Aug 7, 2009

Comment of the Week

This week's COW wasn't actually written by anybody at LANL, it is an article by Paul Guinnessy who writes for Physics Today. An anonymous reader submitted it to last week's Comment of the Week post. Paul is no stranger to LANL; he's written about the place on several occasions. The article is related to last week's COW post, though, via the common topic of "research at DOE nuke weapons labs".

From today's Physics Today Blog, in the politics section, is this article:

In the first public meeting of the President’s Council of Advisers in Science and Technology (PCAST), US Energy Secretary Steven Chu said the loss of basic science and technology funding at the nuclear-weapons labs Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore have had an inverse effect in the labs ability to attract "the best and the brightest."

During the 1990s the labs basic research funding was on an “10-year-glide-path” to be cut in half he said, which was only stopped in 1998. "To be blunt," said Chu, "the best and the brightest didn’t want to be weapons designers...they wanted to do good science."

Chu pointed out that this model—of using basic science as the carrot which would eventually lead to an interest in more applied work—has been common at all the major innovation incubators such as the Bell Laboratories or in the weapons labs early history.

How to attract high caliber staff to the weapons labs in the current climate “is an unsolved problem” said Chu, who asked for PCAST to assess ways to attract the best staff to DOE. In the meeting Chu implied that there is currently a review underway of the nuclear weapons management structure.

Chu also expanded on the principles behind his request to Congress to fund centers of excellence in energy research in which DOE would act more like a venture capitalist fund and invest in people, not in individual projects. "In World War II you just picked out outstanding people and gave them a problem and told them to solve it," he said. "They treated problems as triage. You would tackle the hard problem first and move onto the next if it didn't work." A similar attitude needs to exist in energy research he said.

"The key would be the management team and whether they are willing to take on this task," he said. "There are a couple of experiments I want to do in this regard."

Paul Guinnessy

I wonder what kind of "experiments" Dr. Chu has in mind. Do you suppose they might involve tasking a construction company's management team with oversight of a DOE research center of excellence? Somehow, I have trouble envisioning that.



Anonymous said...

Does anybody really think that anything is going to change?

LANS will be with us for a long time!

Anonymous said...

A better analyze than this PC, unspecific,, and short analyze of the NWC and the future of LANL and LLNL, by Steven Chu, is the 70 pages report, "U.S. Nuclear Deterrence in the 21st Century: Getting it Right," July 2009, Table of contents:

Author´s Note
Executive Summary
Table of Contents

I. Introduction

II. Statement of Principles of Nuclear Deterrence

III. The Nuclear Environment Today
A. What Others are Doing
B. The Sorry State of the U.S. Deterrent
1. U.S. nuclear weapons are deteriorating and do not include all possible and reliability options
2. The weapons complex is in extremis
3. `Brain Drain´- The U.S. weapons complex´s decline in nuclear expertise
C. How did we get into this fix?
1. Considerations other than U.S. nuclear force levels drive proliferation
a. Domestic/Regional Factors
b. The Decline of ´Extended Deterrence´
c. A Nuclear Failed State

IV. Required: A Credible U.S. Nuclear Deterrent
A. The Vital Role of Extended Deterrence
B. Addressing the ´Peer Competitor´Threat

V. What an Effective Deterrent Entails
A. The United States cannot rely indefinitely on its existing arsenal
B. The U.S. arsenal must be sized and tailored to hedge against uncertainty
C. The United States continues to require a robust ´Triad´
D. Missile defenses must be an integral part of the American deterrent
E. A real capability to perform underground tests of nuclear weapons is required

VI. What Should the United States Do Now?
A.. Address the needs of the nuclear enterprise
1. Conduct research and development
2. Cultivate and maintain critical expertise
3. Modernize the complex
B. Reject ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty
C. Maintain the readiness of U.S. deterrent forces
D. Adress large and growing asymmetries in Tactical/Theather nuclear weapons
E. Reject U.S. policies and practicies that serve to increase proliferation

VII. Fashioning an Acceptable New Strategic Arms Control Agreement
A. Problematic ideas for future U.S.-Russian arms control agreements
1. Numbers matter: Further cuts can imperil the ´Triad´
2. New Constraints on U.S. missile defenses would be disastrous
3. U.S. Coventional Precise Global Strike options could be compromised
B. What a START follow-on treaty should and should not entail

VIII. Conclusion


PS: "Who Should Own Our Nuclear Weapons?", with 72 minutes video, at, an interesting video, but doesn´t address the need for US to modernize the nuclear arsenal and its delivery systems, and to adopt the US missile defense, as well as a coherent strategy between the strategic nukes, tactical nukes, and missile defense.

