Fermi National Laboratory

Volume 25  |  Friday, January 18, 2002  |  Number 1
In This Issue  |  FermiNews Main Page

Jed Brown Sees the Talent to Meet the Challenges

by Mike Perricone

Jed Brown, Fermilab's new Associate Director for Operations Support, retired from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with the rank of Brigadier General. As Fermilab’s new associate director for operations support, Jed Brown has found the answer to a question that puzzled him for years.

Brown’s interest in physics and physicists began in his youth and persisted through a military career of three decades, followed by an engineering career in the private sector. Among his favorite books, he lists a biography of Enrico Fermi; James Gleick’s biography of Richard Feynman; and Richard Rhodes’ Pulitzer Prize-winner, “The Making of the Atomic Bomb.” As commander of the North Atlantic Division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in the late 1980s, Brown stepped into the offices at 90 Church Street, in lower Manhattan, where the Corps’ Manhattan District was established and where another Corps officer, Gen. Leslie Groves, became director of the Manhattan Project. There, the question absorbed him.

“I could never understand how Gen. Groves was able to do what he did in running that project,” Brown said. “But coming to Fermilab, and seeing the enormous capabilities of the physicists here, I now see how he could have done it.”

Brown was also immediately impressed by the Fermilab environment.

“Not only is the science fascinating, but the setting is an absolute delight,” he said. “It’s like a combination of a public park and a game preserve. It’s unlike anything I’ve experienced in working with the government. Fermilab is a national treasure.”

That’s the judgment of a civil engineer (Brown earned his Master’s from the University of Illinois) and a working environmentalist, in the most real-life terms. In his final military post at the Pentagon, General Brown was responsible for the Army’s $2 billion program for environmental oversight and cleanup at installations around the world. He was on the oversight board for the environmental cleanup of the Rocky Mountain Arsenal, following the shutdown of the chemical weapons manufacturing facility. He believes he saved millions of dollars by contracting for the removal of a nuclear research reactor at the Watertown Arsenal in Massachusetts, before it was listed in the Superfund cleanup of the Environmental Protection Agency and subject to the special procedures of that program. Working with a German environmental minister, Joschka Fischer, he negotiated the environmental aspects of the return of U.S. military bases in Germany. He also witnessed another restoration.

“One night when we were going to dinner in Berlin, Herr Fischer [who is now the German Foreign Minister], had his driver take us to the Brandenburg Gate,” Brown recalled. “The driver let us off, and Herr Fischer and I walked through the gate into East Berlin. This was just after the Berlin Wall had come down. It was one of the most emotional experiences I ever had, having seen the Wall go up, and remembering all the confrontations we had over it. I never thought I would live long enough to walk through the Brandenburg Gate.”

At Fermilab, Brown knows he has a responsibility for the site infrastructure at a time when facilities are aging and budgets are tight. He said his goals are “managing the resources to the best of our ability to advance science as far as possible, and at the same time to continue this laboratory as the parklike place it is now—all done in safe manner.”

Brown endorses the Fermilab policy of integrating safety and science.

“Managers and leaders have to make safety a high priority,” he said. “Safety is also good business. Safety saves you money in the long run. I firmly believe if you’re going to run a safe operation, you’re going to plan it. And I’ve always found that well-planned operations are well-executed.”

Profile in Physics

Brown, who retired from the Army as a Brigadier General, succeeds the retiring George Robertson, who had been at Fermilab five years after serving as a Major General in the Corps of Engineers. Brown and his wife, Jean, have two daughters: Deborah is an industrial hygienist with Chevron-Texaco, working at recovery operations in Angola, Africa; Suzanne is completing her Ph.D. in international mining at the University of Western Australia in Perth. A native of Maine, Brown graduated from the U.S. Military Academy, taught at West Point, and his service record includes two tours with combat battalions in Vietnam.

Among the first mementos Brown placed in his Wilson Hall office is a poignant reminder of how the world changed on September 11: a photograph of New York harbor, with the Statue of Liberty in the foreground and the World Trade Center in the background. Brown’s Corps of Engineers office at 90 Church Street was adjacent to the Twin Towers, but one of his strongest New York memories was on the human scale.

“I hired a new human resources manager, who had worked in the New York office in the past and went on to several other Defense Department assignments,” he recalled. “The first day she rejoined the staff, I was taking her to lunch at a little restaurant in the World Trade Center. At the corner of Church and Vesey Streets, there was an old hot dog vendor, and while this woman hadn’t been in New York for 10 or 12 years, he recognized her. She recognized him, too. He gave her a free hot dog. New York City can be very different than what people imagine.”


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