Jun 9, 2007

'Congress is anxious'

JANE LONGMIRE Monitor Business Writer

Speaking to a crowd of 150 people, Jan A. Van Prooyen, acting deputy director of Los Alamos National Laboratory, spoke of the laboratory's vision and accomplishments since the new leadership team of Los Alamos National Security, LLC (LANS) took over the helm in June 2006. He was keynote speaker at the Chamberfest Appreciation Banquet 2007 Friday evening at Central Avenue Grill.

Van Prooyen said the laboratory has made significant progress and improvements, yet in today's climate, "Congress is anxious"; more changes and more improvements will be needed.

"Our vision is 'Make LANL a premier national science laboratory for the 21st century,'" Van Prooyen said. In order to accomplish this, he said the community needs first-rate schools, first-rate churches, first-rate hospitals and first-rate businesses to bring in the best scientists. He emphasized the need for everyone to "believe in the laboratory" for it to be successful.

Van Prooyen listed several accomplishments that have met the vision milestone over the past nine months:

# Safety/security. Fifty less employees have received serious injury from the previous year, a 30-percent improvement in safety. "We intend to bring current rates down," he said.

# National recognition. The Dual Axis Radiographic Hydrodynamic Test facility (DAHRT) has tested its second axis, greatly improving imaging; and the Cibola Flight Experiment, carrying a payload that is capable of performing more than 1 trillion operations per second, "is 350 miles above us," Van Prooyen said. Both are important for our security, he said.

# Tools to measure success. Van Prooyen spoke of improved leadership using upward feedback and maximizing individual performance, thus making LANL a better place.

# Boosted efficiency and effectiveness. "We consciously decided to keep our laboratory employees. We chose to delete contractors, even though it was painful. As a result, we are financially viable," Van Prooyen said.

Van Prooyen said LANS is planning for the long run, with more goals to be met.

"We intend to meet our goals this year and go forward," he said.

LANL is working very hard, he said, working more closely with the environmental department, with great improvement over the past year in getting documents delivered on time; increasing its run of the LANSE accelerator to meet the increased need for medical isotopes; protecting the country by locating over 15,000 radioactive sources around the world this past year; pursuing medical research to quell HIV and hepatitis C; and by putting 1100 students on the role, the most of any DOE facility in the country.

LANL has committed $875,000 so far in regional economic development, made technical assistance available to small businesses, offered 5 percent preference to regional purchasing and $1.1 million in scholarships and grants to local schools and colleges.

It has also supported United Way by more than doubling last year's contributions.

The June 7 Los Alamos Monitor headline read "Lab budget sees cuts," which referred to the House Appropriation Committee zeroing out funding for the Reliable Replacement Warhead and a plutonium pit production center.

Cuts would also affect all funding for the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement facility, Nuclear Safeguard and Security Upgrade Phase II and Advanced Scientific Computing, which would block funding to support the Roadrunner High Performance Computer acquisition for LANL.

Van Prooyen said the Roadrunner supercomputer will be able to compute in two minutes what the Cray I could do when it was installed 30 years ago.

He emphasized goals, improvements and changes will continue to happen in order to meet the vision and calm Congress' anxiety about Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Van Prooyen closed his speech by saying, "We will strive to meet the needs of our country through open honest communication. We need to listen to one another and understand each other's intentions."

Van Prooyen holds a B.S. in engineering from the U.S. Military Academy, West Point, Ph.D. in nuclear engineering from the University of Virginia, was a National Security Fellow at Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government, is a member of the American Nuclear Society and the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, served on the National Academy of Sciences Panel on Chemical Stockpile Demilitarization and currently serves on the National boards of the Armed Services YMCA and National Defense Industrial Association.

He is the recipient of the Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal, the Legion of Merit and the Bronze Star for Valor.

Originally from Napa, Calif., Van Prooyen now makes his home in Los Alamos with wife, Cindy.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Again the parade of numbers to show how terrific LANS is but of course it's never enough and workers must improve....

and what the hell is a "first-class church" and what on earth has it to do with the lab?

