Feb 4, 2009

Organizational Assessment of the NNSA

DoD and DOE, to include the NNSA, are being requested in their respective passbacks to assess the costs and benefits of transferring budget and management of NNSA or its components to DoD and elsewhere, as appropriate, beginning in FY 2011. The assessment should also consider the process of implementing such a transfer.

The assessment should be co-chaired by DOE and DoD. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of State, and other major stakeholders in NNSA operations should be consulted, as needed.

The assessment chairs should report to OMB and the National Security Council (NSC) staff in four major phases as follows:
  1. Identify Structure (by March 2, 2009): Specify lead offices within each Department and NNSA, the approach to the assessment, the organizations to be involved (including outside advisors), the structure of the assessment (including subgroups and review panels), and the timeline for completing the assessment.
  2. Provide Study Outline (by May 8, 2009): Identify the alternatives to be assessed, key assumptions, proposed structure of the final report, significant issues involved in a transfer (including statutory or regulatory changes), and data and analysis that will be required to complete the study.
  3. Brief Emerging Results (by August 7, 2009): Brief OMB and NSC on the emerging results of the study, including recommended courses of action.
  4. Submit Final Report (by September 30, 2009): Submit to OMB a written final report including discussion of significant issues, alternatives considered, an assessment of their advantages and disadvantages including budget implications, and recommendations for a path forward.
OMB will provide additional written guidance by February 13th.


Frank Young said...

Does anyone know how "other major stakeholders" (lab employees) can provide input?

Anonymous said...

You must be new around here, Frank.


Let me explain to you who the major LANL stakeholders are.


There, does that clear things up?

I thought it might.

Anonymous said...

The DOE/NNSA Safeguard & Security people are not going to like this one little bit. They will fight like mad to show that DOD is incapable of protecting SNM/Nukes.

As usual they will have their favorite Congressmen behind them.

You’re talking about taking ex- night watchmen/cops/sheriff deputies/military making $120k-$130k/year and placing them under a DOD organization? NNSA Security guards are union people – will that work under DOD?

Safeguard & Security is a major concern when discussing the NNSA & the S&S budgets are a major portion of the overall NNSA funding.

If you think this effort is more about science/engineering & nuclear weapons technology, think about what DOE/NNSA subject has been making the news the past 5-10 years.

Anonymous said...

I would suspect that the new Secretary of Energy Dr. Chu will not fight that hard to keep NNSA, although given the closer and historic ties between his old lab - LBNL - and LLNL, he might try to keep Livermore in DOE.

Frank Young said...

2/4/09 3:39 PM,
Sorry, I don't know what I was thinking.

Anonymous said...

"I would suspect that the new Secretary of Energy Dr. Chu will not fight that hard to keep NNSA"

It might be best if he did send the NNSA labs off to DOD. He would not have to worry about all the mess that goes along with keeping those labs.

Anonymous said...

We all know that NNSA is a complete and utter failure, Sen Pete, (who by the way invented this monster) has stated publicly and on several occasions : NNSA has become a complete failure.
Placing the Lab's under DOD will happen and soon, this will be the last chance for LANL to prove it's worthy of it's 2 Billion dollar price tag. Think they are up for the challenge?

Anonymous said...

To 2/4/09 7:09 PM: actually, like the moronic assholes who run those labs.

Anonymous said...

Is LLNL also included in this or is it just LANL/SNL

Anonymous said...

There are areas beyond nuclear weapons work that the DOD might be keenly interested in at the NNSA research labs.

I'm thinking of things like complex modeling work with supercomputers. They may want to drive the simulations into new areas of DOD interest, and they'll have plenty of funding to support this expansion. I see the possibility for a big boost to the work LANL currently does in this area under a DOD management.

They would also be very interested in material science research and how it might help war fighters, and with various types of high energy beam technologies.

Other areas, such as ubiquitous ground based sensing and satellite sensing, might also see large doses of new funding under DOD management.

All in all, it could turn out to be a very good thing for the lab and funding might become far more dependable under DOD's wings.

Anonymous said...

The managers on the top floors of LANL's NSSB building and over at NNSA headquarters must be going nuts over all this DOD transfer talk.

Lots of vested interests and cosy little power circles will be completely busted up if this thing goes through.

Watch for them to sink it in any way they can. Their livelihoods depend on protecting the decaying status quo under the banner of the DOE/NNSA.

Anonymous said...

Word about this possible transfer to DOD is starting to spread across the lab. From what I've seen so far, many of the research staff seem willing to give it a try as long as it would be implemented with care.

