Take five minutes and learn about CNS's Kristy McWilliams, vice president of CNS Safeguards, Security, and Emergency Services (SS&ES). All views and opinions are the employee’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of CNS.
Kristy McWilliams has lived by the life maxim that you never know where life will take you.
“I never envisioned as a young adult that I would be in a leadership role working to protect the nation’s nuclear deterrent,” she said. “I encourage everyone to open their minds to trying new things and taking on new challenges.”
McWilliams was named the vice president of CNS Safeguards, Security, and Emergency Services (SS&ES) in December 2022, and prior to that, she served as the first female senior security director at Pantex.
McWilliams is a graduate of Texas Tech University with a degree in accounting. In her current position, she serves as the senior leader over the SS&ES organizations for both Pantex and Y-12.
McWilliams started at Pantex in 2002 in the finance organization and was quickly matrixed over to the Safeguards and Security organization to serve as its financial analyst.
“While in this role, I was fortunate to have leaders and mentors within the security organization that provided me with opportunities to learn about the operational side of Security,” she said.
She then moved into various security positions including program manager, security group leader, deputy division manager, and division manager.
McWilliams’ advice to others is to take advantage of every opportunity given to you, regardless of what the opportunity might be.
“I have a sign in my office that simply states ‘work hard and be nice to others.’ That is the advice that I give to anyone,” she said. “You truly are a product of your experiences, good and bad. So embrace them, learn from them, and be willing to share them with others.”
What daily task (specific meeting, report, etc.) lets you know you’re helping achieve the CNS mission? How/why does that task let you know you’re working toward the mission?
Being able to witness, on a day-to-day basis, all of the hard work and dedication that members of the SS&ES organization exhibit. It is by their commitment that my organization is able to meet the mission each and every day, 24/7.
What is your favorite aspect about your work environment? How does that aspect make you know the mission is being met?
My favorite aspect about my work environment has to be the people. I am fortunate to work with a team full of security and emergency management/fire department professionals. They make the mission look easy and I am so proud to be a small part of the team.
What work advice would you offer someone who is new to Pantex or Y-12?
I would encourage them to really learn all that they can about the Pantex and/or Y-12 mission. I would also encourage them, every now and then, to stop and really think about how important they are to global security. It is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day duties of our jobs, so I would recommend that they reflect on the fact that they are one of a very few people in the world do what we do at Pantex and Y-12. It doesn’t matter what role they play at either site; they are contributing to the very important mission for our nation.
What’s your top bucket list item and why?
I don’t really do bucket lists…. maybe I should, but I have lived my life without a lot of pre-planning. I’m not sure if that is good or bad, but so far it seems to have worked for me.
Take 5 minutes and learn about Krisha “Katie” Paul, Pantex’s Cultural Resources Management Senior Associate. All views and opinions are the employee’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of CNS.
Any new hire at Pantex — and there have been lots of them of late — can tell you that the first week is a fire hose of information. They have full days packed into in a full week of learning about all the puzzle pieces that create the mosaic of Pantex. One of the friendly faces new hires can count on seeing is Pantex’s historian, Katie Paul, who provides the newbies with a fascinating glimpse into the rich history of their new work home.
A relatively new employee herself with about a half-year of experience under her belt, Paul oversees a wide range of responsibilities at the plant. In addition to teaching new hires and visitors, she gives tours, oversees the plant’s compliance with environmental laws, assesses buildings for preservation and historical integrity, and catalogs and maintains artifacts related to the plant’s World War II and Cold War missions.
An Amarillo native, Paul went to college at West Texas A&M University in nearby Canyon and received a graduate degree in history. She then gained a fascinating range of experience with various jobs working for WT’s School of Engineering, the Amarillo office of the Texas Department of Transportation, and the Panhandle Regional Planning Commission.
“I’ve been an administrative assistant, a planner, a grant writer, and a city manager,” Paul said. “I’m glad to have found my home here at Pantex, sharing my love of history with employees and visitors alike.”
Are you doing what you envisioned as a young adult? If so, describe how you got here.
From a young age, I loved history. I had no idea that I could make this kind of a career out of a subject most people find boring, but I’m very glad to have been able to join the Pantex family! When I began studying history in college, my goal was to work in a museum, but plans changed and my career took me down a different path.
This position at Pantex is really the best of all worlds: part museum work, conservation work, communication, networking, and writing. These are all things that come from both professional and educational experience. It is amazing to be able to come to work, practice history, share history with my peers, and work with people who are all dedicated to the mission and service to the United States.
What is your favorite fact about Pantex’s history that you enjoy sharing with the new hires?
My favorite era of Pantex history is our World War II operations. It’s such an amazing thing that we were able to transform farmland into a fully functioning industrial operation in just 5 months. It was so important for the Allies’ success in the war — and we still use buildings that were involved in that early World War II work.
I thoroughly enjoy hearing the Pantex story from the beginning and understanding the complex pieces of government that went into standing up factories for war production — and what a tremendous feat it was.
