Dec 28, 2009

Lab Performance Reports Withheld

From John Fleck's Albuquerque Journal Science blog last week:

Lab Performance Reports Withheld

By John Fleck
Monday, 21 December 2009 12:24

Nearly three years ago, the Journal and the National Nuclear Security Administration tangled over whether the annual "Performance Evaluation Report" for Sandia Labs, which the government reviews Sandia's stewardship of taxpayer dollars and U.S. nuclear weapons, should be a matter of public record. Since then, things improved, and NNSA did a better job of clearing the document for public review in a timely fashion. The copies I got had some key information redacted, but they were at least public in large measure.

No more. The NNSA told us last week that, as a matter of policy, the reviews of Sandia, Los Alamos and the other contracts that manage our nuclear stockpile, are now considered sensitive procurement-related. So we know that NNSA thinks the Bechtel-led team in charge at Los Alamos is doing a better job, but the details of how that decision was arrived at are secret.

As of this morning, my Freedom of Information Act requests are in the mail. I'll let you know what NNSA says in response.

Let us know if you gain any insight from your FOIA requests, John. We're curious why NNSA thinks LANS is doing such a great job up here.


Dec 26, 2009

Dec 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

© 2009 Eric Fairfield

Dec 24, 2009

Nuclear Bomb Researchers Accidentally Blow Up Building

So, who are we to believe? According to a number of news sources, LANL staffers accidentally blew up part of a building with a "gun which acts like a Civil War Cannon" last week. Here's one report:

Here's another, from Frank Munger's Atomic City Underground blog:

But then we learn that LANL/NNSA has already "Roarked" the story. Wired reports that they've received an email from National Nuclear Security Administration spokesman Damien LaVera which implies that what we've first heard might not be the exact story:

Here are the facts: On December 16, Los Alamos conducted a standard proof test on a new design for a catch tank in the target chamber for one of our large bore powder guns (LBPG). These types of experiments are routine and responsible. The LBPG is used to conduct measurements of material properties at pressures needed for understanding nuclear weapons performance. During this particular test, unexpected explosive damage occurred and, because that damage could result in $1 million in damages, an investigation was automatically triggered. That investigation will seek to identify the cause of the incident and any changes in procedures that might be required. NNSA, Los Alamos, and all of our facilities take their commitment to safety very seriously. It is important to note that no personnel were injured from this event, no hazardous or radioactive materials were involved, and that lab's incident response mechanisms appear to have performed as intended.

Which version is the Real Story? We'll ponder this over the holidays.


Dec 17, 2009

From the Nut Files

Submitted for your approval (imagine Rod Serling's voiceover here).

On this blog we receive with frightening frequency untold numbers of contributions from left wing-nuts, right wing-nuts, and a few from those wing-nuts that are somewhere in between. What all of these fringe contributors seem to have in common is that they fly into semi-spectacular tizzies after it eventually dawns on them that their submission has been rejected. The usual reason for rejection is that the comment had nothing to do with LANL.

As is the case with our latest contribution in this genre. However, something about the earnestness of this one kind of tickled me, so I figured I'd go ahead & share it. It has all of the elements of dozens of previously-rejected comment submissions in this class: right-wing mouth-foaminess, a pervasive theme of "Obama is bad", all mixed in with the delicate stench of good ol' Amerikan Red Neck-iness.

Here it is. Enjoy, while imagining (as I do) wide staring eyes in which you can practically see the slowly counter-rotating spirals, and that endearing little fleck of foaming spittle that collects in the corner of his mouth as the rant progresses.

Oh, I almost forgot: !!!

Four major non-posted stories on this blog:

1. The Global Warming Hoax has arrieved at their respective doorsteps at DOE, and LLNL, Mr. Gregory Friedman (DOE), Mr. Paul Ehlenbach (LLNL), and Mr. Benjamin Santer (LLNL), due to the Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla) Climategate investigation, and notifying them to retain documents related to the release of emails from CRU/UEA in UK, November 24, 2009.

1.1 DOE has paid the Junk Scientist Mr. Phil Jones at CRU/UEA for 25 years, WHY?

1.2 Doesn´t Mr. Phil Jones, DOE, and Mr. Benjamin Santer at LLNL understand the Scientific Method???

1.3 Defend the Scientific Method!!!

2. Obama Threatening To Close Offutt AFB If Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson Doesn´t Fall In Line On Health Care, as is reported by the Weekly Standard, Glenn Beck, and Sean Hannity at FNC, Rush Limbaugh, The Obama File, The Washington Examiner, Hot Air Blog, ATLAS SHRUGS, Theodore´s World, BNI, ACE OF SPADES HQ, and WND. (Offutt AFB in Nebraska is the headquarters for US STRATEGIC Command.)

2.1 Defend Our Defenders!!!

3. "Harvard Simulation: U.S. Will Fail to Stop Iran Nukes,", December 6, 2009, "Iran successfully simulates nuclear wahead detonation - report," DEBKAfile Special Report, December 4, 2009, and "Iran´s Missile Rattling Signals Command Defiance and Rising Military Threat," December 16, 2009, at

3.1 Defend US Against a Nuclear Armed Iran!!!

4. "41 Senators to Obama: No START Without Nuclear Modernization," December 17, 2009, at, and "Don´t Circumvent the Senate´s Important Role in Negotiating Strategic Arms Reductions Treaties," December 9, 2009, by Baker Spring, WebMemo #2725, at the Heritage Foundation.

4.1 Defend Our Defenders!!!

Mene, mene, tekel, upharsin

For me, the handwriting has been on the wall since December, 2005 when D'Agostino announced that LANS had been awarded the LANL contract. The recent LANL Performance Review demonstrating that NNSA is extremely happy with LANS' performance is just one more bit of validation that LANL is on a carefully charted course, no variations wanted nor expected.

Enjoy the trip!


PS: Sorry to have interrupted your deep, meaningful conversations about snow removal, please continue...

2009 performance review gives LANS, LLC 90% of available award fee and another year to contract term
By comparison, the award fee for FY08 was 88% and 81% for FY07.