Anonymous said...

Secretary Chu is clueness. The problem is not recruiting scientists and engineers to Livermore and Los Alamos but retaining them. When you have the likes of the Associate Director of Weapon Engineering at LANS, Bret Knapp, literally forcing experienced engineers out of their jobs and compromising national security so he can get more bonus money (i.e. rewards), something is seriously wrong. When the LANS and LLNS managers begin treating the staff inside with respect and dignity, scientists and engineers will be eventually be attracted to work at these institutions.

Anonymous said...

Where´s my analyze?

Anonymous said...

Is Chu saying all this talk we have heard for years about having "the best and the brightest" in own weapons program has been a bunch of BS?

Anonymous said...

Wow. It sure looks like we're going to meet our quota of "too drunk to post" comments on this one.

Anonymous said...

10:00 PM, an ad hominem argument of zero value.

Anonymous said...

Americans should be scared shit-less about the decline in science at the nuclear weapon labs after being handed off to a for-profit construction company (Bechtel).

I doubt Dr. Chu fully comprehends just how bad things have deteriorated under the leadership of NNSA and LANS over these last 3 years. We've reached a serious tipping point were recovery may not even be possible.

Anonymous said...

Chu is a fool!

Anonymous said...

I found this little gem (a bit of a stretch, I know) other parts of the world its clear these things are really important...

"there is no way I'm cutting my production because my bonuses are based on stock prices going higher... my genius is reflected in the stock price. I don't care if the price of the commodity is going through the floor, I need my bonus." "good point! no one cuts!"

Anonymous said...

booooorrrriiinnnggg (yawn)

Let's talk about drugs, polygraphs or Nanos!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Neither LANL nor LLNL can never be associated with DOE funded research again, they are just too badly damaged by inept management and mediocre quality staff. If Chu is truly interested in funding energy research "Centers of Excellence" he should either start with a less-damaged national lab, like NREL or ORNL, or perhaps even PNNL. Better yet would be to just start from scratch with a brand new facility somewhere.

LANL and LLNL were bureaucratic nightmares of mediocrity and management idiocy even before Bechtel bought them. Now they are completely hopeless -- rotten from the core. DOE would be best served by amputating them; give them to DOD. Let LANL become a plutonium foundry. I have no idea what LLNL is good for anymore, it's just begging to be shut down.

Anonymous said...

10:58 AM,

Here's the direction NNSA appears to be heading on LLNL....

NNSA Press Release
August 5, 2009

NNSA approves Livermore Valley Open Campus concept
Scientific collaboration key goal of more interactive approach

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The National Nuclear Security Administration today announced the first step toward the creation of the Livermore Valley Open Campus (LVOC), a joint venture between Sandia National Laboratories and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory that will promote greater collaboration between the world-class scientists at the nuclear security labs and their partners in industry and academia.

The LVOC, which would create a shared space between the two adjacent labs, is in keeping with NNSA’s vision for increased scientific interaction and collaboration across the nuclear security enterprise. The proposal signed by NNSA Administrator Thomas D’Agostino and the Undersecretary for Science Steve Koonin, endorses the LVOC concept and moving forward on the conceptual development of design alternatives required to reconfigure the existing laboratories into a more open layout.

"A Livermore Valley Open Campus will maximize the return on our nation's investment in nuclear security," said Energy Secretary Steven Chu. "By leveraging the groundbreaking research of our nuclear security labs through private sector collaborations, we will bring breakthroughs to the market faster and find new solutions to the energy problem."

Open access to the LVOC by the international science community would directly support the advancement of Sandia’s Hub for Innovation in the Transportation Energy Community (HITEC), promote key LLNL programs such as the National Ignition Facility (NIF) and its High Density Energy research, increase the profile of NNSA in the region, expand the high-tech “footprint” of the Bay Area and establish the Livermore Valley as the high-tech anchor in the East Bay.

NNSA will now begin to gather information from the laboratories, work on a conceptual design for the layout of the proposed campus, and study any environmental, security and cost implications surrounding the concept.

Anonymous said...

"...the Livermore Valley Open Campus (LVOC), a joint venture between Sandia National Laboratories and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory that will promote greater collaboration between the world-class scientists at the nuclear security labs and their partners in industry and academia."


Sorry, but my belief got suspended about here: "world-class scientists at the nuclear security labs..."

Anonymous said...

NNSA is clearly desperate to make folks believe that they are not a complete, abject failure. Further,

"The proposal signed by NNSA Administrator Thomas D’Agostino..."

