Jun 30, 2007
Most of the staff there *are*, however, unacceptably naive. As are the staff of our sister lab, LLNL. Back in early 2005, soon before the LANL bid winner was to be announced, I asked my office mate who he wanted to win. I remember his answer quite clearly:
"I want UC to win so that my benefits are preserved."
His response was representative of what most of the staff at LANL were thinking, those at least who had even bothered to think about it at all. Most staff hadn't even taken the time to look at the terms of the LANL bid. Had they done so, they would have realized that it didn't matter which of the two corporate competitors won the contract, the LANL UC benefits would soon be a thing of the past.
In a way, the staff at LLNL have demonstrated an even more unforgivable obtuseness, because they had the benefit of front row seats to the Los Alamos spectacle. They got to watch everything that happened to us, knowing that they were next. Yet here we are in the last minutes of handing another national lab over to a corrupt, greedy, inept corporate entity, and we are just now beginning to hear the bleatings of astonishment and righteous indignation as they echo up and down the Livermore valley.
For the extreme literal minded of you who might be reading this:
Main Entry: 1bleat
Pronunciation: 'blEt, Northern also 'blat, Southern usu 'blAt
Etymology: Middle English bleten, from Old English bl[AE]tan; akin to Latin flEre to weep, Old English bellan to roar -- more at BELLOW
1 a : to make the natural cry of a sheep or goat; also : to utter a similar sound b : WHIMPER
2 a : to talk complainingly or with a whine b : BLATHER
transitive verb : to utter in a bleating manner
- bleat·er noun
And here is what the bleaters at LLNL are now whimpering:
"They can't do that!"
"It's not fair!"
"We should write our Congressmen."
In the end, though, LLNL will go down with but a whimper, just as LANL did. Most staff will stay, and they will get what they deserve -- that what Darwinism is all about.
Dolores Mae Arreola worked as a purchasing officer at the lab before she was fired in July 2005. She pleaded guilty in March to one count of making false statements or entries, one count of theft or embezzlement of public money and one count of making a false, fictitious or fraudulent claim.
As part of the punishment handed down this week, Arreola was ordered to serve three years of supervised release and to forfeit two vehicles she acquired through the scam. She must also pay restitution to the federal government.
Retired scientist points the finger at Los Alamos police chief
CAROL A. CLARK Monitor County Editor
Physicist Richard Morse insists Los Alamos Police Chief Wayne Torpy is masquerading as the town's top law enforcement official, when he is actually working undercover for the FBI.
Morse, who is currently retired, said he has worked at Los Alamos National Laboratory on and off for some 20 years. His resume states that he earned a Ph.D. in Theoretical Physics from the University of California at San Diego in 1965.
Morse explained why he believes Torpy is a fed in chief's clothing.
"A friend here was aware of Torpy through a friend in Florida," Morse said. "That friend said Torpy graduated from Quantico - the FBI Academy."
Torpy responded to the undercover allegation this morning.
"It's not true," Torpy said, "but if it was, I would be proud to be a member of that law enforcement organization."
Torpy explained that he has a framed FBI certificate hanging on his office wall and he does wear an FBI ring. They were given to him in 2002, Torpy said, following his completion of the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va., a program geared for law enforcement officials.
He also received an FBI license plate, which is attached to the front of his car.
Torpy's resume reads like a career cop with no link to the bureau except his participation in the FBI academy. He served 17 years with the Melbourne Police Department in Florida and had another 10 years before that in law enforcement before he was hired to head the Los Alamos Police Department in March 2005.
Morse had a scrape with local police last November. He explained that he was pulled over by an officer advising him that he had a low tire on his car. He was then arrested on an outstanding warrant for a previous car accident.
He said he was taken to jail and offered "some orange-and-white striped prison pajamas."
"I asked to be photographed in my pullover instead, being concerned that I would be defamed by these photographs being circulated outside the jail," Morse said.
He said he has since tried to hire a lawyer to represent him against the police department.
FBI spokesman Bill Elwell addressed the situation during a telephone interview this morning.
"I am not aware that the police chief of Los Alamos is employed by the bureau of investigation," Elwell said. "It doesn't work that way, so he would not be an undercover special agent."
Elwell said the FBI National Academy is an executive law enforcement course. It is not for FBI agents but for local law enforcement officials.
"It's very prestigious because it takes many years to get a slot in that program," Elwell said.
Jun 29, 2007
By SUE MAJOR HOLMES - Associated Press Writer
The U.S. Department of Energy will report significant security breaches or compromises of classified material to Congress under a policy developed after criticism of security at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
The Northern New Mexico weapons lab has been blasted for years of security problems that led the DOE two years ago to put its management contract out to bid for the first time in the lab's 60-plus-year history. More security breaches have occurred since a new manager took over last summer.
Lawmakers who held two hearings about lab security this year have threatened to shut down Los Alamos if problems can't be corrected. Earlier this month, House appropriations members targeted its budget, zeroing out nearly $500 million in nuclear weapons program funding; the Senate refused to do likewise.
Deputy Energy Secretary Clay Sell said the DOE will tell Congress about any loss of personally identifiable information on 10 or more people; loss or compromise of classified material that could compromise national security; penetration of a classified network; compromise of a classified intelligence network that could cause a substantial national security risk; and certain intelligence and counterintelligence incidents.
If there is doubt whether something should be reported, "the issue will be resolved in favor of reporting," according to a June 22 memo from Sell to "heads of departmental elements."
The memo was issued after a June 14 letter from two House members over the DOE's failure to notify Congress about a cybersecurity breach in January at Los Alamos. Congress learned about the problem six months later from sources outside the department.
The letter -- from two of the lab's harshest critics, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., and Rep. Bart Stupak, head of the committee's oversight and investigations subcommittee -- complained that DOE, lab and National Nuclear Security Administration officials who knew about the incident never mentioned it to them in several meetings.
Dingell and Stupak commended the new policy in a news release Friday.
"This new DOE disclosure policy, if fully implemented, will better enable Congress to obtain the information necessary to fulfill its critical oversight responsibilities and ensure that our nation's nuclear secrets do not fall into the wrong hands," Dingell said.
Stupak said keeping Congress in the dark is unacceptable and obstructs its ability to hold the DOE and its contractors accountable.
"This recent memo is an indicator that parts of the DOE are listening and we commend Deputy Secretary Sell for issuing this new directive," he said.
According to an official familiar with the investigation into the January breach, it occurred when a consultant to the lab management board sent an e-mail containing highly classified, non-encrypted nuclear weapons information to several board members -- who forwarded it to other members. It was classified as a serious breach, although lawmakers were assured no damage was caused.
WASHINGTON, June 27 (UPI) -- The head of the U.S. National Nuclear Safety Administration has announced the appointment of its new public affairs chief.
NNSA Acting Administrator Bill Ostendorff said David A. Campbell would become the next director of congressional, intergovernmental and public affairs. The NNSA is an agency of the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration.
"Campbell will be responsible for the NNSA's communications and interactions with external audiences, including the U.S. Congress, state, tribal and local governments, and the media," the agency said in a statement.
"David will be an excellent addition to NNSA's senior management team," Ostendorff said. "He has a strong track record of building positive relationships and I know that he will bring the leadership necessary to continue the strong and effective dialogue that we currently enjoy with our stakeholders in Washington and the communities near our national security facilities."
The NNSA said Campbell had "15 years of experience in analyzing, implementing and managing programs in the defense, energy, and environmental markets."
"Prior to joining NNSA, Campbell was vice president of government and international relations for Weston Solutions, Inc., a national environmental response and remediation, construction and redevelopment company," the agency said. "He was manager of external corporate affairs for British Nuclear Fuels Group, USA. He also served as a senior program manager for Science Applications International Corporation, where he managed contracts that provided support to the Department of Energy."
The NNSA spearheads President George W. Bush's program to reduce, streamline and modernize the U.S. nuclear warhead stockpile.
Jun 28, 2007
From this Albuquerque Tribune commentary comes a great tag line:
As one Republican appointee said to us, "Why have you come to see me? The problem with nuclear weapons policy is in your state and his name is Pete Domenici."
Commentary: Nuclear weapons, labs hurt New Mexico's economic, social performance
Thursday, June 28, 2007
With little debate recently, the House of Representatives endorsed a spending plan prepared by its Appropriations Committee which would cut U.S. nuclear warhead programs overall by 6 percent.
