Oct 7, 2007

Prestigious air-freshener

From the SF Chronicle --

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2007/10/07/INOOSIH6R.DTL

Excerpt:

"Today, no educational institution more symbolizes the magnitude of that moral corruption than the University of California. The UC system avidly continues to provide key management functions - serving as a prestigious air-freshener for the stench of annihilation technology - at the Livermore and Los Alamos nuclear weapons laboratories."

That's how UC retained a place at the LANL trough -- DOE likes a touch of corruption in its contractors. The bit about "prestigious air-freshener" is laying it on a little thick, however. Nanos, prestigious? Anastasio? Has the bar really been set that low?

--Gussie

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

I would have said merkin, rather than air freshener.

Especially when you consider Mikey's haircut vs his body odor.

Pinky and The Brain said...

"Prestigious air-freshener"? I always thought that smell was for checking the fit of your respirator.

Gussie Fink-Nottle said...

Perhaps 11:07 meant "mercaptan":

mer·cap·tan /mərˈkæptæn/
Pronunciation[mer-kap-tan]
–noun Chemistry.
any of a class of sulfur-containing compounds having the type formula RSH, in which R represents a radical, and having an extremely offensive, garlicky odor.

[Origin: 1825–35; < L, short for phrase corpus mercurium captāns body capturing quicksilver]

Pinky and The Brain said...

Set your coffee away from your keyboard before looking up what a merkin is!

Gussie Fink-Nottle said...

I stand corrected. 11:07 clearly meant "merkin".

--Gussie

Anonymous said...

Hey, Mike:

If I can draw attention away from that muff on your head for a minute, I'd like to ask you a question. Remember back two Congressional hearings ago when someone (Stupak?) asked you how morale was at the lab? Your answer was, "Um, morale? Er, it's pretty good," or something clever like that.

My question is: how's morale at the lab now?

Anonymous said...

Watch out for other 'air-freshener' ....

LIVERMORE

Lab fined $450,000 for mishandling anthrax

Jaxon Van Derbeken, Chronicle Staff Writer

Sunday, October 7, 2007

(10-06) 12:51 PDT (10-06) 12:49 PDT LIVERMORE - --

A former Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory scientist who lacked proper credentials sent off an uninspected package containing two open vials of deadly pathogen anthrax across the country in 2005, triggering a $450,000 federal fine against the lab, authorities say.

The scientist, who resigned her post at the Livermore lab after the incident, left the twist caps off two containers and a loose cap on a third vial in a 1,025-vial shipment to Palm Beach, Fla., in September 2005, according to the findings of a federal agency's review that led to the fine.

The lab in Florida then opened the anthrax shipment without proper precautions, and two of its workers were possibly exposed. The workers were treated with the antibiotic Cipro for a week, then returned to work.

A second shipment of about 3,000 vials made the next day by the same Lawrence Livermore scientist to a lab in Virginia had more vials than it should have, a separate violation of packaging restrictions. The scientist's official credentials vouching for her ability to ship the pathogen had lapsed at the time of the shipments.

The fine was levied against the University of California - the former manager of the lab - as part of a recently reached negotiated settlement that became public at a congressional hearing about the safety of the government's pathogen research programs. A key finding was that lab officials failed to inspect the shipments to ensure they were properly packaged and that labeling accurately reflected the contents.

Lab spokeswoman Susan Houghton said no anthrax leaked from the vials in the Florida shipment, and that the inner packaging would have trapped any anthrax if it had.

However, the government summary of the incident concluded: "During the transfers, anthrax was released from the shipped vials."

Houghton said the lab has made a total of 30 shipments in the last six years without other incident. She noted that the 2005 case led to a seven-month shutdown of all the lab's anthrax-related research for an audit, reorganization and retraining. In April 2006, the lab earned a three-year renewal of its registration to handle biological agents.

A citizen group, Tri-Valley CAREs, seized on the incident as an example of the danger to the community posed by the lab, as well as a new lab that has yet to open.

Marylia Kelley, the head of the group and who lives across from the lab, said lab officials "deliberately withheld important information" and lied about the magnitude of the incident, which was originally described as an inner packaging problem of an unnamed biological agent. It never mentioned anthrax.

"We now know that was a deception," Kelley said in a statement. "The lab disclosed only one aspect of a major accident involving multiple violations of law and regulation and resulting in the release of a dangerous pathogen."

Houghton said that with the renewal of its registration, the lab has a new oversight system, training and procedures. She said the federal Department of Transportation concluded the problem shipments amounted to "an isolated incident."

