Feb 18, 2009

Does it Come with a Sports Car?

Please post - an interesting new external job posting at LANL. I double dog dare you to submit your resume! Senior management would sh*t a brick.

I wonder if this a new position or I would be replacing someone?
Can I telecommute?
Does it come with a sports car?
And three laptops?

Job Number: 216814
Communications Specialist 3

Position Overview
The Communications Office at Los Alamos National Laboratory is seeking an Employee Communication Specialist. The Communications Office, which is part of the Communications and Government Affairs Division, provides critical services to LANL and the community by promoting the Lab's accomplishments and facilitating clear, concise, consistent, strategic, and timely communication both internally and externally. This position will build and continuously improve employee communication and engagement across a large, complex organization. The selected candidate will lead the development and implementation of cultural communications programs at the Lab, including initiatives focused on mission, vision, and values. Responsibilities include: Conduct focus groups to understand employee concerns, issues, desires, and values. Shape and implement employee communication strategies and tactics to respond to focus group findings. Shape and implement a communication campaign to advance the Lab's mission and values, including developing programmatic elements and appropriate communication materials. Help develop and roll out internal communication training programs for key division leaders and managers. Develop strategies and tactics to break down perceived structural barriers at the Lab in order to foster understanding as well as a greater feeling of connectedness and common mission. Advise divisions and help develop customized internal communication systems to advance two-way communication. Work collaboratively with other Lab functions, including Human Resources and the Office of Diversity, on employee communication initiatives. Help evaluate improvements to employee lifecycle communication initiatives.

[Read the full listing here. See also Job Number: 216816.]


Anonymous said...

Part of the job description got left off:

Must be able to lie like a rug. Intrinsic basic dishonest nature, and/or experience in the LANL Public Affairs Office (PAO) is a distinguishing qualification for this position.

Anonymous said...

2/18/09 4:17 PM

You're right on!

Anonymous said...

Nice, you guys. Really nice. How about "must take loads of crap from incredibly negative people." Do you think for a moment this might be a step in a POSITIVE direction? Just maybe?

Anonymous said...

This job pays between $62,700.00 and $102,200.00. The educational requirement is "possibly a bachelor's degree." This is not the office leader, just one of the workers.

Couldn't we just forget about this and reduce the overhead rate a bit?

Anonymous said...

Nope, 5:19, not a chance.

You wouldn't happen to be new around here, would you?

Anonymous said...

If he didn't already have a position, Obama would be perfect.

Anonymous said...

5:19 PM - you are an idiot - Mary Neu - just go back to your office and pay people to write your proposals for you because your "stragetic foreign national" hires can't get a dime to work on your plutonium research. Yes, we all know about your abuse of power... (hey Doug, sounds like a top-level entry for you ...)

Anonymous said...

Ironically, Pinky, even if you telecommuted you'd still be more in touch with LANL employees than any of our senior managers.

Anonymous said...

This job has been advertised before and went unfilled.... but now it's external. As usual, an mid-level SSM that pays crap compared to the lowliest TSM.

Anonymous said...

ok, i'm going to finally take the bait. what exactly has mary neu done to cause such intense hatred by you?

and btw, positive direction? i feel sorry for the s.o.b. who actually has to take this job b/c of the economy.

Anonymous said...

5:19 pm: "Nice, you guys. Really nice. How about "must take loads of crap from incredibly negative people.""

6:22 pm: "5:19 PM - you are an idiot"

Point made, 5:19. Bravo.

Anonymous said...

I like it. This person will be expected to bring in and train the management on "values". The only thing that management values are the performance based incentives (PBIs) also known as (AKA) dollars in their Swiss Bank accounts. I'm really getting sick of the LANS management placing "values" in job requirements when when they don't clue what a value is!

Anonymous said...

At that payband, no f*cking way!

Anonymous said...

Hah! 7:40 PM you assume it is one person. Perhaps a group of us who get together each week to water our pipes talk about how you are totally unqualified for your position and clearly slept your way to the top, or so to speak. Or not. Nevertheless, you are abusing your power to advance your own research program at the expense of others, and you are using your position to illegally use funds to pay for people to advance your research portfolio and write research proposals for you because you are too stupid to do it yourself (ahem, poor bastard hobart). SHit, even Susan Seestrum and Alan Bishop don't do that! Furthermore, you use your post to micromanage C-division to the point of disrepair. People like Tom Baker, and Brian Dyer are leaving in droves. You won't hire Reines Postdoc Fellows in your directorate - instead going after people who can't get tenure in academia. All good. Just rethink it all ... it is not Burns who hates you so much ... many people do ...

Anonymous said...

"The selected candidate will lead the development and implementation of cultural communications programs at the Lab, including initiatives focused on mission, vision, and values." (Job Ad)

Oh, brother! This sounds like something straight out of Bechtel corporate PR. The purpose of this effort is to "align" (aka brainwash) the remaining LANL employees with Bechtel's "Visions + Values" that were previously posted on this blog!

I heard that all managers were attending some type of big pow-wow today. Any ideas what is was all about? Is LANS preparing to roll out some new program designed to "align" employee behaviors? Could this job ad be part of this plan? And could LANS already have an external candidate prepped and ready for this job ad... straight out of Bechtel?

You betcha!!!

Anonymous said...

That job ad has some nice phrases and buzz words in it, but they don't mean ANYTHING when you have LANL essentially being run by a bunch of Bechtel carpet-baggers.

