George Peter „Pete“ Nanos is a former director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory and Vice Admiral in the US Navy. Having served from January 2003 to May 2005, he was one of the shortest serving directors of the laboratory.
Nanos is from Bedford, New Hampshire. He received his bachelor’s degree and was a Trident Scholar at the United States Naval Academy in 1967 and his doctorate in physics from Princeton University in 1974.
Nanos served for 35 years in the United States Navy. He is a retired United States Navy Vice Admiral. He rose to the position of Commander of the Naval Sea Systems Command. VADM (retired) Nanos conducted many tours at sea aboard destroyers and carriers and is credited with the first-time application of systems engineering at the battle group level rather than just at the individual ship level. In 1989 he began ten years with the Navy’s strategic programs overseeing the submarine inertial navigation and missile programs. In 1992, he became Technical Director, Strategic System Programs and after promotion to Rear Admiral, was named Director where he served until 1999. Promoted to vice admiral he served as the commander, Naval Sea Systems Command where he was responsible for design, development and logistics support for all Navy Ships and shipboard weapons systems until his retirement. In that capacity, he oversaw four nuclear repair shipyards, 10 defense laboratory divisions with more than 20,000 employees and over $23 billion in ship and weapons systems procurements, logistics and repairs.
He took the helm at Los Alamos in the wake of a string of allegations and scandals involving security, safety and business issues. Initially he was given the title „director“, but in July 2003 he was made a permanent director by the University of California without any further search.
Controversy continued during his tenure including: a case of suspected missing classified disks (which turned out never existed, but were thought to be missing due to a flawed LANL procedure for tracking the bar codes affixed to classified media), improper charges on lab credit cards, and a student injuring her eye with a laser ( PDF). Nanos made the unprecedented decision to stop all normal operations of core functions at the lab for nearly seven months (July 2004 to January 2005) to examine and supplement the Laboratory’s procedures and practices. The shutdowns could have cost as much as US$367 million in lost work time . During an address to Laboratory personnel, he characterized alleged rule-breaking scientists at the Lab as „cowboys“ and „buttheads,“ causing an uproar amongst personnel who felt Nanos had little respect for their efforts to function under what they saw as perpetually defective management practices. His actions as laboratory director were criticized in the pages of several scientific and technical publications, including Nature Magazine, Aviation Week, and Physics Today.
Nanos abruptly resigned his position and left Los Alamos to take a job at the Department of Defense (specifically the Defense Threat Reduction Agency) under a Change of Station (COS) agreement with the University of California. Under that agreement, The University of California continues to pay Nanos‘ annual salary of $235,000 (2005 salary figure). His separation agreement stipulated that he was legally bound not to make disparaging remarks about the University of California or LANL, and that his UC salary would terminate when he reached 5 years of employment, when he would become vested in the retirement plan . The year he left there was a large spike in retirements . An employee-run blog criticized Nanos and his management of the institution. The blog was credited by many with expediting, or even facilitating Nanos‘ early departure. Nanos left under a cloud of employee discontent, missed programmatic milestones and doubts regarding the institution’s future prospects. His successor was Robert W. Kuckuck, who took office on May 16, 2005.
In 2005, Dr. Nanos joined Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) as the Associate Director, Research and Development responsible for combating Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) by providing R&D capabilities to reduce, eliminate, counter, and defeat the threat of WMD and mitigate their effects. In 2007, Dr. Nanos joined JHU/APL and returned to DTRA on an Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) assignment, eventually assuming the position of Associate Director, Operations Enterprise in October 2009. In that capacity, he led and directed all combat support, nuclear support, cooperative threat reduction, and on-site inspection activities for DTRA.
In 2007, Dr. Nanos joined the Applied Physics Laboratory (JHU/APL) and returned to Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) on an Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) assignment, eventually assuming the position of Associate Director, Operations Enterprise in October 2009. In that capacity, he led and directed all combat support, nuclear support, cooperative threat reduction, and on-site inspection activities for DTRA.
In 2010, Dr. Nanos became a Fellow in the National Security Analysis Department and later that same year accepted the temporary position as Head of the National Security Analysis Department at the Applied Physics Laboratory. In mid-2011, Dr. Nanos was appointed the acting Head of the Global Engagement Department. Shortly thereafter, the Laboratory completed a substantial reorganization with Dr. Nanos being one of the key executives team members instrumental in providing the new framework. Upon completion of the reorganization and the official stand up of the Force Projection Department, Dr. Nanos was named the Managing Executive.