It would also halt a major Bush Administration initiative to build new warheads; stop the construction of a new plutonium warhead core, or "pit," factory at Los Alamos National Laboratory; and cut funding for pit making by half.
Los Alamos, and to a lesser extent Sandia National Laboratories, would bear the brunt of these cuts, should they become law.
The detailed House plan redirects funds cut from Department of Energy weapons programs toward preventing nuclear proliferation and promoting renewable energy.
Each member of the New Mexico congressional delegation opposed these shifts. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, a Silver City Democrat, was relatively mute. Republican Sen. Pete Domenici and Rep. Heather Wilson, both of Albuquerque, said the sky would fall if the cuts were adopted, but took no action. "St. Pete" Domenici, will do his best to restore funding in the Senate.
Rep. Tom Udall, a Santa Fe Democrat, opposed the proposed spending plan in committee, but was the sole voice on the 56-person Appropriations Committee to do so. Later, he offered an amendment on the House floor to restore $192 million in nuclear weapons spending, specifically for Los Alamos, but it lost by a wide margin.
For the Senate, it will be the first nuclear spending plan since 1994 that will not be under Domenici's direct influence.
A third powerful actor this year is the White House, which has said it will veto the current bill, primarily because it would spend too much money.
Whither nuclear weapons policy, then? As three congressional committees have noticed, the United States has no coherent nuclear policy even now. This lack of clarity led the House to put the reins on the most expensive and controversial parts of the Bush nuclear agenda.
It's dangerous to make predictions, especially about the future (as Yogi Berra said), but here's one: five years from now there will still be no coherent U.S. nuclear policy. This is because the underlying contradictions in U.S. nuclear weapons policies run very deep.
The only policy compatible with nonproliferation treaty commitments is a commitment to complete nuclear disarmament. While the American people support our disarmament obligation and choose disarmament above other policies in the polls, Congress does not.
There is a consensus on the direction on nuclear forces, spending and infrastructure that is downward. A wide range of relevant actors, from the left to the right, favor a smaller nuclear arsenal, lower annual expenditures and smaller warhead storage centers.
Nuclear weapons are not popular in the military. An administration official said if the military had to pay for nuclear warheads, there wouldn't be any.
Who promotes nuclear weapons? It has been three nuclear weapons labs that promote them most - they and members of Congress associated with their locations, with Domenici in the lead.
As one Republican appointee said to us, "Why have you come to see me? The problem with nuclear weapons policy is in your state and his name is Pete Domenici."
In New Mexico there are serious political, economic and social consequences from these loyalties. Domenici's role in obtaining nuclear pork-barrel spending for New Mexico is now considered so inviolate by New Mexico Democratic Party leaders that they consistently fail to seriously challenge him either rhetorically or electorally. After all, they too depend on lab employees for political contributions.
Behind the mask of party pluralism, the loyalty of New Mexico political elites to the nuclear labs gives an uncontested seat to the deeply conservative Domenici for as long as he wants it. The labs' influence extends elsewhere. Through our bipartisan devotion to federal nuclear pork, the labs create a strong right-of-center tug on New Mexico politics.
This strong pull to the political right has implications across a wide range of New Mexico issues, especially on our state's economic and social performance. It goes a long way toward explaining why our relative economic performance as a state has fallen in a direct proportion to rising laboratory spending. Both trends coincide, more or less, with Domenici's Senate tenure.
Journal Staff Report
A federal court judge Wednesday gave final approval to a settlement between the University of California and a group of Hispanic and female Los Alamos National Laboratory employees under which the university will pay out $16.4 million.
Two suits, eventually consolidated by court order, alleged years of gender and racial discrimination in pay disparities at the lab under the University of California's management through 2006.
About 5,500 current and former LANL employees will be eligible for payouts. The settlement will be shared by female and Hispanic employees who have worked at the lab between December 2000 and the present and who submit valid claims.
The lab previously had agreed to pay $12 million to settle the suits. An additional $4.4 million was added in the final settlement approved by U.S. District Judge William P. Johnson on Wednesday to cover attorneys' fees and other costs.
John C. Bienvenu, one of the attorneys for the employees, said in a written statement that the employees who sued "succeeded in forcing the University of California to acknowledge that it owes compensation to the women and Hispanic employees that have been treated unfairly."
But LANL has maintained it committed no wrongdoing and that any pay disparities were the result of legitimate business factors unrelated to gender or race.
The University of California ran the lab from its creation during World War II until last year. LANL is now operated by Los Alamos National Security, a limited liability corporation led by the university and Bechtel National.
Patrick D. Allen, another attorney involved in the case, said the plaintiffs had "put their own careers at risk to stand up for the fundamental right of equal pay for equal work."
Laura Barber, one of the lead plaintiffs, said: "We are confident that this settlement will send a message to the current and future operator of Los Alamos National Laboratory, as well as other government contractors, that women are entitled to equal pay for equal work."
Individuals who believe they may be members of the class have 30 days to file claims. They can get information regarding the settlement by contacting the attorneys for the plaintiffs.
June 27, 2007 -- Senate appropriators have marked up legislation that would provide $66 million for the National Nuclear Security Administration's Reliable Replacement Warhead program in fiscal year 2008, setting the stage for a showdown with their House counterparts who want to eliminate funding for the effort.
The mark-up, approved by the Senate Appropriations energy and water development subcommittee yesterday, would allocate a total of $32 billion for the Energy Department, which includes NNSA, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Bureau of Reclamation. The full committee will consider the bill tomorrow afternoon.
No changes in the Reliable Replacement Warhead, or RRW, budget line are expected during the full panel mark-up, congressional sources tell InsideDefense.com.
For NNSA, which manages a wide range of nuclear weapons and nonproliferation activities, the subcommittee endorsed $9.6 billion in spending for FY-08, $178 million more than the White House requested, according to a statement from the panel.
The Bush administration has been moving forward with preliminary plans to retire nuclear warheads designed during the Cold War, and deploy newly designed RRWs in their place. The first Cold War-era nuclear warheads to be replaced in this fashion would be W-76s that are now deployed on the Navy's submarine-launched ballistic missiles.
Earlier this year, the Defense Department-led Nuclear Weapons Council chose an RRW design submitted by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, CA, over a competing design from Los Alamos National Laboratory, NM, as the system that could be used with such missiles. RRWs are supposed to be less expensive, safer and more environmentally friendly than Cold War-era warheads, and they are supposed to be deployable without conducting full-blown underground tests.
Administration officials are convinced RRWs are needed in order to continue abiding by a U.S. self-imposed moratorium on such tests. However, critics say work on the new warheads would undermine American nonproliferation policy, which aims to stop other countries from developing nuclear arsenals in part by setting an example of decreasing reliance on nuclear weapons.
In any case, deploying the Livermore design is not a done deal. Congressional approval for this kind of move, along with continued funding, would be needed before any RRWs are fielded.
Meanwhile, NNSA and Navy officials have been collaborating on a cost study for deploying RRWs.
Indeed, much of the money the administration sought for RRW in FY-08 would be used to complete a "Phase 2A design definition and cost study," according to an Energy Department budget document released in February. "Once this acquisition planning is completed and if the [Nuclear Weapons Council] decides to proceed to engineering and production development, funding will be requested in the outyears . . . to support an executable program," the document states.
Four congressional committees have jurisdiction over the RRW program. The House has already approved the House Armed Services Committee's FY-08 defense authorization bill, which cut the program's budget by $45 million. House authorizers want to slow work on the project until a proposed bipartian panel examines overall nuclear weapons policy for the nation.
The Senate Armed Services Committee in its version of the defense bill reduced RRW funding by nearly the same amount.
The House Appropriations Committee, for its part, eliminated funding for RRW and called for a new strategy for transforming the nation's nuclear arsenal and related infrastructure before proceeding with plans for new warheads. The full chamber started work on the committee's bill earlier this month, but a final vote has been put off until later this summer.
The House panel's decision on RRW is expected to remain untouched by the chamber when a final vote on the spending bill takes place. Thus, the different course of action taken by Senate appropriators in approving $66 million for the project means lawmakers from both chambers will have to work out a compromise in a future conference.
The Senate subcommittee's money, though, would only come with strings attached. For instance, NNSA would be restricted to work related to the Phase 2A study, and it may not begin any initial work on a follow-on RRW device, which some have dubbed the RRW-2, according to a Senate Appropriations Committee spokesman.
