Way Under Budget, Way Ahead of Schedule

It seems that most federal projects with a lot of zeros in their budget run woefully way behind schedule and way over budget. But the Energy Department’s Sandia National Laboratories proves big projects can come in way under budget and way ahead of schedule.

Sandia said it completed its $516 million Microsystems and Engineering Science Applications (MESA) project $40 million under budget and three years ahead of schedule. Sandia describes MESA as “a major capital construction activity that will create the facilities and equipment required to design, prototype, and fabricate qualified microelectronics and microsystem components for nuclear weapons.”

A Sandia spokesman couldn't -- yet -- offer reasons why the project was completed under budget and ahead of schedule. However, he did say that Sandia bought two old chip wafer machines from Intel for $25 each. The machines were valued at $7 million each.

Sandia plans to dedicate the final building of the project, the Weapons Integration Facility, located on the Sandia campus at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, N.M., Aug. 23.

The 400,000 square foot MESA complex â€" the largest project in the history of Sandia, which started operation in 1945 as an offshoot of nearby Los Alamos National Laboratory â€" also includes the previously opened Microfabrication Facility and the Microsystems Laboratory.

mesa microlab.jpg

MESA Microlab

The Weapons Integration Facility includes laser, electrical, visualization and computer labs and office space for 375 scientists and engineers. Sandia said the MESA complex will produce ”hardened” electronic circuits and computer chips that can withstand high levels of radiation to insure the reliability of nuclear weapons and other capabilities under even the most hazardous of conditions.

Pooh-bahs scheduled to show up for the dedication ceremony this Thursday include Thomas D’Agostino, administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration, and

New Mexico’s senior senator, Pete Domenici.

If Sandia promises marching band â€" and how can you open anything without a band â€" I may show up.

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