Sep 20, 2007

There is this accountability thing

Sent in by a reader. "Vastly overpriced."



This is why Nanos and LANS do not like WFO. There is this accountability thing.

ABQ Journal
Thursday, September 20, 2007

Cash Capped for LANL Sensor

The Associated Press

NASA has capped funding for a remote sensor being developed by Los
Alamos National Laboratory for the Mars Science Laboratory rover.

"We didn't stop their work, but they're vastly overpriced, and we have
not been able to curtail that," said Alan Stern, head of science at NASA in
Washington, D.C.

NASA told the project "you have to finish with the money you have,"
Stern said Tuesday.

The remote-sensing laser instrument known as ChemCam is 70 percent over
the original price proposed, he said.

Roger Wiens, principle investigator for ChemCam, said last week the
sensor is more than 90 percent complete. A French company has delivered the
laser, which has been under testing for several months, he said.

Stern said that if the project cannot finish with the money it has, it
might be able to find funds elsewhere. But, he said, "I'm out of resources."
The lab was chosen in 2004 to develop the instrument to accompany the
mobile laboratory, which will look for environments that can support life on
the surface of Mars.

ChemCam is to be delivered to the spacecraft late next spring, Stern
said. The launch is two years away, said Stern, associate administrator for
NASA's science mission directorate.

"We have missions that get into trouble," he said. "This is the third
time this mission has needed more money, and we could not pay all the

One way to cut costs was to cap ChemCam, he said.

Most of the instruments for the Mars mission are ready and within
budget, "but this one and a couple of others aren't, and we had to treat
them all similarly," Stern said.


Anonymous said...

"they're vastly overpriced"

Contrary to popular opinion, employees at LANL are not PAID anymore than skilled workers elsewhere. What makes us expensive is that we carry unfunded DOE directives, managers, outreach offices, legacy cleanup, etc. - a 250-350% markup on each person. (% depending on how employee benefits are counted.)

This explains why the RIF numbers mentioned by 'no-planned-RIFs Anastasio' are so high. For each directly-funded person that goes out the door, two overhead people must go also, just to balance the books. But some functions are mandated by contract even if LANS gets rid of the people- environmental cleanup, for example. So look for Bechtel-owned satellite companies in the future.

Cost of WFO is a problem that LANS is not willing to solve- so LANLs chances to diversify the mission are small.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 9/20/07 8:39 AM has it entirely and unforetunately correct.

However, there is no DOE requirement for 16 ADs and 90 DDs.

Regardless, we are screwed with regard to any chance of diversifying our mission via more WFO! Somehow the ADs and DDs must be made accountable for bringing in WFO projects. Presently, all that they do is tax our WFO and force us to put their chronically-unfundable favorites on our projects.

Anonymous said...

It is not fair to claim that the manager's salaries bloat the FTE cost. Messages on this blog deliberately exclude outsize staff, technician and infrastructure costs. Remember, there are competing private laboratories who would have to pay for buildings and profits, too.
Perhaps more important is the "recharge" costs, poor quality support and the low productivity
of the technical teams themselves. The increases in charges to NASA are, after all, based on the inability to finish the work, not surprising costs of hardware.

Anonymous said...

Yada, yada, yada, 10:26. I've worked here long enough to know that our costs, which took a huge jump when LANS took over, result from one basic cause: systemic inefficiency. Inefficiency within LANL, foremost, but also from our enforced interactions with NNSA and DOE.

The inefficiency exists at all levels of LANL, from the very tip-top of our bloated management structure, all the way down to the lowliest TEC.

The fact that FTE rates popped up significantly after LANS took over should come as a surprise to no one, and the fact that this is increasing the attrition rate of WFO sponsors at LANL likewise should not be a surprise.

Anonymous said...

Please help me. Does YADA, YADA, YADA, mean "I entirely agree with you"? Call it what you may but inefficiency is nearly the same as low productivity.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for being vague, 10:47. I probably mostly agree with you, but not your focus.

For example, inefficiency can cause low productivity, but that is not the only thing that can cause it -- they are not the same thing.

For another example: at LANL, the tripling of the number of (very-highly paid) upper level managers *did* have a noticeable effect on our FTE rates. As did the 10X increase in the annual contract award fee. As did the increased GRT.

Our FTE rates have gone through the roof because we have an inefficient management structure; we have inefficient (incompetent) managers, we have inefficient support organizations, we have inefficient support organization staff, we have inefficient entitlement-minded TSM staff member "scientists", we have an inefficient (incompetent) DOE sponsor, we have inefficient cyber-security procedures...

Not to mention:
Tech Transfer

Should I continue?

Anonymous said...

Our outrageous FTE costs won't come down until managers start losing their jobs over it. That will never happen. Thus, the cost will remain high, and probably go even higher after the RIF. Even before this RIF, what I've observed is that it is the bright, eager, direct-funded TSMs who are now leaving LANL for greener pastures. Their loss furthers the budgetary problems LANL is facing, as these people help bring in funding to feed the place.

Anonymous said...

