Aug 8, 2007

Comment of the Week

Yes, it's that time again. After observing the sporadic anti-Pogo comments on recent posts, particularly those comments which impugned the accuracy of any Pogo news release which featured LANL, I felt that the LANL Public Affairs office deserved equal billing. This comment from the Thoughts on the latest security imbroglio post is our Comment of the Week:

If Lab Public Affairs were commissioned to spin the crucifiction this is how it would have been done:

Press Release:

Today there was a hammering incident. It was a signficant event, but under no circumstances should the public be alarmed. All nails have been accounted for, and the risk to the general public of accidentally stepping on one is minimal. Ceasar's spokesperson, Kevin Roark, said "the Emperor regrets the loss of nails in the past and takes very seriously his responibility ensure the safety of all who inhabiting his domain. It is now required that nails be under dual control and fully accounted for both before and after each and every event."

end of press release


Anonymous said...

And speaking of lying scum, what ever happened to 'Baghdad Bob' Jim Fallin, 'Comical Ali' Kevin's prevaricatin' PA pal?

Anonymous said...

Workers who are blaming Nanos for everything really need to get some therapy...There are even workers who are retired moved away from here and still find time to log on, blame Nanos and feel angry.

Don't you think it's time to get some help?

Doug said...

Anyone who thinks Nanos was the cause of LANL's problems is a complete fool. The problems that existed at LANL at the time of Nanos' reign of terror had been accumulating for at least 15 years, if not longer. The University of California, and their paymasters, the US DOE, and later NNSA, as well the managers that rose from within the lab's ranks deserve all of the credit for LANL's sad condition when Nanos was rushed into position. Not to mention the rank and file who allowed their fellow staff to continue to float unimpeded up to the top of the LANL management creamery as the lab continued to bloat and grow increasingly inefficient.

Nanos himself was nothing more than the catalyst for the events that followed his ill-advised shutdown, and the subsequent awarding of the contract to LANS, leading to the present state which LANL staff now find themselves enjoying.

Doug Roberts
LANL, Retired

Anonymous said...

Awww........Come on Doug! Say it ain't so! Say it ain't so!

Kudos Doug - Always speaking the truth

Anonymous said...

Doug 8:48 pm:

"Nanos himself was nothing more than the catalyst for the events that followed his ill-advised shutdown, and the subsequent awarding of the contract to LANS, leading to the present state"

Well not so fast Doug, Nanos was much more than that. If you ever dealt with him personally, he was abusive, condescending, loud, arrogant, profane, and incredibly ignorant about the laboratory and its history, and proud of it. Any one he touched, and by extension, anyone THEY touched (I'm thinking here of Don Cobb) became transformed in his image (or left, or was fired). He was much more than a "catalyst"; he was a complete asshole who poisoned every interaction he had and therefore set the tone for all that followed.

Doug said...

did deal with Nanos personally, on several occasions. I don't argue your characterization of his personality. I will, however, point out that Nanos was not unique in that regard among the LANL management cadre. However, I stand by my original position: Nanos was not the *cause* of LANL's current problems. If anything, he was an example of why they exist.

UC ushered Nanos in as LANL's Director without the formality of a national search when Brown was removed. DOE signed off on that action. UC did nothing to intercede when Nanos shut the whole place down over a fabricated security incident. I spoke personally with Linton Brooks, then head of NNSA about the fallacies of Nanos' actions. Brooks' response was to express *support* for Nanos' decision.

The real problems at LANL which have led to it's current condition can be attributed, with an equal share of blame to DOE, NNSA, and to LANL management (and staff).

Doug Roberts
LANL, Retired

Anonymous said...

Calling all Psychologists!!!

These people need help!!!!

Anonymous said...

The characterization of LANL as a lab with a common set of problems is completely fallacious. With UC in charge, before, during, and after Nanos, LANL was nothing more than a large number of disparate groups unified by a common janatorial service. Some groups did quite well (despite the inept management), some didn't.

Under LANS, not even the bathrooms are getting cleaned.

Anonymous said...

Bathrooms aren't getting cleaned, not to mention, trash isn't being emptied, and toliet paper is being rationed...

Anonymous said...

