Jun 26, 2007

So what's the plan here, really?

Our esteemed NNSA head is now joining others (Dingell, Stupak, Hobson) in expressing extreme dissatisfaction with LANL's management. From the recent Newsweek article,

D'Agostino promised tough action: "Make no doubt about this. If the current laboratory management is unable or unwilling to change the security culture at LANL, I will use every management tool available to me" to force action, he said in testimony.

Given that, we should note again that D'Agostino and NNSA picked the identical management team (Bechtel, UC, & friends) to run our sister lab in California. Remember, D'Agostino had ample examples of LANS' management, shall we say, style, from observing their performance during their first year running LANL. Yet he picked the same corporate entities to run LLNL.

Is D'Agostino stupid? Is he incompetent?

Or, is he simply staying the course and executing a game plan that has been agreed to by DOE and Congress?

I'll take the latter explanation. Further, I believe that the game plan includes either shutting down LANL completely, or retaining only a Pu processing capability, if that initiative survives the budget process. LANS got the LANL and LLNL contracts because they were friendly to the concept; Lockheed was not.

The evidence supporting this position is compelling. First, Lockeed lost the contract in spite of having presented a superior bid and in spite of UC's atrocious past performance. Next, LLNL director Anastasio was transferred to become LANL's director. Then, we discover that Anastasio helped influence the RRW competition to favor his Alma Mater.

All of the new Bechtel and BWXT-bred LANS top management have a temporary feel to them -- most of them live in Santa Fe, as does our director.

The repeated, scripted Congressional LANL bashings (not undeserved, mind you, but conducted with perhaps a bit more hysteria than events dictated). The budget slashings directed at LANL. The decided lack of support that LANL management continues to demonstrate to staff. The lukewarm verbiage from Tom Udall suggesting that LANL diversify into energy research in spite of the facts, such as
  • we already have a National Renewable Energy Laboratory,
  • LANL doesn't do energy, and
  • LANL costs an unbelievable, uncompetitive $450K per TSM to pay for a year's output, much of which is spent satisfying a morass of brain dead CYA bureaucratic "training" requirements.

What else can one conclude but that the real plan calls for LANL is to be shut down, and that a much-reduced role for LLNL is to be expected.



Anonymous said...

What exactly did Mike A. do to influence throwing RRW to LLNL? Can you give specifics, or is this simply another rumor?

Anonymous said...

I imagine members of the LANL RRW team would be willing to repeat their claims to this effect. The topic has been discussed at length in these previous blog posts:


as well as in others.

Anonymous said...


I have read all of these I still
do not see where Mike A comes in.

Anonymous said...

I don't believe that the $450,000 cost is because of the extra CYA training, nor do I believe, as Udall does, that it's because of the cost of security and safety. It's more a function of the bloated management salaries at LANL. If management was downsized, the cost would drop dramatically

Anonymous said...

11:00AM has to ask this question? Do you recall the bogus competition that led to establishment of the NIF project in California? It has to do with California being a huge state, and as such having a huge congressional delegation. It has nothing to do with technical merit in other words! Duh!

Anonymous said...

A recent FTE rounded count:

PostDocs 360
TSM 3180
TEC 1880
SUP 2540
MGT 810
Student 420
Staff Augment 300

Anonymous said...

There are many things that go into the $450K per year cost of a TSM:

Too many managers and their support staff.

High salaries of top managers.

A large number of new AD, DD, and GL positions created by LANS.

Out of control expenditures in support areas such as HR.

Too many things are overdone. Note that the number of signatures to take items off site as grown from three to five, more in some cases.
A lot of training is unnecessarily lengthy. Too often one gets less than an hour of value from eight hours of training.

It goes on and on.

Eric said...

If the plan stated in this post is the actual plan, what might be an appropriate effective counter to this plan?

Anonymous said...

Looks like there will be people cleaning up long after the rest of us have left. Does anybody remember how long DOE paid to clean up Rocky Flats?

Report: Los Alamos lab cleanup could top $114 million (12 p.m.)
By The Associated Press
Article Launched: 06/26/2007 11:56:59 AM MDT

LOS ALAMOS, N.M. (AP) — Cleaning up plutonium-contaminated waste buried decades ago in shallow pits and trenches at Los Alamos National Laboratory could cost more than the current $114 million estimate, congressional investigators say.

The U.S. Department of Energy assumed for long-range planning purposes that the old waste could be safely left where it is, with a cap over it to prevent waste from either washing away or seeping into groundwater.

That solution would cost $114 million, according to a report released Friday by the Government Accountability Office, which is Congress' investigating arm.

However, the GAO said the cost could rise dramatically if an ongoing study concludes that the waste must be dug up and sent to a safer disposal site.

The state Environment Department expects that at least some of the old waste will have to be dug up, said James Bearzi of the department's Hazardous Waste Bureau.

