Jul 11, 2009

CHU MOVING TO OVERHAUL DOE MANAGEMENT, CONTRACTOR OVERSIGHT

Todd Jacobson, Nuclear Weapons & Materials Monitor

Preparing to make his first significant stab at streamlining the inner workings of the Department of Energy, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu has initiated a far-ranging effort to examine the way DOE conducts business as a precursor to potential drastic changes, WC Monitor has learned. In the midst of a series of white papers, discussions and briefings, Chu is considering everything from a broad reorganization of the Department's management and regulatory structure to redefining the relationship between the Department and its contractors. Chu, as the former head of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, has experienced first hand a compliance-driven culture that one white paper obtained by WC Monitor described as emphasizing "compliance over performance, prescription over accountability, and more over better," and has indicated internally that he wants to make serious changes. "Steve has signaled quite strongly that he wants to change a lot of things," one official close to the discussions told WC Monitor. "He's talked to the contractors, and he's talked to the lab directors about it. There are definitely people inside Forrestal [DOE headquarters] working on this reform agenda."

When it comes to the organization of the Department itself, Chu is reportedly considering a number of options, such as rebranding DOE as the Department of Energy and Climate, making NNSA more autonomous, and splitting the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy into two separate offices, according to officials. On the management side, emphasis is being placed on truly achieving DOE's long-held goal of performance-based contracting through streamlining Department orders and changing the contractor oversight model. Chu, however, has not named anyone to head up the effort. "The real question is which areas do you want to tackle and what kind of authority is given to the person in charge of making it happen," the official said.

"The big test is whether somebody is going to be given the charge to go do this or is it just going to be a bunch of happy talk." The effort would likely be driven through Deputy Energy Secretary Dan Poneman, but Poneman lacks a management background and efforts to hire a "deputy to the deputy" for management that might assume a leadership role on changes to the Department have stalled, the official said.

'Shock to the System' Needed

Attempts to reform the Department of Energy are nothing new, but Chu's experience as a former laboratory director has given some credence to his push for change. The idea has wide support among the contracting community, which has faced increasing hurdles in performing work under what some have said is a heavy burden of DOE rules and regulations.

According to the white paper that has circulated around the Department focusing on culture change between DOE and its national laboratories, "A significant shock to the system is needed to force change in the behavior of both the Department and our contractors."

Lawmakers attempted to strip the bureaucracy from the nation's weapons and nonproliferation programs when the National Nuclear Security Administration was created as a semi-autonomous agency within DOE in 1999. However, the Department's continued oversight of the agency sparked a recent push to reconsider the role of NNSA within the Department, including a study initiated by the White House Office of Management and Budget into whether NNSA might be better served as a part of the Department of Defense or as a completely autonomous agency. The problems that face NNSA contractors are emblematic of issues facing contractors across the Department, and the white paper criticizes the current relationship between the Department and its contractors. What was designed to be a relationship in which DOE specified the goals and requirements and contractors focused on meeting the mission with best business practices has "eroded to the point of invisibility" and "the current nature of the relationship between DOE and its laboratories is far from productive," the white paper says. "In fact, it is now reinforcing unproductive behavior by both DOE and the contractors."

Balancing 'Risk and Process'

Reflecting the Administration's interest in changing the culture at DOE, Under Secretary for Science Steve Koonin criticized the way DOE conducts its business in comments to the Energy Facility Contractors Group late last month.

"I am astounded, both from my business background and then more extensive university background, how the system does or does not do its business. There's a need to make things more transparent [and a] need to speed things up, not only the contractors, but inside the Department itself," he said, adding, "I think overall the Department has become overly conservative in the way it does its business.

We need to get to a reasonable balance between risk and process."

Indeed, the white paper delivers a scathing critique of the Department's management culture, describing it as risk averse and more focused on compliance with regulations than on achieving contractor performance.

The culture has evolved over many years, the white paper says, driven by a combination of contractor missteps, Congressional criticism, internal and external audits and guidance from the Defense Nuclear Facility Safety Board. "In this environment, DOE staff organizations expanded to fill the void and buttress the 'no risk' approach, each time responding to the crisis of the moment with a 'fix' that entailed the layering of additional process and oversight on the contractors," the white paper says This is most evident, the paper says, in the area of safety, where the compliance-driven culture has wreaked the most havoc on the ability of contractors to meet mission requirements.

"The Department and its contractors now find themselves entombed under the weight of innumerable pages of orders, manuals, guides, requirements, processes, etc. that are confusing, conflicting and duplicative," the white paper says. "Thus has the Department evolved into a true bureaucracy with a culture that operates under the presumption that the continual addition of new requirements and more layers of oversight on its contractors are acceptable and good practices."

External or Self-Regulation the Answer?

The white paper suggests shifting to an approach that minimizes the amount of requirements imposed on contractors and focusing on performance outcomes and results while holding contractors responsible for achieving those outcomes. It also suggests that an "appropriate" level of risk should be adopted by finding a way to "institutionalize and defend an appropriate amount of risk-taking in the way the Department does business." That will likely involve "holding the line" against outsideoverseers such as the DNFSB. Over the past several years, DOE has worked to push back against the idea that the board, which does not have a formal regulatory role over the Department, has a "veto" authority over DOE actions. In a 2007 memorandum, then-Deputy Energy Secretary Clay Sell directed that DOE staff would no longer be required to coordinate with Board staff prior to submitting correspondence, a move described at the time as working to ensure that DOE line managers were responsible for safety at Department sites and that the Board served in an oversight function.

External regulation has been suggested as way to simplify DOE's system of regulation and streamline operations- perhaps through the Operational Safety and Health Agency and/or the Nuclear Regulatory Commission-but that option presents its own set of hurdles and challenges, and Chu likely will move to refine the DOE order system instead. The white paper suggests significantly cutting down the documents governing M&O contractors, leaving the Worker Health and Safety Rule (10 CFR 851) and the Quality Assurance Rule (10 CFR 830, Subpart A) to govern the Department's expectations of contractors.

