Mar 5, 2009

Task Force Urges Broader Role for Nuclear Labs

By Walter Pincus, Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 5, 2009; Page A07

The nation's nuclear weapons laboratories would be spun out of the Energy Department and become the center of an independent Agency for National Security Applications under a proposal to be released today by a bipartisan task force formed by the Stimson Center, a research organization devoted to security issues.

Changing the status of Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore and Sandia National Laboratories and making wider use of the labs for other research would help reestablish and assure "the nation's global science and technology leadership in the 21st century," said the task force report. At present, the labs are directed by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), which is a semiautonomous part of the Energy Department.

"This action would enable the laboratories to remain trusted third party advisors as well as providers of capabilities, but it would initiate a full transformation from a Cold War, industrial age mindset and culture," according to the task force, which was chaired by Frances Fragos Townsend, who was an assistant to President George W. Bush for homeland security and counterterrorism, and retired Lt. Gen. Donald Kerrick, who was deputy national security adviser to President Bill Clinton.

The proposal comes at a time when the future of the nation's multibillion-dollar nuclear weapons complex is under review. Congress last year halted a Bush administration plan to develop a new nuclear warhead and delayed an expensive plan to reduce the size of the complex and modernize many of its 50-year-old facilities. Members held up these programs while awaiting development of a comprehensive nuclear strategy that would determine the future size of the nation's nuclear stockpile and the complex needed to build or refurbish it.

A congressionally mandated commission is studying that issue and is to report later this year. The Defense Department's approach to the stockpile's future also will be determined by year's end, when it completes its Nuclear Posture Review. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) had ordered the Energy Department and the Defense Department to study the costs and potential benefits of transferring budget and management of NNSA or any of its components to Defense beginning in fiscal 2011.

Though still in its initial stage, the OMB idea of putting the nuclear complex under the Pentagon has already drawn widespread criticism from Capitol Hill and elsewhere. Rep. Ellen O. Tauscher (D-Calif.), who is chairman of the House Armed Services strategic subcommittee and whose district includes the Livermore laboratory, wrote to OMB Director Peter Orszag last month opposing the idea. Saying that moving the NNSA into the Defense Department had been rejected in the past, Tauscher wrote that "civilian control over our nuclear weapons laboratories and related facilities was established to ensure some independence from the military."

The Stimson task force recommendations stem primarily from concerns that reduced spending on nuclear weapons would result in a funding cut for the national laboratories at a time when their parent agency, the Energy Department, faces other growing financial demands.

For several decades, in order to draw some of the nation's best scientists, the laboratories have taken on work in addition to dealing with nuclear weapons. The task force said nuclear weapons funding in the lab budgets ranged from 43 percent at Sandia to 60 percent at Lawrence Livermore. But the remainder of the work they do, for the Pentagon, State Department, intelligence community and Department of Homeland Security, helps "to innovate new technologies to help address emerging national security threats."

As currently operated, however, the task force said, the NNSA has to work within "an excessively bureaucratic" Energy Department culture that "has infiltrated NNSA as well," with the laboratories the eventual losers.


Anonymous said...

"This action would enable the laboratories to remain trusted third party advisors as well as providers of capabilities,

Any lab cannot be completely trusted as a third-party advisor if it has a profit motive stemming from it being operated by a for-profit corporation.

Anonymous said...

The Stimson report sets the stage for TR to become the major part of the NNSA labs. Anyone know what happened to the new PADTR (Beason's old AD job elevated to PAD)?

Anonymous said...

"an excessively bureaucratic" Energy Department culture that "has infiltrated NNSA as well,"

Nonsense! There was never a chance of infiltration. NNSA was already saturated with DOE from the start.

Nothing changed except the letterheads & logo. The same DOE people performed the same jobs within NNSA and policy comes from the same DOE policy org.

Anonymous said...

"...trusted third party advisors..."

Something smells here. More details required.

Anonymous said...

The fix is on.

Anonymous said...

The first four comments are proof positive that the culture of this blog is one of grumbling. The knee jerk reaction to anything is to instantly criticize it. Moving the labs into their own separate agency could be no worse. The truth is, it would probably be worlds better.

Anonymous said...

Don't know what will happen. Probably select another D student.

Anonymous said...

Study after study have been proposed over the years for this situation.

