Nov 10, 2007

Comment of the Week, Sat. Edition: Lamb Stew

The sheeple moniker seems to have touched a nerve. Here's one well-written perspective, from the Schoenbauer to speak at Lab post:


Didn't see the whole thing as there were multiple meetings/talks scheduled at exactly the same time. However, the audio was working on Macs when I tried it.

He seemed proud of how much they are going to shrink the complex. Sounded like some places are facing a virtual shutdown. And the only thing coming our way is production type work. Maybe not even much of that. Maybe I missed the part with the light at the end of the tunnel, but what I saw was all doom and gloom.

Didn't seem to give Schoenbauer any heartburn. If we are "sheeple", then I would say he came across as a shepherd calmly discussing preparations for tomorrow's lamb stew.

Likely, this was meant to be just another CYA talk, so that managers can say that they are communicating with us. Seen a few of those talks lately. They're not well attended, because everyone knows that nothing new is going to be said. Nobody wants to hear their manager say "we know the answer to that question, but we haven't decided yet how much we want people to know". Especially, where that's the answer to almost every question. I have to admit that it's probably an honest answer, but it doesn't exactly inspire trust.

Given the lack of intent for any real communication, it would be deliciously ironic if Schoenbauer accidentally said something substantive.

But of course, now we probably won't even get fake briefings anymore.


Anonymous said...

Here is one substantive thing that I heard at the NNSA presentation. Starting with next year's budget (FY09), LANL's DE division (the old DX) will only be allowed to do small "lab-scale" HE work at LANL. All the bigger explosive work is moving out to NTS. Sounds to me like DE/DX division is getting ready to take a big hit. Anyone from DE have more info on this?

Also, one of the early slides made if very plain that the idea is to reduce the size of the workforce in Weapons Activities (no surprises here).

Marty said NNSA is going to reduce the number of supercomputer sites down from 3 to 2 labs. It sounded like LLNL and LANL will be the 2 sites and SNL loses out, but the decision has not yet been finalized by NNSA and you can expect politics to intrude. Regardless of which site is removed from supercomputing, it is clear that NNSA's commitment to supercomputing is beginning to lessen.

All in all, there was very little good news in what Marty had to say. But, hey, Marty did make it clear that LANL will be the site for the plutonium pit factory.

Anonymous said...

Would it be bad to get cardboard cutouts or inflatable people and send fake people to fake briefings?

Anonymous said...

Funny thing about Marty's presentation was that there was talk of reducing the number of Weapons employees and lots of talk about closing down buildings but almost nothing was said about the importance of science and where it stands with NNSA's planning. During the Q&A, one older fellow warned Marty that if the scientific expertise is lost it will be extremely difficult to build back up again, but Marty punted on that one and didn't appear to want to discuss it.

The almost total lack of any discussion of where science stands in the NNSA complex was a big red flag. Couple that with the apparent decision of NNSA to locate the pit production facility at LANL and it seems a pattern is getting firmly established. It feels like production is taking on a much more prominent role in NNSA over the role of science.

Anonymous said...

There was one light at the end of the tunnel, although it easily could be a ghost-light. More than once Marty mentioned that, although DP money will be decreased, national security funds will be increased. But he didn't provide any specifics on such "alternative" funding venues.

Anonymous said...

At two brief points in Schoenbauer's presentation he mentioned NNSA's desire to see more 'national security' work done at the labs for clients like DOD, DHS, and Intel. When he mentioned this, the mention was so brief that I got the feeling that NNSA's heart really wasn't in it. It was just 'window dressing' talk. He also never spent any time discussing how NNSA or the labs might modify things to help nurture growth in these areas. However, Schoenbauer did seem cognizant of the fact that this is exactly the type of work which Congress seems willing to fund these days. One way to help these areas grow would be to reduce our astronomical costs for outside customers, but neither NNSA nor LANS seem the least bit interested in making those changes.

Anonymous said...

Just curious, but why is LANL a better choice than Pantex for pit production?

Anonymous said...


"...almost nothing was said
...lack of any discussion of where science stands in the NNSA complex"

"it seems a pattern is getting firmly established."

