Jun 3, 2008

Layoffs at nuke lab stir fears of a brain drain

By SCOTT LINDLAW

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The nation's top nuclear weapons design lab has laid off hundreds of workers, raising concerns about a brain drain and stirring fears that some of these highly specialized scientists will sell their expertise to foreign governments, perhaps hostile ones.

Because of budget cuts and higher costs, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory laid off 440 employees May 22 and 23. Over the past 2 1/2 years, attrition and layoffs have reduced the work force of 8,000 by about 1,800 altogether.

According to a list obtained by The Associated Press, about 60 of the recently laid-off workers were engineers, around 30 were physicists and about 15 were chemists. Some, but not all, were involved in nuclear weapons work or nonproliferation efforts, and all had put in at least 20 years at the lab.

Some lawmakers and others said they fear the loss of important institutional knowledge about designing warheads and detecting whether other countries are going nuclear.

Also, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said the layoffs at Lawrence Livermore and two other big U.S. weapons labs represent "a national security danger point." These unemployed experts might take their skills overseas, Feinstein said.

"The fact is, these are all people who are human — they have homes, they have families, they have educations to pay for," she said. "And I very much worry where they go for their next job."

The possibility is also on the mind of the nation's top nuclear weapons official, National Nuclear Security Administration chief Tom D'Agostino.

"Always in a situation where people leave under less-than-ideal circumstances, we worry about that, and it's something I assure you we're looking at closely," D'Agostino said. "I'm always concerned about the counterintelligence part of our mission, and we have an active program to go make sure we understand where we're vulnerable and where we're not."

Asked to elaborate, NNSA spokesman Bryan Wilkes said the agency is "always on guard for foreign entities approaching our employees, active or retired, but it's their responsibility to alert us to those circumstances."

The NNSA is aware of no instance in which a U.S. nuclear weapons scientist had gone to work overseas, he said.

He said the agency regards the possibility of a hostile government picking up laid-off workers as "highly unlikely," in part because these are American citizens who have responsibly held high-level clearances for many years, and because federal law provide stiff penalties — which range as high as life in prison — for divulging nuclear secrets.

In an e-mail message, Wilkes said the very notion that these scientists would sell their country out is "an insult to their personal integrity and their patriotism."

Ken Sale, a physicist laid off from Lawrence Livermore on May 23, said that taking his knowledge of nuclear weapons overseas would be unthinkable, and that he knows of no laid-off colleague who would even consider it.

But "the recent history of spying has all been money-based," Sale said. "Being concerned about expertise you wouldn't want rattling around in the whole world, and workers being desperate for a job, is a reasonable concern."

Sale worked on nuclear weapons testing, nonproliferation and nuclear-detection projects.

"The specific experience you get doing that stuff doesn't have applications outside that narrow world," he said. "It's not obvious that I will be able to be fully employed."

Sale, 51, will receive one week's pay for each of his 23 years at the lab, which is in Livermore, about 50 miles from San Francisco.

For security reasons, laid-off workers like Sale immediately lost their access badges, their top-secret "Q" clearances were suspended, and they were promptly escorted off the grounds. Some, including Sale, may stay on for a few months doing unclassified work via telecommuting.

Lawmakers and others have expressed concern that wave after wave of work force reductions will diminish the lab's expertise. D'Agostino said he could not guarantee that national security would not be harmed.

With a self-imposed nuclear test ban in place since 1992, maintenance of the warhead stockpile — Lawrence Livermore's top responsibility — is performed on supercomputers. So is the task of designing a new generation of warhead, which Lawrence Livermore won the right to do last year.

The layoffs have reduced the lab's roster of experts with invaluable experience they had gleaned from taking part in actual nuclear tests, Sale and others said. "Designing, building and seeing a device go off is very different from designing a device and handing it to a computer jockey," Sale said.

Democratic Rep. Jerry McNerney, whose district includes part of the lab, said the stakes are especially high as the United States tries to divine through science what other countries are doing inside their weapons programs.

"We need to be able to understand what the clues are about other countries such as Iran and North Korea and other countries that are potential nuclear weapons developers," he said. "Without those scientists that have been involved in that field for years, for decades, it's going to be a lot more difficult to know what's going on elsewhere in the world."

Los Alamos, the New Mexico laboratory that built the atom bomb during World War II, cut its work force last year by about 550 through retirements and attrition, and Sandia, also largely in New Mexico, plans to shed dozens of workers.

Congress cut $100 million from Lawrence Livermore's budget in the fiscal 2008 budget, and the lab has been hit with an additional $180 million in unexpected costs from its transfer last year to a new management company, lab spokeswoman Susan Houghton said.

