Sep 16, 2007

Dispute Continues at LANL

We've all heard the saying, "Never attribute to malice that which can be attributed to stupidity." That could apply to this story, especially to the part down at the bottom which mentions how DOE "inadvertently" left the teeth out of the LANS LANL contract. However, I think this saying does a better job of characterizing the situation: "Sufficiently advanced incompetence is indistinguishable from malice."



ABQ Journal
Saturday, September 15, 2007

Dispute Continues at LANL

By Raam Wong
Journal Staff Writer

The blame game over how a Los Alamos National Laboratory contract worker
was able to take home classified documents last October is continuing nearly
a year later.

The Department of Energy in July issued a notice of violation in which
it proposed to fine the University of California, the lab's former manager,
$3 million for the incident.

The university is fighting the fine, which would be the largest in DOE
history, by pointing the finger at the agency itself.

Among the university's arguments is that the DOE's National Nuclear
Security Administration gave the worker, Jessica Quintana, a security
clearance even after she admitted using drugs.

Hundreds of classified documents concerning the design of nuclear
weapons and the methodologies for testing nuclear weapons of the United
States and its allies were discovered in Quintana's Los Alamos mobile home
during a drug raid targeting her roommate.

"In essence, NNSA's decisions (to grant the security clearance) left the
University of California vulnerable and exposed," UC wrote in its Aug. 8
response, provided to the Journal on Friday by the Project on Government

"The University takes great exception to any implication that it does
not or did not take seriously its security responsibilities in this matter,"
states an accompanying letter written by S. Robert Foley, UC's vice
president of laboratory management.

Foley's letter also states that a penalty is not justified because the
university did not violate "applicable" Energy Department directives.
He goes on to assert that DOE is proposing to fine the university for
violating UC's own self-imposed security requirements.

"Contractors should be encouraged to impose upon themselves, without
penalty, more stringent requirements to the benefit of the Government,"
Foley wrote.

Among UC's other assertions is that the incident occurred after its
management contract expired, that it was committed by a non-UC employee and
that federal officials were fully aware of the university's security program
at Los Alamos.

Foley's letter concludes that the Energy Department's notice of
violation "has inappropriately harmed the university's reputation and is
inconsistent with DOE's recognition of the university's contributions over a
sustained period of time."

The university first signaled its intent to object to a fine in an April
letter to the Energy Department. Among the university's assertions was that
UC, as a branch of the state of California, has immunity against suits
brought by the federal government.

The assertion prompted a sharply worded letter from lawmakers on Capitol
Hill, who called it a "frivolous legal posture," and the university quickly

Even though the Quintana incident took place several months after the
university handed over management of the lab, NNSA said UC bore significant
responsibility for the evolution of "longstanding deficiencies" at Los

Meanwhile, Los Alamos National Security, LLC, the lab's new manager, has
said it will pay a $300,000 fine that the Energy Department has proposed for
its role in the incident.

UC remains involved in Los Alamos operations as part of LANS, a private
consortium that also includes Bechtel and other corporations.

Last month, the Journal reported that LANS may have avoided a much
larger fine— as high as $88 million— because the Energy Department's
management contract with the company inadvertently omitted some of the
agency's own security directives.


Anonymous said...

If the UC was smart they'd pull out of LANL and LLNL and let the contractors take the fall from now on. They can not afford to pay for people's mistakes. Let LLNS and LANS foot the bills.If this means they have to hit the RC-LLNS or UC-LANS pension fund to do so, then so be it. After all the are the contractor.

Anonymous said...

Better yet, Congress should just federalize the labs and do away with contractors. If NNSA wants to run the labs let them.

Anonymous said...

If the federal government were to run the labs, and employ the employees, it would be the DoD, since that is the only federal agency that is set up to, or is capable of, doing technical work. Very, very bad idea, recognized as such since the end of WWII.

Anonymous said...

OK 11:11, I'll bite.

Why is DOD management a "very, very bad idea" ?

