Feb 5, 2009

White House weighs moving labs under Pentagon

By ROGER SNODGRASS, Los Alamos Monitor Editor

New Mexico’s congressional delegation reacted strongly to hints that the Obama administration might be considering transferring pieces of the nuclear weapons laboratories to the Pentagon.

A “passback” memo containing instructions from the White House Office of Management and Budget calls for the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy to put their heads together with other stakeholders of the nuclear weapons labs to plan what could amount to a radical dismemberment of the National Nuclear Security Administration that oversees the nuclear weapons complex.

The relevant page of the memo, obtained by the Monitor Wednesday, calls for the defense and energy departments 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 group is supposed to be identified and up and running by next month and deliver a final report by the end of September.

Sen. Jeff Bingaman’s, D-N.M., chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, immediate reaction was he would “fight it tooth and nail if they intended to proceed with it.”

Wednesday, he said he was in strong disagreement with the idea and was talking to other members of Congress and the departments to get their views of the idea.”

“I expressed in no uncertain terms that this was something I would strongly object to,” he said. “This is something that would not be good for the country and it would be a major misstep.”

Los Alamos National Laboratory and the NNSA site office officials said they were unable to comment on the internal memo.

At least one policy analyst has seen something like this coming.

Jack Jekowski, a weapons complex consultant in Albuquerque, began alerting his clients last month that history was beginning to repeat itself. He was seeing trend lines similar to the period in the late 1990s that led up to the attempted DOE Abolishment Act in 1999, sponsored by former Sen. Spencer Abraham.

Abraham became the first Energy Secretary in the Bush Administration in 2001.

The pressure to transfer or close laboratories was somewhat relieved briefly during a “honeymoon” period after the establishment of the NNSA, as a “quasi-independent” agency within DOE, but about nine months after 9/11, Jekowski observed, “the intensity and frequency of negative assessments against DOE/NNSA has increased seemingly taking the external perspective to a height of contempt for the Department by some members of Congress,” harking back to the previous period when the organizational surgery was proposed.

“All the indicators were pointing to the possibility that this was about to happen again,” Jekowski said Wednesday.

With the decision to open several additional weapons laboratories up for competition and a period of safety and security problems centered at LANL, concerns began to grow again, reflected in reports and audits by the DOE Inspector General, the Government Accountability Office and the Congressional Research Service.

Efforts to resolve generally recognized needs for change and consolidation were greeted by a discordant variety of independent reviews and spirited opposition to weapons projects and investments.

A major review by the Defense Science Board was released at the end of 2006, concluding that there was little hope for reform within the present DOE/NNSA structure.

While weighing the idea of transferring the energy department’s nuclear weapons work to the Pentagon, the board decided that was beyond DOD’s management experience, but called for a new independent entity with a closer relationship to the Pentagon.

The report agreed with other studies that a lack of a national consensus about the role and future needs of nuclear weapons hindered the search for a solution.

In his analysis, Jekowski has noted some new studies that are now in the works within the short to medium term.

Among them are recommendations by the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the U.S., a report on nuclear policy, the Nuclear Posture Review and the DOD Quadrennial Defense Review.

The coincidence of weighty evaluations offers an opportunity, as was the case during the early Bush administration, for another rare opening to realign the nation’s nuclear weapons regime.

“My own take is that there is a new generation coming through,” Jekowski said. “They don’t have the ownership of these previous decision processes, or the wisdom. It’s a younger generation that wants to go forward with their own ideas. Let’s hope they don’t, in the process, make decisions that the world will come to regret.”

Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., also sent out a statement Wednesday, saying he had worked in the House of Representatives to find ways that New Mexico’s laboratories could expand their mission in all areas of national security.

“I will fight alongside Sen. Bingaman against any effort to limit the ability of these labs to expand their missions,” he said.

Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., issued a statement regarding the reports .

“I am concerned by recent reports regarding the prospect of moving Los Alamos National Laboratory out of the jurisdiction of the Department of Energy and solely under the control of the Department of Defense. Such a potential move would be extremely problematic, endangering critical research and jobs. I will work with my colleagues to fight any such change. We must protect jobs at Los Alamos National Laboratory, promote research on renewable energy and encourage environmental cleanup.

“Moreover, under the Department of Energy, Los Alamos National Laboratory is uniquely positioned to address the energy and economy crises.”

37 comments:

Anonymous said...