Senate appropriators also recommended blocking funds for NNSA's project to rebuild and streamline infrastructure in the nuclear weapons complex, which includes Los Alamos, Livermore and the Nevada Test Site, until the agency is done with its study.
Stockpile stewardship programs, which attempt to verify the safety and efficacy of existing nuclear warheads without full-blown testing, would not be affected by this prohibition, Sen. Pete Domenici (R-NM), the energy and water development subcommittee's ranking member, said in statement yesterday. Much of the work on stockpile stewardship, including the use of advanced computers to create virtual simulations of weapons behavior, occurs at labs like Los Alamos and Livermore.
"While we await completion of the RRW feasibility study, which will answer many questions regarding the future stockpile, our bill directs . . . NNSA not to undertake transformational activities and instead focus on improving the security and focus on the scientific future of the laboratories," he said. -- Keith J. Costa
Los Alamos County government has often found itself unevenly matched in its relationship with Los Alamos National Laboratory. During the annual budget exercises in Washington, county councilors watch and hope for the best, knowing that the county's fiscal health, budget and the livelihood of their constituents depends on shifting moods in the country at large and decisions made in Washington, D.C.
The Monitor sounded out individual councilors on how they view the current situation at Los Alamos National Laboratory and its management company - Los Alamos National Security, LLC - and how the relationship might be improved. Six of the seven councilors replied to a set of questions. Council Chair Jim West said he was not able to respond.
Is LANS a good county partner?
Michael Wheeler: "LANS is a very important member of the business community in Los Alamos. Our general fund revenues come from the Gross Receipts Taxes collected by the business sector and LANS represents the single largest provider of GRTs. LANS is located on federal land and pays no property taxes, hence a contractual requirement is for LANS to provide substantial funding to LAPS. The company also is committed to using local contractors and small businesses to support their operations. There are other areas where both the county and LANS can benefit through county provided services, and I expect those areas to continue to be considered for future discussions."
Nona Bowman: "LANS is committed, for the term of its agreement, to carry out the terms of its contract with NNSA. The county can expect nothing more than that from LANS although in principle LANS could act beyond the contract. The fact that all the top management decided not to live in Los Alamos is not irrelevant to the question."
Fran Berting: "The LANS contract provides specific guidelines with respect to such aspects of LANS activities as contracting with local small businesses and maintaining LANL employees, at least for the first year. However, budget problems have meant that they have openly stated that contracting with local businesses will have to wait. And LANL contractors and their personnel, while strictly speaking not LANL employees, have been let go in large numbers.
"On the other hand, contributions to the LANL Foundation, I believe, have been maintained. Communication with the community, another much requested activity, has been better than in the past, as Mr. Anastasio or one of his deputies, has attempted to keep the council updated from time to time, and meets reasonably regularly with our county manager. The communication, however, has not been adequate to actually incorporate community needs into LANS actions, e.g., the West Jemez Road bypass. DOE is largely responsible for this, but the LANS project manager could have been responsive for LANS' part and was not.
"In short, there is still the sense that much needs to be done to be real partners in LANS dealings with issues that could be helpful to the community as a whole, like actively endorsing the need for the Trinity Place development, being more clear in a timely manner with regard to their needs or lack thereof for local contractors and providing funds for regional transit."
Jim Hall: "I think LANS is getting better at working with the county. Things still seem to vary quite a bit. Some things work well, others do not. At times it is difficult for the county to determine the source (e.g. LANS or DOE) of some policies/decisions. Of course, LANS faces a huge challenge in getting the right balance among all the entities clamoring for recognition (and resources), e.g. pueblos, counties, cities, school districts, etc."
Ken Milder: "In some ways it is still too soon to tell. With all the issues being faced by LANS during this first startup year, I am willing to cut them some slack. However, LANS needs to differentiate itself from its predecessor by participating in real long-term partnerships rather than short term photo-ops.
"One area of concern to me has been the loss of jobs. Although LANS is quick to say that there have not been any layoffs, the truth is that hundreds of people have lost their job. While it is correct that no LANS employee has been laid-off, hundreds of valuable contractors, some with over 20 years at LANL, have lost jobs. I have seen no support for these employees from LANS nor the members of our congressional delegation who supported bidding the management contract."
Robert Gibson: "I don't think DOE/NNSA and LANL can be separated on this whole issue. There are some positive aspects of their relationship with the county. But there are major problems, also. The most serious is the lab's frequent failure to communicate its intentions on projects or activities that affect the community and its general unwillingness to take community concerns into consideration in development of plans. Pajarito Road and the Jemez Road reconfiguration are two glaring examples."
What's the current state of the lab?
Wheeler: "LANL is vital to the national security and a major contributor to our nation's excellence in basic research, and science and technology. While national priorities continuously change, the lab has a more difficult task to match their operations to changing national goals. This has been the case since the end of WW II. There is a current threat of a downturn in the nuclear weapons programs that is causing concern in the lab and our community.
"I would expect some fluctuations in the annual budget; however, the current budget proposal by the house is a more dramatic cut than Los Alamos has seen in many years. The lab will continue to press for funding both for science and weapons programs and I believe the final budget will be much more supportive than we currently see coming from Washington."
Bowman: "The lab has lived too long on a defense-only program, which is a mistake that was bound to catch up with it sooner than later. This focus has constrained new program development so much that LANL is no longer well positioned to broaden its program. However, with a serious effort, it might not be too late."
Berting: "The lab is in one of the typical states of uncertainty, due to decreases in funding, and threats of even further decreases in funding. Whereas this is not new, it appears to be worse than normal, as Congress is fed by media hype of misdeeds which in the past would have been solved locally. The activist groups, such as POGO, now make Congress feel they need to punish the lab, which is counterproductive.
"However, the lab continues to put forth good science in peer-reviewed papers in a great many fields. LANS, DOE, NNSA, Bechtel, and the University of California in particular among the LANS consortia, need to be constantly reminding the public of the fact that the lab is not just a weapons lab but is contributing to many aspects of the country's scientific progress."
Hall: "This is difficult for me to say - I haven't worked at the laboratory for years and have no "inside" information. Based on anecdotal accounts from friends, it seems as if LANS, after an initial period of confusion, is starting to bring considerably more fiscal and management discipline to the lab. However, I also hear disquieting concerns about the LANS's long-term commitment to investment in scientific excellence."
Milder: "The lab budget over the next couple of years is going to be tight. I feel the lab was hit by a double whammy. It was anticipated that the budget was going to be tight for a few fiscal years under the normal DOE budget cycle. On top of this, tremendous overhead costs were added by transferring the management contract to a private corporation.
"The lab's primary focus will still be in weapons research but I also see changes to the lab's mission. Over the 33 years I have worked at LANL, I have seen previous changes in mission focus. That is our major strength - an agility to rapidly meet ever changing national science priorities."
Gibson: "Nuclear weapons are not a growth industry. The lab is suffering through the decline that has been anticipated but delayed since the end of the Cold War. Lack of a clear modern mission and focus are hurting the lab.
"There are tremendous new national challenges to which the lab could continue to make vital contributions through top-notch technical work," Gibson said. "But Congress and DOE have to recognize the needs and commit to solving them in meaningful ways. Unless that happens, the decline in the lab's size, importance and technical excellence that we are experiencing will continue."
Why individually or collectively as a council don't you speak out about concerns expressed by the community, either during council meetings, in newspaper columns or to Anastasio directly during his periodic visits before council?
Wheeler: "The county council and individual councilors have both collectively and individually made our concerns known to our congressional delegation by way of our federal committee agenda, and through one-on-one discussions with our senators and congressmen. It is important to recognize those issues that can be addressed by the LANL director, and those concerns outside of his control. The county continues to build and maintain strong relationships locally, regionally, state-wide and nationally."
Bowman: "I have expressed in several public council meetings my concern on the major mission of the laboratory centered on weapon research led by a major pit manufacturing facility. I see that future for the laboratory and New Mexico to be that of Rocky Flats. Many scientists at the lab are trying hard to influence lab management on a more balanced program of R&D projects that can broaden the lab's mission and restore the lab to its international leadership position.
"The citizens of Los Alamos and northern New Mexico have a stake in the lab's mission decision - whether it be demographic change, economic impact or environmental impact. Many are concerned not only here but all over northern New Mexico. I have tried, beginning five years ago, to push changes at LANL and will continue, but resistance to change was high then and it is still high."
Berting: "I think we do, but without sounding like the activist groups, which can be counterproductive. Certainly in management-to-management meetings, where real progress is most likely to be made, the problems are quite transparently addressed."