Anonymous said...

The indoctrination process is about to begin.

Anonymous said...

Is everyone familiar with the Behaviors section of the PerforM employee rating process? You know, that section that everyone has pretty much ignored up until now? Something tells me that the Behaviors section of PerforM is soon to become the most important qualifier for a good performance score at LANL.

If you don't really believe any of the corporate crap that is about to be shoveled down your throat, you had better find some way to at least act like you do.

Anonymous said...

This will be a rah-rah, motivational, public-relations, pseudo-psychoanalyst BA degree type of huckster, who will get total upper management support and demands for all managers to attend his/her (her, probably) seminars until the likes of an AD complains to Mikey that she is bullshit, and then she will be gone. It's happened before. Anybody remember Lisa Gutierrez?

Anonymous said...

"Develop strategies and tactics to break down perceived structural barriers at the Lab in order to foster understanding as well as a greater feeling of connectedness and common mission."

'Percieved structural barriers'?

You have got to be kidding me! These barriers are very real and are unlikely to disappear just because someone wishes them away.
Each Division at LANL is like a separate kingdom and will likely fight to the death to remain that way. The budgeting at LANL helps create this situation, especially in a time like now when everyone is scared stiff about future NNSA downsizing and possible layoffs.

How 'bout we all just hold hands in front of the NSSB and start singing Kumbahya?

Or how about having an emotional and cathartic 'Come to Jesus' meeting between all the Division heads at the lab.

Mandatory Zen meditation for all top managers to teach them that nothing that seems real to them actually exists! That's the ticket!

I suppose these are just the things we need to quickly fix all of those deeply ingrained and festering 'perceived structural barriers' that don't really exist at LANL.

This 'perceived structural barriers' talk reminds me of some of those crazy outdoor trust building workshops with ropes and high wires that were so popular with upper management at LANL many years ago. Lot a good they did, huh?

I have a more solid suggestion. You want to improve LANL and break down some of the artificial barriers? Then might I suggest replacing our current useless Director who has absolutely NO leadership skills with someone more qualified for the serious management tasks that face this lab. Our current lab Director has become little more than a place holder for this critical position.

Anonymous said...

"Help develop and roll out internal communication training programs for key division leaders and managers."

"Advise divisions and help develop customized internal communication systems to advance two-way communication."

This job ad is all about making communication better within the divisions! I guess this is so Mikey and the ADs won't have to mingle at all with the unwashed masses.

Anonymous said...

Responsibilities include: Conduct focus groups to understand employee concerns, issues, desires, and values. Shape and implement employee communication strategies and tactics to respond to focus group findings.

Very telling. LANS doesn't intend to actually fix the problems behind employee concerns, they just want to shape the spin.

Anonymous said...

5:19 here.

". . . understand employee concerns, issues, desires, and values. Shape and implement employee communication strategies and tactics to respond to focus group findings."

Seems like a reasonable task, given a chance. Isn't that what the distressed, angry, often-obscene folks on this list are asking for? Wanting to be heard, and for someone to respond to their concerns? Or is just ranting and attacking others more enjoyable?

Anonymous said...

Poster 10:17 AM, you need to understand that there is no trust left with most employees toward LANS upper management.

When trust levels drops to zero, talk about "giving them a chance" is worthless. LANS management had their chance for over 2 years and have completely blown it!

This new effort is going to be seen by most staff as some type of cover-up so that LANS can say, "See, we listen." No, they don't. That point has already been well determined.

Anonymous said...

9:44, time to cue the now classic announcement from Beason. Lisa as you might recall, pulled in a modest $160k+ for this position.

TR "Morale and Performance Strategy" Focus of New Special Assistant Role

Associate Director for Threat Reduction Douglas Beason announced a new position in the ADTR office today, a one-year appointment as special assistant for morale and performance strategy. His choice, Lisa Gutierrez, previously the Laboratory's Diversity Office Director, began her new role Monday, April 18.

The purpose of the new position, as initially described in a Beason Update distributed April 11, is to initiate, grow and cultivate attention on the people of Threat Reduction, without whom essential science cannot evolve. Gutierrez will focus on working with subject matter experts from both technical and support sides to select, evaluate and apply intervention strategies in support of the TR vision and the balance between people, science and programs.

She will study organizational goals and strategies to clarify organizations' development results; identify training, mentoring, morale and development needs with the aid of each TR organization; and evaluate leadership and management effectiveness, in addition to other tasks.

Said Beason, "I have committed to finding new ways to work with TR's people, to be sure they are fully engaged in their own success, and I am counting on Lisa to help make that happen. Working with each division's management and staff, I look for her to make strides in improving morale, mentoring, helping the division leaders, and shifting our culture to one that enables great results instead of simply directing or demanding them."

Since joining Los Alamos 1999, as Diversity Office Director, Gutierrez has been responsible for leadership and oversight of all diversity functions and strategies, which include communication, education & awareness and internal consulting in the areas of diversity, quality of work life, ethics and creating an inclusive and synergistic environment to enable performance excellence.

From 1997-99, Gutierrez worked at Deloitte Consulting, inaugurating two positions as the Central Region Learning Director and Diversity Programs Director for the Americas. After earning her B.S. in Marketing and Organizational Management from CU-Boulder in 1983, Gutierrez worked at Procter & Gamble for over 13 years and in 10 different assignments while also serving as a mentor and an unofficial diversity ambassador for the Fortune 100 company.