Seems our representatives march in Lockstep.
I'd like to know the real reasons behind the vehement opposition.

Anonymous said...

“Moreover, under the Department of Energy, Los Alamos National Laboratory is uniquely positioned to address the energy and economy crises.”

An economic crisis sure, but an energy crisis as well?

Anonymous said...

Ben Ray Lujan's sister will lose her job. After all, she's not even a college graduate and is a chief of staff for an AD. Go Ben Ray Go! Asshole.

Anonymous said...

Please do - as long as we can get rid of LANS and the selfish and abusive f*ckers at the AD levels and above.

Anonymous said...

I think you can make a strong case for keeping the national labs in DOE while moving the rest of NNSA to DOD.

If you strip out the labs and send the remaining of NNSA as an intact organization to DOD, you'd be putting the necessary "management experience" into DOD.

Anonymous said...

*** THE TIME FOR CHANGE HAS ARRIVED ***

Let's review. Here are some recent comments in the news about the NNSA (emphasis added)...

=== Paul Robinson ===

Robinson complained that the 2000 decision to create the National Nuclear Security Administration has been a **FAILURE**. "It hasn't worked," he said in a telephone interview Tuesday. (ABQ Journal, Feb 4th)


=== Sen. Bingamin ===

The NNSA, created as a quasi-independent agency eight years ago to manage nuclear weapons design and manufacture, has been a **FAILURE**, Bingaman told the Journal on Wednesday. (ABQ Journal, Feb 5th)


=== DOD Defense Science Board ===

A December 2006 report by a task force convened by the Defense Science Board, a group of independent federal advisers, concluded that the creation of NNSA had been a **FAILURE**. The same problems that led to the agency's creation in the first place had simply been transferred to the new organization, the board concluded.
"Given the culture of excessive oversight, micromanagement, and risk aversion without regard to productivity that has developed since the end of the Cold War, this Task Force has **LOW CONFIDENCE** in the prospect for an effective and lasting change in management of the nuclear weapons enterprise within DOE," the Science Board concluded. (ABQ Journal, Feb 5th)


=== NM Gov. Bill Richardson ===

Gov. Bill Richardson said he thinks Congress should dismantle the National Nuclear Security Administration for not doing its job and for being an extra layer of bureaucracy. "I would **GET RID OF IT**," he said. (ABQ Journal, Aug 26, 2006)


=== Former Sen. Domenici ===

U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici to Ed Wilmot: You're gone. Domenici, R-N.M., announced Thursday that Wilmot, the head of the National Nuclear Security Administration in Los Alamos, was reassigned to another job. It was the latest in a series of moves to change direction at the embattled agency. "For some time, I have been **DISSATISFIED WITH NNSA**," Domenici said in a news release. (Santa Fe New Mexican, Jan 12, 2007)



"Failure", "Get rid of it", "Low Confidence", "Dissatisfied"... there are just some the words of prestigious review boards and US politicians when it comes to the highly dysfunctional National Nuclear Security Agency (NNSA).

How much longer must this ugly show go on? How much more evidence is needed to demonstrate how poorly this NNSA experiment has performed? When do we finally reach the "tipping point" when action must be taken to kill a badly run agency that, according to the DOD's Defense Science Board, has micro-managed the weapons complex into outrageously high costs and stultifying levels of risk aversion? And more importantly, how much lower must morale sink among the scientists who remain at the nation's "crown jewel" nuclear weapon labs until the place is utterly devoid of any good science? Sig Hecker now calls these labs "scientific prisons" at which no good scientist would ever want to work. The recent DOD Chiles survey (which LANS tried their best to suppress from even reaching lab employees!) only gives a hint of how bad the morale has become at the NNSA research labs.

Look up "failure" in a dictionary and you should find a single word that best defines it: NNSA!

Even worse, the micro-management and risk aversion which the Defense Policy Board spoke of back in 2006 has now spread, virus-like, into the very for-profit LLCs which directly manage the national labs! LANS and LLNS are a mirror reflection of all that is wrong with a badly broken NNSA. This is what happened when the NNSA was allowed to inject a huge profit motive into the lab's management so that the for-profit lab LLCs would, in effect, become just as badly broken as the NNSA!

