Dec 4, 2008

Desperately Seeking Engineers


This is the first time I've ever seen a bonus offered for an internal transfer. Note the ominous language about selecting volunteers based on the "best interests of the institution."

To/MS: All Employees
From/MS: W. Scott Gibbs, ADE, C921
Phone/Fax: 606-0000/665-4181
Symbol: ADE:08-027
Date: December 3, 2008

Subject: Announcement of Bonus Program for Cognizant System Engineers

Because of customer expectations and performance incentives established for the Laboratory that require an elevated and accelerated emphasis on Conduct of Operations, Conduct of Maintenance, and Conduct of Engineering, the Laboratory has an urgent need to place approximately 20 engineers into Cognizant System Engineer (CSE) positions. To incentivize engineers who are already LANL employees but are working in other fields to move into CSE positions, the Laboratory is implementing a special bonus program described below. Individuals who volunteer and are accepted into this program may receive bonuses totaling $40,000 over four years.

Employees interested in volunteering to move into CSE positions are encouraged to attend one of two informational meetings
* Wednesday, December 3, 1:00 p.m., Rosen Auditorium
* Thursday, December 4, 10:00 a.m., MSL Auditorium

What is the CSE Bonus Program?
The CSE Bonus Program is designed to incentivize engineers who are already employed at the Laboratory to make a career change and become CSEs. It will also encourage trained and qualified CSEs to remain in CSE positions for a sufficient period to fully implement required changes in Conduct of Operations and Conduct of Engineering.

Why is there a sudden need for CSEs?
Customer expectations and performance incentives established for the Laboratory require an elevated and accelerated emphasis on Conduct of Operations, Conduct of Maintenance, and Conduct of Engineering. These expectations cannot be met without quickly adding to our CSE ranks.

How many CSE positions are open?
Approximately 20.

What is a CSE?
For purposes of this program, a CSE is defined as an individual who is protecting a safety class or safety significant system, as described in an NNSA-approved authorization basis document for a nuclear or high-hazard facility. The facilities are: TA-55, Weapons Engineering Tritium Facility, Chemistry Metallurgy Research Building, Waste Facilities, and Los Alamos Neutron Science Center. Only positions specifically identified as CSE positions are eligible for this program.

Typical duties of a CSE include
* Writing System Design Descriptions
* Conducting Vital Safety System Assessments
* Documenting Safety Function (Link to Safety Basis)
* Evaluating Configuration Management (Unreviewed Safety Question (USQ), work packages, design changes, procedure changes)
* Evaluating System Maintenance20(preventive, predictive, corrective, and backlog)
* Evaluating Surveillance and Testing (requirements link to Technical Safety Requirements, procedures adequate, and current condition operable)
* Documenting Operability
* Issuing System Health Report (SHR)
* Writing companion operating and maintenance procedures (surveillances, in-service inspections, preventive maintenance)
* Training Operations and Maintenance personnel on credited aspects of systems

Who is eligible for the program?
* Laboratory employees working in a position other than a full-time CSE position who volunteer for this program after December 1, 2008 and are chosen to transfer into a CSE position.
* Laboratory employees who transferred into a full-time CSE position from a non-CSE position between October 1, 2007 and December 1, 2008, either as a result of competitive selection or directed transfer. To be eligible, employees must have been regular or limited-term Laboratory employees in a non-CSE job immediately prior to the transfer or selection.
* Laboratory employees who held CSE positions as of October 1, 2007.

To be eligible, employees must also demonstrate satisfactory job performance and conduct.

Who is not eligible for this program?
* Anyone who was hired directly into a CSE position from outside the Laboratory since October 1, 2007. We are considering other possible incentives for this group.
* Individuals hired into CSE positions from Laboratory student programs.

How does the bonus program work?
As a prerequisite for the program, a selected volunteer must agree to accept transfer into the CSE position and agree to become qualified within a year. The CSE bonus program has three separate elements. Each element is a one-time lump sum bonus.