Holy WTF???

Where do you clueless people come from???

Anonymous said...

It's important to realize that Marty Schoenbauer comes from the NA-12 (DP-20) side of the house. He "gets" production.

Anonymous said...

Baaaa, Baaaaa, Baaaaa!

Anonymous said...

11:15 AM:

"Starting with next year's budget (FY09), LANL's DE division (the old DX) will only be allowed to do small "lab-scale" HE work at LANL. All the bigger explosive work is moving out to NTS. Sounds to me like DE/DX division is getting ready to take a big hit."

Well, FY09 funding starts in October 2008, almost a year away. Lots of stuff can happen. Does seem, however, that DE folks ought to keep their ears to the ground on this. One obvious question is the future of DARHT.

At least the commute for ex-LANL explosives folks who want to work at NTS will be short from the ever-expanding North Las Vegas.

Anonymous said...

If you want to know the exact plan NNSA has for the national labs go to thier web page. The future is spelled out in the 2030 complex plan. It states LANL is for pit production and LLNL will be a user freindly facility. SANDIA was omitted from the complex plan.the plan also states that all HE and PU work will be moved to NTS.

Anonymous said...

Does he really "Get" production?

Anonymous said...

Marty said that DAHRT will be utilized until around 2025, at which time a new facility will be ready over at NTS. Thus, DAHRT is not going away any time soon.

Anonymous said...

Schoenbauer's vu-graphs made it very clear that NNSA will be reducing the number of people working on the weapons program. However, I never saw a 20%-30% reduction figure like the one mentioned in Tom D'Agostino's recent memo. Still, given what Schoenbauer laid out, I can easily envision around a 25% reduction in the number of people employed by LANL. Some of the layoffs will be indirectly tied to the reductions in the weapons funding. For example, LDRD funding will have to go down in tandem with the weapons funding.

Mike's "worst case" figure of a 2500+ reduction in the workforce may not be that far off the mark. It just won't happen all at once. We are probably looking at RIFs becoming an annual event at LANL for the next few years.

Growth in the nation security domain which Schoenbauer mentioned (i.e., work for DOD, DHS, and Intel) could help mitigate the loss of weapons funding, but I don't see LANS gearing up to grow this work. Our current cost structure is a big impediment to getting a bigger piece of this type of funding.

Anonymous said...

Let me see if I get this right. We are currently looking at stagnant wages, reduced benefits, a shaky pension, lousy morale and poor job security.

Sounds like a real loser of a plan to me if you want to keep well motivated and top-of-the-line people working at the weapon labs.

Anonymous said...

"Just curious, but why is LANL a better choice than Pantex for pit production?"

Well, 3:10:



Jesus, where do these idiots come from? No wonder everybody wants to shut down LANL. The best and brightest, my ass.

Anonymous said...

11:16pm: Of course it will be online until 2025. It might take that long for the second axis to provide useful data.

Anonymous said...

I concur with 11/10/07 9:34 PM...

"the plan also states that all HE and PU work will be moved to NTS."

IMO, it will take ~5 yrs for the plan to firm up.

Pit production at LANL is an interim function to be transitioned to NTS along with HE/PU work at PX.

Nostradamus :)

Anonymous said...

easy 12:14, not everyone is tuned into that part of the program.
fact of the matter is, at this point in time TA55 infrastructure is in no condition to take on a long term production assignment.
much of the revitalization attempted there to date has caused cost estimates of full revitalization to exceed that of a new facility.
if it is a functioning facility now, it is akin to a functioning elderly person.
thus the question really is "why is LANL a better place to build a NEW Pu facility than Pantex"....

Anonymous said...

12:14 is pretty quick to call people morons.

So how many pits can LANL produce and at what price? How long did it take to actually deliver a pit? Few, and a decade. Seems like building a facility at PANTEX where they actually care about getting things built may not be unreasonable.

At least 12:14 got this right, albeit about himself/herself: "Moron. Jesus, where do these idiots come from?"

Anonymous said...


More drivel brought to you by Gush and Stinky.

Anonymous said...

