Force strongly believes that the laboratories should work more closely as a system, with the goal of achieving enhanced coordination and integration of complementary strengths. However, we note that such coordination will be made more difficult to the extent that the laboratories are separated into independently operated not-for-profit organizations.

While the Task Force does not make any recommendations about the possible closure of specific laboratories, we have a general view that all of the national laboratories should be subjected to a regular process of comparative validation against other research performers (including against each other) to judge options for closure, consolidation, and even expansion of programmatic activities and facilities. The Task Force believes that an alternative structure of governance for the laboratories that achieves greater independence of the laboratories from the Department would invite enhanced pressures for competitive performance, which would lower costs, force the elimination of redundancies and less than world-class capabilities, and achieve enhanced value for the public investments involved.

To Section II, The National Security

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