Oct 31, 2007

Bush Plan May Cut Nuke Jobs

ABQ Journal
Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Bush Plan May Cut Nuke Jobs

By John Fleck, Journal Staff Writer

The Bush administration is readying a plan that could cut 6,000 to 9,000 jobs from the U.S. nuclear weapons complex over the next decade.

The cuts, along with a reduction of one-third in the complex's square footage, would be spread across the eight U.S. sites that design, build and maintain U.S. nuclear weapons— including Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico.

Specifics, including details of the proposed changes at individual sites, remain under wraps. But officials have begun talking publicly about the process in recent weeks.

The plan would upgrade the labs and factories, creating a smaller and more modern complex. In the process, the government would replace buildings that in some cases are half a century old, said David Campbell, director of congressional, intergovernmental and public affairs for the National Nuclear Security Administration.

None of the eight sites would be closed, Campbell said.

The cost of maintaining the aging Cold War complex continues to rise, but the federal budget for the work is not keeping pace, Campbell said.

"It's pretty clear that our budgets will not be going up," Campbell said.

The plan assumes the federal agency will continue to maintain U.S. nuclear weapons for the foreseeable future. "NNSA's mission is not going away," Campbell said. "We have a duty, a responsibility to maintain the stockpile, make it secure and reliable."

Integral to the plan is the elimination of some 600 buildings at the eight nuclear weapon sites and a cut of 20 percent to 30 percent in the complex's 32,000-person work force.

Campbell would not talk about specific plans at the individual sites, but did say that the job cuts would not necessarily be shared evenly among them.

"Not every site will go down 20 to 30 percent," Campbell said. "Those are things that need to be worked out."

More than 13,000 people are directly employed at Los Alamos and Sandia labs in the nuclear weapons program. A cut of 20 percent would mean the loss of more than 2,600 jobs in New Mexico.

The planning effort, dubbed "Complex Transformation," is the latest episode in a saga that dates to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

At the time, the United States maintained an arsenal of more than 20,000 nuclear warheads and bombs designed to counter the Soviet threat. Today, that has dropped to about 5,500, with further reductions planned.

A year ago, the National Nuclear Security Administration unveiled a proposal it called "Complex 2030"— a proposal for creating a new nuclear weapons research and manufacturing complex over the next two-plus decades.

This year's plan builds on the ideas developed for Complex 2030, but the focus has changed to look at what can be accomplished in the next decade, Campbell said. To that end, the "2030" has been dropped from the name. The project is now called simply "Complex Transformation."

One Complex 2030 idea still being considered is the need to consolidate work with plutonium and other potentially dangerous nuclear materials at a small number of sites.

Currently, such material is spread across seven separate sites around the country, driving up security costs.

Earlier efforts to create a post-Cold War nuclear weapons complex have seen mixed success. In January 1991, in the waning days of the Cold War, then-Energy Secretary James Watkins issued a report outlining what he called "Complex-21"— a network of labs and factories that "would be smaller, less diverse, and less expensive to operate than the Complex of today."

Part of what Watkins proposed, including the closure of some weapons plants, was completed. But the biggest piece of the puzzle— what to do with plutonium processing and manufacturing— has remained an unresolved problem as new leadership repeatedly abandons old ideas and launches new planning processes in their place, government documents show.

Campbell said the current team is trying to come up with a plan that will survive a change in leadership in Washington, D.C. "We're trying to do this in a way that's sustainable for the future," he said, "that's sustainable for administrations beyond this one."

An NNSA spokesman said details of the plan, including impacts on each of the eight sites, will be released in late November or December.

Facing cuts
Sites affected by proposed nuclear weapons complex cuts:
  • Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico— design and manufacturing
  • Sandia National Laboratories, New Mexico— design and manufacturing
  • Kansas City Plant, Missouri— manufacturing
  • Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, California— design
  • Nevada Test Site, Nevada— testing
  • Y-12, Tennessee— manufacturing
  • Pantex, Texas— assembly and disassembly
  • Savannah River Site, South Carolina— nuclear processing and storage


Anonymous said...

LANL is exempt, right?

Eric said...

Thanks to John Fleck for updating this information.
It will be a complex transformation. ;-)

Anonymous said...

"Integral to the plan is the elimination of some 600 buildings at the eight nuclear weapon sites and a cut of 20 percent to 30 percent in the complex's 32,000-person work force."

Does the staff at LANL finally get it? Washington has plans to cut about 1/3rd of the complex workforce and it starts this year. This will be done so that NNSA can construct shiny new buildings. The scientists that occupy those buildings are of secondary importance. Bechtel makes money on the buildings, and not on the scientists.

Forget what clueless folks like Terry Wallace may have to told you on this matter. Huge cuts are coming and life at LANL is going to be extremely difficult over the next 2 or 3 years.

For those lucky folks at the top of the ladder life will be better than ever. For the general workforce it is going to be extremely difficult. We are looking at foreclosures and bankruptcies in Los Alamos as this game plays out. Start preparing now as best you can. Our ugly New World starts in November with the first round of RIFs. There will be many other rounds to follow.

Anonymous said...

"Complex Transformation" == Massive Job Layoffs

Anonymous said...

If the goal is 20 to 30 percent reduction in force across the complex, and "Not every site will go down 20 to 30 percent", then that means some sites will have to go down 40 to 50 percent right?

I wonder which sites those will be.

Anonymous said...