Hall: "We express our concerns. The question is how. I am not sure that adding more public noise to the mostly overblown and (in my opinion) biased criticism in the national and regional press is useful.
"I think we are far more effective at working with the lab on county issues through our management team and in individual meetings with lab personnel. This has proved to be generally effective. If it is not, council has no reluctance to air concerns in public forums-or, for that matter, in court - if we believe such action is required. After the recent court case, I think everyone understands this council's commitment to the public weal."
Milder: "I feel our job as elected officials is to achieve solutions to community problems. The council has demonstrated an ability to use the proper techniques of addressing issues with LANL, NNSA and DOE. When necessary, as with the perimeter checkpoint, the council does more than speak out, it acts. In this case, it was through a lawsuit.
"We must recognize, however, that while the sledgehammer approach might make for lively press and certainly be needed at times, as with the checkpoint issue, it is not always productive in the long run. County senior management meets regularly with senior management at the lab, LASO, and even DOE Albuquerque. Many concerns, some small, others large, have been successfully addressed through these meetings. Admittedly, most are not newsworthy."
Gibson: "Many concerns expressed by the community are not fundamentally new. They go back many years and have been expressed publicly and (often more effectively) privately by councilors and other community leaders to several iterations of DOE/NNSA and LANL managers, as well as our congressional delegation. We work hard at trying to choose the time and venue to express the community's concerns most effectively."
What is your advice to improve relations between LANS and the community?
Wheeler: "The most important thing LANS can do to improve relations with the community is to provide transparency in their operations and information in a timely manner."
Bowman: "I think that the county must be far more proactive in letting LANS, the NNSA, and the congressional delegation know what kind of lab will work here and what is likely to lead to decay. Those in Washington are no more expert in this matter than our scientists, engineers and middle- management people. I hear from all of our Los Alamos community. Honest and open discussions come first. I believe that openness and honesty always leads to better communications in the long run."
Berting: "Continue, at every opportunity and at every level, to stress the need for communication that includes genuine understanding of each other's needs and problems, attempting to elicit a serious commitment from LANS to cooperate before taking action that affects the community. Reactivating the informal organization of community leaders, called TIE, formed during the contractor transition to establish communication at a high community-wide level might be effective."
Hall: "The county and our citizens must recognize the challenges facing LANS management and be realistic about LANS's ability to act. From a LANS perspective, I think it would be helpful if LANS management were to internalize three concepts: (1) the county's ability and willingness to act as a partner; (2) the importance of quality of life in Los Alamos in attracting and keeping high-quality personnel; and (3) their ability to assist the county in its goals through appropriate policies and actions, most without a significant financial commitment on LANS's part."
Milder: "As always, communications is the key. While it is nice to have Mike Anastasio periodically attend a council meeting, a practice that should continue, real working relationships must be nurtured at lower staff levels. That's where the real work is done and the key, here, is for each side to recognize the mutual benefits of having successful relationships.
"One common area of tension between the lab and county seemed to be control issues. Now, with the large decrease in budgets, I hope that the lab recognizes that partnerships with the county can help it more efficiently meet mission goals."
Gibson: "Most LANS (and many DOE/NNSA) top managers are new to the lab and community. Few live in Los Alamos. It takes time and effort to build the relationships we once took for granted. Relationships between institutions and communities are ultimately relationships among people. We need to build those."
Jun 27, 2007
So, it appears as if we have identified the two extremes of our expected funding at LANL for FY '08. In the months to ensue we may expect our lame duck (thankfully) president to veto the funding bill, which will then lead to the back room negotiations, which will eventually lead to a compromise which should fall somewhere between $300 and $90 million less than the FY '07 budget.
Care to translate these numbers into bodies? Using the guideline that somebody on the
post presented, the actual savings that can be obtained by RIFfing the "typical" LANS employee is about $100K. So, to get to $1M, we need to RIF 10 employees.
Let's do the math. Um, er, uh... I've got it: 900 - 3,000 bodies can be expected to fall by the wayside in FY '08. And if past years of watching our leaders in Washington take us through the Continuing Resolution process are any guide, we won't actually know what our budget will be until perhaps February (5 months after the start of FY '08).
Y'all like roller coasters?
Donald Winchell Jr. was named Tuesday as the new Los Alamos manager and takes the helm July 8.
"We are excited to have Don on the NNSA team. The Los Alamos Site Office and its employees are an important part of our nuclear weapons complex," said Tom D'Agostino, NNSA's head of defense programs.
In February, the Energy Department tapped Glenn to manage Los Alamos until a permanent replacement was named. Steve Erhart, Pantex's senior scientific and technical adviser, has managed Pantex for the NNSA since Glenn's departure.
Glenn replaced Ed Wilmot, who left Los Alamos to work in a federal office that will oversee modernization of the nation's nuclear weapons complex.
Glenn's management stint at Los Alamos came on the heels of several security breaches at the lab.
Before moving to Pantex, Glenn was the senior scientific and technical adviser at Los Alamos. He also worked in the weapons program division at the Albuquerque Operations Office and the Reactor Restart Program at the Savannah River Special Project Office.
Glenn is a former Navy submarine nuclear engineer and ballistic missile weapons officer.
Winchell has worked at Los Alamos since August 2004, where he most recently served as a technical staff member and operations support division group leader. Winchell was former vice president and deputy general manager for operations of Johnson Controls Northern New Mexico, a company that performed maintenance and infrastructure work at Los Alamos.
Winchell retired from the Navy after 30 years in 1999. His career includes service on four nuclear attack submarines, including command of the USS Drum.
Jun 26, 2007
June 26, 2007
Proposed funding safeguards many nuclear weapons programs on the chopping block
A Senate spending bill with big implications for New Mexico came out “as well as we could have hoped for,” U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., said Tuesday.
The Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development on Tuesday passed a $32 billion spending measure for the Department of Energy, which oversees Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories, along with the Bureau of Reclamation and the Army Corps of Engineers.
The proposed funding would significantly restore many nuclear weapons programs that were on the chopping block. Now the stage is set for negotiations between the House and the Senate.
Bingaman has visited with U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., who chairs the Senate subcommittee that pays for energy and water projects.
The Senate version would come close to President Bush’s budget request, which is much more generous than cuts proposed by the House Appropriations Committee.
For example, the Senate version spends $6.49 billion on nuclear weapons activities nationwide, including several programs at Los Alamos. The president’s budget request was $6.5 billion and the House proposed $5.9 billion — a move that sent layoff worries into overdrive in Northern New Mexico.
Still, Bingaman noted, Bush’s budget request represents a $90 million funding cut at Los Alamos and an $80 million cut at Sandia.
Bingaman has known Dorgan since the North Dakota resident was elected to the Senate in 1992. They serve together on a separate committee, the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which Bingaman chairs.
“I think he was certainly receptive,” Bingaman said. “I think that the bill that the subcommittee reported today pretty closely tracks the administration’s request for funds in the areas that will impact both Los Alamos … and Sandia. I think that will still involve a cut from current year funding.”
When asked how he defended the lab, Bingaman said, “Obviously the important issue is, are they doing work that’s important for the country? And that’s the case you make, is that they are doing important work and it needs to be supported.”
The current budget at Los Alamos is about $2.1 billion. In 2006, about $1.85 billion came from the Department of Energy and the rest from agencies doing business with the lab. In comparison, the president asked for $1.83 billion in the 2008 fiscal year from the Department of Energy for the lab.
U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., is the ranking minority member of Dorgan’s committee. Domenici said he felt wonderful after Tuesday’s bill was released. “The nuclear deterrent is fully covered,” Domenici said. “Science-based stockpile stewardship is recognized and funded. Los Alamos and Sandia, and for that matter, Lawrence Livermore, all got their basic budgets funded, more or less. … And a number of new programs were started that will be included in the work of the various laboratories in this year.”
Security upgrades at Los Alamos totaling $67 million were included in the Senate bill.
Bingaman noted Tuesday’s Senate numbers “are the beginning point for the negotiations with the House of Representatives.”
For weapons programs nationwide, the Senate numbers represent an increase of $213 million above the 2007 fiscal year, according to Domenici’s office.
The House numbers would be a $396 million cut to weapons programs compared to the 2007 fiscal year. The overall House bill cut weapons programs and moved more money into energy research. The Senate version spends more money than the House version.
Both sides must agree later this year before sending the bill to the president.