Said Gutierrez. "At LANL, we need to strive to leverage the diverse talents and ideas of all individuals AND at the same time continue to ensure that the Lab is meeting its national security mission. The two are not mutually exclusive; rather, they should support one another."

Anonymous said...

We have history to go on in regards to this subject. Look at the great job that Lisa Gutierrez did for TR... not!

LANS upper management now wants to build on the "success" of the Gutierrez experiment in TR and spread it across the whole lab.

The results will be the same as before. Morale will just keep sinking lower and lower. The employees at LANL are hungry to see actions and not just pretty words. This latest effort is just another meaningless check off item to help LANS earn their annual for-profit fees and bonuses.

Anonymous said...

A Sad Tale Told Many Times Before.

The once grand dame, LANL, use to be part of something big. The scientists felt proud knowing they were members of the University of California faculty. The employees knew they would be well taken care of and that their mission was vital to the nation. You could throw out the words "I work for Los Alamos National Lab" with a great pride in your eyes.

That once grand dame has now become an old crack whore who pimps on the street for whatever easy money her Pimp Daddy's, Bechtel and BWXT, can squeeze out of her in her remaining years. The mission? To be downsized and made less relevant to the nation's critical needs. Her government managers, NNSA, all busy trying to lock up lucrative retirement jobs with the very contractors they have hired to bring her down. The "best and brightest"? Most of them have left for greener pastures. Our Director, a poor leader who gets almost no respect from the scientists he oversees.

It's sad to watch. The thing that comes to mind is the destruction of AT&T Bell Labs back in the early 90's. Once these great institutions are destroyed, they rarely come back. I think most of the remaining employees know this all too well. That's why they have given up hope and go through the motions, but have lost most of their remaining spirit.

Having a new lab morale officer won't solve this problem. It goes too deep. The pain is too great. The only solution is to return LANL back to non-profit management and tear it away from NNSA. We all know that won't happen, so we'll just have to wait it out to the bitter end as LANL slowly becomes just another Pantex or NTS or SRS or perhaps even a Rocky Flats II. Tom D'Agostino calls it "Getting the job done." Some job, but it is what it is.

Does it come with a Sports Car? It's the most critical question left to ask when an institution goes down this path. And, yes, Mikey, it sure does. Enjoy!

Anonymous said...

2/18/09 9:06 PM, the management powwow was the Leadership Summit training. Newsbulletin reported on it. It was okay. We learned that Mikey's vision for the Lab boils down to "nuclear weapons and other stuff."

Anonymous said...

back to the mary neu discussion here...

so i'm still confused. i'm sorry, i don't know the backstory. how is she illegally using funds to advance her own research? doesn't SHE have a boss that puts her in check...or at least an auditor? also, didn't she convert one of her postdocs (andy gaunt) to a tsm a few years ago? i think he was a director's fellow or seaborg fellow. as far as the reines fellows, i don't think they're interested in working here. i personally know one of them and he's more interested in finding a job in academia than continuing working in this hellhole. and what's the deal about her husband, is that runde or rico?

as for people like baker and dyer, it's a damn shame that they are leaving/have left the lab. however, i think that both of them saw the writing on the wall and knew it's time to get out. baker was talking about leaving 3 years ago..i don't know how that coincides with the neu story. also, i think you're right...it's pathetic that c-div is interviewing people for tsm positions who can't even hack it in academia. it shows the kwality of people we are now attracting!

Anonymous said...

This is how to build morale at a nuclear facility: http://www.spiegel.de/

(remove the carriage returns)

Anonymous said...

"it's pathetic that c-div is interviewing people for tsm positions who can't even hack it in academia. it shows the kwality of people we are now attracting!"

Yea, how dare you interview people who can't hack it in academia. What kind of show do you think we're running at LANL? Gheesh.

Anonymous said...

9:03 PM, but it gets even better! Since her strategic hires can't get any funding on their own, and she can't support them on overhead, she's now managed to plant her deputy Thorn as the chair of the Energy DR committee. And conveniently, he is stepping down to be the C-IIAC group leader, where he will no doubt "forget" to declare his conflict of interest as he leads the review process for the group's DR submissions and ensures they get funded.

Anonymous said...

12:46 nailed it. Norris Bradbury would roll in his grave if he saw what had become of this once fine institution. As a lifetime resident of Los Alamos, it makes me sick to watch a bunch of California corporate types rape and pillage this place. Shame on each and every one of them.

Anonymous said...

7:09 pm. Sure, and lets get PlayGirl out to do a spread on Mr Atom 2009. LOL.

Don't see too many women around LANL who look like Miss Atom 2009.

Anonymous said...

it's pathetic that c-div is interviewing people for tsm positions who can't even hack it in academia

Not just TSM but Scientist 4, the level that Terry Wallace once said is supposed to be equal to a Full Professor. And we are interviewing guys who couln't make tenure at 2nd and 3rd tier universities. Which makes us what, maybe 6th tier? Fuuuuuuuuck.

Anonymous said...

6:02 PM wrote "...as far as the reines fellows, i don't think they're interested in working here."

I heard the last few sucked so bad that C-DO didn't want to even interview them. Is this true or did the PDs actually say screw LANL? If it is the latter the PD program is in real trouble.

