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Ground Breaking Ceremony for the Advanced Measurement Laboratory


NIST Director Ray Kammer:  Welcome to our ground breaking for the Advanced Measurement Laboratory.  This is a wonderful day.  We waited a long time to get this far, as you might guess.  The NIST researchers and staff here today, and thousands of their customers in industry, universities and other organizations think this is really a wonderful development.  So do our guests from trade and professional associations, and from Montgomery County, as well as our partners who helped us design and manage this project.

On stage with us are a number of people that have worked very hard to help us accumulate the money for this.  Their support has been key.  And let me just recognize them quickly.  Secretary of Commerce William Daley, of course.

Senator Sarbanes, thank you very much for your support.

Senator Barbara Mikulski, who has also been a strong supporter.

We have some hopes that Representative Connie Morella will be with us.  She had a vote just a few minutes ago, and was going to try and jump in a car and get here, and may be on the program late.

Also with us today is Montgomery County Executive Douglas Duncan.  Mr. Duncan has been at our last three building dedications, and we're glad to see him here again.

I also would like to introduce a few people here in the audience.  One of our staff members, Howard McMurdie, recently won the Barrett Award in X-ray defraction, that recognized his 70 years of scientific achievements and leadership in the field of X-ray measurement.  Howard joined the National Bureau of Standards in 1928.  He is 95 years old and he still comes in to work.

Another one of our staff members of long standing is Lou Costrell.  He's 84 years old.  He started out in the Ionizing Radiation Division, doing standards for data acquisition, and on June 12th he'll celebrate his 48th year at NIST.  He's got a few to go.

And then just to remind you that we also started at the other end of the age distribution – Greg Poirier is NIST's most recent winner of the Sigma Zi Young Investigator Award for his outstanding research in product property assembled mono-layers.  And also here is a winner of the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers Pam Chu.

NIST is part of the Commerce Department, and within the Commerce Department we're part of the Technology Administration, which is headed up by Dr. Cheryl Shavers.  She's the Under Secretary of Commerce for Technology.  Dr. Shavers has a notable track record in private industry, having worked for a number of top U.S. semiconductor and electronics firms.  She cares a lot about the health of U.S. industry, science and technology, and she's taken a special interest in both NIST work and in our Advanced Measurement Laboratory.  So, we're fortunate to have Dr. Shavers with us today.

Dr. Shavers:  Thank you very much.  I'm really glad to have everyone out here.

I'd like to first thank our special guests, which is Secretary Daley, of course Senator Sarbanes and Senator Mikulski; as well as County Executive Duncan.

Before joining the Commerce Department, I spent all my career in Silicon Valley and did not think that I would have an opportunity to come out here, because I thought that the center of the universe was Silicon Valley.  However, there is an enormous amount of talent here at NIST, and those ties from Silicon Valley go here to Washington and to Gaithersburg in particular.  I'm very proud to have an opportunity to be part of this organization and to be here at such a monumental event.

Clearly the Clinton Administration for the last seven years has been strongly supportive of technology.  Technology is the center of the universe, and we are part of that arm that's going to make that happen.

But we need more – innovation certainly needs more than just people.  And NIST certainly provides that catalyst in the people.  It certainly needs a means.  And the Commerce Department has faithfully worked hard to ensure that we have that means in terms of doing this building.  And as we lay the foundation for this particular building today, it means that not only is it going to help the technologists here and all of the talent here, but it helps all of the people where I've come from that rely so deeply on the NIST talent to ensure that standards and technology development is really cohesive and that it helps the private sector.

But one of the things I was so impressed about was how NIST went about doing this project.  They actually did a design of the project well before they even knew that they had the money.  They did a mock-up and a lot of simulations to ensure that the design of the building certainly met the specs, that it could be done.  And that takes a lot of technical talent to be able to see and dream of something without knowing that they have the funding.  But without the guests here on our stage, we would not have been able to be here today.  So, I'm really pleased with not only these scientists, but with the planners and designers that ensure that what we're going to do is the right thing – and we're going to do the right thing right the first time.

I have the privilege of working in the Commerce Department with Secretary Daley and his team.  I have to admit that I am very impressed by Secretary Daley's dedication to technology, to the way that he's pushing programs in technology for the digital department, to his efforts in the digital divide, and as well as a number of initiatives.  He has supported the Technology Administration, and NIST in particular, and I'm very proud to be working for him.

One of the things that he has demonstrated is that he understands that politics and research and technology are one and the same, and we need each to help the American economy.  So I would like to introduce Secretary Daley.