The paper also suggests a "brutal review" of "other relevant requirements documents" like DOE manuals, orders, guides, notices, standards or handbooks, doing away with strict compliance as a benchmark for contractor success and eliminating the system of penalties that hold contractors accountable for compliance failures. It would be replaced with a system that would require contractors to achieve third-party certifications for management systems and would focus accountability and enforcement on maintaining those certifications and meeting mission requirements. "The way the system works it prescribes not only what we are supposed to be doing but also how we're doing it," an industry official said. "Let's go back to the GOCO [government-owned, contractor-operated] model where the government describes the mission, tells the contractors what it wants done, and the contractors bring best business practices in terms of how to achieve those outcomes. That's a fundamentally good model. We have drifted substantially in the last three decades from that model."

86 comments:

Frank Young said...

If anyone has a copy of the 'Shock to the System' white paper, please forward it to me and I'll publish it.

Anonymous said...

Oh, wonderful.

"Chu is reportedly considering a number of options, such as rebranding DOE as the Department of Energy and Climate, making NNSA more autonomous..."

and

"The white paper suggests shifting to an approach that minimizes the amount of requirements imposed on contractors and focusing on performance outcomes and results while holding contractors responsible for achieving those outcomes."

Just fucking perfect. Make NNSA *more* autonomous, and make the contractors *more* self regulatory.

Yeah, that will fix everything. I see the hand of the corporate military industrial complex at work again.

Anonymous said...

"driven by a combination of contractor missteps, Congressional criticism, internal and external audits"

This is one of real reasons DOE and
NNSA are doing so badly.

Anonymous said...

The only sentence in this article that you need to pay attention to is this one...

-----
"The big test is whether somebody is going to be given the charge to go do this or is it just going to be a bunch of happy talk."
-----

I vote for "happy talk" as the most likely outcome. Whe've been here before, many times.

DOE is a lost cause. The only way to impart real improvements at the dieing weapon research labs is to rip them away from both DOE and NNSA and put them under a DOE/DHS/DOD/Intel consortium, much like the one envisioned in the recent Stimson Center report.

Divorce is needed. Unfortunately, it will never happen. The compliance culture parasites who have infected both DOE and NNSA will simply wait out Dr. Chu and secretly hinder him at every opportunity. Their jobs (and many positions at both LANL and LLNL) now depend on pushing a Six-Sigma risk adverse culture into every single nook and cranny at the NNSA labs. With the current for-profit management being lead by Bechtel, it's all about the meaningless PBI metrics and the executive bonuses they bring. Sig Hecker's scientific "prisons" will remain in lock down mode.

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't underestimate Dr Chu's desire to make major changes in how DOE oversees the national labs. Rumor is the DOE site manager at LBNL threatened to have Chu fired as LBNL Director because she didn't like his style in managing the Lab. She wanted more direct authority in running the Lab and apparently told this to him in meeting with top Lab managers. Now she works for him... Payback can be a Bitch.

Anonymous said...

“The culture has evolved over many years, the white paper says, driven by a combination of contractor missteps, Congressional criticism, internal and external audits and guidance from the Defense Nuclear Facility Safety Board.”

The heavy hand of the DNFSB has been primarily responsible for reducing PX’s production workload capacity to 20% of what is was designed to safely & securely do. The weapons mix in the stockpile is essentially the exact same used to size the original workload capacity. Same amount of HE & PU but thanks to Congress & their DNFSB, the workload capacity has been reduced by 80%.

No, we don’t necessarily need this planned capacity based on the existing stockpile size but, to take 10-15 years to dismantle 3000-4000 weapons when it could be safely done in 2 years is ridiculously expensive. The peak workload at PX was performed in the mid-80 with a bit less than 3000 employees. Today, PX performs 20% of that workload with 3500+ people. Kind of makes you wonder what the hell all those people are doing to stay busy – the answer is they’re pushing piles of paper around & updating it every few weeks.

Nevertheless, other than a change of letterheads and a few other name changes, it’s doubtful anything meaningful will really change. When the anti-nuke people start using the “scary words” like nuclear weapons, plutonium, “Unsafe”, terrorist, etc. Congress will insist on more oversight and regulations just as they have over the past 10-15 years.

What’s it all matter – we’re doing away with these bad boys.

Anonymous said...

5:20 pm:

Well-said.

Anonymous said...

More lip-service.
Nothing of significance will happen.

Anonymous said...

"I vote for "happy talk" as the most likely outcome. Whe've been here before, many times."

Does anyone on this blog ever have anything positive to say about anything? Shit, why don't you slit your fucking wrists and end it all?

Frank Young said...

Be a leader. You go first.

Anonymous said...

9:44,

We work with the material we have, and from a long history of LANL management, NNSA, and DOE incompetence.

Put a happy face on that if you want to.

Anonymous said...

Can it get any worse ?

(famous last words)

Anonymous said...

It is nice to see recognition of the fundamental issues. You would have to think it come from Chu living under it at LBNL, even though they don't get it nearly as bad as LANL.

Sure, it is hard to imagine true change actually making it through the bureaucracy. Nonetheless, I will see a glimmer of hope in this.

Go ahead, call me names.

Anonymous said...

I've read some version of the white paper. The version I read was undated and with no attribution. It makes so much sense and speaks so much truth, I assumed it had been written by someone from the contractor community, but, it turns out, it was written by a senior career manager within DOE. Apparently it resonated with Dr. Chu.

Perhaps nothing revolutionary will be done, and only small incremental changes will be made, but this is the greatest opportunity for true change in how DOE does things since Admiral Watkins took over in 98. He made great changes, but those haven't played out so well.

One has to look no further than DOE's Cyber Security system to see gross incompetence requiring tens of millions of dollars being spent mostly on the wrong things, and leaving both DOE and the labs very vulnerable to attach. Add to this the obsessive safety rules and oversight (and I truly believe in having a safe workplace and not injuring employees) and the other areas of DOE cottage industries (employee concerns, anyone?) and you have a system so bogged down and wrapped around its own axle that practically nothing can get done.

Eric said...

A small note.

From what I know of Dr. Chu, his accomplishments, and his approach to projects, I expect him to get major good things accomplished at DOE.

