Jan 2, 2008

Energy lab looking at bright future

Maybe somebody should have told Udall that NREL was already out there before he shared his brainstorm of having Anastasio diversify LANL into alternate energy research. Although, technically speaking, there is still room for LANL to play around with little red glowing balls of Pu 238, I suppose. If NNSA approves. And a sponsor can be found. One who will pay really high FTE rates.

-Gus

$100 million cash windfall allows NREL to hire 100

Wednesday, January 2, 2008


The National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden is hiring 100 highly paid scientists and support staff - a reflection of the country's push to advance solar, wind and biomass technologies.

The new positions will be funded by a $100 million cash infusion into NREL six months ago after Congress approved a measure to increase the Energy Department's funds by $500 million in fiscal 2007. NREL employs about 1,000 people.

That midyear infusion, the highest in the lab's history, boosted its budget by 50 percent to $309.6 million last year.

It's a reversal of the budget cuts and layoffs the lab has suffered in the past few years.

"I can't believe it," said Tom Clark, executive vice president of Metro Denver Economic Development Corp., referring to NREL's hiring spree - the most the lab has seen in recent memory.

[...]

Full Story: http://www.rockymountainnews.com/news/2008/jan/02/energy-lab-looking-at-bright-future/

33 comments:

Anonymous said...

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what we call a reality bitch-slap. We could have been in NREL's position today, had we collectively been smart enough six or seven years ago to pursue that kind of work.

Anonymous said...

It has nothing to do with being "smart enough" to pursue this. You have to have a sponsor that will pay us to do it. NNSA won't. We are NNSA's bitch, here. Don't you get it? It has little to do with our own personal views of our manifest destiny.

Anonymous said...

Times are obviously pretty good at some of the other DOE labs in the US like NREL. Both SNL and PNNL are also riding out the budgetary storms with minimal damage.

The $100 million for NREL is just a warm up act. I would expect NREL to probably triple in size over the next 3 or 4 years. Boom times for sure in the Colorado Rockies!

Anonymous said...

I doubt NREL has anything like the management and support office bloat that exists at LANL. For each dollar spent at NREL, the taxpayer will probably receive about 80 cents of actual energy research.

After applying overhead and stealth taxation, that same dollar spent at LANL would only result in about 35 cents in research and even that would be bogged down by reams of paperwork and policies that hinder the researcher's efforts.

The effective amount of research that gets done at LANL is probably approaching around 25 cents for every dollar of funding. With LANS at the helm we should be able to drive that down to only 20 cents per dollar by early next year.

Anonymous said...

"Both SNL and PNNL are also riding out the budgetary storms with minimal damage. "

You're kidding, right? Or did you not notice that SNL in California is being tossed out of the fold, er, "Becoming a multi-agency lab". Whatever. NNSA doesn't want SNL/CA around any more. They flat out can't afford them.

Let me see, 100M at NREL gets 100 people. To my simple brain, that's a cost of $1M per person. What am I missing?

Anonymous said...

10:55 pm. "Let me see, 100M at NREL gets 100 people. To my simple brain, that's a cost of $1M per person. What am I missing?"

Probably infrastructure. All those people doing all that work require labs, equipment, supplies...

I wonder what the real charge out rate is at NREL. Anyone know?

In any case, what goes around comes around. When "defense" was the hot topic LANL's budget increased and NREL was RIFing people. Now that energy is a hot topic we get the opposite. Political winds change frequently.

Anonymous said...

Maybe those guys are smart enough not to spend every dime to bloat up the payroll like LANL did? Might allow using some of the funds for something else?

Anonymous said...

You should get your facts straight, 8:30. Six or seven years ago, there was no NNSA. Six or seven years ago, recruiting WFO at LANL was still possible. There was a period, clearly before your time, when LANL had a large solar energy group.

Had LANL management been as smart as Sandia's management was six or seven years ago, LANL would have been diversified by now, and today's NNSA budget cuts would not be as painful as they are about to be.

You, however, sound like you have the makings to become a LANL manager.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of the NNSA, their tag line has changed.

Set up by Congress in 2000, the NNSA describes itself as "a separately organized agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science."

The NNSA said it "maintains and enhances the safety, security, reliability and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; works to reduce global danger from weapons of mass destruction; provides the U.S. Navy with safe and effective nuclear propulsion; and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the United States and abroad."


Before it was "semi-autonomous" and now it is "separately organized". Why the change?

Anonymous said...

And speaking of bright futures, has anybody heard when the other shoe is going to drop regarding the 300+ involuntary RIFs?

Broosterb1 said...