Meanwhile, the scientific core of both LANL and LLNL are going down in flames under the corrupting tutelage of both NNSA and the heavily compensated for-profit LLCs.

Whatever choice is made, it is clear to me that these weapon labs:

(a) Need to be placed under non-profit management, and

(b) Need to be removed from oversight by a failed and totally dysfunctional NNSA.

What will we see? Probably the status quo and a slow death for the science at these once great weapons labs.

Yeah, the fix is probably in, same as it ever was.

Anonymous said...

"The truth is, it would probably be worlds better."

The truth is you haven't got a clue - just an opinion like others here.

Anonymous said...

"As currently operated, however, the task force said, the NNSA has to work within "an excessively bureaucratic" Energy Department culture that "has infiltrated NNSA as well," with the laboratories the eventual losers." (Washington Post)

Dr. Chu will not be able to solve this situation. As the Post article states, the infection has spread from DOE to NNSA.

A very strong disinfectant is needed to correct the festering wounds. Perhaps radically surgery needs to be performed to save the patient. Cut off the labs from both NNSA and DOE oversight.

Anonymous said...

4:42 & 10:29

Word at NNSA is that Mikey picked a former political appointee from DOD. Kinda reminds you of his PADSTE decision. “I want my mommie!!”

Eric said...

A small poll.

By show of virtual hands.

If you are willing to devote at least 10 hours per week to making Los Alamos National Laboratory a better place to work whether or not you do research science there, raise your hand by making a comment saying "I would."

No grumbling, no voting twice.


Anonymous said...

Doesn't this proposal sound better for us at LANL?

Anonymous said...

Yes, but only if TR is seen internally as part of the lab mission. Now, Terry tolerates it because it provides the base for his LDRD funds. Otherwise, he would terminate the area.

Anonymous said...

I would. Not.

Anonymous said...

The proposed solution of converting NNSA into a fully autonomous organization with a new name will not be successful unless the core problems with NNSA are fixed. For starters, President Obama needs to replace every manager/bureaucrat at NNSA, both in DC and the site offices. Secondly, the President needs to eliminate the privatization of nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons should always be solely controlled and managed by the federal government. The original Manhattan project had Gen. Groves in charge of the program where the technical work was performed by the University of California. In a similar way to the Manhattan project, the local NNSA site office should be moved to the top floors of the NNSB, and the technical work should be performed by Universities. Thirdly, the President needs to consolidate the nuclear weapon science work by eliminating one of the design labs. The shrinking weapons budget and the diminishing need for a large nuclear weapon arsenal means one design lab must go. NNSA was quite willing to starve both LANL and LLNL instead of converting one laboratory into an energy lab. If the starvation continues much further, then the nuclear weapon science capabilities of this nation will be dead. Likewise, the President needs to consolidate the nuclear manufacturing capabilities at a single location. The recent GAO report on the LEP’s illustrated that the US has minimal manufacturing capabilities. It is better for the US to have one working plant, than many broken plants. NNSA through poor management has single handedly crippled the nuclear weapons research and manufacturing capabilities of the US. The President ran on change and I sure hope that we get change soon.

Anonymous said...

I highly recommend that LANL staff take the time to read this report from the Stimson Center. It makes some interesting observations. Of course, the powers that be can be counted on to fight most of these ideas of new lab governance, either overtly or covertly. However, I think the creation of an agency like ANSA (Agency for National Security Applications) might go a long way to help stopping the precipitous decline in lab morale and bring the labs back from the brink of scientific obsolescence.

You can find the report here:

Some excerpts:

The United States is quickly losing its leadership position in science and technology (S&T). We are seeing this in our schools, our research institutes, in the intelligence community, and in our National Laboratories.


Governance is the key issue. The Laboratories and NTS need an effective coordinating entity, one that provides strategic guidance and management direction. A new governance structure would allow the US government (USG) – including the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Department of Defense (DoD), and the Intelligence Community (IC) in particular – to better leverage the assets available at the Labs, thus elicit their longer-term investments. In light of the Task Force’s objective of providing a comprehensive research and development (R&D) strategy, it considered different structures that would allow formulation of a USG-wide strategy and shared investment in the infrastructure that it deem necessary to sustain science and technology relevant to national security needs.