People say that the definition of insanity is when you keep doing the same thing, over and over, even after it becomes clear that it doesn't work. It is now clear that the NNSA "solution" is not working. Sen. Bingamin says it, former SNL Director Paul Robinson says it, former LANL Director Sig Hecker says it, former head of DOE and now NM Gov. Richardson says it, and even former Sen. Domenici (St. Pete) has strongly hinted that he thinks the NNSA has been a huge mistake. Barring the views of current NNSA chief, Tom D'Agostino, this decision about the NNSA appears to be unanimous, does it not?

Given that the new mantra for an economically broken America seems to be "Do more with less", why does the United States want to put up with an extremely inefficient and costly solution for our nation's nuclear security which is based on NNSA's mis-management and their crazy policies? Are the proverbial "Work Free Safety Zones" at the lab really the best solution for running these places?

And let there be no mistake. Sen. Bingamin's "solution" to this problem of moving the labs back under DOE only shifts the chairs around on the USS Titanic. Simply changing the "NNSA" logo that sits above the NNSA back to "DOE" won't fix a damn thing. The same people will be running the show. The same mis-management will result. The same risk aversion will be allowed to run wild. Only the logo on the letterheads will change.

It's time for a real solution. It's time to take a necessary gamble and make the break to DOD.

If it is done carefully, the nation will get more for their tax dollars and LLNL, SNL and LANL will finally be able do good science at reasonable costs under a sane sets of lab policies. It can be a win-win solution for everyone.

I say we take the chance. What other options do we really have at this point? Failure (aka NNSA and DOE) is no longer an option.

Anonymous said...

"Be careful what you wish for."

"Better the devil you know than the devil you don't."

Just a couple of thoughts.

Anonymous said...

"If you strip out the labs and send the remaining of NNSA as an intact organization to DOD, you'd be putting the necessary "management experience" into DOD." - 6:40 PM

Putting the labs under DOE solves nothing. That experiment has already been run and it didn't work very well, did it?

Your solution would also result in TWO sets of bureaucrats doing duplicate work (in both DOE and NNSA) where now there is just one set (in NNSA).

Sorry, but you'll have to try harder. I suggest you try coming up with a solution that doesn't involve either NNSA or DOE.

Anonymous said...

The articles key point...

"A major review by the Defense Science Board was released at the end of 2006, concluding that there was little hope for reform within the present DOE/NNSA structure."

That would be both DOE and NNSA. Both are dysfunctional, as any long term employee at LANL well knows.

You'll find no salvation by moving LANL back over to the DOE. Even the amazing Dr. Chu will soon find that the dry rot over at DOE has calcified and is not going to leave anytime soon.

Anonymous said...

Benny Ray Lujan, doesn't have a clue, can you imagine! tHIS GUY IS GOING TO represent the lab!!! Tom, Jeff, and now Benny all put together do not have any major clout. They will do with us as they wilt.

Anonymous said...

All of you idiots who voted for Obama, enjoy your change!!

He is such a media hound.

Anonymous said...

"Putting the labs under DOE solves nothing. That experiment has already been run and it didn't work very well, did it?"

By the way what was so bad about DOE before NNSA. It seemed to work fine for many years.

Anonymous said...

Put LANL under DOE? A broken DOE is why NNSA was created in the first place! How soon they forget.

Been there, done that.

Anonymous said...

This "Hey, I've got a great solution. Let's move LANL back under the DOE!" shtick must be coming from some of the LANS upper management types. I understand that they are feeling mighty nervous right now.

Anonymous said...

Fact #1 - NNSA is a complete failure and management mess.

Fact #2 - The US nuclear weapons complex is a fraction of its cold war size and only going to get much smaller.

Fact #3 - LANL is dying under LANS.

Anonymous said...

By the way what was so bad about DOE before NNSA. It seemed to work fine for many years.

2/5/09 10:04 PM


That was an attempt at a sick joke, right?

Anonymous said...

Looks like an attempt at the fast track.

http://news.yahoo.com/s
/ap/20090206/ap_on_go_ca_st_pe/
us_warheads

Obama admin. seeks treaty to cut US, Russia nukes

Anonymous said...

Good thing Mikey will have earned his high 3 year average salary (HAPC) for the TCP1 pension on June 1st of 2009. He may not be sticking around for much longer.

Be sure to leave the keys in the sports car before you take off, Mike.

Anonymous said...

The anti-nuke crowd like Greg Mello and Jay Coghlan must be really freaking out over all this DOD lab talk. First, Bush's man, Bob Gates, is picked to head up the DOD and now this!