The National Nuclear Security Administration has evaluated the Laboratory’s performance for fiscal year 2009 and awarded LANS, LLC 90% of the available award fee and added another year to the term of the LANS contract to manage and operate Los Alamos National Laboratory. That extension stretches the contract term through September 30, 2015. By comparison, the award fee for FY08 was 88% and 81% for FY07.

NNSA cited its “very high expectations” and noted significant progress in the Lab’s performance overall, especially in achieving its mission and delivering on program assignments.

“Thank you for your continued hard work and dedication to continuous improvement,” said Lab Director Michael Anastasio.

Anastasio noted that many accomplishments throughout the Laboratory contributed to this encouraging customer assessment, including substantially completing construction of the RLUOB facility as part of the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement project, the use of the Roadrunner supercomputer, and the accelerated shipment offsite of transuranic waste.

“We’re proud that this year's assessment continues our upward trend,” said Ike Richardson, deputy director. “NNSA’s view of our work is a tribute to the LANL team's continued efforts to enhance discovery science as well as productivity.”

Los Alamos National Security, LLC
Manager and operator of Los Alamos National Laboratory

Total available fee: $80.2 million
Earned “fee at risk,” or incentive fee: 84%, or $43.3 million
Portion earned of overall fee: 90%, or $72.1 million
(includes fee at risk, fixed fee, work for others):

Dec 12, 2009

Customer Service

By request, we are making a top level post around this rather bizarre letter that was sent to all staff last week by Larry Freestone, Group Leader, Personal Security.

Here's the letter, which was posted to the Don't plan on going anywhere, anytime soon post:

Serving close to 2,500 employees per week, the Laboratory's Personnel Security Group is a hub -- helping Lab staff address clearance issues, resolve badge-related problems, process classified visit requests, respond to drug tests, and so on.

Few Lab employees engage Personnel Security by choice, and our staff periodically sees some unprofessional behavior that should not be present in any workplace. Fortunately, these people represent a small percentage of personnel security customers, but the numbers seem to be increasing.

"Customer service is not easy. Few people have the temperament to be successful in this type of job. However, every single person working at Los Alamos National Laboratory provides some level of customer service."People seem to be less tolerant and more vocal in ever-increasing numbers both here and across the country. Common courtesies are giving way to rude, sarcastic, cutting, or belittling comments. What perceptions does this behavior create in other Laboratory workers and in our visitors?

Although we are unsure why some choose to behave badly, we hope that it's not the result of perceived inefficiencies by Personnel Security. We strive to make every customer's visit as pleasant as possible given the conditions and procedures over which we have control. When any customer service agent, not just those in Personnel Security, fails to meet expectations, please patiently seek to understand why.

Customer service is not easy. Few people have the temperament to be successful in this type of job. However, every single person working at Los Alamos National Laboratory provides some level of customer service. It may be behind a counter dealing with walk-ins, observing a procedure to ensure it is being done safely, troubleshooting an equation, or courting visitors who have programmatic funds to spend.

I am proud of Personnel Security Group employees for their pleasant and professional behavior day in and day out. There is no place for rudeness; patience and understanding should be the norm. In other words, please treat others as you would want to be treated.

Larry Freestone, Group Leader, Personnel Security

This is one of the comments that discusses the letter.

The trouble with Freestone's letter is that it was driven by a single incident in the personnel security department. Also, while in general personnel security have provided good customer service, unfortunately, there have been a few incidents where they have provided very poor service, particularly in the past. There have been incidents where they have treated my military (Air Force and Navy) customers without any care or patience. In fact, one my key customers from the Air Force Weapons Laboratory (AFWL) indicated he had never been treated so disrespectfully. The other problem I have with this letter, is that I'm sure Anastasio gave the approval to send this to All Employees. Will this be a pattern of hammering all employees every time Mike get's an opportunity? It was "poor customer service" in itself to send this letter to us. LANS wonders why they have not yet "commanded" any respect from us when they send us letters like this one.

Sounds like we may be hearing more about this.

LANS "Engagement Survey" Analysis Summary

Thanks to the two of you who took the time to analyze the LANS Morale Survey. I'm sure the LANS "Communications Office" (have you noticed how I tend to use quotes to denote an ironic misnomer?) will come out with their own attempt to spin the survey as being positive, but the numbers tell us the Real Story.

I got a call from an Albuquerque Journal reporter on Thursday who was looking for some kind of quantifiable proof of the degrading morale among LANL staff over the years, but I was only able to give him my own subjective opinions. Thanks to 9:22's contribution on the "Survey Rollout" post we now have some solid comparison numbers:

Well, having supplied the data to Doug for posting, I have to say I'm really disappointed you all have been so lazy about analyzing results. (Maybe it's true all the A students have left?) Some of the old survey data is still available from the Newsbulletin archives. So for example:

"I am proud to be associated with the Laboratory"
1997: 82% agree
2004: 79% agree
2009: 66% agree (now "I am proud to tell people I work for the Laboratory")

"Morale in my group is high"
1997: 45%
2004: 40%
2009: 28% ("Morale of my coworkers is good" - note the bar appears to be lowered from "high" to "good").

2009: 46% agree that "My morale at work is good."
2004: 78% "My work gives me a sense of personal accomplishment"
2009: 66% "My work is rewarding"

2004: 66% "Employees are treated with respect, regardless of position"
2009: 49% "Employees are treated with respect"

2004: 60% "Satisfied with my overall compensation incl benefits
2009: 62% "Satisfied with my overall compensation incl benefits"
(Perhaps the only category that's held steady)

2004: 64% "Lab keeps me informed about matters affecting me"
2009: 49% "I feel well-informed about events/decisions/news that affect my job"

2004: 69% "Would recommend Los Alamos as good place to work
2009: 63% "The Laboratory is a good place to work"

Also, 1:28 AM pointed out that most of the lowest-rated responses are a direct reflection of the quality of LANL's current "management team" (there I go with the quotes again):

Let's cut to the quick. Here are the key percentages that register in this document as "Agree"...

