May 24, 2007

Comment from Setback for Warheads Policy

"I've sucked on the DOE tit now for nearly three decades at Los Alamos, and if I’m having a hard time anymore justifying taxpayer support for my paycheck. Why should it come as any surprise to anyone that taxpayers as a body may be having serious reservations about a weapons complex that never seems to have enough money, nor the discipline to say they've finally reached the end of the line as far as needing to fine tune weapons of mass destruction already existing far in excess of any realistic threat or need? Enough is enough!"


Anonymous said...

Maybe you should just leave. I know
a lot of people at LANL that are very very valuable to the well being of science in the United States. By the way do you really know what kind of impact LANL has in terms of publications, citations and placment of postdocs? It looks like you do not, in fact I do not think you even work at LANL as you make statements
that are just so off the mark and lame.

Anonymous said...

The writer says nothing about the U.S. disarming in the face of competing nuclear threats in the world, and for anyone to twist the meaning of what’s being said to suggest this is nothing more than a transparent attempt to sidestep the real concern being expressed by the writer. The concern has to do with whether we as a nation can justify spending as much today on the nuclear weapons complex as we did, at the beginning, when the science and related technology was new and unknown, and the world threat was quite different than it is today. The writer also makes a very compelling argument regarding our priorities as a nation. In the face of cataclysmic global warming and ever increasing energy costs, why is the scientific talent of the Los Alamos National Laboratory still flapping around like a fish out of water, looking for more excuses (and trainloads of money) to keep studying nuclear weapons? Why not start working on the REAL and much more immediate threats to our civilization, like global warming for example…fed by ever increasing fossil fuel energy dependency and the corresponding threat that high energy costs represents to economies and people across the globe? Finally, the writer compels us to recognize the smoke and mirrors deception by an entrenched status quo at Los Alamos that has kept the taxpayer funding the contrived threats being conjured up by a self-serving cold war mentality that refuses to evolve no matter what. Indeed, enough is enough!

Anonymous said...

I stay at the Lab for same reason the vast majority today stay at the Lab...I'm too young to retire, and simply too old to start fresh elsewhere. Besides, I earn a salary now that would be near impossible for anyone to match beyond the Lab's borders. Because of my nearly 30 years with the Lab, I now own a home that has appreciated to the degree it, in concert with my many years of retirement investing, now places me in the paper-millionaire column. But I really can't yet afford to retire. Plus I'm just like everyone else at Los Alamos these days--the government tit continues to flow freely, so why leave? I'll just stick around and fatten up a bit more until the RIF hits or I decide it's time to slim down. I'm no different than 8:16 AM above, I'm just honest. And like everyone else at Los Alamos these days I'm also a gutless wonder. That's why I don't sign my name.

Dr. Strangelove said...

Holy Flame Bait guys!

There is a lot of sympathy with the concept that "enough is enough" re: Nuclear Weapons even at the center of the hurricane of debate about RRW - read our
post linked to Pedicini and Martz's comments .

The hecklers and baiters from outside the lab have a point, and it is NOT lost on us, even if their style is abusive and arrogant in it's own right.

Many of us DO get that there is such a thing as too many nuclear weapons, especially post cold-war. Some even believe that "any" is "too many" and all are discussing in one form or another what is a sane route (technically and politically) from where we are today and where we need to be.

We are also discussing what we can and should be doing about the other, equally dire issues facing this nation and planet. Many have been writing grant proposals to work on these problems for decades and some have succeeded in getting funding and working on those problems "right here in river city".

It might be illustrative to collect those examples to counter the "bad press" we seem to get over and over and over.

While many may think those of us who have not left are sitting around counting our retirement funds and "sucking on the government tit", you are simply wrong. Yes, there are always those and the UC-LANS transition didn't scrape as many of those off as it might have, but you are simply wrong to paint everyone who works at LANL with that brush.


Anonymous said...


I know your pain. Left over 3 years ago, sold the house, and got out of town. Although I was in about the same place as you are, I did a lot of soul searching and decided that I didn't want to spend the rest of my career waiting to retire and wishing I was somewhere else.

