Oct 12, 2007

Senator: Pressure Building On Labs

ABQ Journal
Friday, October 12, 2007

Senator: Pressure Building On Labs

By John Fleck
Copyright © 2007 Albuquerque Journal; Journal Staff Writer

The management and employees of New Mexico's nuclear weapons laboratories face a growing consensus in Washington that the nation's nuclear weapons budget needs to shrink, Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., said Thursday.

"The question is how quickly does it come down, and what is it replaced with," Bingaman said during a meeting with Journal editors.

Los Alamos and Sandia national labs got a total of $2.4 billion for nuclear weapons research, development and manufacturing in fiscal year 2007, but the two labs face threatened budget cuts in the coming year.

The Bush administration proposed a cut of 7 percent, and members of the House of Representatives are pushing for a 23 percent cut, according to an analysis by Bingaman's staff.

Bingaman said members of the state's congressional delegation hope to be able to forestall the worst of the cuts, but he said the labs need to recognize that in the long run they face a national leadership unwilling to fund nuclear weapons work at its current level.

Bingaman said the decline has been forestalled in recent years by Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., who has used his seniority to fight off budget cuts.

Domenici announced last week that he will retire at the end of his current term in January 2009. After 2008 New Mexico will not have a seat on the Senate Appropriations Committee, where key spending decisions are made.

Budget cuts have been forestalled for now by Congress' inability to pass a 2008 budget. Late last month, it passed a stop-gap spending plan to allow spending to continue at 2007 levels for the first six weeks of the new fiscal year, which began Oct. 1.

Congressional leadership hopes to have a final spending plan for 2008 delivered to the president by Nov. 16, Bingaman said. If not, there is a possibility the labs would continue to be funded at 2007 levels, avoiding budget cuts at least for several more months, according to Bingaman.

In a telephone news conference Tuesday, Domenici suggested that continuing for the entire year at 2007 levels might be the best solution for the labs, avoiding budget cuts for the coming year.

Bingaman acknowledged that diversification away from nuclear weapons work is harder for Los Alamos than Sandia.

Sandia is an engineering laboratory that designs and maintains electronic systems and other non-nuclear parts of bombs and warheads—expertise that is more applicable for non-weapons work, Bingaman said.

Los Alamos designs and maintains the nuclear explosives themselves—skills that don't transfer as well, making diversification harder. "I don't disagree that it is more difficult for Los Alamos," Bingaman said, "but it is possible."

54 comments:

Anonymous said...

Senator Bingaman:
LANL could diversify IF we didn't have to charge customers the outrageous LANS feestructure ($450K/staff member).

Right now there is no real incentive to lower the rate, just to dump the workers.

Eric said...

The incentive is a stable and growing economy in Northern New Mexico, which is good for the Senator.

The question is "Who will champion this effort?"

You only need a few champions and a few people willing to risk following the champions.

Anonymous said...

Obligatory "Eric response":

Oh, Eric! Will you please be our champion?

Thanks in advance.

Signed,

-A loyal reader of your blog

Anonymous said...

During a talk this week, Terry mentioned that LANS expects to see the weapons budget head downward on a straight line track over the next few years. Each year from here on out will only get a little bit worse. From this you can speculate that this year's RIF is only the beginning of the layoffs.

He also stated that the ratio between science and support will not be changing due to the layoffs. From this, you can surmise that FTE rates will not be going down. If anything, most FTE labor rates will probably rise a bit.

Terry also used the same words as Mike in regards to diversification, i.e., "We can't do it unless Congress gives us the authority.".

With lab leadership like this, is it any wonder we are in such deep trouble?

Anonymous said...

"Bingaman said the decline has been forestalled in recent years by Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., who has used his seniority to fight off budget cuts."

Sen. Domenici, amidst this mess I just wanted to say thanks for helping me hang on to my job over the last few years. I'll miss NM.

Anonymous said...

St. Pete help keep the labs going strong with good jobs and nice benefits since his start as a Senator way back in 1972.