The same bald-headed prick who spearheaded the initiative to give LANL and LLNL to Bechtel.

Anonymous said...

The staff need to be empowered, perhaps the most fundamental factor in both attracting and retaining staff. Things like forcing overhead functions down onto the staff are disempowering (like doing our own travel arrangements and reimbursements with the Byzantine Concur system, writing our OWN performance appraisals with the PerforM system, tracking our own inventories with the Sunflower system (like I really own that computer anyway), entering our own cyber security plans into the Hostmaster system, analyzing safety with the Job Hazards Analysis system, tracking costs for ourselves with the Enterprise/Oracle system, etc.)

Why would LANS force all of this administrative work down onto the staff? Simple, to disguise their astronomical management costs - LANS cannot afford to pay for sufficient administrative support to do this work as LANS costs the LANL budget over $200M annually in obscene fees and added taxes.

The first step to improve the environment at LANL is for NNSA to admit they made a mistake in hiring Bechtel, a construction company, to manage LANL. If D'Agostino can't make that admission, then Secretary Chu really needs to fire him.

Anonymous said...

"The first step to improve the environment at LANL is for NNSA to admit they made a mistake in hiring Bechtel, a construction company, to manage LANL." - 7:41 am

This will never happen. Many high level NNSA officials plan on taking lucrative jobs with their new contractors once they finally retire from NNSA. Just look at the example of Mr. Substantially Equivalent, Tyler Przybylek.

NNSA loves their new for-profit contractors because: (a) they do everything NNSA tells them to do, no matter how crazy, and (b) it's their path to future financial enrichment.

Anonymous said...

"The first step to improve the environment at LANL is for NNSA to admit they made a mistake in hiring Bechtel, a construction company, to manage LANL." - 7:41 am

No, the first step is for DOE's Secretary Chu to admit that NNSA made a mistake. I hold no hope that this will happen, though, given that Chu is just the figurehead of a poorly run cabinet level organization that has always been held in general disregard in Washington.

Anonymous said...

"The first step to improve the environment at LANL is for NNSA to admit they made a mistake in hiring Bechtel, a construction company, to manage LANL." - 7:41 am

Post back in 2-3 years & let us know how this is working out for ya.

Anonymous said...

Sad news for Los Alamos Employees:

Jack Daniel’s master distiller dies at 69 .... Jimmy Bedford was the face of the whiskey maker for 20 years

Anonymous said...

I really do not see any way that things will every get better at LANL. LANS is NOT going away.

Bechtel et al make political contributions to members of Congress.

NNSA is not going to admit a mistake.

Scientific productivity is difficult to quantify and thus cannot be turned in to PBIs.

Anonymous said...

"Sad news for Los Alamos Employees:

Jack Daniel’s master distiller dies at 69 .... Jimmy Bedford was the face of the whiskey maker for 20 years

8/9/09 3:17 PM"

WTF are you talking about?

Doug Roberts said...

There must a be "too drunk to post" connection, 6:45.

Anonymous said...

8:57 nailed it. So long as puppets like Knapp et al. are promoted for their wrecking crew mentality, the morale will continue to decline and the good people will continue to leave. It is probably already too late. I wish those of you who are still left on this sinking garbage barge good luck. You'll surely need it.

Anonymous said...

...US Energy Secretary Steven Chu said the loss of basic science and technology funding at the nuclear-weapons labs Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore have had an inverse effect in the labs ability to attract "the best and the brightest."

Best and brightest? But, but...only an "idiot" would still believe the sheeple of LANL could ever come close to living up to that label anymore.

Anonymous said...

"Best and brightest? But, but...only an "idiot" would still believe the sheeple of LANL could ever come close to living up to that label anymore."

I've got some bad news for you, 8:29.

Anonymous said...

Chu also expanded... DOE would act more like a venture capitalist fund and invest in people, not in individual projects.

"The key would be the management team and whether they are willing to take on this task," he said.

The answer is... NO!!!
- (Mikey)

I second Mikey's decision!
- (Tom D'Agostino)

Count me in with Mike and Tom!
- (Riley Bechtel)

Anonymous said...

And speaking of trends, I notice that with the recent historical departure of LANL's "best and brightest", there is less of any import to say about LANL with each passing week.

There is, of course, a proliferation of staff who, crying "Wee Wee Wee" all the way home, remain "terrified" of bad managers like Mary Nue.

There are, increasingly, posters of boorish, illiterate 5th-grade nuggets of mediocrity.

And there is Riley Bechtel, and his well-compensated group of co-conspirators: Congressional, civil servant, and corporate, who continue to laugh all the way to the bank.

