Mar 16, 2008

Fellows Perspective on the
Search for the Laboratory Director

The Los Alamos National Laboratory Fellows

April 3, 1997

The future of the Los Alamos National Laboratory at the end of the Cold War is tied to a new central mission of reducing the global nuclear danger, which includes maintaining a safe and reliable nuclear-weapons stockpile as a continuing nuclear deterrent. This primary mission provides a common focus and also requires that the Laboratory support a number of broadly-based programs that strengthen our basic competencies and advance science and technology in service of the country. A new science-based approach to stockpile stewardship is the main program through which the laboratory fulfills its responsibility to provide proper management of the nuclear-weapons stockpile. Other principal components of the mission include non-proliferation activities and cleanup resulting from the legacy of the nuclear-weapons production from the Cold War. It is important to recognize the central role of science at the Laboratory in carrying out its primary mission. Science has become even more important now in maintaining the nations nuclear deterrent due to the cessation of nuclear testing. The new mission, together with the present economic forces in the country, has placed the Laboratory in the midst of a period of greater change than at any time since its founding. The resulting challenges placed on the Laboratory require a Director who possesses integrity, vision, and leadership to effectively carry out the Laboratorys mission. We believe that the new director must fulfill several important roles:

1) The Director must be a strong advocate for the full range of science carried out at the Laboratory, and must be an active proponent of adequate funding for research.

2) The Director must work vigorously to obtain the funding to improve the physical facilities, infrastructure, and capabilities within the Laboratory, which are required to maintain the scientific productivity at a world-class level.

3) The Director must lead the effort to ensure that all activities are designed to protect the employees, the public, and the environment, while continuing to improve the cost-effectiveness required to carry out the overall mission.

4) The Director must possess a number of personal qualities.

The Director must have a considerable reputation in science and technology, based on a record of leadership and accomplishment in these areas.

As the critical person responsible for annually certifying to the President the safety and reliability of nuclear weapons without nuclear testing, the Director must be fully qualified to provide sound scientific and technical judgment concerning the effectiveness of the stockpile and of the core mission of the Laboratory.

The Director must set a high standard of personal integrity, particularly when certifying the reliability of the stockpile.

In recognition of today's increased public participation, the Director must be an effective communicator and must be willing and able to work openly, honestly, and productively with the DOE, Congress, the University of California, the New Mexico Congressional delegation, local communities, and within the Laboratory.

The culture of the Los Alamos National Laboratory was established during the Manhattan Project; it is a tradition that places more emphasis on the role of science and research than the other weapons laboratories. The research carried out at the Laboratory provides a base from which the nation can sustain its world leadership in the military, economic, and scientific arenas. We must continue the tradition of having a Director with an enlightened view of the importance of research, and the scientific excellence and integrity of the Laboratory must be maintained as a first priority.

The Los Alamos National Laboratory is made up of a large interdisciplinary work force that benefits from unique facilities such as the neutron facility LANSCE, the plutonium facility, and DAHRT. Outstanding capabilities also exist in other areas related to the Laboratory's central mission, including advanced computing and space technologies. Facilities and capabilities such as these provide the foundations necessary to carry out a broad-based program of science at the Laboratory. We believe that the Laboratory must continue to develop and enhance these unique facilities in such core areas as neutron, plutonium, and advanced computational sciences. Thus, the Director must have an understanding of the importance of maintaining selected scientific capabilities of the Laboratory at a world-class level.

Funding for science in the United States has suffered substantial reductions during the last five years. It is a generally held view that basic research accounts for as much as 50 percent of the nation's economic growth. The Laboratory is working to provide higher return on the nation's investment in many ways, including its efforts to stimulate industrial partnerships. Maintaining world-class facilities and reasonable funding levels for research are the keys to sustaining the intellectual environment that attracts and retains the best people. The new Director must be willing and able to work effectively in obtaining the resources required to assure a strong future for the Laboratory and the country. We believe that for continued vitality of the Laboratory, the Director must recognize and take the lead in developing new scientific and technical opportunities.

In recent years, the Laboratory has increased the emphasis that is placed on safe, reliable, and cost-effective operations. This change is essential as the Laboratory carries out its mission. However, the level of effort required for accountability must be balanced against the necessity of making effective use of the tax payers' investment. The new Director must lead the effort to ensure that operations at the Laboratory protect the employees, the public, and the environment, in a reasonable and cost-effective manner, while simultaneously maintaining our scientific capabilities at the highest level.

Finally, to enable the Laboratory to continue to attract the best people, there are a number of important local issues, such as health care, education, and regional economic development that the new Director must address. The Director must bridge the economic gap, the educational gap, and the cultural gap in Northern New Mexico. The Director must be active concerning these issues, which affect not only all the employees at the Laboratory, but also the citizens in the neighboring communities.

