Members of Congress, influential government contractors and high-ranking federal officials have a symbiotic relationship when it comes to managing the country’s nuclear weapons research and design facilities. In one case, a congresswoman from New Mexico became a consultant to two prominent defense companies running the federal labs only days after leaving office. Some experts in the industry say the revolving door provides experience; others say conflicts of interest could jeopardize independent oversight of the labs.

Explore the graphics below to learn more about their relationships.

A web of connections

Select a profile to see each individual’s affiliations:

Norman Augustine portrait

Norman Augustine
Heather Wilson portrait

Heather Wilson
Ellen Tauscher portrait

Ellen Tauscher
Donald Cook portrait

Donald Cook
Richard Mies portrait

Richard Mies
Pete Lyons portrait

Pete Lyons

Choose one of roles to learn more:

Defense contractors
Federal government
Lockheed Martin Corp.Nuclear Regulatory CommissionU.S. House of RepresentativesU.S. Department of DefenseU.S. Strategic CommandLTV Missiles and Space Co.Sandia National LaboratoriesNational Nuclear Security AdministrationU.S. Department of EnergyU.S. Senate candidateThe Babcock & Wilcox Co.U.S. Air ForceNational Security CouncilU.S. Department of StateMartin Marietta Corp.NNSA governance panelLawrence Livermore National LaboratoryScience adviser to U.S. Sen. Pete DomeniciU.K. Atomic Weapons EstablishmentLos Alamos National Laboratory

Decades of back-and-forth

These six players in the nation’s nuclear weapons industry have worked for both defense contractors and the federal government during the course of their careers. See how their roles evolved over time.

Filter the timeline by individual:

Defense contractors
Federal government

U.S. Department of Defense

Augustine served as assistant director of defense research and engineering for the secretary of defense.

Los Alamos National Laboratory

Lyons worked as a top official at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

LTV Missiles and Space Co.

Augustine became vice president at defense contractor LTV Missiles and Space Co.

U.S. Department of Defense

Augustine rejoined the Defense Department and rose to acting secretary of the Army.

Martin Marietta and Sandia National Laboratories

Augustine joined defense contractor Martin Marietta Corp. and became chairman in 1988. Martin Marietta won the contract to manage Sandia National Laboratories in 1993, and it merged with Lockheed Corp. in 1995.

U.S. Air Force

Wilson served in the U.S. Air Force as a captain.

National Security Council

Wilson became director for European defense policy and arms control for the National Security Council.

Lockheed Martin

Augustine became president of Lockheed Martin Corp. with the merger of Martin Marietta and Lockheed Corp. into the largest defense contractor in the U.S. He retired as chairman and CEO.

Sandia National Laboratories

Cook was a top official at Sandia National Laboratories.

Science adviser to U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici

Lyons served as science adviser to U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M.

U.S. House of Representatives

Tauscher served as a Democratic congresswoman in the Northern California district that included Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

U.S. Strategic Command

Mies served as commander in chief of the U.S. Strategic Command.

U.S. House of Representatives

Wilson became a Republican congresswoman from New Mexico. She gave up her position for an unsuccessful bid for a U.S. Senate seat.

Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Lyons served as commissioner of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

U.K. Atomic Weapons Establishment

Cook was the chief executive officer of the Atomic Weapons Establishment in the United Kingdom.

U.S. Senate candidate

Wilson had an unsuccessful campaign for the U.S. Senate seat in New Mexico.

Sandia and Los Alamos

Wilson received $450,000 in consulting work from federal labs including Sandia and Los Alamos.

U.S. Department of State

Tauscher served as the under secretary of state for arms control and international security affairs.

National Nuclear Security Administration

Cook became deputy administrator for defense programs at the National Nuclear Security Administration, which oversees the defense contractors running the national labs including Los Alamos and Sandia.

The Babcock & Wilcox Co. and Los Alamos National Laboratory

Mies is a member of the board of directors of defense contractor The Babcock & Wilcox Co. He also serves on the board of governors of the consortium which runs the Los Alamos lab.

U.S. Department of Energy

Lyons is assistant secretary for nuclear energy at the U.S. Department of Energy.

U.S. Senate candidate

Wilson had a second unsuccessful campaign for the U.S. Senate seat in New Mexico.

U.S. Department of State

From February through August 2012, Tauscher served as special envoy for strategic stability and missile defense.

Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore National labs

Tauscher is a member of the board of governors of the consortiums holding the contracts to run Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore National labs.

NNSA governance panel

Augustine, Tauscher, Mies and Wilson were appointed to the congressional advisory panel to study the National Nuclear Security Administration oversight of the federal labs including Sandia and Los Alamos.

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Julia Smith is the 2015 Knight-Mozilla fellow for Reveal, where she specializes in user experience and interface design. Previously, Smith developed websites for Oxide Design Co., a communications and information design firm in Omaha, Nebraska. She also worked at Gallup as an interactive developer and mobile application designer; at ConAgra Foods as an enterprise software developer; and at the Omaha World-Herald as a web producer and print designer. Smith graduated from Creighton University, where she studied journalism, graphic design and computer science. She is based in Reveal’s Emeryville, California, office.

Burt Hubbard began his journalism career in New Mexico in the 1970s before moving on to Denver, Colorado. With this story, he returns to his roots in the nuclear west, where he was not surprised to find that wild New Mexico politics are still alive and well.