Anonymous said...

Yea, how dare you interview people who can't hack it in academia. What kind of show do you think we're running at LANL? Gheesh.

Al Sattelberger set the bar low when he was hired at LANL by Basil Swanson after he couldn't get tenure at michigan. Best and brightest, Baby!

Anonymous said...

To 8:00 PM ... two words: James Boncella. Chemistry division has a long proud history of hiring academic rejects so that they can come to LANL to play golf and have funding tossed their way by their buddies because they was a "professor." Living the good life, that is what it is all about.

Anonymous said...

Which washouts are being interviewed, 8pm. Some of us non-chemists are curious.

Anonymous said...

"I heard the last few sucked so bad that C-DO didn't want to even interview them. Is this true or did the PDs actually say screw LANL? If it is the latter the PD program is in real trouble.

2/19/09 9:01 PM"


"did the PDs actually say screw LANL? "

Now just go with your gut feeling on this one.

Anonymous said...

9:32 PM - oh, and let's not forget Tony Burrell and Woody Woodruff and Basil Swanson himself!! A glorified hat trick.

Anonymous said...

From 2/19/09 8:00 PM:
Which makes us what, maybe 6th tier? Fuuuuuuuuck.

More like 10th. Even PNNL and ANL (ironically where Sattelberger is THE AD for Energy Sciences and Engineering) are more selective in their hiring. Shit, Sattelberger tried to get Tom Baker, Carol Burns, Fran Stephens, Rich Martin, Dave Clark, and Brian Dyer to work at ANL. However, NONE took the bait. Guess some national labs are still worse than LANL. D'OH!

Anonymous said...

9:27 pm: "Al Sattelberger set the bar low when he was hired at LANL..."

Well, my only experience with Sattelberger (outside my Directorate at the time, but legit business, regarding foreign travel) was that he was tired, unfocused, and totally dependent on his staff people for any knowledge of his responsibilities, span of control, authorities, or even rudimentary knowledge of lANL policy. Pretty pathetic. This was circa 2000.

Anonymous said...

2/19/09 7:57 PM said ...'Don't see too many women around LANL who look like Miss Atom 2009.'

Bow-wow indeed. Unfortunately, Neu is taken ... and so I ask, name one good looking available female scientist at LANL.

Anonymous said...

if you get some of the c-seminar announcements, it's pretty obvious that some of the assistant profs showing up are job interviews. i swear that they interviewed some guy from nevada reno a few months back (where does THAT school fit on the tier system?). but then again, the quality of some of the postdocs coming through c-div are pretty lousy and i wouldn't hire them. the ones who are worth a damn leave b/c, well, wouldn't you?

the reines fellow that i'm thinking of always wanted to be a prof in academia. i don't think he would stay regardless.

Anonymous said...

"i swear that they interviewed some guy from nevada reno a few months back (where does THAT school fit on the tier system?)."

I am not in C-div but I saw the annoucement for the talk. I have to say it was rather bizarre because it was for a level 4 sientist. Looking at the persons record it made absolutely no sense at all.

Anonymous said...


Al Sattelberger's wife, Mary Anne Yates, tried to attract me to Argonne too. I didn't take the offer not because Argonne is worse than Los Alamos, it clearly isn't, but because I couldn't sell my house. The instant they come up with a reasonable home sales assistance package, I'm gone.

Anonymous said...

7:35 and the likes
"i swear that they interviewed some guy from nevada reno a few months back (where does THAT school fit on the tier system?)"
I have met many morons from first tear universities, and very reasonable scientists who finished lesser known ones. Classifying scientists accordingly to schools they finished is elitism at its worse. Of course, the particular guy you mention might have been weak, but not necessary because of the university he came from.

Anonymous said...

8:41 am...

the point is that if you can't get tenure at a school like nevada reno, why are we picking up the scraps. not elitism...

Anonymous said...

"not elitism..."

No, of course not. LANL has never been known for having an elitist attitude.

The good news is that finally even most LANL folks now realize that the self-professed "LANL superiority" isn't justified these days, if in fact it ever was.

Anonymous said...

well, lanl shouldn't have a superiority complex since they've been hiring leftovers from academia for the past 10 years (at least in c div).

Anonymous said...

Bow-wow indeed. Unfortunately, Neu is taken ... and so I ask, name one good looking available female scientist at LANL.

Before we start throwing out names, lets take a look at the selection of men. You guys aren't exactly GQ material. Ruff ruff.

Anonymous said...

Just curious: Was Lisa Gutierrez bad at this job, or is it the job itself that people have found ridiculous? I'm getting visions of "the two Bobs" from "Office Space," so I'm wondering how this position has actualy played out in the past.

Anonymous said...

Equal measures of each is my opinion, 12:33. Lisa was a piece of work, and the position itself was a huge mistake. Check out this comment about her from the old LANL, The Real Story blog, from this post:


This is soooo Los Alamos. The wrong person hired to do the wrong task, at an enormous salary. Lisa makes $163,500, as an Office Director; and her specialty is Diversity, not Staff Resources. This is like hiring a senior chemist to do the job of a junior physicist.
If this is one of Beason's good ideas, I'd hate to see his bad ones. I can't imagine that this will do anything positive, but it will waste a lot of time and money, because Lisa will surely use up a lot of staff time.
The problem at TR, and LANL proper, is lack of leadership, lack of accountability, and a lack of trust and openness in dealing with the staff. Lisa can't address these problems; but her presence may provide a one year excuse for TR management's failure to deal with the real problems.
Hopefully by then LANL will be under new management, and this dumb idea can be put to rest.
# posted by Anonymous Anonymous : 4/19/2005 08:28:00 PM

Anonymous said...