My perspective has changed a lot in past 36 months. At this point I don't feel that the biggest issue at Los Alamos is the change in contractor, management, changes in focus and funding toward production and away form research, or all of the many other issues that show up on this blog, or its predecessors. No! the biggest issue, actually a national tradgedy, is that several thousand of this country's best and brightest scientists and engineers are sitting around wishing for the good old days or that there were five years older so that they could retire. WAKE UP PEOPLE! That's no way to live! Why did you go into science to begin with? Why did you push through grad school? If you don't have the energy to stay at LANL/LANS and try to make it better, then look for something else on the outside. Its not that bad out here. So you don't get paid quite as much. You won't starve. There are more problems out there than there are talented people to solve them. And if you worked for UC for anything more than 5 years (literally) you will still get a pension that is better than what most of your fellow citizens could ever hope for.

Anonymous said...

Ed Grothus, is that you?

Eric said...

This post will be flamed. It is tradition on this blog. The flamer is usually Joe Anonymous, who will not meet people face to face and who criticizes without proposing an alternative.

However, the information may be useful to the posters above and other so I choose to post anyway.

A number of people (at LANL or LLNL) are thinking of hanging on a few more years and then retiring. They will be (on average) 57 when they retire. Given normal life expectancy, they will live another 30 to 40 years.

Questions that seem to be important to those retiring include:

1. Do you have enough assets to survive retirement?

2. What will you do with your time?

3. What will you do with your talents?

Talented focused people who retire early often die early because they have not addressed these questions and are not motivated towards anything.

I am a former LANL staff member. I did not retire from LANL. My project got swallowed in one of the standard political whirlpools.

Over the last 18 months, I and colleagues have helped more than 150 LANL folks survive this transition. This was nearly maximum number that we could handle. We have helped them make a plan for retirement, market their skills effectively nationwide, and be part of exciting scientific projects.

Today I am finishing two business plans for some of these exciting scientific projects, one in high end computing, the other in alternative energy production.

If anyone reading this wants to know more, all they have to do is contact me ( or 662-3115).

These contacts are completely confidential.

So, I have been where the posters are and have come through the other side. Contact me if you want to know what the journey has been about.

Eric said...

Small addendum.

I got three calls today looking for talent - engineering, science and cleared.

Anonymous said...

. . . and now the "headhunters" begin to feed.

Anonymous said...

How about the lucky double-dippers at LANL who now receive a juicy UC pension along with generous LANS matching funds to sock away in their new and rapidly growing 401Ks? What a deal. These guys are sucking the LANL tit so hard they are leaving nasty bite marks!

What was NNSA thinking when they set up the LANL RFP? The current low morale will cause many of the bright, young staff to leave and the remaining staff will probably begin to look like something out of an old folks home. I guessing that in the next few years the average age of LANL's workforce will increase even higher that the current figure of around 48 years old. Of course, I would be doing the same double-dipping dance if I could. Unfortunately, NNSA wasn't that generous to most of LANL's staff.

Anonymous said...

WTF 8:16???

$2B per year to train a few hundred post-docs and write a few hundred papers?

If that is your vision of value, I'd like to see you pass a drug test.

Anonymous said...

5:42... get over the "double dipping" crap. No one is double dipping. We took what we had already earned and then basically started over anew. Our UCRP never got to where it should have been and we won't have enough time in TCP2 to get it anywhere. Double dipping is you took your UCRP retirement at a normal retirement age and then came back as a full contractor. Or you have a military pension and now draw a full LANL salary.

You act like the retirement us "old timers" are getting out of UCRP is coming out of your wallet. We haven't taken anyone's job. We all are still doing exactly what we were doing before. We all just protected what we had already worked 25 or 30 years to get.

Geez - Get over it.

Anonymous said...


You are a total f*cking idiot. How does LANL get people like you.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 5/26/07 3:38 AM said...

You are a total f*cking idiot. How does LANL get people like you.


What leads to the conclusion that 5:50 PM is a LANL employee? More likely NOT a LANL employee.

Anonymous said...

5:50, the total f*cking idiot here!

SO you are saying that citations and placement of postdocs justifies the $2B budget. Good luck selling that argument to Congress.

If you want success, try arguing that LANL does things that the country needs and which cannot be done elsewhere at a much lower price.