You left out PA, 11:01. They represent a waste of perfectly good oxygen, not to mention an inefficient use of overhead dollars.

Anonymous said...


You must be one of the three people remaining at LANL who still believes anybody in management is interested bringing costs down. The rest of us have conceded that LANS (and NNSA and DOE and Bechtel and BWXT) are perfectly happy leaving them where they are, or perhaps inclined to drive them even higher.

WFO is neither sought after nor welcomed at LANL. Pu pit production is. Bright, eager TSMs are not required to do pit production. Neither are reasonable FTE rates.

Anonymous said...

When a direct-funded staff member has no funding, his manager meets with him and typically asks, "What are you going to do about your funding shortfall?".

When an overhead-funded worker has no funding, the manager thinks, "What new overhead scheme can I dream up to help cover for our employee's shortfall".

These are two very different groups at LANL with radically different world views.

Unfortunately, over the last few years LANL has done little to reign in the over-head side and has done much to destroy the direct-funded side. The result? Budgetary shortfalls that now mean layoffs for everyone.

Anonymous said...

Anonymos at 9/20/07 12:16 PM has it absolutely correct. A direct funded employee is a profit center. S/he is the only one responsible for funding. No management at any level has any responsibility for direct-funded personnel.

Meanwhile, the highly-valued overhead staff must be protected from even worrying about being funded.

Anonymous said...


--Rich Marquez

Anonymous said...

Take a look at all the different safety and security links that are referenced daily in the daily links. Someone has to prepare those, proof them, etc. This costs an extremely large amount of money.

How much are the training costs for the 5 minute class on how to drive on Pajarito Road?

How much has LANL had to pay for the SPP? And how much money has been wasted on the part that will just be cordoned off with jersey bounces once Los Alamos County constructs its intersection with the bypass road at the south end of the bridge? The colon will never be used.

LANL employees are not terribly overpaid, except for the bloated management which does no work. If restructuring does not affect the number of managers, then pretty soon there will be hardly anyone left to manage.

Anonymous said...

Not to mention the bill for all that JB Weld.

Anonymous said...

JB Weld - should never have had to happen. Fire everyone in S-11. They are one of the reasons why Jessica Q was able to download data since they knew about the USB problem.

Fire whoever in DOE okayed her Q. Whoever that was helped out.

Fire whoever in IM decided that someone who used drugs needed a Q.

And I've heard that there's another group of people in a division who knew about the USB vulnerability before it was reported to S-11 and did not report it up the line because they were not smart enough to understand the problem when it was reported to them. Fire their management too right on up the line to their AD.

William Shakespeare said...

As long as you have a firing line going might I suggest, "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers".

Anonymous said...

The DOE/Bechtel contagion will spread. Their modus operandi is the path of least resistance and risk. Get rid of risky science and difficult-to-manage scientists. Replace with the types of contracts that require a lot of people checking boxes and performing paperwork. Push any risk to smaller private subcontractors. Maximize number of low-paid people under each manager tier so that managers can maximize and justify high salaries. Seen this before in other projects outside the Lab.

Anonymous said...

Did anyone see today's (Thur) LANL Daily Links with the PDF poster issued by CTN Division? CTN is going on overhead funding as of Oct 1st. In fact, their poster on the Daily Links page practically gloats about it!

We have overhead charges coming out our asses at LANL, yet LANS allows CTN to join in the overhead party.

If you needed a sign that LANS has no plans to reign in overhead charges run amok, the "free-walk" they just gave to CTN Division should be enough to convince you.

Poster 6:07 PM has it about right on the Bechtel modus operandi that is working its way through LANL. They have no concerns for the science at LANL. They have no concerns about the cost of doing business. It's all about appearing to be busy and raking in the money at the top.

Anonymous said...

CTN is more inefficient than any other overhead division. They have a stranglehold on computer support, yet they are full of inexperienced techs. They are clueless about learning anything but what the IA committees say should be supported which means they can't support many specialized systems. We used to be able to contract with small companies who could support special systems, but now all our attempts to contract are turned down because either our SOW is not detailed enough or it sounds like staff augmentation.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I agree. CTN is full of totally inept computer techs. I'm consistently amazed by their lack of experience.

They have a set system they want to impose on the lab through IA dictates (Windows with Microsoft apps at the core), and are a hindrance to getting work done by staff. They are constantly working to extend their empire by fiat, and the Director's office does little to stop it. The Oct 1st imposition of a new CTN overhead tax of 3% is just the latest example.

Soon enough, you won't be able to turn on your PC without a CTN tech watching over your shoulder to make sure that you do it the CTN way.

Just this week I discovered their latest annoyance. Seems they've decide to remove the Symantec Anti-Virus update files from ESD. As of now, the ONLY way you can update SAV is to load special ESD blessed software on your computer to do these simple updates on a CTN specified schedule. What was once a very simple operation has now becomes complex and requires CTN assistance to perform. They know that they can achieve complete job protection and extend their division's power by completely controlling LANL PCs.

CTN is not a service organization. They have become a dis-service organization.

Anonymous said...

CTN shouldn't be so smug.

