PNNL receives 'outstanding review'

By Geoff Folsom, Tri-City HeraldDecember 19, 2013 

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory officials said they have received an "outstanding review" from the Department of Energy's Office of Science for fiscal year 2013.

Battelle, the nonprofit corporation that operates PNNL in Richland, received high marks in all three performance categories: science and technology, leadership/stewardship and management and operations, said PNNL spokesman Greg Koller.

The grades mean PNNL will receive $11.186 million, or 94 percent of the $11.9 million available, Koller said.

That is lower than the 97 percent of possible funding Battelle received for fiscal year 2012, but should not be viewed negatively, said Larry Moore, spokesman for DOE's Pacific Northwest Site Office.

"The nature of science is programs begin and programs end," he said. "The customers they are doing work for vary from year to year, so the input from customers varies."

The lab received grades of A-minus to B-plus for each of the eight goals set for it by DOE. It received an A-minus in the key category of mission accomplishments, which grade quality and production of its research. It received an A in that goal last year.

PNNL also saw its work force reduced to 4,250 from 4,454 last year, and its budget go to $950 million from $1 billion because of federal cuts, Koller said.

But the site still had the highest overall performance of the 10 national DOE Office of Science laboratories that received annual evaluations, said PNNL Director Michael Kluse.

That marks the sixth consecutive year the lab had the highest, or was tied for the highest, overall performance.

"I'm very pleased and very gratified," Kluse told the Herald. "Things are challenging with everything that's touched the federal government with budget uncertainty. To get this kind of recognition is pretty satisfying."

Kluse credits PNNL's success with having a strategy that is closely aligned with national priorities.

Still, he said PNNL can improve by getting its biology program and Environmental and Molecular Sciences Laboratory strengthened in its alignment with the Office of Science's Biological and Environmental Research.

"We learned of the challenges about mid-year and have been working very hard on it," he said. "It's the kind of thing that is going to take some time to get to the proper level of alignment."

Kluse credits the staff at PNNL with the consistent success. Though the run of top performances coincides with Kluse's taking over as director in 2007, he said it has always been strong.

"It wasn't like the lab was in the ditch when I took over," he said. "This lab has always been a high-performing laboratory."

Much of the money Battelle receives will be reinvested back into the lab, as well as charitable giving and paying for expenses not reimbursed by the government, Koller said.

This year's report card has more A-level grades than in years past, said Roger Snyder, Pacific Northwest site office manager.

"The lab and the department are both pleased," he said. "We're very proud of PNNL and the performance Battelle has provided over the years."

PNNL's grades:

w Mission accomplishment: A-minus.

w Design, fabrication, construction and operation of research facilities: A-minus.

w Science and technology project/program management: A-minus.

w Contractor leadership/stewardship: A-minus.

w Environment, safety and health: A-minus.

w Business systems: B-plus.

w Facilities, maintenance and infrastructure: B-plus.

w Security and emergency management: A-minus.

w Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543;; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom

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