Morale has hit rock bottom under NNSA and the staff are looking for some way to improve their life at the lab. The launch of the NNSA Complex Transformation plan with all of its threats of downsizing have left most employees at LANL stressed out and fearing for their jobs. The incompetence of NNSA oversight and LANS management has also left many bright scientists with the bleak choice of either fleeing LANL or sticking around for just a little bit longer and hoping things begin to improve. This last year under LANS has really dampened employee spirits.

Anonymous said...

Unlike GAO or even agency IG reports, when the OMB makes a recommendation to the President it usually happens. OMB does not have a stake in this decision, which is why their recommendations are seen as truthful and unbiased. So whichever way this goes, expect this to seal LANL's (and the nuclear weapons complex) future - either into DOE or DOD. Once OMB issues its report, the debate over where NNSA should reside will not be raised again for a very long time, if ever.

Anonymous said...

Being under DOD would allow LANL to bring in much bigger DOD projects. This would help offset some of the future cuts that are obviously coming to the nuclear weapons budget.

Also, Sen. Bingamin may chair the Senate Energy committee, but he has never been much help to LANL in the past, so it's not that big of a political loss if LANL moves over to DOD. Same goes for the two newbies, Sen. Udall and Congressman Lujan.

This move would be especially advantageous to SNL, since they are already on a military base, AFRL is nearby, and only about half of SNL's work currently depends on NNSA. SNL already does a lot of work for DOD customers.

I agree with 10:43 PM, this will probably be a done deal if OMB agrees, especially given the mind set of the Obama Administration. Perhaps LANL and SNL could be under DOD management as early as FY2011 (Oct 1st, 2010).

Anonymous said...

Saw this thought provoking post by Frank Munger over at Knoxville News...


Office of Science contractors not money hungry?

Feb 4, 2009 by Frank Munger

I talked to ORNL Director Thom Mason by telephone this afternoon, soon after he landed in Washington, and asked him a couple of questions about UT-Battelle's latest report card from the Dept. of Energy.

"We had another good year," Mason said. "I think we've been pretty consistent."

UT-Battelle got mostly A's and received a fee of slightly more than $10 million for its work in fiscal 2008. That fee, of course, pales in comparison to the $46.2 million B&W received last year for managing Y-12.

So, I asked Mason why the Office of Science contractors earn a lot less than the NNSA contractors in the nuclear weapons complex.

He said that's a deliberate thing in that the Office of Science wants to attract "contractors who are running the labs who have an interest other than profit."

As for UT-Battelle, he said the University of Tennessee has a strong interest in the research and development work at ORNL, and noted that Battelle is a non-profit that's interested in technology resulting from the research and in transferring technology out of the labs.

Neither one is a for-profit entity looking for dividends and focused on a bottom line to show profits and a return for shareholders, Mason said.

He cited a similar situation with the University of Chicago at Argonne and the contractor arrangements at Brookhaven that mirror those in Oak Ridge.

He added: "I think in some of the weapons work, that's pretty high-risk work. Trying to find people who are willing to undertake that work you've got to put a lot more money there to attract that kind of interest."


The money quote was that single sentence:

'He said that's a deliberate thing in that the Office of Science wants to attract "contractors who are running the labs who have an interest other than profit."'

LANS LLC gets $80 million per year in profits from NNSA. UT-Battelle at ORNL gets $10 million from DOE. Even NNSA's Y-12 only gets $42 million in NNSA profits.

Where does that put LANL on the charts in terms of dedication to science? Sad, isn't it?

Anonymous said...

12:46 nailed it! Nuclear weapons science, or science in general, should not be a for-profit enterprise. Los Alamos was fairly unique in that respect until Bechtel arrived and literally ruined the place. While the proposed DOD management is far from ideal (for all the reasons Oppenheimer et al. opposed it), it is one hell of a lot better than being (mis)managed by Riley Bechtel. I've been at the Lab more than 20 years and I'd sign up tomorrow with the DOD if I could.

Anonymous said...

8:57 PM,

Nuclear Weapons Complex =

Y-12 Plant
Pantex Plant
Kansas City Plant
Savannah River Site

Anonymous said...

Y-12 is about half the size of LANL. Half the fee makes a certain amont of sense.

Anonymous said...

Moving NNSA to the civilian side of the Department of Defense could be a positive step towards repairing and improving the nations nuclear weapons complex. I hope that OMS will explore and recommend an option that makes the most sense for those affected by such a change. NNSA and most of its contractor run facilities could be moved from DOE to DOD, but thought needs to be given to the details. As a 20+ year veteran of the complex I'd suggest this approach:

Pantex Plant - This is a facility with a clear single NNSA mission of handing nuclear weapons, something that DOD would have no problems overseeing.

