Nuclear Deterrence delivers on the mission

By Whitney Lacy

Photography By Randy Montoya

Thursday, October 22, 2020

All-hands presentation lauds tremendous Labs accomplishments in a challenging year

Steve Girrens in his office
NUCLEAR CHIEF — Nuclear Deterrence Associate Labs Director and Chief Engineer for Nuclear Weapons Steve Girrens hosted the annual Nuclear Deterrence all-hands meeting virtually this year, due to the pandemic.

Holding an all-hands meeting during an ongoing pandemic hit a reality check last month: going virtual was the safest venue. And for the Nuclear Deterrence mission portfolio, under Associate Labs Director and Chief Engineer for Nuclear Weapons Steve Girrens, technology helped people stay safe and connected. 

“It’s different this year,” Steve said. “I’m here in my office instead of the Steve Schiff Auditorium.”

This year’s Nuclear Deterrence all-hands meeting was pre-recorded in early September and included presentations by the division’s two newest directors, Rita Gonzales, who leads advanced systems and transformation, and Carl Vanecek, who leads component science, engineering and production. The video included answers to questions employees had submitted in advance of the recording.

Accomplishments and challenges

In the 38-minute video, Steve lauded numerous accomplishments that Nuclear Deterrence was able to achieve despite the ongoing pandemic, which caused a disruption in supply chain, restricted travel and limited most employees to working from home.

After first commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Trinity Test, Steve went on to stress that, “We are all mission critical people in the scope of our roles here at Sandia, whatever our job may be.”

He said that while other nuclear states continue to improve their weapons stockpile, the work we do at Sandia is even more critical to safeguard our stockpile and modernize our weapons through life extension programs and alterations.

Steve also discussed overcoming challenges faced because of the pandemic, including flight tests that were held, milestones met on accelerated schedules and mission production projects continuing.

A special mention was made of the B61-12 teams, who were congratulated in person by NNSA Administrator and DOE Under Secretary for Nuclear Security Lisa E. Gordon-Hagerty. “These teams have been the trailblazers for other sites on how to work safely during a pandemic,” Steve said.

A new organization and a thank you

The briefing ended with Steve addressing the announced change in leadership in Sandia’s Nuclear Deterrence mission: a new deputy labs director overseeing the portfolio and a new division and associate labs director when the current division is split into two.

Steve also addressed what he called the “elephant in the room,” acknowledging the difficulties many Sandians are facing in their own lives due to the effects of the pandemic, including school closures, working from home and restricted travel. He also recognized the more than 50 COVID-19 relief projects that Sandians have spearheaded or been a part of over the past year.

“It’s truly an honor to work with all of you, and I appreciate your creative spirits and generosity in the face of these trials,” he said.

Employees can view the Nuclear Deterrence all-hands video on Sandia’s Digital Media Library.