Jan 19, 2008

Our view: An Undisclosed Evaluation

LA Monitor Editorial Board

The news that the National Nuclear Security Administration has evaluated Los Alamos National Laboratory’s performance for last year and settled its accounts with Los Alamos National Security, LLC, under the cover of secrecy is disturbing.

Some may be suspicious that the federal government has let its problem-prone creation too easily off the hook for the management partnership’s first 18 months of what has been, to say the least, a rocky road.

Others may believe Washington has once again made a scapegoat of one of its most visible and iconic national jewels.

And there are plenty of signs that NNSA’s own issues may be to blame for a good portion of LANL’s shortcomings.

A current special report by the Inspector General of the Department Energy on the department’s management challenges notes a particularly alarming discrepancy along this line.

“Our review found that while the dollar value and complexity of department contracts has increased in recent years, the overall number of acquisition officials has essentially remained constant,” the IG wrote in the document released last month. “Looking at this issue from another perspective, in 2006, contract specialists accounted for 2.9 percent of the Department’s workforce, but were responsible for important aspects of 90 percent of the Department’s acquisition workforce.”

To what extent, therefore, were safety and security demerits blamed on the laboratory really traceable to Washington? How do we know, without a full discussion with detailed comments and explanations of this and many other matters, that this review has been handled properly?

Furthermore, what are we to make of the fact that laboratory managers have been given a grade of 71 percent, which we take to be a very weak C average. Given, what the director said were high marks for the core mission nuclear weapons work, there must be a few Fs and Ds in there to arrive at a C.

Despite that, and despite many other problems for which a responsible official or system is not to be found or designated, the lab’s private managers have pulled down a nearly $60 million profit. And there is no guarantee that this will not go on for another 20 years.

Certainly, from a community perspective, LANS and NNSA can both be faulted for the “discovery” after the contract award that they were hundreds of millions of dollars short in running the laboratory and that the management efficiencies that were announced at the beginning contained too much of dumping jobs and laying off employees.

Many realized only after the laboratory’s highly publicized meltdowns in recent years the deep-seated problems went completely unnoticed in evaluations at the time. Those evaluations were laughed at as political and expedient, but the outcome resulted in a competition for the contract.

The current evaluation, assigning the managers profit for a C performance that seems to come under conditions of near zero accountability, makes us wonder if anything has been learned at all.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

LANS to Los Alamos County... F*CK OFF!!!

We could care less what you think about all this new corporate secrecy.

Anonymous said...

What did the good residents of Los Alamos think was going to happen once they heard that LANL was being turned over to corporations like Bechtel and BWXT?

Get a clue, people. The LANL you think you once "owned" doesn't exist any more. Bechtel and BWXT now own YOU! Got it?

Anonymous said...

Better watch out, Los Alamos Vomiter. Big, multi-national corporations like Bechtel don't take kindly to 'local yokels' asking too many nosy questions. Bechtel could easily decide to use a surrogate to buy-out the Monitor and shut it down. It wouldn't cost them very much to swat a small fly like this one.

I would suggest the Monitor learn the lesson from the LANL staff and shut their traps. Perhaps they should start running more stories about Sunday ice cream socials, that is, if they know what's good for them.

Capice?

Anonymous said...

Good job LA Monitor. You have them squealing like stuck pigs. Don't give up on this story, you're obviously on the right track.

Helga Gauss said...

Actually, now that you mention it, Landmark Communications , which owns the Monitor, is for sale .

Anonymous said...

I think the price just went up.

Anonymous said...

who the heck wants their grades public? or their business practices? the details of any contractor evaluation is always proprietary. I've been part of 3 or 4 contractor evaluations, we never give out the details. it is just not done.

Anonymous said...

Kudos to the Los Alamos Monitor. Let's encourage other New Mexico and California newspapers to join in and voice the need to make DOE/NNSA accountable for mismanagement of the Nation's National Laboratories.

Anonymous said...

everything in Los Alamos is for sale.... wanna buy the BLUE WINDOW???

Anonymous said...

Interesting tid-bit ... two of the "F's" were due to the facts that the ADs don't get along and that none of the systems that have been put in place actually work. This explains why Mikey doesn't want to hear about anything that doesn't work ... bad news means lower award fee.

Anonymous said...

So is he going to fix it or will this be a surprise again next year?

Anonymous said...

wanna buy the BLUE WINDOW???


Is it up for sale too??

Anonymous said...

9:58 PM asked "So is he going to fix it or will this be a surprise again next year?"

Puh-lease. The guy is leaving after his two years are up. What do you think?

Anonymous said...

A train wreck in slow motion comes to mind.

Anonymous said...

From LANL: The Real Story, Wednesday, June 22, 2005, Robinson wants to Rejuvenate LANL, by Adam Rankin, Journal Staff Writer [ABQ Journal, June 22, 2005]:

"If he were director, C. Paul Robinson would seek to rejunevate Los Alamos National Laboratory´s research programs, reconnecting them to advances in science and technology across the nation.

The head of Lockheed Martin and University of Texas team [Los Alamos Alliance] vying for the future management of LANL, Robinson said the team is more than halfway through developing its proposal to manage the lab in a more streamlined and efficient way.

´We have a plan [June 22, 2005] and we´ve analyzed what the most serios problems are, and how we´d go about solving them,´said Robinson, the former president of Sandia National Laboratories [1995-2005], which is managed by Lockheed.