The citations/postdoc argument is a sure loser. Performing the public service of designing new defense technologies is a likely winner. And in addition, you can then do science with the defense money.

Or am I just a total f*cking idiot for wanting to the lab to be successful?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 5/26/07 8:35 AM has it right. Nobody gives a damn about citations and post-docs. In fact, those products are delivered at lower cost by universities.

It is the essential nuclear weapons work and nothing else that will justify LANL's existence. The non-weapons work, good that it may be, can be done elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

Outsourcing science--can give small science to universities. Not cost effective for us to do. Too much overhead, not enough gain.

We keep only weapons and large scale science. However, small science could turn into large science at some point.

Eric said...

A small addition, at the request of a caller.

My full phone number is


Anonymous said...

Does anyone know how many people that went TCP-2 did this rather than freezing and only gainin 2% and age?

"You act like the retirement us "old timers" are getting out of UCRP is coming out of your wallet. We haven't taken anyone's job. We all are still doing exactly what we were doing before. We all just protected what we had already worked 25 or 30 years to get. "

Anonymous said...

"We keep only weapons and large scale science. However, small science could turn into large science at some point."

You crack me up. 80% of LDRD projects are never leveraged into anything more than... future LDRD projects.

Anonymous said...

You think it's as low as 80%?

Anonymous said...

To posters 11:18AM and 1:07PM

The LDRD program is really one of the great things we have at Los Alamos and
the program is indeed highly successful

I really hate it when people take pot-shots at the LDRD program. The LDRD program is only 6% of the lab budget but provids for almost all of the good news you hear about the lab externally. Additionally most of the people who get LDRD money work extremely hard and by and large are some of the most talented people in the lab.

Now I understand that occasionally very poor quality people can get LDRD funding, however these numbers are
low and similar things happen in all other peer reviewed funding sources including NSF and NIH. Again most of LDRD funding is awarded to the best people.

As the lab changes and broadens the mission in the coming years it will be
absolutely necessary to keep the LDRD program going to explore new
areas and also to have some kind of impact in these areas.

If you want the lab to have a standard for excellence you would see how valuable the LDRD program is. Also you need some way of objectively measuring the quality of a institution and publications and citations are one of the best ways.

Remember one of the arguments made over and over again to defend the lab has been that we do really great science. At this point this argument is still true but we need LDRD in order continue to make this argument.

Anonymous said...

OK I'll bite...How much of the total budget is LDRD?

Anonymous said...


Do you work at LANL? It is 6%

Anonymous said...

4:09 - there is no question that the LDRD people do good science, work hard, yada yada.

There is a big divide between LDRD people and programmatic people. LDRD people seldom apply their considerable talents to real problems (ducks, ready for a flaming).

However, LDRD is not that much as a % and is not that big a deal. It is also as irrelevant to the labs survival as postdoc placement.

You do need a way to objectively measure success. How about the ability to make a pit? Or finish a project (any project) successfully?

Anonymous said...

5/28/07 6:20 PM wrote, "However, LDRD is not that much as a % and is not that big a deal. It is also as irrelevant to the labs survival as postdoc placement."

Not unless you are second-rate postdoc who works for the AD-CLES. She is scoring LDRD funding to pay for her unfunded mandates that she forced C and EES-Divisions to hire. THe problem is that Priedorsky and Wallace are too stupid to know it is happening.

Anonymous said...

4:09, this is 11:18 again.

I was not disparaging the LDRD program per se, although if you think it results in funding the "most talented" people at the Lab I have to guess that you've never served on one of the review committees, nor do you know much about what goes on outside the walls of the Lab's LDRD-funded enclaves. I like LDRD - it funds some cute projects, and every once in a while it funds something that's useful to the programs that support it.

No - my point was that we can't just sit on our laurels and expect "small science" to turn into "big science" as a matter of course (see 1:36). The 80% figure - from Priedhorsky - is a case in point. LDRD is not a program per se, it's an overhead skim off the funding that comes to the Lab for the purpose of delivering a product to a real customer. We can't "grow" LDRD, so the fact that LDRD projects are mostly not converting into new revenue streams for the Lab has great significance to our future.