"Turn Out The Lights The Pary's Over".....How long did you all think this "gravy train" would last? Had it not been for Domenici and the "ear-marks" these deep cuts would have happened about 4 years ago.. As we all know ,there is a lot of wasted dollars up here that can be used productivly elsewhere with-in the complex....Tou talk about KSL, you only needm to look in your own backyard..talk about waste and abuse...LANL is King......Be happy you hung on this long....

Anonymous said...

Here is what will really happen....NNSA will make the personnel cuts and Congress will keep the savings. The country is in no mood to medernize the nuclear weapons complex. They are in the mood to downsize the workforce. It is called a "peace dividend."

Anonymous said...

pinky and brain check out contract 44 on the llnl home page it discribes what going to happen to us in the next two years

Anonymous said...

The duplication of effort in design work won't be lasting much longer. Look for LLNL to get the design and life extension programs and LANL to get stuck with pit production as the booby prize. We'll keep DAHRT up and running as a service for the designers stationed back at LLNL.

Since LDRD lives off the back of weapons funding, you can expect to see some serious cutbacks in LANL's LDRD efforts. We could attempt to diversify the lab with aggressive growth in our declining WFO work but neither Mike nor Terry really shows any genuine interesting in doing so. NNSA also seems very hostile to the idea of encouraging lab diversification.

Bottom line: If you are a glove box tech or safety compliance officer at LANL you will be able to survive. If you do scientific research at LANL, you're in for a very rough ride unless it's in the area of plutonium science or perhaps non-poliferation. TSM's are going to become the main target of the 30% downsizing efforts that NNSA has planned out for LANL.

The glory days for LANL are over and we're down to survival mode and subsistence living for most of the scientists who live on the mesa. Good luck to everyone, as you're definitely going to need it!

Anonymous said...

Soon enough, large segments of LANL will be as empty as the creepy hallways of the old abandoned Admin building.

I've heard that if you sneak up to the top floor of this building on a full moon night, you can hear the ghost of Pete Nanos screaming down the hallways at the staff. Seems Pete didn't need his useless soul so he left it here when he took his new job out at DTRA. Happy Halloween!

Anonymous said...

Pete Nanos had a soul?

Maybe we can catch it and give it to Mikey.

Anonymous said...

The answer to all the budget problems is to shut down Livermore weapons work. It does not make sense to have another weapons lab around in a post cold-war environment with shrinking budgets. It would be better to convert Livermore into an energy lab and consolidate all the weapons work here at LANL. Each lab (LANL and LLNL) would keep the same number of jobs, but the scientific focus would be different. There are series threats to our country. Our country needs energy independence, and we need to prevent nuclear proliferation and maintain our nuclear deterrent. LANL is the preeminent nuclear weapons lab and it has a substantial number of experts in non-proliferation and nuclear weapon science. Currently, LANL is responsible for basically the entire stockpile, and does most of the nonproliferation work. Likewise, LANL is located close to SNL and Pantex, which would make an excellent tri-lab alliance. SNL would focus on engineering, Pantex would do manufacturing/dismantlement, and LANL would focus on science/design. In contrast, LNLL is in a perfect position to build a strong corporation with the academic community, Stanford and Berkley for instance, to develop new alternative energy technologies. I would also suspect that the CA legislators would fully support such a transition. Each lab would keep their current budgets, and our country would greatly benefit. Consolidating scientific work would also reduce the footprint on nuclear weapons work while solving critical problems threatening our safety. Unfortunately, NNSA is more concerned about justifying two weapons labs, which is why they are trying to convert LANL into a pit manufacturing plant. I am fearful that NNSA will prevail and all science will be sent to LNLL. It was no accident that NNSA wanted LNLL managers and Betchel to run our lab. Sadly, I have no hope that NNSA or Congress will do the right thing for America.

LANL scientist

Anonymous said...

Your nice sounding scenario is not going to happen, LANL Scientist.

LLNL isn't going to let all their lucrative weapons work slip away and then take a chance on insecure energy funding that is based on the whims of Congress. Besides, LLNL knows very well that there are other places in which to do energy research and most of them can do it cheaper and faster.

LLNL will fight to the death for the weapons funding they've already got and probably use California's political muscle to steal much of the "clean" weapons work now done at LANL (design work, stockpile, etc.). They'll be helped in this effort by Mike, who probably plans on assisting his friends back home. Once the "clean" weapons work has been transfered to LLNL (and we are left with pit production) Mike will be skipping out of Los Alamos to a nice, perk-filled LLNS job as his reward.

The fact that LANL designed most of the current arsenal won't stop this agenda. Those who are truly important to the stockpile effort will be offered protected job status back at LLNL along with relocation assistance to help them make the move to California. The key people (and there aren't many of them) will be eager to take the relocation job offers as they watch LANL continue to shrink and circle the drain.

Anonymous said...

Mikey was seen roaming the halls of LLNL today bldg. 132 someone said he was interviewing for a job

Anonymous said...

If Mikey has plans on bailing, then I guess that means Terry will be our next Director (that is, if Terry's mom has made all the necessary phone calls to help put her son into his next big LANL position).

However, the RFP stipulated that Mikey must serve for at least 2 years, so I don't think he'll be leaving until June 1st of 2008. If he was seen roaming the halls at LLNL it was probably just to pick out his new office for when he makes the move next summer.

Anonymous said...

All he has to do is take his laptop home and discover he has a family. It's called the Mitchell option.