Thank you for your support, Mr. Domenici! You helped give me a good career for most of the working years of my life and I appreciated your efforts on behalf of LANL.

Sen. Bingamin is a different story. He won't be able to fill St. Pete's shoes, nor does he really care to. Even our Governor and local Congressman seem to care little about the loss of good jobs at LANL.

We are headed for some very hard times in Northern New Mexico. LANL is slowly becoming a hollow shell of its former self. It's really sad to watch this all take place.

Anonymous said...

The planet may be burning, we're running out of fossil fuels, and our infrastructure as a nation is crumbling but hey, Plutonium Pete gave 2:42PM a great paying job and a nice retirement nest egg. What else is there?

Anonymous said...

Just for fun.

With responses like 10:14's why would anyone want to be a champion?

It is much less stressful to move and let the region sink further into poverty.

Anonymous said...

What else is there?
10/12/07 4:10 PM

Well, to name a few things:
- there has been flow cytometry, giving us insight into cell characteristics that really, really matter when you're talking about leukemia and other cancers
- there's been a massive undertaking in a little project called the Human Genome Project. We're still discovering ways that this will help generations to come.
- there's the HIV database which is also helping target areas where treatment may come closer to curing an incurable condition
- there's been work done on worldwide monitoring of nuclear explosions from space which have kept more of our citizens on U.S. soil rather than being a 'presence' in another country
- medical isotopes
...any of this ringing any bells for ya?
I'm sure this doesn't even scratch the surface of the productive contributions that LANL has made since it's initial purpose was fulfilled. That some people have made a living from any of it is somehow a crime in your mind but perhaps you are jealous or you wouldn't consider moving here due to the isolation? Perhaps you couldn't find the good in the midst of your perceived and limited assessment of the work being done by 'the bomb lab' but your myopia doesn't necessarily equate to an accurate evaluation of the Lab, its work or the people employed here.

Eric said...

To 10:14 anonymous,

In the future,if you could sign your posts

DEADWOOD

and give a call back number or GPS coordinates, it would be a big help to the rest of us.

LOL

Anonymous said...

methinks he doth protest too much.

Are you enjoying (or perhaps profiting from) other people's pain?

Anonymous said...

LANL overhead rates are going up, not down. The reasons are:

1. Fixed costs:
$87M LANS fee
facilities maintenance
utilities
immense quantities of high-paid managers

2. Uniform RIF
except in the very important upper management levels, RIF will be in equal proportions of overhead and direct-funded personnel.

There just is no way that our costs will come down to the level that we can diversify our mission by attracting WFO funding.

And, just in case you don't understand, upper management doesn't care one damned bit. They have their cushy jobs, high salaries, and bonuses.

Anonymous said...

Los Alamos picks its nose and leaks nuclear information—skills that don't transfer as well, making diversification harder. "I don't disagree that it is more difficult for Los Alamos," Bingaman said, "but it is possible. The staff might become professional nose-pickers or publishers of nuclear secrets."

Anonymous said...

eric (9:48 am:)

"The incentive is a stable and growing economy in Northern New Mexico"

Sorry, but my incentive is a stable and growing economy for my family. Until that happens, northern NM can fend for itself (which it has never been able to do without LANL).

Anonymous said...

12:18 pm:

"Terry also used the same words as Mike in regards to diversification, i.e., "We can't do it unless Congress gives us the authority." With lab leadership like this, is it any wonder we are in such deep trouble?"

Care to explain where Terry was wrong here? Can you suggest a legal method for "diversification" that disagrees with Terry's comment??

Anonymous said...

Here is our most likely road forward.

LANS doesn't really want to diversify the lab. That would require hard work and necessitate lowering the labor rates, which would mean lower salaries for top management and less money for our overhead and support functions. They will never agree to that. Everyone who works at LANL should know this by now.