The Senate subcommittee fully funded a $95.5 million request for a new nuclear chemistry building, called the Chemistry and Metallurgy Facility, at Los Alamos. The House eliminated that request. The Senate also suggested spending $66 million on the Reliable Replacement Warhead program, which the House zeroed out. And the Senate zeroed out money for a so-called Consolidated Plutonium Center while suggesting $222 million for environmental cleanup, an increase compared to the $139 million in the president’s request.
“Domenici does some good things, such as helping to add funding for cleanup at LANL,” Jay Coghlan of Nuclear Watch New Mexico said. “But he is increasing the odds that Los Alamos will become the nation’s permanent plutonium pit production center by fully funding pit manufacturing and a giant new plutonium lab. He should be pressuring LANL to grow up and change instead of always feeding his baby the same old tired formula of nuclear weapons dollars.”
A limited number of pits are made at Los Alamos now, and it’s the only place in the country where that work supporting the nuclear weapons stockpile occurs, the lab director has said.
“I think the decision about the future plutonium production or pit production is still to be made,” Bingaman said. “And I’ve been clear that I don’t think we should build any new pit production facility at Los Alamos. I think that if the determination is made that we need any kind of new facility, it should be elsewhere.”
That’s because Los Alamos’ strength is as a science lab, not a production center, he said.
Contact Andy Lenderman at 995-3827 or email@example.com.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
WASHINGTON — A week after the U.S. House agreed to deep budget cuts for Los Alamos National Laboratory, the lab got some good news. The Senate version of the same spending bill cut some nuclear weapons funding, but essentially left the lab's budget alone.
Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., said supporters of the northern New Mexico lab can breathe easier, but the bill still has to be approved by the full committee Thursday. Then the full Senate will take it up.
The next serious fight is expected when the House and Senate meet in a conference committee later this year to hammer out a final bill.
"If you add it all up, we couldn't have come out better, but let's be realistic," said Domenici, the senior Republican on the Senate Appropriations subcommittee for energy and water programs.
The House cut $300 million of Los Alamos' current $2.2 billion budget as well as about $100 million from Albuquerque's Sandia National Laboratories.
House lawmakers made it clear they were exasperated with years of security lapses, cost overruns and safety violations, especially at Los Alamos. They questioned whether Los Alamos lab, the birthplace of the atomic bomb, was too irresponsible to get so much federal funding.
The most recent security concerns were reported in the last few weeks. The Energy Department has acknowledged e-mails containing highly classified information were sent by lab officials over an open network.
Domenici praised senators for not trying to "get back at the laboratories," and not "playing games" with the National Nuclear Security Administration, which oversees the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile.
The Senate version preserves money for the labs' core responsibilities, including monitoring the nuclear weapons stockpile, Domenici said. The bill also increases the budget for cleanup of lab property by $83 million to $222 million, which would allow Los Alamos to meet milestones set in an agreement with the state of New Mexico.
It provides $45 million to consolidate 140 classified vaults into fewer than 10, a lab-initiated project Domenici said would help it better control security. The measure would provide an additiional $12 million to complete a program to reduce the potential for staffers to take classified material from the lab.
The House bill took aim at a program to develop new nuclear warheads, which Los Alamos would have participated in with other labs.
The Senate version also halts funding for all but a feasibility study of the warhead program.
Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., who chairs the subcommittee, said the bill reflects the need to pause and decide what the future of the nation's weapons program should be before continuing to fund a new warhead.
Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., called the bill a "good starting point" as it moves to the full committee and then the Senate, where some changes are expected.
"Most important is the fact that it maintains our existing stockpile stewardship program, which supports some of the most important work done at our two labs," Bingaman said.
Tuesday, 26 June 2007
The Senate Energy and Water Appropriations Bill ...
... appears to strike back hard at cuts proposed by the House of Representatives, according to a summary just released by Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M. The subcommittee is meeting as we speak, and our man in Washington, Michael Coleman, is there. In the meantime, we don't have the full report yet, so we've just got Pete's numbers to work with at this point. Here's what they say:
The House wanted to cut $396 million next year, as compared to this year's nuclear weapons budget. The Senate mark is $216 million above this year's spending.
The House wants to kill the Reliable Replacement Warhead. The Senate wants to fund it, to the tune of $66 million.
The CMR replacement building (the big plutonium lab up at Los Alamos) is dead in the House mark, funded in the Senate mark. The next-gen "consolidated plutonium center" is dead in both places. Stick a fork in it.
I'm still sorting through some of the details in the Domenici statement and, as I said, we don't have the full report yet (devil/details etc.). I'll have more later this afternoon, and Mike and I will have a full report in the newspaper that lands on your driveway tomorrow morning.
Article Launched: 06/26/2007 11:56:59 AM MDT
LOS ALAMOS, N.M. (AP) — Cleaning up plutonium-contaminated waste buried decades ago in shallow pits and trenches at Los Alamos National Laboratory could cost more than the current $114 million estimate, congressional investigators say.
The U.S. Department of Energy assumed for long-range planning purposes that the old waste could be safely left where it is, with a cap over it to prevent waste from either washing away or seeping into groundwater.
That solution would cost $114 million, according to a report released Friday by the Government Accountability Office, which is Congress' investigating arm.
However, the GAO said the cost could rise dramatically if an ongoing study concludes that the waste must be dug up and sent to a safer disposal site.
The state Environment Department expects that at least some of the old waste will have to be dug up, said James Bearzi of the department's Hazardous Waste Bureau.
A lab spokesman, James Rickman, said local DOE managers and lab officials were reviewing an analysis of the risk the waste poses. He said it's premature to say what type of cleanup might be needed.
The waste dates from the birth of the lab in 1943 through the early 1970s. Since then, plutonium waste from nuclear weapons work has been packaged and stored in drums for eventual disposal in the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, a DOE repository east of Carlsbad.
Given that, we should note again that D'Agostino and NNSA picked the identical management team (Bechtel, UC, & friends) to run our sister lab in California. Remember, D'Agostino had ample examples of LANS' management, shall we say, style, from observing their performance during their first year running LANL. Yet he picked the same corporate entities to run LLNL.
Is D'Agostino stupid? Is he incompetent?
Or, is he simply staying the course and executing a game plan that has been agreed to by DOE and Congress?
I'll take the latter explanation. Further, I believe that the game plan includes either shutting down LANL completely, or retaining only a Pu processing capability, if that initiative survives the budget process. LANS got the LANL and LLNL contracts because they were friendly to the concept; Lockheed was not.
The evidence supporting this position is compelling. First, Lockeed lost the contract in spite of having presented a superior bid and in spite of UC's atrocious past performance. Next, LLNL director Anastasio was transferred to become LANL's director. Then, we discover that Anastasio helped influence the RRW competition to favor his Alma Mater.
All of the new Bechtel and BWXT-bred LANS top management have a temporary feel to them -- most of them live in Santa Fe, as does our director.
The repeated, scripted Congressional LANL bashings (not undeserved, mind you, but conducted with perhaps a bit more hysteria than events dictated). The budget slashings directed at LANL. The decided lack of support that LANL management continues to demonstrate to staff. The lukewarm verbiage from Tom Udall suggesting that LANL diversify into energy research in spite of the facts, such as
- we already have a National Renewable Energy Laboratory,
- LANL doesn't do energy, and
- LANL costs an unbelievable, uncompetitive $450K per TSM to pay for a year's output, much of which is spent satisfying a morass of brain dead CYA bureaucratic "training" requirements.
What else can one conclude but that the real plan calls for LANL is to be shut down, and that a much-reduced role for LLNL is to be expected.
And speaking of fizzling, there was a minor debate, now died down, on the Lax and Lazy at Los Alamos post. The discussion centered around the significance of the latest two, in what have been a whole series of LANL security episodes reported lately by the media.
On one side of the debate, a commenter was complaining that the the reported episodes were, or should have been non-events. On the other side, yours truly objected to any reported LANL security event being labeled as a 'non-event'. After all, LANL has a firmly-established history of blowing non-events up until they achieve full national attention.
I refer, of course, to our famed predecessor director, George P. Nanos, himself. Did he not take a non-event (the non-missing DX CREM) and turn it into a $357 million 7-month nationally-reported event?
I rest my case, there are no reported security non-events at LANL.
I'm going to be late home from the lab tonite so have dinner without me, we are just putting the finishing touches to the doomsday device so we can test it tomorrow.
