Oct 16, 2007

LANL Workforce Terryfied

Notes from open meeting on Work Force Restructuring hosted by Terry Wallace at the Rosen Auditorium, Monday, October 15, 2007 from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon, compiled by Kevin Jones, AOT-DO, and reviewed by Floyd Gallegos, AOT-DO and Terry Wallace, PADSTE.

Terry began by outlining three key points he planned to address during the first half of the hour:
  • How did we get here?
  • What is Work Force Restructuring (WFR)?
  • What is LANL’s strategic response?
1. How did we get here?

A process implemented by NNSA across the weapons complex triggered the WFR process, not just the proposed budget for FY08.
  • LANL has seen declining funding from FY02 to FY07
  • The proposed LANL Defense Program budgets for FY08 show a steep decline (the trigger event). In the sub-bullets below the reductions indicate budget cuts that affect the work force (construction projects are not included, for example).
    • The President’s budget shows a reduction of $80M
    • The House budget shows a reduction of $188M
  • Work Force attrition in FY06 and FY07 was at an all-time low
Terry showed data for the Laboratory budget from FY54 to FY07, in FY54 dollars. He described the structure in the data, illustrating the energy initiative that began in 1976 under President Carter, the work-for-others “Star Wars” initiative in the Reagan years that peaked in 1988, and the growth of Science Based Stockpile Stewardship (SBSS) and Life Extension Programs (LEPs) from 1996 to 2002 as periods of growth in the laboratory budget. The period from 1962 to 1976 was relatively flat, as was the period from 1988 to 1996. He pointed out the decline from 2002 to 2007. In the context of this discussion he noted that Laboratory senior management chose to hire several thousand people beginning in 1998 – we chose a labor-intensive approach to getting the work done, that was different, for example, than the path chosen by Sandia National Laboratory where the funding growth was also used to address deferred maintenance, for example. The bottom line is that these management decisions have placed the laboratory in a “people-rich” condition with an inappropriate balance for investment in the physical infrastructure.

Terry then showed data for Budget Authority (BA) versus costs for FY89 through FY07. From FY89-FY99 the laboratory generally spent (cost) what it was authorized (BA) for a balanced condition. For FY00-FY03 our costs were less than the BA, resulting in an accumulation of carryover funds (or budget surplus, in any given year). For FY04-FY07 our costs have exceeded our BA, and we have used up the carryover funds accumulated from FY00-FY03, and we are now in a “balanced” scenario where we have little flexibility to respond to budget reductions. We are therefore ill equipped to respond to a budget “crisis.”

Terry then discussed staffing levels at the end of FY06 and FY07 respectively. The data are given in the following table.

Terry emphasized that postdocs represent the future of science at the Laboratory, and since our strategy is to become the premier Science Laboratory for National Security it is important to maintain our science capability through this pathway. He also expressed concern about the reduction in the number of students, and hypothesized that this might be due to additional requirements for mentors in the post-2004 era.

Terry then summarized the termination and hiring activities in PADSTE for FY2007.

217 individuals have terminated, including 61 retirements, 73 postdocs (as part of the normal “churn”), and 76 voluntary terminations. There have been 187 hiring actions, including 26 conversions of postdocs and 32 conversions of students to regular or limited term positions, and 129 external hires. This represents a net reduction in the PADSTE work force of 30 for the past fiscal year. In the laboratory there were approximately 200 external hires last year.

Only 107 individuals chose to retire in FY2007, the lowest annual total since 1969 while about 500 retired in FY05 and about 350 retired in FY06.

Terry then described the FY06 Operations Costs per FTE – a metric of budget flexibility– for LANL as compared to other national laboratories. A higher number represents greater flexibility. The data are as follows.


Terry concluded the discussion of the first topic by emphasizing that the proposed WFR is not a response to a single budget or appropriation issue.

2. What is Work Force Restructuring?

Work Force Restructuring is a process that is driven by Section 3161 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 1993, an act passed by Congress during the time of the “Peace Dividend” after the end of the Cold War. The DOE had to reduce the size of the weapons complex at that time, and this act provided the consistent mechanism to do that. The DOE Office of Legacy Management is the federal agency that administers implementation of the provisions of this act. Funding was provided when the act was passed to support implementation of the act, but such funds are not available today. Sites must now provide their own funding to implement the provisions of this law.

WFR consists of two pieces.
  • Self Selected Voluntary Separation Program (SSVSP)
  • Involuntary Separation Program (ISP)
The 3161 Plan consists of three basic elements.
  • Severance
  • Retraining
  • Medical Coverage
Terry pointed out that severance is based on years of service within the DOE complex, not just at LANL. He also pointed out that historical programs such as service and age credit in the retirement program (TCP1) can no longer be offered because of the different plans (TCP1 and TCP2) now offered by the Laboratory, and the law prohibits those particular incentives.

The Laboratory is in the process of submitting the specific detailed plan to DOE for review and approval. The Laboratory plan includes an incentive for the SSVSP, but details cannot be shared until the plan is approved.