All in all, I'd have to say, "Hell of a job, D'Agie! Job well done."

Now, for the rest of you: be careful out there. Don't you dare let yourselves get caught reading this blog. Mary will get you.

Anonymous said...

Nice substantive contribution there, 7:37.

Anonymous said...

7:37's contribution is a bit of a conversation stopper.


But harsh.

Anonymous said...

7:37's contribution is a bit of a conversation stopper.


But harsh.

8/11/09 8:14 AM

...and mediocre.

Well, my comment is mediocre too but I don't complain about mediocre comments as 7:37 did.
So, 7:37 tell us something new.
Btw. the ADCLES' name is spelled "Neu".

Anonymous said...

"How to attract high caliber staff to the weapons labs in the current climate “is an unsolved problem” said Chu, who asked for PCAST to assess ways to attract the best staff to DOE."

Uh, Dr. Nobel Laureate Chu,Sir, weren't you hired to apply your very own immense intellect to finding the solution? Or, not?

Anonymous said...



Make that nasty old 7:37 go away. Tell him to quit picking on us. He's not very nice.

Anonymous said...

The next step in NNSA's growing piss testing scheme... steroid usage!

NNSA Assesses Steroid Use at U.S. Nuclear Weapons Sites

Global Security Newswire
Aug. 11, 2009

The U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration is studying the use of steroids by personnel at the nation's nuclear-weapon facilities, the Knoxville, Tenn., News Sentinel reported Sunday.

The review was announced after four guards at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Tennessee tested positive for anabolic steroids and subsequently quite or were fired by Wackenhut Services Inc., the security contractor at the site. A union has challenged the firing of two guards.

"Currently, random steroid testing is not part of the corporate employee screening process for contractors operating across the (nuclear weapons) enterprise," NNSA spokesman Damien LaVera wrote in an e-mail. "However, tests can be conducted where there is probable cause or if warranted by specific occurrences. The department is reviewing the random testing requirements as a result of this recent incident."

Anonymous said...

"...Uh, Dr. Nobel Laureate Chu,Sir, weren't you hired to apply your very own immense intellect to finding the solution? Or, not?..."

Give him time, he's not doing science, he's doing human relations -- politics. He's influencing a large number of distracted prima-donnas. And Tauscher and Feinstein can only help so much.

1. He told Congress they have failed. In a nice, face-saving way.

2. He has stated the basic parameters for success. (Picture Hazel O'Leary doing that)

3. He has remained distant from the current NNSA, keeping his powder dry.

How long would Mao or Chou En Lai take to solve an intractable problem like this? 10 years? An hour?

Anonymous said...

".Post back in 2-3 years & let us know how this is working out for ya..."

Now that's funny.

Anonymous said...

I suppose that's one perspective, 1:36 AM. Here's another:

1. Chu was hired to be yet another worthless figurehead Secretary of DOE.

2. Congress was hired to take bribe money from representatives of the military industrial complex.

3. Bechtel bribed Congress to give them the LANL and LLNL contracts.

4. Chu has remained distant from NNSA because of number 1, above.

Things will not change.

Anonymous said...

"Things will not change." - 8:20 AM

Sure, they will change. They'll continue to get worse with NNSA and LANS at the helm.

Anonymous said...

"The next step in NNSA's growing piss testing scheme... steroid usage!" (10:20 pm)

Opps! Better double check the supplements you are taking. Common health food store supplements like DHEA can show up in a lab steroid test and that might end your career!

Anonymous said...

NNSA: New Employee Excellence Web Page Across the Nuclear Security Enterprise -- NuclearStreet, Aug 12

“Our People” Page to Feature Awards, Honors and Recognition Received by Nuclear Security Professionals Across the Enterprise.

By Abby Gessner

The National Nuclear Security Administration today launched a new web page highlighting employees who have received professional awards or have been honored for outstanding work within their professional fields. The page, located at and featured on the NNSA home page, will promote employees from across the nuclear security enterprise.

“Without question, the talented scientists, engineers, program managers and technicians working throughout the nuclear security enterprise are our greatest asset,” said NNSA Administrator Thomas D’Agostino. “Whether they are expanding the frontiers of science and discovery, working to guarantee the safety, security and reliability of our nuclear stockpile without testing, or using their expertise to promote nuclear security worldwide, the women and men working throughout the nuclear security enterprise are among the best in their fields. This new website is one way to ensure they are recognized for their professional excellence.”

The website, which will be updated frequently, will feature notifications of professional awards and honors received by workers throughout the enterprise. Where possible, it will include multimedia presentations of the work for which those employees were honored. Updates to the page will be announced via NNSA’s social networking sites.