Secretary Daley:  We're here to break ground for an Advanced Measurement Lab – a science facility that will be the best of its kind anywhere in the world.

I know we have all been looking forward to this day.

In fact, to my left there is a shovel with a ribbon we've had ready since December of '97. That's when we got the first appropriation and the three members of Congress and I signed the shovel. And we all pledged to come back for the ground breaking.

I held up the shovel last year, when we were here to dedicate the new Advanced Chemical Sciences Lab. Now the shovel will finally be used to start a huge $235 million digging project.

When the doors open in 2004, the new lab will host cutting-edge research and services driven by science, technology and globalization. There will be measurements to help industry produce better, less expensive microchips. Our scientists will be able to measure with ultra-fast laser pulses for more efficient chemical processing.  And they will be able to make more precise calibrations so industry can produce higher quality machined parts.

And I strongly believe there is no better place to put this lab, than on this campus with the best scientists and engineers in the world.

During my three and a half years as Secretary, NIST employees have been recognized with a Nobel prize – a National Medal of Science – a Benjamin Franklin Medal in Physics – election to the National Academies of Science and Engineering – Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers – and Fleming Awards for government service.

They have pushed the frontiers of knowledge in many ways, including creating DNA chips that have the potential to revolutionize disease diagnosis – and making the most accurate ever atomic clock. They have teamed with  industries and universities through our Advanced Technology Program to develop innovations in medical care, manufacturing and electronics and a wealth of other industries.

Just last month, GE Medical Systems paid tribute to ATP's role in a revolutionary digital mammography system.  It will make breast cancer detection more affordable and more available.

I just want to say that the lives this will save – and all the good work you have done in these three and a half years – cannot be measured.

I thank all of you for the cutting-edge research you do day in and day out.  It has enormous impact on the lives of all Americans.

One of the wonderful things about being the first Commerce Secretary of the 21st century is that everything I do I can label as a first. Obviously today is no different.  This is the very first building the Commerce Department has started constructing in this century.  There can be nothing more appropriate in a century that will be dominated by technology and globalization, than for the first Commerce building of the 21st century to be the most advanced scientific lab of its kind in the world.

The first building we started constructing in the last century was the Commerce Building itself.  About this time 71 years ago, there was a ceremony similar to this one, to open what at that time would be the biggest office building in the world.

President Hoover, who had served for seven years as Commerce Secretary, was there to lay the cornerstone. He used the same trowel that George Washington had used to lay the cornerstone of the U.S. Capitol.

We are honored to also have the George Washington trowel here today for this special occasion. You can see it, next to the  shovel.  And I want to thank Alexandria Washington Lodge 22 for sharing it.  I hope that the next Secretary of Commerce can use it for the actual cornerstone laying.

In Herbert Hoover's remarks in 1929, he described our mission as "solely to aid and foster the development of higher standards of living and comfort of our people."

That is what you and all who have been part of this agency since the beginning early in the 20th century have committed to.

The Bureau of Standards nearly 100 years ago consisted of just 14 employees, with a total payroll of $27,000.  Ray, during the debate they decided that $6,000 was too much for the director, so the salary was set at $5,000. Obviously, over the years, we have learned the importance of paying directors their proper due.

And Senators and Congresswoman Morella, maybe I should not tell you this – but Congress provided funding for exactly one laboratory.

It proved to be a great beginning and a great investment for American industry and the American people.

Today, we have over 3,300 employees and 1,500 visiting researchers promoting our welfare and economic competitiveness.  They work here and in Boulder in some 50 specialized laboratory, office and support buildings.

Soon there will be one more building – this one the symbol of a Commerce Department for the 21st century.

For construction of the single largest project in NIST history, we have created an innovative bidding process.  Our goal is to have as much as 50 percent of the work done by small businesses, including women- and minority-owned companies.

This new project puts us on a path for another century of innovation and economic growth.

I want to thank everyone who worked so hard to make this day possible.

I especially want to thank the members of Congress whose support has been so vital.  Thank you.

Dr. Shavers:  Thank you very much, Secretary Daley, and I'm sure everyone including myself is very appreciative of your remarks and of your sincereness.

I'd like to now introduce our other honored guests, starting with Senator Paul Sarbanes, Democrat from Maryland.  I am pleased to introduce the Senator.  He has had a strong reputation as one of the most thoughtful Senators and Members of Congress.  He is also known for his thoroughness and being willing to tackle the tough issues.  He is the ranking minority member of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, and he serves on the Budget, Finance Relations and Joint Economic Committees.