Instead, LANS will give diversification lip service, but not much else. Over the next few years LANL will slowly shrink. We'll be afflicted with a multitude of small cuts that just keep coming. LANS will circle the wagons around those things that they feel are easiest to defend, the core of the lab. This core will consist of DARHT, perhaps LANSCE, perhaps some low volume pit production work, and whatever they can manage to salvage of the non-proliferation work. Most of the design expertise will be farmed out to LLNL, as Congress does not believe we need two duplicate nuclear design labs. Most of what does not fit within this new, smaller mission will be thrown out. Note that this new mission will also require fewer TSMs. TECs and support staff can handle most of this mission.

Only about 6000 workers will be required for this new mission, so LANS will need to drastically downsized LANL over the next few years. The layoffs will come year after year. The fact that these layoffs destroy morale is actually beneficial to LANS. A scared workforce is a cheap workforce. Cutting pay and benefits for the general staff will become easy. The workforce will begin to accept all of this as inevitable. "At least I got to keep my job" they will rationalize. It's not wise to rock the boat when so many of your colleagues are being thrown into the water to drown.

LANS won't tell you this is their bold, new vision. They don't have the courage. Besides, NNSA pays a good bonus to management that follows orders. LANS will follow orders very well.

Anonymous said...

10:59 pm:

Sorry , but this makes no sense at all. Why would LANS want to do (or be able to pay for) anything except what Congress wants to pay for?? That's where the money is, and I'd bet that LANS will follow the money!

NNSA will not provide LANS any "orders" that are not paid for by Congress. Again there is no money anywhere else. Simple. If you want to understand where LANL is going, "follow the money." Duh!

Anonymous said...

"Los Alamos picks its nose and leaks nuclear information—skills that don't transfer as well, making diversification harder. "


I think Washington DC calls.

Anonymous said...

Poster 11:11 PM reminds me of an incident a few years back when Director Browne was apparently shocked to find out that some staff actually had to spend time writing proposals to get their research funded. Imagine that! Actually taking the initiative to go out and find new sponsors outside of NNSA who would fund research at LANL. And to think, they did this research without the aid of any Congressional pork-barrel funding. Amazing! Perhaps Mike should hunt down these scientists and fire them immediately.

Anonymous said...

Today's national headline--applies equally to the Los Alamos National Laboratory:

"There has been a glaring, unfortunate display of incompetent strategic leadership"

--General Ricardo Sanchez
Former Commander of U.S. Forces in Iraq

Anonymous said...

10/12/07 10:59PM forgot a few other distinguishing Lab accomplishments. In just today's paper there's an article about the surrounding aquifers being polluted with high explosives (again), fines being imposed for its failure to report chromium contamination, surrounding areas being subjected to high radiation doses due to an accelerator leak at the Meson facility, a few years back being found guilty of violating the Clean Air Act (venting Tritium canisters outside buildings to avoid stack monitoring), and then of course the perennial struggles with institutionalized racial and gender discrimination. But of course the number one accomplishment of all still remains the unleashing the nuclear genie on the world, resulting in hundreds of billions of tax dollars being wasted since then funding countless programs to delay our self destruction while preserving our position of world dominance. Wow! What a record of accomplishment indeed!

Anonymous said...

10/12/07 8:56 PM said:
"Sorry, but my incentive is a stable and growing economy for my family. Until that happens, northern NM can fend for itself (which it has never been able to do without LANL)."

Oh pleeeeese! New Mexico has done just fine without you (or LANL) for thousands of years, and will do just fine loooong after you and your arrogant butt-head cowboy ilk have rotted away. You give yourselves waaaay too much credit in other words.

Anonymous said...

To 9:37 AM,

Please read some history.

For instance -

New Mexico has been grindingly poor for thousands of years and was the home of a society that resorted to cannibalism in an unsuccessful attempt to survive.

The Pajarito plateau was uninhabited for 500 years from about 1350 to 1850 CE.

Best guess is that if LANL folds, Northern New Mexico (not including Santa Fe) will have prosperity somewhere below Afghanistan.

darko said...

