During all-hands, NNSS Principal Technologist Ronnie Owens honored for 45 years of service
DOE Under Secretary for Nuclear Security and National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Administrator Lisa E. Gordon-Hagerty visited the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS) June 13-14.
Gordon-Hagerty is no stranger to the NNSS, having previously served in the Department of Energy’s Defense Programs as the director of the Office of Emergency Response, which had oversight of the NNSS ’Remote Sensing Laboratories’ (RSL) emergency response programs.
She brings more than 30 years of national security experience to her roles as NNSA administrator and advisor to Energy Secretary Rick Perry. In addition to her work in the Office of Emergency Response, she has served on the National Security Council staff as the director for Combating Terrorism; at DOE as acting director of Office of Weapons Surety; and was a professional staff member on the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Energy and Commerce. She has also held significant leadership positions in national security in the private sector.
On June 13, Gordon-Hagerty toured the Site itself, visiting locations of high importance to the NNSS’ national security mission. Highlights included the U1a Complex, an underground laboratory used for subcritical experiments, and the Site’s most secure facility, the Device Assembly Facility (DAF), which supports subcritical experiments, special nuclear material staging and emergency response training.
The morning of June 14, she joined NNSS employees in person and, in the case of remote locations, virtually, for an all-hands meeting.
“Thank you for the warm welcome back to the NNSS,” Gordon-Hagerty said. “It’s a wonderful pleasure to be back and see the faces of so many people I remember from the 30-plus years I’ve been out here. … It’s so nice to be home.”
From there, she spoke of the NNSS’ – and NNSA as a whole – role in the United States’ national security mission.
“Ensuring the safety, security and reliability of our nation’s nuclear stockpile, developing tools for nuclear nonproliferation, providing expertise in counter-proliferation and assuring that the United States Navy is equipped with nuclear propulsion—all your work contributes to our nation’s security, and that of our allies and our friends,” she said. “NNSS’ support to stockpile stewardship and management is as important as ever.”
Furthermore, Gordon-Hagerty said, “… our NNSA team has continued to meet our nation’s security challenges and delivered, without question, the greatest scientific and engineering achievements ever seen. From the earliest days of the Manhattan Project, to high-performance computing, the science-based stockpile stewardship program has effectively sustained our confidence in the U.S. deterrent, in the absence of nuclear explosive testing, and we will continue to do so, using the great minds and talents of our labs, plants, and, in particular, this Site.”
She also made sure to remind employees the importance of everyone’s contributions.
“We continue to provide critical support and expertise in our nation’s nuclear nonproliferation efforts and intelligence community and, yet again, NNSS has been at the heart of supporting these important national security missions,” she said. “We can be proud of these and so many other achievements, and I want to thank you for each and every one of your own contributions.”
Along these same lines, Gordon-Hagerty said, “Although I’ve spent more than three decades visiting and supporting NNSS activities, I’m impressed during each and every one of my visits here with the talent and dedication I see among our workforce. Thank you.”
She also spoke at length about what’s to come, mission- and program-wise, as well as for the people, who she described as “at the heart of our mission.”
“We have numerous, critically important, but achievable, programs ahead of us, and with your leadership and support, we will not fail,” she said. Within this, she noted the importance of working together as an enterprise to build a stronger pipeline of new talent, in preparation for the eventual retirement of those who become eligible in the coming years.
“All Americans should be assured that, in the face of our nation’s greatest security needs, we have assembled the world’s greatest scientists, engineers, technicians and support staff, here and throughout our great country,” she said.
Gordon-Hagerty closed by leaving employees with one message: “Our community is not often what comes to mind when one thinks about defending our nation’s freedoms through nuclear security, but you can rest assured, we think of you every day. You are the frontlines of our nation’s freedom. We may not be able to discuss our work much, but know that our nation depends on each and every one of you. We will work together to advance our national security interests, improve performance and complete every one of our missions successfully.”
In addition to discussing matters of national security and the NNSS’ role, Gordon-Hagerty – joined by NNSA Nevada Field Office Manager Steven Lawrence and Mission Support and Test Services* Vice President John Benner – recognized NNSS employee Ronnie Owens for 45 years of service.
“It was pretty much a normal day – other than being recognized by our leadership, in front of all my co-workers,” joked Owens, a principal technologist with the pulsed power machine and imaging team, supporting the Sierra Nevada series of subcritical experiments.
In all seriousness, though, “I really appreciate the time I’ve spent working for the NNSS,” he said. “It’s been a great 45 years. It was also wonderful to meet Ms. Gordon-Hagerty.”
Owens began his work with the NNSS in the company’s mailroom and, shortly after, at the print shop, where he spent nine years as a press operator before enrolling in the company’s in-house electrical training program. Upon completion of his training, Owens became a technician I and has been working in the technical arena ever since.
“When I grow up, I want to be Ronnie,” Gordon-Hagerty said. “What a wonderful resume, and thank you for your contributions to our national security. It’s indeed a pleasure to be with you this morning.”
Upon closing, Gordon-Hagerty took questions before completing her visit to the NNSS with a trip to RSL-Nellis, which has served for more than 50 years as a valuable national asset for nuclear emergency response and remote sensing capabilities.
*Mission Support and Test Services serves as the management and operating contractor for the NNSS.