What CNS principle drives you to be successful?
All of the CNS guiding principles provide motivation for achieving success and upholding our mission, but my favorite is “promote a questioning attitude.” Though I am a historian and most people think history is dates and facts, there are always questions to be asked and answers to be found.
As a history buff, what is your recommendation to other Texas Panhandle history buffs?
I always recommend the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum in Canyon because it has such a wide variety of collections. They have antique vehicles, branding irons, a petroleum exhibit, fine art, firearms, geology, paleontology, and something for just about everyone. They have enough rotating exhibits that you'd be able to find something new to see even if you visit several times per year.
What is your favorite outside-of-work activity and why?
I am very interested in 3-D printing and modeling. I have a 3-D Fat Man replica on my desk that I printed with my home printer and painted. It’s such a fun way to be creative and exercise the technical part of my brain.
In 2013, Josh Johnson, then a North Carolina State University engineering student, couldn’t have imagined where his life and career would take him.
“I’m still not entirely sure how I ended up in the Department of Energy complex,” he chuckled. “I got an internship at Savannah River Site while I was in college, and very quickly became a nerd for anything nuclear.”
His internship led to a full-time position as a design engineer. A couple of years later, a 2-week training course assignment out of state introduced him to Laura Solis, a Pantex employee also assigned to the course. Johnson relocated from South Carolina to the Texas Panhandle in 2018 to assume a facility engineering role at Pantex. Josh and Laura married the next year and will soon welcome their first child.
Johnson has made ample use of opportunities, and he keeps his eyes and mind open for more.
“My curiosity is my greatest strength. My whole job is basically ‘knowing things,’ so I’m always reading and asking questions, trying to learn more,” he said.
Curiosity has reinforced for Johnson that the foundation of understanding very often lies in one simple question: Why?
It is that question—and the questioning attitude so important to everything at Pantex—that recently led Johnson to make a discovery with some literally weighty ramifications.
“I discovered the issue almost by accident. While looking for some unrelated information, I stumbled on an original … drawing where someone had noted in red ink that the cranes in (a specific) facility didn’t have tension rods,” he said.
The rods in question are structural components on a series of 1950s-era cranes being used at Pantex. They became an important part of an early 2000s-era seismic analysis, but it was never fully realized that some of the cranes were missing these rods.
“It seems like different people over the years recognized the tension rods were missing, but didn’t realize the analysis relied on them, or knew they were important to the analysis, but didn’t realize they were missing,” Johnson explained.
It took the young engineer’s curiosity and knowhow, supported by the experience of other Pantexans, to recognize the potential importance of his find.
“I talked to the other system engineer, David Bell, and he agreed it was as big a deal as I thought it was,” Johnson said.
Johnson and Bell escalated the issue, resulting in an adjustment to the approved load capacity of the impacted cranes and prompting a search for ways to upgrade the machines to their previous load rating.
“I like being able to solve problems,” Johnson said. “Solving one problem after another is what it’s all about. That’s how you make things better.”
Why are you mission success?
I try to understand as much as I can from different sources, even things that are probably outside my job description. Knowing what other people I deal with are doing and how they do it usually seems to help me out in some way.
Are you doing what you envisioned as a young adult? Describe how your career compares or contrasts to your expectations.
A few years ago my parents found an old worksheet from 1st or 2nd grade where I said I wanted to be either a “professional Lego® builder” or a “rhinoceros racer” when I grew up. So, I would say I’m right on track.
How does patriotism factor into your life and work? Did your level of patriotism change after working at Pantex?
Working at a DOE site made me realize the government isn’t a bunch of guys in black suits. It’s ordinary people just doing their job every day. And, I think that’s made me more patriotic than I probably would have been otherwise.
What would your coworkers be most surprised to learn about you?
I can sing “A Boy Named Sue” from start to finish, and I’ve actually got a decent singing voice.
What’s your favorite outside-of-work activity, and why?
Cooking. I got into cooking a couple of years ago as a creative outlet, to save some money, and to eat less junk food. But now it’s also relaxing for some of my regular recipes. And, then, it’s always nice to make something you can be proud of.
Every day, employees at Y-12 National Security Complex solve problems in the course of serving the national security mission. In the course of this work, some technologies are developed that may have broader utility and impact in the private sector.
In some cases, CNS is able to grant a technology license to private businesses, as was recently the case with Weatherly Consulting, LLC, a small, woman-owned business. Weatherly Consulting now has a copyright license for Y-12’s Readiness Certification Assurance Tracking Software (RCAPTS). The software, which was developed by Y-12 program manager John Raulston and subcontractor Garrett Cook, will help streamline the readiness review process for Weatherly Consulting’s customers.
Software streamlines complex processes
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) requires a disciplined, systematic, documented, performance-based examination of facilities, equipment, personnel, procedures and management control systems. This review ensures a facility can be operated safely and provides the basis for DOE to direct startup or restart of the facility, activity, or operation.