Terry described the three basic elements of the ISP.
  • Inventory of skills (to match the future mission)
    • Defined by DOE (COCS or Common Occupation Classification System codes, one assigned to each individual)
    • Refined by function (each individual is assigned a functional job title that represents their job today, and does not take into account degrees or prior jobs)
  • Targets and caps
    • The targets are driven by how many people the Laboratory can support, are dependent on funding sources, and vary by organization, and are assigned at the AD level.
    • The caps are driven by the budget shortfall areas and have been assigned at the AD level – both direct and indirect funded organizations are affected.
  • Exclusions
    • A very small number of individuals, identified by mission critical functionality, may be excluded from both the voluntary and involuntary processes.
After the plan is approved, individuals eligible for the SSVSP may volunteer over a defined period (about 2 weeks) with a right to rescind during a subsequent short period. An Associate Director may deny the voluntary termination of an individual based on targets and caps. Individuals who select and accept the SSVSP may not work at another DOE site for 1 year after termination.

3. What is LANL’s strategic response?

Terry outlined the following strategy to support the future vision of the Laboratory.
  • We must strive to keep the best and the brightest
    • Continue limited term hiring in accordance with the provisions of Section 3161
    • Address salary compression (through the compensation program design) to allow for non-management salary growth in the technical arena
  • Continue our strategic initiatives – we are committed to the success of institutional initiative such as MaRIE.
  • Lead NNSA in transforming the Laboratory governance models
Terry discussed the role of Limited Term staff at the laboratory – these individuals are excluded from the SSVSP phase of WFR, but may be affected by the ISP with decisions to be made at the AD level.

Terry also discussed the balance of Defense Programs and Work For Others (WFO) at the Laboratory, and the constraints presently imposed by NNSA on our Laboratory’s ability to grow WFO programs. He also discussed infrastructure investment necessary to effectively support WFO, and some political aspects of such investment.

Terry then took questions and provided answers, but these are not summarized here.


Eric said...

Pinky and the Brain,
Thanks for keeping up on this.

Anonymous said...

So, if we get laid off, we're not allowed to be employed anywhere at any location within the DOE complex for a year?


What's the reason for that?

This is Terryfying.

Anonymous said...

12:23 -

That requirement is for VOLUNTARY riffees only.

Anonymous said...

"Terry outlined the following strategy to support the future vision of the Laboratory. We must strive to keep the best and the brightest."

Well then, I guess that means I'm stuck. They just won't let me go.

Anonymous said...

10/16/07 12:23 PM

Sure, but think of all those other
opportunities in china, pakistan and

Doug said...

So, I'm a little confused. Is this initiative to "keep the best and the brightest" in addition to, or as a replacement for "The World's Greatest Science Serving America".

Because I know we don't do that.

Also, is that "the best and the brightest" goal defined to be out of all those who currently remain at LANL, or on a more national, or even global ranking. I wish Terry had been more consise on these points.

Anonymous said...

The "best and the brightest" are going to bail. They can write their own ticket anywhere and don't need to put up with this crap, which will go on for years. The C students who have managed to make themselves "critical" will remain, as always. "Critical" will become the new definition of "best and brightest." The descent of LANL into mundane mediocrity continues...

Anonymous said...

Mybe we could have some great companies from the other parts of the pacific rim set up a job fair in santa fe!

Anonymous said...

Do we really want our "mission critical" work to be done by people who don't want to be here? How does that make sense?!

And shouldn't these "mission critical" people have back-ups, if the Lab has been managing risk, as any LANL project is required to do? Or do they just let the same people hold the Lab (and national security) hostage over and over again?

In this context, "mission critical" is just a code phrase for really self-centered workers who are black-mailing the system, and short-sighted management, who just don't care.

Anonymous said...

12:23 PM asked ..."So, if we get laid off, we're not allowed to be employed anywhere at any location within the DOE complex for a year? WTF?"

They don't want these people (most likely bitter) working for any of the competition.

Anonymous said...

"Terry then described the FY06 Operations Costs per FTE – a metric of budget flexibility– for LANL as compared to other national laboratories. A higher number represents greater flexibility. The data are as follows."

170k 196k 199k 211k 230k

What this means is that LANL as far more labor-intensive that these other four labs. They no doubt sub-contract out and/or procure a lot more things than we do. That makes them better able to deal with the peaks and valleys of funding. That makes these other labs "better managed" than LANL.

Anonymous said...

What this means is that if you spend your project dollars at LANL, you'll get far less work out of that money than you would at a better run lab like SNL.

And for this next year, it gets even worse, as our FTE labor rates are going even higher. Crazy, huh?

Anonymous said...

Not crazy, just predictable.

Anonymous said...

This was the first presentation I have heard from upper management that laid out the series of events, as seen from their viewpoint, that landed us where we are.

Imagine how much better we would have understood what has been happening too us in the past five years if other upper managers had been as open and honest.

Thank you Terry! Please keep providing us with your perspective.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Jeannette.

Anonymous said...

Oh good grief 10:54, I can hear the sucking throught the internet. Terry is a lying sack of shit, just ask the Fellows...

Anonymous said...

"This was the first presentation I have heard from upper management that laid out the series of events, as seen from their viewpoint, that landed us where we are." 10:54 AM

I think we all know where we are at this point in time. The real question is.. where are we going? On that one, Mike and Terry either (1) have absolutely no clue, or (2) aren't telling us. I find both of those possibilities extremely upsetting.

If they have a plausible plan to salvage LANL from the coming train wreck, I would sure love to hear it. Sitting around and just waiting for Congress to solve all our problems isn't a very bright idea. You have to work hard to sell a new vision, but they seem to have none.