"The registration allows our laboratory to continue necessary research on behalf of the nation," the lab said in a statement.

E-mail Jaxon Van Derbeken at jvanderbeken@sfchronicle.com.

Anonymous said...

Pinky & Gussie,

There was a wonderful letter by Dick Morris in the Sante Fe North edition of today's (Sunday, OCt 7) ABQ Journal. IMHO, this deserves front billing on the blog. See if you agree.

www.abqjournal.com/north/
opinion/600660northoped10-07-07.htm

------------

LANL Shouldn't Wait for Direction - ABQ Journal (Letters to Editor)

I was not surprised at the Albuquerque Journal's headlines that said that "As budget cuts loom, Sandia diversifies while LANL waits for direction."

In the early 1970s, Los Alamos National Laboratory saw budget cuts and layoffs looming ahead, yet it took almost two years for the lab to react. First, our members of Congress were brought into agreement, then a group of high-level LANL managers arranged to speak at the Western Governors meeting held in Santa Fe. As a member of Gov. Jerry Apodaca's staff, I heard the LANL managers request the governors' support to carve out six Rocky Mountain states for LANL's Regional Energy and Environmental Studies Program.

This program combined teams of new hires— economists, statisticians, environmentalists and others— with scientists and engineers on important energy and environmental projects. Due to good performance, the Department of Energy placed LANL in charge of all the states west of the Mississippi River. Identification and assessment of all energy resources and technologies and their environmental impacts and mitigation measures were documented. Issues such as water requirements, population growth and Indian water law, along with hundreds of other technical details, were researched and compiled (for better understanding of) the energy basket states of our nation.

Layoffs were minimized. There is a federal mandate that all government departments must use national laboratories rather than consultant firms if laboratory (expertise) exists. In the late '70s and '80s, new LANL teams combined soft and hard sciences and attracted many new projects from the Environmental Protection Agency, the Interior, Defense and State Departments, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and other federal agencies.

For example, LANL teams were funded to identify domestic energy sources in five Central American countries and develop an energy accounting sector for each country's GNP accounting system. Hydroelectric, geothermal and other local sources were identified and developed. The countries' import expenditures could then purchase goods and services other than petroleum. Was this a national security or an energy project? I think both.

Still, LANL national security assignment must remain the top priority. Russian President Vladimir Putin has begun a $200 billion rearmament program, China has greatly expanded its military funding and trouble seems to be brewing in areas of South America. Yet with growing uncertainty in the world, LANL's role in the national defense faces drastic funding cuts and irreplaceable LANL talent could be laid off.

I believe LANL's management should move forward now to help solve national priorities such as energy and environmental problems, avoid major layoffs and keep the talent needed in the future. Congressman Tom Udall (D-NM) may have a plan that will work, but don't wait for Congress of the federal government to totally define LANL's mission.


Don Morris
Los Alamos

Anonymous said...

I was wondering why Dick Morris would give a rat's ass about LANL, then I see at the bottom of the letter it's actually Don Morris of Los Alamos.

Good letter, though.

Anonymous said...

Morris has the same blind spot that has appeared before on these pages. Namely, LANL (or any DOE/NNSA contractor), with VERY few exceptions, does NOT have the freedom to "redefine" its mission. It is a federal crime to spend congressionally allocated funds on other than the programs they were allocated for. LANL's only exception is LDRD. I just wish all these folks with "really good ideas" about realigning LANL's mission would say how they think it can be done legally...

Anonymous said...

"
I was wondering why Dick Morris would give a rat's ass about LANL, then I see at the bottom of the letter it's actually Don Morris of Los Alamos.

Good letter, though."

Ya I thought that too. Why would a creepy Fox news toe-sucking hack care about LANL? Maybe Hillary said something good about Los Alamos?

Anonymous said...

"It is a federal crime to spend congressionally allocated funds on other than the programs they were allocated for. LANL's only exception is LDRD." (8:20 PM)

It's painfully obvious that 8:20 PM knows nothing about WFO efforts at LANL. You don't have to spend allocations of Congressional money for non-related projects. Let me educate you.

First, you get off your ass, network with other government entities, find a need you can fill, put in a proposal, and get it funded from somewhere outside of NNSA. DOE has to OK the funding of the work, which is usually not too difficult as long as the work involves national issues and does not have a detrimental impact on the lab's other missions. It's actually done all the time. In fact, even commercial work can be done at LANL, such as Chervron's current project with LANL staff.