At Bell Labs, Stanford, and LBNL, he pushed the envelope and did very good things.

Anonymous said...

Eric said at 7/12/09 6:23 PM...
"From what I know of Dr. Chu, his accomplishments, and his approach to projects, I expect him to get major good things accomplished at DOE."

Maybe, let us hope.
BUT, have you seen or read of his proposal to paint all of our roofs white.

Neither his roof nor Internet Al Gore's have been painted yet.

Anonymous said...

It sounds too good to be true, but I am betting Dr. Chu has a better chance to pull this coup than his predecessors, including the lawyer, the Chem E, the other lawyer, the politician, etc. I hope he doesn't get derailed by the bad blood in Forrestall building.

Anonymous said...

Eric said at 7/12/09 6:23 PM...
"From what I know of Dr. Chu, his accomplishments, and his approach to projects, I expect him to get major good things accomplished at DOE."

I'm not optimistic because Chu has a boss & Congress that will have more to do with the direction DOE/NNSA takes than he will.

Eric said...

To 10:17,
I agree.

Chu is more likely to get something done than the listed predecessors were.

The something may be good for LANL or not good for LANL. That something is likely to be good for Chu's view of what DOE should be.

To me, the task for each reader of this blog is to be very supportive of Chu in a way that maximizes the chances that the change is good for LANL.

For reasons that others listed, I do not know whether being supportive will yield the desired results. Not being supportive clearly will help Chu's opponents and, from the tenor of comments here, helping Chu's opponents is not worthwhile.

So helping Chu is the only game in town to restore LANL's luster.

Thoughts?

Anonymous said...

6:34 AM

I agree with you.

Dr. Chu remained a real scientist when he was the LBNL Director. Friends there have told me that he even had a lab that he continued to do hands on work in while also running LBNL. So I think of any DOE Secretary in history he has an appreciation for what its like to both run and work in a national lab that is being micromanaged by DOE.

Expect major push back and road blocks from the fed employees fearing for their careers in the site offices, and for profit contractors who make money off of their work complying with DOE's mountain of regulations.

Lab employees need to be emailing, calling, and writing Dr. Chu with their issues and ideas for improving the national labs. He needs to hear from us.

You can send an email to the Secretary of Energy at

The.Secretary@hq.doe.gov

By Phone: 202-586-6210
By Fax: 202-586-4403

Frank Young said...

Send a copy to the blog as well if you want others to see your ideas.

And maybe ask him to make public the "shock to the system" white paper.

And if you want to remain anonymous just send the comment here. Someone at DOE reads them every day.

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Anonymous said...

"And if you want to remain anonymous just send the comment here. Someone at DOE reads them every day."

For all we know it could be a high school summer intern trying to kill some time.

Frank Young said...

True, but whoever it is spends hours here every day.

Doug Roberts said...

IP Address 205.254.147 is a gateway proxy machine. Basically everybody at DOE who shows up in the logs reading the blog will register as coming from this address.

Eric said...

Chu himself is swamped with obligations.

Can someone suggest others at DOE who might listen?

Offline sharing of good contacts and then follow up might work even better.

Readers who are connected to DOE but do not work for DOE and thus do not have some of the same pressures on them might also be useful resources.

Just a thought or two.

Anonymous said...

Lots of jobs at both DOE/NNSA and LANL depend on sucking hard on the tit of the risk adverse compliance culture. It's also the means by which LANS make their profit fees running LANL.

Don't expect any of these people to easily except new directives from Dr. Chu in this matter. They'll fight it as if their jobs depended on it, which they do.

Anonymous said...

The terms adverse and averse are sometimes confused together, though their meanings are somewhat different. Adverse most often refers to things, denoting something that is in opposition to someone's interests — something one might refer to as an adversity or adversary — (adverse winds; an attitude adverse to our ideals). Averse usually refers to people, and implies one has a distaste, disinclination, or aversion toward something (a leader averse to war; an investor averse to risk taking). Averse is most often used with "to" in a construction like "I am averse to…". Adverse shows up less often in this type of construction, describing a person instead of a thing, and should carry a meaning of "actively opposed to" rather that "has an aversion to".

You also need to look up "except" and "accept".

Anonymous said...

"A significant shock to the system is needed to force change in the behavior of both the Department and our contractors..."

It'll never happen. The relationship between DOE and its contractors are too incestuous to ever "force" change at the Los Alamos Laboratory. Couple this with an arrogant cowboy culture at the Lab and a corrupt political establishment that ties every policy decision to campaign contributions and constituient jobs and you've got an entrenched system that can not ever change! Ever!!!

Anonymous said...

Eric said: "So helping Chu is the only game in town to restore LANL's luster."

You can polish a turd as much as you want but the luster you'll get is in your imagination.

Eric said...

The referenced paper may be.


Shock to the system: the impending global energy supply crisis.

to predict and prevent: GLOBAL CATASTROPHE

by Simmons, Matthew
Harvard International Review • Fall, 2006 •


http://www.entrepreneur.com/tradejournals/article/156803102.html

His web site is

http://www.simmonsco-intl.com/research.aspx?Type=msspeeches

Anonymous said...

10:32 AM, thanks for the grammar lesson.

Now you need to look up "plaigiarism."

Also "tool" and "asswipe."

Anonymous said...

Eric...just tell them to google Matt. Also don't miss twilight in the desert. It's a classic by now. And, why don't you mention oil investments that are cheeeeep right now. Crescent Point Energy....in North America....for example. With newer tec the oil sands could be NOT DIRTY. Alternatives will be important but, we need a decade or so. IMHO

Frank Young said...

That's from 2006, Eric.

Anonymous said...

Eric, Secretary Chu and the Pres. Obama administration, as well as Al Gore, and Science Czar John Holdren has their #1 interest in the unproven AGW theory, e.g. Man Made Global Warming (MMGW).