All the sniping about how horrible the effects of LANL's work is (war, pollution, dangerous ideas, etc.) followed immediately by how incompetent and useless we are reminds me of an anecdote often repeated by a friend of mine:

"There were only two things my ex-wife didn't like about about me: 'everything I did', and 'everything I didn't do'".

I happen to agree with a lot of the social and political and ecological questions people have about our work at LANL and even the underlying concept of Big Science, but I also know we got to be who/what we are for some very good reasons. Many of those circumstances have changed and we may have a better understanding of the problems suggesting less violent or invasive solutions.

Inertia is involved at many levels and demanding immediate and drastic change ranges from stupid to dangerous.

Yes, it is time to change and some of the harsh criticism may help us to make those changes, but it would be nice if the snipers realized that most of us really do care about the very same things they do and might be working to try to help make the changes they are seeking.

Also, if push came to shove, we might as easily find fault with these sniper's chosen professions and circumstances. I don't need to throw stones back toward my neighbor's glass houses, but it is hard not to remind them of the possibility that they might be part of some of the world's problems as well.

It also saddens me to hear those who want to claim that Northern New Mexico would be nothing w/o the laboratory. I grew up in remote parts of the southwest which were very much like what this area would be w/o the laboratory and I can say that things would (have been) just fine w/o the laboratory. What you may see as "grinding poverty" or "ignorance" can also be "humility" and "simple living". Don't knock it until you've tried it.

I don't know many "racists" at the laboratory, but I do know a lot of "elitists" and they are not confined to the laboratory by any means.

- Darko

Anonymous said...

My, my Darko - aren't we pure and above the fray.

LANL and its staff accepted a set of responsibilities. It was incumbent on them to discharge these responsibilities in a professional manner. Instead, LANL and its staff take a holier-than-thou attitude about everything.

And then they are surprised when Congress and NNSA get fed up.

Yes. You should quit polluting, quit leaking secrets, quit diverting resources to your playgrounds. If you had quit doing this some time ago, there would likely not be budget cuts and layoffs.

Anonymous said...

Quoting Ricardo Sanchez, when he was part of the problem, is a low-down dirty move. Maybe even earns 8:04 a nickname: Dirty Sanchez

Anonymous said...

"NNSA will not provide LANS any "orders" that are not paid for by Congress. Again there is no money anywhere else. Simple."

All NNSA has to do is to take funding from one contractor and give it to another. Congress probably doesn't care, as long as NNSA's budget authority doesn't change "in the aggregate" (where have we heard that term before?). NNSA has decided to take the LANS and LLNS RTBF funding away, along with the Laboratory-managed facilities at the NTS, and give it to NSTec. The deadline to complete this takeover is the end of FY '08. Of course, this is happening under direct "orders" from HQ.

Anonymous said...

6:11 pm: "You should quit polluting"

Yep - we'll do that. About that RDX from the 1950's, when there were no laws and nobody knew the negative effects; oh well - guess you'll just have to live with it, just like other pollution from the 50's, like Elvis.

Anonymous said...

You'd have to be a real jerk to hold someone accountable for pollution in the '50s, from before pollution laws allegedly existed. I am not such a jerk.

On the other hand, a cursory google or "Los Alamos RDX" indicates that this RDX pollution was occurring as late as 1999 on the first page of hits. And aren't there open shots still going on?

Perhaps when you say "we'll do this", umm...

No, I'll stop being a jerk, because clearly there were no laws in the 90's or today.

Anonymous said...

"There has been a glaring, unfortunate display of incompetent strategic leadership" is exactly correct.

The implication in the Senator's letter is that Sandia is doing a lot of non-defense work. It is not. It has wisely increased its non-nuclear defense work. Management at Los Alamos has not really recognized the end of the cold war, let alone the implications of 9-11 and the threat of terrorism. Sandia has over an order of magnitude more DoD and other defense funding than Los Alamos. It has VERY high overhead also. DoD and other defense spending will pay for some of this work to be done at Sandia with that overhead because it has unique capabilities to do the work, especially over universities. This has been encouraged by Sandia's management since the end of the cold war, and some before. This has put Sandia in a much better position for the future because the public and congress recognize the relevance. Los Alamos can and could have pursued successfully pursued this path also.

