C. Bruce Tarter, the director of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), today announced that he will step down in 2002. Tarter, a physicist by training, announced his resignation 7 years to the day after he became head of LLNL, making his tenure the second longest in the lab's history.
The last few years of Tarter's administration have been trouble-filled. Livermore's key project, the National Ignition Facility (NIF), faced a billion-dollar-plus cost overrun and a host of extremely difficult technical problems (Science, 18 August 2000, p. 1128). In early 2000, then-energy secretary Bill Richardson called the project a "management nightmare." That year, Tarter was the only one of more than two dozen similar administrators to have his pay raise denied by the University of California, which manages the laboratory for the Department of Energy (DOE). "Hey, NIF didn't do well," says Tarter. "It's the message I would have sent."
Although critics are still very unhappy with the state of NIF, things have begun to look up somewhat in the last year. The lab received an "outstanding" grade in reviews by the University of California and DOE. "By every metric, we're in very good shape," says Tarter.
Tarter says that he planned to step down 2 years ago, as he tends to work in any job for 5 or 6 years, but the problems with NIF and with security at the DOE labs delayed his departure. He will remain as director until a replacement is found, and a search is likely to take many months.