The hard part is finding outside entities willing to fund work at an FTE rate of $450 K per TSM. When I came to LANL many moons ago, the FTE rates were high but not totally insane. WFO work made up about 20% of LANL's projects back in the late 80's. Today, it's more like 8% and quickly dropping.

You should also know that WFO funds are taxed 8% to help fund LANL's LDRD efforts, whether the sponsor likes it or not (and most do not).

Anonymous said...

10/7 9:53 pm: "It's painfully obvious that 8:20 PM knows nothing about WFO efforts at LANL."

Turns out I do know a little about WFO. As for any activity imaginable, there are DOE orders controlling WFO at DOE facilities, and one specifically for DHS. The scenario where LANL's mission is changed by LANL staff going out and getting (at $300k a pop?) WFO contracts, thereby "changing the mission" is crap. As if DOE would allow it's contractors and facilities to be tied up on other agencies' work, to any significant degree. Read the directives - not going to happen. DOE does not have to accept funding from anyone else (including CRADA, FIA, etc.) at it's facilities.

Anonymous said...

11:22am may know WFO, be he certainly doesn't know LANL FTE costs. $300K/pop? Dream on. Try $450/per pop: that is what LANL charges these days.

Anonymous said...

11:26: "11:22am may know WFO, be he certainly doesn't know LANL FTE costs. $300K/pop? Dream on. Try $450/per pop: that is what LANL charges these days."

I wasn't referring to FTE costs but to the size of the average WFO award (my estimate). Anyone have better data?

Doug said...

1:35pm,

WFO used to come in all sizes. During my 15 years on the TRANSIMS project at LANL (funders included the US EPA, the US Federal Highway Administration, and others, excluding DOE) we brought in $24 million for a single year during the period of peak activity on the that one particular WFO project.

-Doug Roberts
LANL, Retired

Anonymous said...

Holy smokes. 15 years. $24M in a peak year. How much did TRANSIMS cost overall?

Anonymous said...

Poster 2:37 PM, think about it for a minute. An amount like $24 million per year would only fund around 50 TSMs at today's astronomical FTE rates.

Shocking when you ponder it, isn't it? For about a quarter of the cost of the luxurious Emerald Palace that Mike and his crew now reside in, you could only fund 50 staff members for one lousy year. That's how bad the scientific labor rates have become at LANL. And for next year they may even go higher, given the stealth charges that will appear out of various support organization in an attempt to salvage their budgets.

Anonymous said...

WFO contracts also cost more than DOE for "security fees" or some such nonsense that DOE doesn't pay (7-10%), AND DOE takes a 3% extra cut off the top just because they can. Bottom line: between fees, taxes, LDRD, management overhead, etc, you'll have about 33% of your money to spend on you and your project. (At least you would have BEFORE the LANs folks ran up their own rates.....I expect it's probably less than 33% these days, and getting worse). Some management people say WFO is the wave of the future, the salvation of the Labs. WFO sponsors, at these rates, aren't so likely to agree.

Doug said...

2:37pm

I don't really know how much revenue TRANSIMS generated over its lifetime. It started off slow, and ran on a shoestring for the first 5 years. Then as we began to grow capabilities and accumulate customers, the funding profile grew until that peak year of $24 million, after which it began to taper off.

I imagine that during the entire 15 years that I worked on the project TRANSIMS probably generated around $100 million in revenue, but not all of it went to LANL. Some of it went to Municipal Planning Offices (MPOs) and contractors.

-Doug Roberts
LANL, Retired

Anonymous said...

"It is a federal crime to spend congressionally allocated funds on other than the programs they were allocated for. LANL's only exception is LDRD. I just wish all these folks with "really good ideas" about realigning LANL's mission would say how they think it can be done legally..."

OK, how about this. Let's use LDRD strategically to set ourselves up to capture new markets in the WFO arena. I mean really, it's not like we need LDRD for a bunch of fluff science projects right now, to "attract talented new postdocs" to the institution so that we can convert them to TSMs down the road.

Anonymous said...

6:44 AM "it's not like we need LDRD for a bunch of fluff science projects right now, to "attract talented new postdocs" to the institution so that we can convert them to TSMs down the road."

Yeah, nothing like fresh meat for a RIF.

Anonymous said...

WFO is a dead end at LANL. DOE/NNSA has made it clear they don't support it, and their own directives give them the power to limit it in any way they see fit, including complete rejection of all WFO at DOE sites. I predict that limitation will be more strictly observed. DOE/NNSA will tolerate no impediment to the downsizing of their complex.