Senator Sarbanes understands the economic importance of technology development and commercialization.  He has been a long-time supporter of NIST, as you all well know.  We now would like to welcome Senator Sarbanes.

Sen. Sarbanes:  Thank you very much.  Ray Kammer, I'm delighted to be back at NIST.  I'm particularly delighted to be here with my colleague, Senator Mikulski, who serves us so well in the Senate, and with Doug Duncan, a very effective County Executive for Montgomery County.

The last time we were out here, I remember we got up, we were talking about various issues.  And then Doug Duncan got up and he said, well, you know, they deal with all those issues.  He said, I deal with NIST because they call me up to do something about the deer population on the campus.


And as always, I'm delighted to be with Secretary Daley.  I started a round of applause for him when he got introduced because I think he really deserves it.  I think he's been an absolutely terrific Secretary of Commerce.  And he's handling a lot of very tough issues.


If you need a better illustration that science transcends politics, there was the fact that the Secretary was at this podium just a few minutes ago quoting Herbert Hoover.  I thought, well, now that's a ?? if there was ever a better demonstration of the bipartisan nature of our occasion.  And I was brought up short when the Secretary said that ?? talking about the contributions that you make, he says they cannot be measured.


 I thought, this is the Advanced Measurement Laboratory we're –


This is a very important milestone, in our hard-fought effort to modernize NIST's laboratory.  It really means that NIST will be able to continue its remarkable contribution to our scientific and technological advancement as we move into the 21st century.

Actually just a few years ago the President Council of Economic Advisors did a report which said that technical innovation had been responsible for well over half of America's productivity growth over the last 50 years.  And of course right now we're having this very virtuous economy, you know, with the lowest unemployment in 30 years and the lowest inflation in 30 years.  And when we look for the explanation of that, it's because we're having a very successful performance in terms of our productivity.  And if we go behind the performance and productivity, we come to technology, and of course that comes to all of you and the tremendous contributions which you make.

Your efforts to promote long-term U.S. economic growth by working closely with industry, in a sense a new trend, has been very significant.  It's paying off handsomely.  We in the Maryland Congressional delegation have clearly recognized from early on that these facilities need substantial overhaul and improvement if the very skilled and dedicated people who work here are going to be able to do their job, and if our technology is going to remain competitive in the world economic environment.

A few years back, actually a fair number of years back now, I asked the General Accounting Office to conduct a study about the condition of our labs in order to lay the predicate for seeking the resources in order to do the upgrade.  They came back in and underscored the need for major investment in order to upgrade our lab facilities.  Not only here, but elsewhere.  This was an examination of all of the Federal labs.  And as a consequence, we were able to take that finding, and of course other efforts, and work within the Congress in order to secure the money to do this facility and other facilities.

Actually, you know, we've completed the Advance Chemical Sciences Lab, as you all well know, and all of that is part of a 10-year comprehensive initiative to upgrade all seven of NIST's existing laboratories and to build an additional new facility to assist NIST in its ever-expanding role.

So we're very pleased to be here on this occasion.  It's a very significant day.  Those of you working here, and engineers and scientists working in other Government labs, in my judgment, are at the heart of our nation's competitive advantage in research technology and development.  Your excellence, in fact, has been the magnet for billions of dollars of investment from the private sector.  This new lab will not only improve NIST's capability; but it'll significantly enhance the high technology environment that we've been developing here in Montgomery County and in the State of Maryland and which Doug Duncan has been so prominent a part.

I can't tell you how proud we are of the work and the accomplishments here at NIST; a tremendous contribution which, as the Secretary said, cannot be measured, and I'll accede to that.  And I am confident that we'll be able to carry on through with the balance of the program and we really give you the facilities that you deserve.

Congratulations.  Thank you very much.

Dr. Shavers:  Thank you, Senator Sarbanes.

Now it is my pleasure to introduce Senator Barbara Mikulski.  We are fortunate to have members of Congress to be our guests today who are not just strangers of NIST, nor are they strangers to technology issues that are so important to us here at the Department of Commerce.

Senator Mikulski is a strong supporter of our nation's science and technology program.  She has been a particularly effective advocate for construction of our new scientific and technology facilities here at NIST, recognizing that the work is very, very important and significant, and that it has a huge impact locally in terms of the Maryland area.  She is the ranking minority member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs, HUD and Independent Agencies, and she is also a member of the Commerce, State, Justice Appropriations Subcommittee, which is extremely important to us.

