There are three major nuclear weapons laboratories in the National Nuclear Security Administration's (NNSA's) nuclear weapons complex, Los Alamos (LANL), Lawrence Livermore, and Sandia National Laboratories (SNL). LANL was, of course, the birthplace of atomic weapons during the WWII years, while Livermore was founded in 1952 to develop the thermonuclear H-Bomb.
Sandia is a direct descendent of the Manhattan Project's engineering division that turned the devices into deployable weapons that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In July 1945, the forerunner of Sandia Laboratory, known as Los Alamos' 'Z' Division, was established at what is now Kirtland Air Force Base on the east edge of Albuquerque to handle nonnuclear components weapons development, testing, and bomb assembly for the Manhattan Project. Sandia became a separate lab in 1949.
Sandia is the most diverse of the three nuclear weapons labs. Long operated by the Sandia Corporation, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Lockheed Martin Corporation, it is now managed by Honeywell's NTESS. All three directors of the nuclear weapons labs have an inherent conflict-of-interest in that they also act as the presidents of the executive boards of the for-profit limited liability corporations running the labs.
March 2, 2017:
Evaluating Nuclear Weapons: Sandia Labs Taking a Modern Approach
"Sandia National Laboratories is transforming how it assesses nuclear weapons in a stockpile made up of weapons at different stages in their lifecycles- some systems that have existed for decades alongside those that have undergone life extension programs. (read on)
Feb 23, 2017:
Meet the new incoming leadership at Sandia Labs
Lockheed is finally out, after several years of lobbying scandal involving Heather Wilson. Honeywell's NTESS will take over the $2.6 billion management contract at the nuclear weapons lab.
"Come May 1, Sandia National Laboratories' new 10-person leadership team will bring more than three centuries' worth of combined experience to the table. Almost half of them have worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory, including the upcoming director. The National Technology and Engineering Solutions of Sandia, a wholly owned subsidiary of Honeywell International, was announced as the labs' next management in December..." (more- with pics and bios of new staff)
Jan 26, 2017:
As Trump Seeks to Expand U.S. Nuclear Weapons Capabilities,
New Sandia Labs Director Argued for Expanded Use of Nuclear Weapons
Santa Fe, NM. On December 22, 2016 president-elect Donald Trump upended four decades of U.S. policy to reduce nuclear weapons by tweeting "the United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes." The next morning he doubled down by declaring, "Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all."
One of the most important players in the trillion dollar nuclear weapons upgrade is the Sandia National Laboratories, with its newly appointed director Stephen Younger. Long before Trump, Younger argued for the expanded use of nuclear weapons, writing in his June 2000 paper "Nuclear Weapons in the 21st Century", "it is often, but not universally, thought that nuclear weapons would only be used in extremis, when the nation is in the gravest danger.....This may not be true in the future." (P. 2)
Although "deterrence" has been sold to the American taxpayer for decades as the rationale for nuclear weapons, in reality the U.S. (and Russian) arsenal is for nuclear warfighting, as a 2013 top-level Pentagon document explicitly states:
"The new guidance requires the United States to maintain significant counterforce capabilities against potential adversaries. The new guidance does not rely on a "counter-value' or "minimum deterrence" strategy."
(more- view download full press release PDF)
NB. For an advocacy piece arguing for minimal deterrence, please see Counterforce: FAS Report 2009.pdf
March 20, 2015:
Sandia's MESA starts largest production series in its history
Sandia's Microsystems and Engineering Sciences Applications complex has begun making silicon wafers for three nuclear weapon modernization programs, the largest production series in MESA's history. (story)
March 10, 2015:
Sandia Labs, Lockheed, and the CIA Working Together to Hack Your Phone.
From the Intercept report:
Security Researchers from Sandia National Laboratories presented their Apple-focused research at a secret annual CIA conference held at a Lockheed Martin facility inside an executive office park in northern Virginia. Lockheed is one of the largest defense contractors in the world; its tentacles stretch into every aspect of U.S. national security and intelligence. The company is akin to a privatized wing of the U.S. national security state- more than 80 percent of its total revenue comes from the U.S. government. Lockheed Martin owns the Sandia Corporation which manages Sandia Labs.