Anonymous said...

LANS lies about how rosy things are at LANL these days, why should it come as any surprise that NNSA is attempting to glorify their own existence?

Anonymous said...

NNSA seems to have no problem letting their contractor employees be fired for steroid use. Are they applying these same strict rules against their own civil service employees?

Anonymous said...

NNSA and LANS seem to be on a recent campaign to hype the performance of the agency and their research labs. The number of new awards they are creating and issuing has become mind boggling. There seems to be an award for just about everything.

Anonymous said...

More on the recent steroid use firings....

Munger: Situation still fuzzy on guards, steroids -- Knoxville News, 07-22-09

No doubt there's more information to come regarding steroids and security guards at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant in Oak Ridge.

Already I've heard multiple versions of what supplements have been taken by security police officers and what legal, off-the-shelf types may or may not cause positive drug tests for steroid use. I've also heard different stories about the prevalence of drugs, legal or otherwise, to enhance physical performance in a competitive, high-pressure work environment.

Wackenhut, the government's security contractor in Oak Ridge, made its position pretty clear by saying it would terminate anybody who tested positive for steroids.

"We have a zero-tolerance policy," spokeswoman Courtney Henry said.

But apparently only a few security guards have actually been tested for anabolic steroids, a Schedule III drug. The random drug tests typically required for guards at the high-security weapons installation focus on Schedule I and II drugs, such as cocaine and marijuana and heavy-duty painkillers.

If the use of questionable supplements is widespread, as some have suggested, then why wouldn't Wackenhut test the entire security force for steroids? The company this week is increasing the tests for steroids.

Randy Lawson, president of the guards' union, said the revelation that some over-the-counter or off-the-shelf supplements could cause positive drug tests had created "pandemonium" among the security police officers in Oak Ridge.

Wackenhut issued a statement, saying that independent studies have shown that up to 25 percent of legally obtained performance-enhancing supplements contain enough anabolic steroids to result in a positive drug test or metabolize in such a way as to test positive.

"Although we cannot prohibit the use of these legal supplements, we have strongly discouraged their use," Henry said.

Lawson said the company had never given the guard force a list of products that might cause problems. He said the situation is simply unfair.

"We have to know what we can take and what we can't take," the union chief said. "All we're asking for is a fair shake. If you can't tell us what we can't take, tell us what we can take (to boost performance)."

Lawson said the guards, particularly the older ones, are under great pressure to pass physical-fitness tests. In addition, there are more than 330 "medical disqualifying factors" that can end their careers as security police officers in the nuclear weapons complex.

When asked to address the pressures to perform and the possible link to use of steroids or other drugs, Wackenhut declined comment. Henry said simply that use of steroids was against government and company policy and that test results are final.

"It is not the company's responsibility to determine what was taken, when, how or why," she said.

Anonymous said...

This is interesting news:

Oak Ridge firm part of Kansas City nuke project

- Knoxville News (Aug 12, '09, Frank Munger)

Oak Ridge-based Pro2Serve is part of the CenterPoint Zimmer/HNTB team that was chosen to develop the new $500 million nuclear weapons parts facility at Kansas City, Mo.

According to info distributed by Pro2Serve, the company “will be responsible for the MEP (mechanical, electrical, piping) design and consulting on 1.2 million square feet of manufacturing, laboratory and processing buildingss as well as the security design for the entire campus and buildings for the NNSA and the U.S. General Services Administration.”

Now where have I heard of that name, Pro2Serve, before?

Oh, yeah, now I remember!...

Tyler Przybylek elected to Pro2Serve board

- Knoxville News (Mar 5, '09, Frank Munger)

Tyler Przybylek, former chief operating officer at NNSA (and, at one time, the chief counsel at DOE's Oak Ridge operations), has been elected to the Pro2Serve board of directors for a two-year term. Also, Bob Van Hook and Barry Goss (the company's founder and president) were re-elected to the board for three-year terms, Pro2Serve reported in a press statement.

Anonymous said...

When Glenn Mara retired from LANS, the rumors were he was going to replace Tom D'Agostino. Instead, it was announced this week that Mara is heading up the DOE/NNSA lab relations office out of UCOP.

It appears as if it's been decided from above to leave Tom D'Agostino in as the head of NNSA. I'm sure Capt. D'Agostino will find it useful to stay around at NNSA a while longer so he help out all his old buddies, like Tyler.

Anonymous said...

7:16 PM, LOL, have you *met* any NNSA employees?

Anonymous said...