63 comments:

Eric said...

Here is the same question that was raised by the post about Sig's testimony to congress.

Is anyone listening to the costs to national security?

There are direct costs, like loss of expertise, mentioned in the article. There are more serious, longer term costs such as "Why would anyone in their 20's choose to become an expert in nuclear weapons, especially with a training duration of 15 years after their Ph.D. is completed?"

We are not only screwing up the present. We are plowing under the future.

Anonymous said...

"the lab has been hit with an additional $180 million in unexpected costs from its transfer last year to a new management company"

These "unexpected" costs were expected by all except the idiots in DOE and LANS/LLNS running the place. Privatizing the weapons labs did not save the taxpayer one single dime. The costs of the new management contractor are the direct reason for the layoffs of Q-cleared weapons scientists and the money that could have been used to retain these scientists is instead now in the pockets of the lab's new management's corporate partners.

"D'Agostino said he could not guarantee that national security would not be harmed"

This is an admission that D'Agostino made a grevious mistake in privatizing the weapons labs.

Congress - it's past time to act.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting the article. It is good to know the disaster at LLNL is getting some attention.

The brain drain at LLNL is true. A third of the people I know there are looking for an outside job. The rest are either in denial or are trying to wait it out.

Anonymous said...

Don't stop placing the responsibility for this fiasco at the feet of NNSA and DOE.

Congress mandated the Lab contracts be bid out.

When the contract process moved forward with LANL, the warnings were loud and frequent that the costs would cripple the institution, the taxes would hit hard, and the only way to pay for it was either more funding or firing people.

So Congress sent no funding to pay for their bidding.

So people paid for Congress' mandate with their jobs, careers, self-worth and contributions to national security.

So on this primary election day, I hope people remembered what these fools did, and that they were warned, and ignored the warnings because they were too arrogant, too righteously indignant, and too pompous to think anyone could be right but them.

And now they cry and complain that it's damaging national security and how horrible it is.

As if they never had any warning this would happen, as if they had nothing to do with it--surely they will scramble to blame DOE and NNSA and try to leave themselves pure as driven snow.

Right.

Where was Feinstein then? Where was Domenici then? How about Bingaman?

Why do two blowhard Congressmen from Michigan seem to control the discussion, when they reap none of the responsibility?

This whole fiasco reminds me of that memorable line from the movie Extreme Prejudice:

Sheriff Hank Pearson: Hell, Jack... the only thing worse than a politician is a child molester.

Truer words have possibly never been said.

Eric said...

For the hundredth time, are there any readers of this blog who are willing to try to do something now to improve the situation at the national labs?

Pointing a finger at someone else, no matter how much they might deserve it, does not count.

The betting line is that there are no such people except those who are already trying to do something.

Anonymous said...

If LLNL and LANL management were worried about losing good people they would not be laying them off or implementing the disasterous salary compensation plan that is being rolled out. Say Pinky it would be a good thing to post if the management slides are made available.

Anonymous said...

6/3/08 6:15 PM - "Don't [sic] stop placing the responsibility for this fiasco at the feet of NNSA and DOE."

In the RFP, it was DOE/NNSA that required the new management contractor to form a limited liability corporation thus subject to state taxes. This requirement prevented UT and UC from bidding as tax-exempt entities. In addition, DOE was forced to raise the LANL management fee to the astronomical sum of $79M/year to stimulate a private industry response. Lock-Mart was a no-bid at the Draft RFP fee of $30M. For reference, UC was previously paid $8M/year. Thus DOE's desire to truly privatize the labs is what resulted in the crippling ~$200M annual non-productive fee and additional tax costs.

D'Agostino actually said that this decision was intended to give DOE/NNSA leverage over the management contractor by the possibility of witholding this (obscene) fee for non-performance.

Congress demanded a management contract rebid, but tell me again what role Congress played in making the catastrophic decision to PRIVATIZE the weapons labs?

Sorry, the blame for this one falls squarely on DOE/NNSA. You aren't, by chance, Tom D'Agostino, are you?

Anonymous said...

7:51 pm: "Sorry, the blame for this one falls squarely on DOE/NNSA."

I'd have to agree, but the reasons are a little more subtle. True, the greatly increased fee enticed higher-level corporations to bid, and therefore gave NNSA a bigger "stick" to force compliance, which was problematic with UC. Also, the private nature of the bidders left them open to fines from PAAA and (now) it's security equivalent, which UC was sheltered from as a non-profit. Presumably congress had these effects in mind, and NNSA certainly played along for their own reasons, but they were not the reasons for privatization given by NNSA in the lead-up to the bidding. The entire situation is one of hidden agendas, political expediency, rank hypocracy, and severe unintended consequences. In other words, "government." NNSA will suffer the effects of its subterfuge and game playing. Unfortunately LANS probably won't, except of course for its employees.