Los Alamos management however has only focused on nuclear weapons between the near continual crises. Regardless of how much the New Mexico delegation wants to diversify the lab the argument has to be successfully made of why that work can not be done at a university or another lab that already specializes in that work and costs a fraction of overhead paid at Los Alamos. There can be pockets of non-defense work at Los Alamos, leveraged with defense work for example, but don't hold your breath for the NM delegation especially without St. Pete to bring Los Alamos cold-war like money without justification.

You can whine about NNSA, DOE, or say like the current management that congress must authorize them to do anything. The path forward on that myopic thinking however appears likely to be 7-10% cuts in funding at Los Alamos for the foreseeable future. That would require RIFs every year unfortunately. It is amazing to me that this isn't obvious to everyone.

The headline really is "There has been a glaring, unfortunate display of incompetent strategic leadership", and unfortunately I do not seen a change in that.

Anonymous said...

7:28 am:

Re: differences between SNL and LANL "strategies."

Sandia is largely an enginering lab. LANL is largely a science lab. The non-nuclear defense technologies Sandia has focused on aren't creating new scientific results, just engineering accomplishments. Who would be interested in funding a clone of Sandia in Los Alamos? Are we going to retrain LANL scientists to be engineers?

Sandia's success is good. LANL's doesn't lie down that path.

Anonymous said...

Right, 11:46 AM. More lame excuses that gives us reasons not to roll up our sleeves and start doing the things that must be done to bring in additional funding to LANL.

Let me guess. You work in LANL management?

Anonymous said...

"Are we going to retrain LANL scientists to be engineers?"

Hey, wait a minute - I'm an engineer. And I know of many hundreds of others at LANL. All LANL staff members are not scientists (thank goodness).

Anonymous said...

It's not science vs engineering per se.

It is a willingness to actually deliver at Sandia vs a complete unwillingness at LANL.

And it pervades the technical ranks as well as management (I'm looking at you, 2:17).

Anonymous said...

Funny you should make a comment like that, 6:07 PM, when you don't even know me or what I do. Perhaps you have some amazing psychic powers?

I deliver on all my projects very well. Been doing it for years and it allows me to bring in lots of funding to LANL. If I can do it, then so can others, because I really don't feel I'm all that special. Sponsors just want to see deliverables made on budget and on time. Make them happy and they'll keep coming back again and again. It's simple, really.

Of course, our astronomical FTE rates do make it difficult to capture new customers. LANS management could do something about that, but they would rather just keep the rates high and continue to feast at the pig trough.

Anonymous said...

Relevant to LANL:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/
huff-wires/20071014/
hobson-retirement/

(remove carriage returns)

Anonymous said...

I have the same psychic powers as you do 2:17, with your "Let me guess. You work in LANL management?"

Pot, meet kettle.

Anonymous said...

5:30 pm: "All LANL staff members are not scientists (thank goodness)"

Well, 11:46 pm didn't say that was the case. The point made (well) was that LANL is a science lab and cannot change to an engineering lab without as much turmoil and loss of jobs as any other currently obvious alternative.

No denigration of engineers at LANL was made. It is still a science lab. At least, LANL engineers can hope for a positin at SNL.

Anonymous said...

2:17 pm:

"Right, 11:46 AM. More lame excuses that gives us reasons not to roll up our sleeves and start doing the things that must be done to bring in additional funding to LANL.

Let me guess. You work in LANL management?"

OK - what exactly are "the things that must tbe done"? I was providing no excuses, just an observation that you didn't bother to refute. If I sounded to you like a LANL manager, maybe its because I was actually trying to deal with reality. If your solution is for everybody to go find WFO money, it has already been pointed out on this thread that DOE will not allow that.
DOE absolutely controls what happens at its facilities. Don't expect DOE or NNSA to pay so you can work for another agency using DOE buildings, labs, electricity, water, and security.