* Transfer Bonus – Eligible employees who volunteer and are accepted to transfer into a CSE position between December 1, 2008 and January 12, 2009 will receive $5,000 upon beginning work in the CSE position. As a condition of this bonus, recipients must agree to remain in the CSE position for one year or repay the entire $5K bonus.
* Qualification Bonus – Eligible employees who are not already qualified as CSEs as of December 1, 2008, will receive $5,000 upon certification by Engineering Services management that they have met qualification requirements listed in ISD 341-3.1, Engineering Training and Qualification Manual, for the assigned position. At that time, they will be required to sign a memorandum of understanding agreeing to maintain their qualifications and remain in a CSE position for three years from the date of initial qualification. In addition, they must agree that if they do not remain in a CSE position for one year following qualification, they will repay the entire $5K bonus. Eligible employees who have already completed their qualification requirements as of December 1, 2008, will be required to sign the memorandum of understanding as a condition of receiving the retention bonus described below, but will not receive the qualification bonus.
* Retention Bonus – Upon completion of the agreed three year commitment, eligible employees who have maintained their qualifications and have demonstrated satisfactory job performance and conduct will receive $30,000. For eligible employees who are already qualified on December 1, 2008, the three year period will end on November 30, 2011. For eligible employees who attain qualification after December 1, 2008, the retention period will end on the third anniversary of their date of qualification.

The CSE Bonus Program terminates upon payment of the Retention Bonus; no additional payments will be made.

Will taxes be withheld from the bonus amounts?

One of my employees has volunteered for the CSE program. If she is selected, can I backfill her position?
As you know, the Laboratory continues to closely manage regular employee staffing closely. The losing organization’s Principal Associate Director must approve requests to backfill a position vacated by someone taking a CSE position. The losing organization does not automatically keep the headcount authorization.

How do I volunteer to become a CSE?
To be considered for a CSE position, employees must have a BS degree or higher in an engineering discipline from a four-year accredited institution. Volunteers must hold or be able to obtain a Q clearance, which normally requires US citizenship. Most CSE positions also require HRP certification. Only employees with satisfactory performance and conduct will be considered.

Volunteers should send a complete, current résumé by email to Bonnie Townsend ( by 5:00 p.m. December 12, 2008.

Employees interested in volunteering are encouraged to attend one of two informational meetings
* Wednesday, December 3, 1:00 p.m., Rosen Auditorium
* Thursday, December 4, 10:00 a.m., MSL Auditorium

How will volunteers be selected?
Selections will be made taking into consideration the qualifications of the volunteers and the overall needs of the institution. Volunteers will be selected based on the needs of the CSE program and overall institutional needs. ADE management will consult with the line Associate Directors of the volunteers before making any selections.

Can I file a complaint with Employee Relations if I volunteer but am not selected?
Unlike a traditional selection process, we are not limiting our selections to the best qualified candidates. Instead, we will accept volunteers whose career change is in the best interest of the institution, taking into account funding, institutional deliverables and the qualifications of the volunteers. Therefore, complaints will be limited to instances where an individual believes that impermissible discrimination or retaliation was the reason for not being accepted into the CSE position.

Will an interview be required?
Interviews may be scheduled depending on the size of the volunteer pool.

Do I have a choice of where I will work if I become a CSE?
No. Because of the need to make improvements in Conduct of Operations and Conduct of Engineering CSEs will be deployed where ES and ADNHHO managers determine they are most needed.

When will volunteers be notified that they have been selected?
The current plan is to notify the selected volunteers no later than close of business on December 19. However, notification may be delayed depending on the size of the volunteer pool.

Can my current manager prevent me from volunteering?
No. All interested employees are encouraged to volunteer. However, your current management at the Associate Director level may have a significant impact on whether you are accepted into the program. Once the qualifications of all of the volunteers have been reviewed, ADE management will consult with the directorate-level managers of the volunteers to determine whether accepting any particular volunteer would be in the best interests of the Laboratory as a whole.

I’m currently working part-time as a CSE and part-time doing programmatic work in another division. Am I eligible for the bonus?
You are eligible to volunteer to become a full time CSE. If you are selected, then you would be eligible for the bonus program. It is ES division’s intention to end reliance on part-time CSEs from other organizations, so you would likely not be asked to continue in that dual assignment once the CSE positions are fully staffed. However, CSEs in ES division who has other assignments in addition to the CSE assignment are eligible for the program.

Where can I find out what the training requirements are to become a CSE?
See ISD 341-3.1

How long will it take to become qualified once I am accepted as a CSE?
Depending on your experience, whether you have worked in a nuclear facility and whether you are currently cleared and HRP certified, it should take six to twelve months. No individual should take longer than twelve months to become qualified unless there are extenuating circumstances.

What happens to my bonuses if I leave the program?
That depends on when and why you leave. If you leave voluntarily, either by moving to another Laboratory position or by terminating your Laboratory employment, you will forfeit any bonus component not already paid. In addition, if you leave the CSE position within one year of receiving the transfer bonus or within one year of receiving the qualification bonus, you will be expected to repay the entire amount. If you move into another Laboratory position, an arrangement will be made to withhold money from your paycheck to repay the bonus. The sole exception is that if you apply and are selected for an advertised management position within the ADE directorate. In that instance, you will not be required to repay either of the bonuses and you, if you are already qualified, you would receive a pro-rated portion of the retention bonus upon starting work in the management position.