/---/

Asked what he perceived were the most serios problems facing LANL, including a labwide shutdown last summer [July 2004-January 2005] that cost at least $100 Million [other estimates: $300-360 Million, bad reputation, still at play], Robinson said he believs a lack of ownership for the lab´s future topped his list.

´It is just very difficult to find people taking ownership for the future of the institution,´he said. ´There has not been a cohesive force trying to intergrate the laboratory for some time.´

Having spent the first 18 years [1967-1985] of his career at LANL as a weapons physicist, Robinson said he understands some of the problems and concerns facing lab employees and their research.

He said that Lockheed, as manager of Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, has always put national interests before its corporate concerns and would do the same at LANL.

´This is all about the national interest,´Robinson said."

(# Posted by Doug Roberts: 6/22/2005 07:49 AM)

As of today, January 19, 2008, LANS, LLC, and DOE/NNSA realizes that LANL, would have been better of with Lockheed Martin/UT, e.g. Los Alamos Alliance. I agree.

Anonymous said...

blah, blah, blah, heard the same shit from Mike from Dec 2005 to June 1, 2006. Then ruh-roh ... he forgot how to speak...

Anonymous said...

LockMart's C. Paul Robinson admitted during the RFP competition that he thought the Nanos shutdown was wrong. This man is courageous. He speaks with honesty.

Is it any wonder, then, that NNSA decided that even though the RFP competition was really, really close, they would decide to give it to a proven poor performer called LANS/UC?

This fruit called NNSA rots from deep within and with each and every day, it looks like the cowardly workers at LANL got the employer they so richly deserved.

I found it incredible that most of the staff celebrated when the RFP winner was announced and people felt happy because "UC won the contract!".

Best and brightest? I don't think so. Part of being the best and brightest means you have a modicum of common sense.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the Monitor's OpEd editor Ralph Damiani should be expecting to soon hear of an offer he can't refuse.

I'm sure the LANS PR department can make use of few more writers on their staff. That's what you call a "strategic hire" at LANL these days.

Anonymous said...

"I found it incredible that most of the staff celebrated when the RFP winner was announced and people felt happy because "UC won the contract!"."

You are wrong. MOST people were not happy. Only a few and many of them took the ssp. Dont insult the rest of us you anonymous little &%^$.

Anonymous said...

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

- Martin Luther King Jr. -

Anonymous said...

Yes the price just went up. Way up.

For those who don't know what's going on... stay tuned.

Anonymous said...

How about, just barely legal

Anonymous said...

11:58PM

LANS won over Lockmart because LANS UNDERBID Lockmart. Neither had any idea how to run Los Alamos. If either did, they wouldn't have bid on the contract. DOE set up the contract as a limited liability corporation with huge tax burdens, fees, and other costs that had to be taken out of the LANL operating budget. Same work load, same safety and security issues, but MUCH less funding to do the work and fix problems. LANS bid costs LANL $175 million per year off the top, Lockmart's bid would have taken over $185 million out of the LANL budget. And DOE had no plans to increase budget to defray these new costs.

DOE put the new LANL manager into a funding hole so deep that NO group of high-powered managers could climb out of it, let alone make safety and security improvements. The RFP as DOE wrote it was a clear no-bid, ALL bidders, including both LANS and Lockmart established their complete and total incompetence simply by bidding.

Anonymous said...

Let me see if I've got this correct.

We don't know the offers that LANS made to win the NNSA RFP competition because that's proprietary.

We don't know the salaries of LANS managers that made the offers that won the competition because that is, likewise, proprietary.

Finally, after secretly winning the RFP competition and secretly rewarding the LANS managers for doing so, we don't know the details on how well they performed for their NNSA profits because that, once again, is proprietary.

Proprietary doesn't mean that information can't be released. The party that is keeping all this information from the public is LANS.

The key question people should be asking is this -- Why does LANS feels the need to hide all of this information from the public? Trust is built up by the willingness of parties to release information. LANS has shown a tendency to release very little information about their contract, their pay, and their performance. Given this, how can the public trust LANS?

Anonymous said...

11:31 am: "Given this, how can the public trust LANS?"

On what planet does LANS need "public trust"? We've just seen how well LANS was compensated for royally screwing LANL, and Los Alamos. Just as NNSA wanted. It stopped being about science a long time ago, folks.

Anonymous said...

By my estimate, an extra $30-40M per year is wasted by having so many additional managers at all levels, brought in by LANS, and by splitting successful groups, divisions and directorates. This was not "predicted" or "expected" by the NNSA bean counters.

For example, we have AD's reviewing travel requests, a group-leaders' job! Every little issue is now decided at that level! What a self inflicted waste!!!

Mike said...

1/20/08 1:18 PM, As I have explained to you ad nauseum, the reason I have AD's approving travel is because group leaders can't be trusted! For example, one year we sent 140 people to the same conference! I can't tell you which conference that was, and I can't tell you whether 140 is too few or too many. I can't even tell you whether this was a twice/year conference typical of some major professional societies, nor can I tell you whether the overall attendance at said conference was 300 or 30,000.

All I know is, 140 people sounds wrong to me. So I'm having the AD's approve travel, to ensure that only their friends and family are allowed to travel. If that's not enough disincentive, I'll make sure you can't get your expenses reimbursed.

Anonymous said...

...sounds like Lockmart is the winner....