10:38PM is the one that needs help. Doug is 150% on target. I too have faced Nanos in person, have been at the Lab 30 years (and still am here), and have been witness first hand to its decline which began in the early 90s with the demise of the Soviet Union and the Lab's sense of mission-loss that came with the end of the cold war. On top of that the decades of self-proclaimed greatness and zero accountability, rooted in the heroic accomplishments of the Manhattan Project days, resulted in a corporate culture that, over time, largely served to alienate others with presumptious slogans and behaviors that reinforced the notion that somehow we were always better, and new better than anyone else, including those that fund our livelihoods, i.e. the taxpayer (Congress). The workforce became more devided over time as well due to the racial and gender bias that became a cornerstone feature of the Lab's culture, plus the environmental abuses of the past increasingly came to surface and became rallying points for those in the environmental and anti nuclear movements wanting to change the Lab mission. But through it all UC kept playing the same old game, resisting each and every challenge to the status quo at Los Alamos as though it was accountable to noone. Then finally the perfect storm came to be, with security infractions and other events that would serve to convince the powers that be that it was time to compete the Lab contract for the first time in histor. But even this could not be done in a legitimate fashion, and farce of that whole exercise only served to reinforce and build on the negative feeling towards the Lab and UC. All this is what led to Nanos being brought in to impose discipline in what the powers that be wanted the world to believe the root of the problem--an arrogant non compliant workforce. But those of us who had been here for decades new better. It wasn't the workforce that was the problem so much as the leadership that been put in place over time, including many former DOE officials who were politically astute, albeit incompetent. And so over the course of many zero accountability at the Lab we ended up where we're at today. The management of the Lab had become the source of all arrogance associated with the Lab, but the workforce became the scapegoat. Worker survey after worker survey proved this to be the case, but nothing changed. Instead we were given Nanos to deal with and, when that failed, we were given LANS. But the disease still exists, abd 10:38PM is proof of it.

Anonymous said...

From the sounds of many of these posts, LANL is one sick M*ther F*cker of a place to be working. Why do you people even bother to stay there? It's destroying both your mental and physical health.

Anonymous said...

As a number of staff are now discovering, they continue to work at LANL because they are unable to find employment elsewhere. Having "The World's Greatest Science Protecting America" on one's resume is apparently not sufficient qualification for landing a job in the real world.

Anonymous said...

A lot of people I know really do treat it as just a job. They'll stay if in their perception the pros outweigh the cons, and explore other options otherwise. I have talked to people who have left and said they were able to forget over a weekend they had worked here for 10+ years.

On the other hand, I also knew a person who came in every day for no pay for several years after they had retired. One day they stopped, and someone eventually found out they had died. Coworkers went into their office and just threw everything they had worked on into the recycle bin or the shredder. Their computer got wiped and passed on to someone else. No one had any idea or even cared what it was that this person had done. Guess it gave them a reason to get up every day.

I've helped clean up offices after people leave what they think is "important" work behind when they leave. Other than salvageable office supplies, it all gets destroyed. Filled up two large recycle bins and shredded everything else when one guy left. Not a single person in the group wanted anything they had left behind. For another guy, we just boxed it all up, 20+ boxes for destruction since someone saw he had an UCNI document. No one was interested in what he did or going through his stuff, so the GL just had it all destroyed.

There's a reality check on how important what you do is when you see 20-30 years of someone's work life tossed into a couple of recycle bins or the shredder.

Pinky and The Brain said...


Anonymous said...


What you said is pretty idiotic. The same is true of every university when any Prof

Anonymous said...

For most workers at LANL, it's been nothing more than a secure, well paying job with good benefits in a small company town. Except now, the pay is heading downward, the benefits will be reduce, and your job with the company is very much in doubt. This is creating an "existential crisis" for most of LANL's workers as they now have to deal with this reality.

Anonymous said...

I have a potential buyer looking at my house today. Please say something nice about the laboratory and Los Alamos. This blog is killing the sale of my house.

Anonymous said...

9:02 am:

You deny that an "arrogant and noncompliant workforce" is at the root of LANL's current problems. I might agree that the fraction of the workforce of that nature is quite small, but their actions have been shown to have wildly inordinant effects. Add up the number of people actually directly responsible for all the incidents, both safety and security, in the past several years (forget the fatuous "root cause" arguments). It is a very small number. As long as these self-absorbed bozos are tolerated LANL cannot survive, in my opinion. It may already be too late - the slope is already very slippery and getting steeper.

