Jul 28, 2007

State lawmaker encourages LANL to diversify

By ANDY LENDERMAN | The New Mexican
July 27, 2007

An influential state lawmaker urged Los Alamos National Laboratory at a hearing Friday to diversify its mission to include more energy research. But the lab’s director, Michael Anastasio, told a legislative committee that Congress decides that mission, and the lab simply follows orders.

State Sen. Phil Griego, D-San Jose, urged lab directors Friday to pay attention to what the U.S. House of Representatives has voted for this year, 312-112: less money for nuclear weapons research and development, and more for energy research around the country.

Griego, co-chairman of the Legislature’s LANL Oversight Committee, urged Anastasio to get ready for possible changes to the lab’s budget.

“I think ... that if we don’t heed to the sentiments of Congress and start moving in a direction that Sandia has moved in ... I think in the long run, Los Alamos is going to get hurt,” Griego said at the hearing.

Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque has a somewhat more diversified budget than Los Alamos.

“The mix of missions and the relative priorities change, and that’s what Congress decides every year when they pass a budget,” Anastasio said. “But I have to say that right now, the basic capability of the laboratory is paid for by the stockpile stewardship program.”

That program, which maintains the country’s nuclear weapons without underground testing, makes up 57 percent of the lab’s budget, Associate Director Terry Wallace said. About 20 percent goes to nuclear nonproliferation, 10 percent to basic science, 7 percent to energy and 6 percent to security, he said.

“It would require a significant action on the part of Congress and the Department of Energy to fundamentally change and dramatically change the mission of the laboratory,” Anastasio said. “And, of course, it would require dramatic change at the laboratory, because if we were to fundamentally change our mission, it would probably require a different skill mix of both the technical work force and the scientific work force.”

In his testimony, Wallace said, “We have the obligation ... to maintain the nuclear arsenal because we invented it.”

The lab reported this spring that its workforce of 12,176 consists of 9,066 permanent employees, 2,020 contract workers and 1,090 students and researchers. The contract work force was reduced by 401 employees from June 2006 to April 30, 2007.

U.S. Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M., who also wants a change in the lab’s mission, wrote to members of the oversight committee: “The process to this point must serve as a signal that change is needed if the funding — and the permanence — of the lab is to be certain.”

Udall has been criticized for voting for a House bill that would essentially cut about $400 million from weapons work at Sandia and Los Alamos, with Los Alamos bearing the brunt of the cuts to its $2.1 billion budget. However, a Senate committee has suggested restoring those cuts, and it’s unclear what the lab’s final budget will be.

Anastasio also said he’s aware that the work force and the community have a high level of anxiety about the lab’s budget, and that’s why he went to Washington this week to meet with lawmakers.

“We have to await their decisions before I can make any decision about whether there’s going to be a need to reduce the overall workforce at the laboratory,” he said.

However, there won’t be any changes this fiscal year, Anastasio said, since the lab has absorbed new costs by cutting travel and maintenance work and not filling some jobs when people leave, among other “belt-tightening” measures.

Contact Andy Lenderman at 995-3827 or alenderman@sfnewmexican.com.


Anonymous said...

So, does Udall call these state guys and tell them "back me up on this"... You can talk all you want about changing LANL's mission but the results will be the same.

When a guy you send to Congress votes against his voters wishes, he suffers the results at the next election. Mr. Udall you really made a mistake on this issue. Don't have your local jailbird reps. try and spread your message...it won't work. They will be retained because they bring pork back to their local towns but you sir are different.

Anonymous said...

Interesting point about Rep Udall and the voters' wishes. Anyone want to bet on whether he wins his House seat in '08, assuming he runs?

I speculate he'll win again, without much of a problem.

Let's look at some numbers.

He won 75%-25% overall in '06, 142,993 to 48,742. He won in all 16 counties in his District.

Maybe tougher to call in LA county in '08, where he only won 63%-37%. LA County cast 8.7k votes of out of a total of 191.7k votes.

In Rio Arriba County (which includes Espanola), with 11.0k votes cast, he won 86%-14%; a higher margin than he received in Santa Fe County at 85%-15%, with 45.3k votes cast. Taos County cast 11.4k votes, where Udall won 89%-11%.

Final count for Wilson vs Madrid in District 2 was 105,916 to 105,037.

Data Source:

Do you think even if LANL loses 1000 people due to funding cuts, some 47,000+ voters will change their vote (>5x the number of votes cast in LA County)? Do you believe LANL can garner that kind of support in NNM?