Kansas City Plant - This is a manufacturing plant with a single NNSA mission that DOD would have no problems overseeing.

Nevada Test Site - DOD already oversees large training and testing reservations with lots of hazards, so adding NTS would not pose major issues.

Y-12 National Security Complex - As the sole facility for uranium used in weapons and naval reactor, having it within DOD is not a problem.

Savannah River Site - This is already a split site with part controlled by NNSA and part by DOE. With the clear lines of separation between activities already established, moving to DOD would pose minimal problems.

Sandia National Laboratories - A significant portion of SNL's WFO portfolio is DOD sponsored work. So keeping this engineering lab in an NNSA that is under DOD would probably be a benefit to SNL. It would be similar to MIT's Lincoln Lab and become much more of a military engineering research and development lab. As a DOD lab located on an Air Force Base, I could easily see SNL doubling the amount of work it received from the military.

Los Alamos National Laboratory - The best option would be to split LANL into two separate and distinct national labs; one focusing on science and research under the DOE, with the other a defense weapons science lab under NNSA in DOD. LANS would continue to operate the defense lab under its existing NNSA contract, while DOE would keep many existing LANL facilities and create a new national science lab in Los Alamos under the DOE Office of Science. I could even imagine a winning bid to run the new science lab from a Univ of Calif/Univ of Texas/Univ of New Mexico/Battelle not for profit LLC consortium.

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory - A bit more problematic than the rest. Splitting this lab like LANL is not viable given this lab's small physical size. NNSA has told LLNL management that if it wants to survive it will have to significantly increase its WFO and non-NNSA work. LLNL is losing all of its SNM in the next few years, and is becoming more known for its high power laser and supercomputing work. LLNL also does a sizable amount of direct work for the Dept of Homeland Security. So I would keep it in DOE under the Office of Science, and allow it to support an NNSA in DOD as WFO.


Anonymous said...

Earth to LANL scientists....

(a) OMB is a BUDGET CUTTING organization. The reason they are looking at this DOD prospect is NOT to give greater funding security to LANL. They are looking for ways to cut the lab's budget down to its very core.

(b) It sounds crazy for the government to be destroying high-tech government jobs in the middle of a severe recession while simultaneously trying to pass a Job Stimulus bill. However, that's exactly what they are doing. Congress is not always logical. The upcoming FY2010 budget proposal for NNSA will demonstrate this fact.

(c) Yeah, things are bad now, but they can get worse. You may think the lab has hit rock bottom. If you do, I have two words for you to consider: Rocky Flats.

Anonymous said...

LDRD depends on an 8% overhead tax applied to all incoming project funds to LANL. Place the basic science side of LANL into a small DOE "Office of Science" lab partitioned off from the NNSA funded side of LANL and LDRD will quickly disappear.

This small "Office of Science" lab would be thrown to the wolves in terms of securing staff funding. It would end up being a case of "No funding = No job". Everyone who works in research knows how hard it can be to keep their funding continuous and at a 100% level at all times.

Do research staff at LANL really want to operate under this type of strict funding constraint? I don't think so.

Anonymous said...

So, it sounds like Mikey's "great meeting with the Obama team" (All-Hands) went really well, didn't it?

How did we get stuck with this clueless guy as our lab Director?

Anonymous said...

Obama spoke this morning at DOE. Has anyone watched his speak? Any press release, Whitehouse Blog entries, YouTube videos (well, not seriously), etc.?

Anonymous said...

Obama spoke at DOE:

Given all the stimulus content in his speak, he apparently confused DOE with Congress.

Anonymous said...

This is part of the LANL writeup on President Obama's remarks:

"President Barack Obama today told Department of Energy employees that the national laboratories will play an important role in his administration."

WTF? Tell me I'm just getting old and missed this. I listened and never heard the President mention the national labs.

Anonymous said...

I just read an AP story that the White House is moving fast on seeking a major cut in Russian and US nuclear weapons - "The Obama administration, reversing the Bush administration's limited interest in nuclear disarmament, is gearing up for early negotiations with Russia on a new treaty that would sharply reduce stockpiles of nuclear warheads. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has notified Congress and her staff that she intends to get started quickly on talks with the Russians, who have voiced interest in recent weeks in settling on a new treaty calling for cutbacks in arsenals on both sides ... it appears that reductions down to 1,000 warheads are possible. That would be a cut of more than 50 percent on the U.S. side."

