Jan 17, 2008
The Lawrence Livermore lab will likely face more layoffs as it confronts a tighter federal budget, increased expenses and a push to streamline the country's nuclear weapons complex.
Lab director George Miller told employees at an all-hands meeting Thursday morning that he's proposing a workforce reduction plan that could bring as many as 700 more layoffs by the end of the year. The plan, submitted to the National Nuclear Security Administration for approval, would begin with voluntary buyouts, he said.
About 500 workers have already left in a round of layoffs announced in November and executed this month, slimming the total workforce to about 7,300 full-time employees.
"There is approximately another 10 percent we would like to leave the lab," Miller said.
This month's layoffs came from among 2,000 temporary employees and support workers. Future cuts will likely include some of the core scientific and engineering staff.
Though he has requested a voluntary separation program, Miller said more involuntary layoffs would probably be needed.
Lab workers did receive some good news from Miller, who said he had decided to give all employees their annual raises, which had been frozen indefinitely.
He also scored a small victory for employee benefits by getting the NNSA to approve a new list of comparison companies to match benefits with that better represent Bay Area competition. The lab's new contract, which began in October, requires lab benefits to be 105 percent of the going rate among companies.
"I learned a long time ago that even in the midst of budget difficulties and workforce restructuring, it's essential to continue to recruit and retain an exceptional workforce," he said. "That's really hard in the Bay Area. There is a demand for top talent, the cost of living is high, salaries and benefits are very competitive."
The rest of his address focused on how the lab can stay relevant in a changing world and at the same time bring operating costs down
"We are going to be a cost-effective, very efficient lab so that we make the best use of the taxpayers' money," he said.
Miller's plan includes reassessing how the lab handles information technology, though he discredited a rumor that the work would be outsourced. He is also appointing a group of managers to work on increasing efficiency and evaluate nearly 300 suggestions received from employees.
Despite a federal budget that is $100 million less than last year's, Miller said he managed to carve out $10 million to fund work on streamlining the business side of the lab.
Another $10 million will be spent on research he thinks will help position the lab for the future, such as countermeasures for asymmetric warfare, research on climate change and potential mitigation and nuclear energy.
"These are all critical areas of importance to the country, and the state and the globe and to the future of this laboratory," he said.
A big chunk of the federal cuts are coming from a program to design a nuclear warhead to replace aging weapons in the stockpile, a decision Miller called disappointing.
However, the budget includes new money for certifying the old weapons.
Betsy Mason covers science and the national laboratories. Reach her at 925-952-5026 or email@example.com.