Once they have a stranglehold on computer configuration and maintenance across the institution, their function can then be easily outsourced.

Anonymous said...

"Get rid of risky science and difficult-to-manage scientists."

Yeah, buh-bye chemists and don't forget to take your lasers and aqua rega with you!

Anonymous said...

CTN for too long has only been interested in telling their customers what to do rather than support what their customers need to do. I'd much rather contract support to a company who understands that I am the customer and I want to define the parameters on my system. However, contrary to the contract I can't do this so I am stuck with CTN.

Before long software from CTN will examine all your files to make sure that you are doing only LANL work on your PC. Then you'll have to figure out how to password protect them from CTN.

Long ago I removed Symantic and went to a freebie that I can update myself. All this monitoring by CTN has become damned intrusive.

The only thing worse would be outsourcing computer support to Pojoaque Pueblo!

Anonymous said...

Outsourcing scientific work and keeping "information systems" support and other "management functions" would make management's life simpler. That's the direction that corporate America has went. Only thing that prevents them is the security levels needed to do scientific work.

Anonymous said...

"Long ago I removed Symantic and went to a freebie that I can update myself. All this monitoring by CTN has become damned intrusive." - 11:27 PM

I was using an anti-virus product with low resource footprint and it was a good product. Then, a few months ago, I was informed that I must remove it as only Symantec AV can be used at LANL because it's the CTN/IA 'standard'.

CTN rules on what you can and cannot put on LANL computers are only going to get worse over the next few years. Next thing you know, they are going to want an itemized list of all software that is on your PC and you'll need to get CYA exemptions for anything that isn't on CTN's "approved" list of software products. Their future plans also probably involve moving everyone at LANL onto diskless thin client PCs with the servers under the strict control of CTN.

LANL computers need to be secured from infections, trojans, etc, but CTN is becoming very heavy handed about it and using their newly granted powers as a means to extend their empire. The new 3% CTN overhead tax is a sign of things to come.

Anonymous said...


Rich Marquez

Anonymous said...

If cyber-security was the driving force behind CTN's hegemony, they'd be moving everyone off of Windows and Microsoft products, not forcing it on everyone.

But cyber-security not really the driving force, is it?

Anonymous said...

Are CTN the boobs that run ESD? I had fun with them this summer. For a software product that LANL provides through ESD, I wanted to check if the lab had a license that included some extra services from the software vendor. I thought we did, but wanted to check. I called the number referenced from ESD at least twice after not finding the info online, both time being scolded for calling, told "no", and being told not to bother them since they never, ever get licenses like that. I called the software vendor right after that, just to make sure and was told "yes - LANL has always paid for that license.". So, the lazy bastards on the ESD support line didn't know the info, made up an answer with the wrong info, and weren't interested in helping me. There's a valuable organization.

And yes, people pointed out the USB issue long before JQ. Even after JQ, similar issues were pointed out that still persist today, with the response from security folks and managers being essentially "please don't point that out.".

Pinky and The Brain said...

Please point it out here!

Anonymous said...

What is so damned special about CTN that they need all of this protection?

In terms of serving the general LANL mission, CTN is worse than HR!

Anonymous said...

Hey, 10:29 AM. Welcome to "customer-focused" service, CTN style!

How dare you bother them with a call about the status of licensed software. They have much more important things to do, like figuring ways to raise the overhead on LANL's remaining projects.

Anonymous said...

PaTB: There's something special about some types of laptops. Google "apple target disk mode" and see if you can figure it out.

Remember: after the JQ fiasco, firewire and usb external drives were banned from some areas.

Pinky and The Brain said...

I have that kind of laptop, please don't point that out!

Seriously though, why should they do anything? Nobody was held accountable the last time they chose to remain ignorant.

Anonymous said...

I'll betcha that the next move for CTN will be to take all the good sys admins that work for groups/divisions and move them into CTN.

Then CTN will declare that no one will ever have to hire outside lanl for any kind of computer support, even if CTN can't provide the support, because in time someone from CTN will be able to manage your system. Of course you won't work for a year, but that's okay.

The ones that CTN does not want will be on the RIF list. Maybe that means a going away part for ____? Fill in the blanks.

Anonymous said...

> I'll betcha that the next move for
> CTN will be to take all the good
> sys admins that work for
> groups/divisions and move them into
> CTN.

That is, in fact, exactly what's going to happen on October 1st.

Anonymous said...

"That is, in fact, exactly what's going to happen on October 1st. - 9/21/07 10:19 PM"

Yes, indeed. In fact, it was in one of Mikey's slides from an All-Hands meeting about six months ago. They are going to centralize computer support and security into one mega-division which will be calling all the shots. They will tell you want you must do, and they won't take kindly to having you make suggestions about how things should operate.

The hammer is coming down on PC operations this next year and it's going to get ugly.

Anonymous said...

Yes, there is more reward for not doing the wrong thing than doing the right thing. More reward for preventing mistakes than creative solutions. This is the new reward system. The Congressional/DOE/Bechtel contagion is now upon us and will spread.