Jan 21, 2008

Changes at the Lab

Contra Costa Times

THERE IS MORE surgery ahead at the Lawrence Livermore Laboratory. We hope that once the bleeding stops, the patient will be able to regain its strength.

Under new management since Oct. 1, the nuclear weapons lab has already cut about 500 employees, bringing the staff down to about 7,300 full-time jobs. Last week, lab Director George Miller announced reductions of about 700 more.

This wasn't what we expected when the University of California joined forces with San Francisco-based Bechtel Corp. to run the facility. UC had run it on its own until security lapses and financial blunders at Livermore and the Los Alamos Laboratory in New Mexico prompted the federal government to seek management bids.

In May, after the new contract was announced, Miller said that efficiencies, attrition and other changes would bring enough savings to avoid layoffs. But that hasn't been the case and, to make matters worse, the new federal budget cut annual funding for the lab by about $100 million, down to about $1.49 billion.

"The transition is over," Miller told lab workers last week. "Change is not. Change, in many respects, is going to continue for at least two more years." That is certainly unsettling to lab workers, who play a critical role in our national security with their work on nuclear weapons, energy alternatives, global warming and the development of supercomputers.

But Miller is right. With our military engagements, a growing national debt and a new administration in Washington next year, change is inevitable.

Miller does not think the next round of job cuts can be accomplished through attrition alone. So he seeks approval for a plan that apparently will include a form of buyouts. That's a wise move to help preserve morale.

But there is an even bigger challenge ahead. Even in these times of cuts and instability, Miller said, the lab must continue to maintain and recruit the brightest talent to ensure a top-quality workforce.

The lab has been an attractive place to work in the past. New hires could be lured with promises of working on critical programs with leading-edge technical resources. And the lab was known for providing job security and excellent benefits.

It is good to see the lab moving forward with plans to fund raises for its workers and make employee benefits more competitive with those available elsewhere in the Bay Area. The lab is too critical to the nation and the East Bay's economy to allow it to slip into intellectual mediocrity.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

LLNL doesn't have a pet Dominici protecting their interests. LANL will not have their Dominici in FY'09, so both labs will be on equal footing next year for the next round of RIFs.

Anonymous said...

What a concept!!!

A newspaper that supports its local Lab.

Now, if they don't have contributions from a scientist wannabe like Chris Mechels, they've got the whole package.

Anybody see his comment on the faster-than-light story in SFNM yesterday he attributed to lab-generated hype?

This guy is beyond sad.

Sorry to branch off the subject, but this guy needs to get over getting RIF'd back in the 90's. "Retired," my ass.

Anonymous said...

RIFtired is my new word for people like Mechels. That and 'pathetic'.

Anonymous said...

"It is good to see the lab moving forward with plans to fund raises for its workers"
1 or 2% raises, A complete joke. Nice spin though.

"and make employee benefits more competitive with those available elsewhere in the Bay Area."
Never happen:
LLNS is not sharing profits. No chance.
Stock options? No chance.
Employee bonuses? No chance.
Free coffee? No chance.
Please at least keep our restrooms clean? No chance. We fired the janitors.

"The lab is too critical to the nation and the East Bay's economy to allow it to slip into intellectual mediocrity."
Too late.

Anonymous said...

"Even in these times of cuts and instability, Miller said, the lab must continue to maintain and recruit the brightest talent to ensure a top-quality workforce."

Program load... abort!

Non sequitur. Does not compute.
*** FATAL ERROR 99 ***

Anonymous said...

"The lab is too critical to the nation and the East Bay's economy to allow it to slip into intellectual mediocrity."

We are already well on our way to seeing this happen out here in La-La-LANL Land. The slope is beginning to steepen... downward.

Anonymous said...

9:11AM

Chris Mechels sounds so crazy that I doubt anyone takes him
seriously at this point. Let him rant all he wants, it is his right. I think people are smart enough to properly judge what he has to say.

Anonymous said...

Gotta love John Fleck's latest "Ginzu Knife" comments over at Nukebeat!

www.inkstain.net/nukebeat

---------------------------------
* But Wait, There’s More! *
---------------------------------

January 19th, 2008 | by John Fleck

The situation at Lawrence Livermore is beginning to sound like one of those awful informmercials: But wait, there’s more ! If you act now, in addition to your 500 layoffs, you also get 700 more!

*_*_*

"More job cuts are in store for Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. During a meeting Thursday, the lab’s director told employees he’s proposing as many as 700 layoffs this year."

