The University of California uses competition to find the most deserving freshman, but doesn’t want to use it to find the most deserving manager for the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Over UC’s protests, the Energy Department announced that the contract to run the nuclear weapons lab would no longer be handed to UC as it has been since the lab’s inception more than half a century ago. Recent years have revealed a parade of security breeches and financial fumbling that has soured even many UC loyalists. There was the scientist who plead guilty to downloading nuclear weapons design secrets to a nonsecure computer, the case of the disappearing (then reappearing) hard drives filled with classified information, and recent evidence of widespread billing fraudÃ¢â?¬â??including an employee’s attempt to buy a $20,000 Ford Mustang. Would UC admit a freshman with a record like this? And what about Lawrence Livermore, the other nuclear lab managed by UC? Livermore recently went billions of dollars over budget on a laser program. Might bidding come to Livermore?
Adam Summers is a senior policy analyst at Reason Foundation, a nonprofit think tank advancing free minds and free markets. He has written extensively on privatization, government reform, law and economics, and various other political and economic topics.