Sustainable support of other national security agency S&T needs can be guaranteed only if the other agencies commit to long-term strategic relationships at a “sponsor” level. These strategic relationships should entail capital investment, annual funding commitments, and participation in the long term strategic focus of the Laboratories. This requires creating a structure for multi-agency decision-making and investment and eliminating “primary” versus “secondary” access to the Labs’ capabilities. This “investment” will require commitment and support by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the agencies, and the Congress. This multi-agency support should reduce costs for all agency clients, while preserving these national resources and maximizing their service to the nation.

Diversification of investments requires a new governance “ethos.” Additional funding will likely be required to make national security beyond nuclear weapons a core mission requirement at the Labs. It is appropriate that many agencies (DoD, DHS, Department of State, Department and Justice, and the IC) as well as DoE work to realize a true sense of partnership in ensuring that unique national security capabilities will be readily available when needed, rather than seeking access to these resources in a tactical and opportunistic manner. Currently, DoE is singularly responsible for maintaining, managing, and largely funding these capabilities for the benefit of other agencies. These other agencies should now also accept the responsibility to maintain and nourish the programs that foster the needed capabilities

Work for Others (WFO) and strategic Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) are likely too limited and too ad hoc to allow for the ideal long-range strategic planning for the S&T enterprise.‡ Strategic MOUs offer a flavor of shared investment for mutually desired outcomes, but they do not represent a binding financial investment. The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) would have to arrange a large number of these MOUs tailored to each competency identified to achieve the desired effect. It is highly likely that neither WFO nor strategic MOUs can achieve the “governance” requisite to prioritize and allocate spending in a manner that ensures the appropriate longterm investments are forthcoming and most efficiently leverages the S&T base.


If the decline in nuclear weapons budgets continues and other agencies’ investments cannot be secured, core competencies applicable to a range of critical national security needs will be severely eroded or lost. Long-term investments are required from users beyond DoE/NNSA to shore up critical national security competencies.


After a careful weighing of the options, the Task Force strongly recommends creating a fully independent agency for national security science and technology – the Agency for National Security Applications (ANSA). The Task Force saw this as the most viable option for achievement of the S&T transformation vision and the efficacy of our national security S&T infrastructure. This action would enable the Laboratories to remain trusted third party advisors as well as providers of capabilities, but it would initiate a full transformation from a Cold War, industrial age mindset and culture to a more flexible and adaptable information age, organizational structure. In addition, the proposed organizational change would catalyze the multi-agency investment schemes and synergies necessary to fully achieve the S&T transformation vision. Recognizing that: (1) NNSA never realized the degree of autonomy intended by Congress; (2) that for the foreseeable future, DoE and its leadership will be fully fixated on addressing the current energy crisis, and (3) that shared investments can only be achieved through a governance structure that engenders strategic planning for government-wide national security S&T needs, the Task Force proposes fully severing NNSA and its Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs) including the NTS, from DoE to establish the proposed Agency for National Security Applications.

Anonymous said...

Some familiar names had input into this Stimsom report. John Browne is mentioned, as is Bruce Tarter, and the Stimson report even thanks Tom D'Agostino (believe it or not) for his support in helping to pull this report together.

Anonymous said...

9:06 pm: "The President ran on change and I sure hope that we get change soon."

Not likely, based on how much "change" Congress has been willing to make thus far, other than increasing the national debt far beyond Bush's wildest dreams. Obama is only the President, and controls only the Executive Branch. Changes you propose are only available from Congress, since they entail funding decisions.

Anonymous said...

Where in the world is our new DOE leader, Dr. Chu, and what does he think about this report and its ideas?

The weapons portion is over 2/3rds of his budget, and yet he seems to have little to say about it. He can't continue to hide (recuse) himself from this subject for much longer.

Anonymous said...

The weapons community at LANL will never play second fiddle to anyone else at this lab. Bechtel and BWXT are also depending on the production side of the weapons complex to help secure additional profits. Seeing as Mike Anastasio is also one of the old weaponeers, don't expect LANS to give this report any real support.

This report is insightful, but DOE, NNSA and LANS will see to it that the ideas in this report for a revitalized national security lab complex are completely ignored and that we continue on the same downward path. Only Congress could change things, and it is clear the the local NM delegation is all for continuing with the status quo, no matter the costs.

Anonymous said...

The suggestions in this report are very detailed, even to the point of breaking down exactly how this new ANSA entity would be constructed.