Lisa was abusive with employees and her staff. Her staff refused to work with this womanm any longer and Rich Marquez had her removed.

Anonymous said...

How bout if we drive our 3rd-tier short bus over your inflated 1st-tier head?

Anonymous said...

Too late: NNSA and Bechtel already did that. We all ride the short bus now.

Anonymous said...

"Anybody remember Lisa Gutierrez?"
2/18/09 9:44 PM

Why sure. Her nickname was "168.5".
She was ADTR's Morale Officer.

Anonymous said...

We used to have a saying, "A players hire A players; B players hire C players." Meaning: Great people hire great people, and mediocre people hire candidates who aren't as good as they are so they can feel superior to them. (If you start down this slippery slope, you'll soon end up with Z players; this is called The Bozo Explosion. It's followed by The Layoff.)

Anonymous said...

"We used to have a saying, "A players hire A players; B players hire C players." Meaning: Great people hire great people, and mediocre people hire candidates who aren't as good as they are so they can feel superior to them."

From my perspective, you've just described the employment practice of our Federal Government - in particular, the DOE/NNSA. Imo they are steeped in mediocrity.

Anonymous said...

Woody Woodruff hired Brian Dyer, Basil Swanson hired Andy Shreve, aka CINT director and Athul Parik, now tenured UC professor, so, how are these people bad at getting followers? Not to mention Robert Donohoe (God rest him in peace), a great scientist and group leader. And we had Tom Meyer, NAS fellow and ALD.

Anonymous said...

Tom Meyer was one of the good guys. He was one of (tellingly few) upper level lab managers who had the ethics and the courage to speak out against Nanos' idiocy. And he got fired for doing so. He stands head and shoulders above the other ADs from that period, for his honesty, his integrity, and his unwillingness to support a fool of a Director.

Anonymous said...

Brian Dyer was, is and will be a single man show. he likes to run his own little group with no outsiders interfering. it probably took him about 20 years to realize he wants to be a big university professor. look at the people he converted to staff, hard to say they are from the 'best and the brightest' category. don't get me wrong, he is probably one of the smartest pals this place has ever had (scientifically speaking).

Anonymous said...

Check out this letter from Tom Meyer, in which he writes about the shutdown of 2004, and LANL senior management. This was an open letter which he released to the press a few months after he left LANL in October, 2004. The guy had class. I can only imagine what Tom would have to say about the quality of senior management at LANL today.

From the front page of


Letter From Former Associate Director Tom Meyer

Final. 2/7/05

A Perspective by Thomas J. Meyer

On July 12, 2004, all work at the Los Alamos National Laboratory was
stopped and the laboratory shut down by the Director. The shut down
was said to be in response to a series of security violations
involving the mishandling of Classified Recordable Electronic Media
(CREM) and a laboratory accident involving an undergraduate student in
the Chemistry Division. The shutdown has had a negative effect with
its full impact still to be felt, but a satisfactory account of what
happened and why remains to be heard. As the former Associate Director
for Strategic Research and a former member of the Senior Executive
Team reporting to the Director, I have a perspective on the shutdown
that I feel obligated to share with the larger Los Alamos community.

Strategic Research is the core science directorate for the Laboratory
and includes research in chemistry, materials, theory, and earth and
environmental sciences with broad overlap with other science areas as
well. On October 12, 2004, I resigned as Associate Director. Although
my resignation was tied to the student accident, the overall safety
record of Strategic Research has been excellent, at the head of the
class, as documented by internal statistics and evaluations. There was
a special focus on safety in Chemistry in response to two high profile
accidents. As documented by an external review committee, the measures
taken by the Division and its management team were exemplary.

At the time of the shut down, Chemistry was actively implementing a
Directorate Safety Plan designed with input from internal and external
consultants to maximize worker involvement and management oversight.
Laboratory financial support for this ambitious undertaking was
lacking. Requests to the Director's Office to hire an Operations
Deputy for Chemistry, a position that would oversee day-to-day
operations and safety, were denied. Mid-year funding cuts delayed the
hiring of a safety professional to oversee implementation of the
division's safety plan.

In shutting down the Laboratory, the Director pointed to a "negative
culture" within the LANL scientific community, at one point even
referring to LANL scientists publically as "cowboys." If there was a
cultural problem, the evidence points elsewhere.

The major institutional problems at LANL lie in support and management
structures that have not kept pace as the Laboratory has
grown. Strategic investments of time and resources to meet commonly
accepted standards in safety, security, and business systems have not
been made. The Laboratory has fallen behind industry and other
facilitities in the DOE complex in these areas. As a result, much of
the management and support structure at LANL is out-of-date and
inefficient even with the hard work and best intentions of many
dedicated employees. Their problem is a lack of leadership at the top.