The leadership team is working together to advance the Laboratory mission. : 37.75 %

Career opportunities at the Laboratory are good. : 33.73 %

Laboratory managers set good examples. : 27.58%

I have confidence in the leadership of the Laboratory. : 28.69 %

The morale of my co-workers is good. : 27.75 %

Laboratory managers consult employees about decisions that affect them. : 25.42 %

The Laboratory rewards those who contribute most. : 23.57 %

I believe that action will be taken on the results of this survey. : 17.30 %

In most organizations, abysmal ratings like this would result the the sudden resignation of the executive management. It indicates a total failure of leadership and severe lack of trust of the employees in their top management team. However, with LANS you can be almost certain that there will be no real outcome for their poor leadership skills. PBIs, baby! That's all that matters to NNSA.

Thanks to who ever handed this data off to Doug. Have no doubt, you did the right thing and the many blog readers appreciate the risk you must have taken. God bless you, my friend!


Dec 9, 2009

Official LTRS Rollout of the 2009 LANS "Engagement Survey" Results

Otherwise known as: the LANL Morale Survey. The summary numbers can be found here. Sorry about the sideways orientation of the report, but the results are pretty self explanatory. Please feel free to supply your own analysis.

Dec 8, 2009

Indefinite Career

Since you LANL folks have the day off (purportedly, according to one pissed off-sounding anonymous commenter because Mike Anastasio did not want to drive in the snow up from Santa Fe) I thought you might be amused to learn that somebody in the University Of California Office Of The President ended up on the blog here by searching for "indefinite career". It looks to me like UC wants to be in this for-profit NNSA lab business for the long haul. The host name "" should help identify who was looking into this lifetime career opportunity.


Click to enlarge

Dec 7, 2009

Don't plan on going anywhere, anytime soon

From the "It's really, really broken" department:

Date: Wed, 02 Dec 2009 16:19:49 -0700
From: Distributions
Subject: Status of Travel Claims

Status of Travel Claims

The Travel Office is currently experiencing a high volume of expense reports and phone calls. We are working to assist everyone as promptly as possible. The current turnaround time for reimbursement is 10 business days. Please advise your travelers of the turnaround time. We work expense reports in the order they are received so let them know it will be approximately 2 weeks before they receive their reimbursement. They should not call the Travel Office. Also, please advise your travelers that by linking the reservations and the credit card transactions to the expense report, it will increase the timeliness of their reimbursement as the processors will not have to look for additional information.

Also please advise your travelers that if they need assistance with entering an expense report, they should refer to the training and checklist provided on the Travel Home Page. Due to the high volume of expense reports, the processors are not available for training. Should you need to call the Travel Office, leave a message. The phone calls are tracked electronically so unless you leave a message we will not have a record of your call so that we can assist you. For Domestic Reimbursement, please select Option 1 "reimbursement" from the main menu and then select Option 1 again for Domestic Reimbursement. For Foreign Travel, select Option 1, then Option 2. For Relocation, select Option 1, then Option 3 for relocation reimbursement. Your patience is requested as we are answering calls as promptly as possible.

Don't call us, we'll call you.

Lab Conducts First X-Ray Test on Mock Weapon

By John Fleck, Albuquerque Journal Staff Writer
Saturday, December 05, 2009

Los Alamos National Laboratory on Thursday evening took the first ever three-dimensional X-ray movie of a mock nuclear weapon detonation, a milestone two decades in the making.

The test at the lab's Dual Axis Radiographic Hydrodynamic Test Facility, known as "DARHT", used the world's most powerful X-ray machines to take pictures of the inner workings of a W78 nuclear warhead, said Dave Funk, head of the lab's hydrodynamics experiments division.

The 6:09 p.m. test, with more than 60 Los Alamos staff in attendance, was a success, yielding good data on the W78's behavior, Funk said in a telephone interview Friday.

The massive X-ray machine is part of the National Nuclear Security Administration's suite of test equipment and computer simulations used to maintain U.S. nuclear weapons without underground test blasts.

Garrett Harencak, a senior National Nuclear Security Administration official overseeing the lab's weapons work, issued a statement calling the test "an important development in the NNSA's stockpile stewardship mission."

"I applaud LANL for reaching this important milestone. DARHT will help ensure a safer and more secure stockpile without testing," Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., said in a statement.

The test ends an embarrassing episode for the weapons program. DARHT was originally planned in 1988 with a price tag of $30 million to $54 million, but a series of delays because of litigation by environmentalists, design changes and design flaws dragged out the project, and pushed the final price tag over $300 million.

For the first five decades of the U.S. nuclear program, weapons were actually detonated to test them, first above ground and then underground beginning in the 1960s. "You got the answer, right? It worked or not," Funk explained.

The United States abandoned full test blasts in 1992, establishing a program of small-scale experiments and computer simulations instead.

In a nuclear weapon, high explosives are used to squeeze plutonium to create a critical mass, yielding its nuclear blasts.

DARHT tests allow weapons designers to X-ray a mock nuclear weapon during the early stages of that blast, to compare the weapon's performance to predictions made by the lab's supercomputer simulations, Funk explained. Without the explosive plutonium, there is no nuclear yield, and the blast can be contained with a big steel vessel, according to Funk.

Dec 6, 2009

Comment of the Week, The Winner

Sad, but true. We do. I never much cared for the anonymous character assassination that has flourished on all three of the LANL blogs. I believe it says something unsavory about the people who work there.

From the Saturday COW, here is our selection for Comment of the Week:

Actually, the anti-Pedicini folks should shut their holes. At least John isn't afraid to (a) speak his mind even if the opinion is not what people want to hear and (b) he signs his name when he posts on the blog. There is a reason why LANL higher-ups want to keep him around ... he knows what he is talking about even if they don't want to hear him say it.

I respect someone who has the courage to use his own name to voice his convictions. Not so much respect for anonymous cowards.


Dec 5, 2009

Comment of the Week, Saturday Edition

For those of you in the LANS PASO (Public Affairs Spin Office -- Hi, Kevin!) who like to claim that this blog only reports bad news about LANS, I am happy to set the record straight with this upbeat note sent in by a reader on the Comment of the Week, Wednesday Edition post.