"'Lockheed Martin's role in these activities should not be surprising given its leading role in the national surveillance state,' says William Hartung, director of the Arms and Security Project at the Center for International Policy and author of Prophets of War, a book that chronicles Lockheed's history. 'It is the largest private intelligence contractor in the world, and it has worked on past surveillance programs for the Pentagon, the CIA and the NSA. If you're looking for a candidate for Big Brother, Lockheed Martin fits the bill.'"
The CIA Campaign to Steal Apple's Secrets
DoE IG Report: Sandia Labs Misused Federal Contract Funds
Managers at Sandia Laboratories improperly used taxpayer funds to influence members of Congress and other officials as part of an effort to extend the lab's $2.4 billion management contract according to a U.S. Department of Energy Office of Inspector General report released Nov. 12, 2014... One consultant suggested the lab's message to decision-makers should be that competition was not in the best interest of the government.
"We believe that the use of federal funds for the development of a plan to influence members of Congress and federal officials to, in essence, prevent competition was inexplicable and unjustified."
- N.B. Sandia reimbursed DoE more than $226,000 for fees paid to a consulting company run by Heather Wilson, the former New Mexico congresswoman. (more on that story) Source: Albuquerque Journal, Nov. 12, 2014
Sandia National Laboratories FY 2015 Congressional Budget Request
View FY 2015 Chart- PDF
Sandia has an estimated FY 2015 total institutional budget of $2.64 billion. Of that amount $1.8 billion is from Department of Energy funding, and $830 million from "Work for Others," such as DoD, CIA, FBI and Homeland Security. Of the DOE funding, Sandia has the largest nuclear weapons program ($1.53 billion), thanks to the huge Life Extension Program for B61 nuclear bomb (LANL FY 2015 nuclear weapons budget is $1.4 billion and Livermore $1 billion). Sandia employs a total of 10,597 people (some part-time), 9,474 in New Mexico, and roughly 4,000 overall in NNSA nuclear weapons programs. Total DOE spending in New Mexico is $4.56 billion, while the entire State's operating budget is $5.88 billion.
Weapons Complex Engineer:
Sandia tends to fly a bit under the radar, not receiving the attention it deserves. This is probably due to Sandia not being "nuclear" - - instead it takes the nuclear designs of the two other labs and turns them into deliverable weapons of mass destruction. Of the seven types of nuclear weapons in the current U.S. stockpile LANL has designed five and Livermore two. But, Sandia is co-designer for all seven.
Sandia has design and engineering responsibility for more than 90% of the 3,000 to 6,500 nonnuclear components in a nuclear weapon. These components include arming, fuzing, and firing systems; neutron generators that initiate the nuclear chain reaction; tritium gas transfer systems; and "surety" systems that prevent unauthorized use. As the "foreman" of the NNSA's nuclear weapons complex, Sandia acts as its liaison to the Pentagon, and overseeing the mating of nuclear warheads to Defense Department missiles and bombers.
Sandia examines complete nuclear weapon assemblies in "environmental testing" to make sure they will be able to withstand the extreme environments of vibration, temperature, and radiation. Sandia also studies nuclear weapons "effects," which concerns the effects of nuclear weapons on other nuclear weapons, to make sure that they are radiation hardened and will operate in the severe environments of a nuclear war.
Major Facilities at Sandia-New Mexico:
- TA-I Facilities at Tech Area-I include the recently constructed $462 million Microsystems and Engineering Sciences Applications (MESA) Complex, which Sandia calls the "cornerstone of 21st century weapons development." MESA consists of facilities that design, develop and manufacture microsystems for nuclear weapons, using integrated circuit fabrication techniques to make devices such as on-board processors, micro actuators, gears, and action arms fabricated from silicon compounds.
- TA-II hosts the Explosive Component Facility, sitting on 22 acres of TA-II, includes over 100,000 square feet of laboratories for R&D work on explosives.
- TA-III is the largest of the technical areas, the site of large-scale tests and engineering activities such as sled tracks, centrifuges and the Thermal Test Complex, which require safety or security buffers. Other facilities in TA-III include the Mixed Waste Landfill.
- TA-IV houses facilities used to conduct R&D activities in inertial confinement fusion, pulsed power, and nuclear particle acceleration, including the Z Accelerator, the Advanced Pulsed Power Development Lab, and a Superconducting Linear Accelerator. TA-V houses facilities that are primarily used for testing electronics, materials, and fissile components for radiation hardness.