Anonymous said...

Couldn't figure out how to send this but it's related to this thread. How about a send-to link?


Saturday, July 28, 2007

LANL Work Force Stable Through September, Director Says

By Deborah Baker/
Journal Staff Writer

SANTA FE — Jittery workers at Los Alamos National Laboratory won't have to worry about their jobs for at least the next couple of months, director Michael Anastasio says.
Anastasio said there would be no further cuts at the nuclear weapons lab before the new federal budget year begins Oct. 1.
"I'm confident that we will not have to do anything ... through the end of September,'' he told an oversight committee Friday.
What happens after that depends on what level of funding is authorized by Congress for the new fiscal year.
The House slashed $300 million from the lab's budget, which currently is nearly $2.2 billion, signaling the exasperation of key House leaders with years of safety and security lapses at Los Alamos.
The Senate hasn't voted yet, but its bill leaves the budget mostly unchanged. A conference committee would produce the final version.
If the House spending plan was adopted there would have to be job cuts, said Anastasio, who just finished his first year as head of the lab under its new, private operator, Los Alamos National Security LLC.
But he said the outcome of budget negotiations is far from certain.
"I know there's a lot of anxiety ... I don't want to heighten the anxiety of the employees and make them feel like I'm predicting it's going to happen,'' he said.
The lab had to do some belt-tightening this year because of higher costs due to the new management setup. It lost a tax break it enjoyed when it was run by the University of California, for example, and had to pay the state an additional $50 million this year.
More than 300 contract jobs were eliminated in the year that ended June 30, the director said. In addition, there was the usual turnover — including retirements — that accounted for about 370 additional departures, Anastasio said. Some of those jobs were filled, but lab officials were unable to say how many.
According to figures provided earlier by the lab, there were more than 12,000 workers as of the end of April. Just over 9,000 of them were LANS employees, 1,000 or so were students and postdoctoral researchers and more than 2,000 were contractors, including security and maintenance workers.
If next year's budget remains much the same as this year's, no drastic changes will be needed in the work force, Anastasio said.
Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M., said in a written statement to the committee that the funding fight in Congress is a signal "that change is needed'' if the lab's future is to be secure.
He said it is "now up to LANS to decide whether it wants to diversify and thrive, or remain focused only on its current mission, which, as we have seen this year, means an uphill battle.''
Anastasio told the panel that the lab — where the atomic bomb was born — is "grounded in our heritage and history'' and that nuclear weapons are an important deterrent and part of the nation's defense.
Nearly 70 percent of the lab's work is defense or national security or weapons-related, according to lab officials.
But Anastasio said the lab's mission had undergone shifts since its founding in 1943, and that it welcomed any new work the federal government wanted it to do — and provided funding for.
The lab doesn't set policy, he told lawmakers.
"I would love to have a huge program at this laboratory to deal with the challenge of water,'' in areas such as water management, distribution and contamination cleanup, Anastasio said.
State legislators expressed concern that changing the lab's core mission from nuclear weapons work to energy or another focus would jeopardize national defense and erode the influence of the facility, which is northern New Mexico's largest employer.

Anonymous said...

"There won’t be any changes this fiscal year," Anastasio said.

Two more months of job security for LANL workers in the trenches.

But probably many, MANY more months of job security for Mikey, judging by the big grin on his face.

Anonymous said...

As President Clinton said,

"Its the votes, stupid."

Anonymous said...

Poster 2:11 PM...

Because of economic "spin-off" (eating out, buying stuff, house repairs, etc), each job at LANL probably supports about 5 other jobs in the Northern New Mexico economy. When the Udall-backed cuts hit Northern New Mexico, the economic fallout and associated anger will spread far wider than just the few people of Los Alamos County. It will have an effect on all of Santa Fe and the Espanola Valley. Layoffs, likewise, will spread beyond the bounds of LANL. And, of course, everyone will no someone who lost their LANL and non-LANL jobs due to the economic slowdown that ensues from cuts at the lab.

Udall is going to be facing an angry group of voters next election, and some smart Democrat is going to realize he is vulnerable and take him on in the primaries. Frankly, he's shown himself to be completely clueless about what is going to happen due to his House-backed cuts. I predict he won't make it through the next primary. He's shown that he's a complete moron when it comes to managing economic prosperity in his very own district.