Somebody has really done their homework on this ANSA thing!

Anonymous said...

Chu is serious about the "E" in DOE. He doesn't seem as concerned about the size of his budget as compared to what it's spent on. He didn't sign onto the DOW (Department of Weapons) which is crashing about as fast as the other DOW.

Anonymous said...

9:30 pm: "He can't continue to hide (recuse) himself from this subject for much longer."

Of course he can. Where is the political pressure for Chu to take a definitive stand, as opposed to his current non-involvement?

Anonymous said...

"Any lab cannot be completely trusted as a third-party advisor if it has a profit motive stemming from it being operated by a for-profit corporation."

Given the size of their operation, many non-profit organizations cannot be assumed to be free of conflicts of interest or at least multiple motives. Just because folks are not making a profit doesn't mean they have no self-interests.

We're all human beings.

Anonymous said...

This Stimson Center report sounds like a reasonable plan to revitalize the labs and change LANL, LLNL and SNL into truly diversified national security labs.

Will it be done? Not a chance. Not while I'm lab Director. A year from now I plan on having most of the cowardly scientists left at LANL quivering in their sandals and bike shorts as they ponder whether they're on the next LANS layoff list.

Make way for a big increase in Bechtel facilities engineers! Bwaahh, ha, ha, haaaw!!!! As I mentioned several times during my last All-Hands, we'll gladly pay $2000 for each referral!

- Mikey

Anonymous said...

I´ve seen the hearing of Dr. Chu in the Senate earlier today, March 5, 2009, some thoughts:

Dr. Chu as SEC/DOE lacks a clear and balanced understanding of national security, and energy security, with his and President Obama´s ambivalent understanding of nuclear deterrence, nuclear power, and in the short term not be willing to use Yucca Mountain for nuclear repository, and no interest to adopt future weapons systems for the national labs, as, RRW, RNEP et cetera, directed energy weapons, missile defense, space weapons, and R&D in materials science, especially for future use for the DoD.

Finally, he appears pale, un-pragmatic, un-practical, irrational, and as a consequence, the NWC will continue to be weaken and in limbo, with nothing new to work on, whether it is RRW, RNEP, directed energy weapons, et cetera, e.g. the NWC will continue to deteriorate, and lowering of the morale amongst the scientists.

(As a comparison, Dr. James Jay Carafano, Baker Spring, and Mackenzie Eaglen of The Heritage Foundation, outlines, February 19, 2008, Providing for the Common Defense: What 10 Years of Progress Would Look Like, Backgrounder #2108,, some quotes:

-- Thinking About the Unthinkable. In the post- Cold War era, Washington has taken great risks by neglecting vital but politically controversial components of defense, such as missile defense, the nuclear deterrent, and space-based defenses. The U.S. cannot afford to continue ignoring these needs simply because of ideological differences.

Establishing a military that has the capabilities and capacity to perform all of the Pentagon missions-from supporting the home front to intervening overseas and winning the peace to dealing with a variety of terrorist threats to defending against ballistic missiles and cyberattacks-requires a President and a Congress that are willing to prepare, field, and sustain the force to protect America.

-- Exploit cutting-edge technology. The military will need new technologies (e.g., directed-energy weapons, unmanned combat aerial vehicles, and other robotic systems) that give it a significant competitive advantage over future adversaries.)

PS: Pres. Obama and his administation essentially believe and supports the naive and dangerous idea of zero nuclear weapons in the world.

Anonymous said...

"Seeing as Mike Anastasio is also one of the old weaponeers, don't expect LANS to give this report any real support."

True. True.

This report may not be perfect (most aren't) but it offers a clear path for LANL to balance weapons and TR work for the future. It clearly and logically outlines a well-formed concept that serves the entire nation (not just a few select local politicians).

That said, it is DOA at LANS. Just look at how Terry treats TR - he held the last AD (Beason) in public contempt.

Anonymous said...

Chu is starting to look as bad as the rest of Obama's appointees. I wonder if he has been paying his income tax?

Anonymous said...

What do we need Chu for?
He has dodged the major issues.

Eric said...

The Stimson report. Very interesting. Thanks for the URL.

Anonymous said...

I was skeptical based on the original post but after reading through the Stimson Report, what a nice surprise. It’s refreshing to read a candid analysis and recognition of the issues.