Anonymous said...

How kind of our lawmakers. They treat us like dirt for a decade or so, put us through the rebid and layoff process, and in general screw over people who have given their careers over to the labs.

And then, they have the gall to posit that some of us might be traitors?

These legislators have no shame.

Anonymous said...

Ok Eric- what is it that you are suggesting we do?

Complaining hasn't done much so far... lol.

Anonymous said...

9:10pm, you are wasting your time. All Eric will respond with is some oblique subterfuge and invite anyone that want to help to meet him at Starbucks. His heart may be in the right place, but I don't think I've ever heard a tangible idea come from him. I'd be happy to be proven wrong, though. I agree, certainly whining about all of these issues has not helped, has it?

Anonymous said...

During the first year of the LLC, LANS went very slow and spend time kicking the tires at LANL.

With this second year of the LLC, it is clear LANS is starting to become much more aggressive in their actions (i.e., defined positions for all scientists, HR control of TSM salaries, new policies issued on a daily basis, and the SSP layoffs).

As we enter the third year of corporatization employees should realize that the gloves are about to come off. This privatization effort is just getting started in earnest and the real fun is about to begin.

Anonymous said...

Mother Jones magazine had an interesting article on Hobson a few issues back,http://www.motherjones.com/news/feature/2008/01/failure-to-launch.html and my memory of this is that the author claims that Hobson was fed up with NNSA/DOE requesting more money for the weapons complex, that the military was not interested in. Both DOE and Rumsfeld tried to strong arm him, which just pissed him off. His response was the rider in the water bill that caused the Labs to be put up for bid. Bureaucrats know the way around the system, so here we are. I doubt very much this waste of taxpayer money and talent is what he envisioned the outcome would be.


http://www.motherjones.com/news/feature/2008/01/failure-to-launch.html

Anonymous said...

Anybody dumb enough to begin employment at LANL/LLNL/Sandia
is too damned dumb to do anything worthwhile.

However, LANS and NNSA like them dumb.

Eric said...

OK.
I will see your raise and raise again.

If you want to have an effect, you have to view the world from the point of view of your legislators. You have to give them something that they want in order to get what you want. Legislators want more campaign funds and more votes in their reelection.
Can you give them either of those things?

Second, you can no longer be anonymous. Anonymity does not work.

Third, politicians and managers of any stripe only listen to groups of people, not individuals. So, there has to be a group of people, not anonymous people, working as a team to get what they want.

Anyone willing to see this raise and call?

In response to the standard comments like 'Eric just wants to be the head of this team so lets not listen to him', I do not want to be head of the team. On the other hand, how is not have a team working out for you?

Anonymous said...

Great! Not only have individuals working for the national labs been labeled as unnecessary, whiners, parasites, and overpaid prima donnas; but we can now add the possible label of traitor!!!

Anonymous said...

6/3/08 7:51 PM

"In the RFP, it was DOE/NNSA that required the new management contractor to form a limited liability corporation thus subject to state taxes. This requirement prevented UT and UC from bidding as tax-exempt entities."

This is incorrect. The RPF in Clause H-23 only required a "separate corporate entity" from the parent company. UC (or UT for that matter) could have set up a solely university owned but legally separate entity that would have preserved the Lab's tax exempt status - and kept employees part of UC. However, UC would have kept all the liability and had difficulty getting industrial partners. Although the Univ of Chicago was able to create an LLC that had industrial "sub-partners" to bid on the ANL contract.

Also, NNSA's bid assessment process took away any inherent advantage UC had as a public sector tax exempt bidder. Cost saving that UC had as a public entity were not allowed weighting factors by NNSA in order to "level the playing field" and attract other private sector bidders.

Eric said...

The article is "Failure to Launch" in the January/February 2008 issue of Mother Jones. It is a very useful article.

Thanks for the lead.

Eric said...

Failure to launch

Toward the end of this article, Representative Hobson (the guy who writes the checks to fund DOE) lays out what he wants from LANL--a well thought out business plan for why the funding of LANL is important to the country and why it should outcompete other claims on the same money.

Does anyone have a solid answer for him?

Anonymous said...

"I doubt very much this waste of taxpayer money and talent is what he envisioned the outcome would be. "

You overestimate Hobson. I think his biggest concern was bleeding $10M off the DOE budget each year for the ohio supercomputing center branch he established in his congressional district. Yup, $10M -- more than the UC fee!