Anonymous said...

Right. SNL has no need for "just" scientists. Their success is driven by people who understand *and* apply science. In other words, engineers.

Anonymous said...

I am wondering how many people have had DOE actually refuse to allow them to bring in WFO dollars? Several posters here seem adamant that DOE not only can but actively do refuse to allow staff to bring in WFO. Over the past ten years the folks that I have worked with have brought in a number of WFO contracts and the only issue was that the lab would not consider things that were too small. We had to get statements of work that added up to more than 75K/year.

Getting WFO is not easy and our rates are high but many of LANL's capabilites are not duplicated any where else. And sometimes it helps to have a certain suite of capabilities at one site at an inflated price as opposed to cutting contracts to 5 universities to get the same work done elsewhere.

We are working on developing a WFO/DoD contract right now. We will not stop until somebody actually tries to make us stop.

That will be the last sign that I need that it is time to pack.

Anonymous said...

8:30 pm: No argument I agree, provided you agree SNL's "success is driven by people who understand *and* apply EXISTING science". Engineers do that, and then wait for new science to apply, which scientists as at LANL are ususally reliable in producing, It is a highly productive realtionship.

Anonymous said...

The snotty attitude of "we're LANL scientists, not engineers" is total BS. It's another sign of the arrogance of some on the LANL staff.

OK, today you are a hot-shot scientist. And tomorrow... you're going to be unemployed!

Stop using artificial "feel-good" labels. The bottom line is time is quickly running out and LANL needs to bring in more funding. LANS needs to help support this new efforts, not hinder it. And like post 9:59 PM observed, very few WFO projects ever get turned down by DOE.

People need to stop making pathetic excuses for the management we have at LANS that says "Congress must tell us everything is OK".

SNL doesn't do this. PNL doesn't do this. LLNL doesn't do this. It a shame that LANS executive management does. Their lack of motivation in leading LANL out of this quagmire is truly shocking. They just seem to want to sit around on their fat asses and collect their big paychecks, the rest of the workforce be damned.

Anonymous said...

Bringing in more money won't solve LANL's problems, 10:35. Not with the screwed up management infrastructure, systemic inefficiencies that characterize the place, and the resultant $450K LANL FTE rates. Sponsors are too smart to throw their money down the LANL rat hole.

DOE has LANL where they want them: a captive contractor. Unlike SNL, LANL management pissed the last 15 years away by not pursuing non-DOE WFO sponsors, and now they are paying the price.

Anonymous said...

10:35 PM:

"The snotty attitude of "we're LANL scientists, not engineers" is total BS"

Not BS - just true. Is there no difference in educatuon and training? Of course there is. Are scientists "better" than engineers? Of course not, just different. Why do you see this as "snotty"? I hear from many engineer friends that they are taught in college that "scientists" are just less-practical, poorly trained engineers. Are you a product of that mindwash?

Anonymous said...

10:46 pm: "DOE has LANL where they want them: a captive contractor."

Well, pilgrim, I hate to break it to you, but LANL is, and always has been, a DOE contractor. For the truly ignorant, it's called a Management and Operating (M&O) contract. DOE owns everthing at LANL and LANS gets to operate it. Occasionally, in the past 30 years or so, DOE has allowed a small amount of other-agency work to be done at LANL (and other DOE facilities), but only on a "non-interference" basis with DOE programs. DOE owns the floors you walk on, the desk you sit at, the computer you work on, and the bathrooms you go in, and to their mind, why should they let another agency get that stuff free? Paying for your professional time (even with the taxes) doesn't cut it.

If LANL (or any competing contractor at LANL) were to lose the DOE contract, the government would immediately auction off all LANL assets and fire the employees, and LANL would cease to exist. Except possibly as an "Environmental Technology Site" like Rocky Flats.

Get real, and get a clue. LANL does not exist outside the DOE contract, and LANS will not be in charge of a site that lives significantly on WFO. Want to be Brookhaven or Argonne? Find non-nuclear funding from DOE. Without DOE sponsorship as an institution, there IS no institution.