The anti-nuke Santa Fe crowd can gloat all they want about Udall's suck-ups to their ways of thinking, but the economic destruction of LANL is going to have an effect on their lifestyle and those of their friends at some pretty basic levels. If nothing else, it's going to hurt the state tax base, so that freebie's from the state (i.e., Medicad, etc.) will also have to be cut back.

Anonymous said...

11:30. If I lose my job at LANL, I likely won't be in NM to vote in the next election. No equivalent jobs except at Sandia, and I suspect they're full.

Even if the next Rep is a different Democrat, how does that prevent LANL from losing funding if that's what the rest of Congress and a new President want? Would you vote for the person if they voted for LANL funding and LANL lost it anyway? Rep Wilson might be a test case since Sandia could lose some funding along with LANL and she voted against the cuts.

It would be interesting to see some economic data or estimates on how the money flows from LANL into NNM. Many people I know buy everything they can online. I know people who buy cars out of state if they get a better deal. White Rock can't even keep a McDonald's and a Pizza Hut.

It will also be interesting to see what the counties and state do with the GRT revenue. Certainly the loss of funding hits the state's tax base.

Anonymous said...

To get rid of Udall, we need the Democrats to run a strong candidate against him in the primary (unlikely) and/or the Republicans to run a strong candidate.

We can only hope.

Anonymous said...

They don't care people. You guys are expendable, when in the hell are you going to get that through your thick sculls. The MISSION is over at all cost and your job is first to go. I'd be looking right now for a place to move to and let the house foreclose. No one is going to buy it when there are no jobs in the area. See yah! Time to move on......

Anonymous said...

So how can you tell when a Lab Director is lying?

Answer: When his mouth is moving.

Anonymous said...

Yes, we need a strong Democrat to unseat Udall. Perhpas someone like Democratic State Rep Nick Salazar. Someone who will be objective when it comes to the Lab. Yea, that's the ticket!


Darko said...

8:24 -

What a jerk. I don't know that my loyalty to my projects and career, and my strong preference for living in this area means I have a "thick scull"{sic>}.

I happen to be looking for other jobs. I am looking for other jobs in other states that match my skills, my preferences and my career arc.

I am looking for other jobs that allow me to remain in NM or at least the southwest which I very much prefer over the highly urbanized coasts, midwest and south. Even if that job doesn't pay as well, or doesn't match my career interests as well.

I have passed up job offers in the past which suggests to me that I can find a job... if I need to. And even if I find a job, I might not accept it unless I really need it.

As it stands I am still trying to do my own work (well) and make up for those who have already left and will not be replaced. Or will be replaced by someone totally unqualified who has been displaced.

But in any case, I don't intend to "let the house foreclose". I signed a mortgage in good faith with my local bank and I have no intention on "sticking" them with the problem.

The bank and plenty of other businesses in Los Alamos will have enough problems without people "dumping" their problems on up the line.

In fact, I find an opportunity in the possibility of having to sell my house at a big loss. I might just be able to find someone who really needs and will love my house who could never have afforded it before. That would be much better than letting it sink into the dust and weeds for years along with all of the other houses "abandoned to foreclosure".

So 8:24.. what is YOUR story? What is your axe to grind here? Why is it so important for you that everyone at LANL quit trying to make the best of what is happening, quit trying to steer the Titanic away from the iceberg?

Are you one of the guys who would put on a wig and dress to make sure you got off on one of the first lifeboats with the women and children?

Your post belongs on some "wall of shame" post... maybe Strangeo will come out of wherever he is hiding (or busy) and put up such a list...

The worst of LANL Blog Comments!

Yours might be near the top.

- Darko

Anonymous said...

That picture of Anastasio perfectly captures his attitude towards LANL. Mike is LLNL to the core (although, I'm told that his jumping ship for that big fat salary as LANL-LANS Director did little to endear him with his ex-colleagues back home).

Mike: "We might have to let go 1,400 LANL employees. No problem! Ha, ha, ha. Take my picture. Do it again. Ha, ha, ha.

"Now ask me about how we got an A++ from NNSA for safely and securely finding all of our shit during this year's wail-to-wall inventory. THAT's what they pay us for! I'll bet there's another bonus it it for me! Ha, ha ha!"

Anonymous said...

7/28/07 10:43 AM When a guy you send to Congress votes against his voters wishes,

Since when do you know what my wishes are or were, Udall did not vote against my wishes or those of my family either. So speak for yourself not others.