If you leave the CSE program involuntarily, you may be eligible for a pro-rated bonus if you are moved from the CSE position for any reason other than misconduct, poor performance or loss of qualification.

The specifics of the bonus program will be spelled out in a Memorandum of Understanding that each eligible CSE will be required to sign as a condition of receiving any component of the bonus.

What time will count towards the three-year service commitment?
Work time, holidays and periods of vacation or sick leave of 15 work days or less, or other approved leaves.

Can management extend the three year service period required to receive the $30K?
Yes. Extended absences (greater than 15 workdays) and periods of temporary reassignment or temporary loss of qualification (for example temporary loss of HRP certification) may extend the 3 year commitment.

When will the transfers be effective?
It is our goal to have as many CSEs on board as possible early in January, so we are planning for transfers to be effective January 12. ES division will work with managers in the losing organizations and the transferring employees on any issues related to the transfer date.

What if I volunteer and then change my mind?
Your decision to volunteer may be withdrawn at any time up until you begin work in the CSE position.

What if I start a CSE position and then discover I don’t like the work? Can I go back to my old job? Would I have to repay the initial transfer incentive?
Once you begin work in the CSE position, the Laboratory’s standard policies pertaining to application for other positions and directed transfers apply. P701 requires a regular employee to serve 6 months in the current position before applying for a new job. The “trial basis transfer” policy, under which employees previously were permitted to return to their former jobs, is no longer in effect. If you voluntarily move to any Laboratory position other than a management position within ADE within the first year, you will be required to repay the $5K transfer bonus.

Is there any way I could be removed from the CSE program?
Yes. You could be removed for misconduct, poor performance, loss of qualification or as permitted by Laboratory policy allowing mangers to reassign or transfer employees.

If I volunteer and am selected for a CSE position, will my job classification change?
Accepted volunteers will be moved into CSE positions through directed transfer; the employee’s pay band will not be reduced. CSE jobs fall into the Engineer job family. Directed transfer from the R&D Engineer family would be mapped as shown below.

R&D Engineer 1 Engineer 2
R&D Engineer 2 Engineer 3
R&D Engineer 3 Engineer 4

Directed transfers from other job families would be handled to preserve parity with the employee’s current pay band.

I have heard that something called Environmental Pay will soon be offered for people working at TA-55. Will I also be eligible for Environmental Pay?


Anonymous said...

"selecting engineers in the best interest of the institution" is a reasonable industrial practice.

BUT, LANS is certain to screw it up as well exercise the usual nepotism and cronyism.

Anonymous said...

These must really be crappy jobs!

Anonymous said...

Isn't this what Bechtel is supposed to be good at?

Anonymous said...

Actually these are great jobs. "Right now" CSEs are extremely valuable. These are the engineers that are supposed to be keeping vital safety systems alive and well after many many years of neglect. If you are qualified this is an outstanding opportunity.

And I am not management nor Bechtel nor BWXT nor WGI. But I am a system engineer doing this type of work.

So - if you like doing hands on engineering that interfaces directly to ops and maintenance, that is not design but is providing oversight to a system that needs help this is the job.

Check out DOE O 420.1B Chapter V. Very high on the DOE and NNSA radar.

Anonymous said...

So clearance AND HRP required. Pretty much defines the working area...

Anonymous said...

What a scam. You guys know this job is for them.
Seems like they forget about them, with the new wage structure and all.

Anonymous said...

Director's Memo
To - LANL's Research Staff

No top research scientists need apply to this lab any longer. We don't need these people at LANL. In fact, we would rather they get up and leave.

The important jobs in LANL's future are going to involve areas like Conduct of Operations and Safety Engineering. Think Pantex.

Research science is not where the easy money can be made running this lab for a profit fee. In fact, based on our latest salary exercise, you would think that the research staff heard this point loud and clear. I guess not.

You can decide to hang on little bit longer but we'll be laying off scientists anyway during our next LANS "right-sizing" purge.

Have a nice day.

- Mikey

the loon's sister said...

Not for posting to the list, but maybe I should go to work for LANL. D---

Anonymous said...

"Actually these are great jobs. "Right now" CSEs are extremely valuable. These are the engineers that are supposed to be keeping vital safety systems alive and well after many many years of neglect. If you are qualified this is an outstanding opportunity."

