Nov 25, 2007

Total Control: Priceless

By request, a new top level post.



Paraphrasing from an earlier post:

The layoff has clearly exposed the blatant lie that LANS would absorb the new costs through efficiencies. Instead, 750 employees are now out the door simply to cover the fee alone. From DOE's perspective, the new costs were a bargain compared to the new control they could gain over their lab.

This whole RIF process has also clearly exposed the other blatant lie that LANS would have more autonomy to run the lab like a true business. Clearly, Anastasio cannot make a single, simple decision, nor even speak to us, without thorough review by all levels of LASO/NNSA/DOE. He is not a Director in any sense, he is simply the new messenger for DOE.

DOE now has full authority with very little responsibility. Recall Bill Richardson's frustration in the Summer of 2000, when, as Secretary of DOE, he tried to order LANL employees fired over the missing disk drive. UC and Browne both balked, saying that they would look into the matter and apply "due process." DOE was nationally embarrassed to have to explain that LANL employees were not in their direct control.

The overfunded UC Pension Plan was also a source of frustration to DOE. In 1996, they released a memo estimating that they believed that $600M of the mega billion UC pension plan should be "returned" to DOE as part of the overfunding. Never mind that the overfunding was saving them $100M a year at LANL alone in pension costs. They were administratively frustrated that there was no way to control the UC pension.

Recall also the fight that DOE only partially won in 1993 in trying to control the voluntary early retirement program offered to all UC employees (the rest of UC was offered 3+5, but DOE won the battle that LANL/LLNL could only be offered 3+3). Again, administrative frustration that they did not have control.

Separately, Congressmen are generally small businessmen who fundamentally believe in competition. That UC had never competed for the contract stuck in their craw. UC's threat was that they would never compete any contract.

Hence began the steady banging of the drum that the culture of LANL was bad and must be changed, by both Congress and DOE.

The conversion today is nearly complete. UC's "never compete" bluff was called. DOE has finally achieved several levels of control it has never had:

* The top managers are highly motivated via employment contracts, high salaries, and bonuses to jump to every command, and they simply will not make a single autonomous decision. Total Management Control.

* Every single employee within the lab can be simply and easily fired due to the "at will" status. Total Employee Control.

* The pension plan is now private with unvested rights to the employees, and therefore its future costs are totally controllable. Total Cost Control.

New contract costs: over $200M.
Employment consequences: thousands RIF'd.

Total Control: Priceless.


Anonymous said...

Yes but don't forget Mikey has told us (over and over) that LANS was able to absorb cost through its efficiencies (that he never named) to stall the RIF til now. Wow 18 months.

Bottom line is even with unlimited budget monies, LANS would still be doing a RIF... it's all corporate BS.

I would think the RIF is proof of LANS' inability to manage and the contract should be pulled.

Anonymous said...

I don't understand why this deserves a top post. It wasn't that original or thoughtful when posted days ago.

Anonymous said...

This "Total Control:Priceless" post is one of the most insightful posts that I've seen on the blog. It's a good analysis of the situation that LANL is currently facing.

Whoever you are that posted this stuff, I want to see more, please!

Anonymous said...

Watching what is happening at LANL, do any of you under TCP1 still have faith that you'll get a "substantially equivalent" payout which matches UCRP when you retire years from today?

I went with TCP1 thinking it was a safe bet. I'm now beginning to have a great deal of buyer's remorse about my decision.

Neither LANS nor DOE has an ounce of my trust any longer. The secrecy and lies of these two entities is creating a most awful stench around these parts.

Anonymous said...

What I do not understand is that is has been obvious since before LANS took over that Mikey has a problem with honesty, and is a chronic liar. Why is there surprise over this fact? Moreover, how does he retain a top secret clearance? I find that fact to be very concerning.

Anonymous said...

Great and painfully true post.

NNSA wanted and now has complete control of the lab - all of the UC provided shielding and benefits are now gone. Los Alamos NNSA Laboratory is only going to shrink along with the rest of NNSA, although I haven't heard of any RIFs in the local NNSA office.

For all the UC haters at the lab, think about how things might have been if UC had keep the contract as a publicly managed entity, and the lower cost associated with the lab and employees being public - 750 would still have their jobs at Christmas... and 1,000 more employees might not be at risk of losing their careers.

Anonymous said...