Hobson is just another 2-bit politician who has done damage that will last long past his term in congress. We are just seeing the beginning of it. Proliferation is going to continue. At some point the USG will need the expertise that the national labs has today -- and it won't be there any more. Do you think they'll be able to get anyone back after what has happened in the last 8 years, since the creation of the NNSA? It's unlikely.

Anonymous said...

Heather Wilson was defeated by Steve Pearce in yesterday's primary election. This is bad news for LANL. Both candidates Udall (D) and Pearce (R) are on record for wanting to see large cuts to LANL's funding.

It's time to shove off any further delusions about the political landscape for LANL. Wilson was endorsed by St. Pete and was destined to be his successor and LANL's next 'protector'. LANL has lost most of the lab's political friends. Wilson won't even be in the House next year to help LANL through any future funding crisis.

Anonymous said...

No. Responsibility falls on the arrogant butt-head cowboys who kept screwing things up for the entire institution, not to mention the racial and gender bias that didn't do much for the Lab's image. That's where the blame belongs.

Anonymous said...

Eric the Great has spoken! So it shall be written, so it shall be done.

Eric said...

I was asked to speak.

How many jobs has your sarcasm saved? How much money has it brought into the lab?
How much has the value of your house decreased?

Thanks for teaching me to have a thicker skin and ignore people like you.

Anonymous said...

0oo..Ooo, the sky is falling, the sky is falling! The universe is now at risk because the most gifted among us mere mortals aren't being adequately appreciated these days. Oh wowas us, the end must be near for all mankind and the free world as we know it. Quick, send Los Alamos a few more billion to ensure our survival!

Anonymous said...

2:32 pm: "Oh wowas us"

That's really comical. Obviously you've never actually seen that expression written down. Beware the "unknown unknowns."

Anonymous said...

When the Soviet Union went under, didn't we start a program to keep their unemployed weapons scientists busy, to keep "brain drain" under control? Maybe we can ask the Russians to start a program for LANL and LLNL! Hey, what goes around, comes around. Aren't they awash in petro-dollars (or petro-rubles) these days? And aren't they concerned about US weapons scientist brain-drain?

Anonymous said...

How dare they not "worship" us at LANL. The Science of the Most Highest. The brain-child's of the geek generation are not needed, oh no what now? Lets see how many "real-smart" folkes at LANL are employed in a few months.

Anonymous said...

Actually, Hobson does not write the checks to fund DOE. That comes from Appropriations.

Anonymous said...

Brilliance is a curse. Indeed, so few people understand us--the best and brightest of this once great Laboratory. It is us who are burdened with having to accomplish the world's greatest science. And for what? For the thankless masses?! A Greek tragedy if ever there was one.

...NOT!

Anonymous said...

12:23 PM suggested "No. Responsibility falls on the arrogant butt-head cowboys who kept screwing things up for the entire institution ... That's where the blame belongs."

Yes and the people such as the Aqua Regia TSM, the person at fault for disk drives behind the Xerox machine, etc. should be fired and burned at the stake for putting us in our current situation because of all the bad publicity that LANL has received for the actions of these few.

Hey Wallace, are you listening and did you finally grow some fortitude to make these "problems" go away?

Anonymous said...

The "brain drain" is real, and serious. If you think the kind of expertise at LANL and LLNL can be discarded without second thought or concern for consequences, you are an idiot. It will all become blindingly clear to you when (not if) the first mushroom cloud occurs in the US. Probably Port of NY/NJ, Port of Los Angeles, or Port of Seattle, from an innocent-looking container among the thousands of others that haven't been checked, rendering one of those cities uninhabitable for a long time. PS - I am not associated with LANL or LLNL.

Anonymous said...

"..gave NNSA a bigger "stick" to force compliance, which was problematic with UC..."

Baloney. The problem with compliance was at LANL not Livermore. We busted our ass to follow the rules, and were both effective and proud of it. LLNL got ruined by the LLNS stupidity to try to bring LANL up to acceptable standards using a heavy handed last gasp club.

This is what Domenici wanted and what he got. LLNL was far better, both as a technical organization and complying with NNSAs obtuse nonsense, as a UC public trust.

LANL coughs, LLNL gets the medicine. It will stay that way until Feistien, Boxer and Pelosi grow avacados.

Anonymous said...

It is clear that 8:32 is not associated with either LLNL or LANL, or they would know that neither lab is relevant to that problem.

Anonymous said...

The brain drain is real. And it is unavoidable in the current political climate.

People who do not design, test and use things will not understand them thoroughly. Lessons can be passed on, but knowledge, understanding and confidence comes from experience. We are not now training the new generation of scientists to design, test and deploy systems; so as the old foggies age, they are not replaced.

