Nov. 25--Major contractors, including Lockheed Martin, are exploring bids on a multibillion-dollar opportunity to operate the Nevada National Security Site, the 1,360-square-mile tract once used for nuclear tests and now largely for research on security, emergency response and arms control.
The contract, estimated to be worth $500-$600 million a year -- $5-6 billion over a 10-year period -- is expected to draw numerous bids and has caught the attention of state officials, who see it as a significant opportunity for economic development.
The current contractor for the test site is Nevada Securities Technology LLC, a joint venture with Northrop Grumman and three other partners. The contract expires at the end of September, and bids for the new deal are due next December.
About 65 miles away from Las Vegas, the facility once known as the Nevada Test Site was established during the Cold War in the 1950s and served as a site for hundreds of nuclear tests.
As the Cold War waned, the site's mission has shifted in the past several decades. Today, it is responsible for maintenance and enhancement of the nuclear stockpile without testing, assistance to the Navy with nuclear propulsion and response to radiological disasters. "(The site) executes unique national-level experiments, supports national security customers through strategic partnerships, manages the legacy of the Cold War nuclear deterrent, and provides long-term environmental stewardship for site missions," according to a pre-solicitation notice.
Three major players have confirmed interest in the contract, which will be awarded by the National Nuclear Security Administration.
Last week, interested contractors like Lockheed Martin and construction giant Bechtel were among the vendors to attend a daylong conference in Las Vegas at the Embassy Suites Convention Center. It was hosted by NNSA, that semi-autonomous agency under the auspices of the Department of Energy. The sub-agency could not release a list of conference attendees.
But several companies individually confirmed intentions to participate in the contracting process.
"Lockheed Martin ... intends to bid to manage and operate the Nevada National Security Site," Steve Field, a spokesman, wrote in an email, adding that the aerospace and defense firm has long played a role in managing Sandia National Labs, another site under the purview of NNSA.
Nevada Securities Technology, the joint-venture with Northrop Grumman and the site's current operator, also is planning to put in a proposal, a spokesperson for the organization confirmed.
Both Bechtel and Lockheed Martin have a history of involvement with the Nevada security site. A Bechtel subsidiary -- Bechtel Nevada Corp. -- managed the security site from 1996 to 2006. And Lockheed Martin was part of the team that formed Bechtel Nevada.
Like Lockheed Martin, Bechtel, which has done construction management for infrastructure upgrades at McCarran International Airport, is considering the possibility of renewed involvement at the site.
"We're very interested in the opportunity and are evaluating it seriously," Fred deSousa, a spokesman for Bechtel's nuclear, security and environmental services, wrote in an email.
Regardless of which firm wins the security site contract, economic development officials for the state see the search for a contractor as an opportune time to encourage the site to play a more active role in Nevada, working with more in-state companies and the higher education system.
At a recent meeting, the Governor's Office of Economic Development reported that it persuaded officials to add language to the request for proposal encouraging contractors to "consider specific performance goals around maximizing subcontracting to business within Nevada and strategic partnerships with Nevada's system of higher education."
About 10 percent of current subcontractors for the site are Nevada companies, GOED Director Steve Hill said. The goal is to raise that to 30 percent within three years of the new contract.
"If you look at some of these national labs in other locations, the in-state interaction is a fair amount greater than it is in Nevada," he said. The NNSA also oversees Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.
Hill identified several areas where the Nevada National Security Site and higher education could collaborate. They include nuclear medicine, radiation sciences and natural resource monitoring.
It is rare for GOED to be involved with a contract for a federal agency, but Hill said because of the contract's size and the site's location, it was important GOED tried to maximize the benefit.
"I think this is the first time we've done this," he said.
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