If the lab is depending on churches and stores and draw top talent to Los Alamos he's in a fool's parade. The town doesn't even have a first-class DRUG STORE... let alone any kind of up-to-date shopping facilities. The town is mired in the 1950s---except for having a Starbucks.

Charlton Heston said...

Starbucks is Soylent Bean.

Soylent Bean is Starbucks!!!

Charlton Heston

Anonymous said...

A nice feel-good Rotary Club type speech by Mr. P, the company rep. The standard company stroking-the-company-town with platitudes about how we all need be supportive of the company and the company, in turn, will be supportive of the company town. Beyond that, not much substance or credibility.

Anonymous said...

"In order to accomplish this, he said the community needs first-rate schools, first-rate churches, first-rate hospitals and first-rate businesses to bring in the best scientists." - Van Prooyen

And how about a 1st rate employer? Van Prooyen left that one out and it's the most critical element of all to attract top rated scientists. In that respect, I think LANL is currently in deep trouble.

Anonymous said...

11:53 makes an excellent point.... why would any first-raters want to come work at a company where the prevailing attitude seems to be: "I just hope I can hang on for another X years."

Anonymous said...

A nice little town where the federal overseers stupidly but apparently sincerely believe that a polygraph "test" is of some value.

Anonymous said...

I think that this blog should be required reading for any LANS job applicant. A shitty employer in shitty liitle town. What more could the best and brightest desire?

Anonymous said...

Los Alamos isn't New York or San Francisco and it isn't Chama. It has good points and bad points. If you and your family like a small town, you'll probably do okay in Los Alamos. The real problems are all the ramifications associated with an environment in which polygraphs are required and that this is apparently accepted at the highest levels of the food chain both at Los Alamos and in Washington, DC, where projects to work on determined and where the money is doled out.

ron said...

This was a good one:

"Van Prooyen said the Roadrunner supercomputer will be able to compute in two minutes what the Cray I could do when it was installed 30 years ago."

Uh, what? "What the Cray 1 could do" -- in .. 30 years or ... well what does that quote mean?

I have a sneakin' suspicion a few words got lost in transit to the Monitor.

ron

Anonymous said...

"Tools to measure success. Van Prooyen spoke of improved leadership using upward feedback and maximizing individual performance, thus making LANL a better place."

This entire statement makes no sense to me. Since LANS has such a hard on for metrics, how is any assertion in this statement measured? Improved leadership? Maximizing individual performance? Better place?

Also, since I didn't get the memo, can anyone explain exactly what constitutes the mentioned "upward feedback" process?

Anonymous said...

it was all blather and nothing in the "speech" makes any sense at all.....

Anonymous said...

As far as I can tell, the UC upward appraisal process (which certainly wasn't perfect, but was decent data) has been tossed out by LANs. Perhaps they are now having the GLs rate the DLs, the DLs rate the ADs, and the ADs rate Mikey. Sounds like a legitimate upward feedback process (wink-wink).

On a related topic, also gone are Division reviews. Again, generally incestuous, but at least there was a perception of external oversight.

Anonymous said...

Managers pick people to evaluate them. Need at least 5 responses to be valid. Then manager works with a coach to pick a couple of low ranked items to work on. Manager then calls meeting of all interested parties for manager to tell what he is going to work on and what he will be doing to bring scores up. It is then up to employees to bring to managers attention when they see him falter. And it is managers responsiblity to react appropriately and correct action.

Blah Blah Blah

Anonymous said...

As the lab goes, so does the Community....One is the refelection of the other...Look in the mirror......

Anonymous said...

From 8:52 - "As far as I can tell, the UC upward appraisal process (which certainly wasn't perfect, but was decent data) has been tossed out by LANs. Perhaps they are now having the GLs rate the DLs, the DLs rate the ADs, and the ADs rate Mikey. Sounds like a legitimate upward feedback process (wink-wink)."

Interesting that the Fellows and others involved in "the extensive national search" to fill the PADSTE position emphatically told Mikey not to hire Wallace. However, the "science" ADs told Mikey to pick Wallace. You be the judge.