Office of Legacy Management

Past, Present, Future: A Candid Interview with LM Director Melendez

January 31, 2019

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Carmelo Melendez, LM Director
Carmelo Melendez, LM Director

To commemorate LM's 15th anniversary, I agreed to sit down for an interview with LM public participation specialist Krystyna Frolich. Not only did it give us a chance to reflect on the past, but it also led to discussions of LM’s future. I hope you enjoy the interview and I wish you all a Happy New Year.

Until next time….be safe, execute the mission, and take care of each other.

Warm Regards,

Carmelo Melendez

Krystyna: Let’s go back in time for a minute. What were you doing on December 15, 2003 (the date on which LM was formally established)?

Carmelo: At that time I was the officer in charge of the construction contracts and environmental office for naval facilities engineering command at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton in California. I was probably getting ready to go home on Christmas leave before being deployed to support the global war on terrorism.

Krystyna: You’ve been the director of LM for two years now. What part of this role has surprised you the most?

Carmelo: Even though much of LM’s work is not highlighted front-and-center within DOE, we contribute to the department’s mission in a very meaningful way. We have a geographically diverse portfolio and a strong focus on stewardship. It has been an intellectual challenge to keep up with all the institutional and technical knowledge in the organization. However, our combined federal and contractor team have really helped me with this. The quality and dedication of LM’s personnel has truly impressed me.

Krystyna: Based on speeches you’ve given at the Intergovernmental Meeting, the Environmental Justice Conference and at other conferences, it’s clear that you’re very passionate about LM’s mission. Which organizational values resonate with you the most, and why?

Carmelo: By far, what I personally identify with is the promise of protecting human health and the environment at the legacy sites that LM manages. It sounds like a catchy phrase, like a slogan that was developed for a strategic plan, but it’s a goal for which I feel personally responsible. It’s important that we protect flora, fauna, drinking water, and the environment, for communities near our sites today, as well as for future generations.

Krystyna: What do you feel is your greatest accomplishment at LM to date, and why?

Carmelo: The accomplishment I’ve been most proud of is my track record of being a strong advocate for LM. As the director, I have had opportunities to explain what we do, how we do it, and why we do it to senior leadership, other government agencies, and various stakeholders. It’s important to me that people know that LM has a good group of people who care deeply about what we do, and we can deliver.

Krystyna: We can’t talk about progress without talking about opportunities for growth. What is our organization not doing today that you think we should be doing?

Carmelo: There are three things. First, we need to communicate better and more often. We’ve done a great job up until now, but the shift in demographics in the communities where LM has sites, coupled with the evolution of digital media and the thirst for verifiable, accurate, and accessible information, requires a robust, proactive communication strategy. Second, we need to be able to leverage applied and deployed technology to the needs we have, because advancements on things such as remote sensing or forecasting indicators on groundwater, soil, mineral migration, etc., will not only help us save money and streamline efficiency, but will also help propel LM further into the 21st century. Finally, we need to build a strong team with an aligned, clear mission that includes both contractors and federal staff, which can cope with the transition as we go from 92 sites to almost 100 in the next few years.

Krystyna: The government’s new fiscal year began on October 1. Can you talk about some of the things that you hope to see LM accomplish in fiscal year (FY) 2019?

Carmelo: We are going to leverage the great relationships that we have with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and state regulators to bring into stewardship between two to four sites in FY 2019, encompassing the Formerly Utilized Sites Remedial Action Program, the Uranium Mill Tailings Radiation Control Act, and the Plowshare Program. We are also going to look at how we are addressing information technology and conduct a cyber security and records assessment. Lastly, we will conduct a comprehensive stakeholder analysis/research project that will help us build a strategic plan to communicate better with external and internal stakeholders. I could go on, but those are the top three goals for FY 2019.

Krystyna: I want to ask you about your long-term vision for LM. LM just passed the 15-year mark. Where do you think the organization will be in another 15 years? Think big picture.

Carmelo: Fifteen years from now will be 2032. By then, we will have most of the sites that have been identified already in stewardship – approximately 110 to 125 sites. I would say that 15 years from now we will be reinforcing what we have already accomplished. We will always be looking for ways to leverage new technologies, and we’ll be implementing best practices that we will have learned from our stakeholders as a result of our comprehensive communications strategy. We will be able to look back at the ways we have protected human health and environment for the next generation and feel positive about our accomplishments.

Krystyna: Do you have any final messages for our readers?

Carmelo: We need your help. This is a team effort. I welcome your ideas and suggestions on ways we can do things better.

Also, on behalf of Deputy Secretary Dan Brouillette and Under Secretary Paul Dabbar, I want to congratulate my LM colleagues and our stakeholders for the organization’s accomplishments over the past 15 years.

We have a lot to be proud of, but our work is not done.