Every group has one or more employees who all the others know is an incident waiting to happen. SOP is for managers and other employees to ignore clear patterns of behavior as long as an incident hasn't happened yet. The environment at LANL has long been to tolerate a wide range of workplace attitudes and behaviors as long as the work got done and no serious negative consequences resulted, much like a university. I believe that UC was largely responsible for this, notwithstanding the many positive benefits that derived from UC management. However, this environment has got to change. A little more "this is how you will behave if you want to work here" is called for. This is not a call for a witch hunt, but for enforcement of a corporate culture, rather than an academic one.

Anonymous said...


Please this is total bs. LANL does not operate at all like a university.
I have been to many places including other DOE labs and universities. This is a tired argument which is not substansiated with any facts, figures or stastics. Once again you need compare us to the other DOE run labs before you make sweeping statements that LANL is somehow stands out.

Look at the known incidents at Sandia
lately. I love the one about using taxpayer dollars to stalk celebrities.
Sandia is not run by UC yet they have
just as many incidents if not more than
LANL. So do not make dumb statemens about "arrogant and noncompliant workforce" it just does not hold water.

Let me take a guess. You do not work at LANL anymore do you. Now you are just bitter because they fired you.

Anonymous said...

And even more bogus LANL PR made it on to ZDNet News this week. What crap!

LOS ALAMOS, N.M.--This town is synonymous with one thing: the atomic bomb.

It's probably not fair, given that the Manhattan Project wrapped up its work 62 years ago, but when you are responsible for the most destructive thing ever created, it's hard to shake that reputation.

That's even more so since the Los Alamos National Lab has been responsible for much of the nation's nuclear weapons research ever since then, and even today, its No. 1 responsibility is certifying that the nukes in our arsenal are still good to go.

Yet, given that LANL is ensuring that the United States is capable, at any time, of engaging in a nuclear war, it might surprise some people to find out that another chief task of many of its scientists and researchers is nonproliferation: studying ways to prevent the bad actors of the world from suddenly using weapons of mass destruction--nukes or something else--against innocent populations.

For the sake of simplicity, I'm going to stay away from politics here. But suffice it to say that this role is not new for LANL. It goes back even to the Manhattan Project.

And why not?

As Paul White, the national security adviser for LANL's director of operations, told me, "The people who know weapons and nuclear materials are the first people you would turn to for nonproliferation and limiting weapons."
Click for gallery

It makes sense, I suppose. After all, even during the Manhattan Project, many of the physicists working on it were worried about the atomic bomb's consequences and were already thinking about ways to control such weapons.

And that's been true ever since, White told me during my visit to the lab, which I did as part of Road Trip 2007.

Today, the lab has "the widget guys here, as well as the big thinkers," said Nancy Ambrosiano, an LANL publicist. "It's soup to nuts in nonproliferation."

As an example of the lab's importance in this area, Ambrosiano explained that just a couple of weeks ago, Ollie Heinonen, the International Atomic Energy Agency's deputy director-general and director of safeguards, stopped in at LANL after a visit to Iran to discuss nonproliferation.

"He knows this is a place he can turn to for technical advice," said White.

The IAEA isn't the only one turning to LANL for advice, though.

White and Ambrosiano said that after the fall of the Soviet Union, LANL became one of the main sources of help for monitoring and tracking the nuclear weapons that used to belong to the Soviets and which were now in the hands of many of the newly autonomous governments that emerged.

Of course, in the post-September 11 world, one of the chief security concerns has been that terrorists might somehow get hold of one or more of these weapons and use them against the U.S. I asked about that, and White and Ambrosiano gently ducked the question, asserting that that was really a matter for the intelligence community.

"We'll ask them the question," White said. "But if they don't want to answer, that's OK."

But he also tried to assure me that the matter is in good hands.

"I'm confident (the intelligence community knows) how to provide the security at the places that need to be secure," White said.

Of course, that's not the message that we've been getting publicly for the last few years, but hey, White has the words "national security adviser" in his title, so maybe he knows more than most people.
Road Trip 2007 promo

Really, though, White and Ambrosiano seemed to be saying that LANL is about giving people the freedom to think about ways to solve the problem of making the world a safer place from the weapons we'd like to avoid showing up in public.

Part of that, then, is a software problem that the lab's scientists are working on: creating management and information systems that can make sense of the mountains of data that come from instruments used to monitor weapons systems in places like the former Soviet Union.

And in fact, White said, this kind of software traces back to ideas developed at the lab in the 1960s about how to build safeguards that the IAEA could use to monitor nuclear sites in countries that were signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

But of course, not all the threats are nuclear.