8:57 PM - you are wrong. Chu hates Tom D'Ag. Someone very close to home is being courted to be the head of NNSA....

Anonymous said...

Pro2Serve has been crawling around the nuclear weapons complex for ages, certainly long before the name Tyler P. entered our collective consciousness. Like TechSource, they scoop up NWC retirees and distinguished expats and pay them handsomely to perform this type of consulting work.

Eric said...

Bounded rationality and LANL

It is de rigeur on this blog to blame the current state of LANL on evil people, usually management at various levels. It is also common to ask that a white knight come in and 'save' the complainers (princesses trapped in the dark castle by the evil wizard).

While there may be evil people in the chain of command, the current status of LANL does not require such people. Bounded rationality, a term from modern economics in which each person is acting in what they see as a rational way, would, given the structure of DOE, give the same overall result. An emergent behavior of bounded rationality is that thievery is sufficient but not necessary to get the current result at LANL.

For the people who are thieves, complaining to them that they are thieves only seems to convince them that their thieving is justified. For the people who are not thieves, complaining only offends them and convinces them not to help the complainers.

So, whether kleptocracy is rampant or bounded rationality reigns, ineffective complaining only makes things worse.

As to the white knight, who has multiple princesses to save, what reward is there for the knight to save this princess (respect and science at LANL). I would expect the white knight to save some other princess, given the comments on this blog.


Anonymous said...

So Glenn Mara (former LLNL) seamlessly replaced John Birely at the University California LANS/LLNS Office without a lost day in between. MacMillan (former LLNL) seamlessly replaced Glenn Mara with a lost day in between. These guys from Lawrence Livermore are corrupt to the bone, they smell and think alike. While I didn't particularly like Birely, he was the only former LANL guy left. It is now obvious that the only reason Mara retired from LANS was to take Birely's position. The LANL takeover is complete!! By the way, let's see, Mara is getting a retirement check from LLNS, LANS, and now getting another check from UC. He'll have trifecta retirement checks when retires (again and again) from UC, all with an associate degree in welding. Priceless!

Anonymous said...


Please shut up.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Eric makes perfect sense to me.

The only way the white knight (Steven Chu?) will save LANL is if we can make it clear that the white knight will get a few spots of tarnish on his armor if he doesn't. We can make this a political issue - the Bush Administration working through D'Ag sold LANL to lying, cheating, and thieving Bechtel carpet-baggers who are pillaging this institution for everything they can take from it, and Steven Chu doesn't care enough to even attempt to fix it. If he can't even fix this place, then he can't get anything done at all.

Anonymous said...

Mara has a Master's in Engineering. Don't be a jerk.

Anonymous said...

Secretary Chu has two major interests, first, an advocate of the still unproven AGW theory and a defender of the Waxman-Markey Energy Bill, and second, to be viewed as a nerd, these two major interests by Steven Chu is at play during his commencement speech at Cal-Tech, June ´09, at,, and at, but little interest in the US nuclear deterrence, and the NWC.

Dr. Chu never submit any economic data, e.g. the economic consequences of the Waxman-Markey Bill, but here´s some help by the Heritage Foundation, "The Economic Consequences of Waxman-Markey: An Analysis of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009," at

(1) In particular, the Heritage analysis projects that by 2035:

-- Gasoline prices will rise 58 percent (or $1.38) above the baseline forecast, which already contains price increases;
-- Natural gas prices will rise 55 percent;
-- Heating oil prices will rise 56 percent;
-- Electricity prices will rise 90 percent;
-- A family of four can expect to pay $1,241 more for energy costs per year;
-- Including taxes, a family of four will pay $4,609 more per year;
-- A family of four will reduce its consumption of goods and services by up to $3,000 per year, as its income and savings fall;
-- Aggregate GDP losses will be $9.4 trillion;
-- Job losses will be nearly 2.5 million; and
-- The national debt will rise an additional $12,803 per person.
(All figures are in constant 2009 dollars.) (pp. 13-14)

(2) Appendix 3, State Results

How the Waxman-Markey Bill Would Affect the States

New Mexico

Average Personal Income Loss, 2012-2035 (in Millions): -$621

Average GDP Loss, 2012-2035 (in Millions): -$1,743

Average Non-Farm Job Loss, 2012-2035: -6,209 (p. 21)

Anonymous said...

My thought, eric, is that you might want to read about narcisisstic personality disorder. This disorder is characterized by "a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, [and a] need for admiration..."

Anonymous said...

"8/13/09 7:56 PM"

" some help by the Heritage Foundation, "

Why the hell would you believe anything from the Heritage Foundatation?

Anonymous said...