We really need a GAO audit of the LANS contract to show how $200M has gone down the toilet.

Anonymous said...

$200 million? It's been more than that which has gotten flushed. How about the $41 million that LANS allowed in KSL overcharges?

Anonymous said...

11/25/07 11:07 PM

This shows some of the history on how DOE has played a role in where the Lab and the entire Complex is at today. You would have to have lived through this to understand how it has evolved.

The youngsters and transplants may be unaware of our history and relationship with DOE and need to realize many of the current issues have occurred as a result of the management or mismanagemnt over the past 60 years by DOE (AEC then ERDA then DOE and now NNSA). DOE has always been envious of the Lab, both from a prestige point of view and from a salary point of view and has always tried to gain control over both.

YOU might not think it's pertinent but let's wait and see what everyone else who has been there says.

Anonymous said...

This analysis of whose to blame is analogous to the drunk who's lost everything and blames the world for making him a drunk. The Lab did it to itself, by misreading the absentee landlord leadership that UC provided for so long as indicative of our implicit greatness. It was this entitlement attitude of each and every one of us at the Lab, which fed the beast that would eventually surface to devour what we once believed was our god-given right. We bought into the notion that we were indeed the best and brightest employed by the crown jewel of the DOE complex and therefore, it was beyond question or challenge, lest of all those who pay our salaries--the taxpayer, that we were entitled. And so we resisted accountability at every turn, nonchalantly using our unlimited access to legal, government relations, lobbyists, public affairs and community outreach resources to reinforce the lie and, if necessary, destroy anyone who dared challenge that lie. The lives and reputations of colleagues, particularly those we labeled as whistleblowers, were always expendable in our view of the world. The auditor became the enemy, just as Congressional oversight has since become the enemy. And it was this aura of invincibility that enabled individuals to ignore rules, to break them in fact and when the media finally began to pay attention we, as an institution, became incensed with the media as well. How dare they report our shortcomings! Soon our walls of protection, built with arrogance and denial, spin and self delusion, became our walls of isolation. WE saved the free world after all! WE won the cold war after all! WE are the caretakers of the nuclear arsenal after all! By devine will therefore, we are ordained to greatness by history and by the importance of our mission! Or at least that's what we wanted to believe. And so this is who we became over time, and how we came to where we're now at in history. We therefore, as an institution, enabled and empowered the type of arrogance-deaf leadership that took root and grew rampant under UC's watch. Our standing as a national lab diminished as a result. So it wasn't them, they or someone else that led us to this point in time. We did it to ourselves. We sucked the bottle dry once to often and now we now lie in a pool of our own vomit.

Happy holidays.

Anonymous said...

8:44's characterization of how we got to where we are is a bit dramatic, yet pretty much dead-nuts accurate.

Anonymous said...

" 11/26/07 8:44 AM"

Please, give a break. This is just a bunch of spiteful spew that is not based on a substantiated fact. It is just someones worthless opinion who hates LANL. This whole thing is not even an argument. Can he prove a single thing he said? ... No. Guss why do you post this crap? He keeps saying WE but this person does not speak for anyone at LANL certainly not anyone I know.

So 8:44AM why not post your name? This way we will see just how credible you really are.

Anonymous said...

Yes, there was indeed mismanagement, arrogance, etc at LANL. BUT, does that really justify throwing $200M down the toilet annually?

Gussie Fink-Nottle said...

"Guss why do you post this crap?"

The same reason I let you spew, 10:18. Pretty much everybody is entitled to present their opinion.


Anonymous said...

"The same reason I let you spew, 10:18. Pretty much everybody is entitled to present their opinion.


Fair enough, and I am glad that you see that these are just opinions and nothing more.

Anonymous said...

It feels like there is little hope that things will get any better for LANL. We seem to be looking at a future of:

1) Stagnant wages

2) Extreme job insecurity

3) Steadily reducing benefits

4) Workforce that viciously turns upon one another

5) LANS top management that cares little for the staff

6) Pension promise that looks increasingly suspect

7) Draconian new policies that hurt productive work

8) Higher FTE costs that drive away current and future clients

9) Less science and more production emphasis

10) Fear, fear, fear... Stress, stress, stress!

This is no longer a healthy place in which to have a career. You would think that DOE/NNSA would be concerned about the extremely low morale at the labs and what it could do to harm the future of the weapons complex. Instead, they continue to pour gasoline onto a bad situation and make it even worse!