However, I'm a bit doubtful because:

1. “Whether or not one believes that nuclear disarmament is desirable or feasible, a strong cadre of nuclear weapons scientists and engineers is required well into the foreseeable future as a hedge against strategic surprise as well as to ensure, at a minimum, the safety and reliability of the existing stockpile.”

2. “…the new administration, especially with respect to “modernizing” the stockpile, a comprehensive overhaul of the R&D infrastructure based on the integration of these four strategies will be required to support almost any conceivable outcome of a nuclear posture review.”

Don’t get me wrong. I think the ANSA (Agency for National Security Applications) is an excellent approach. However, I don’t think the current administration will support nuclear weapons to the extent necessary to allow the Labs to maintain a strong cadre of nuclear weapons scientists and engineers.

Perhaps we don’t need to take the RRW & other new weapons designs to FPU/serial production but the Labs must do the real science & engineering to maintain this national capability.

For the record, I’m not a lab employee & I’ll defer to their opinions on this issue.

Anonymous said...

From the report:

"The WFO activities have long leveraged the exceptional scientific expertise at the NNSA
Labs and been a source of additional resources."


SNL saw this one coming and embraced it.

LANL put policy in place to make it more difficult to do WFO.

The data on WFO per lab speak to the leadership vacuum in this area in LANS.

Anonymous said...

Three or four years ago, the excellent suggestions in this Stimson report might have been possible to implement. ANSA would have greatly diversified LANL and leverage it's abilities into many other areas of national security.

Sadly, with NNSA and the for-profit LLCs now running the show, the ANSA idea has no chance of ever being implementation.

There are too many people in high level positions whose power and economic prosperity depend on keeping things just the way they are, even those this path is destroying the labs and making them little more than niche production and cleanup facilities.

Morale will continue to sink, the science will continue to rot away, budgetary problems will continue to fester, and LANL will continue to obey NNSA's every wish to push high costs and Work Free Safety Zones into every corner of the lab. (Sigh!)

SNL is the only NNSA research lab that seems to have a decent future. They are well on their way down to the path that the Stimson report envisions.

Anonymous said...

history repeats itself
or, deja vu .... all over again

from Nature, 5 OCT 2000 pg.547

"Energy department officials now say that they intend to work with the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the semi-autonomous agency established to run the weapons laboratories, to make a new start in their efforts to improve both security and morale. "We realize that the way things are now is not going to work," says Marshall Combs, an adviser to energy secretary Bill Richardson. "This is going to be a new time. We are going to pull this off.""

The above is from pre-LANS days. Wonder how it would read today?

Not that NNSA free of DOE would be a perfect situation, but it would permit both of them to focus on their assigned mission. **Energy** for DOE and **national security** for NNSA.

The only reasons being floated to keep them together are political. All other evidence is heavy toward seperating them. But, as demonstrated by promotion to the high leadership level in LANS, being a SOP (son of politician) can overcome a career of failed science talent.

Expect congress to make the decision for Chu and maintain the status quo.

Anonymous said...

A copy of this report should be required reading for all of Congress. Unfortunately, it will probably not even be skimmed by them.

Anonymous said...

Don't know what will happen. Probably select another D student.
3/5/09 10:29 AM"

Typical post on this site - type & gripe first and get data later. This post prompted a few questions & the answers were consistently positive. Appears that the offer went to a legit scientist that hasn't worked for a national lab, a number of years as a full prof at a respected research univ, lots of publications, honors & awards. LANL Fellows & Sr. Fellows had comments like "top-shelf", "broadly respected scientist and leader", "high quality technical accomplishments", "excellent track record", etc.

Why someone that is a solid A student (perhaps A+) would want to come to LANS at this time is a damn good question. Judging by the attitude of many of the posters on this site, what a cesspool of lousy morale to land in!!

Anonymous said...

From what I've seen & heard thus far, Dr. Chu appears so awestruck with Pres.Obama that he is just a lackey. Smart & talented, but still an awestruck lackey.

Why is he avoiding any real discussion regarding nuclear energy's role?

He's smart, talented, & experienced enough, but is he tough enough to lead DOE to accomplish their mission? Or, does Dr. Chu just want the fame?

Anonymous said...

Very thoughtful report from a very informed committee... too bad no one will listen to them.

Anonymous said...