Need I remind all of you fine people about a massive change in direction caused by 19 idiots flying planes into buildings? I've been in and around the folks at LANL for just abut 20 years, and the recent (sic 2 years)changes of focus is fairly mind blowing.

I remeber when: I knew everyone in HR by their first name. Now locked behind key card doors, I can't get any information whatsoever.

I remeber when: High Speed computer modaling could be done on lab computers for such things as ocean temp up welling, Geothermal utliazation et al; anything of that nature going on now? I doubt it.

I remeber when: I took a tour of the DART facility AS IT WAS CONSTRUCTED by the then construction foreman. Think I could get with in a mile of the place now?

My Dad worked with a lot of the original guys from Manhattan and the AEC, the changes you discribe in work environment remind me of what he used to talk about. The more things change, the more they stay the same......

Anonymous said...

100 mil, so thats where the Fermi lab money went!

Anonymous said...

Perhaps that $100 million for NREL can be used over several years. I highly doubt that staff at NREL cost $1 million per year or even $450 K per year. Those types of astronomical labor rates are a LANL exclusive.

Anonymous said...

Elimination of RRW, scaling up of pit-production for a reduced stockpile, scaling down of other basic science underlying national security projects, and corporate downsizing. How is that related to the idiots in the airplanes? The only real changes I saw around the lab were buildings previously unlocked were (*gasp*) locked, and a bit more physical security was put in place - although little more than you'd find at other labs, such as the rather innocuous Argonne lab.

Try again buddy -- while tempting to beat the patriotic drum and try to correlate everything since 2001 with that day, it just makes you sound silly.

Anonymous said...

"It has nothing to do with being "smart enough" to pursue this. You have to have a sponsor that will pay us to do it. NNSA won't. We are NNSA's bitch, here."

Bullshit. We had an awsome chance to get big Genomes to Life money here for energy research, and the Unkifers, Tony Redondo and Gary Resnick screwed it up hugely. Can you say utter lack of vision and stove pipe pollitics? Not to mention the writing skills of a 10 year old. And of course, nobody but the little guys on the bottom, now getting RIFed, have suffered any consequences. This is the never ending story of politics over serious science at LANL. We need to clean out the politicians and get real leadership and vision in. Out with the yes men, in with those that can think and write. Good god, just look at Redondo's publication record. What an embarasment. How did he get hired? NNSA is not the problem. LANL putting up with substandard management is the problem.

Anonymous said...

I understand that Gary Resnick's ineptness as a program manager was one of the many reasons that the TRANSIMS/EpiSims team left LANL en mass in 2004/2005 (taking their work and most of their funding with them).

Broosterb1 said...

I was not and am not trying to beat any drum patriotic or other wise, only pointing out that the powers that be got there due to some pretty big outside factors.


"The only real changes I saw around the lab were buildings previously unlocked were (*gasp*) locked, and a bit more physical security was put in place - although little more than you'd find at other labs, such as the rather innocuous Argonne lab."

Closing major access roads, cutting off out side inquirey as to HR benefits, locking up the informational (sic non-secure) web site to only user id and password protected users are not what I call cosmetic security changes.
Are some doors locked now the were not under previous incarnations of management? Yup.

Do they need to be? I don't know.

I do know that the campus now feels more like Sandia or worse Pantex, then the more open place Los Alamos used to be.

"And of course, nobody but the little guys on the bottom, now getting RIFed, have suffered any consequences. This is the never ending story of politics over serious science at LANL. We need to clean out the politicians and get real leadership and vision in."

From my information the guys about to be RIF -ed are 53-60, making 95 - 130K with 20 plus years of service.. hardly little guys, maybe not the top level management but not the guy sweeping the floor or emptying the trash.

As Shakespeare said "everything is politics", somewhere after the above mention date (which nobody wants to talk about) the Admin of LANL bet the farm on RRW et al, and not on the things that only 10 years ago were making LANL a true scientific world center. It was those decisions that are comming home to roost. Tis a real pity.

Oh and by the way, lest you think I am an uninformed buffoon, my grandfather worked both with Manhattan and later with Rickover on Shipingport. My Godfather worked on Timberwolf and Kiwi. All of which (with the exception of Manhattan) were attempts to use nuke power for peaceful purposes and not making parts for virtual swords. Give me a break.

Anonymous said...

"From my information the guys about to be RIF -ed are 53-60, making 95 - 130K with 20 plus years of service.. hardly little guys, maybe not the top level management but not the guy sweeping the floor or emptying the trash."

Certainly stretching the limits of credibility with this statement.

Maybe you are talking about the voluntary SSP?

Broosterb1 said...

"
Certainly stretching the limits of credibility with this statement.

Maybe you are talking about the voluntary SSP?"

