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Pictured is the Savannah River National Laboratory, which is located at the Savannah River Site. SRS is about 30 minutes south of Aiken.

A draft request for proposals for the discrete management of the Savannah River National Laboratory is expected to be issued in the second quarter of this fiscal year, which could be a significant step forward in the often long and mercurial federal contracting process.

The timeframe was included in a presentation made Thursday morning at an industry event in North Augusta, which U.S. Department of Energy Under Secretary for Science Paul Dabbar attended and spoke at.

An Energy Department spokesperson late last year said an actual request for proposals – kicking off contract competition – could be issued in fiscal year 2020, as well.

In December, the Energy Department announced it was interested in a wholly separate management contract for the Savannah River Site-located lab, which in fiscal year 2019 did hundreds of millions of dollars of work.

The standalone contract – if eventually executed, and it appears it will – would sever the lab from a broader, overarching contract currently held by Savannah River Nuclear Solutions, the lead contractor at the site. Savannah River Nuclear Solutions was made aware of the potential split in 2019.

A separate contract would better position the lab for the future, allow it to seize research and development opportunities and foster relationships with academia, officials said, mirroring publicly available federal documents.

Dabbar on Thursday said it's an "exciting time" for the Savannah River National Lab, at one point describing the Energy Department as a large research-and-development outfit.

In a separate sit-down with reporters, Dabbar said there was excitement surrounding "the list of people" who attended the morning event, especially those with research and academic backgrounds. USC Aiken was represented.

"Having a research entity or a university, first of all, as part of that, they bring their own expertise of how to manage a research organization," the under secretary said. "We think that, you know, national labs are research organizations."

The Savannah River National Lab is currently involved in the science, defense and energy fields.

Colin Demarest covers the Savannah River Site, the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Nuclear Security Administration and government in general. Follow him on Twitter: @demarest_colin