4:42 pm : "Why someone that is a solid A student (perhaps A+) would want to come to LANS at this time is a damn good question. Judging by the attitude of many of the posters on this site, what a cesspool of lousy morale to land in!!"

Please do not be misled. The overall state of morale among LANL employees is as low as I've seen it in over 30 years, but it is far from a "cesspool," although that is certainly the impression you'd get from this blog. If you are interested, please do your own research. If you know LANL emloyees, ask them. If you know federal employees, ask them about the LANL people they interact with frequently. If you know other colleagues of LANL employees, ask them. This blog is a cesspool, but the fraction of LANL employees whose wiews are represented here is quite small.

- Not Kevin

Doug Roberts said...


You were gaining some traction, 6:19pm, up until you made the mistake of claiming expertise in an area where *no one* is an expert. Let me Illustrate:

"This blog is a cesspool, but the fraction of LANL employees whose wiews are represented here is quite small."

You see, nobody, including the blog moderator (Frank) knows what fraction of LANL employees express their thoughts here.

You certainly don't. You might have an opinion. Clearly an opinion in which you place great value. Baseless, but all yours regardless. I'm sure you're quite proud of it.

But you don't know how many lab employees state their opinions here. Neither do I. Nor does Frank.

You are, however, a (pretty much) complete idiot for claiming that you do. But, thanks for making that clear to us all! It's always helpful to know the other person's agenda.

Sorry that your attempts to marginalize the opinions that have been broadly expressed here were so transparent. Better luck next time!


Anonymous said...

"Very thoughtful report from a very informed committee... too bad no one will listen to them."

"No one"? I suspect some will. But, will there be any real change?

Congress F'd up the NNSA creation -can you guess how they'll do with this if they decide to implement it?

Anonymous said...


I nominate your 8:38pm comment for comment of the week.

Doug Roberts said...

And I nominate 8:19 as not, not-Kevin.

Kevin, in other words. He has a history of attempting to downplay the level of participation on the LANL blogs.

He's never been particularly successful, but hey: points for tenacity.


Anonymous said...

Dangling a well written report like this one with its hope of deliverance from the miasma known as LANS LLC and NNSA is a cruel hoax to play on the LANL staff. ANSA sounds like such a wonderful organization to work for with a great mission for its future. Too bad it is probably nothing but a dream.

We've had so many report like this one before: the Galvin Report (1995), the Chiles Report (1999), the PFIAB Report (1999), the Foster Panel Report (2000), the DSB Report (2006), the new DOD Chiles Report(2008), and finally this Stimson Report (2009). They all pretty much said the same thing: DOE's dysfunctional and excessive bureaucracy is strangling the labs and destroying lab science. The scientific talent at the labs is in decline and morale is poor. The DOE's strong sense of risk aversion without any regard to costs and productivity is hurting the labs. Etc.

I dare say this Stimson Report is probably the best report yet! And just like all the others, it will likely be ignored and the problems will be allowed to grow even worse.

I will say this: This report hit on two key points that are likely to be key elements in the final collapse of what little is left of the scientific talent at these weapons labs:

KEY POINT (Page 16):

"..the Laboratories must be able to respond to national needs quickly, efficiently, and at a reasonable cost. Onerous oversight or management of WFO program performance by Headquarters or site offices will put additional NNSA contributions to broader national security needs at risk"

(i.e., the current high cost "onesy, twosey" type WFO model will fail to expand the national security projects at the labs).

KEY POINT (Page 16):

"If the decline in the nuclear weapons budgets continue and other agencies' investments cannot be secured, core competencies applicable to a range of critical national security needs will be severely eroded or lost."

(i.e., with the decline of the nuclear weapons budget, the core of scientific talent at the lab will go down. Anyone on the staff at LANL has already been witness to this loss of talent. This decline accelerated after the transition to "for-profit" LLC management. The best and brightest are quickly clearing out.)

In summary, ANSA is the answer, but Congress, NNSA, and LANS don't even want to hear the question! Therefore, the continuing decline and dysfunction that all these reports have mentioned will only get worse as time moves forward.

God help this country, because our national security labs won't be able to offer much help when the time finally arrives in which we need the scientific expertise.

Anonymous said...

Someday, after the American Empire is no more, great books will be carefully studied by people who want to learn about the most extreme form of bureaucracy ever witnessed on the plant... the dreaded DOE!