(I would even be satisfied by a cogent reason that DOD control would be a run-of-the-mill bad idea, which is far short of a very, very bad idea.)

Anonymous said...

Remember that LANS is a limited liability corporation. It has no assets. US has no financial liability in this.

Anonymous said...

PS - the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health and Human Services both do technical work. The VA might count for technical work. So would the Peace Corps. And probably some others as well.

Anonymous said...

why don't they fine DOE or whoever for giving a clearance to JQ in 2 or 3 months even with admitted drug and alcohol use....

Anonymous said...

Not so fast, 10:46. Before you get all worked up trying to protect UC from the malicious, bad old DOE, let's not forget that UC has brought plenty of malicious incompetence of their own to the table: Foley, Dynes, Parsky, Nanos. UC richly deserves their share of the blame here. Unfortunately, there is no one who can lay a huge fine on DOE for their part.

Anonymous said...

9/16/07 11:04 AM

I don't have a problem with that. At least there it's a TCP-1 or TCP-2 system and the pay raises are fair and across the board for all. If you want a pay raise and more responsibility then you simply interview for the job and if you get it your GS or WG status is changed and so is your salary. No yearly scrath and sniffs, and no one spends six months trying to rank their buddies. You're either doing the jo or you're not.

Anonymous said...

"Among the university's arguments is that the DOE's National Nuclear
Security Administration gave the worker, Jessica Quintana, a security clearance even after she admitted using drugs."

This really says it all. Rule 1.
Hire better people and the rest will follow.

Anonymous said...

"Among the university's arguments is that the DOE's National Nuclear Security Administration gave the worker, Jessica Quintana, a security clearance even after she admitted using drugs."

Because no TSM's are in this situation.

Anonymous said...

Okay, so I would bet that 50% of the laboratory population has admitted to using drugs at some point over their lifetime. Does that mean they continue to use or are a national security threat?

Anonymous said...

JQ admitted to using dugs UP TO the investigation.... this is different from someone admitting drug or alcohol us YEARS or DECADES before trying to get a clearance.

Anonymous said...


1) How is this different?

2) I would bet that many TSM's and tecs fresh out of grad school/college also used drugs until very close to when they joined LANL.

Anonymous said...

name one

Anonymous said...

"Name one"

Every PD in my group who joined within +/- 5 years of me and who received a Q. (People older/younger than that were not close enough in age to me for gossiping.

My favorite line was a PD who was asked when he gave up drugs, replied "When I got my offer letter."

Anonymous said...

Sounds like UCOP's cranky old Admiral Bob Foley is showing his advanced age and beginning to lose what's left of his feeble mind. You would think that UC would have long since canned him, but perhaps they are too intimidated to take the necessary action. He's in his 80's now, I believe.

Anonymous said...

"9/16/07 4:16 PM"

Sorry I am not buying it. I do not know a single PD who used drugs in the past 5-7 yrs. Not one. I have no idea what group you are in but this is just nonsense.

Anonymous said...

bull... it's the answer of someone who doesn't even work at the lab....

Anonymous said...

No one will like this but when before someone gets a Q you really need to consider the age of the person. Sure many people used drugs in college, much less so in grad school. If someone used drugs 7-10 years ago when they where young that is one thing. If someone is using drugs up to the point of the Q they should not get a clearance.

By the way poster 4:16pm is liar.

Anonymous said...

You need to hang out with cooler people, chuckles ;)

You really don't know anyone in their 30's who did not try drugs (and probably try them very hard) while they were in grad school?

Anonymous said...

Come Oct 1, what's Bob "Give me that Microphone" Foley's VP for Lab Mgt job consist of, bothering Berkeley Lab?

Anonymous said...

9/16/07 4:58 PM

By grad school the number of people who used drugs was way down. A few smoked pot but these people were not the type to go on to a PD. Drinking is a different story.

Anonymous said...