Hey, Greg and Jay, bet you did realize that your man, Obama, was a nuke love'n kinda guy. Far out, man!

Anonymous said...

11:08 pm: "Good thing Mikey will have earned his high 3 year average salary (HAPC) for the TCP1 pension on June 1st of 2009. He may not be sticking around for much longer."

What?? Get a clue. Mike has no need of TCP-1. He is the President of LANS, plus he has a "golden parachute" from UC. He can kiss off LANL any time after his initial contract is over (which I think happened last June 1). There is no "HAPC" for him, he is special.

Frank Young said...

Where is Dr. Strangelove when we need him most?

Anonymous said...

The critical thing that people missed in the Be incident was Anastasio's gall to look us straight in the face in the NSSB and say how rosey things are and then let his public relations representative tell us about it the next day. Not to mention he knew since November or probably sooner. The way he handled this really says a lot about his character and backbone, or lack thereof. I'm sure though he let everyone know about this incident before us that really needed to know..like Domenici. COVER UP!

Anonymous said...

"Benny Ray Lujan, doesn't have a clue, can you imagine! tHIS GUY IS GOING TO represent the lab!!!"

That goes the same for his father...NM Speaker of the House Ben Lujan! This is embrassing for ALL New Mexicans.

Anonymous said...

"By the way what was so bad about DOE before NNSA. It seemed to work fine for many years."

From my perspective, a few years before the RF FUBAR DOE started coming apart at the seams. DOE's Contract Reform was such as success... take a look at us now :)

Anonymous said...

2/5/09 9:31 PM "All of you idiots who voted for Obama, enjoy your change!!"

Yeah. I want Bush back so he can finish the job he started... Burying LANL.

Typical republican. No capacity for independent thought. Turn Rush Limbaugh off and start reading a newspaper (if you can read that is).

Anonymous said...

If we can just get the terrorists to work under NNSA, the world would be safer. ;-)

Anonymous said...

2/6/09 1:26 AM, Now see, your first mistake was attending the all-hands meeting.

Anonymous said...

All-Hands meeting have become very depressing affairs to watch since Mike became Director. At least the old Nanos meetings were exiting to watch as he fumed, yelled and scared the sh*t out of LANL employees! You never fell asleep during a Pete Nanos meeting, that's for sure.

Anonymous said...

Agreed. At least Nanos had some kind of emotional connection to the employees, warped though it was. Mikey reminds me of a bad American Idol audition - tone-deaf, rhythmically impaired, and yet utterly clueless about how badly he's performing.

Anonymous said...

When are you people going to understand that Mike is a Livermoron planted here to destroy the place. He is very good at what he does. What he does is sell cool-aid to the masses. Those that drink deserve what they get.

Anonymous said...

But what does the director think about morale, 8:50?

Anonymous said...

www.amarillo.com/
stories/020709/new_12518557.shtml

Amarillo's Rep. Thornberry (R) weighs in on the recent DOD-NNSA controversy:

============================
...In other matters, Thornberry said he doesn't favor a proposal to bring the National Nuclear Security Administration and the Pantex Plant under the Defense Department. Thornberry, co-author of legislation that created the NNSA, said he doesn't see broad support to move the civilian-based agency under the DOD, but said the NNSA could become its own stand-alone agency.

He was commenting in response to published reports that the Obama administration is considering bringing some agencies and labs under DOD oversight.
============================

Yeah, let's make things much worse, Rep. Thornberry. Let's take NNSA, which is widely labled by almost everyone as a complete FAILURE, detach it from DOE and let it become a completely separate agency. That should patch things up.

Geeze, where do these people running our Congress come from?

Anonymous said...

You elect them, 3:46.

Anonymous said...

"but said the NNSA could become its own stand-alone agency."

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

Anonymous said...

"You elect them, 3:46.
2/7/09 9:20 PM"

Yip, you got it. And, we keep reelecting them too :(

Anonymous said...

"but said the NNSA could become its own stand-alone agency."

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

2/7/09 10:58 PM


I 2nd the motion, 10:58 PM:

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH
HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Just think of it for a minute... a highly dysfunctional NNSA no longer under the burden of a moderately dysfunctional DOE.

It will allow NNSA to take the concept of dysfunctional-ity to a whole new level of dis-achievement.

This, I gotta see!