We love Senator Mikulski.  Welcome, Senator Mikulski.

Sen. Mikulski:  What a wonderful day to be here with all of you and for this most momentous ground breaking.  First of all, I'm very delighted once again to be at the podium with Secretary Bill Daley.  Hasn't he done a great job as Secretary of Commerce?


And I hope you're applauding because he's been a strong advocate of trade, commerce, innovation, a real supporter of technology; but also, a real supporter and advocate of his work force.  He's always speaking up, not only about what America needs, but what you need to help America.  And that's the kind of Secretary he's been, and we're real proud to have him.

Also we've got Dr. Shavers, who gave up Silicon Valley to be here on High-Tech Highway in Montgomery County.  Now aren't you glad you've improved your status in life?


Really, we're very grateful for you being here and bringing all of that private sector know-how to really what you brought to the Department of Commerce, bringing private sector know-how and looking how we can make these public investments.

And of course, I'm delighted always to be here with Doug Duncan, our County Executive.  Doug Duncan and Montgomery County just won the All-American Cities Award.  They were in competition with over 100 communities around America, and Montgomery County won it because of its quality of life, its quality of education, and now we're going to work on its quality of transportation.

And I'm going to say some great words about my colleague, Senator Sarbanes, my dear Senator, senior Senator in a minute.

But I'm so pleased to be here, because NIST is the premier high-tech lab.  And because of the kind of work you do, you keep the United States of America Number 1 in high-tech.  This Advanced Measurement Lab is really going to keep both NIST and America in the forefront.

I work very hard with my colleagues in Government to be able to support our Federal laboratories, and particularly NIST.  And, I am very pleased to be part of what in the Senate – speaking only about the Senate for a minute – is Team Maryland.  Senator Sarbanes and I are the Senators not only from Maryland; we're the Senators for Maryland.  And one of the great joys we have is representing flagship Federal laboratories.  NIST, NOAA, NIH, Goddard Space Agency.  I mean, when we work to really help you, it's like one great big Discovery Channel.  Every single day, you are out there discovering something new, to really be able to help our country.

Now, Senator Sarbanes didn't go into this too much, but he should.  Senator Sarbanes is on the Budget Committee.  So when President Bill Clinton and Secretary Daley make the budget presentation, it comes to the Budget Committee.  The Senate proposes – excuse me – the President gives a proposal; but the Senate disposes of it.    Now, it can be disposed of in a lot of different ways, as you scientists know.  But Senator Sarbanes sitting on the Budget ensures that help for NIST and our Federal laboratories gets in the budget.  Then, his junior Senator is over there on Appropriations.  So he gets it in the budget, and I get it in the Federal checkbook.  Then we work with the House to bring it home.

Well, why do we fight so hard?  It's because of you.  And fighting hard is interesting.  When I was thinking about being on the Subcommittee for Commerce, State, Justice, it reminds me a lot of the old AML.  Now, you and I know what the old AML is.  It has no air, it has no humidity, it vibrates every time trucks go down 270.  That's kind of like the conference committee.  When we go into conference and we try to get it through the Senate, we've gone through the committee, we've gone through the floor, we go into the conference, we're staring at our House colleagues, and then we're arguing for what we can be able to do.

Being in those conference committees is like being in a bunker.  It has no air, it has no circulating air other than hot air, no ventilation, no humidity, and it vibrates a lot.  But we get out there and we work for you, and seriously, why do we do it?  Well, 1, we know that if you're to be the best of what you can be, you need to have the best working conditions.  We know that in 1991 a report found that the NIST laboratories didn't meet basic performance standards.  The laboratories were overcrowded, antiquated.  We know that the good news about 270 is it is High-Tech Highway, but it causes tremendous vibrations that prohibit you from doing your work.  So we want you to continue to win those Nobel Prizes.  But while you win the Nobel Prizes, it also enables America to win the markets.  So you're making very important contributions, and that's why we work every year, year in and year out.

When you hear about these victories – we worked in 1998 to get $78 million to bank it.  We worked in 1999 to get $40 million to bank it for construction.  And when we came in for last year's appropriations for '84, my colleagues said, what are you building out there?  And we said – Sarbanes and Mikulski said – we're building America's future.

Come and see what we're doing, because they come from all over the world.  We are the gold standards for measurements and technology here.  So we're very proud of the work that you are doing, and the dedicated men and women who are here.  Whether it's DNA, whether it's measuring pollutants, whether it's determining the effectiveness of pharmaceuticals and working with FDA.