In our view, the Director's job is more challenging now than at any time during the past 50 years. We do not believe that the new Director must necessarily come from the weapons field, but he or she must be fully qualified to exercise sound scientific and technical judgment about the effectiveness of the stockpile and the core programs associated with the primary Laboratory mission of reducing the global nuclear danger. This most important quality of scientific judgment means knowing when to rely on the expertise of others, and when to think independently. The Fellows firmly believe that the necessary scientific judgment at the Director's level requires someone with a significant record of technical accomplishment. It is important that the selection process be as broad as possible to obtain the best possible candidate pool. We believe the future health of the Laboratory and, to an appreciable extent, the technical vitality of the nation are dependent on obtaining the strongest Director possible who possesses the attributes and qualifications we have listed.

Los Alamos National Laboratory Fellows Organization

The LANL Fellows are certain Technical Staff Members who have been appointed by the Director to the rank of Fellow in recognition of sustained outstanding contributions and exceptional promise for continued professional achievement. The Fellows are limited to 2 percent of the technical staff, who, by charter, may not be members of the Laboratory management. The Fellows advise the management on technical issues of importance to the Laboratory. To promote technical achievements the Fellows organize symposia and have established the LANL Fellows Prize to recognize and reward outstanding research accomplishments of staff members. The Fellows share a deep commitment and concern about the future of the Laboratory. Thus, the Fellows formulate, from time to time, statements concerning issues that can have a large impact on the scientific health of the Laboratory; the selection of the new Director is such an issue. In presenting this paper, we have attempted to reflect accurately the primary attributes that the majority of the Fellows would like to see in the new Director.


Anonymous said...

The Fellows have become nothing more than a mutual admiration society at LANL. What they have to say has no real impact on the lab any longer. What they said back in '97 is ancient history.

LANL is now run by a "for-profit" LLC called LANS who are here mainly for the money they can shovel back to Bechtel and BWXT. 'Nuff said.

Anonymous said...

What is the point of this post now, one year later?? Who didn't read this one year ago, and who doesn't realize it is completely OBE? Just another attempt at fanning the flames of LANL-hate. Who requested this post be made?? Just completely uncessarily inflamatory. Shame on you. Pinky has now openly declared his hatred of LANL. Good riddance. This blog is now dead, irrelevant, asinine, marginalized, and just plain stupid. I had hoped that there would be some (if small) continued usefulness, but that is now gone. Again, good riddance, assholes. Flame all you want, I won't be here. Have a nice life, although I doubt it.

Pinky and The Brain said...

What is OBE, and would you come back if I told you the post was actually eleven years old?

Anonymous said...

OBE= Out-of-body experience, e.g. "near death."

(I am not 3/16/08 11:33 PM.)

Anonymous said...

A number of things:
First, the Fellows are indeed a non-entity. They serve no useful purpose. Since they stopped serving wine at the meetings, attendance has dwindled.

Second, indeed, why post this now.

Anonymous said...

OBE= Overcome By Events

just my quess :)

Anonymous said...

So, Mikey didn't get this memo eh?

Anonymous said...

Overtaken by events. (DOE people love this phrase).

Anonymous said...

OBE = overtaken by events. Often written OTBE.

Anonymous said...

PS - I am not 11:33 either.

Anonymous said...

One of the leading reasons that the new P-R Firm was hired: To help mitigate the up-coming 'reduction',cuts,downsizing,that is coming. The 20% figure is only a starting point, the real numbers are yet to come. The golden handcuffs are now extending to handcuffing your home.

Pinky and The Brain said...

"Second, indeed, why post this now."

I found this late last night while searching the LANL website for the correct spelling of "DARHT".

In light of all the grumbling about Anastasio, and I'll come right out and say he's not doing a good job, I thought the Fellows' perspective might spur discussion.

Is the kind of laboratory director they described still the kind we need? If not, what has changed? And finally, what should the current director try to change about himself?

Anonymous said...

Pinky, I think this is a great posting,and all those who rail against it are the same ones who never wanted to take any history courses in high school or college.

LANL never had a director as was described in the opening paragraphs. Instead LANL virtually continued down the same path. Slamming the LANL Fellows rather than commenting on their perception almost 11 years ago is an example of how poorly blogs are used for real conversation about real problems and shows the caliber of many people who comment on postings.

Anonymous said...

This was self serving BS intended to impress. Obviously nobody was impressed.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I'm sure Mikey is doing a lot of soul searching right now. Maybe he's planning a spiritual retreat back to CA.

I think 3/16/08 10:42 PM had it right.

Anonymous said...

