New Los Alamos Director Is Weapons Veteran

Eli is a contributing correspondent for Science magazine.

The new director of Los Alamos National Laboratory, Charles McMillan, is a career weapons scientist and a Massachusetts Institute of Technology-trained physicist. A press release from the New Mexico lab describes him thusly:

McMillan, 56, is the Lab's principal associate director for the Weapons Program, responsible for the science, technology, engineering, and infrastructure enabling the Laboratory to fulfill its nuclear deterrent mission. He has more than 28 years of scientific and leadership experience in weapons science, stockpile certification, experimental physics, and computational science.

McMillan is said to be well-respected among lab scientists. He’s certainly plugged in to its top management, having come to Los Alamos in 2006 as part of the team that won the contract to manage the Department of Energy (DOE) lab as part of a for-profit company. Before then, he spent 23 years at the department’s other weapons lab, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, in California.

John Browne, a former director of Los Alamos, says his discussions with McMillan suggest the new director believes that Los Alamos’s “broad base” in basic science has paid dividends in terms of meeting the lab’s main goal of maintaining the nation’s weapons stockpile. “He certainly understands that you have to maintain a level of funding to support those [fundamental science] programs ,“ Browne says. He adds that the outgoing director, Michael Anastasio, successfully balanced support for basic science with stockpile programs and new facilities, including a $2 billion chemistry and analysis building. The appointment “shows that the people running the lab now are pretty set on the direction the lab has taken under Anastasio,” Browne says.

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