WTF? Most engineers I know say the job is totally mind-numbing and the training to become a CSE is insulting to those who actually went and got engineering degrees. Anywhooo, if you are in it for the money, then go for it.

Anonymous said...

12/5/08 10:25 AM has it right.

"WTF? Most engineers I know say the job is totally mind-numbing and the training to become a CSE is insulting to those who actually went and got engineering degrees. Anywhooo, if you are in it for the money, then go for it."

I was involuntarily transferred into a CSE (euphemism for facility engineer) position last year so LANS could meet their performance bonus. In my first meeting with management I was told that engineering was engineering and there was no difference between Facility and R&D. Of course that all changed when the CDP split R&D engineers off into their own/higher pay band. The reason they need to offer a bonus to attract people is because the job sucks. For anyone who ever did R&D engineering it is a huge step down and you will be buried in rules and paperwork, but if your soul and sanity are worth $40k then go for it.

Anonymous said...

Don't worry, LANS already has some Bechtel Safety Engineers picked out for these new positions. They just needed to sweeten the salaries a bit to entice the Bechtel guys to leave Bechtel corporate and come on over to LANS.

Anonymous said...

LANL is "Desperately Seeking Engineers"?

How about, LANL is desperately seeking a competent executive team, starting with a new lab Director? Mike has been a disaster for LANL. He may not be a bully like Nanos, but his stand-off style of management and neglect of what's happening around him are bad signs for LANL's future.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 12/6/08 1:45 PM is correct in that Mikey is not a bully like Nanos. BUT, Nanos would respond to Email from employees

Anonymous said...

"...if your soul and sanity are worth $40k then go for it."
12/5/08 11:26 AM

Actually, if you're willing to sell your sanity, group-level management positions are a more lucrative option. And you can still keep your soul, as long as you don't have any plans to rise to the Division Office level.

Anonymous said...

Boring, boring, boring. Why would anyone who labored to earn an engineering degree settle to be a bookkeeping nanny? Any design, analysis? any innovation, any infomatics, any nano- technology, any materials challenges? A breakthrough or two? Travel to work with international colleagues?

Any reason not to put a Ruger to your head?

No wonder they are hard to fill. Sound like IRS jobs.

Somewhere Oppy must be laughing....

Anonymous said...

For anyone who ever did R&D engineering it is a huge step down and you will be buried in rules and paperwork, but if your soul and sanity are worth $40k then go for it..

Not for $12,000 per year, but Maybe for Mikey's salary and bonus and conjugal visits by Penelope Cruz.....

Anonymous said...

"Somewhere Oppy must be laughing...." (10:52 PM)

I don't think he's laughing. More likely he's crying.

What's become of the once world famous Los Alamos National Lab? Under NNSA and LANS 'for-profit' privatization, it's becoming little more than just another Pantex or NTS.

Anonymous said...

After forcing several of W-Division engineers (about 20) out of their jobs during the past year to accept Cognizant System Engineers (CSEs) jobs in ADE, they (Wallace, Gibbs, Wauntack, Steinberg) are now going to do it "right" . Boneheads! This whole CSE issue has been completely "screwed up" by LANS. My career in the weapon program was cut-short by Bret Knapp by forcing me into one of these jobs. The problem with forcing people into these "perfunctory" jobs is that these employees are un-committed, morale busters, and career busted. Now they are "seeking volunteers" to give $30K to while the people that were forced out of their jobs into these "shitty little jobs (SLJs)" get exactly that, "shit". Furthermore I was working on highly-critical nuclear weapon issues that now remain " in libo". The supposed requirement for CSEs gave Knapp an excuse to rid himself of people he did not want in his Directorate such as Hispanics and women. The vast majority of people that Knapp forced out in W-Division were women and Hispanics older than 40 years of age. This whole CSE was completely mismanaged (understatement) by the LANS management crew. This behavior by Knapp will eventually lead to the complete destruction of LANS. Anastasio has lost control of this institution by allowing his ADs to ream people without impunity. Congress needs to be made aware of this CSE debacle.

Anonymous said...

7:04 pm: "Congress needs to be made aware of this CSE debacle."

What's keeping you from making Congress aware?

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 12/8/08 7:04 PM makes a good point. People who are already stuck in these jobs should also get the bonuses.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting to think about what kind of damage could occur when bitter, resentful CSE's have been forced into key operational positions in our nuclear facilities.

Anonymous said...

This sounds like the beganning of a "nightmarer", if Willy Gibbs is involved it will surley turn out as a true moral buster. These types of jobs should be offered to the Rectal Engineers first. To force people into these positions will turn out exactly like it cannot force people to do anything!!!Wake up Slick Willie.