Good News! Your LANS team is working harder than ever to make LANL a great place to work. The future looks bright with the steady hands of our LANS executive team at the helm.

This week, Dr. Anastasio released a heart-to-heart memo to his fellow employees at "the lab". In it, he urged our world class "best and brightest" to press on and take LANL to even greater levels of achievement.

Here are just a few, small pieces of the good news that Dr. Anastasio had to say to employees:

"The bills (FY2011 funding) are good for the NNSA enterprise and good for the Laboratory."

"All of this is good news - especially when you add to it to the considerable investment being made at LANL through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), or “stimulus bill. We have received $212 million for our cleanup activities, and we have competed for and won (to date) close to $40 million in ARRA-funded work in science and technology."

"As with every year, we can’t sit back and rest on what we have. I – along with my fellow Lab directors – have been working with the Administration as they formulate the FY11 budget."

Dr. Anastasio is working very hard for LANL, but even with his hectic schedule, he has announced that he will be taking time out to have a All-Hands meeting with his employees in early January. It's clear that this is one Director who intends to get down in the trenches and stay engage with his hard working staff. You won't want to miss this upcoming meeting!

Yes, LANL is turning around and headed for greatness. Our Director and his new business-savy team from Bechtel and
BWXT are all actively working overtime to make LANL a huge success. Recent survey results demonstrate that over 91 percent of the workforce is dedicated to helping LANS achieve success with its efforts. Join this incredible LANS team in their hard work that is making it all happen. Great things await us as we push forward. Onward, ever onward, people!

This is clear, indisputable evidence that LANS is on a trajectory for greatness that the history books will not forget. Posterity will remember LANS fondly for the great greatness that it brought to LANL.


Dec 2, 2009

Comment of the Week, Wednesday Edition

Ok, guys, here's our COW. From the Coverups Are Bad, Transparency is Good post:

It's only taken a little over a month and employees are already beginning to forget about the morale survey fiasco. This LANS mess will die a quick death. By April, it will all be forgotten as word of the FY2011 budget start to come around and employees prepare for a further dose of LANL downsizing (excuse me, I mean... "right-sizing". I'm still new at this LANS-speak thing).

To me, as a relative outsider these days (even though I still collaborate with a few of my LANL colleagues) it is fascinating to observe how well LANS is managing to maintain a public happy face regarding conditions at LANL. Keep those tweets coming, D'Ag!

Nov 25, 2009

Comment of the Week, Day Before Thanksgiving Edition

Left earlier today on the Coverups Are Bad, Transparency is Good post:

Richardson may be unhappy about the survey results, but only because they exist and will have to be made public. History shows that he has no problem with low morale at LANL, which he single-handedly created as Energy Secretary when he raked John Browne over the coals in the wake of the Wen Ho Lee revelations.

Bill Richardson is a consummate politician, and as such will seize every opportunity to do what is best for Bill Richardson. No surprises here. Maybe he will see the poor performance of LANS as an opportunity to grab a few sound bites, publicly chastise Anastasio and LANS, and maybe even the NNSA over the morale issues they have created, and by so doing generate a few favorable vibes for himself.

Or, more likely, he will just continue to toe the party line that "NNSA is doing a terrific job, and LANS is doing a terrific job; costs are down, productivity is up, and everybody is just thrilled to be working at LANL now that the troublesome UC has been kicked out."


Happy Thanksgiving, Don't Drink the Water

From our friends over at the Santa Fe Reeper (

The details change, but the story never does.

The latest Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) brouhaha unfolded yesterday, when the New Mexico Environment Department slammed the lab with a hefty $960,000 penalty for failing to properly monitor radioactive pollutants in nearby watersheds. This time, it’s particularly scary: the groundwater in question provides drinking water for Los Alamos County, White Rock and the lab itself—“and it may well be the same aquifer that’s connected to the Buckman well field,” the environment department’s hazardous waste bureau chief, James Bearzi, says. Without proper monitoring, Bearzi worries the lab’s cleanup of Material Disposal Area G, its only active (and unlined!) waste disposal site, due to be finished by 2015, may do little to deal with the radioactive contaminants leaching into New Mexico’s precious water resources.

LANL, of course, sees things differently. [...]

See the full story here.

BTW: Has anybody seen the actual LANL morale survey results yet? We're ready to do the rollout, just waiting on our copy...

Nov 17, 2009

Coverups Are Bad, Transparency is Good

I've been pretty busy in my LAL (Life After LANL), and wasn't going to do any posts this week, but a comment on the Lab executive team starts Employee Survey results rollout post made me change my mind.

Here's the comment, posted at 5:22pm today:

11/17/09 2:54 PM wrote ..."5 month staged rollout my ass. LANS is going to bury the survey results."


Someone needs to spill the results to the real blog (this one) that actually shares information instead of hiding it.

I tend to agree with our COW contributor: attempting to bury the survey results is lame, and I suspect you all know my orientation regarding lame management decisions.

That's right: override them.

So, I second 5:22's request -- if someone has access to the actual, non-LANS-doctored employee survey results, please send them to either Frank or me. We won't wait 5 months before doing a rollout.


Lab executive team starts Employee Survey results rollout

Cascading results helps ensure action

The results of the Lab's 2009 Employee Engagement Survey are in, and the sharing begins today. Nearly half of the 9,378 employees who were invited to complete the survey took part and provided Lab leadership with valuable feedback on a range of items, from security, communication, and safety to management, leadership, diversity, ethics, and job satisfaction.

First up to hear about the institutional results is the Laboratory's executive team (director, principal associate directors, and associate directors), who will be briefed today and begin action-planning discussions focused on addressing concerns identified in the survey.

Later, as part of the survey results rollout, most employees will hear about the results and subsequent action planning in discussions with their organizational managers.

Here's how the rollout will work. The executive team is briefed first and begins action-planning discussions. Next are division-level leaders, who will receive their briefings in early December and follow an action-planning process similar to that used by the executive team. The cascade will continue through January and February as division-level leaders go through the process with their respective management teams and employees, focusing on organization-specific survey results.

In March, after the cascading is complete, all Lab leaders will convene to discuss what has been done so far and continue working together on issues raised in the survey.