No one speaks openly of this because the answer is to design deploy and test nuclear weaspons again and this is very unpopular.

In a few years the functionality stockpile will be an open question and no one will remain who knows what to do. Meanwhile we deteriorate in ways we don't understand.

Does the military care? I don't know, but if their eye isn't on the ball, then I don't care, 'cause I'm not fighting the next war, they are. They get to choose how they want to win or lose.

If I am fighting, then I surrender
already. Too old to care.

Anonymous said...

I am the one earlier that sort of challenged Eric to come up with some ideas and thoughts, not just subterfuge. He responded in several ways, which have some good thoughts in them. I highlight one here: "Toward the end of this article, Representative Hobson (the guy who writes the checks to fund DOE) lays out what he wants from LANL--a well thought out business plan for why the funding of LANL is important to the country and why it should outcompete other claims on the same money."

Eric ended that post with a challenge: "Does anyone have a solid answer for him?"

This is right on target. This is going to be an important conversation in the next administration. I think there will be a serious look at the national labs -- all of them -- with an eye toward their unique value, what they each have and can do, and potentially how many are really needed. Congress will indeed be looking for each laboratory to articulate their unique value proposition to the Nation.

What does that mean for us? We could sit back and wait for senior management to do that heavy lifting, and complain and ridicule them when it does not work. Or we can help. Yes, I said help. H.E.L.P.

One of LANL's greatest strengths is also one of its greatest liabilities. We are essentially a principal investigator driven lab. Individual agents coming up with ideas and pushing them. This can generate great ideas and excellent science, but it also generates stovepipes, individuals pitted against one another rather than working together toward common goals, and even large egos and entitlement mentalities.

To put it simply, we need to learn to work together. It sounds trite, but it really is true. At the grass roots level, employees should organize and think about what the future of the laboratory SHOULD be, not what it WILL be if those idiots in senior management don't solve all of these problems we see, but what it can and should be. Start at the group level with some ideas with your colleagues. Find peers in other organizations and start talking about opportunities and barriers. Grow a coalition of interested folks around a particular area that is an opportunity, come to consensus on that opportunity and the barriers to going after it, and take it to your division level leadership. Both collectively as a cross-organization group and individually within your organizations. Get the division leaders excited about some of these ideas so they can push them further. This will be characterized more by failure than success early on probably, but it is worth doing. We can see what doing nothing will lead to I think. Pushing these ideas is the right thing to do and good leaders, and there are some around here believe it or not, will listen and try to take actions based on these ideas.

Rather than looking at management as a miserable failure, assuming they are the enemy, or (worse) waiting for them to solve all of our problems for us, lets come up with some ideas that excite the mind and staff as to what types of things we can go after and identify those things that impede us from doing so. Don't just point out problems. Come up with solutions and push them. Come up with our own answer to Hopson's question, which is the question Congress and the Nation are asking at this point.

I know I am probably barking up the wrong tree here, but I believe that is what the staff at LANL should do. Not grab the pitchforks and torches and storm the castle, but thoughtfully come up with creative ideas that can be pushed forward instead of bitching about Concur or Oracle or whatever. Leaders worth their salt will listen to such ideas and thoughtful approaches to going after them and push them. Try and influence things where we can, recognizing there are some things that cannot be changed. You never know. It might work.

I now return you to your regularly scheduled programming of whining about how "the man" is sticking it to all of us and how evil privatization is, what a sycophant I am, and so on. Enjoy!

Anonymous said...

9:22 Great post! Wish we (non-LANS mgt types) could get it together.

Anonymous said...

9:09 pm: "The problem with compliance was at LANL not Livermore."

That's just laughable. LLNL just didn't get caught as soon as LANL did. I have worked with LLNL folks for many years, and never knew people more committed to skirting the rules while loudly procaiming compliance with them. Re-defining the rules to suit what they were already doing has been a LLNL core value. Well, the game is up.

Anonymous said...

He said the agency regards the possibility of a hostile government picking up laid-off workers as "highly unlikely," in part because these are American citizens who have responsibly held high-level clearances for many years, and because federal law provide stiff penalties — which range as high as life in prison — for divulging nuclear secrets.

You are Fired. Please quit. We do not need you any more. But, we own you forever.

Anonymous said...

9:22 - Wonderful!!! It seems as though folks would sooner "curse the darkness than light a candle." what you are suggesting is going to be hard for most folks, but it is exactly what is needed. Your post has helped me steel my intention to continue asking "why" and offering my take on solutions. I do not do this in a combative manner, rather a manner that will help us reach a workable solution given the constrants that both managers and workers operate under.

Anonymous said...