For Dr. Chu it´s shown in his unwise idea of rebranding Department of Energy (DOE) into "Department of Energy and Climate," his recent 2009 commencement speeches at Harvard, and Cal-Tech, "This call for a worldwide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one´s tribe, race, class, and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all mankind. This oft misunderstood, this oft misinterpreted concept, so readily dismissed by the Nietzsches of the world as a weak and cowardly force, has now become [today´s climate crisis] an absolute necessity for the survival of man... We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late.", at http://blogs.knoxnews.com/knx/munger/2009/06/chus_speech_for_caltech_grads.html, and http://pr.caltech.edu/commencement/, and his "white roofs everywhere" idea, at http://blog.heritage.org/2009/05/27/whats-next-white-roof-edition/, and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/earthnews/5389278/Obamas-green-guru-calls-for-white-roofs.html.

For Al Gore it´s shown in his un-sovereignty idea of "´Global governance´coming with carbon tax," at http://www.theodoresworld.net/archives/2009/07/scam_artist_al_gore_hoping_for.html#comments, and at http://www.wnd.com:80/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageld=103634.

For John Holdren it´s shown in his co-authored book in 1977, "Ecoscience, Population, Resources, Environment," where he in conjunction with Paul Ehrlich, and Anne Ehrlich, "advocates for extreme totalitarian measures to control the population," at http://zombietime.com/john_holdren/, and at http://www.theodoresworld.net/archives/2009/07/john_holdren_obamas_science_cz.html#comments.

And finally; For Pres. Obama not being fit to be POTUS, either by policy (defense, national security, nuclear deterrence, foreign policy, and economic policy), and/or legal to be POTUS. (He should be impeached.), at http://www.theodoresworld.net/archives/2009/06/obama_threatens_veto_as_house.html#comments.

PS: These so-called men, Obama, Gore, Holdren, and Chu are all hysterical, e.g. "HYSTERIA: Exposing the secret agenda behind today´s obsession with global warming," at http://shop.wnd.com/store/item.asp?ITEM_ID=2043.

Anonymous said...

10:32 AM, thanks for the grammar lesson.

Now you need to look up "plaigiarism."

Also "tool" and "asswipe."


OK.

plaigiarism - How 8:37 spells plagiarism.

tool - Something 8:37 has not mastered using, for example Google.

asswipe - What 8:37 sees when he looks in the mirror.

Oh and, YORE WELLCUM!

Eric said...

@ Frank

I know the article is from 2006 but it seems to be popular in DC and in the energy industry right now. Also, it is the most likely candidate that I have found so far.
I did not say that it is the right paper. ;-)

@other commenters

Thanks for the information.

As to mistakes of Chu, Holdren, et al., to me politics is the art of the possible. I would like to accomplish, in a small way, what it is possible to accomplish right now. Less possible things will have to wait. Does this seem like a reasonable approach?

I have found that there is often a significant difference between what is reported in the press or said in speeches and what actually happens. I am trying to stay focused on what actually happens.

Cheers,

Anonymous said...

Dr. Chu mistakenly believes that he runs DOE and NNSA. How silly of him. He'll soon find out who really controls these highly dysfunctional bureaucracies.

There are thousands of DOE and for profit LLC employees whose jobs depend on coming up with an ever increasing number of Work Free Safety Zone policies. It's a form of job security for them. They'll never give up their quest to keep issuing and enforcing policies that destroy what little is left of the weapon labs' productivity.

Anonymous said...

11:19,

You almost got it right.

The part you got wrong is that it is not the LLC employees who control DOE and the NNSA's mode of operation, it is the LLCs themselves. Read: Bechtel, BWXT, The Washington Group, Lockheed, Martin Marietta, Grumman, etc. with all of their lobbyists and buckets full of Congressional bribe money. The military industrial complex, in other words.

Chu will not be permitted to cause substantive changes to occur in how DOE operates because the military industrial complex will not allow any changes to DOE operations which would cut into their corporate profits.

Anonymous said...

11:38 and so many others resort to the same old saw. I've spent most of my career working in the DOE complex for a number of contractors, and I don't know of a single one that would not love to bring about reform of the regulatory, compliance driven mentality of much of DOE. They would not lose any fee. May not need as many employees, but fee is not determined by that.

And I have worked for "for profit," nonprofit, and university contractors. I can't think of any that would not willing embrace these reforms. Now - there are plenty of individual employees, both DOE and contractor, who could be put at risk, so expect kicking and screaming from them.

Anonymous said...

Eric, consequences of the carbon tax, and its various names, climate change bill, energy tax, Cap and Trade, and the Waxman-Markey energy tax:

(1) A government power grab, and expansion of government, (2) A massive tax scheme, (3) A large step towards "global governance," e.g. another step towards a New World Order (NWO), (4) A reduction in personal freedom, (5) Will send manufacturing jobs in US overseas to China, and India that doesn´t participate in the climate change bill, (6) Al Gore´s wealth will be boosted further with the climate change bill, (7) A gigantic fraud that is full of deceptions, due to the fact that the AGW theory is unproven.

Eric said...

To 5:30,

Thanks for your comments.

I have been working on exactly these problems in climate change for a couple of years now. I am building an engine that will create cheaper electricity independent of the climate change science and will help to sequester carbon if we need to.

I agree with some of your comments and disagree with others. The reasons are complex.

For this thread however, my point was not what is scientifically correct but what is politically possible. So, we are trying to get something really good done within the constraints of the politically possible and as close to scientifically correct as we can manage.

If you want there can be a discussion about each of your climate change points, probably not on this blog. That discussion is long with lots of references, some stable science, some unstable science, and some charlatans who get a lot of press.

Cheers,

Anonymous said...

7:48 pm: "I am building an engine that will create cheaper electricity independent of the climate change science and will help to sequester carbon if we need to."

Really?? My Savior!! Please bless us with a little more information. Start with your scientific credentiuals. Then move on to your understanding of "climate change science." What a jerk. One way to reduce your carbon emmissions is for you to stop breathing.

Anonymous said...

"Thanks for your comments. I have been working on exactly these problems in climate change for a couple of years now. I am building an engine that will create cheaper electricity independent of the climate change science and will help to sequester carbon if we need to." (Eric)

Oh, brother! Somebody go get the men with the straight jacket and tell them to catch Eric before he runs out the door. His grand delusions are back and running at full throttle.