Management deficiencies were underscored by the DOE's "unsatisfactory"
performance rating for LANL operations and management for 2004. The
rating itself was disturbing but it also resulted in a $5.1 million
decrease in the management fee for the University of California. This
is a blow to science at Los Alamos since much of the fee has
historically been invested in funding joint science projects between
LANL staff and research collaborators at the individual UC campuses.
These collaborations are at the heart of the "UC connection". They
have led to important scientific discoveries and been invaluable in
helping LANL recruit some of its best technical staff members from the
UC campuses.

By every measure, science at Los Alamos now and in the past has been
outstanding. The same DOE evaluation that gave an unsatisfactory
rating to operations and management has typically given the highest
possible rating to science. Compared to other national laboratories,
LANL's record of publication is outstanding. The Laboratory has been a
leader in external recognitions such as R&D 100 awards. Three
technical staff members were awarded the prestigious E.O. Lawrence
Award by the DOE in the past year.

The quality of science at LANL is assured by peer review. It shares
common values with the international scientific community and it is
the basis for making LANL arguably the best applied science laboratory
in the world. As the senior manager responsible for the internal
science evaluation, I was well aware of the quality of the LANL
scientific enterprise. I came to LANL from the University of North
Carolina five years ago. As a member of the National Academy of
Sciences, with several of my former students on the technical staff,
the quality of science was a primary factor in my decision to join the
LANL senior management team.

I personally believe that the overwhelming majority of the LANL work
force, on both the scientific and support staffs, is hard working,
recognizes safety and security in the work place, and is a great and
valuable asset for the nation. They have been inappropriately
pilliored and impugned publically by their own Director.

The unsatisfactory DOE rating and events of the past two years under
the current Director have identified significant weaknesses in LANL's
senior management which have begun to erode the science base. Endemic
problems in Human Relations and Purchasing remain largely
unsolved. After three years of trying and many tens of millions of
dollars invested, there is still no operational, computer-based
business system (Enterprise Business System) in place.

A series of Director-led intiatives created unsustainable cost
increases which increased the costs charged to sponsors (overhead).
These increases threatened LANL's ability to compete with other
national laboratories and universities for funding. This was followed
by an unprecedented and significant mid-year decrease in the overhead
rate, which was needed. However, with budgets already set for the
year, this resulted in decreased funding in the middle of the year
which created havoc for support organizations and new business
initiatives. These actions and the Director's insistence on a single
overhead rate to be paid by all sponsors demonstrated a woeful lack of
understanding of laboratory finances and budgetary processes in the
competitive environment of a multi-program, multi-sponsor, national

The same administrative deficiencies surfaced in the CREM and safety
incidents. When the current Director assumed his position, a report
was waiting on security vulnerabilities, commissioned by former
Director John Browne and written by a committee led by Bruce
Matthews. Bruce had had 30 thirty years of scientific and engineering
experience in nuclear technologies and nuclear materials, and is now a
member of the presidentially appointed Defense Nuclear Facilities
Safety Board. This document highlighted CREM and provided solutions
that, only now after the Laboratory shutdown, are being implemented.

Before Director Nanos, Director John Browne initiated and implemented
at LANL a series of widely adopted safety best practices. These
included the five-step process to safety, Nested Safety Committees for
communicating safety issues and best practices through the various
levels of Laboratory management, and a Director's Central Safety
Committee as a mechanism for high level analysis and management
oversight of safety issues.

A next logical step in the evolution of a contemporary safety culture
at LANL, consistent with current safety best practices, would have
been the implementation of worker-oriented division safety plans taken
to the individual employee level with management oversight and
periodic review modeled after the process initiated by Strategic
Research. There was no support for this initiative by Director Nanos.

Strategic institutional leadership was and remains needed for the
management of both safety and security at LANL. By contrast, the
Director's approach to the string of CREM incidents was not strategic
in nature as one would expect from a senior leader. Instead, he chose
to transfer blame and intimidate individuals even with a staff that
was often attempting to implement difficult and complex safety
processes with inadequate institutional support and limited resources.

Last July, after the series of CREM-related incidents, the Director
was called to Washington to defend himself and the Laboratory to DOE
management and to Congress. Even then, he carried with him no written
strategic plan for either CREM or safety. When this and his failure to
manage customer expectations led to mounting criticism, an opportunity
existed to exert true institutional leadership in a Truman "the buck
stops here" tradition. Instead, he transferred the blame again, this
time to the entire LANL scientific community.

Problems with management after the shut down continue to this day. At
other laboratories staged "stand downs" are commonly used to focus on
areas where there is known concern. This allows limited resources to
be brought to bear quickly and effectively on problem areas with the
work force sensitized, best practices instilled, and training
provided. Why did the LANL Director shut down the entire laboratory at
taxpayer expense? Why were limited laboratory resources not focused on
known problem areas? In contradiction to currently accepted best
practices, why was the restart process tied to a change in "culture"
with abuses in workers' rights and creation of an environment of fear
and intimidation. Will this be effective with the Laboratory's
sophisticated work force on the long term?

To the employees and the taxpayer, did it really make sense to impose
the severe restart procedures appropriate for nuclear facilities to
the library and the cafeteria? Did it also make sense to impose these
same procedures to computer science and theory groups where workplace
hazards are largely ergonomic?

Much of the DOE and LANL missions involve risk and the risk involved
needs to be understood, defined, and taken into account through
systematic worker involvement and processes for continuous management
review and oversight. The safety literature is clear on this point,
those who do the work should take charge of their own safety
environment with management assistance, oversight and review. In the
current regime of fear and intimidation, the Laboratory may well be
less safe than it was before the shut down.

