Nevada institute’s bid to manage ORISE

As posted earlier, Desert Research Institute in September submitted a proposal to manage the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education. DRI is apparently the only competitor to Oak Ridge Associated Universities, the incumbent, which has managed ORISE since its inception and has been a government contractor for decades.dri2

What’s unusual about the DRI bid is the amount of information that’s been made publicly available regarding its proposal. That’s because in order to help prepare for potentially taking over management of the Oak Ridge institute, DRI — a non-profit research arm of the Nevada System of Higher Education — needed to get the approval of the system’s Board of Regents to form a non-profit entity in Tennessee — to be called DRI Tennessee. As part of that process, DRI provided a briefing paper for the board, and it’s posted online.

The briefing paper includes lots of information, including the proposed leadership team for the would-be ORISE contractor, the proposed subcontractors, etc. ORAU is not required to release that kind of information and hasn’t.

Of particular interest in the briefing paper to the board is the description of why DRI is seeking the Oak Ridge contract and why there is an opportunity for DRI to win. It notes there have been “serious deficiencies” in ORAU’s performance in managing the Oak Ridge institute.

Here’s an excerpt:

“The reason the opportunity exists is that contract options cited serious deficiencies with the incumbent performer over two five-year contract periods (2004 to present) and the lack of resolution over performance deficiencies during the latest 5-year contract by the incumbent management, Oak Ridge Associated Universities (ORAU). DOE Office of Science has made it clear that the bid process to potentially replace ORAU is serious and valid. DRI is confident that the team assembled to lead and manage ORISE not only addresses these key deficiencies but as mentioned above provides a clear and bold vision for ORISE.”

The source of the information on ORAU deficiencies is not clear.

Justin Broglio, communications officer with the Desert Research Institute, said the institute has done work for the Department of Energy since the institute was formed in 1959 and cited an example and provided information on its history. He also cited a couple of errors in the briefing, including the use of a hyphen in DRI Tennessee.

However, Broglio didn’t respond to questions about the briefing, including the source of the information on ORAU’s performance. “In regards to the Board of Regents Briefing Paper and the ORISE proposal, neither I nor any DRI executives are able to make any comments because the bid processing is ongoing,” he said via email.

Claire Sinclair, a spokeswoman in the DOE Office of Science at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which oversees the ORISE contract, said she was not privy to proprietary discussions associated with the contract competition. If DOE was the source of that information, she said she was unaware of it.

Sinclair noted ORAU has received high marks on its ORISE performance evaluations in recent years and suggested it would be unlikely for a contractor to get those kinds of ratings if they had serious deficiencies.

Here are links for the performance scores and fees awarded to ORAU for Fiscal Year 2012, FY 2013 and FY 2014. The scores for FY 2015 are not yet available.

ORAU spokeswoman Pam Bonee had no comment on the ORISE contract competition.

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About Frank Munger

Senior Writer Frank Munger covers the Dept. of Energy's Oak Ridge facilities and many related topics — nuclear weapons, nuclear waste and other things nuclear, environmental cleanup and science of all sorts. Atomic City Underground is, first and foremost, a news blog, but there's room for analysis, opinion and random thoughts that have no place else to go.