It's like a flu virus that spreads to all that it touches: NNSA, LANS, and perhaps some day soon... the Obama Administration!

Have you been remembering to wash your hands, Dr. Chu?

Anonymous said...

This ANSA talk is all good and well, but what most of you fail to understand is that we are not really suffering from an organizational problem, but a competence one. There is no leadership at DOE or NNSA for the most part. If an ANSA were created and NNSA were dissolved, where do you think the leadership of the new org would be drawn from?

Anonymous said...

Doug - misrepresentation of what I said, followed by calling me a "complete idiot" just because you disagree with me. Good job, you go, cowboy! Yep, you're the man!

Anonymous said...

Doug, 8:38 pm: "But you don't know how many lab employees state their opinions here. Neither do I. Nor does Frank.

You are, however, a (pretty much) complete idiot for claiming that you do."

I never said I know "how many lab employees state their opinions here" - you did. I simply stated that the " quite small." Surely you know the difference. You see, I have access to many LANL employees who don't read this blog, which you don't. Still, nice to be recognized, in your ever-moderate parlance, as a "complete idiot." Sigh...

- not Kevin

Anonymous said...

It seems both Chu and Obama have washed there hands of the once great National Labs for good. All that is left to do now is watch as the patient dies while Bechtel chews up the corpse.

Anonymous said...

This report is a most well constructed document. It has references to support the claims. It should be required reading for people on both sides of the debate related to keeping NNSA in DoE or moving it out. The argument is presented in a logical manner and takes on the reasons from history about how the current organization was created. It does not venture into the politics of the move, and remains focused on the non-political merits of the debate. As such, it informs the discussion and frames the conversation in an abstract construct.

Such academic logic is clear but likely will not move congress in the present mood. Another case is Yucca -- where congress has not been moved to action by many reports.

From the Stimson report:

"The sites operated by NNSA are unique in the DoE because they all have a role in providing a deliverable, quantified solution to meet specific characteristics and metrics. This is a defining and substantive difference from the rest of the DoE that does research for general knowledge and increased understanding, but no specific responsibility for application, efficiency, viability, or implementation of the research results."

If researchers at LANL see their efforts as more closely related to the rest of DoE it is not surprising that WFO is low compared to SNL.

Anonymous said...


Almost spit my coffee all over my keyboard when I read the report's recommendation on LDRD.

"While LDRD funding will remain at the sole discretion of the Laboratories, a broader government-wide examination should ensure that the LDRD supports enduring requirements according to clear, transparent guidelines rooted in an integrated national strategy."

Betcha a new cup of coffee that will never happen under the current leadership!

Anonymous said...

"If an ANSA were created and NNSA were dissolved, where do you think the leadership of the new org would be drawn from?" (11:57 PM)

It's in the report. The leadership would consists of a Board of Governors with each agency having a seat at the table. I don't see a bunch of NNSA left overs making it into this new organization given the way that it is laid out by the report.

This ANSA idea is not just a "letterhead" type change in the management and oversight. It is a real change.

Anonymous said...

I like the fact this report talks about the possibility of bringing MIT's Lincoln Lab into the ANSA fold. That would be a welcomed addition! ANSA could become a real powerhouse of scientific talent by having all these labs working closely together to help build greater national security for the US. It's a great idea!

Anonymous said...

This report is a pleasant pipe dream. Why would DOD, DHS and the Intelligence Community want to send billions in block funding to a bunch of extremely high cost, bureaucratically bound NNSA labs that are stagnating? Obama has already told these same agencies that he's going to cut back on their defense related budgets. They have better options for their budget reduced dollars in these difficult times.

Both LANL and LLNL will continue down the same path of decline under an oppressive DOE/NNSA and their hand picked for-profit LLCs that are well paid to honor NNSA's every wish, no matter how stupid it may be.

The weapons budget will shrink and the cleanup budget will grow and the science will slowly disappear and scientists will either leave or get laid off due to lack of funding. The Work Free Safety Zones will expand and the policies will become more insane over time and the employee morale will continue to drop. Anyone out their still have doubts about this scenario? You've got several years of data to go on to help decipher the trend.

The best option for any good scientists still left at LANL or LLNL would be to look for a position at one of the fast growing DOE Energy labs which Dr. Chu will be spending all of his time nurturing over the next few years. ORNL, ANL, LBL, NREL, or even the one "good" NNSA lab, SNL, all look like far better choices for doing scientific work than LANL and LLNL.