White explained that since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the lab has been working on sophisticated bio-science capabilities designed to study things like anthrax and the effects of radiation on people.

Further, lab staffers have been spending a lot of time going over Doomsday scenarios and thinking about how to deal with them.

"You can't plan for it if you don't think it out," Ambrosiano said.

And, she said, while LANL isn't going to build the kinds of detectors that can monitor things like shipping containers for dangerous hidden weapons, the lab can work with the Department of Homeland Security on design and testing methods.

That said, the world is moving into a new nuclear age, and White said the lab is readying itself to help the transition.

That is because countries like Russia, China and India are turning increasingly to nuclear as a way to meet their populations' energy needs.

And that means, White suggested, that the lab is going to be called on to help create systems robust enough to help those countries--and others using nuclear power--meet those needs without risking the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Essentially, he said, that boils down to monitoring the transfer of nuclear fuel and spent nuclear fuel.

Fortunately, White and Ambrosiano said, there is a growing and fruitful partnership between the U.S. and Russia when it comes to these issues, and that makes it easier to think about them.

Ultimately, LANL has about 1,000 people who are dedicated to nonproliferation and what is known as threat reduction. But Ambrosiano said that the nature of the lab is that even if someone isn't specifically focused on a project, he or she may end up working on it anyway.

And that means that several thousand more people at the lab are spending at least some of their time on threat reduction.

"That's the kind of thing that's great" about LANL, Ambrosiano said. "Everyone works together."

Anonymous said...

1:50/3:16 - LANL is not like a university. People work much harder and are more accountable at a university.

Re: 4:00 Ambrosiano "It's soup to nuts in nonproliferation." The leaked classified materials contribute to proliferation. I guess LANL really does cover all of the bases.

Anonymous said...

3:16 pm, looks like 1:50 pm struck a nerve, eh?

How in the world can you justify the problems at LANL by pointing to SNL and LLNL? I'm assuming the the finger-pointng, whiny "but he did it too!" response isn't something you'd accept from your own 6 year-old?

Anonymous said...

Well 11:43, do I conclude that some of what profs at universities do is as unimportant as some of what is done at LANL since they go through the same exercise? Or do I conclude that since the same is done for profs at universities, what these people did was important?

Anonymous said...

""That's the kind of thing that's great" about LANL, Ambrosiano said. "Everyone works together.""

Wow -- reality distortion field is in full swing over in public relations. I always thought that the better description for LANL was a group of warring factions or tribes, especially lately when the budget is running thin.

Anonymous said...

The procurement processes that LANS has put in are many more times complicated than UC. By the end of the year they will be about 80 employees down from 200 employees before LANS took over. So before you start celebrating how great that is that there are less employees on overhead, think about when a scientist goes out and gets work for other funding and the project can’t be done because there is no one to buy what’s needed for the project and the money gets lost. Our reputation will go down even more because we can’t deliver.

So bloggers that continue to write, if you don’t like it leave, guess what, procurement has listened to you.

Anonymous said...

6:33 pm:

It is "warring factions or tribes." Ambrosiano works for the nonproliferation tribe.

Anonymous said...

What do Afghanistan and LANL have in common?

First, they both played an important role in ending the cold war.

Second, they both were left to the dogs after the cold war ended.

LLNL is an afterthought, and the dogs have arrived there.

Anonymous said...

"Bathrooms aren't getting cleaned, not to mention, trash isn't being emptied, and toliet paper is being rationed...8/9/07 8:34 AM"...

...must be Marteen Aguilera at it again.

Anonymous said...

7:59 pm:

Well, here's another (hopefully) similarity: the US government has continued to commit billions of dollars to Afghanistan.

Anonymous said...

Ok, Mr. Procurement (7:13 PM). I'll make it easy on you next year by not ordering a single item. I guess you can leave now, huh?

Anonymous said...

LANS has tried almost everything we can think of to get you people to leave. You just won't go.

So now it's time to play rough. No garbage pick up and no restroom service. Let's see if the smell of rotting garbage in you offices and over-flowing toilets can help cull the herd. And for this winter... no heat!

- Mikey

Anonymous said...

Mikey at 8/9/07 8:42 PM - we already are without working air-conditioners during the summer so BFD if we have no heat in the winter. It was like that last winter!

Anonymous said...

Oddly enough, this is the first year I can remember where PR's were placed in a timely manner by the buyers. Or maybe it just seems that way after PADWP sits on the approval forms for two weeks, and then we spend another two weeks scratching our heads over the Exhibit F documents.