Glenn Mara is one of the finest engineers that I have ever had the pleasure to work with, and maybe the best manager.

His personal technical insight lead LLNL to an approach that saved
taxpayers millions of dollars, an approach only the most senior and experienced could have thought would work. It was a wonder to watch his judgement validated in a fascinating full-scale failure test.

He personally lead the graveyard (owl)shift construction team on NIF over a period of many months working night and day along side hundreds of dedicated technical and crafts to produce NIF's earliest light in 2000. This hands on presence, as a very senior manager.

If metallurgy develops this kind of talent, then we would all benefit from a little practice "casting under the worst possible conditions." He is old-school lab. Mission first.

I also trust this engineer to watch my pension closely, something that I do not trust the eager-beaver, show me the latest razzle-dazzle, "Gosh, what happened?", MBA types to do.

He is sharp and seasoned and belongs in DC.

Anonymous said...

8/13/09 7:56 PM,

A less bias assessment of Waxman-Markey can be found at;

Anonymous said...

Work Free Safety Zone

There is more "fun" in the pipeline with respect to admin access to office PCs. Not only almost all the FNs have lost admin access but a recent memo explains that all Windows domain PC users will lose admin privileges first (including L/Q cleared users), but Linux/Mac users are mentioned too. There will be an appeals process, provided the reason to reestablish admin privileges is NOT to administer the computer. Managers apparently have been informed but no official announcement has been made yet.

So the only activity performed will certainly be the drafting of responses explaining that nobody can get any real work done other than writing e-mail and surfing the web (or not). It seems that this directive originates from very high up at DOE.

Anonymous said...

"...a recent memo explains that all Windows domain PC users will lose admin privileges first (including L/Q cleared users), but Linux/Mac users are mentioned too." - 9:18 am

And the sheeple scientists will all softly bleat: baa, baa, baa.... all the way to the WFSZ slaughter house that awaits them. Does it really matter any more what crazy things NNSA and LANS do to stop scientific output at LANL?

Anonymous said...

LANS announced this week that United Healthcare will be replaced by Blue Cross New Mexico as the new insurance provide for the lab. The real kicker in this announcement was that if you fail to make a selection during open enrollment session this fall, your medical insurance ** WILL BE CANCELED **!!!

LANS could have easily set up a default so that those not making a selection were automatically put into an HMO or PPO plan. The fact that LANS took the draconian path of allowing unexpected medical insurance cancellation is a pretty good indication of how LANS feels about the LANL work force.

Perhaps Mikey can save a few bucks for his bonus by seeing to it that some LANL employees do without any medical insurance for this next year. LANS management is filled with some executive level jerks!

Anonymous said...

Latest incentive plan?
A number of long-time LANL employees are being given new assignments like clean out this rat infested trailer that's about 120 degrees inside. Sure seems like management is trying to harass them into quitting. And if that doesn't work they'll nail them with violating safety protocol for doing what they've been ordered to do.
Anybody else notice this going on in their group? How low will LANS go?

Greg Close said...

@ 8/14/09 12:59 PM
"LANS could have easily set up a default so that those not making a selection were automatically put into an HMO or PPO plan."

You are not very well informed. Since all medical plans for 2010 require a deduction from your paycheck, we cannot enroll you w/out your specific instruction to do so. So, for reasons completely unrelated to LANS Management or any draconian measure, defaulting is something that we cannot due.

However, your point is one that deserves some explanation, so let me take a moment to tell you what we CAN and WILL do to prevent any unintentional loss of coverage at Open Enrollment.

We will be running queries out of ORACLE throughout Open Enrollment. We will use these queries to reach out to any employee who has not made an election and provide every means possible to capture that persons enrollment decision.

The last thing we want is to drop an employee and his/her family from medical coverage, and we will deal with each instance on a case by case basis to make sure that all methods to legally rectify any unintentional drop of coverage are considered.

I encourage anyone with this or similar concerns to email us at so that we can provide you with an answer. Then, if you disagree with that answer, you can at least argue from an informed perspective and debate the facts instead of assumptions.


Anonymous said...

I don't think you can just dump people into a medical plan that cost them money without them asking for it.

Anonymous said...

Easy solution to 12:59 PM's concern. Just tie medical plan enrollment to full-disk encryption and/or administrative account cancellation. (Kind of like a motor voter bill). The cyber nazis surely won't let any employees slip through the cracks!

Anonymous said...

Greg - Run a report through Oracle? You must be kidding.

Anonymous said...

Glenn Mara is truly a gem among LLNL management coal. Unfortunately, he promoted some real losers. How Knapp got where he is is beyond belief.