A lab spokesman, James Rickman, said local DOE managers and lab officials were reviewing an analysis of the risk the waste poses. He said it's premature to say what type of cleanup might be needed.

The waste dates from the birth of the lab in 1943 through the early 1970s. Since then, plutonium waste from nuclear weapons work has been packaged and stored in drums for eventual disposal in the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, a DOE repository east of Carlsbad.


Information from: Albuquerque Journal, www.abqjournal.com

Anonymous said...

LANL may not do energy, but it looks like these guys will. Dated today from DOE Website. $375 million, the money's going fast.


Anonymous said...

Now wait a minute! Udall said *we* should do energy. You don't suppose he was just doing the political happy face thing with us, do you?

Anonymous said...

Actually, I think he said LANL should be allowed to compete for the funds.

"My goal is to ensure that the outstanding scientists at LANL have a fair opportunity to participate in these new energy pro­grams.

I have reached out to my colleagues in the New Mexico delegation urging a col­laborative effort to create a fair and open competitive process, and to make certain that our national labs can compete for the increased funds being proposed for energy research. In order to compete for these funds, however, the mission at LANL must diversity."

Anonymous said...

1:13 PM - This mone is already allocated, about $25M/yr for each of these three centers. LANL tried to compete for this money too, but failed.

Anonymous said...

I suppose Udall can only do so much. I'm curious what he thinks would be a fair and open competitive process, given what our FTE rates are, and the fact that we don't have any significant energy expertise (nor inclination, from what I've seen during the past 20 years). We're all about

The World's Greatest Science Protecting America


Anonymous said...

Part of the problem with the $450K/year TSM costs are due to the rip-off artists in the recharge orgs!

Anonymous said...

Countering the argument that DOE and Congress have agreed to shut LANL down - how do you explain the recent investments in new infrastruture? The SS Nanos, NISC, Metropolis, and the hole in the ground where the CMRR will go?

Anonymous said...

5:15 PM,

As stated in the post, DOE, NNSA, LANS, all want to have a Pu fab operation at LANL. If the budget passes then it will get built. Otherwise, not. All of the infrastructure additions that you mention are part of the Pu wet dream.

Anonymous said...

Q for 1:46

Did LANL compete and fail, or try to compete and fail. i.e. was the competition fair or rigged?

Anonymous said...

Great, another conspiracy theory. First it was RRW, now this.

Anonymous said...


Back to the question at the top; What exactly did Mike A. do to influence throwing RRW to LLNL?

The links given in the second post shed no light on this; Pedicini says something to the effect that if we lose the competition, it can only be because we were stabbed in the back.

That is a far cry from "specifics".

Again, can you (or anyone) supply specific actions related to Mikey influencing the decision LLNL-wise? Even specifics about what Mikey failed to do would be useful. (and I'll suggest that claims of non-support, or backstabbing, are not specifics)



GussieFinkNottle said...

6/26/07 7:29 PM,

I wasn't present during the competition, but I've heard the stories from those who were. I'll pass your request for more info on -- we'll see what people are willing to admit in writing here.


Anonymous said...

If someone would post the RRW information from Pedicini, maybe that would have the answer about Anastasio's lack of support. I can only remember that when I read it I thought it was pretty pathetic the way he supported the LANL design - NOT.

Anonymous said...

6:13 here.

I did not mean to imply a conspiracy theory.

1:46's language was unclear and lent itself to two possible interpretations. I was wondering which s/he meant.

Anonymous said...

You have to love it..."I heard from a friend", "I read it on a blog", "It can only be because...". I hope you all are support folks because if you are the TSM's this institution relies on, we are in trouble.

Pinky and The Brain said...

6/26/07 8:38 PM,
I have specific allegations from a non-anonymous source that the decision was based on political considerations, not the outcome of the competition. It did not indicate involvement by Mike A.

Although the information was not provided for publication, I hope to have something I can publish soon.

Anonymous said...


Your comments re: political considerations for RRW sound like they are along the lines of what I heard (from several good sources. That is, that is was a political decision.

What I did hear about Mikey and RRW was that he did a good job supporting the lab's efforts, and that he was wise enough to take his lumps in a dignified manner once the decision was announced.

W/out spreading more rumors, you can gage Washington's sentiments re: LANL pretty accurately from reading the papers. Given what we face from the outside, it doesn't seem constructive (to me) to tear out own folks down simply because they are the boss (or come from our left coast little sister).

I'm sure that there are a few folks at LANL that believe that they could profit from a downfall at the lab, but I get the impression from the ADs that I have met that they understand that a failure of the lab is not in the nation's best interests, much less in their own personal best interest.

I do disagree with some of them on tactics and strategy, but when I do engage higher level managers I'm never left doubting that we have the same end goal in mind. That is, a healthy LANL working for our nation.

Whis is why I asked for specifics; we need to know if we are being sold down the river, but barring proof of the sale we ought to try and focus on facts and planning for the future.