7:12

So DOE did set up the RFP so a private company would win. And pay all these extra taxes with funding from the lab budget. And take a huge fee..from the lab budget. A "new and improved" private management company. But almost all LANS managers came from LANL or other DOE installations. They were already working for DOE. Same set of managers but now with much bigger salaries. And somehow the blame for this mess shouldn't fall on DOE? WTF?

9:22

So the solution is lab workers should organize themselves so they can better carry all of this new dead weight above them? WTF?

Anonymous said...

Here's the key point to consider: political support for Los Alamos National Lab has collapsed. This will probably result in big funding problems at the lab within the next two years.

I'm not sure if all the staff at LANL, particularly the post-2000 new hires, fully grasp the severity of the situation which the lab is facing. They will soon enough.

While NNSA labs look like they are headed for hard times, some of the other DOE labs will prosper in the coming environment. Consider using your Q-clearance as leverage to snag a good position at one of the DOE labs. FTE costs at many of these labs are lower, so you'll be able to get more research done with your hard earned funding. You'll also have fewer insane policies to deal with, much better management, and greater job security. You may even find that they appreciate your work far more than LANL.

There are fewer and fewer reasons to stick it out at LANL and fight the dragons. LANL is broken. LANS doesn't appear to be especially appreciative to lower level staff who are working to fix it, so why even bother? If you're good then you have options. Use them to better your situation before the bottom falls out from beneath your feet.

Anonymous said...

"...I have worked with LLNL folks for many years,..."

my buck to yours. Like Domenici, you've never even been to California, but you know allll about it.

Compare the compliance records, there skillful.

Anonymous said...

11:50 PM

My 7;12 post puts the blame on NNSA. They screwed up the RFP and bidding process. Just compare with the DOE Office of Science contracting for LBNL... they didn't force UC into a LLC or a separate entity to run the lab. LBNL's operating cost have not increased. NASA has not forced Caltech to set up a LLC or separate entity to run JPL, nor has DOD done so for MITs contract to run Lincoln Lab.

Look at how the other 30+ FFRDCs are contracted across the country, and the ones that are in trouble belong to NNSA.

Eric said...

Thanks for the well thought out comments, especially to 9:22 who said things very clearly.

My only comment at the moment is "Have a back up plan."

If workers come up with collaborative exciting projects and management does not listen, then have a place to go where you can implement that plan.

Management does not make a profit off of work that is not done here, e.g. particle physics now being done at the University of Washington by former LANL staff.

As to pit production moneys, one approach might be a traditional LANL approach--"Those moneys are coming in anyway, let's use some percentage of those moneys to meet the requests for national security that Sig and Hobson want and lets use the percentage in ways that are defensible in the structure of a business plan not as continuing local pork (for instance parts of LDRD)."

As to the commenter who wrote WTF, I assume that he or she is quoting from the TV show "Battlestar Galactica" and means "What the frak?" ;-)

Eric said...

To 11:50,

At least to me, working together, proposing new projects, and creating a business plan that Hobson would like decreases the dead weight.

In the plan, you just say that the cost to the nation decreases while the value to the nation increases by the creation of a lean organizational structure that gets the job done and saves the country $100,000,000 a year (or whatever the correct answer is). It saves the country money by eliminating unnecessary management positions. From a business plan point of view, this argument is compelling because it makes sense.

Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

12:44 AM Yes- we're stuck with a politcal team who doesn't care much about LANL.

Look around- The average age at LANL is about 50. Those baby boomers are more or less stuck with the retirement system as is. i.e. no time to earn much in a 401, they would lose their highest earning years, give up healthcare, etc. So those of you who can should consider moving on.... For those 50+ heavily invested here, even a few years makes a big difference.

Anonymous said...

1:19 am: "Like Domenici, you've never even been to California, but you know allll about it.

Compare the compliance records, there skillful." (You mean "they're", right??)

I've been to California many times, specificaly to LLNL many times to work with my counterparts there. They are indeed skillful, most so at doing exactly what they want. The difference between LANL and LLNL is that LANL is defiantly noncompliant, explaining why the rules are stupid, while LLNL is stealthily noncompliant, openly and loudly lauding the rules they are consistently breaking, while constructing explanations why they are actually in compliance.

Anonymous said...

If you compare number of reported security infractions, recent HSS Security review results, safety statistics, number of employee lawsuits quietly settled out of court, number of EBA's (employees without assignments) still on the books AFTER the recent layoffs, highly compensated staffers filling "at large" (no real job)positions, and lack of organizatons' ability to "play well together," at LLNL, I think you'll agree that there are sufficient problems there to merit them qualifying as problematic in their own right.