And now we're on the brink of what I think will be the technology of the 21st century, nanotechnology.  I believe nanotechnology will be to the 21st century what information technology was to the 20th century.  And I believe that what you're instituting here, and that nano-lab and what we're working on here, will insure that America will win not only the Nobel prizes, but with this new economy coming we'll continue to lead the way in science and technology.

Thank you very much, and God bless you.

Dr. Shavers:  Thank you, Senator Mikulski.  We were hoping that Congresswoman Morella would be able to make it, and unfortunately she's out doing the people's work here and has not been able to come.  But I'd like to talk a little bit about her.  You know her very well.  She was very gracious to me when I first came, and she is certainly a friend and strong, eloquent supporter of NIST, as you well know.

She is not only – not only represents the 6th District of Maryland, but she's also Chair of the House Science Subcommittee on Technology.  She's been involved with the Technology Administration on a number of different programs and has been very, very visible and can actually explain what technology means to just the average-day person.

There is no one that I have met that has really just as consistently been a good sponsor.  Ray Kammer certainly can attest to that.  And we are very saddened that she is not here today.  But she is certainly not forgotten, and hopefully she'll be able to come out at the end and do some of the tours so that you can see her.

But I'd like to turn this over to Ray Kammer as we move on to our last speaker.  Thank you.

Mr. Kammer:  We're fortunate that we're located in a county that values the kind of work here that we do at NIST, and it also provides an environment for our staff that helps them and their families lead enjoyable and productive lives.

Let me introduce Montgomery County Executive Douglas Duncan.

Mr. Duncan:  I really am delighted to be here with you.  This is a very exciting day for all of you; it's a very exciting day for Montgomery County and the State of Maryland and the United States of America.  For 40 years you have called Montgomery County your home here, and we are very, very thankful for that.  The contributions you make to our county have done so much to make Montgomery County the kind of place that it has become today.

2,900 employees here, over 600 international visitors a year.  Counting this new lab, you look at the capital investment that NIST has made to this community; about $2 billion of capital investment on this site.  So I want to thank you very much for that.

The work that you do behind the scenes, in the cutting-edge research, the work that you do out in front, with direct support for about 450 different industry projects, is just extraordinary.  So we want to thank you also for that.

We have about 63,000 private sector high-tech jobs here in the county, and it is growing rapidly.  And you all contribute directly and indirectly to that every day of the week.  And when we meet with technology leaders from around the world, NIST really is at the top of our list when we say why this is a good place for them to come and do business.

So, let me just close by thanking you very much; and saying that, as Senator Mikulski said, Montgomery County did win the All-America City Award.  We're one of 10 communities in the country.  It's a great honor for us to do that.  But that award is all about partnership; partnerships with the community, partnerships with the state and Federal Government, partnerships with the towns here in the county, and we're very proud of that.  And I want to thank you, again, for doing everybody that you do to make this such a wonderful place.

Let me just recognize State Senator Jenny Forehand, who's with us today, representing District 17.

She is a strong supporter of NIST, strong supporter of technology in our county and in our state, and I'm very proud to say she, with me, is a very strong supporter of building the Inter-County Connector and getting some transportation approvals.  So, thank you very much.

Mr. Kammer:  Let me give you some sense of the dimensions of the new facility.  If you look around – and you probably noticed this when you were coming in – there are somewhere, often far distant from that direction, fairly close in this direction – red poles with orange and yellow streamers on them.  Those sketch off the perimeter of the buildings.  There's three that will be above ground, and they are the ones that will be farthest away, and then here and over there will be – over there is AML West, and we are sitting on top of AML East.  And these will be underground buildings that will be built underground in order to minimize the vibration.

The building will be – will go down – 46 feet.  And the two experimental buildings will be mounted on springs and have computer feedback in order to account for the vibration that inevitably, even that far underground, takes place.  And with that, we will be able to do experiments on single atoms.

I was born in 1947. That was the year that the first transistor was built; perhaps the official start of the age of electronics.  And probably in the next four or five years, if I can last that long, I'll be able to say I lived through the entire electronics age.

And what we think comes next involves the manipulation of atoms and exploiting phenomena that exist on the first single atom and molecule stage.  That's why we're building the building.  We expect that people will be able to come here and to experiment with us; that will allow us to exploit whatever comes next in terms of the replacement for electronics.

Now we're going to come down off the podium and break ground.

Mr. Kammer:  Thank you all for helping us celebrate this event.

Created October 14, 2009, Updated October 25, 2016