Is the UC a University, or Just Another Nuclear Weapons Firm?

UC Regents and Top Administrators Have Numerous Connections to the Nuclear-Military-Industrial Complex, Some Profitable, Many Unknown

S. Robert Foley, Robert C. Dynes and Richard Blum, three of the most powerful men in the University of California, each of whom have extensive connections to military-industrial firms and the US nuclear weapons complex. All three came into the university’s highest circle of power quite recently, during a time flagging morale at the UC’s nuclear weapons labs, and all three have since helped to shore up the university as a major military-industrial corporation in its own right. Each has sought to keep their ties, financial and otherwise, with some of the firms and institutions they worked with prior to joining UC.

In May of 2005 a group of students calling themselves the Coalition to Demilitarize the University of California gathered at the UC Regents’ meeting in San Francisco. Urging the governing Board of their university to cut ties with the two nuclear weapons labs it operates for the federal government the students were met with a deaf ear. Some of the Regents read newspapers during the public comment period while others chatted or snoozed, and several even exited the room altogether. Few on the board paid the students any attention, that is, until one student charged a member of the board with a conflict of interest.

Reading from a prepared statement, the UC Santa Cruz student described Regent Richard Blum’s business dealings with the Los Alamos nuclear weapons lab: “In July of 2000 URS Corporation was awarded a contract for design and construction services at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. This five-year contract (with a five option-year extension) will enrich URS by $25 million per year. Given Regent Richard Blum’s position on the UC Board of Regents, the public body that manages the Laboratory, and his position as Vice Chairman of the URS Corporation, a business that stands to profit from its work at the Laboratory, is this not a conflict of interests?”

The press took note, as did the Regents. Even after deciding – through some sort of legal acrobatics – that this was not a conflict of interests, UC Regent Richard C. Blum divested himself of URS stock in November of 2005 and resigned from his position as Vice Chairman of the company. All seemed well in the house of UC.

As journalist Peter Byrne’s latest investigations into Blum and his wife Senator Diane Feinstein have shown, however, Blum’s war profiteering hasn’t been solely confined to URS. Perini Corporation, an engineering giant feeding from the Iraq “reconstruction” trough has been another company controlled through Blum Capital Partners, Blum’s main investment vehicle. Equally, Blum’s various conflicts stemming from his connections to URS and position as a Regent were not limited to UC’s Los Alamos lab. The company held a contract worth $150 million for construction management services at UCLA’s Santa Monica Medical Center. URS also profited smartly off a July 2005 contract to provide management services for a major construction and engineering project at UC Berkeley.

But Blum hasn’t been the only person within the UC’s upper-echelons linked to URS Corp’s extensive university and military-industrial business. S. Robert Foley, the university’s Vice President for Laboratory Management – the man charged with overseeing UC’s nuclear weapons labs – was also a stockholder and director of URS Corporation prior to joining the UC’s office of the President (UCOP).

Elected to URS Corporation’s board of directors in 1994, a company press release described Foley as having a “distinguished career in both government and private enterprise.” The press release continues that, “Most recently, he was vice president of Commercial Marketing and Planning for Raytheon Co. Previously, he was vice chairman of ICF Kaiser Engineers, and assistant secretary for Defense Programs with the United States Department of Energy.” In other words URS brought in a Defense Department insider with strong experience and considerable wealth already built up from work in the arms industry. Foley had a long career in the nuclear weapons complex working under the Navy and Energy Department. He even headed up a blue ribbon commission to oversee nuclear weapons pit manufacturing and certification at Los Alamos Lab – the program being run by the UC-Bechtel team to produce plutonium bomb pits for the United States’ new nuclear weapon design, the Reliable Replacement Warhead. Upon leaving these public sector roles (actually largely overlapping with them) he assumed multiple for-profit positions dealing still with nuclear weapons and the arms industry, culminating in his election to the URS board or directors where he was handed over 9000 shares of the company’s stock.