My Godfather retired from LANL in 1987, an in one form or another I have been working with LANL guys ever since. I watched as people went through (are you ready) Vrip 2 (the best of them 5 X 5 enhancement on UCRP), VRip 3 (3 X 3, the RIF in '95 and 96. I have also worked with guys shortly before the "take over" in 2006. Through out this, the target is always the same; age 53-60 with 20 + years. The reasoning goes like this... these guys are amoung the higher paid and by reducing these we can transfer them to UCRS budget and not the Lab's. In the "old" days a lot of these guys simply became contractors and never missed a beat.

The numbers also bear this out. The target for the Rif is $90,000,000 in payroll. Himself has said that this would mean about 750 force reduction. This means the target payroll amount is $120,000. Look around who fits this critera? The security dude? The mech tech? Nope, nor is it the Admin guy making 200G's, it's Norman the guy who's a decent scientist, but not so hot administrator, who would rather be doing science, but because the Peter Principleness of the labs is doing something different.

Oh and by the way, the savings by RIFing a $120,000 employee really comes in at $150 - $160K when all is said and done (Count 403b, Health, dental, life, disability, sickpay, severence reserve et al). So if they get the total 750 (and they will) the total is closer to 112 to 120 mil.

And another thing, said "Himself" We need to reduce personel as we have not had the same amount of retirement this year as we have historically had in previous years...

Those who forget their history are condemed to repeat it.

Anonymous said...

6:35 PM

Congratulations, you qualify to be a LANS upper manager. Stunning logic, just stunning. I bet you could debate yourself and simultaneously both win and lose.

$90M / 750 is $120,000. But as you point out, that includes all related payroll expense, about 30% of the total. So the AVERAGE base salary is 120/1.3 = $92K. So is it that 750 people that make EXACTLY $92K are targeted? Or could it be 375 people that make 120K (base salary) and another 375 that make 64.6K base salary? Why that's the same average!

Or could it possibly be that a whole range of salaries are targeted from the lowest to the (non-LANS manager) highest? And the average base salary is about $92K? My bet is on the latter.

Anonymous said...

Hey, 756..0830 here. I've been here over 20 years. Strike one.

NNSA has not been around that long, but they are our current sponsor. How long they have been around is irrelevant. Strike two.

DOE has been evolving for years, and have been narrowing the mission at the weapons labs for some time. I have been deeply involved in program reviews with Riess and Beckner, both, when they were raising flags about WFO work using facilities for free on the NWP dime. THis has been brewing for a long time and now we are living it. Strike three.

Try getting your own facts straight before you shoot your mouth off.

BroosterB1 said...

Oh thank you so very much, I am so extremly flattered, I knew I could make it if I just really tried! Oh Toto there is no place like home!

Do you really think at any RIF is merit based? That the powers that be really care if they keep the best and the brightest? Ah come on, you know (or should know)that is never the case. RIF's always target the guys (and gals sorry) whose departure will maximize the bottom line, minimize political discord from the party line and who are not seen as "team" players. Time after time I've seen the same folks lined up, and not just at LANL.

The targets of all corporate "realinements" are always the same "middle management" age 53-60 ect. Except in the corporate world the take over is preceeded by the statement "You have nothing to worry about, nothing is going to change". Yah right.

If you want to believe that management is going to spread the RIF across the work force evenly and equitibly at all paygrades and levels of service, well take the ruby slippers and just remember there is no place like home, there is no place like home, there is no place like home......

Anonymous said...

"You have nothing to worry about, nothing is going to change"

I remember that's what the message was to LLNL employees when some LANL (LANS) managers came to a panel discussion at Livermore on how the contract change to the LLC was virtually transparent to the average employee. They sure did try to pull the wool over our eyes! Or maybe, just maybe, it was part of the ploy to convince workers they had nothing to lose - all things being "substantially equivalent, in the aggregate".

BTW, it's amazing how that often that catchy phrase is heard while navigating the hallways at LLNL.

Anonymous said...

Hey Munchkin,

The thing you are forgetting is severance pay. Most of the staff in the 53-60 year old range are owed so much severance pay that it would cost LANS more this year to lay them off than to keep them. LANS has to balance the budget this year and the only way to do that is to target youngsters for layoff. Well, and LANS is apparently trying to save money by not maintaining the toilets too.

Oh, and Livermore has already announced that their contract requires inverse seniority ordering within the job categories identified for staff reductions. Last in, first out. No big severance checks to pay.

Oh no! Your argument is melting... melting. Ohhhh, what a world, what a world.

Anonymous said...

