Texas’ two biggest university systems announced Tuesday that they will team up to try to win a massive federal contract to manage the Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico, one of three labs in the country that maintain the nation’s nuclear arsenal.
The Texas A&M; University System and the University of Texas System will partner on the bid with the University of New Mexico, research and development nonprofit Battelle and aircraft manufacturer Boeing. Together, they will vie for a $3 billion contract.
The lab is currently managed by defense contractor Lockheed Martin. More than 10,000 employees work at the Albuquerque site, where energy and defense research is conducted.
The reason the contract has been put up for bid is unclear, but officials at the A&M; System said they have been working to put something together since 2012. They reached out to Gov. Greg Abbott about a year ago, and brought the UT System into the fold.
“Together, Texas and New Mexico can bring unprecedented research opportunities to our great state universities and would be honored to be entrusted with the management of one of our nation’s premier national laboratories,” Abbott said in a press release.
It’s not immediately clear how the work — or the money — would be distributed between the universities and the private entities involved in the bid. Competition is expected to be intense; Lockheed Martin, for one, has expressed a desire to keep the contract.
University involvement in a national research lab isn’t unheard of. The University of California system co-manages the Los Alamos National Laboratory with the civil engineering firm Bechtel.
Disclosure: The University of Texas System and the Texas A&M; University System have been financial supporters of The Texas Tribune. Find a complete list of donors and sponsors here.
This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/2016/05/24/m-ut-will-vie-co-manage-sandia-national-laboratory/.