The Lab’s Office of National and Homeland Security (ONHS) has transitioned from the Physical Sciences Area to the Lab Directorate, reporting to the Deputy Lab Director for Research.
Originally created in the 1990s as a mandated point of contact for communication with the DOE National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA)’s Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Research & Development Office, the ONHS expanded in the following decade to include radiation detection applications in the Physical Sciences Area. As divisions in other Areas, such as the Materials Science Division, the former Life Sciences Division, and the Laser Technologies Group in the Energy Technologies Area began to contribute research relevant to national security, the Lab decided to formally recognize the Office’s value as the interface between the Lab and the nation’s security agencies, which include the Department of Defense (DoD), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the DOE’s NNSA, and the intelligence community. Today, 19 out of the Lab’s 21 divisions conduct research within this ONHS sponsor set.
The ONHS’s program manager, John Valentine, and deputy program manager, Millie Firestone, are working to build the Lab’s national security research vision and strategy as well as portfolio. John’s subset of projects focuses on radiological and nuclear security and Millie’s is focused on chemical and biological technologies for defense, opportunities tightly linked with the Biosciences and Energy Sciences Areas. Millie splits her time between ONHS and the Biosciences Area, where she is focusing on developing an inclusive strategy to align biodefense and biosecurity research. For the technologies and capabilities outside these two subsets, John and Millie share responsibilities.
“There are many opportunities to leverage our current capabilities and research,” said John, a nuclear engineer by training who previously worked at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and SAIC, a defense contractor. “The Quantum Systems Accelerator is just one example of the kind of research initiative in which the federal government is investing heavily.” In particular, John and Millie believe there are numerous opportunities to complement the Lab’s current DOE-focused portfolio with DoD projects.
Both John and Millie keep a close eye on the security agencies and work to build relationships with key stakeholders. They will support the Lab’s Areas, Divisions, and researchers in different ways, including:
- Developing the Lab’s overall strategy for security-related research to complement its core DOE mission
- Coordinating the Lab’s response to opportunities with particular strategic sponsors
- Ensuring proposals are relevant to sponsor needs by providing input on mission gaps that proposals should address
- Educating the Lab research community about sponsors’ missions, priorities, and opportunities.
The ONHS creates a competitive advantage for Berkeley Lab, allowing it to remain unclassified while still focused on addressing sponsors’ needs. Additional articles will follow to provide more detail about ONHS and how Lab scientists can engage with the office. For any questions about national security-related research, opportunities, and sponsors, contact John at firstname.lastname@example.org or Millie at email@example.com.