Next thing you know, he'll start sounding like some crazy LANL weapons guy who likes to tell everyone about his high schools days in Los Alamos when he was secretly selected by Hans Bethe to go out and save the world! I believe psychologists call it the Martz Syndrome.

Anonymous said...

Make a wild claim and wait for the gravy train to magically begin. Where could Eric have learned this behavior?

Eric said...

It is comments like those of 10:35, 10:38, and 11:21 that make backwaters of the LANL community and the comment sections of this blog such enjoyable places. LOL.

No facts, no questions, no references, no science. Just cynicism and bitter anonymity. Anonymity that ignores actual facts such as all the science that LANL and other national labs have accomplished, are accomplishing, and might accomplish in the future--science that would help the country and the county.

If you had any guts at all, you would come out from behind the anonymity and propose something constructive. Without this courage, why should anyone listen to you?

Eric said...

To the anonymice who need to release bile in the comment section here,

If you have the courage to prove to Frank, Greg, Doug, or anyone that you know what you are talking about, lose your anonymity and prove it.

The invective has become boring.

Anonymous said...

Here is an email which informs us about what needs to be done, when you have gotten a grant from either NSF or NASA. This is exactly the kind of bureaucracy nonsense, which needs to be addressed, if DOE ever will become an efficient operation:



Ladies and Gentlemen,
If you have recently submitted a NASA or NSF proposal please read on. Otherwise delete.

Current practice for submitted proposals is that the boilerplate package must be approved by the
Laboratory, but that the package is held by the CSSE office until new funding (if any) arrives at the Lab.
At that time, four things must happen in sequence before such new funds can be spent.
1. The proposal must be approved by the DOE Albuquerque Office.
2. The funding order must be approved by the DOE Los Alamos Office.
3. The funding order must be approved by the DOE Albuquerque Office.
4. A program code must be assigned by the LANL WFO Office.

This sequence may need two months for completion, thereby substantially delaying the start
of a new research program. If/when you receive notice that your NASA or NSF proposal has been
approved and will be funded, you should immediately inform Mary Dugan in the CSSE office of your
success and the projected funding. Mary will then submit the proposal to DOE/Albuquerque,
so that step 1. may be complete by the time the funding order arrives, thereby significantly reducing
the time needed for start-up of the project.

Anonymous said...

DOE/NNSA owns LANL and all of its facilities and capabilities. WFO programs are approved by DOE/NNSA on a basis of non-interference (and non-competition) with DOE/NNSA programs. Some agencies (e.g., DHS) have separate, unique agreements and procedures established with DOE/NNSA. That's the way it has always been. The fact that you were unaware of it is typical of LANL staff, but unimportant.

Anonymous said...

LANS and NNSA don't really want WFO projects at LANL. WFO budgets are unpredictable and involve work that could potentially embarrass the NNSA labs. Same goes for some of the competitive DOE Office of Science stuff.

It's best if LANL sticks with proven and dependable funding from things like environmental cleanup, facilities management, security efforts, and construction work. In addition to this, LANS will allow a small amount of heavily managed science to be performed "on the side" through the use of LDRD taxation.

That's the future for LANL. Learn to love it or leave it, and I hope that at least 5% of you leave it by the end of this next fiscal year.

- MIKEY

Anonymous said...

The paper also suggests a "brutal review" of "other relevant requirements documents" like DOE manuals, orders, guides, notices, standards or handbooks, doing away with strict compliance as a benchmark for contractor success and eliminating the system of penalties that hold contractors accountable for compliance failures. (Article)


Why do the powers that be seem to continually tease us with stuff like this? It will never happen (sigh!).

Anonymous said...

7/15/09 9:32 AM
Possible solutions to this dilemma:
.) you don't take the money
.) you leave with the money (not always possible)
.) you become adjunct professor at UNM or affiliated with SFI and receive money through these institutions (with potential disadvantages such as distance, no adequate access to lab-space, etc.)

Anonymous said...

ORNL is using their massive stimulus funding to build a 20-petaflop computer by 2011 (see article below).

Meanwhile, back at the NNSA labs, Congress specifically forbid *any* stimulus money from being used to fund science. LANL was given a much smaller piece of stimulus money to be used only for the purposes of environment cleanup. The Congressional message contained in this constraint was clear for all to see.

Note the comments that ORNL's Thom Mason makes about fishy benchmarks being used in the supercomputer speed wars. According to him, the ORNL benchmarks are for 'honest' scientific calculations while those touted by others (LANL's Roadrunner?) are 'synthetic' calculations of of dubious scientific value. ORNL appears ready to play hard-ball in the supercomputing arena, as well they might.

ORNL will be growing rapidly in the next few years as the DOE energy labs appear to be poised to become the preeminent National Labs in America. ORNL's current plans are to hire an additional 1000 staff during the next few years. Meanwhile, LANL's plans are to get rid of another 5% of the current staff ASAP! The current paths of these two labs couldn't be more different.

-----------------

* ORNL prepares for a 20-petaflops computer in 2011 - Knoxville News, June 24, 2009 *

by Frank Munger

I recently wrote about plans to upgrade Jaguar in the next few months with new AMD Istanbul six-core processors and possibly become the world's fastest computer sometime this fall. When I asked ORNL Director Thom Mason about that plan earlier this week during a visit to the lab, he didn't much want to talk about it -- apparently because the upgrade would be funded with stimulus money. "The stimulus announcements are all coordinated by DOE," he said. "So until they make an announcement, there's nothing for us to really talk about because we don't have any money."

Mason, however, did talk a bit about an upcoming review of plans for a new 20-petaflops machine that would -- if the current goal holds -- come online sometime in 2011.

"This is one of these Lehman reviews that DOE does for its major projects to make sure that the technical scope, the budget, the project plan, the management, is in shape, and then we have to write a technical approach to reaching 20 petaflops (20,000 trillion calculations per second) so they can then proceed to the next step," Mason said.

...Mason said even though Jaguar is ranked No. 2 on the list of the world's fastest supercomputers, it's No. 1 in scientific productivity.