Foley and Blum served alongside one another on URS Corporation’s board for the better part of a decade. During this time URS grew at an enormous rate through securing an increasing number of lucrative defense contracts, no doubt through both men’s extensive connections (Blum’s political and business oriented links and Foley’s military and business ties). One of the biggest deals during Foley and Blum’s tenure at URS involved the company’s acquisition of EG&G Technical Services from the Carlyle Group, a massive private equity firm with deep investments in the defense industry. The purchase was a logical investment for a company gearing itself up for increasingly large proportions of military related work, including nuclear weapons design and testing: EG&G was literally founded upon several technical products used to develop the first atomic weapons through the Manhattan Project. Today the EG&G division of URS produces a dizzying array of products and services for the military, from base/installation management services to engineering and logistics support for the Navy's Virginia Class Fast Attack Nuclear Submarine Systems.

In 2000 URS won its contract from UC’s Los Alamos to provide design and engineering services at the nuclear weapons lab. Foley and Blum pocketed the profits. Two years later Blum took up a seat on the UC Board of Regents. Three years later Foley accepted his new position: Vice President of the University of California for Laboratory Management. Both came directly over from URS, in a sense. Foley last appeared as a director and signatory for URS Corporation’s SEC filings in September of 2003. In October he was appointed UC Vice President. He cashed out of his URS stock only weeks prior reaping a hefty profit. The press release put out by the Regents upon his appointment as VP failed to mention Foley’s time and role at URS. Instead, UC’s spin on Foley’s new job focused on his career as a commander in the Navy and his work as an architect of the US nuclear weapons complex under President’s Reagan and George W. Bush. Nor did the press release mention the numerous corporate boards Foley sits upon: KEI Pearson, an analytical and instructional services firm focused on military sectors; Frequency Electronics, a components producer for missiles, military satellites and un-manned aerial vehicles; RSI Inc., producer and distributor of military electronics systems, and; Sage Laboratories, part of Filtronic plc, a major British electronics firm that producing semiconductors for the defense industry.

In fact, the number of corporations that Foley has had a hand in directing or has invested in is rather staggering. Foley has signed off on Securities and Exchange Commission forms for more than 15 corporations, most of which concentrate on arms manufacturing or services for the DoD and its prime contractors. None of this was mentioned, at least not to the public, students or university faculty when the Regents appointed him as Vice President for Lab Management.

Foley and Blum’s relationship prior to their time on the URS board remains unknown. Did Blum recruit Foley to URS’s board? Did Blum recruit Foley from URS to his present job as UC VP for lab management? How was it that both men ended up joining the board of Regents directly from URS Corp? What role did both these men have in building up URS as one of the largest military-industrial contractors with a presence in the nuclear weapons complex? And specific questions about each man’s knowledge and role in securing the Los Alamos contract remain unanswered. In 2005 Regent Blum simply dismissed any knowledge of the deal claiming that it was far to small and marginal for him to take interest in.

What is clear, however, is that a larger state of affairs is operating in the UC, one that is empowering and promoting administrators with direct ties to military-industrial corporations, especially those with ties and allegiances to the nuclear weapons complex. When the weapons labs were rocked with repeated management scandals the Regents selected Robert Dynes as President of the UC. Among the reasons for appointing Dynes was the fact that his background as a physicist with strong ties to the nuclear weapons labs bolstered the UC’s claim to retain Los Alamos, which at the time was up for bid by the Department of Energy. The Board essentially selected a university president based primarily on their desire to retain their management contract for Los Alamos. A team headed by the University of Texas and Lockheed Martin was competing hard for the contract, hoping to take over lab which has always been run by UC.

In response to this challenge the Regents selected a UC president who according to one UC press release, “is intimately familiar with the three national laboratories UC manages for the federal government. He is vice chair of the University of California President's Council on the National Laboratories and a member of the Los Alamos National Laboratory Oversight Board. In addition, he has had a 25-year association with the national laboratories as an adviser and consultant to the physics research and weapons programs.” In other words he was a slam dunk choice for Blum and the rest of the Regents. The Regents selected a “weaponeer” to run the university. Four months later they recruited a retired Navy Admiral over from URS Corporation to oversee their most treasured subsidiaries, the nuclear weapons labs. How much more of this story are we missing?