Recently confirmed Under Secretary of Energy for Nuclear Security and Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration Jill Hruby lauded the Laboratory’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and praised several significant infrastructure improvements in an address to all employees and Los Alamos Field Office staff on Aug. 26. She also touted the Lab’s dedication to mission delivery and discussed her top priorities for Los Alamos as the new NNSA administrator.
“We are fortunate to have support at the highest levels of government for three simultaneous mission priorities — science, product and infrastructure — across all three of NNSA’s portfolios: nuclear weapons stockpile management, nuclear nonproliferation, and naval reactors,” Hruby said to an audience of about 50 at the National Security Sciences Building (NSSB). “But we have to deliver — if we fail to deliver, the nation loses.”
Still, Hruby said, delivery without continued innovation — the kind Los Alamos is known for — would be a step in the wrong direction.
"We can't get so caught up in delivery that we don't innovate," she said. "It's up to you to find out how we do that."
Hruby’s trip to the Laboratory was her first since she was confirmed this summer. Her visit included private meetings with Los Alamos leadership and a tour of weapons facilities.
Powering ahead during the pandemic
Hruby spoke to a crowd of about 50 at the NSSB.
Hruby cited the Lab’s success in continuity of operations over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, noting that Los Alamos rapidly adjusted operations and maintained its effectiveness to complete mission milestones like the W88 Alt 370 First Production Unit and Phase 1.
Significant improvements to Lab infrastructure were also lauded. Hruby remarked on the 11 new facilities opening on campus this summer and the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Plutonium Facility Equipment Installation, which wrapped ahead of schedule and $110 million under budget.
Also championed were the Lab’s significant contributions to the planned national response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and support provided federal agencies in battling the disease.
Hruby also took a moment to applaud the Lab's recent vaccination mandate, noting the Lab's trailblazing approach to keeping its workforce safe.
"Vaccines are the only way out of this pandemic, and I am a supporter of the vaccine mandate," she said. "I know it has its difficulties for some people, but we can't ignore the data — it's clear."
Forging strong partnerships
Hruby answered several pre-submitted employee questions during her 40-minute talk.
Of particular importance for Hruby in her new role will be ensuring both she and all the national laboratories develop a common narrative that allows for collaboration and establishes good relationships within DOE — something at which Los Alamos has been adept. Equally important, she said, will be relationship building with external partners in the Department of Defense, the State Department, and Congress, as well as with international allies and partners such as the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization.
"I know collaboration is hard, and I thank you for setting an example for the enterprise," she said.
Hruby outlined several time-sensitive initiatives that she and NNSA leadership want to address right away under her administration. Those include:
- Conducting a cyber review
- Coordinating re-entry and return to workplace plans with DOE
- Ensuring NNSA is plugged into the Nuclear Posture Review as the Biden Administration begins its formal review of America’s nuclear security needs, including ongoing support for the two-site plutonium strategy
Tour of PF-4
Hruby on tour at TA-55.
Hruby’s site visit also included a guided tour of weapons facilities, including the Laboratory’s Plutonium Facility (PF-4) – the center of operations for initiatives that, among other things, support the Lab’s 30 pits per year production goal.
Dave Eyler, associate Laboratory director for Weapons Production, said Hruby’s visit is another strong confirmation of NNSA’s support of the Los Alamos mission.
"We were pleased to welcome Administrator Hruby to the Plutonium Facility for her first visit as NNSA administrator,” Eyler added. “We’re honored to have the chance to showcase our progress toward meeting pit production goals and ensuring the nation has a safe, secure and reliable nuclear stockpile."
More about Jill Hruby
Hruby was sworn in as the Under Secretary for Nuclear Security of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and NNSA Administrator on July 26. She was confirmed by the Senate on July 22.
With an extensive background in science and engineering spanning more than 30 years, Hruby brings a wealth of national security experience to NNSA. Prior to her nomination as administrator, she served as director of Sandia National Laboratories from 2015-17.