Why not share the results with everyone at the same time? To ensure that the results of the survey are understood and owned by all levels of leadership at the Lab and that subsequent action is taken on these results, senior management opted to cascade the information level by level by means of a process that includes discussion and action planning. This decision was influenced by the survey's lowest-ranked item: "I believe that action will be taken on the results of this survey." Only 17 percent of the 4,313 employees responding to this item indicated that they agreed or strongly agreed with the statement.

Although this statement was the lowest-rated item in the survey, employees did feel more positively about other issues, such as job satisfaction, safety and security, and compensation. For example, the following statements were rated among the top survey items:
  • "I am committed to the success of the laboratory" (91 percent of respondents marked "agreed/strongly agreed"),
  • "I know the proper channels for reporting concerns about security (94 percent of respondents marked "agreed/strongly agreed")
  • "I am satisfied with my overall compensation, including benefits" (62 percent of respondents marked "agreed/strongly agree")
Watch for more information on the Employee Engagement Survey results and subsequent action planning as the rollout continues.

Is this ordinary spin or a graveyard spiral? Brief your executive team today. You know - the ones who don't read this blog (wink).

Nov 16, 2009

Comment of the Weak Minded

With apologies to Doug for stealing some of his thunder, here is my version of COW. It comes from last Monday's Quote of the Day post.
Anonymous said...

Nice to see some informed discussion here on this topic, thanks to prior posters.

On a related note, has anyone else see the quarterly "newsletters" that Roger Logan sends out (and from which the opening quote in this article was taken). Logan's notes are very-nearly incoherent. His rants make even the loopy posts here seem downright profound.
11/11/09 8:25 PM
Roger sent me the newsletter from which the quote was taken. I didn't have any trouble comprehending it. I think he is not only correct but also quite funny. So how about it 8:25 PM, can you explain to our readers where Roger is wrong? If you can I will thank you.

Anyone who hasn't seen this newsletter can view it here.

Nov 15, 2009

Little to Show for $433 MM Infosec Investment

GAO: Security Weaknesses at Los Alamos Lab's Classified Network

November 13, 2009 - Eric Chabrow, Managing Editor -

Los Alamos National Laboratory has spent $433 million to secure its classified computer network between fiscal years 2001 and 2008, according to a report issued Friday by the Government Accountability Office, yet significant weaknesses remain in safeguarding the confidentiality, integrity and availability of information stored on and transmitted over its classified computer network.

The audit, requested by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, cites Los Alamos' management as saying funding for its core classified cybersecurity program has been inadequate for implementing an effective program during fiscal years 2007 and 2008.

"LANL's security plans and test plans were neither comprehensive nor detailed enough to identify certain critical weaknesses on the classified network," the GAO said in its 39-page report.

The Energy Department-run laboratory in Los Alamos, N.M., also known as LANL, is among the world's largest science and technology institutions that conduct multidisciplinary research for fields such as national security, outer space, renewable energy, medicine, nanotechnology and supercomputing. Along with the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, LANL is one of two labs in the United States where classified work designing nuclear weapons takes place.

GAO identified several critical areas where vulnerabilities surfaced, including uniquely identifying and authenticating the identity of users, authorizing user access, encrypting classified information, monitoring and auditing compliance with security policies and maintaining software configuration assurance.

A key reason for the information security weaknesses was that the laboratory had not fully implemented an information security program to ensure that controls were effectively established and maintained, the congressional auditors said.

Among the program's shortfalls identified by the GAO:
  • Lack of comprehensive risk assessments to ensure that appropriate controls are in place to protect against unauthorized use,
  • Not developing detailed implementation guidance for key control areas such as marking the classification level of information stored on the classified network,
  • Inadequate specialized training for users with significant security responsibilities and
  • Insufficiently developing and testing disaster recovery and contingency plans to mitigate the laboratory's chances of being unsuccessful at resuming normal operational standards after a service disruption.
"The laboratory's decentralized approach to information security program management has led to inconsistent implementation of policy, and although the laboratory has taken steps to address management weaknesses, its efforts may be limited because LANL has not demonstrated a consistent capacity to sustain security improvements over the long term," the GAO said.

Among GAO's recommendations: The laboratory fully implement its information security program, centralize management of the classified network and develop a sustainability plan that details how it plans to strengthen recent cybersecurity improvements over the long term.

The National Nuclear Security Administration, the Energy Department unit responsible for the safety of government nuclear sites, generally concurred with the GAO recommendations.

Nov 10, 2009

Comment of the Week, Tuesday Edition

From our Comment of the Week, Monday Edition post, we have a new perspective on WFO at LANL:

POGO - Nov 09, 2009:

"Lifestyles of the Rich and Nuclear"

...Last week, John Fleck reported in the Albuquerque Journal that Sandia National Laboratories Director Tom Hunter makes a whopping $1.7 million per year, and that Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) Director Michael Anastasio makes $800,348 per year. As Dan Hancock of the Southwest Research and Information Center pointed out, this means that Hunter makes four times as much as the President of the United States, and that Anastasio makes twice as much.

...UPDATE: NNSA contacted POGO to say that it reimbursed the lab directors at far less than the $684,181 cap, and provided these figures for the amounts that the Department of Energy contributes to certain lab directors salaries (with the rest coming from the private companies that share in the management of the labs): LANL's Michael Anastasio, $397,341; Lawrence Livermore National Lab's George Miller, $348,400; and Sandia's Tom Hunter, $366,119.


The LANS partners takes around a 2.5% cut of all outside WFO funding that comes into the lab. Since: (a) this is part of the "profit-fee" of the LLC, and (b) this "profit-fee" helps pay for Mike's salary (see "UPDATE" above), then...

...if you work at bringing in WFO funding to LANL, you are putting money directly into Mike's wallet!

Amazing, no? It would seem that this mixing of cash from WFOs over to the LLC "for-profit" pot and then directly into Mike's private bank account would generate lots of serious legal concerns about LANL's GOCO advantage when going after work from outside agencies.

Have any government lawyers looked closely into this matter? Do the outside government agencies fully realize that a small portion of their funds are being, in some manner, distributed directly to executives in the NNSA labs for their own private gain?