Anyway, the LANS modus operandi is apparently to make the system more complex (procurement) and then shove all the work onto the line organizations (travel). So assuming there's a cadre of former overhead people on workforce mobility now, I guess we'll be hiring them into our groups soon to do all the same paperwork they used to do. Only now, they'll be accountable directly to the people who pay their salaries.

(Hang on... I was thinking there was a downside).

Say. Is anyone besides me ready to shoot the CTN desktop support managers?

Anonymous said...

So the yearly average temperature in your building is OK, then?

Anonymous said...

8/9/07 8:42 PM, Fortunately I have a pile under my desk of hastily issued ISD's which were revised before I could get around to reading them. I figure I can get at least through November burning them in my trashcan, along with yesterday's lunch bag.

Anonymous said...

This is kinda off topic, but has anyone else noticed that you can't post comments on the LLNL "blog"?

Anonymous said...

To Poster 8:53 PM - "CTN desktop support managers" isn't that an oxymoron?

Anonymous said...

Technically, it's a double oxymoron.

Anonymous said...

9:30 PM - my bad, I stand corrected. Double oxymoron, it is.

Anonymous said...

You think CTN desktop support is moving into the line and will become accountable? Now that's F-U-N-N-Y!

Anonymous said...

"Well 11:43, do I conclude that some of what profs at universities do is as unimportant as some of what is done at LANL since they go through the same exercise? Or do I conclude that since the same is done for profs at universities, what these people did was important?

8/9/07 6:26 PM "

You should conclude that you are an idiot and should STFU. You know stupid people would be cute if they just left everyone alone. The problem with stupid people is that they do not know they are stupid. Here is a message, I know you will not understand ... but still. You got fired because you suck. There was no LANL conspiracy, you just sucked so badly that they had to fire you. No matter how many times you attack LANL it will not change the fact that you suck. However there is hope, of course you cannot change the fact that you suck but but you can admit it and leave the rest of the world alone. This will add just a bit to making the world a better place, you can do it we are all rooting for you.

Anonymous said...

The papers and other work left in his office were resources to that person, resources that typically aren't of much use to anyone else. It's the same for everyone.

You should conclude that this person's important contributions were publications, insights, analyses, and other contributions shared with the research community, his instruments that were built and fielded, his data which was gathered and disseminated, encouragement he gave his team mates, and uncountable other things.

To conclude that this person's life was a complete waste based on office papers left behind is pure, unadulterated stupidity.

Anonymous said...

I'm such a resourceful, frugal employee, I'm going to save all my trash and burn it for heat in the winter!

Anonymous said...

Better yet, 10:17 AM, save your turds from your trips to the LANL restroom, dry them out, and then burn them for heating fuel in your office next Winter. You'll be helping our meager janitorial staff deal with toilet overflows and saving the planet all at the same time. It's a win-win!

Anonymous said...

I believe the LLNL Blog host is promoting TCP2 and will not take anyone else's opinion. I equate him/her to be the same as the dogs that are taking over LLNL.

Anonymous said...

Yes, 9:10 PM, you are right. It appears that the folks over at LLNL are incapable of running a decent blog. Perhaps this reflects on LLNL in some ways.

I've enjoyed all the LANL blogs, even though the name-calling and signal-to-noise ratio is extreme at times.

Keep up the good work! We need the blog now more than ever.

Anonymous said...

"A little more "this is how you will behave if you want to work here" is called for. This is not a call for a witch hunt, but for enforcement of a corporate culture, rather than an academic one."

this comment reveals that you are either totally ignorant of corporate culture or are oversimpliying ad absurdum just to make your point, which sounds a lot like one nanos would make ("shape up or ship out!").

it also sounds like you have never worked in the Real World--i came to LANL from the private sector (biotechnology), and in that corporate culture, the CEOs and the Board and everyone on down has ONE priority: to get the science done in a timely manner, so they can get products to market. to this end, they make procurement simple and fast, and put the needs of the scientists first in all regards.

LANL is a lumbering dinosaur. i have never seen such disdain for science in my life!! LANL's number one prioritiy is covering its ass to the DOE no matter what. we had an Ops chief who NEVER authorized ANY work, because if no work got done, then no safety incidents could occur, then he could put down "zero safety incidents" in his performance review...

btw i only post on my own time, not LANL's