Anonymous said...

nor has DOD done so for MITs contract to run Lincoln Lab.
==========================

Lincoln Lab is NOT a GOCO - Government
Owned / Contractor Operated.

The national labs like LANL are GOCOs -
the Government owns the lab, and can
get a new contractor when the old contract
expires.

MIT owns Lincoln Labs. They have
contracts with the Dept. of Defense.
When those contracts expire, the DOD
doesn't have to give MIT any more
business.

However, DOD can't get the lab and its
staff - the facilities are owned by
MIT and not the Government.

Anonymous said...

"We are essentially a principal investigator driven lab. Individual agents coming up with ideas and pushing them."

Unfortunately, LANL was never intended to be a principal investigator driven lab. It slowly drifted towards that over a long period of time. NNSA is not happy with the trend, especially w.r.t. WFO - after all, they are the landlord and foot the bill for the infrastructure (acknowledging that the WFO programs are taxed to help with the costs). Now that money's getting tight, we'll see LANL's mission consolidating around two things - Pu/pit manufacturing and waste management/environmental clean-up. Even though you may not like it, that's the long-term trend.

Anonymous said...

9:58

I did not say Lincoln Lab was a GOCO... I said FFRDC. It and the DOE national labs (including LANL and LLNL) are all FFRDCs... and some FFRDCs like LANL and NASA's JPL are GOCOs.

http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/nsf06316/

Read below the National Science Foundation (the official government agency over the FFRDC program) information on FFRDCs - and guess how many tenets of the FFRDC concept NNSA has violated in its handing of the LANL and LLNL contracts

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In 1984 the Office of Federal Procurement Policy amended the criteria to read as follows:

5.c. Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC).

(1) FFRDCs do not have a prescribed organizational structure. They can range from the traditional contractor-owned/contractor-operated or Government-owned/contractor-operated (GOCO) organizational structures to various degrees of contractor/Government control and ownership. In general, however, all of the following criteria should be met before an activity is identified as an FFRDC:

(a) Performs, analyzes, integrates, supports (non-financial) and/or manages basic research, applied research, and/or development.

(b) Performance of the functions in 5.c.(1)(a) is either upon the direct request of the Government or under a broad charter from the Government, but in either case the results are directly monitored by the Government. However, the monitoring shall not be such as to create a personal services relationship, or to cause disruptions that are detrimental to the productivity and/or quality of the FFRDC's work.

(c) The majority of the activity's financial support (70% or more) is received from the Government with a single agency usually predominating in that financial support.

(d) In general, most or all of the facilities are owned by the Government or funded, under contract, by the Government.

(e) The activity is operated, managed and/or administered by either a university or consortium of universities, other nonprofit organization or industrial firm as an autonomous organization or as an identifiable separate operating unit of a parent organization.

(f) A long term relationship evidenced by specific agreement exists or is expected to exist between the operator, manager, or administrator of the activity and its primary sponsor.

(2) In addition to the above criteria, the relationship between the activity and the Government should exhibit the following characteristics in order to qualify for FFRDC identification:

(a) The activity (organization and/or facilities) is brought into existence at the initiative of a Government agency or bureau to meet some special research or development need which, at the time, cannot be met as effectively by existing in-house or contractor resources.

(b) Work from other than a sponsoring agency is undertaken only to the extent permitted by the sponsoring agency and in accordance with the procedures of the sponsoring agency.

(c) The activity, whether the operator of its own or a Government-owned facility, has access, beyond that which is common to the normal contractual relationship, to Government and/or supplier data, employees, and facilities needed to discharge its responsibilities efficiently and effectively, whether the data is sensitive/proprietary or not.

(d) The primary sponsor undertakes the responsibility to assure a reasonable continuity in the level of support to the activity consistent with the agency's need for the activity and the terms of the sponsoring agreement.

(e) The activity is required to conduct its business in a responsible manner befitting its special relationship with the Government, to operate in the public interest free from organizational conflict of interest, and to disclose its affairs (as an FFRDC) to the primary sponsor.

In 1990 additional Federal Acquisition Regulations criteria for FFRDCs were published in the Federal Register:

35.017 (a)

(2) An FFRDC meets some special long-term research or development need which cannot be met as effectively by existing in-house or contractor resources. FFRDC's enable agencies to use private sector resources to accomplish tasks that are integral to the mission and operation of the sponsoring agency. An FFRDC, in order to discharge its responsibilities to the sponsoring agency, has access, beyond that which is common to the normal contractual relationship, to Government and supplier data, including sensitive and proprietary data, and to employees and facilities. The FFRDC is required to conduct its business in a manner befitting its special relationship with the Government, to operate in the public interest with objectivity and independence, to be free from organizational conflicts of interest, and to have full disclosure of its affairs to the sponsoring agency. It is not the Government's intent that an FFRDC use its privileged information or access to facilities to compete with the private sector. However, an FFRDC may perform work for other than the sponsoring agency under the Economy Act, or other applicable legislation, when the work is not otherwise available from the private sector.