Quote of the Day

They just can't stop, whether it's the right thing or not.

--Roger Logan, former head of Directed Stockpile Work at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, describing a U.S. nuclear complex interested in “pushing new, untested toys” such as the Reliable Replacement Warhead.

JASON Panel Offers Secret Nuclear Warhead Upkeep Recommendations

Monday, Nov. 9, 2009
By Elaine M. Grossman, Global Security Newswire

WASHINGTON -- A prominent scientific panel last month delivered to the U.S. Energy Department a set of secret recommendations on the future maintenance and modernization of the nuclear arsenal, a document some experts say could significantly influence policy debates on the matter (see GSN, Sept. 24).

The JASON report comes as the Obama administration is readying its Nuclear Posture Review for release next month. The Defense Department-led assessment of U.S. nuclear strategy, forces and operations is expected to include at least a preliminary determination on how the nation should keep nuclear weapons viable for years to come (see GSN, Aug. 27).

The Energy Department's semiautonomous nuclear arm would not describe the JASON panel's classified findings. The National Nuclear Security Administration oversees the U.S. national laboratories and other facilities charged with maintaining the nuclear stockpile.

However, some of those familiar with the findings described the report as supporting ongoing efforts to extend the service lives of existing warheads, rather than replacing them with reworked designs.

The JASON group found that periodic "life-extension programs," or LEPs, remain a viable means of keeping the U.S. arsenal safe, secure and reliable, sources told Global Security Newswire.

Established in 1960, JASON is an independent advisory organization that conducts defense-related science and technology assessments for the U.S. government, mostly during annual "summer studies." The task force that conducted the study on warhead life-extension was reportedly led by nuclear engineer Marvin Adams of Texas A&M University.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates and some of his top generals have argued that the existing LEP approach would not ensure that nuclear weapons would function reliably into the future. Rather, it would likely be necessary to incorporate modern features into fresh designs that would replace at least one or two warheads in today's arsenal, Gates recently said (see GSN, Aug. 18).

A draft briefing that U.S. Strategic Command circulated on Capitol Hill this summer underscored the point, asserting that "confidence in [the] reliability of [the] aging stockpile is decreasing."

"Today's requirements can't be fully implemented in current weapons," states the document, drafted by the military organization with combat responsibility for nuclear arms. "Most lack [the] physical space needed to add required reliability, safety and security features."

In 2008, Congress refused to fund the Bush administration's Reliable Replacement Warhead effort for the second year in a row, citing concerns about how it fit into the overall U.S. nuclear weapon strategy. President Barack Obama did not include funding for the program in his fiscal 2010 budget.

Nonproliferation advocates have warned that building a new U.S. warhead could undermine Washington's efforts to foster international support for curbing known or suspected nuclear-weapon programs in nations such as North Korea and Iran.

The JASON report should give nonproliferation proponents a political shot in the arm, according to some observers. The group was said to find that replacing existing warheads in the U.S. stockpile with new designs to be unnecessary at this time.

Instead, a combination of weapon-component refurbishment and the reuse of tested designs should suffice in the absence of nuclear explosive testing, according to those familiar with the panel's conclusions. The United States has observed a moratorium on underground tests since the early 1990s.

"We believe that the report finds that current [life-extension] programs are working extremely well," said one nuclear weapons analyst who asked not to be named, citing the sensitivity of discussing a secret report. "There's no need for any dramatic changes in the programs or indeed a need to produce a new-design warhead."

"It seems that the JASON report has knocked the legs out from under the argument that building new warheads is technically preferable to refurbishing the old ones," said another expert, Jeffrey Lewis, who heads the New America Foundation's Nuclear Strategy and Nonproliferation Initiative. "I would be surprised if the administration didn't put aside the issue of new warheads for the time being."

The top Democrat and Republican on a key House subcommittee first requested the JASON study in February 2008.

"A fuller understanding of the risks, uncertainties and challenges associated with the LEPs will enable a more robust comparison between the current program and any proposed alternatives, including the RRW proposal," then-Representatives Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.) and Terry Everett (R-Ala.) wrote in a letter to NNSA chief Thomas D'Agostino.

The former lawmakers said the new external review should be "analogous" to the JASONs' 2007 assessment of the RRW program, which cast doubt on the ability to certify proposed replacement warheads in the absence of explosive testing (see GSN, Oct. 5, 2007).

D'Agostino agreed in March 2008 to launch the JASON review of the life-extension approach. The House Armed Services Committee two months later elaborated on the Tauscher-Everett request in its report on the fiscal 2009 defense authorization bill.

"The JASON review should encompass a broad range of options, including some not included in previous LEPs," the committee report stated.

The panel also encouraged D'Agostino to undertake an NNSA "assessment of the expected technical and financial costs and benefits of expanding the scope of life extension programs, to include reuse of legacy primary and secondary [nuclear-weapon] components."

Current LEP efforts are focused on extending the service lives of the Air Force's B-61 bomb warhead and the W-76 warhead used on the Navy Trident D-5 missile. Thus far, such life-extension initiatives have mainly overhauled or replaced corroded metal parts and other aging weapons components.

An NNSA spokeswoman, Jennifer Wagner, said last Thursday that agency officials were reviewing the final JASON report, which was expected to "provide an analysis of certification challenges for various future nuclear weapons life-extension options."

"When that review is complete, a copy will be provided to the new chairman and ranking member of the House [Armed Services] Subcommittee on Strategic Forces," she told GSN. "We expect the final report to be ready to be delivered shortly."

Representative Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) chairs the strategic forces panel, and Representative Michael Turner (Ohio) is its top Republican.

Wagner declined to describe her agency's reaction to the JASON findings, saying the issue remained under review. She also left unclear whether an unclassified version of the JASON report would be released, as was the case with the panel's 2007 report on replacement-warhead issues.

Observers said the scientific panel has called into question past NNSA and national laboratory statements that, over time, confidence in the existing stockpile would erode as life-extension programs slightly alter the designs of warheads that were tested prior to the onset of the moratorium.