June 25, 2007
Security concerns arise as lab braces for Senate funding plans
More security concerns at Los Alamos National Laboratory surfaced Monday, the day before a Senate subcommittee was scheduled to release its highly anticipated spending bill for the lab.
A lab scientist traveled to Ireland late last month for a vacation, and his lab-issued laptop computer was stolen out of his hotel room, federal officials confirmed. But there wasn’t anything classified on it, officials said.
“We really don’t view this as a security breach,” Julianne Smith of the National Nuclear Security Administration said. “It’s a violation of lab policy; that’s it. No classified documents were on the computer, and nothing relating to the weapons program or anything sensitive ... that the lab or NNSA deals with.”
In a separate matter Monday, Newsweek magazine quoted an anonymous source who said another scientist sent a classified e-mail over an unsecured network.
“That reported incident is under review ... and it would be inappropriate to comment until we have all the facts,” Smith said.
Lab spokesman Kevin Roark took issue with the Newsweek report.
“This recent tendency to hold this laboratory accountable for its employees to be anything less than perfect is unrealistic,” Roark said. The lab takes security seriously and has made “great improvements” in the last six months, he said.
U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., said in a statement he “was made aware of these incidents and once again I expressed my concerns over these continuing lapses. The actions of these individuals unfortunately detract from the tremendously important work done at the lab every day.”
Earlier this month, a Michigan congressman reported that top lab managers sent classified information involving nuclear material by unsecured e-mail. Federal officials are expected to meet with Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., on the matter.
Meanwhile, a North Dakota senator is scheduled to release a document of great importance to New Mexico today, outlining how much federal money the Senate wants to give the lab in the 2008 fiscal year.
The House Appropriations Committee has already suggested as much as $400 million in cuts to Los Alamos and Sandia National Laboratories compared to the 2007 fiscal year, the office of U.S. Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M., reports. The overall budget at Los Alamos is about $2.1 billion.
But the Senate usually puts more money into the bill, which pays for the U.S. Department of Energy and other projects, before haggling with the House over the final amount.
“My prediction, without giving specifics, is we’re going to get some real relief in this bill,” U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., said in a Monday news conference.
U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., chairs the Appropriations Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development and has visited New Mexico with Domenici. Bingaman has also met with Dorgan.
Dorgan’s subcommittee is scheduled to vote on the bill today, Domenici told radio reporters Monday. “I don’t believe we can possibly cut Los Alamos in the method, manner suggested by the U.S. House,” Domenici said. Those cuts would ruin the lab, he said.
The House version of the appropriations bill zeroed out money for the Reliable Replacement Warhead program; eliminated a $95.5 million request to upgrade a nuclear chemistry building and cut about half the lab’s plutonium pit manufacturing budget request for the 2008 fiscal year. Pits are the triggers for nuclear warheads. Los Alamos is the only place in the country where new pits are built, lab officials have said.
Overall, the House has proposed spending $5.9 billion on weapons activities nationwide, which is $396 million below 2007 and $632 million below the president’s 2008 budget request. Thirty-seven weapons programs would be cut nationwide. More money would be spent on renewable energy programs and nuclear nonproliferation.
“New activities within the nuclear weapons program are not supported pending the establishment of a clear policy and plan for our strategic deterrent, while all efforts required to maintain the current stockpile of nuclear weapons as safe and reliable are continued,” U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Ind., said in a statement. Visclosky chairs the House subcommittee that authored the appropriations bill.
Greg Mello of the Los Alamos Study Group said he believes lab managers could avoid layoffs through retirements and other reforms if the budget was cut. “The economic impact of staff leaving, provided they can retire with benefits, will not be significant,” he said.
Contact Andy Lenderman at 995-3827 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jun 25, 2007
June 25, 2007
Rep. Ellen Tauscher Leads Bipartisan, Bicameral Group to Insist on Congruent Benefit Package for Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Wins fight for public comment period
Washington , DC – Rep. Ellen Tauscher along with her California colleague Senator Diane Feinstein (D) as well as Senators Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), and Pete Domenici (D-NM) sent a letter to Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman today stressing that a new benefits package for employees of Lawrence Livermore Laboratory can only be in the best interest of national security, scientific advancement and equity if it is congruent to the package being offered at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.
Rep. Tauscher led the bipartisan effort that spans both the House and Senate in her role as Chairman of the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee.
The letter states “A key component of the nation's strategy to provide scientific leadership to support the nation's nuclear deterrent is sustaining two competitive design laboratories. Maintaining this vital competitive environment requires equity between these institutions, and success requires a stable workforce throughout the complex and the scientific and technical talent to deliver results to protect our nation.”
The letter comes on the heels of a request from Rep. Tauscher and her colleagues last week that the Department of Energy, at the very least, instate a public comment period for employees to voice their thoughts on benefit package. The DOE has agreed and this comment period will move forward.
“The whole point of the competitive lab structure is that competition breeds the best science in order to bolster our national security,” said Rep. Tauscher. “If the labs aren’t able to recruit and retain the best and brightest minds equally, then the whole concept of competition is lost, the best science isn’t being achieved, and our national security is weakened.” I will do everything in my power as Chairman of the subcommittee that oversees the labs to ensure the Energy Department gets this right. Anything but a congruent benefit package among the labs is not in the interest of national security, scientific advancement, or the spirit of fairness.”
The full text of the letter follows below.
June 25, 2007
Samuel W. Bodman
U.S. Department of Energy
1000 Independence Ave., SW
Washington , DC 20585
Dear Secretary Bodman,
As you know, we are all strong supporters of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and promote scientific capabilities in support of its missions. In particular, we support a well-balanced NNSA complex that can attract and retain the talent necessary to fulfill its national security mission and maintain a credible nuclear deterrent.
A key component of the nation's strategy to provide scientific leadership to support the nation's nuclear deterrent is sustaining two competitive design laboratories. Maintaining this vital competitive environment requires equity between these institutions, and success requires a stable workforce throughout the complex and the scientific and technical talent to deliver results to protect our nation. It is therefore critically important that the Department of Energy (DOE) carefully steward the transition of these laboratories to new contractors and enable the contractors to offer equitable benefits packages that support their contract obligations and empower them to deliver the results DOE and Congress expect from these contracts, which means that neither contractor should have a competitive advantage over another in terms of pay and benefits. We are extremely concerned about the impact of the recent contract competitions at the two design laboratories on NNSA's ability to fulfill its national security requirements, because we understand that just such an imbalance now looms among the different labs.
We recommend that DOE/NNSA accept the LLNS proposed "LANL comparable" pension and benefits plan for LLNL commencing October 1, 2007 to resolve the potential inequities between the two benefits packages. We further recommend that DOE/NNSA conduct a more relevant Ben-Val Study for the DOE labs and comparable FFRDCs to establish an appropriate and consistent market base that accurately accounts for the challenges of recruiting and retaining top quality scientific talent in our current economy. In order to avoid further problems, we urge you to undertake the appropriate Ben-Val revaluation at the same time.
We know that you share our commitment to support the scientific capabilities necessary to fulfill the NNSA’s vital missions and look forward to working with you to sustain as workforce that meets our scientific and technical needs today and into the future.
Rep. Ellen Tauscher
Sen. Diane Feinstein
Sen. Jeff Bingaman
Sen. Pete Domenici.
Just when you were starting to wonder what's new at LANL, all you have to do is crack the virtual cover of the latest Newsweek, and voila! --Gussie
Officials at the nuclear-weapons laboratory, already struggling to calm concerns over security lapses, now have two more breaches to explain.
June 25, 2007 - What's going on at Los Alamos? The nation's premier nuclear-weapons laboratory appears plagued with continuing security problems. Barely 10 days after revelations of a leak of highly classified material over the Internet, NEWSWEEK has learned of two other security breaches.
In late May, a Los Alamos staffer took his lab laptop with him on vacation to Ireland. A senior nuclear official familiar with the inner workings of Los Alamos—who would not be named talking about internal matters—says the laptop's hard drive contained "government documents of a sensitive nature." The laptop was also fitted with an encryption card advanced enough that its export is government-controlled. In Ireland, the laptop was stolen from the vacationer's hotel room. It has not been recovered. This source adds that Los Alamos has started a frantic effort to inventory all its laptops, calling in most of them and substituting nonportable desktop models. (The source’s account was confirmed by a midlevel Los Alamos official who also requests anonymity owing to the sensitivity of the subject.)
