Department of Energy

Women and the Race for the Manhattan Project National Historical Park

March 14, 2018

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Laurie Morman, the Chief of Staff of the Office of Management.
Laurie Morman, the Chief of Staff of the Office of Management, speaking about the Park at an event.
DOE

Securing Legal Authority

On December 19, 2014, the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act was signed into law, directing the creation of the Manhattan Project National Historical Park. However, it would not be officially established until the Secretaries of Interior and Energy agreed upon their respective roles in managing the new park. Congress gave them one year to reach an agreement. The race to establish the park was on. While perhaps less sensational than the race for the atomic bomb, the challenge of bringing two very different federal bureaucracies into agreement within a single year was no small feat.  

Building an Interagency Team

On February 12-13, 2015, a team of representatives from both the Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Park Service (NPS) met for the first time to discuss the development of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the two agencies. NPS’s half of the MOA team was overseen by the NPS Deputy Director of Operations, Margaret (Peggy) O’Dell.  The Regional Director of the NPS Intermountain Region, Sue Masica was brought on to the team as the new park would report to the Intermountain Region. She had over 25 years of federal service, and was a recipient of the Presidential Rank Award for her leadership accomplishments at NPS. An NPS Albright Fellow, Tracy Atkins was tasked with facilitating the MOA. Niki Nicholas, the Superintendent of the Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area and the Obed Wild and Scenic River, located near Oak Ridge, Tennessee, also served on the MOA team.

DOE’s half of the MOA team was led out of headquarters from Office of Management (MA), in large part because the new park would include facilities that were the responsibility of multiple DOE organizations. Laurie Morman the Chief of Staff of MA had the lead. Colleen French joined the MOA team from Office of Environmental Management’s Richland Operations Office, representing the Hanford, Washington, site. In 2011, she had received the Chairman’s Award from the President's Advisory Council on Historic Preservation honoring her work with the B Reactor National Historic Landmark. Vicki Loucks with the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) joined the team from the Los Alamos Site Office, where she served as the Cultural Resource Program Manager.

Gathering Stakeholder Input

On November 9-10, 2015, the NPS hosted a Scholar’s Forum, consisting experts to help identify topics related to the Manhattan Project. Participants included Kate Brown from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. She had recently authored Plutopia, a transnational history addressing environmental issues at Hanford and Ozersk, Russia. Cindy Kelly, the founder and President of the Atomic Heritage Foundation also participated. The Atomic Heritage Foundation’s mission is “Preserving and Interpreting the Manhattan Project: Dedicated to creating a Manhattan Project National Historical Park and capturing the memories of the people who harnessed the energy of the atom.” The author of The Girls of Atomic City, Denise Kiernan, brought her knowledge of Oak Ridge to the Roundtable, while Heather McClenahan, Executive Director of the Los Alamos County Historical Society, and Ellen McGehee, a historian with Los Alamos National Laboratory brought their knowledge of Los Alamos. The Scholars’ Forum Report is available at http://www.nps.gov/mapr/management.htm.

Establishing the Park

On November 10, 2015, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz signed the MOA between the two agencies. With the signing, the Manhattan Project National Historical Park officially was established. The race to establish the park within a year was won and success had depended in no small part on the hard work and talents of numerous women.