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Los Alamos National Laboratory Research Quarterly, Fall 2002
Mesa View
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Mesa View
Versatile Explosives
Defense Transformation
A Modular Neutron Detector

Mesa View, by George P. Nanos, Interim Director

Responding to Changing R&D Challenges

As the Laboratory celebrates sixty years of national service, we have revisited many of the achievements that underpin our reputation as a premier scientific laboratory. The breadth of these achievements is remarkable, ranging from developing and maintaining the nation's nuclear stockpile to fostering major advances in scientific supercomputing and pioneering work on sequencing the human genome. Looking to the future, however, we see that the opportunities for new discoveries and technologies are no less remarkable. As a laboratory devoted to missions supporting national security, we could hardly face a more exciting landscape of challenges.

In our prime mission area—supporting the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile—forces of change are at work. There is a greater urgency to ground our certification responsibilities on a strong science base. There is also a growing recognition that the legacy stockpile may no longer achieve national defense goals. Although cautious not to incite proliferation, the national security community strongly supports a technologically responsive nuclear capability. This fiscal and political support for nuclear weapons is stronger than it has been for a decade.

Similarly, in areas of nonproliferation and counterproliferation—traditional strengths of Los Alamos—national demands for new technology continue to grow. There are emerging needs to provide greater security against terrorist threats to our homeland. The innovative neutron detector described in this issue is one means of improving our country's security against nuclear threats.

A very important new development is the call for defense transformation, championed by the secretary of defense, which would create more-flexible and responsive military forces, streamline the forces' capabilities for joint operations, and introduce state-of-the-art information technology into their operations. As discussed in this issue, Los Alamos is being challenged to provide advanced surveillance, sensor, and data mining and fusion technologies, as well as new concepts in conventional munitions, to help facilitate this transformation.

Other national challenges are also being addressed at the Laboratory. Health security challenges continue to draw on our bioscience capabilities, such as those in detecting, identifying, and tracing biothreats like anthrax. The need to enhance the nation's energy security is stimulating R&D work on advanced nuclear energy technologies and proliferation-resistant nuclear fuel cycles, as well as on fuel cells and the technologies needed for a hydrogen economy.

At the end of April, Dr. Robert Dynes, recently selected to be the next president of the University of California, spoke to a national security workshop at Los Alamos about the role of science and technology in national security. He said, "Leading science is stimulated by a problem-rich environment." That environment is indeed upon us. It is our unique challenge, Dynes noted, to provide the intellectual leadership that will underwrite the security of the nation.



Carolyn Mangeng
Carolyn Mangeng,
Acting Deputy Director



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