New Mexico’s Los Alamos National Laboratory will shed 400 to 800 people through voluntary layoffs this spring, or about 10% of its permanent staff, in order to cut $300 million from its budget. It will leave the 69-year-old, 36-sq-mi. research facility with 11,271 students, post-doctoral, term and union workers or about the same number of staff as four years ago.
The site is managed by Los Alamos National Security LLC, comprised of Bechtel National, the University of California, Babcock & Wilcox Co., and URS for the U.S. Energy Dept.’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). Staff reduction will come from Los Alamos’ 7,585 permanent employees. “There's no way to predict who will volunteer or from what disciplines,” says lab spokesman Fred DeSousa. “By taking action now, we reduce the possibility of involuntary layoffs.”
The lab offered a similar plan in 2008 that resulted in 431 willing job cuts. If it doesn't reach its target workforce number, the facility would have to make another submittal to NNSA for involuntary layoffs. The lab, whose current fiscal budget is $2.2 billion, began cutting costs in November.
In addition, NNSA recently asked Congress to indefinitely postpone the lab’s proposed plutonium research facility amid a looming federal deficit and President Obama’s budget, which delays funding for five years.The building, expected to create 1,000 temporary construction jobs, has yet to break ground, despite spending $600 million over nearly a decade. The price-tag, meanwhile, has jumped from an estimated $400 million up to $6 billion during the last eight years.