To follow on from 11:52 AM ...
Gary Resnick's ineptness as a program manager was one of the many reasons that Mary Neu hired him. She is so incompetent that she hired only even more incompetent DLs for EES, B, and C divisions. But she has boobs and blonde hair so Mike A. and Terry W. are willing to overlook her many flaws.

BroosterB1 said...

Obi wan

"Hey Munchkin,

The thing you are forgetting is severance pay. Most of the staff in the 53-60 year old range are owed so much severance pay that it would cost LANS more this year to lay them off than to keep them. LANS has to balance the budget this year and the only way to do that is to target youngsters for layoff. Well, and LANS is apparently trying to save money by not maintaining the toilets too."

First of all no one has called me munchkin since my Godfather used to take me fishing up by Ojo Caliente.

Second the balancing act of wacking old wood is done by looking at the number of years of potentiel continued higher expense vs. the lower cost of the younger employee. If the total is greater than your base line, you keep the goat, put him/her in a corner counting fleas and slip them retirement seminar brochures. There are many ways to skin the cat, grasshopper.

As for the matinence of the loo, we are in a desert after all, we all need to do our part to conserve water.....

Anonymous said...

Issues regarding exactly who will be targeted for the upcoming RIFs are already occurring in some areas of LANL. Don't expect anyone in your management chain to discuss this with you. Budget problems are also being analyzed in the various divisions and groups. It's not a pretty picture in some divisions.

Lots of meetings are being held over the next few weeks at all levels of the management chain to prepare for the big changes that are coming our way. Don't worry, though, because the workers in the general staff will be the last to know about what is really going on.
LANS has threatened the management staff to keep their mouths shut or else. Mushroom management is getting stronger at LANL.

Anonymous said...

‘You’re fired!’ now often comes from strangers - MSNBC

Growing number of bosses hiring outsiders to usher out unwanted workers

www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22133113/

By Max Chafkin
Inc.com
updated 8:56 a.m. MT, Fri., Jan. 4, 2008

Several months ago, Rebecca Heyman oversaw the firing of 20 software engineers whose jobs were being moved to China. She met with the erstwhile employees, described their severance, helped them gather their personal effects, and politely ushered them out of the building. On the surface it sounds like a typical downsizing — hardly uncommon in an era of offshoring and mergers and acquisitions. What made this situation somewhat odd, however, is that prior to the fateful day, Heyman had never met these workers.

That's because she's a consultant with TriNet, a Bay Area firm that serves as a de facto human resources department for some 1,500 small companies. Although the bulk of Heyman's firing work consists of helping companies structure severance and document information in order to limit their legal liability, she often goes further, coaching managers on how to steel themselves, and, in some circumstances, firing employees herself. "I work with some folks who have never fired someone before," says Heyman, who at 31 is one of TriNet's younger consultants. "They look to me to pull the trigger."

Welcome to the final frontier of human resources: the outsourced termination. The popularity of HR outsourcing and consulting, which was in its infancy only a decade ago, has exploded in recent years. Worldwide, the industry now accounts for $88.7 billion in spending, according to IDC, a research firm in Framingham, Massachusetts.

Anonymous said...

Campus???

Dude, go back to California.

Anonymous said...

"
Anonymous said...
Campus???

Dude, go back to California.

1/5/08 7:39 AM"

F-off, go back to Alabama dude.

Hey idiot you know how many people from LANL lived in California at some point? You know the place with
Cal-Tech, UCB, UCLA, UCSD and Stanford. I know that Auburn and Utah State are great but just STFU and go away.

Anonymous said...

Am I supposed to be impressed with this list of schools????

I work at a national lab not a school.

Maybe a drug test and polygraph will open your eyes!!

Anonymous said...

"Am I supposed to be impressed with this list of schools????

I work at a national lab not a school.

Maybe a drug test and polygraph will open your eyes!!

1/5/08 7:19 PM"

A polygraph test? Oh God, you know the polygraph test has really been asset to spies all over the US. And yes you are supposed to be impressed with that list of schools. Without those schools and others like them there would not be a LANL for you to work at.

BroosterB1 said...

"Am I supposed to be impressed with this list of schools????

I work at a national lab not a school.

Maybe a drug test and polygraph will open your eyes!!"

Children, children...the term campus was not one that I coined. It was used all through my formative years in LA, as a way to soften the fact that LANL's job was to make rocks jump off the ground. Over time as the lab shifted to more mundane concerns (human genome, tetra flop computing et al) it gave the place a chache', one of academic rather than the basier DOD mission. Of course there were certain of us, like my Godfather, who liked making rocks jump off the ground (his words, not mine)and thought his highest and best asperation was to make the rocks jump higher off the ground than the other guys...

"they who forget their history, are condemed to repeat it"