Then, 10 days ago, a Los Alamos scientist fired off an e-mail to colleagues at the Nevada nuclear test site. The scientist works in Los Alamos's P Division, which does experimental physics related to weapons design, a lab source says. The material he e-mailed was "highly classified," the same source says. But he sent his e-mail over the open Internet, rather than through the secure defense network.
These incidents come as Los Alamos is still reeling from the revelation that, in January, half a dozen board members of the company that manages the lab circulated—over the Internet—an e-mail to each other containing the most highly classified information about the composition of America's nuclear arsenal. The two sources tell NEWSWEEK that the e-mail concerned what the weapons community calls "special nuclear materials," the other ingredients besides uranium or plutonium at the core of nuclear weapons. The sources confirm to NEWSWEEK that the breach was rated "category one," meaning it posed "the most serious threats to national security interests."
Los Alamos spokesman Jeff Berger referred questions about the January breach to the Department of Energy or its specialist agency, the National Nuclear Security Administration. Regarding the e-mail to the Nevada test site, Berger said: "The purported incident is under investigation; it would be inappropriate to comment." As for the laptop stolen in Ireland, Berger confirmed the event, but said "information contained on the computer was of sufficiently low sensitivity that, had the employee followed proper laboratory procedure, he would have been authorized to take it to Ireland." About the encryption card, Berger said: "Ireland is a country that wouldn't have posed any export problems." He confirmed that, in the wake of this incident, Los Alamos is "in the process of narrowly restricting the use of laptops for foreign travel," while also working "to strengthen our employees' awareness of their responsibilities for protecting government equipment and the proper laboratory procedures for off-site usage."
Bryan Wilkes, spokesman for the National Nuclear Security Administration, said that, in taking his laptop to Ireland, the employee "did violate lab policy"—though Wilkes confirmed that, had the employee asked, permission would have been granted. Wilkes declined to comment for the record on the Nevada e-mail. Regarding the circulation in January of highly classified weapons information over the Internet, Wilkes said that everything the department had to say on the matter could be found in a June 15 letter sent by Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman to Rep. John Dingell, chair of the House Energy & Commerce Committee, which oversees the nuclear weapons complex.
"I can affirm that an individual did in fact unintentionally transmit sensitive information through an unsecured e-mail system," Bodman wrote Dingell. But Bodman played down its significance: "While serious, the incident in question was the result of human error, not a failure of security systems. The Department makes every effort to minimize inadvertent human errors, but we recognize that such errors may occur from time. Therefore, we have a robust system in place to report and investigate potential violations. In my opinion this is a circumstance where those systems worked well."
Bodman's professed reassurance is unlikely to satisfy those people—many within the nuclear weapons community—who are concerned by what appears to be a pattern of security problems at Los Alamos stretching back some years. "Boys will be boys, seems to be Bodman's message," one very senior figure in the weapons community said sarcastically: "I doubt that will appease John Dingell." Dingell's staff was unable to respond by deadline to a request for comment. But Dingell has talked in the past of his concerns at what seems to be deeply rooted problems at Los Alamos. Appearing in January before one of Dingell's sub-committees, Thomas D'Agostino, deputy administrator for weapons programs at the NNSA, agreed that successive security breaches at Los Alamos pointed to a failure of what he called "the security culture" there.
D'Agostino promised tough action: "Make no doubt about this. If the current laboratory management is unable or unwilling to change the security culture at LANL, I will use every management tool available to me" to force action, he said in testimony.
Pinky and the Brain,
Please post anonymously. Thanks.
To: All LLNL Employees
For anyone from LLNL that may be reading the LANL blog hoping to find information about the benefits package please read closely.
Having attended the 3:00 PM presentation today, I immediately found at least four items that I find totally unacceptable and have one question to ask, but first I'd like to point out that the date on the presentation was the 18th of June not the 21st. This may explain why the clock to respond to NNSA started three days ago and you now only have until (high noon) June 28th , 2007 to respond to issues that you dislike or will not accept. If you don't, you will get exactly was presented today and NNSA will be laughing all the way to the bank. Why? Because they could care less about you, your pension or your livelihood. So with that said here are four bullets for you to fire back at them with warp speed.
- All of you that are going TCP-2 and establishing a 401K with LLNS, LLC should note that the matching contributions of 6% and the additional 5 % are almost half of what LANL got. See page 10 of the presentation.
- If you are a new hire and go TCP-2, you will not get medical and dental when you retire (ever).
- The contract allows LLNS, LLC to change the level of contributions, among other things, every two years.
- It was said that all TCP-1 people will be contributing 5% of their salary to the pension plan and that contribution will mirror UC, so you should expect a steady increase in contributions as years go on until eventually the 16% is coming directly out of your pocket.
And now the question to NNSA, DOE and UC that was asked. How do you expect HR to entice anyone to work at this facility with what you have to offer? Anyone with a brain is going to look at this and laugh as they go out the door. I can only assume that your goal is to dismantle all of the DOE facilities, get rid of some of the best people on this planet, and hire those who were previously in the welfare lines to do the work that will secure this nation. To date you have ignored the advice from the MERCER report and done just the opposite. You have successfully proven your ignorance.
For those of you at LLNL who haven't paid much attention because you thought you were going to get the same deal that LANL did, think again. You are getting the shaft. You must take the time to read this presentation carefully, bullet by bullet, and comment on every item of dislike. Unless you "demand" what can be seen on page 54 of the presentation with firmness and give the NNSA no alternative but to implement it, you are going to get what you deserve; "nothing". NNSA / DOE and UC are hoping you are complacent and asleep. The question really is, ARE YOU? Please voice your opinion at www.llnsllc.com, because it counts. Comments are to be directed to this e-mail address: email@example.com
[Download the LLNS employee benefits presentation here.]
By Ian Hoffman, STAFF WRITER
Article Last Updated: 06/23/2007 02:39:01 AM PDT
Federal nuclear weapons officials tried calming Lawrence Livermore Lab workers Friday after word that new federal requirements could result in lower retirement benefits.
With dozens of angry employee phone calls and e-mails pouring into Washington, the National Nuclear Security Administration put out a statement reassuring workers that the agency "listens."
As a message, it fell short of a Clintonian "feel your pain" moment but was perhaps as close as a quasi-military bureaucracy comes to "trust us, we care."
Employees of the weapons lab are not in a trusting mood. On Thursday, they learned they must choose from two retirement plans, one of which is mandatory for all new hires and could result in 20 percent lower future retirement benefits than employees' current pensions administered by the University of California.
"I think everyone's in a real uncertain spot right now," said Sue Byars, a senior official in the Society of Professionals, Scientists and Engineers, a group running a union organizing drive at the lab.
The university's pension plan is one of the nation's largest and historically best funded. But the federal government is handing management of the lab over to a private partnership between the university and several corporations, with a requirement to establish two new, separate retirement plans for lab workers.
The National Nuclear Security Administration saidone of the plans had to cap benefits at no more than 105 percent of the market value for benefits for 15 research-intensive corporations such as IBM, Hewlett Packard, Northrop Grumman and AT&T.
Many of those companies have been cutting their benefits, widening the gap between the lab's new benefits package and what the university has been paying.
Executives for the incoming private management team, led by Bechtel National Inc. and the university, say they fear employees will perceive the lower benefits as a sign of the federal government's waning interest in the lab and its workers. Senior federal weapons officials tried to dispel that notion Friday and tell lab employees that the government cares about keeping Livermore full of talented scientists and engineers.
"Livermore National Laboratory is of vital importance to our nation's national security and all of the laboratory's employees are valued team members," said Thomas D'Agostino, the administration's deputy administrator over weapons work. "We are hearing employee concerns, ... and we will be responsive. We have an open process to receive questions and comments, and we are listening."
Contact Ian Hoffman at firstname.lastname@example.org or (510) 208-6458.
Jun 24, 2007
Community leaders raise red flags
CAROL A. CLARK Monitor County Editor
In December 2005, Los Alamos National Security, LLC, entered a transitional process and assumed management of Los Alamos National Laboratory on June 1, 2006. Since that time, dissatisfaction and mistrust have escalated.
Despite Director Michael Anastasio's upbeat first-anniversary "State of the Lab" presentations, few people have not heard one or more of the following sentiments expressed among employees, business owners and community members in general:
Recent conversations with community leaders add to the growing sense of uncertainty and concern permeating Los Alamos.
Longtime community leader Roger Waterman of TRK Management has lived in town since 1947. He and his brothers have carried on the tradition started by their father Robert Waterman of building and managing properties throughout Los Alamos and White Rock.