"The concern that NNSA and the labs have expressed about drifting away from tested designs through repeated [life-extension programs] is overblown because LEPs only happen every 20 to 30 years," said the weapons analyst who asked not to be identified.

"Today's NNSA and [the Los Alamos and Livermore national laboratories] have shown us that they can't resist ... pushing new, untested toys" such as replacement warheads, said Roger Logan, who formerly led Directed Stockpile Work at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

"They just can't stop, whether it's the right thing or not," Logan wrote in a recent essay on warhead-certification issues.

If the new JASON report insists that the LEP approach is sufficient for maintaining a safe, secure and reliable stockpile, it could prove more difficult for Gates and others to prevail in arguing that a warhead-replacement effort is the more prudent approach, according to one nuclear-weapons expert.

"The JASONs are the country's pre-eminent, independent scientific advisory body," said Stephen Young, a senior analyst for the Union of Concerned Scientists. "Their findings and recommendations should be weighed heavily as the Obama administration conducts its Nuclear Posture Review and makes plans to sustain the U.S. arsenal."

One Capitol Hill staffer said, though, that the JASON report would not necessarily be the final word on the matter.

"It will be a data point" in the debate, said the senior Senate aide, but other experts might draw different conclusions from the same set of facts about how the arsenal is faring in the absence of underground tests.

What might be most likely to evolve out of the JASON findings is a warhead life-extension approach that incorporates at least a few modern components to replace aging parts or materials that prove particularly challenging to refurbish or remanufacture, several observers said.

One example might be an effort to find an acceptable substitute for "Fogbank," -- a highly toxic, Cold War-era material, used between the warhead's two explosive stages, that has been difficult to remanufacture -- in extending the life of the Navy's W-76 warhead, said Hans Kristensen, who directs the Federation of American Scientists' Nuclear Information Project (see GSN, May 29).

In his widely read blog,, Lewis has dubbed the anticipated conglomeration of selected RRW features with more traditional life-extension approaches the "FrankenLEP" (see GSN, Sept. 12, 2008).

Nov 9, 2009

Comment of the Week, Monday Edition

From one, or the other of our current top posts:

LANS has the plan for making LANL grand!

Mike is "The Man" who carries out the plan!

Staff are his fans who give "The Man" a hand!

Strike up the band as LANL says... "I CAN!"

We're #1, the best lab in the land!

Nov 8, 2009

COW, Honorable Mention

This one came in right after I had posted this week's COW. Also from the For the Love of Sex and Money post:

How come I don't see any of this embarrassing salary info posted on the new LANS blog?

Comment of the Week

A while ago when Frank asked me if I would help him run his current instantiation of the LTRS blog, I initially said "Hell No!" When he asked again later I basically repeated the previous answer. But then I began to think about it, and I realized that I was still interested in the changes that were going on at LANL, even though I no longer work there. After all, I grew up in Los Alamos and worked at the lab for 20 years.

So I finally agreed to do this Comment of the Week feature. I saw reviewing the hundreds of comments posted here each week as an opportunity to track the impact of all the changes being imposed at LANL. It's a bit of a masochistic process, given the frequent illiterate, virulent, and sometimes just plain mean-spirited "contributions", but reading them all does provide a general insight into what the environment is like at LANL these days.

This week's COW highlights one of the more significant changes at LANL that I've observed since NNSA and LANS took over: a much diminished level of respect that is constantly being demonstrated by DOE, the NNSA, and LANL management towards lab employees. Our COW below is the last in a series of comments on the For the Love of Sex and Money post, in which drug testing at LANL is being discussed. I believe the point is well made that NNSA and LANS appear to have gone out of their way to implement a drug testing program that was designed to humiliate, as well as screen for drugs.

"Are you saying scientists don't use drugs? Does having a PhD make you immune from making a bad decision? Please enlighten me. "

Are you saying scientists don't use drugs?
There is nothing in 11/7/09 3:01 PM that would state this, either explicitly or implicitly. Please reread it again.

If you'd like to ask a relevant question, it perhaps should be: Which of the recent highly publicized safety or security incidents were caused by scientists using drugs? Answer: None.

Next reasonable question would've been: If a scientist or engineer is using and it interferes with his or her job performance, what do we do? Answer: Test whenever you have probable cause.

Finally, another good question to ask is this: What's the downside of instituting random, blanket pee tests for everybody? The answer: It makes already unhappy people feel abused and humiliated and gives all the more reasons for the best of them to leave.

Calling people in the middle of their workday and demanding that they drop everything and rush to the peemobil to urinate in a cup on queue (remember,
without any probable cause whatsoever) is degrading and demeaning. It makes you feel like a piece of meat, a sheep, and certainly not an respected individual in a respectable organization. I personally know two people for whom the pee tests were the last straw before leaving the lab.

No other scientific institution in the country treats its scientists worse than LANL at this moment. If most of the A and B people leave the lab, the long-term damage to the national security will far outweigh whatever you may hope to achieve with your pee tests.

Does having a PhD make you immune from making a bad decision?
No, it does not. Proof by explicit counterexample: Mike Anastasio and Terry Wallace both have PhDs. Yet, both are responsible for countless bad decisions.

Please enlighten me.
This appears to be a tall order.

Nov 5, 2009

For the Love of Sex and Money

Ok, I just threw the "Sex" part in to be gratuitous. Here's a story of local interest from our friends over at the Santa Fe Reeper (


Corporate greed, or top-secret-special meritocracy? Nuclear Watch of New Mexico has uncovered a somewhat astounding little figure: Michael Anastasio, the director of Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), earns $800,348 a year—almost twice as much as US President Barack Obama (who makes $400,000, with a $50K cushion for “expenses”). The proof is here, on one of the federal government’s “transparency pages” aimed at helping hungry reporters track down how stimulus money (of which LANL has received over $200 million in government contracts) is spent.

See the rest of the story here.

Nov 4, 2009

Monkey see...