Anonymous said...

Hey 8:44AM

How about LLNL, they are in the same boat
now so how did they get that point?

Anonymous said...

12:00PM - don't worry. Collective punishment is enforced upon all DOE contractors. So we are all guilty until proven innocent. Too bad that I do not remember where I hid all the classified documents I collectively have removed ;-P

Anonymous said...

How about this as an idea - meger LANS LLC and LLNS LLC into one company, reduce the overall management award fee. One Board of Governors, one LLC President (Mike A.), and two vice Presidents as Lab Directors (George and an LANL insider). Merge the HR and business functions, and increase the buying power/leverage to get reduced cost (ex. medical plans, procurements, travel discounts, etc.). Cut NNSA oversight cost (and staff) by having only one NNSA office managing a single contract for both labs.

Anonymous said...


Check out this headline on the NBC News webpage:

"Citigroup Planning Major Job Cuts"

Guys and Girls, cuts are a fact of life. Don't let an event define who you are.

Anonymous said...

At this point, with things being the way they are, does anyone have any constructive ideas of how employees can "fix" this situation? Or do we just lie down and take it? Seems like this would be the time for the "best and brightest" to prove their title and take the lead.

Anonymous said...

3:02, you're new around here, aren't you.

Anonymous said...

"Seems like this would be the time for the "best and brightest" to prove their title and take the lead."

Good point but what really happens is that the best and brightest get nice job offers elsewhere and leave.

Anonymous said...

I suppose I am new. I've only been here over ten years but I recall lab employees being fighters for what they believe in. Now I just see people who are scared of losing their health care, pay, whatever. We could lose that one way or another but isn't it better to try to do something about it.

Anonymous said...

That's funny. I don't remember anyone fighting for anything that would expose a failed program. Even when the science in a big R&D program showed no hope in the research phase, the much more costly development went ahead.
Many of our nation's scientists recall LANL's giant, expensive scams. As a matter of fact, so do many DOE administrators, now reacting to the end of Dominici's influence.
Face it, it's been wonderful salaries and benefits for a long time. The nation can not afford the LANL operation without expecting valuable output. As the CATO institute put it, If you tried to sell the lab with its assets and operating costs, it would not have any positive value.

Eric said...

The best and the brightest, the ones that I know, mostly


usually quietly.

There seem to be very few fighters left.

Anonymous said...

Here's the IG Memo IG-0394 from 1996 that called for DOE to find someway to establish a separate pension plan from UCRP and gain better control:

Report on "Special Audit of Pension Plans for Department of Energy Contract Employees of the University of California" (click here)

The memo very nicely details the frustration by which there seemed to be no easy way to get $620M back out of the plan, nor control future costs.

From the report:

The renegotiation process provides the Department an opportunity to recover at least $620 million in excess assets from the pension plans it has funded for University of California employees at DOE's laboratories and to improve the Department's management of those pension funds.
Segregated or separate plans are required by the Departmentms policy on pension programs. In this case, the pension plans should be distinct from the main UCRP, with their own separately determined funding levels. Establishing separate pension plans for the national laboratoriesm employees would simplify accounting for the Federal Government contributions to the plan, and provide the Department more control over future changes to the pension plans. The establishment of separate pension plans would help to meet the Department's stated goal of increased accountability and provide the Department with enhanced oversight in business and financial management.

The Department approached the University of California in 1995 about establishing separate pension plans for employees of the three national laboratories managed by the University.

The University of California did not agree with the Departmentms proposal stating in its response that scientists at the national laboratories needed to be recognized as peers in the University of California faculty and that need included being part of the UCRP.

The University of California has made unilateral changes in the UCRP that increased benefits for participants in the UCRP. We reported in September 1992 that the University had established an additional retirement benefit for all UCRP members working during the period January 1, 1991, through June 30, 1993. The University funded the new benefit with surplus assets, reducing the Department's share of those surplus assets.

General DOE policy for its management and operating contractors requires that such changes be approved by the Department before implementation.

However, the unique nature of the contracts with the University of California give the University the right to make such decisions unilaterally.

Forcing LANL out of UC and into an LLC was the perfect solution to this pension problem. It just took a decade to get fully implemented. In that time, the $600M overfunding has mostly evaporated, but DOE nonetheless gained the control over future costs.

