Sep 16, 2007

Another LANL WFO bites the dust

Comment from an earlier post. The Los Alamos Monitor carried the story here:



Sigh! Another LANL WFO bites the dust. We are just too expensive, even for NASA:


** LANL losses NASA job **
- KOB TV, Sept 16, 2007

Los Alamos National Labratory lost a job with NASA, even though the project is nearly done. The lab was building a remote-sensing laser for the next robot NASA will send to Mars.

The Mars Science Laboratory Rover is a beefed-up version of the robots Spirit and Opportunity, which have been on Mars for three years now.

The robots are checking to see if there is or ever was life on Mars. NASA said they dropped LANL because the agency had to cut costs.


Anonymous said...

Not to worry about that recent NASA WFO loss. Terry's MaRIE 'Signature Facility' will have sponsors beating down the doors to send us money. Heck, with swell ideas like MaRIE, we'll be able to quickly raise the TSM FTE rates to over $500 K per year!

Anonymous said...

NASA was afraid the LANL laser would cause an eye injury to a Martian and prompt an interplanetary lawsuit.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I didn't think anybody could be too expensive for NASA. Nice job, LANS!

Now, how about if we go after some Energy WFO?

Anonymous said...

"NASA said they dropped LANL because the agency had to cut costs."

Yeah, I suspect there is also going to be a lot of "cost cutting" happening at LANL in about 120 days time. In fact, about 2500 FTEs worth of "cost cutting" activity may occur. After the layoffs, it will be tough for LANS to figure out a way to drive the FTE costs back up into the stratosphere, but I have faith that LANS can do it. We are badly in need of more layers of highly paid management, so I would suggest LANS start there.

Anonymous said...

Can't LANL do cheaper work for non-DOE agencies through the institutes? I thought that was part of the point of those (or so was claimed when they were talked about earlier this year).

Anonymous said...

i see such stupid decisions,as setting rates without consideration of the marketplace, and i wonder what value BWxt and Bechtel brought to the LLC.

i still have a few hourst to select tcp-2 at llnl. should i do it? Costs 10% but the organization seems so disconnected, dishonest and inept thati am afraid they will fuch it up or rob me

Anonymous said...

I think you can get cheaper work through the institutes if you want it done at a partner university. And if that's the case, then as a WFO customer you'd get it even cheaper by going directly to the university.

Anonymous said...

"Not to worry about that recent NASA WFO loss. Terry's MaRIE 'Signature Facility' will have sponsors beating down the doors to send us money."

Golly, that concept "siganture facility" is going to materialize when exactly? Don't you actually have to build something first for sponsors to come? Where is the money for this going to come from? Don't you think finishing CMRR is going to be a bigger priority for real mission-related work? Another great idea Terry - now I know why they pay you the big bucks.

Anonymous said...

One wonders how much longer DHS is going to continue to send money to get sucked down the LANL black hole.

Anonymous said...

11:30, why do you think the cost per FTE will necessarily go down when LANL RIFS? Depends on who gets RIFFED I would think.

Our budget person tells us that several items in the equation to calculate FTE cost look to be increasing starting Oct 1.

Anonymous said...

It's a fairly simple concept. For every person RIF'ed who works on overhead, the FTE rate drops, but it drops by a decreasing increment with each additional person because of the huge overhead of the annual $79 million award fee that comes out of the budget, and the boat anchor of of our 90+ upper level manager salaries, plus other fixed overhead costs, such as facilities maintenance and the bloated salaries of the LANS legal department.

For every person RIF'ed who is working on funded project work, the the FTE rate increases.

Also, each person who is RIF'ed who has experience at bringing in funds increases the odds of the need for another RIF at a near-future point in time. This concept is known as "eating your seed corn".

Anonymous said...

My take on overhead and labor rates after the RIF is as follows:

There are a lot of fixed costs such as security (PTLA) and facilities (JCI, utilities, etc) that cannot be reduced unless buildings and sites are closed. That is not likely to happen. We cannot make major reductions in personnel in the overhead areas because those are predominantly women and minorities.

SO, a lot of TSMs and TECs will have to be RIFfed. Thus the fixed and overhead costs will be spread over a small number of direct-funded workers. Obviously that means that the TSM FTE rate will go to the major $500K per year. That will be the last nail in the coffin of WFO!

Anonymous said...

Yes we're expensive, but damn it we're worth it! Doing America's best Science doesn't come cheap. Brilliance isn't a nickle and dime affair. The best and brightest need to be coddled, and nurtured, and protected and loved...yes, loved! Crown jewels, as we've been characterized many times (mainly by other Labbies, but still) may glitter naturally, but a dusting off with a soft cloth and a gentle stroke is what brings out the luster. So put the sandpaper away, and treat us kindly...please. Treat us with respect but most of all, love us for our who we are. Clueless.

--Tearful Scientist

Anonymous said...

Cheer up, Tearful. Mike is going to let you meet the LANS Senior Executive Team Members at the Fall Festival on Saturday! Now, if that ain't love I don't know what is.

Anonymous said...

So the LANS management fee is $79 million no matter what the size of the facility?

So it's really better for LANS to manage a small lab with fewer headaches?

Probably the best sized lab is one with just the high priced LANL management left?