He said: "One of the things you don't see in the benchmarks is the degree to which you can turn a benchmark performance, which is a synthetic calculation. It's not a real calculation. How close does your real-world performance come to that? And that's where Jaguar really excels. If you look at the real-world performance we're getting on scientific applications, we're already No. 1 because the architecture is so suitable for programming for the types of codes that we're running."

He mentioned that work done on Jaguar was awarded the Gordon Bell Prize. "It was almost right at the theoretical limit of the machine, and that suggests an architecture that is very well suited to the types of things that we're calculating."

http://blogs.knoxnews.com/munger/2009/06/
ornl_prepares_for_a_20-petaflo.html

Anonymous said...

I think that Drs. Chu, Holdren and Koonin understand the symptoms at DOE, but they don't understand the problem. Bureaucracies are a lot like people: they grow old, incontinent, and feeble-minded. The only the difference is that bureaucracies are put on perpetual life support. Everyone's afraid to pull the plug because they don't want to "throw out the baby with the bathwater".
Unfortunately, at the DOE the baby drowned a long time ago. The problems exhibited at DOE are not of recent origin. I worked at LANL for close to 30 years and every year the bureaucracy was worse than the previous year. It was always more control from Washington, more paperwork, more unfunded mandates, and a more dysfunctional bureaucracy. Every year you could accomplish less and less.
The time has come to pull the plug. Let it die and transfer all of those DOE managers into some other agency. Then maybe you can start all over with a clean slate. Reorganizing is just tantamount to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. You have to get rid of all of the employees and all of the rules.

Anonymous said...

7/16/09 2:10 PM

Well said.

I concur with your thinking. But, there's no way the Pres. & Congress are going to "get rid of all of the employees". These are Feds with a very, very large union that the Dems are not about to go against – they’re a large voting bloc.

Unfortunately, Congress is 100% reliable for re-arranging the deck chairs.

I recall after the Tiger Teams of the early 90's & the demands by DOE & Congress for Contractor Reform, they said what was needed was a change in "Contractor "Culture" which would require not only changing the contractor but the old employees who were raised in this old culture. Of course, without saying, this did not apply to the Feds - only the bad old contractors & their employees.

GOCO – Government Owned & Contractor Operated. I was there when this concept really worked & when it ended. When it ended the Feds became the owner & lord almighty subservient only to Congresses’ DNFSB & we contractor people became the temporarily invited.

Anonymous said...

I think the Chu is basically a disappointment. He is in over his head with the DOE's immense size and inertia not to mention the politics.

He may be a fine theoretician in his field, but he should go back to LBL and let some other person deal with the mess.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Chu´s #1 interest is the unproven AGW theory, e.g. Man Made Global Warming (MMGW), as I stated in my two previous posts, 7/13/09 9:26 PM, and 7/14/09 5:30 PM.

But, he has little or no interest in, US nuclear deterrence and the need to modernize the US nuclear arsenal, and its delivery systems, and to adopt the US missile defense, both in US and Europe, national security, defense, foreign policy, economic policy (especially the Waxman-Markey energy tax), US domestic oil drilling, gazoline prices, nuclear power, and to approve Yucca Mountain.

Anonymous said...

NM political commentator Joe Monahan has it pretty much pegged in his latest "New Mexico Politics" op-ed. The 60 year run of the New Mexico weapon labs is coming to an end and the writing is on the wall for all to see. It was really nice while it lasted.

In particular, he points out that Los Alamos now has a smaller population than it did almost 10 years ago in 2000. With the latest 5% attrition that NNSA has demanded for this next fiscal year (and further cuts after that?), the population of Los Alamos County will continue to shrink and jobs will continue to be eliminated from LANL. LANS is, in many respects, the shut down crew.

joemonahansnewmexico.blogspot.com/
2009/07/
labs-where-we-stand-now-direct-from-no.html
================================

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Labs: Where We Stand Now Direct From The No-Spin Zone - Joe Monahan

There will be no jobs boom because of funding for Sandia Labs. The same for Los Alamos. But recent action in D.C. also appears to spare the national defense Labs from drastic spending cuts. The budget making its way through the Congressional maze appears to fund the labs within a percent or so of what they are now getting. We won't be sure until late September. But the money paragraph in the ABQ Journal news article that described the long-term outlook for the labs was buried. And that's the story that needs to be highlighted:

--
While the current spending plans appear to offer stability for the labs, the following year's budget might not be as good for them, said David Culp, a lobbyist for the Friends Committee on National Legislation, an arms control group. "The big battle will be next year," Culp said. "Success is never permanent in Washington," Senator Jeff Bingaman pointed out.
--

Fast forward to the summer of 2010 and we'll probably be in the midst of a major budget battle over the labs, just as the campaigns for the state's three US House seats heat up.

PEELING THE NUCLEAR ONION

While funding for the budget year starting October 1 appears relatively stable (Senator Bingaman gets some kudos) it still represents a long term, downward trend in overall lab funding.

Because of their importance, let's repeat some numbers and analysis of figures released by Bingaman's office in May. In fiscal year 2008, he says DOE funding for Sandia was $1.40 billion. In FY 2009 it went down to $1.322 billion. The President has requested $1.342 billion for DOE Sandia funding for the fiscal year starting this October--FY 2010. Throw in some onetime federal stimulus money and you soften the blow for the coming budget year.

Sandia gets more than DOE money. It's total revenue, according to its Web site, for FY '08 was $2.294 billion. The estimate for this fiscal year was $2.249 billion, a reduction of $45 million.

Bingaman says the overall DOE appropriation for the state two years ago-- in FY 2008--was $4.54 billion. The president's request for the upcoming year is $4.0 billion, a reduction of $500 million or about 11 percent.

Maybe we tick up from that $4.0 billion when the budget is finalized, but the trend from FY 2008 is down and likely to continue. We know this can be hard to follow, but there is an historic and deep seated bias among policy makers and the press here to see lab funding thru rose-colored glasses. And why not? We've had a great 60 year run. But even a small reduction in funding has a large ripple effect. All the more reason to be seeking other federal programs as well as new industry. Barring unforeseen developments or large, onetime projects the national labs have seen their peak budget years. Why? Because, in a nutshell, nuclear weapons ain't what they used to be.

