REFLECTIONS ~ FAREWELL TO TOM D’AGOSTINO
As I look back at Tom D’Agostino’s leadership of the National
Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA)—and his unique
relationship with Los Alamos—there is certainly no shortage
His career has spanned most of the history of the Stockpile
Stewardship Program. He led the NNSA during a period of
transition for the nuclear weapons complex— guiding us with
a steady hand through challenges and changes at Los Alamos
and Livermore national laboratories. The Greek philosopher
Heraclitus noted, “Nothing endures but change.” But
change needs good leadership if it is going to become
The laboratories are thankful that Tom has been at NNSA to
help guide us through these years of change.
It was on his watch that Los Alamos achieved success testing
with the second axis of our Dual Axis Radiographic Hydro-
dynamic Testing (DARHT) facility. DARHT is a flagship
facility at Los Alamos for doing research for the Stockpile
I could talk about his unique ability to make budget work—
and his effectiveness working with Congress. He provided
deep budget insights during his time as NNSA’s administrator.
I know these things from working with Tom for the past
decade and a half.
I’d like to share a story our readers might not have heard
about—one that dramatically illustrates Tom’s integrity, his
deep sense of service to the nation, and his straightforward
way of “taking care of business.”
On June 26, 2011—only 26 days after I became director of
Los Alamos National Laboratory—a wildfire started burn-
ing in the remote areas west of Los Alamos. That evening
and night, this fire grew into a monster: from a few thousand
acres to more than 46,000 acres! It eventually grew to more
than 156,000 acres. The Los Conchas wildfire became, at that
moment, the largest wildfire in New Mexico history.
The Laboratory and surrounding communities faced a grave
danger. That’s when I picked up the phone and I called Tom.
I will remember that phone call forever. Within minutes of
that phone call, the Los Conchas wildfire moved to the top of
the national priority list.
Federal assets quickly descended on Los Alamos, including
two of the most elite firefighting units in the nation. Thanks
in no small measure to that quick response, a disaster was
averted and a 70-year-old national treasure was spared. The
men and women of Los Alamos owe Tom a deep debt
And so does the nation. He is a patriot, with a profound sense
of duty to country and mission—and a deep faith.
On behalf of the Laboratory, I presented Tom a plaque
displaying a completely used-up target wheel from the
second axis of DARHT. This target wheel is one of the unique
technologies that allows us to get four radiographic images:
a stunning achievement, one that’s needed to continue to
improve our program in Stockpile Stewardship. We are now
“addicted” to getting four images from the second axis.
We will miss Tom, and we wish him well. Congratulations,
Tom. Fair winds and following seas!
~ Charlie McMillan, Laboratory Director
National Security Science • April 2013