I don't see how people can justify the current configuration of the weapons complex for 1,000 warheads, and this look by the WH at shifting NNSA to DOD seems linked to this reduction.

I predict some sort of compromise between the WH and Congress on this, with NNSA and the production side of the complex (Pantex, KCP, Y-12, SRS) going to DOD and the research side (LANL, SNL, LLNL, NTS) remaining in DOE.

Anonymous said...

"I predict some sort of compromise between the WH and Congress on this, with NNSA and the production side of the complex (Pantex, KCP, Y-12, SRS) going to DOD and the research side (LANL, SNL, LLNL, NTS) remaining in DOE." (6:39 PM)

Whoops! There goes LDRD! No big weapons funding to tax means no funding for basic science at LANL.

And maintaining expensive hardware like LANCSE and DARHT will be next to impossible. But wait a minute... DARHT is really part of the weapons complex hardware, so that will have to go, too (along with all those jobs). And TA-55, let's not forget that one, and so on, and so on, and so on.

LANL had over a decade to diversify and didn't do jack-sh*t about it. It makes no sense to place LANL under the DOE when the majority of the funding (over 75%) comes straight from the NNSA. No, LANL will need to stay in the same camp as Y-12, Pantex, KCP, and SRS. Sorry, fella, but you can wake up from your pipe dream. It was nice while it lasted.

Anonymous said...

6:39 pm: " don't see how people can justify the current configuration of the weapons complex for 1,000 warheads"

The Moscow Treaty, already in force since 1993, limits both sides to 1700. What is the big change in the complex for 1000?

Anonymous said...

9:54 PM

From AP -"The 1991 Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty expires at the end of the year. It limited the United States and Russia to 6,000 nuclear warheads each. The American stockpile is believed to be about 2,300 warheads, and the Russians' even lower... In 2002, President George W. Bush and Russian leader Vladimir Putin agreed on a treaty that sets as a target 1,700 to 2,000 deployed strategic warheads by 2012."

Anonymous said...

From the article...

"Submit Final Report (by September 30, 2009)"

Wow! That's mighty fast work for a government report. It sounds to me like the Obama Administration is planning on fast tracking this whole decision and having the labs turned over to DOD by Oct 1st, 2010.

Anonymous said...

So much to comment on.

First, thanks for yesterday's 9:12 AM very thoughtful posting on the possible division of current NNSA facilities. So much of LANL feeds off of weapons funding, it would be difficult to create a stand-alone science lab at LANL that would be cost competitive.

As to fees, DOD pays out almost none to its GOCO (government owned, contractor operated) FFRDCs. ON theother hand, as someone already pointed out, much of the work done by DOD labs is just to contract out research to others, and they have never had any of the hard core nuke work that creates risk and cleanup problems. Historically, DOE didn't pay out huge fees either. But in the late 80's, DOE began shifting more "accountability" to the contractors (fines, penalties, unallowable costs). So when Congress decided that LANL and LLNL had to be competed, NNSA had to up the fee in order to attract interest. If you all recall the RFP process, the fee started out at around $50M/yr for LANL, and only one serious bidder showed up (what eventually became LANS). The NNSA had to keep ramping the "available" fee pool up, eventually to around $75-80, in order to lure Lockheed Martin into the game. Frankly, trying to manage LANL presents significant risks, both from a financial and reputation standpoint, and NNSA had to offer up a huge fee just to attract interest.

Likewise, the LANS parent entities had to offer up some pretty good bonuses to senior managers to lure them to LANL. All Labs offer incentive comp to their Key Personnel. From my view, some of the LANL managers are worth their weight, some are clearly not. Contrary to the views routinely expressed on this blog, being a high level manager at LANL is not easy (and I'm not one, not married to one, etc.), much more difficult than at any other DOE lab.

NNSA sets the performance measures for fee, and does not generally do a great job, or even a fair job, of ensuring that the focus is on "long term" lab sustainability rather than operational "this year" objectives. It is not a "strategic" process. Not the fault of the contractors, and much of the blame would lie with Congress, which pushes the agenda.

Anonymous said...

"No, LANL will need to stay in the same camp as Y-12, Pantex, KCP, and SRS."

NNSA still has on the table a proposal to combine Pantex, Y-12, TA-55, and the tritium work at LANL and SRS under one contract when the Pantex and Y-12 contracts expire at the end of September 2010.

Anonymous said...

" NNSA still has on the table a proposal to combine Pantex, Y-12, TA-55, and the tritium work at LANL and SRS under one contract when the Pantex and Y-12 contracts expire at the end of September 2010."

Burrrp! B&W thanks you NNSA.