Hard to believe that DOE would write a contract with a fixed management fee rather than one based upon size, milestones, safety, security, etc.

Oh, wait. It's the DOE. I forgot.

Anonymous said...

As I've been saying all along: it's all part of the plan. The only work that DOE and Bechtel's LANS are interested in at LANL is pit production. Bechtel will make big bucks building the facility (Bechtel is, after all, a construction company), and their partner BWXT will run it.

Slashing staff at LANL via RIFS and by chasing off WFO sponsors are preliminary steps to this "re-missioning" of LANL.

Oh, and BTW: enjoy the "Fall Festival" this Saturday. Mike and the LANS senior executives will try to make you feel good about all of this during the scheduled fun and hilarity at the event.

Anonymous said...

Some of our top level managers, like Terry, need to be immediately put on a new metric. Diversify LANL by growing the non-NNSA work and you get to keep your large salary and nice position. If you can't grow this work, then you give up the above. These people have been there for over a year now. If they can't show some success soon, then heads at the top need to roll.

Metrics seem to be a big idea with LANS. It's time to hold the fire under top management's feet.

Gussie Fink-Nottle said...


You seem to believe that LANS management is interested in growing LANL's WFO portfolio. I'm with 11:19 on this -- I think they wish to do the opposite. Actions speak louder than words, and so far every action LANS has taken have made the WFO environment at LANL increasingly less attractive to WFO sponsors.


Anonymous said...

I do agree that LANS management wants to get rid of ALL WFO. Nanos certainly did. WFO brings genuine accountability along with complaints about high labor rates. Nuclear weapons work just brings money with the only accountability to be safe and secure.

Anonymous said...

That's a stretch.

Pinky and The Brain said...

I just read today that NASA has its own national lab.

"In 2005 Congress designated the US portion of the ISS as a “national laboratory”, giving it the same kind of status that Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore have, no doubt with far less of a Defense Department presence."

Anonymous said...

The astronauts have to take out their own trash, clean the toilet, make their own food, everything. Yep - definitely a national lab.

Anonymous said...

Honest question about the lab contract:

In a previous thread one of the commenters said that DOE needs to contract out the lab because it is incapable of doing technical work, and the only alternative would be to have the DOD operate LANL. Why is that the case? NASA operates its own labs, NIH operates its own lab. What is it that makes DOE different?

Also, one thing about the contract issue has never made sense to me. Wasn't the original contract with UC drawn up because several of the famous physicists involved during WWII, e.g. I.I. Rabi, refused to work for the military and insisted they be employed by a uinversity? So in essence (correct me if I am wrong) the "management" of the lab by UC was essentially a pro forma exercise such that academic personnel involved would be able to list "University of California" on their resumes rather than "United States Army". Assuming this was the original rationale for the lab contract, has it changed? If so, then what prestige is there in saying one is a Bechtel/LANS employee that is worth $79M per annum? In fact, wouldn't most people consider it more prestigious to say one is a "civil servant scientist of the federal government" than a LANS employee? Or is there a different rationale today for contracting out the lab?

Anonymous said...

Wup-ti-doo! No need for doom and gloom in Bomb Town. Why, we have an extra $2 million coming for the LANL road bypass and $3 million for a Petey's pork initiative. That should see us all through the coming budget shortfall! The LA "Vomiter" is an appropriate name for our Bomb Town rag. I'm feeling nauseous after reading the Sunday editorial. Go back to shopping in Bomb Town's fine local stores, people. Everything is going to be A-OK.

Not all Doom and Gloom
- LA Vomiter Editorial - Sunday, Sept 17

It is easy to get caught up in the fear and worry in the community today. And while we do not - cannot - downplay that concern if you are one of those who just might lose your job or are having a hard time selling your home, we also want to stress that all is not the end-of-the-world scenario.

First, there is the report from the Senate that some additional monies are moving through Congress for Los Alamos,

Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., said he had succeeded in obtaining $2 million to go toward the construction of the West Jemez Bypass. This is welcome news, especially since the $6 million Gov. Richardson promised us turned out to be $2 million.

Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., then reported passage of a Senate committee proposal that includes $3 million for a Los Alamos National Laboratory partnership with the University of California-Los Angeles for the High Throughput Laboratory Initiative.

And both senators took note of the item in the Senate's transportation appropriation bill that included $1 million to purchase public transit buses and support construction of a transit facility in Los Alamos County.

Earlier in the week, Don Winchell, the Los Alamos Site Office Manager for the Department of Energy, National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA), talked to the county about the potential of a $350 million budget cut for the lab.

He told the council that he - and the NNSA - were committed to working with the community and in making things work.

While this does not put money back in the budget, it does show an awareness and a willingness to step forward.

Both good things.

There are issues here, have no doubt. But in working on getting our jobs done, in focusing on what we can do and not crying about what is being done, we can move this community forward and make the progress we all desire.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the boys over at Boyers Inc. are now writing the Sunday editorials for our local paper? Sure sounds like it.

Anonymous said...

"In fact, wouldn't most people consider it more prestigious to say one is a "civil servant scientist of the federal government" than a LANS employee?"

I am certainly getting to that point, yes.

Anonymous said...

At least civil servants have some decent job protections. As UC employees we had some protections. As LANS employees, we have absolutely none.