FOLLOW THE PEOPLE

The population of Los Alamos County in 2000 was 18,344. In 2008, the estimate was down to 18,150. The labs and their future size---it's the really big story of the second decade of this new century in New Mexico.

Anonymous said...

My sense is that the population of Los Alamos is greying significantly, too. I just don't see many of the newly arrived young people living up here. They all want the Santa Fe lifestyle and "progressive" values, not to mention a house they might be able to resell someday. I just got another child care survey by email yesterday. I don't think we have a child care problem anymore. The Montessoris and even the Ark have been advertising that they have openings, and the in-home providers are not full anymore either.

Anonymous said...

Someone explain to me if the US nuclear weapons stockpile is a small fraction of the size it was 20 years ago, how can NNSA remain the same size or grow. And if NNSA is being cut, how can its slave labs remain the same size or grow? How can you keep two physics labs (LANL and LLNL) dedicated to weapons design when there are no new designs under consideration. The FY11 budget is going to be a huge shock to NNSA, and it will take it out on the labs.

Anonymous said...

If the population of Los Alamos is declining then why the hell is the county spending all that money?

Anonymous said...

If the population of Los Alamos is declining then why the hell is the county spending all that money?

That's a good question. Apparently the county wants a huge and shiny new municipal building. And for the purpose of funding all the mess the property taxes will be raised soon.

Anonymous said...

Someone explain to me if the US nuclear weapons stockpile is a small fraction of the size it was 20 years ago, how can NNSA remain the same size or grow.

Here's the argument. With a smaller stockpile you need to inspect the current weapons with more sophisticated techniques, more sophisticated codes, more detailed models, more aboveground tests (e.g. NIF, hydros, flight tests, etc.), more highly paid engineers and scientists, even more highly paid (with bonuses, incentive pay, free sports cars, and oh, don't forget the free flight benefits) LANS managers overseeing the highly paid engineers and scientists, run by a private company (e.g. Bechtel International) that is taxed by the government, regulated by a autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). Basically, the cost of all this is inversely proportional to some power of the number of weapons. The cost continues to increase as the number of weapons decreases. In the limit of less the one weapon in the stockpile, the cost is..... infinite.

Anonymous said...

Looks like staff who work on LDRD projects will have to deal with a nasty cutback of about 12% in their funding for this next fiscal year.

----------
Heinrich Lab Funding Amendment Passes

By John Fleck (ABQ Journal)

Friday, 17 July 2009 13:38

The House today passed a funding bill for Sandia and Los Alamos national labs that reverses part of a proposed cut for the labs' internal research funding.


The House Energy and Water Appropriations Bill won unanimous approval today. But before passing the bill, the House approved an amendment by Heinrich that increased the amount of money the labs can spend on their own internally chosen research. Such "laboratory directed research and development" has been used by the labs for years to support cutting edge research that lacks a federal sponsor. In recent years, the labs have been allowed to set aside 8 percent of all funding for such work. The House Appropriations Committee wanted to cut that to 6 percent. The Heinrichs amendment raises it to 7 percent.

Anonymous said...

The House enjoys jerking around LDRD every year. I'm not sure what message they are trying to send. Senate held fast at 8%.

I expect it will shake out at 8% in the end, as usual. Personally I wouldn't mind seeing it drop to 6%. LDRD seems to be one of the few remaining places to cut our FTE rates, without just transferring more overhead functions back onto the backs of the technical projects.

Anonymous said...

If St. Pete was still in the Senate, he not only wouldn't let the LDRD rate be cut back from 8% to 7%, he would have gone a step further and seen to it that it got raised to 10%.

Times are changing for LANL. The path forward appears to be on a downward slope. At least LANL still has a bright future doing lots of environmental cleanup work using sub-contracted labor.

Anonymous said...

Actually, I think there needs to be a serious audit of how Priedhorsky is wasting LDRD funds on himself. Let's see, as a Program Director 6, he needs a Program Director 5 as his deputy, 4 admins, 4 computer specialists, a creativity specialist, a point of contact (ie Chief of staff), and other people I have never heard of. Watkins had a much smaller staff.

Priedhorsky, has to have the LDRD poster session at Buffalo Thunder, previously Watkins could do it on lab property for free.

Priedhorsky doesn't want to do his job and frequently dumps his tasks onto PIs and now even has the Divisions review their own ER, PRD and DR projects.

Preidhorsky, has numerous unreviewed proposals that get funded for his friends. He calls them feasbility studies. When the Director's Reserve committee meets and wants to fund someone Priedhorsky hates, he finds a way to circumvent the honest process and funds projects that the reserve committee says are scientifically unsound.

Priehorsky is a sleezeball who is going to get this institution into serious trouble. I know Wallace looks the other way, but I hope someone in Congress will not.

And for God sake, it is pretty sad when the LDRD program director thinks himself getting an honorary doctorate is an LDRD program highlight and keeps his photo posted for months. Nothing else funded by LDRD is worth highlighting? Nuff said.

Anonymous said...

The really shitty thing about LDRD is the way that it is taxed. That reallly reduces the value of the funds.

But, it is correct to say that
there are lots of abuses in the system.

Note that the DOE science labs (ANL, JLAB, etc) also have their LDRD. They just don't call it that. They fund a lot of people who do LDRD-type work on operations funding and nothing is reported.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, 3:15 pm. You've just confirmed it for me. Priedhorsky is a bonafide 'LANS-man' and just the type of guy I want handling the lab's LDRD program!

- MIKEY

Anonymous said...

priedhorsky, over the years, has managed to get himself into many serious problems, based on his boundless self-absorbtion, and disinterest in rules, that he is legendary among security people. i'm amazed that he still has a clearance.

Anonymous said...

why was priedhorsky almost fired and then miraculously made a Lab Fellow among othe things. very odd. sounds like another "let's make a loser manager a Fellow so they don't fire LANL" scenario. Can you say Al Sattelberger or Bill Press?