I heard they have fired over 60 people for drug use. Many of them LANL employees. Who gives a crap when they used it. If they are still using today, they will terminate on the spot. No consideration, no sob stories, no excuses. They escort off the property the same day. You get your box of personal items the next day.

Bring on more testing. It's job security for me. Who needs RIF's if you have drug testing.

Anonymous said...

"A few smoked pot but these people were not the type to go on to a PD."

A quick lit search showed that quote came from the Journal of Data Pulled Out of Your Ass.

A very respected journal in the blogosphere.

Anonymous said...

11:11 Am, ever hear of NASA? While its true most actual fight hardware and spaceflight vehicles are built by aerospace firms, the science, research, and program management is done by government employees at the various NASA centers across the country.

Anonymous said...

I thought the question was whether someone smoked pot before they received a Q (or joining the lab), and then stopped smoking pot.

What does current drug use have to do with anything?

Anonymous said...

Here's the deal. UC should pay a big fine because UC employed the numskulls in S-11 and another division who were told that USB ports on secure systems could cause real trouble.

LANS should pay a big fine because those numskulls are still working in S-11 (or whatever name it now has) and the other division.

DOE should fire every DOE employee involved in approving Jessica Q's clearance. DOE should force LANS to fire everyone (at least 5 people in S-11 and another division) who were told about the issue in fall 2005 and did nothing.

Anonymous said...

Actually, 70 people have been terminated from the lab (since LANS took over last year) for positive drug tests and according to the HRP folks, cocaine is the #1 drug-of choice at LANL, followed by pot and alcohol abuse.

Let the discussions begin.

Anonymous said...

"DOE should fire every DOE employee involved in approving Jessica Q's clearance. DOE should force LANS to fire everyone (at least 5 people in S-11 and another division) who were told about the issue in fall 2005 and did nothing.

9/16/07 7:46 PM

Sounds good, but wanna bet they would all sue for some lame reason and would be hired back.

Again hire very good people to start with, because getting rid of bad people will be very hard. Rule 1.0 it works every time.

Anonymous said...

Sigh! Another LANL WFO bits 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...

For all of the 'kids do drugs, adults do not' posters, here is something from today's NYT ("This Is Your (Father’s) Brain on Drugs")

"Our most reliable measures show Americans ages 35 to 54 are suffering ballooning crises:

18,249 deaths from overdoses of illicit drugs in 2004, up 550 percent per capita since 1975, according to data from the National Center for Health Statistics.

More than four million arrests in 2005, including one million for violent crimes, 500,000 for drugs and 650,000 for drinking-related offenses, according to the F.B.I. All told, this represented a 200 percent leap per capita in major index felonies since 1975.

370,000 people treated in hospital emergency rooms for abusing illegal drugs in 2005, with overdose rates for heroin, cocaine, pharmaceuticals and drugs mixed with alcohol far higher than among teenagers."

Anonymous said...

The University of California should be fined $1 billion for the 65 years it allowed things to go to hell in a hand basket in Los Alamos. The arrogance we see in Lab culture today is totally due to UC oversight (or lack of). UC should have left town gracefully last year, but like a pimp unwilling to give up his territory, UC decided to partner up with the mob to maintain its strangle hold on all "its" national lab holdings. As a result, UC is now no better than the thugs it partnered up with.

Gussie Fink-Nottle said...

8:39 --

It's as if you were reading my mind.


Anonymous said...

8:39 AM.

LANL did not want and openly resisted UCOP involvement in LANL managment for 65 years. UCOP for its part went along with this by taking a position that since employees at LANL were UC employees, decisions made by LANL employees were UC decisions - and this would be the extent of UC's involvement in day to day operations (along with picking a Lab Director).

LANL and DOE got what each wanted - an paper tiger manager and whipping boy when things went bad.

Anonymous said...

That's not quite the complete picture, 9:05. When that fucking disaster of a UC-appointed director, Nanos, ran totally out of control in 2004, UC (Dynes, Foley) were paralyzed. They had ample opportunity to minimize the damage done by Nanos, and chose complete inaction instead.