Navigating that requirement efficiently and effectively led Y-12 to develop RCAPTS as a web-based, multi-user tool that manages readiness projects, reviews, and associated activities. By managing workflows automatically and providing real-time status updates, the software assists users in completing readiness verification and certification as required by DOE orders.
Designed to eliminate or supplement paper-based administrative tasks, RCAPTS could also be used by software companies, engineering firms during construction and/or startup activities, and operating firms using complex processes in a highly regulated environment.
Big impact for small business
Weatherly Consulting is primarily focused on readiness verification in nuclear operations. The business was established in 2008 by Janet Weatherly, Owner and Principal. Licensing RCAPTS will streamline the core business, according to Weatherly.
“I am extremely excited about gaining access to the RCAPTS technology for my business and how it will help improve the readiness review process,” said Weatherly. “Being familiar with it already, it is definitely user friendly and can be used with very little training.”
There are several administrative requirements that must be documented before starting any review or assessment. The software automates this part of the process.
“It does everything for you,” said Weatherly. “You can sort by functional area, core requirements, and prerequisites—all within a minute. It cuts out so many steps.”
CNS Technology Transfer actively manages and commercializes technologies that employees created and facilitates licensing those technologies to private companies to enhance the nation’s competitiveness.
Grant Allard, University and Industrial Partnerships program manager, agreed the software would create a complementary service for Weatherly Consulting and their approach to the overall readiness review process.
“The RCAPTS software puts all of the readiness data at the user’s fingertips,” said Allard. “It allows for faster, more reliable decisions and reviews on projects in real-time, and reduces cost. Working with a small business to transfer this one-of-a-kind technology for commercial use has been especially gratifying.”
The CNS team was able to guide Weatherly through the copyright-license process so that she could begin utilizing the software.
“I definitely recommend business owners collaborate with CNS on useful technology and software for their business,” said Weatherly. “They make the process so easy.”
Consolidated Nuclear Security President and Chief Executive Officer Rich Tighe.
Take 5 minutes and learn about Consolidated Nuclear Security’s Richard Tighe, president and chief executive officer. All views and opinions are the employee’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of CNS.
Consolidated Nuclear Security (CNS) President and Chief Executive Officer Rich Tighe and his younger brother Jim played high school football for a legendary Iowa coach — their father Dick Tighe, whose career included more than 400 wins during 63 uninterrupted seasons.
Teamwork and football were familiar themes in the Tighe (pronounced “tie”) household in Webster City, Iowa. That “Friday night lights” culture of the small Midwestern town helped shape Tighe’s leadership philosophy.
“Everybody plays a part on the team,” he said. “In football, you might have to wait until your senior year to play, but the contributions you make to the team while you wait your turn are important.”
In his first few months as president and CEO, Tighe has been busy meeting National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Production Office and CNS leadership teams; local, state, and national elected officials representing the West Texas and East Tennessee areas; NNSA leadership; and site and laboratory directors from across the Nuclear Security Enterprise.
Tighe is taking advantage of the extensive knowledge of the CNS team.
“There is tremendous knowledge and experience at both sites; by working to be inclusive, I’m able to use this to the best advantage in informing decisions,” he said. “I’m new to CNS, but even the most experienced person at Pantex or Y-12 can’t be an expert in all aspects of our work or the sites. Getting input from other people helps all of us take advantage of the full expertise available.”
Before joining CNS, Tighe served in roles with Bechtel and Lockheed Martin, and he is no stranger to the Nuclear Security Enterprise, having spent more than a decade at the Nevada National Security Site. Tighe was also a postdoctoral fellow in the Nuclear Science Division of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory at the University of California.
“Coming back to NNSA is like coming back to my roots,” he said. “It takes me back to my foundation in nuclear physics, which helps me understand the mission of both sites and how it fits into the broader Nuclear Security Enterprise.”
What daily task lets you know you’re helping achieve the CNS mission? How/why does that task let you know you’re working toward the mission?
No two days have been the same, so far. Meeting and talking to employees during tours and all hands meetings helps me to put their work in the context of the bigger picture of our mission.
How does patriotism factor into your life?
Patriotism becomes most meaningful to me when I think of the role the U.S. plays with our allies and adversaries around the world. It’s rewarding to be involved with such an important purpose and mission.
What one thing would your coworkers be surprised to know about you?
When I was a postdoctoral fellow in the Nuclear Science Division of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, I was the lead investigator for the work involved in the discovery of Sb 105 (antimony 105), a nuclear isotope along the proton drip line that has implications for nucleosynthesis. I proposed and planned the experiment, analyzed the data, and wrote the journal article.
What’s your favorite outside of work activity?
When we lived in Maryland, my daughters were involved in high school sports and also played on travel teams. My wife and I enjoyed traveling to their games and tournaments. My daughters and I had a tradition of running in a Turkey Trot every Thanksgiving. While I seldom run in 5Ks or other races these days, I typically run four times each week. I also really enjoy watching college football, particularly watching and attending Notre Dame games.