Anonymous said...

"The really shitty thing about LDRD is the way that it is taxed. That reallly reduces the value of the funds." - 7:49 PM

Ah, yes, but the new higher rates of LDRD overhead taxation help pay for LANS' bloated management chain and keep my sexy little executive sport car filled with gasoline. You need to concentrate on the things that are truly important to this lab, boy.

Now, be a good boy and go work on some more proposal to bring in extra funding. I've got my eye on a new sports car for this next year and will be needing some extra cash.

Mikey

Anonymous said...

Anyone fall for the latest LANS cyber-sting operation? Perhaps it's time to avoid all use of email at LANL, just to be safe:


LANL Newsbulletin, July 16, 2009

"Obama Cyber Czar: DOE Labs Must Step Up"

The headline above appeared in a recent e-mail received by about 1,000 employees. The message included an embedded hyperlink to a news brief. There were also instructions: "This is an HTML message. Click here to read it."

The e-mail looked very real. But it wasn’t.

More than 10 percent of users clicked on the link, “which is better than we expected,” said Maco Stewart, Information Security Operations Center coordinator, who explained that the communication was devised by the Lab's Advanced Computing Solutions Program Office to test the security savvy of Lab employees.

Anonymous said...

07/18 3:15pm, you claim detailed knowledge of LDRD-PO staffing, but your numbers aren't even close to correct. Several people on the roster are external reviewers from other institutions. They don't work here. The staff is now about the same size as under Watkins, and the spending is probably lower.

Anonymous said...

6:57 PM, shut up Bill. You are so full of yourself. The smartest thing Wallace could do is to move you onto a less harmful posiition. Yup, your backdoor machinations are quite legendary now. Suffice it to say, you are not a class act like Watkins and the LDRD program has lost luster and credibility under your watch.

Anonymous said...

8:41, I'm flattered that you think I'm Priedhorsky, but I'm not even close. FYI, Watkins had a senior level TSM (Howard Hanson) who played largely the same role as Bill's deputy does now. I don't know the nature of your rivalry with BP, but let's at least have some honest facts, eh?

Anonymous said...

9:32 pm: "Watkins had a senior level TSM (Howard Hanson) who played largely the same role as Bill's deputy does now."

What the hell is a "senior level TSM"? One who is over 65? What a joke - made-up levels. Just what we need to help morale.

Anonymous said...

10:21, let it not be said that I am unmerciful--here is my contribution to your morale: "senior level" meant, "not in the $90K salary band."

Anonymous said...

Dear Dr. Chu,

Please either fix the bureaucratic nightmare that is DOE/NNSA/LANS or shut the NNSA labs down. It's not worth it keeping these labs going under this current regime of massive and ever changing policy dictates and broken oversight.

In summary, do us all a favor... save it or spare us from prolonged agony and quickly kill it all off.

Anonymous said...

"Obama Cyber Czar: DOE Labs Must Step Up"

The headline above appeared in a recent e-mail received by about 1,000 employees. The message included an embedded hyperlink to a news brief. There were also instructions: "This is an HTML message. Click here to read it."

The e-mail looked very real. But it wasn’t.

~~~~~~~~~
Hmmm, I suspect the lab's cyber security office will want to roll out a new phishing scheme against their LANL employees.

They'll probably send out a bunch of messages dealing with the new lab badges from an outside site with a strange made up name like "hspd12admin@identity-msp.com".

If you get one of these email messages, be sure to ignore it! It will be yet another LANS inspired phishing scheme to trip up the employees in the same vein as last years' fake email from "lans-llc.com".

Anonymous said...

Tom Harper (LANL CIO) is causing more computer problems at the lab rather than fixing them. Of course, over in NNSA, that's cause for big celebration and for issuing him a top award!

Get ready, people. "Glove box" computing is coming soon to a lab desktop near you.

Anonymous said...

Get ready, people. "Glove box" computing is coming soon to a lab desktop near you.

7/22/09 11:25 AM


It already has. Ask your friendly foreign national - by initiative of our beloved Terry W. he "suggested" to use FNs as guinea pigs for this exercise.

Anonymous said...

"It already has. Ask your friendly foreign national" - 2:18 PM

From the looks of it, I'm, beginning to believe that LANS doesn't wants foreign nationals working at LANL.

The poorly designed OCE computing environment should be a pretty good hint. I can only imagine what may come next... 24 hour escorting of all FNs while they are on LANL property?

Anonymous said...

9:47 pm: "From the looks of it, I'm, beginning to believe that LANS doesn't wants foreign nationals working at LANL."

"Beginning to believe"?? How naive. What was your first clue? Serious people seriously argue that FN's have no business at a US nuclear weapons laboratory, rubbing elbows with cleared people doing classified work on weapons of mass destruction. Get a grip. If that reason doesn't sway you, look at the statistics about industrial espionage. Not all information targets of foreign intelligence are classified. Export control laws exist for a reason. LANS is rightly afraid of the consequences of a serious incident of a FN stealing unauthorized information at LANL. Unfortunately, both LANS and NNSA are also afraid of the consequences of not appearing "politially correct" regarding FNs.

Anonymous said...

LANS is rightly afraid of the consequences of a serious incident of a FN stealing unauthorized information at LANL.

Suure, because Aldrich Ames, Christopher Boyce, Andrew Lee, Jeffrey Carney, Larry Wu-tai chin, Clyde Conrad, James Hall, Robert Hanssen, James Harper, Ruby Schuler, Ronald Pelton, Earl Pitts, Jonathan Pollard and John Walker, Jr. were all FNs:
Spies.pdf

And I really love all the export control laws, especially when the to be exported commodities were developed/created by a FN in the first place.

Anonymous said...

7/23 8:48 pm: "And I really love all the export control laws, especially when the to be exported commodities were developed/created by a FN in the first place."

If you think that argument makes sense, then you know absolutely nothing about how the export control regulations actually work.

Eric said...

I like the discussion of foreign nationals, but I am missing a lot of the context. So, could commenters please provide evidence and examples for their assertions about who has knowledge and whether that knowledge is correct.

Thanks,