*_*_*

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 1/21/08 9:11 AM has it correct.

Mechells is an idiot but the New Mexican reporters are dumber yet.

Anonymous said...

I've noticed that many of the homes that were pulled off the Los Alamos market are now up for sale again. It looks like people are eager to take advantage of the limited window of opportunity, post SSP, to dump their homes while they still can.

Good luck! If you price it right, you might have a chance of selling it. I would suggest taking the market peak price of 2005 and reducing it by at least 25% to get it unloaded. There might be some LANS managers who feel secure enough in their current jobs to take a chance and buy it. But, beware. By the time we enter into FY09, I think the local market could fall back down very hard.

Anonymous said...

"This wasn't what we expected when the University of California joined forces with San Francisco-based Bechtel Corp. to run the facility...."

Either the left coast folks have an unmatched sarcastic wit, or they didn't believe what people told them in Aiken, Oak Ridge, Miamisburg, Hanford, Amarillo, Kansas City , Los Alamos........

Anonymous said...

"Even in these times of cuts and instability, Miller said, the lab must continue to maintain and recruit the brightest talent to ensure a top-quality workforce."

Time to understand........LANL and LLNL are now for profit "BUSINESSES"!!!

As such, LANS and LLNS need to hire "BUSINESS" Managers to help run this new "BUSINESS".

Because LANL and LLNL have no "PRODUCT", non-business service employees are strictly a financial burden.

If you don't believe that ULM believes this, look at who has been hired since the transition, and look at who has been (and is about to be) let go!!!

Welcome to Corporate America!!!

Anonymous said...

"But there is an even bigger challenge ahead. Even in these times of cuts and instability, Miller said, the lab must continue to maintain and recruit the brightest talent to ensure a top-quality workforce."

This is not a challenge - just look to see how the top dogs at LANL have been hiring their friends and family like crazy. Many of these folks are unfunded mandates and it doesn't seem to matter.

Anonymous said...

"...to allow it to slip into intellectual mediocrity..."

I disagree with the Times. Congress has spoken. It wants mediocrity at LLNL.

Do cast pits work? Damned if I know.

Anonymous said...

"..allow it to slip into intellectual mediocrity..."

Many top people have left, or are on their way out.

Anonymous said...

"Even in these times of cuts and instability, Miller said, the lab must continue to maintain and recruit the brightest talent to ensure a top-quality workforce."

Are you kidding me? Both LANS and LLNS would love to see much higher than normal attrition rates both this year and next so they don't have to RIF so many employees and pay out severance. They'll be using low morale and low pay raises to help move things along.

Anonymous said...

I wonder what this huge, ugly drop in the worldwide stock markets is doing to our TCP1 assets? I'm feeling a lot of pain just watching the worth of my 401k/403b take a big drop over this last month. The markets seem poised for another enormous drop on Tuesday's open. Ouch!

Anonymous said...

"They'll be using low morale and low pay raises to help move things along."

Sometime last year Anastasio was quoted using the term "managed attrition". This is exactly what it's all about - and it seems to be working at LANL and now at LLNL.

Anonymous said...

Don't worry about the status of TCP1, 10:36 PM. Our pension has been invested by LANS using the same acumen they have demonstrated in running LANL.

It's safely and wisely invested into Pakistani bonds, Indonesian credit swaps, and Los Alamos real estate futures. We'll be just fine.

However, you may want to begin using those future 1% raises to start stashing some survival cash in your mattress, just in case.

Anonymous said...

LLNL is doing the same thing we did, at the same scale, in the same way.

So all of you that were crying for Miller to run LANL instead of Anastasio, do you still feel the same way?

Anonymous said...

Actually, its not at the same scale, we only get half of what LANL got for the VSIP.

Anonymous said...

since it only costs half as much to live near the Mesa, they need twice as much.

Kafka 2007

meantime those who didn't fuck up security, managed safety, and in general, accomplished the mission are punished with those who WHLee-d themselves. im glad im near retirement, this shit stinks.

Anonymous said...

1/22/08 11:46 PM, you just nailed how the entire LANL population has felt for the past 7 years. Welcome to our little hell.

Anonymous said...

"meantime those who didn't fuck up security, managed safety, and in general, accomplished the mission"

Absolute B.S. LLNL's security record is inferior to LANL's -- just not as publicized. What mission was accomplished? Ignition at NIF?