Anonymous said...

" The renegotiation process provides the Department an opportunity to recover at least $620 million in excess assets from the pension plans it has funded for University of California employees at DOE's laboratories and to improve the Department's management of those pension funds."

Who's the dumb shit in the GAO that wrote this madness? Must have been her first week on the job.

Anonymous said...

11/26 2:01 am: "What I do not understand is that is has been obvious since before LANS took over that Mikey has a problem with honesty, and is a chronic liar. Why is there surprise over this fact? Moreover, how does he retain a top secret clearance? I find that fact to be very concerning."

Get a clue. The ones who GRANT clearances are chronic liars. Do you see pervasive rot in the government? Why not?

Anonymous said...

11/26/07 10:18 AM"
"Please, give a break. This is just a bunch of spiteful spew that is not based on a substantiated fact. It is just someones worthless opinion who hates LANL."

"So 8:44AM why not post your name? This way we will see just how credible you really are."

This posting says it all. This is why we're in the condition we are today as a Lab We can't respect different views. Instead, we want to know the person's name, so we can do what--destroy them? This is a Stalinist approach to dissention, isn't it? Can’t you recognize the McCarthyistic tone of your posting? Search out the dissenters...destroy them...find out how “credible” they are! Indeed, if they don’t agree with my view of the world then, by definition, they are NOT credible. How sick is that?!

Anonymous said...

11/27/07 8:07

To the 8:07AM

To be honest you sound a bit crazy.
Your knowledge of US and global history is rather poor as your analogies make
little sense. The point is that if the original poster made some very strong claims, however no evidence was given to back these exclamations. They might have more credibility if the poster revealed their name. If the name is someone who has no personal
vendetta against LANL one might think that these statements where arrived to after serious thought and reasoning, even if the post itself did not show any of the reasoning
process. On the other hand the name might turn out to be someone who is known to have a vendetta and a past history of outrageous and ill thought out claims, in that case any of the comments made would carry far less weight.

This is a problem with blogs. Someone can post who is deliberately lying or using deceptive tactics. A commenter can run the range of a complete postal-lunatic to a unbiased expert. You have no idea who it is so there is a tendency to place the credibility of any poster the middle which can add way to much credibility to someone who is on the fringe. Judging from the paranoia and poor logic of some of "I hate LANL" posts such as that of 8:07AM I would guess that we have posters who are clearly on the far fringe.

Anonymous said...

* Every single employee within the lab can be simply and easily fired due to the "at will" status. Total Employee Control.*

Name me ONE employee that was terminated for no reason at all which I think at will means. I can however give you a list of people that should be fired.

Anonymous said...

I imagine the legal definition of "at will" would be unsettling at best. "Firing" is termination for cause and falls under "at will" but so does "RIF" and "We don't like you, you're fired"....

Anonymous said...

"At Will" means since you have the option to quit at any time then your employer has the right to fire you at any time and for any reason. Only way you are not at will in NM is if you can get a written contract.

Anonymous said...

To 11/27/07 11:09 AM, Here's one, Shawn Carpenter, Google Search (click here), but not in the frontal assault you would expect. In Shawn's case, they fired him for insubordination, but when Shawn sued (and ultimately won), the DOE published court defense was simply that it's reasons did not matter, since Shawn was an "at will" employee.

You're about to see this defense repeated for every involuntarily RIF'd employee. Although some sort of "due process" will be applied, anyone contesting their termination will find the "at will" clause used in court.

Anyone refusing a drug test today is also summarily fired, as a condition of continued "at will" employment. They have no recourse, even though they may be drug-free.

Shawn's case was singular and spectacular. Otherwise, your "at will" status precludes fighting your termination for faulty due process.

Note that all of the key personnel (ADs on up) are on two-year contracts.

Anonymous said...

Here's a pretty nice history and summary of "at will" at
employment-at-will? (click here)

So clearly we are at will today, since LANS explicitly stated as such in our new employment agreements we all signed. Were we really any better protected at UC under HEERA, or were we just pretending?

Anonymous said...

But my Division Leader told his staff after the transition that we were not "at will". So, which is it?

I suspect it is not "at will" until you are terminated, at which point it is "at will". Got that?

Anonymous said...

Read the employment letter you signed in May 2006, when you were terminated from UC but offered employment at LANS. You explicitly agreed that you are "at will."