(3) FFRDC's are operated, managed, and/or administered by either a university or consortium of universities, other not-for-profit or nonprofit organization, or an industrial firm, as an autonomous organization or as an identifiable separate operating unit of a parent organization.

(4) Long-term relationships between the Government and FFRDC's are encouraged in order to provide the continuity that will attract high-quality personnel to the FFRDC. This relationship should be of a type to encourage the FFRDC to maintain currency in its field(s) of expertise, maintain its objectivity and independence, preserve its familiarity with the needs of its sponsor(s), and provide a quick response capability.

Anonymous said...

4:02 pm: Great piece of homework, exhaustively posted, Absolutely irrelevant.

Anonymous said...

I did not say Lincoln Lab was a GOCO... I said FFRDC.
================================

What you said was the following:

"nor has DOD done so for MITs contract to run Lincoln Lab."

There is NO "contract to run the Lincoln
Lab". There are only contracts between
DOD and MIT/Lincoln Labs to do specific
projects.

Your error was in saying there was a
contract to "run the Lab".

Anonymous said...

The President could decide to use his rendition powers to ship the NNSA's RIF'ed weapons scientists off to Gitmo. That would help keep the US completely safe from any leaking of dangerous WMD knowledge.

Anonymous said...

12:44 pm: "The President could decide to use his rendition powers to ship the NNSA's RIF'ed weapons scientists off to Gitmo. That would help keep the US completely safe from any leaking of dangerous WMD knowledge."

Are you nuts? They would give that knowledge to the radical islamist detainees already there, who are going to be released to their former pursuits by President Obama. Bad idea.

Anonymous said...

Interestingly LANL does more non-Governmental and non-primary sponsor (DOD) work than Lincoln Lab and its 2600 employees. Lincoln Lab's FY07 budget ($618.5 million) is 5.6% ($34.5 million) non-DOD and only 0.7% ($4.4 million) non-Federal, with the remaining 93.7% ($579 million) funded by DOD - mostly highly classified projects... Yet DOE exercises more control over LANL than DOD does over LL... Seems DOD and MIT have a better model for running a national lab then DOE/NNSA and LANS.

Bottomline... DOE/NNSA are at the root of LANL's problems and longterm viability.

Anonymous said...

5:44 pm: "with the remaining 93.7% ($579 million) funded by DOD - mostly highly classified projects"

What in the world does "highly classified" mean? Above Confidential? Nice to use media-worn phrases that have no meaning, if you want to give your opinion weight.

Anonymous said...

5:44 pm: "Bottomline... DOE/NNSA are at the root of LANL's problems and longterm viability."

What a crock. As if LANL has any existence outside DOE/NNSA. If DOE/NNSA goes away, so does LANL. It's a GOCO. DOE/NNSA owns and controls every square inch of the LANL facility and always will.

Anonymous said...

"Seems DOD and MIT have a better model for running a national lab then DOE/NNSA and LANS."

LOL... Daylight Donuts has a better model than DOE/NNSA!

Anonymous said...

NNSA does not "own" LANL. The US Government owns LANL, and it could be shifted from the control of NNSA to another entity, like DOD, if Congress so wishes.

Given the poor oversight that we've witnessed from NNSA, I sincerely hope that Congress does just that (i.e., put LANL under DOD control and dis-bands the NNSA). They should also get rid of the LLC fiasco while they are at it.

Anonymous said...

These unemployed experts might take their skills overseas, Feinstein said.

This is what psychologists call "Projecting." Selling out to the ChiComs is what any San Francisco Democrat would do in the same situation, including Feinstein.

Anonymous said...

From a post on the LLNL Blog about that lab's future....

---
A 'semi-NNSA' lab like Sandia looks OK, while some of the other DOE labs look like they have a great future. I would take a closer look at working for a DOE lab like ORNL or PNNL.

There is a bright future for America's National Labs, it just won't be happening at the labs that are controlled by the idiots over at NNSA.

Make use of your Q clearance and look elsewhere in the DOE complex for a scientific position. The exodus of good scientists from the weapon labs are going to flood the other DOE labs with a lot of eager applicants. Get in line before this line grows too long.

It should be clear by now that the nuclear weapon labs are facing a dismal future. They are not the place at which to nurture your career. That doesn't mean you can't leverage your Q clearance to snag a great job from somewhere else within the DOE complex.