The full consequences of the lab closure are yet to be felt and will
continue to cascade through Northern New Mexico and its families for
some time to come. Countless hours of productive work and millions of
dollars have been lost. This has resulted in a demoralized work force
and strained customer relations which threaten future programmatic
support. Key retirements have occurred; if the contract renewal is
handled inappropriately, many others, sensing a bleak future, will
follow. Important scientists are gone or leaving the Laboratory and
others seem ready to follow. Important programs have been lost to
other laboratories; others are threatened. Recruiting will be
negatively impacted for the forseeable future. Current recruiting for
postdoctoral fellows, who are key to the science base and a large
fraction of future LANL technical employees, is at an all time low.

I am concerned that a week after the shut down, the developer of a new
$200 million Science Complex, with construction set for next Spring,
was to have begun work. This was a project conceived and led by
Strategic Research. It promised a new way to replace much of the
existing, badly outdated science laboratories at LANL with
state-of-the art, 21st century research space. It was an
entrepreneurial project, to be funded by third party financing, and
was approved by the DOE. The project is currently on hold.

Although the Director must ultimately face blame for the negative
consequences of his actions, his personal behavior, and his vindictive
and abusive treatment of laboratory employees, there is blame
elsewhere. Is it conceivable that the DOE and University of California
allowed a $2 billion R&D laboratory, critical to US national security,
to be shut down because of two mishandled bar codes? Where was UC and
DOE oversight when it was so sorely needed? Why is there not a high
level board at LANL as there is at Sandia and other labs, to oversee
the DirectorÕs activities and provide guidance and oversight?

The University of California has expressed concern that there is
inadequate representation for science in the current senior management
team. Science management demands a high degree of professionalism in
an open environment by managers who understand intuitively the
scientific process and how to manage, integrate, and develop
scientific capabilites and funding opportunities. Even so, the
University of California appointed an ex-admiral as laboratory
director without conducting a search to fill the position.

The current Director had no experience in science management, no
record of scientific distinction, and no experience at developing and
funding science programs. Where was UC when the director forced out of
the Senior Executive Team its only two members who were active
scientists and members of the National Academy of Sciences? Although
the position of Chief Science Officer has been created, there is no
one left in the current senior management team with significant
scientific credentials.

LANL is a core resource at the heart of the nation's national
security. It is also a nationally and internationally renowned center
for scientific research and is at the heart of the Northern New Mexico
community and economy. It is a major player in the supply of jobs and
a key to economic development. Members of my staff worked closely with
Governor Richardson and his staff on economic development issues by
providing strong leadership for statewide initiatives including the
Hydrogen Technology Partnership and the ZeroNet partnership with PNM
and the Electric Power Research Institute for water management in the
electric power industry. In the newly announced New Mexico Technology
Corridor Collaborative, two of the five projects are either led or
co-led by LANL: medical isotopes with UNM, NMSU and Lovelace and
hydrogen and fuel cells with NMSU and NM Tech. Close relations have
been forged with other national laboratories: with Sandia in
nanotechnology, with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in hydrogen
storage and carbon dioxide capture and storage, and with Argonne
National Laboratory in genome science.

With leadership from Strategic Research, LANL took the lead in forming
a multi-lab consortium that helped create the Advanced Fuel Cycle
Initiative at DOE and strong leadership nationally for a nuclear
energy future for the US and internationally for nuclear materials
management. New research centers have been created in high temperature
superconductivity, fuel cells and hydrogen, and in quantum
information. New, integrated management structures in energy and
environment and materials science and engineering have helped LANL
gain national leadership. There have been new initiatives in carbon
management, water research, and medical isotopes.

These efforts and future ones that diversify the R&D base at LANL are
critically important since it is becoming increasingly clear that the
nuclear weapons mission at LANL is entering an era of declining
support. If left unchecked, this decline will negatively impact the
Northern New Mexico economy by providing fewer jobs and fewer requests
for goods and services. Investing in the future and anticipating a
more diverse portfolio are critical to LANL and to the future of the
local economy. How many of the new initiatives at LANL will survive
the current management turmoil? Will customers have the confidence and
patience to work with LANL in the future?

The timing of the LANL shutdown could not have been worse for the
University of California coming, as it did, in the midst of
preparations for competing for the next DOE management contract. It
does highlight for the DOE some of the essential requirements for LANL
leadership under the next contract. A director and his or her team of
senior managers must understand and have knowledge of how to manage
and move forward a large R&D organization with a critical component in

The new leadership team will need to understand the mission of the
Laboratory intuitively, how it relates to its customers, and the
central role that science and technology play in accomplishing the
mission. The new management team will need to transform the management
and support functions of the Laboratory by working with an industrial
partner or partners with a proven record of excellence to provide a
safe and secure work place and best business practices for its support
staff while maintaining an open, creative, and productive environment
for its science.

Imposing? Perhaps, but LANL is a sleeping giant waiting to reassert
itself. The ball is in DOE's court. A path forward must be found
quickly to provide leadership and a clear vision for the future.

Anonymous said...

Tom Meyer had his own serious problems, but at least he had the guts to stand up and say the truth. Nobody was listening then, and no one is now. Nor is there anyone left like Meyer who has both the heft and the guts to speak out for LANL the institution.

