- Associated Press - Saturday, May 14, 2016

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - The $2.9 billion contract to manage Sandia National Laboratories is up for grabs for the first time in two decades.

The National Nuclear Security Administration is expected this month to issue a final request for proposals to run one of the nation’s premier federal laboratories.

Sandia spokesman Jim Danneskiold told the Albuquerque Journal (https://bit.ly/1TgDQon) that while any possible change can cause concern, the lab doesn’t expect a disruption in its work.

A current schedule set April 2017 as the deadline for the new contract.

Longtime lab operator Lockheed Martin has indicated interest in bidding.

“We are reviewing the draft request for proposals now, and as with any proposal opportunity, we’ll make a final decision on bidding after we’ve received and completed a thorough review of the final RFP documents,” said a statement from Jill Krugman, a spokeswoman for the defense contractor. “We previously expressed our interest in bidding to NNSA in response to their request for information in 2015. We’re proud of our long-standing partnership with Sandia and our support of its vital national security mission.”

The agreement has been extended several times since the Department of Energy announced its intent in 2011 to put the contract up for bid.

Lockheed Martin is considered the front-runner, but Jay Coghlan, executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, thinks it should be barred.

A Department of Energy Office of Inspector General report in 2014 found that Lockheed Martin used taxpayer money in lobbying for its no-bid contract extension several years ago. Sandia Corp. and Lockheed Martin paid a $4.8 million fine.

“The lab does create jobs, of that there is no dispute, but there is a lot of economic propaganda that it has this multiplying effect,” Coghlan also said. “I just don’t think it’s true.”

Administration and Sandia officials declined to comment on the bid process.

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Information from: Albuquerque Journal, https://www.abqjournal.com

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