Oct 31, 2007

Lab-contractor laxity

Santa Fe New Mexican Editorial

Editorial: Lab-contractor laxity in the past? Right ...

Yesterday's front-page news is no such thing to hundreds of the Northern New Mexicans who've worked for subcontractors at Los Alamos National Laboratory, nor to anyone else up there:

The largest of those "subs," KSL Services, is under investigation for, to put it mildly, running a sloppy operation. To hear high-paid lab spokespeople covering posteriors public-relationswise, the report from the federal Energy Department's Office of Inspector General should be seen solely in past tense: We've already taken steps to resolve the problems.

What problems? Oh, like an employee putting in for 35 hours of work repairing concrete steps that already had been repaired. Or those guys sleeping in their trucks, but still managing to put those hours on the company's tab. Or double-charging LANL, and the grateful taxpayers supporting it, for electrical wire. And, often, charging 20 percent over a project's cost estimate.

All part of doing business with Uncle Sugar? Or inadvertent lapses which, henceforth, won't happen?

Don't bet on the latter, even though the report is further fodder for the flinty-eyed members of Congress who've supplanted our state's long-generous Sen. Pete Domenici as the lab's budgetmasters. The amount of work done by the private outfits on "the Hill," and the amount billed, were at odds long before KSL entered the scene nearly five years ago. Many a hardworking and capable New Mexican, once on the payroll of a lab subcontractor, is somehow encouraged to, uh, take it easy.

What didja do at work today? Oh, I moved a two-by-four from one building to another one. Tomorrow they'll prob'ly tell me to move it back ... The guy no doubt is exaggerating — but what with indecisive bosses and those seeking to squeeze maximum profits out of their contracts, there's lots of slippage, followed by balance-sheet scrambling to make up for it.

Lab critics are calling for criminal charges — and, considering KSL's connections with Bush administration pals, such a reaction is understandable. But proving intent to defraud might be difficult, if not impossible.

Instead, New Mexicans and their fellow Americans should be glad inspectors are on top of the situation — and that the lab itself has at least taken over responsibility for estimating project costs.

Overcoming a six-decades-old culture of arrogance, and fallout in managerial shoddiness, isn't easy. Lab director Michael Anastasio last year waded into a maelstrom of inherited problems he's doing his best to clear away with congressional kibitzers all over his back.

If, as his public-relations folks claim, the situation already has been taken care of, we expect to see that reflected next time the Inspector General pays a visit.


Gussie Fink-Nottle said...

"If, as his public-relations folks claim, the situation already has been taken care of..."

Newsflash! Kevin Roark saying "the problem has been fixed" carries as much weight as a fart in a hurricane.


Anonymous said...

For almost a year and a half, I've heard LANL employees begging LANS management to do something about the KSL situation. Instead of fixing it, LANS extended the KSL contract for another year. Since LANS seems to always do the opposite of what is logical and wise, perhaps we should beging telling the world how efficient and cost-effective the KSL service is.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, if the problem is "fixed" then why is the Lab going to have an internal audit of the KSL contract?

Anonymous said...

LANS Mgt definitely took a decrement to their credibility in the eyes of many when the KSL contract was renewed. Most people I spoke to said the move showed a combination of an obvious lack of concern about cost control and total cluelessness.

I asked someone on the LANL side who works with KSL and their stories involved billing for work not performed.

Anonymous said...

This business of overcharging, etc., has been going under ZIA, PanAm World Services, Johnson Control, and now Zia. Many of us have complained on many occasions and nobody has been willing to address the issue.

Anonymous said...

KSL has taking bill padding to an extreme which has never been seen before. They can do this because some LANL managers in the facilities department are acting as KSL's enablers. That LANS doesn't seem to care about any of this is very sad.

Anonymous said...

"Since LANS seems to always do the opposite of what is logical and wise, perhaps we should beging telling the world how efficient and cost-effective the KSL service is."

Oh come now, you can't be that naive! Why do you think Lab leadership always gets it wrong? It's not LANS, it's Lab leadership, which is the same leadership that was there before LANS. It's the same mindset. Cover up problems. Cover up anything that may bring into question the managment oversight of the Lab and/or cost the overseer money. The overseer used to be UC. Now the parent is LANS, which now consists of UC and a few of its military-industrial buddies. So now do you understand why these things don't get reported, much less fixed? Get it now...finally!!!

Anonymous said...

Get rid of KSL and their subs like Eberline, and you will have saved lots of money and kept incompetent, greedy people from eating at the public trough.

Eberline has had many of the same issues regarding overbilling...why no look at them either?

Anonymous said...

Fundamentally, the problem has been around for awhile. When responsible LANL employees would try to communicate or fix these problems, management would look the other way. Group leaders and project leaders were then left having to explain significant cost increases on ANY project that KSL would execute. Audits and assessments were too busy looking at useless things when you tried to solicite help in looking into the issues. And CFO was often unwilling to discuss the problems, only to see that the books were balanced.

And little has changes since LANS has arrived.

Anonymous said...

About 10 years ago, employees of KSL's predecessor performed some modifications to the electrical distribution in our laboratory. Of course we had to pay for it. One assumes that the work was performed by Journeyman Union Electricians.

A few weeks later, their inspectors came by for an inspection and we were told that there were many code violations and that the work would have to be re-done. Of course, we had to pay for it AGAIN!

Anonymous said...

Mmmm - What do KSL, LANS and LLNS all have in common?

Ripping off the govermnment.

Once again it looks like LLNL will pay for LANL's SNAFU! I best buy some more K-Y Jelly.

Anonymous said...

You mean laxative?

Anonymous said...

As for KSL cookbooks, check with Erickson, Schlindwein, and Padilla.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 10/31/07 9:43 PM said...

"As for KSL cookbooks, check with Erickson, Schlindwein, and Padilla."

Indeed, these guys are a major part of the problem. I can tell you that they have been hostile toward TSMs who have complained about KSL costs.

Anonymous said...

"Overcoming a six-decades-old culture of arrogance, and fallout in managerial shoddiness, isn't easy."

For sure this qualifies as the understatement of the decade. Still to early too tell, but maybe even the millennium.

Anonymous said...

10/31/07 5:56 PM
"Once again it looks like LLNL will pay for LANL's SNAFU!"

Bullshit! LLNL doesn't pay a damn thing. The taxpayer pays. Once again you bozos don't get it.

Anonymous said...

Well 5:56, LLNL has had many solutions foisted on it that were the result of LANL and LASO screw-ups. Including the transition to corporate foolishness. While the taxpayer pays, I know too well what we paid.

Ben Dover