12:14 AM,
Functioning? Let's go over that part first. Before you explain the moron part.

Anonymous said...

Like it or not, TA-55 is the only pit production facility in the nation. So, like it or not, TA-55 is going to be NNSA's primary (only?) interest in LANL, at least until they get another facility built elsewhere.

But given Congress' lukewarm support for DOE/NNSA Complex 2030 funding proposals, like "Pits at PANTEX", for example, I think we had better start getting used to the concept of NNSA pumping money into TA-55, because that is going to be NNSA's only option for pits for quite some time.

Anonymous said...

NNSA will pump just enough money into TA-55 to get around a dozen pits a year out of this old facility. They badly need a few pits being produced in the short term (next 10 years) to prove to Congress that they are being "successful" at running the weapons complex. Of course, those who work under NNSA know that are about as "successful" as the folks who now run FEMA.

Anonymous said...

"Like it or not, TA-55 is the only pit production facility in the nation."

I must have missed the press release. How many pits will we produce this month? Next month?

And how about some numbers. How much did the facility originally cost? How many times, and at what cost, have we had to "upgrade" it?

Anonymous said...

11:12 is being extra thick about this.

It doesn't matter how poorly TA-55 has performed as a pit production facility: it is the only one that NNSA has, and I seriously doubt Congress will let them build another. Even if Congress does approve funding next year for NNSA to build a new one at PANTEX, we're 15 years away from it coming on line.

There's your press release.

Anonymous said...

gO easy there 12;44

that question was as likely posted out of country as New Mexico.

With it's politeness, I'd guess an East Asia origin.

keep your eyes open

Anonymous said...

As noted in an earlier post:

There is nothing inside TA-55 that will take 10 to 20 years to replace. How long do you think NNSA will keep pouring money into that place expecting a different result? That's nothing more than wishful thinking on your part. It's an old facility not designed for production, not designed very well at all for that matter. The time has come for a newer, better, cheaper and safer facility.

Anonymous said...

11:21 here.

I don't want the fucking pit production at LANL, I'm merely pointing out the reality of our situation. NNSA could not procure funding from Congress, put out a construction bid, get a new facility built, put out an M&O bid, select a contractor, and get a new pit fab facility on line in anything less than 15 years.

That's reality.

It does not matter how poorly designed or poorly operated TA-55 is, it is all NNSA has, and as Schoenbauer indicated last week, that's the only interest NNSA has in continuing LANL's mission.

So we're stuck with pit production at LANL, and not much else. Like it or not. Myself, I'd rather see the whole place shut down -- LANL has outlived its usefulness.

Anonymous said...

> There is nothing inside TA-55 that
> will^H^H^H^H ought to take 10 to 20
> years to replace.

There. Fixed that for you, 12:38!

Anonymous said...

This may not be popular with the LANL audience, but the Federal Government is paying the bill and if the Federal Government wants LANL to build pits then we will build pits. Those who find that unacceptable have the option of leaving.

Anonymous said...

That's right 4:52. So the point of this blog is...? You posted here so why not share your thoughts? It's not as if this blog is going to have impact on policy. It's just cheap entertainment(my opinion).

Anonymous said...

But...but...we're the best and brightest! But...

Anonymous said...

So to sum up, no matter what happens at TA-55 and no matter what it costs, we will always pour more money into it because we're too screwed up to build a real production facility in less than 10-20 years. God I hope Iran has an NNSA.

Anonymous said...

NNSA thinks they need to show some concrete success for all the money that Congress pours into the weapons complex. They want to be able to point to some object like a newly built pit. Thus, they will keep TA-55 open and on life support for the next decade as window dressing. All NNSA and LANS need to do is squeeze out about a dozen or so pits per year from TA-55 to starting crowing "Success!!!".

As for the rest of the science at LANL, benign neglect from both NNSA and LANS is already making sure that it declines. LANS will cherry pick a few good scientific results and say "See, science is alive and well at LANL". It will fool NNSA, Congress and the public, but the scientific staff at LANL will know better.

Scientists are expensive. LANS will want to get rid of a lot of them during the next few years.