I also doubt that you'll find the Directors of any of these other labs driving around in fancy sports cars paid for out of an overly lucrative management contract. Furthermore, I doubt that political nepotism is the primary factor used to pick the Principle Associate Directors at any of these other labs. That tells you a lot right there, doesn't it?

Anonymous said...

Chu retreats from Yucca Mountain - Los Alamos Monitor, March 7th

By ROGER SNODGRASS, Monitor Editor

Republican senators on the energy committee bore down on Secretary of Energy Steven Chu in a hearing Thursday in Washington.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., returned to a topic from the presidential campaign as he interrogated Chu on nuclear power.

Chu’s prepared remarks to the committee on the administration’s plan to gain energy independence, mentioned “nuclear” only once at the end and that reference was omitted in his oral statement.

Instead, he emphasized weatherization and other energy efficiencies, stimulus-related investments in clean energy and job creation through tax credits and grants.


Dr. Chu retreats from Yucca Mountain? Why not, he's already retreated from having anything meaningful to do with the 70% of his DOE budget that involves the nuclear weapons complex!

Anonymous said...

" Furthermore, I doubt that political nepotism is the primary factor used to pick the Principle Associate Directors at any of these other labs. That tells you a lot right there, doesn't it?

3/7/09 11:27 AM"

Amen, Brother! Preach on!!

Anonymous said...

Don't worry your little heads over this crazy ANSA idea, people.

We've got our best Bechtel K-Street lobbyist working on this thing to make sure it never sees the light of day.

Money talks and sh*t walks. You know the routine.

- Mikey

Anonymous said...

nepotism: Favoritism shown or patronage granted to relatives, as in business

now, don't go and get yer panties all in a wad over Terry ..... it's 'just bidness' fer hiz mother

Anonymous said...

** How the US forgot how to make Trident missiles **

Sunday Herald (Australia), Mar 8, '09

Inquiry cites loss of files and key staff as reason for $69m repair delay

By Rob Edwards, Environment Editor

PLANS TO refurbish Trident nuclear weapons had to be put on hold because US scientists forgot how to manufacture a component of the warhead, a US congressional investigation has revealed.

The US National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) "lost knowledge" of how to make a mysterious but very hazardous material codenamed Fogbank. As a result, the warhead refurbishment programme was put back by at least a year, and racked up an extra $69 million.

According to some critics, the delay could cause major problems for the UK Trident programme, which is very closely tied to the US programme and uses much of the same technology. The US and the UK are trying to refurbish the ageing W76 warheads that tip Trident missiles in order to prolong their life, and ensure they are safe and reliable. This apparently requires that the Fogbank in the warheads is replaced.

Neither the NNSA nor the UK Ministry of Defence would say anything about the nature or function of Fogbank. But it is thought by some weapons experts to be a foam used between the fission and fusion stages of a thermonuclear bomb. US officials have said that manufacturing the material requires a solvent cleaning agent which is "extremely flammable" and "explosive". The process also involves dealing with "toxic materials" hazardous to workers....


You're doing a heckava job, NNSA!

Let's downsize the weapons research staff a little farther and try losing some more of this arcane but vital knowledge, what do you say? I feel safer already.

Anonymous said...

So, how do we know this new Fogbank filler material works? Shouldn't we test one, you know, just to be sure?

Anonymous said...

This report is a thoughtful, reasoned, balanced approach to revamping what doesn't work in government, just what Obama ran on and was elected to do. Will he do it, or even indicate he is aware of it? Nope. It's the kind of change I'm starting to believe in, namely none.

Anonymous said...

3/7/09 6:37 PM

Remember this the next time you hear some anti-nuke yahoo say "We don't need RRW because pits last 100 years!"


Anonymous said...

Use Vitamin A.

Eating a lot of carrots made allied pilots perform better than the axes in WWII.

or to be less dense...

Truth is so valuable, it must be protected by a bodyguard of wives

Charlie Chaplin

Anonymous said...

Politics does indeed make for some strange bedfellows. Does anyone else find it strange that Terry and Neu are so close? She is a big time Democrat (even donated a wad of money to Hillary) and he got his job over other more qualified scientists because his mother (elected Republican) inserted herself into the selection process.