Two congressmen, one from East Tennessee and other the chair of the House Armed Services Committee, praised the consolidated contract that has been used to manage and operate the Pantex Plant in Amarillo, Texas, and the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge for more than three years.
The two sites are managed by Consolidated Nuclear Security LLC. Y-12 and Pantex are involved in nuclear weapons work and nuclear nonproliferation, and providing enriched uranium for naval, research, and isotope production reactors.
The transition to the consolidated contract, one of the most complex in the history of the U.S. Department of Energy, was completed on July 1, 2014. At that time, officials said the contract included a total annual operating budget of $1.5 billion and employment of about 8,000 in Tennessee and Texas.
U.S. representatives Chuck Fleischmann and Mac Thornberry commented on the consolidated contract during a visit to Oak Ridge on Friday, October 6. Fleischmann is a member of the House Appropriations Committee and vice chair of the Energy and Water Subcommittee, which recommends funding levels for DOE and the National Nuclear Security Administration, among other activities. Thornberry is chair of the House Armed Services Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Department of Defense, NNSA, and intelligence agencies.
Fleischmann, a Tennessee Republican whose district includes Oak Ridge, said the consolidated contract has been cost-efficient and led to overall efficiencies.
The CNS team has done a great job, Fleischmann said at an October 6 meeting of the East Tennessee Economic Council.
“The men and women, our workers, do a great job, the entire team does a great job,” he said. “We live in a dangerous world and our nation’s nuclear deterrent is very important right now, so keeping that Y-12/Pantex contract together, I think, is critically important. It’s cost-efficient and efficient in getting the job done. That’s something I’m advocating for with my colleagues in Congress and in the administration.”
Thornberry, a Texas Republican whose district includes Pantex, said reform is one priority of the House Armed Services Committee, and one part of reform is to get more value out of the money that the federal government spends.
“Reducing overhead in the contract that has combined Y-12 and Pantex has been successful at doing that,” Thornberry said.
That means that there is more money available to “go out on the front line” to keep the nuclear deterrent credible, Thornberry said.
“I think it’s worked well,” the congressman said. “A lot of that is to the credit of the people who manage that contract and the workers at both sites. We’ll keep watching to make sure it goes well. Neither site wants to work for the other, but if it can be managed with cost savings so that more resources can actually be devoted to doing the work, that’s a great thing, and maybe that’s a model that can be used elsewhere.”
During their visit, Fleischmann and Thornberry visited Y-12 and Oak Ridge National Laboratory. They toured Y-12 to view the initial construction of the Uranium Processing Facility, which is expected to be completed by 2025 at a cost of no more than $6.5 billion. They also visited ORNL, where they learned about the lab’s supercomputing work.
“I have always been incredibly proud of the work done by both Y-12 and Oak Ridge and their contributions to our nation,” Fleischmann said. “Y-12’s dedication to the fulfillment of our national security mission is unique and produces extraordinary results. The cutting-edge technology pioneered at Oak Ridge allows our nation to continue to lead the world in scientific developments.”
Thornberry said Fleischmann has been a strong advocate for the innovative technology and science produced in Oak Ridge.
Thornberry said he’s been to Y-12 before, but it was years ago. This month’s trip was his first to ORNL.
“The work that goes on here is incredibly important to our country’s security,” Thornberry said. “Scientific development, like what I have seen here, is extremely important to our national security. The cooperative efforts of the facilities we toured, and the rest of the nuclear enterprise, provide invaluable contributions to our national defense missions.”
Fleischmann said that bringing Thornberry, a “key authorizer,” was consistent with his mission of inviting national leaders to Oak Ridge. The focus of the Thornberry visit was the relationship between Pantex, which is involved in work on so-called “primaries” for nuclear weapons, and Y-12, which is involved on work on “secondaries,” Fleischmann said.
The CNS consolidated contract has been in place for just over three years. When the contract transition was completed in 2014, CNS replaced B&W Y-12 at Y-12 and B&W Pantex at Pantex. B&W Y-12 had operated Y-12 since 2000.
The NNSA initially awarded the consolidated contract to CNS on January 8, 2013. The CNS team includes Bechtel National Inc., Lockheed Martin Services Inc., ATK Launch Systems Inc., and SOC LLC, with Booz Allen Hamilton Inc., as a teaming subcontractor.
There were protests over the contract, but the U.S. Government Accountability Office denied the third and final protest in February 2014.
The transition to CNS was completed on July 1, 2014.
The company’s consolidated contract is overseen by the National Nuclear Security Administration Production Office, or NPO. The NNSA is a separately organized agency within DOE, and it is responsible for the management and security of the nation’s nuclear weapons.
At the time the contract was awarded, Oak Ridge Today reported that it was a five-year extendable contract that could be worth up to $22.8 billion during a 10-year period. Besides the management and operation of Y-12 and Pantex, officials said then that the contract could also include construction of the multi-billion-dollar Uranium Processing Facility at Y-12 and the potential to manage and operate the NNSA’s Savannah River Tritium Operations near Aiken, South Carolina.
In January 2013, federal officials said CNS had promised to save the federal government $3.27 billion during the next decade. They said the consolidated contract, the result of years of work, could save money in part by eliminating redundancies in such areas as human resources, purchasing, finance, and information technology.
A portion of the savings that were generated were expected to be reinvested into aging infrastructure at both sites to improve the working conditions for the Pantex and Y-12 workforce.
Oak Ridge Today has requested information on whether CNS is on track to produce the $3.27 billion in savings in a decade and whether any of the savings have been reinvested into aging infrastructure at both sites. We’ve also requested information on whether the consolidated contract includes UPF project management and Savannah River Tritium Operations. We will share that information when it becomes available.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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