The Lab Fellows have always been something of a mutual admiration society; of course, they also tend toward being pretty smart people, so maybe some of that admiration is warranted.

Unless I'm mistaken, this was written for the search that resulted in John Browne's appointment as Director. He, of course, stepped down after a few years in response to the Wen Ho Lee firestorm and related incidents.

But he also, as far as I can tell, was the last LANL Director to even come close to those attributes the Fellows were endorsing. It seems to have been downhill ever since, and you have to wonder how much farther down there is to go before bottom finally gets hit.

Anonymous said...

"This blog is now dead, irrelevant, asinine, marginalized, and just plain stupid." (11:33 AM)

And, yet... you come back here each and every day to read it and rant and rave.

Interesting, no?

Anonymous said...

I'd be willing to give up the part about scientific credibility and reputation, for a director who would stop letting stupid shit get implemented (Concur, DPR, pretty much everything that occurs at the White Rock training center...)

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 3/17/08 11:17 AM has it correct about John Browne. He was a decent director. If he had faults they were making bad appointments and sticking with them too long.

He did not really resign. He was fired.

Anonymous said...

As Seen at

Amul Muzz said:
Why do I get the feeling that this is really a mob, just waiting for someone to say something they do not agree with?
chrismjr said:
That's the best description for the internet I've ever heard

Anonymous said...

What is the point of this anachronism? This is irrelevant old news. It was irrelevant back in 1997 too, but no one knew it at the time. It certainly is today. The Fellows are even more irrelevant today than at any time in the past. Honestly, who gives a damn about these silly academic histrionics?

Anonymous said...

I'd say this blog is terrific and right on point. Now that Santa Fe and the state of New Mexico have joined the many here in biting the hand that feeds them (LANL), it is just a matter of time . . .

Anonymous said...

"Now that Santa Fe and the state of New Mexico have joined the many here in biting the hand that feeds them (LANL)..."

Your the hand that feeds them. ROFLOL.

Anonymous said...

Well let's see 3/17/08 10:14 PM, let's take $2 billion out of the state, along with ~6,000+ highly skilled jobs eliminated, then estimate the number of other jobs (retail, fast food, etc,) affected by the loss - from a state with a current 20% poverty rate and a state average earnings per job rate of only $37K per year. I'm sure you'll still be ROFLOL.

Anonymous said...

(A novel proposal for the future M&O contract of:

(1) LANL: Lockheed Martin.
(2) LLNL: Boeing.
(3) SNL: Northrop Grumman.

I´m fully aware today (March 2008) that this is highly theoretical, but it could in the future better integrate DoD, DOE, and DHS, and to better address specific National Security Interests in the forthcoming time of post Cold War, post 9/11.

The "Fellow paper" was put up in the search for the new director after Sig Hecker when he stepped down after (1986-1997) as director, and he was actually asked to continue as director, but after Hecker came John Browne as director (1997-2003), and then I think 99% knows what happened next, I couldn´t predict it though.

The "Fellow paper" should be understood as a motto for any selected director to follow, I agree in the motto.

And finally; from the;

"Robert Morley Columnist

U.S. Military Outsourcing: Shooting America in the Foot

March 11, 2008, From the

The U.S. Air Force´s decision to award a huge military contract to EADS highlights a disturbing trend: exalting free-market ideology over military self-sufficiency and national security.

In a stunning decision, the U.S. Air Force has just awarded its biggest-ever military order to a foreign supplier. The $40 billion deal, conferred to a partnership led by the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co. (EADS), was a blow to U.S.-based rival Boeing, which was the odds-on favorite to win. More importantly, this contract to supply the military with new airborne refueling tankers confirms what analysts have called a ´major shift´in U.S. procurement policy."


Conclusion: Outsourcing is not a path for DOE/NNSA to follow, it´s a short-sighted perspective.)

Anonymous said...

So let me get this straight, 11:29.

Good things such as jobs and economic benefits are credited to LANL.

Bad things such as a lack of environmental stewardship (from several posts last week) are caused by DOE/NNSA/Congress.

Anonymous said...

Why does Anastasio seem to go into hibernation mode so often? He is rarely seen or heard by the staff. What is he doing with his time?

Anonymous said...

"Bad things such as a lack of environmental stewardship (from several posts last week) are caused by DOE/NNSA/Congress."

Shutting down the lab isn't going to provide any incentive to the feds or anyone else to fix existing or legacy problems. Shutting down the lab and having the state experience all of the related financial effects isn't going to improve anything either. There are other avenues to drive improvement, but hanging the lab out to dry just doesn't make sense. Still not ROFLOL.

Anonymous said...

What does Mikey and "Slick" Wille Gibbs do? Any one have any idea?