St. Pete is gone, and the remaining NM congressional delegation is a sick joke. You're all on your own, folks - better find a life raft soon. My ship sailed a couple of years ago, and I made sure I was on it. There are too many good people still at LANL who haven't gotten the message. Get out now, or sink with the ship! If you were one of the (20-20 hindsight) fools who took tcp1, get a lawyer, get a plan for your future employment, and get under cover fast.

Anonymous said...

Excellent editorial, Tom. You have clearly captured much of what ails the Laboratory and opportunities for the future. Thank you.

Scott W.

Anonymous said...

11:06 PM, I guess Neu is attractive if you like your women a bit on the horsey side. This one comes complete with saddlebags under her eyes.

Anonymous said...

"There are too many good people still at LANL who haven't gotten the message. Get out now, or sink with the ship!" (11:15 PM)

People have received the message. There are very few good people left at LANL. Most of them have already left. Those staying on are there largely because they have no better options at this present moment.

If the housing market was strong, I bet you would see around half the remaining scientific staff head for the exits. On the lab's current path, they'll probably be forced out the exits by Bechtel during the upcoming layoffs.

LANS (aka Bechtel) has plans to reshape LANL largely along the lines of doing mostly cleanup, production, and plant engineering type work. They'll make their fat $80 million profit fee, just the same.

Anonymous said...

Fat $80,000,000 profit

For reference, they actually get about 60% of this.

If we consider this profit on about $2,000,000,000 of income, Bechtel's profit is about 2.4% on running LANL. Bechtel's profit on building buildings in Iraq or elsewhere is about 20%. Smith's Supermarket in town tends to make about 3% profit. This only works for supermarkets because they have high volume.

So, Bechtel is making less than Smith's on equivalent volume.

They ain't in it for the fraction of $80,000,000 that they get. They could make more profit anywhere else.

Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 2/21/09 2:13 PM wrote that Bechtel's profit for running LANL is about 2.4% of the $2B "income."

First, it's not really earned income that Bechtel has to compete for. The $2B will happen every year.

Secondly, as far as earning the profit, there seems to be no relationship between any kind of productivity at LANL and the award fee.

Lastly, if it really such a crappy deal, I would think that Bechtel would never have gotten involved.

The fact is that Bechtel's participation in LANL generates profit with very little effort and absolutely no risk.

Anonymous said...

Bechtel has the nuclear fuel industry.

Bechtel has the nuclear power plant/reactor construction industry.

Bechtel is heavily involved in the war efforts.

Bechtel now has the nuclear weapons industry.

Clear enuff?

Anonymous said...

2:13 PM

Sorry, but I have to insult you for your poorly thought out comment - you must be a LANS manager.

It's return on assets invested (ROAI) that counts. If Bechtel had capital invested, the profit margin would need to be >10% or it would have been better to invest the capital elsewhere. Bechtel has no capital invested in Los Alamos. None. Zero. If Bechtel had labor costs, they would need to get enough return to pay the labor costs leaving a ~10% profit. Bechtel's labor is paid for by the lab's overhead, not out of their profits. They have no outlays for labor. None. Zero. If Bechtel had liability for LANL, they would need to make enough profit to pay for the indemnification and profit. LANS is a limited liability corporation, Bechtel has no liability. None. Zero.

LANL is a pure cash cow for Bechtel and Bechtel is RAPING LANL's operating budget.

Obama can demonstrate that these kinds of corporate excesses won't be tolerated by directing a LANL recompete as a not-for-profit. Think he will, or is he all talk?

Anonymous said...

Poster 2:13 PM has to be one of our new Bechtelite managers. I mean, were else would you find foolish comments like his?

As others have stated, Bechtel scraps the cream off the top. That $80 million management fee is pure profit at no risk.

Furthermore, since they now run LANL, Becthel has a good chance at making construction profits off of any new buildings and can use the lab to park their idle engineers and construction managers between lucrative Bechtel assignments.

Bechtel didn't take over the LANL contract because they cared deeply about this country. They are a multi-national enterprise which exists to make money, and lots of it.

Anonymous said...

It is so sad that every word of 6:30 is so true.

Anonymous said...

"LANL is a pure cash cow for Bechtel and Bechtel is RAPING LANL's operating budget. "

Got it now!

Anonymous said...

2/21 6:30 pm: "Obama can demonstrate that these kinds of corporate excesses won't be tolerated by directing a LANL recompete as a not-for-profit. Think he will, or is he all talk?"

Guess what? ALL Presidents are "all talk." It's all they do. I'd venture to guess that the first time Obama can find 10 minutes to worry about NNSA/LANS/LANL will be about a week after he leaves office. Sorry, but he's not the Messiah. Your hope for salvation is futile.

Anonymous said...

"They ain't in it for the fraction of $80,000,000 that they get. They could make more profit anywhere else."

Sounds like they need to bail on this "bad investment" ASAP.

Anonymous said...

The LANS LLC got about ~60% of the $80m fee, not sure how it is distributed. Bechtel is making more by bringing in people on ROS agreements. These are short term assignments that are in the $150/hr to $200/hr range. Nice work if you can get it. I know that SAE is using some of these pricy experts.

Anonymous said...

"Bechtel is making more by bringing in people on ROS agreements. These are short term assignments that are in the $150/hr to $200/hr range." (9:36 PM)

Oh, yes, Bechtel will work behind the curtains to bleed this place dry. You can count on it!