Anonymous said...

"just engineering accomplishments"

"apply EXISTING science. Engineers do that, and then wait for new science to apply"

"Why do you see this as "snotty"?"

What's so funny? Why is everyone laughing? Stop laughing!!!

Anonymous said...

You left out 10:05 PM's best part...

"Engineers do that, and then wait for new science to apply, which scientists as at LANL are ususally reliable in producing"

What a laugh riot! I've seen way too many of these guys in the LANL TSM workforce.

Anonymous said...

"I don't know many "racists" at the laboratory, but I do know a lot of "elitists" and they are not confined to the laboratory by any means."
- Darko

Sounds like Darko is in the dark. Elitist my a@%!

Anonymous said...

"Quoting Ricardo Sanchez, when he was part of the problem, is a low-down dirty move. Maybe even earns 8:04 a nickname: Dirty Sanchez."
--10/13/07 7:46 PM

7:46PM perhaps too has earned a nickname--filthy bush (and you can take that either way).

Anonymous said...

11:06pm

Thanks for the lecture on what is involved in being a DOE contractor laboratory. As it turns out, I have more than 20 years experience at LANL, where I have successfully built WFO programs, and so I know that it is possible to build large, successful non-DOE programs within a DOE lab.

However, unlike SNL, which has promoted non-DOE work to the extent that they now have a non-DOE budget component of approximately 50%, LANL management has chosen to make excuses as to why LANL cannot build a non-DOE portfolio. It was for this reason that I left LANL last year.

So, pilgrim, enjoy your stay at LANL -- hope you enjoy it.

Anonymous said...

Based on LANS lack of any true interest in stopping the coming budgetary train wreck, plus the fact that staff like 11:06 PM continue to keep their ostrich-like heads in the sand about project diversification, the outlook for LANL looks very bleak.

You are right, 8:45 AM. It is possible to grow the WFO portfolio. LANS could help this out even more by making some changes. Let me give you just one example.

PNL is run by Battelle, a non-profit entity. At PNL projects can be sponsored by PNL at the fully burdened DOE rate, or they can be sponsored by Battelle at a much lower FTE rate. Many of their WFO projects, of course, are done at the lower Battelle FTE rate.

Why should outside sponsor pay for facilities and overhead that don't involve their projects? The fact that PNL has this dual rate system allows them to take on lots of outside work and DOE seems to have no problem with this setup. In fact, the lower Battelle FTE rates allows them the ability to take on lots of work with commercial entities, again, with no complaints from DOE.

The same thing could be done here at LANL, but don't hold your breath. Instead, we'll continue on our merry way of high labor rates and huge project burdens. It's very upsetting when even your management spouts defeatist attitudes about this subject. In the end, LANL will pay a heavy toll for this misguided path.

Anonymous said...

There's lots of good technology and scientific expertise at LANL that lay rotting on the vine. A more sane cost structure for outside work would greatly help in getting this stuff out into the world.

What would be so bad with this idea? It would make DOE look good. They should have nothing to fear about seeing LANL's expertise used to benefit areas outside of nuclear weapons, as it would be good PR. To do this, however, they need to help encourage it. It's clear that they encourage these efforts at other DOE labs. Why not at LANL?

Anonymous said...

It would seem that some of you folks just don't get it yet.

DOE does not want WFO at LANL. DOE wants LANL to be their plutonium pit production facility. WFO has nothing to do with pit production. LANS won the LANL contract because they agreed to help DOE fulfill DOE's goal of downsizing LANL and turning it into the Rocky Flats replacement Pu pit fabrication plant.

It's really no more complicated than that, discounting the facts that Bechtel (construction company) will build the facility and BWXT will operate it. Short blurb from BWXT's home page: "BWXT is the premier manager of complex, high-consequence nuclear and national security operations. We are disciplined operators and managers of nuclear production facilities, who deliver enduring value and customer confidence."

There, do you understand where WFO stands at LANL a bit better now?