ABQ Journal, Santa Fe Edition
Friday, May 25, 2007
By Raam Wong
Journal Staff Writer
LOS ALAMOS— Los Alamos National Laboratory director Michael Anastasio on Thursday denied rumors that hundreds of layoffs are planned for next month.
"There are no layoffs planned," Anastasio said during a meeting with reporters.
June will mark the one-year anniversary of a change in management of the lab from the University of California to a for-profit consortium that includes Bechtel Corp and UC.
Operating costs have gone up under Los Alamos National Security LLC. For instance, the lab now has to pay state gross receipts taxes— estimated last fall at $55 million— because of its for-profit status.
Since September, LANL has cut contractor jobs, raising fears among workers employed directly by the lab that they could be next.
Anastasio said the lab would continue to address its budget problems by reducing its work force through attrition, finding cost savings and cutting contractor positions.
Lab officials said last fall that as many as 600 positions— affecting up to 20 percent of the lab's 3,000 contract workers— could eventually be eliminated.
Job cuts could have a big impact on the Los Alamos business community, which depends on "trickle-down" business from contractors.
In the interview inside LANL's University House, Anastasio reflected on the lab's successes over the year, as well as the bumps along the way.
The lab's management contract was put out to bid in part because of years of embarrassing security and safety lapses at the storied lab, birthplace of the atomic bomb. But some of those concerns continued to haunt it even under the new management.
Last year, classified documents turned up during a drug investigation at the home of former archivist Jessica Quintana, a contract worker. The incident raised fresh questions and congressional hearings about security.
And in June, two workers for a subcontractor were using a crane to move a 1,500-pound metal staircase when the structure slipped from its rigging, fell more than 50 feet and struck the men. An internal lab investigation found that LANL could have prevented the accident.
Anastasio said the lab has responded "quickly and decisively" to these and other incidents. The lab boss said the injury rate has fallen 30 percent under the new management.
On security, Anastasio said the lab has beefed up cybersecurity and reduced the number of classified computers and "vault-type" rooms that hold classified material.
The lab is preparing to pilot a "super" vault-type room, where classified work is consolidated and best practices are used, thereby reducing the risk of a security breach.
The lab has expanded its drug policy, conducting random tests on at least 20 percent its work force.
All in all, Anastasio called the first year a success. He said he was proud of LANL employees, adding that "in spite of turmoil over the years, wonderful things are happening at the lab."