TRK owns and manages familiar landmarks including the Hampton Inn, Oppenheimer Place and the property housing the Bradbury Museum, which is leased by LANL.
Leasing a number of properties to the lab has given Waterman a long history of interaction with the town's largest employer.
During an interview Friday, he shared his perceptions of LANS and its effect on the community.
"We have come to the same conclusions as many others," Waterman said. "The last five to six years have been very difficult on both the lab and the community because of obvious things - the fire, security breach headlines, lab shutdown, contract changes, budget issues and the recent contractor terminations.
"None of these things helped TRK's businesses and a couple of them have been very expensive and have resulted in our changing our short term view of the future in significant ways."
Waterman spoke of the loss of a "sense of community" he is feeling.
"Our biggest issues may be the ongoing dissolution of our sense of community and the inability or unwillingness of the lab and NNSA (National Nuclear Security Administration) to engage the entities and people they impact in a pre-emptive dialog," Waterman said. "The community has significant resources as does LANS and NNSA. Their engagement would allow us to use our resources to minimize the damage to our businesses and community and maybe put a little more positive substance to the future."
Denise Lane of the Lane Prestige Group has conducted business in Los Alamos for 21 years. She purchased Hill Diner in 1986 and still operates it today with partner Lori Novak. She also is a Realtor and president of the Los Alamos Board of Realtors.
Lane owns commercial properties. She leases space to small businesses and recently expressed concern regarding the local business climate.
"Properties previously robust and filled up are now struggling with vacancies," Lane said. "To see small businesses struggling to pay their rent is a big red flag. This is something we haven't seen - businesses in their first year maybe, but not businesses that have been established for so many years."
Superintendent Jim Anderson has been in charge of Los Alamos Public Schools for some 14 years. He shared his perceptions and concerns during a recent interview.
"The rumors we hear about what's going on at the laboratory don't match up with what lab management is telling us," Anderson said. "I'd like to believe lab management in terms of their saying they are not going to lay-off employees. And obviously a concern for all of us has to be the recent actions by the House of Representatives and the proposed budget cuts at Los Alamos and other labs."
Anderson pointed out that the proposed cuts still need to go through the Senate.
"I think it's fairly consistent in the last few years that this gets worked out in the conference committee between the House and Senate," Anderson said. "That's where Domenici (Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M.) and Bingaman (Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M.) have been able to salvage our budgets most of the time. We'll see once again if Domenici and Bingaman can do damage control."
Anderson recently met with LANL officials to discuss the properties LAPS lease to the lab.
"On a positive note, they have renewed their commitment to lease our facilities out into the future," Anderson said.
Linda Daly serves on the UNM-LA Advisory Board and is executive director of The Family YMCA. The Y serves more than 2,000 facility members and 3,000 program members. Daly said that while people go to the Y to work out, they also socialize, and they are expressing concern and uncertainty about the future.
"We've definitely experienced softness of membership over the last couple of years," Daly said Friday. "We've lost memberships because of people leaving or retiring and also because of the uncertainty of layoffs at the laboratory."
While memberships have fallen, Daly said the Y remains strong in its program areas. People are still coming in to release stress and to recreate, she said.
"But as people are looking at their budgets and tightening up, they have to make cuts such as memberships," Daly said. "And now there's more bad news with the proposed budget cuts - all this has affected our business. The unsettledness is disturbing and it seems to come in waves. I keep waiting for the good news. From the contract change to layoffs to budget cuts - this town has been through a lot and could really use a good break."
Some of the LLNL posters remind me of the LANL posters over the last two years. They complained loudly about the benefit changes and said they didn't have to take this type of abuse from NNSA....but they stayed. Then came the urine test and they threatened, once again, to leave....but they stayed. Then came the polygraph's return and they threatened, once again to leave in disgust....but they stayed.
This has clearly demonstrated to both NNSA and LANS that they can abuse the workforce in just about any fashion they wish. The workforce will bitch and complain loudly and threaten to leave, but in the end they'll stay and continue to take the paychecks. Too bad, because I suspect that NNSA and LANS would really like to see more people leave the payroll.
All the current LLNL threats to leave are mostly a means of venting frustration and not much else. Like LANL, I suspect that most of the people at LLNL will stay regardless of the raw deal that NNSA and LLNS will give them. Just watch the employee numbers at LLNL over the next few years. I highly doubt you'll see an exodus.
NNSA knows they don't have to offer you a chance to stay in UCRP. You'll take pretty much what ever they give you.
Jun 23, 2007
Pinky and the Brain:
On Monday of this week I heard a story of an employee of LANL on personal vacation in Europe. It seems that this person had removed a LANL government computer from LANL. He used the computer at LANL and apparently did not have a property pass to have it off site. Subsequently the computer was lost in Europe.
Later this week towards the end of the week and inventory of lap tops was taking place and a justification of why one was need was being done.
So now it would appear that lap tops have gone the way of USB devices, won't be long that we won't be allowed to have a lap top either.
Same old story don't punish the person that did something wrong punish everyone that works at LANL.
What has happened to the consultant and the members of the board of directors that emailed classified files? Nothing!!!!!!!
LANS needs to publish these types of incidents and the consequences of what has happened to the individuals.
What needs to happen to the individuals that do these stupid things is they need to be terminated immediately and the message needs to be sent loud and clear for all to understand.
When is the punishment going to fit the deed? Probably NEVER!!!!!!!!
Will it ever happen?
I would be very surprised if anything changes, except that Los Alamos will be the next ghost town of the West.
Wait till this comes out in the papers and in the inquisition going on in Congress.
Please keep me anonymous.
I am sick and tired of being blamed and now punished for every security problem at LANL. I have worked here for 24 years doing classified nuclear weapons work for every one of them. I have never received a security infraction or incident. I take my responsibilities with classified information extremely seriously. And so does everyone else. The incidents that LANL has become famous for are the result of the unpredictable actions of human beings who have been granted clearances by OPM. The damage caused by the incidents of the last seven years has been minor to non-existent. These types of incidents happen at LLNL and SNL every bit as frequently as at LANL. In fact I know of LLNL incidents that are far more serious and you have heard nothing about them. LANL has become the scapegoat for an ineffective NNSA. The LANL management team has no interest in LANL success as they all have a golden parachute back to terra firma. As such, they have done nothing to defend or protect LANL.
Congress has crossed the line and is blaming me and you for these incidents and is threatening to take away our livelihood. The taxpayer has invested $2.1 M in training me in nuclear weapons design. I am here for four reasons: The work I do in the nuclear weapons program, the schools, the beautiful surroundings, and the crime free small town lifestyle. My kids are nearly out of school, the fire ruined the surroundings, and the United States no longer values the work I do. I used to love my job and did it passionately because of its importance. Now that LANs is here and Congress has made their attack personal, I suppose it is time to take my $2.1 M nuclear weapons education and find something else to do. Do I want to uproot my family? No. Do I have a choice? We’ll see in the next few months. The only problem is the house I own. If it weren’t for my lousy investment in Los Alamos property, the decision would be easy. Until such time as I can afford to leave, I am stuck and must continue to tolerate this disgusting treatment of people who have dedicated their lives to protecting the United States. I suppose I am a whore and Mike Anastasio is my pimp.
The thing I do not think that Congress understands is that there are not that many of us who have the experience to keep this business going, and driving us away essentially equates to unilateral disarmament. While Mr. Hobson thinks driving away 1800 people would be a good thing, I contend it will be devastating. There may be 1800 people at LANL that could be cut with no impact to the stockpile, but that isn’t how this will be done. The problem is 40% of the $500 M LANL punishment comes from the nuclear weapons program. That equates to about 500 hands-on TSMs from the weapons program. Let’s assume my training is average which results in sending $1.1 B of trained nuclear weapons expertise out into the world. Good idea Mr. Hobson? I am shocked that the United States is headed down the path of disarming itself in a world where there is an ever increasing number of Nations who have nuclear weapons or are expanding their arsenals.
And for those of you who think devastating LANL should not hurt the stockpile because LLNL will be there, think again. Do some research and check out how many disasters Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory has put into stockpile. Perhaps once they do not have to compete with LANL they will quit politicizing every weapons issue (RRW, pit lifetimes, NIF, …) and actually try to solve technical problems. I wonder if after they (Congress, NNSA, and LANs) gut LANL, will LLNs hire LANL staff and map across years of service and retirement benefits? I am not interested in the least, but there may be a few second stringers who would be interested.