Our COW this week addresses the sincerest form of flattery. From the "If it wasn't for bad luck, wouldn't have no luck at all." post:

It's informative to know that the LLNS management out in California has started a LLNL Sponsored Employee Blog at the exact same time that LANS decided to form one. No coincidence. A couple to things to note. It's pretty obvious that this Blog and the Livermore Blog are a real craw in LLNS, LANS, and NNSA managements shorts. Also, lets give LANS, LLNS, and NNSA management a lot of credit for making their first and really tough decision: Let's make our own Blog. It had to have been a PBI.

Oct 30, 2009

How Soon We Forget


1st Session

S. RES. 151

Designates a national day of remembrance on October 30, 2009, for nuclear weapons program workers.


May 14, 2009

Mr. BUNNING (for himself, Mr. ALEXANDER, Ms. MURKOWSKI, Mr. BINGAMAN, Mr. UDALL of Colorado, Mr. KENNEDY, Mr. VOINOVICH, Mr. REID, Mr. CORKER, Mr. GRASSLEY, Mrs. MURRAY, Mr. MCCONNELL, Ms. CANTWELL, Mr. UDALL of New Mexico, Mr. NELSON of Florida, Mr. BROWN, and Mr. SCHUMER) submitted the following resolution ; which was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary

May 20, 2009

Committee discharged; considered and agreed to

Designates a national day of remembrance on October 30, 2009, for nuclear weapons program workers.

Whereas hundreds of thousands of men and women have served this Nation in building its nuclear defense since World War II;

Whereas these dedicated American workers paid a high price for their service and have developed disabling or fatal illnesses as a result of exposure to beryllium, ionizing radiation, toxic substances, and other hazards that are unique to the production and testing of nuclear weapons;

Whereas these workers were put at individual risk without their knowledge and consent in order to develop a nuclear weapons program for the benefit of all American citizens; and

Whereas these patriotic men and women deserve to be recognized for their contribution, service, and sacrifice towards the defense of our great Nation: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved, That the Senate --
  1. designates October 30, 2009, as a national day of remembrance for American nuclear weapons program workers and uranium miners, millers, and haulers; and
  2. encourages the people of the United States to support and participate in appropriate ceremonies, programs, and other activities to commemorate October 30, 2009, as a national day of remembrance for past and present workers in America's nuclear weapons program.
The local celebration will be held tomorrow at Fuller Lodge. It is free and open to the public. Celebrations will also be held all across the country. I will be attending the one at SRS.

A personal note: I am thankful to every single nuclear weapons program worker for their accomplishments and, too often, for their sacrifices. The world would be a very different place without you.

UPDATE: The house just passed a similar resolution yesterday. Click here to view H. Res. 790.

Oct 29, 2009

Comment of the Week

Four comments share the honors this week. The theme: Shut 'R Down. It will never happen, of course, but that doesn't seem to keep folks from talking about it.

From the Study finds quake risk at Los Alamos post:


I've been following this blog for a while and, although I believe that the lab employees are a group of highly educated, well paid individuals, I rarely see what I would call thoughtful discussions, perhaps related to the laboratory goals. It brings to mind some of the reports by Shockley, famous for his discovery of the transistor and infamous for his writings on heredity and race.

There was a period between fame and infamy where he wrote about the degeneration of the civil service labs and how to revive those labs.

While LANL is not a civil service laboratory, his comments ere relevant. My understanding is that LANL scientists are not, in general, funded through open competition, leaving the place nearly identical to the civil service but with, I understand, much higher salaries.

From most of the comments on the blog, a student might describe the place as dormant or, at the worst, degenerated. Do any of the contributors have a suggestion that could at least point to the direction of regeneration?


Yes indeed, 2:05. I've given the subject a great deal of thought, based in part on my 22 years of employment in that non-competitive, overly compensated environment you describe. Based also in part from my experiences working outside of LANL in truly competitive environments.

I believe that LANL is so damaged by 65 years of ingrained, incestuous relationships with DOE and a few other government funding agencies that it cannot be repaired, or "regenerated". LANL management after Harold Agnew has been generally atrocious, and shows every sign of remaining that way.

The new for-profit LANL contract so neatly prepared for us by DOE and the NNSA has, to no one's great surprise, accelerated the rate of decline in management and staff quality at Los Alamos.

The only solution that I believe has any chance of producing a respected DOE science laboratory in place of the current LANL is to shut Los Alamos down. Completely. And then start new somewhere else, paying careful attention to avoid all of the mistakes that current and past managers have made and continue to make. I won't point out what those mistakes are -- you can read all about them here on this blog and its predecessor blogs.


To whoever wrote "The only solution that I believe has any chance of producing a respected DOE science laboratory in place of the current LANL is to shut Los Alamos down. Completely. And then start new somewhere else, paying careful attention to avoid all of the mistakes that current and past managers have made and continue to make."

You missed several minor points.

1) The land and buildings at LANL would cost many tens of billions to replace. Where would that money come from? No one would buy the existing LANL facilities in such a remote location (unlike Livermore).

2) Decommissioning LANL would cost many billions more.

3) How could it be possible for the same (mis)managers at NNSA who have made so many bad decisions (like hiring LANS) to create a new mistake-free organization, especially at a time when they would be building a new ~100 Billion dollar laboratory? That's nutty thinking.

4) Who would sign up to work for NNSA at your proposed new site knowing that NNSA just might make the same (bad) decision to close this new site and destroy the lives and careers of everyone who works there? Do you think top-notch scientists, engineers, technicians, and managers are that stupid?

Get a firm grip on on your head... now... pull it out. Now get a grip on the real world dude.

2:25 PM is right, the way to start fixing LANL is for NNSA to fire LANS (Bechtel).



You really don't see the picture. I'll try to help you out:

1. NNSA is part of the problem. The suggestion was to replace the current LANL with a new
DOE lab. NNSA would play no part.

2. LANL's current budget is about $2 billion per year. With that amount of funding, a pretty spiffy new
DOE lab could be built. Staffing for the new lab would in no way resemble LANL's current management top-heavy, overhead-heavy work force.

3. Bulldoze what's left of the old LANL. If they can shut down RFP, they can shut down LANL.

4. ORNL, PNNL, and NREL are proof that it is possible for DOE to sponsor healthy, respected (at least as compared to LANL) science laboratories.