Greg Close said...

@8/14/09 6:29 PM

Ummm... no. I'm not kidding. Should I be? I guess I don't understand if your comment is facetious or genuine? So, if you seriously have a question about running a simple query and how that will help us keep people from losing coverage, let me know. I genuinely would like for you and anyone else who is curious to understand that there is a plan in place to prevent de-enrollment through inaction.

Anonymous said...

So Greg,

There is a substantial difference between theory and practice. In theory, all is well; in practice, we blunder about, miscommunicate, make mistakes, procrastinate, misread and act just like human beings; rather than the ideal human system that policy-writers assume in their offices when they craft logical, rigid plans.

As a result, this LANL benefits decision will hurt good, well-intentioned, hard-working people, 'cause people will make mistakes... hurt some very badly.

Tucked away in Benefits-World one may think that this is the best that we can do. But Mike should have the simple good sense to say, "NO".

This is where I think Mike has really failed, and Miller too. They both have at some time in the past, been close to Lab workers and cared about the workers they collaborated with. They do the the authority to countermand "Benefits-World" sillyness.

Both are blundering and aren't getting to important details like your very poor idea.

In the old days, Directors were surrounded by capable folks like Mara, Kuckuck and Haussman who would catch and remedy these kinds of blunders. Now with the Wallaces and Leidles and Russos, Directors are advised by folks who don't know any better.

Constuction Industry managers have been taking bonuses to screw their own people for such a long time (yes Bechtel was once a good place to work - before Reagan made it popular and acceptable to be greedy and rich) that they truly do cannot tell right from wrong. Just like Tyler Pzybylak can't tell the truth from a lie.

Anastasio and Miller are now both surrounded by people who serve them very poorly. Outsiders fill quotas for inexperienced UC partners but lack essential experience. They do not know wat makes a national laboratory function.

At LLNL, benefits and human resources are constantly scheming ways to reduce compensation. Each compensation cycle presents new clever schemes to take back something, so Business Operations leaders can make bonus. Last year it was the burden squeeze, this time it is the classification structure for professionals, which will be structured - the "best practices that the lazy could find to maximize their personal bonus" -- by Leidle, Warner and Soderstrom to cost less, so each can make their bonus.

The impact on the regular folks of blind adherence to the perfect human performer model can be tragic. I know personally, a victim of your misnamed "benefits" policies. Buried and distracted planning for a significant work event, a clerical error was made that lost a lifetime of accumulated sick leave. The LLNL benefits manager took great pride in denying its reinstatement, even though the UC benefits office advocated reinstatement. They were appalled at the outcome. Instead of acting to correct the brutish outcome, Miller took her recommendation that "we must be fair, rules are rules",and "can't let everybody get away with this" in spite of the fact this happened only twice and that it was an obvious mistake.

It is hypocrisy that a friend makes a personally devastating mistake the Lab is blind to recourse, but made with laboratory consequences, no amount of effort spent correcting is too great.

So you see Greg, people make still mistakes despite the fact that you and Lynn demand perfection in your nice little rules. Employees expect a Director to be both well informed and to have the courage to do the right thing, in this case to admit people make errors, and to overrule "easy, convenient and lazy" rules that are written by folks who never leave their offices, never get to know the nice folks doing the actual work of keeping the country safe.

Instead both Directors are disappointments. You make them look bad.

The wrong place to make a bonus quota is through a coworkers mistake.

I am appalled that I work for an organization that even considers such an action, let alone advocates it.

Anonymous said...

What are the reasons for LANS changing to a new health insurance company? In what ways will the new provider be better? In what ways will it be worse, what trade-offs were involved?
I faced catastrophic illness this past year and under the UHC plan I had a choice of the best institutions in the U.S. for treatment. Certain benefits that I hadn't expected were also provided, e.g. significant reimbursement for travel expenses, which can be substantial when there is ongoing treatment and follow-up care. Red tape was completely minimal. I was very pleasantly surprised, UHC was there for me when I needed it (still do). In regard to the current health care debate in this country, I am in favor of reform so that high quality care such as I received is available and affordable to all.

Anonymous said...

The new health insurance provide will be better, by definition, because it will cost LANS less.

Anonymous said...

If I remember correctly, in the pre-LANS (non-profit) days, UC set things up so that the default choice was an HMO. Seems LANS could have done the same thing here. Letting people default to "no insurance" is just plain wrong.

Anonymous said...

You see, Greg, that's the danger of posting under your own name. In your case there are two problems:

1. Your statements made here could be construed as "official" LANS policy.

2. When you're wrong, the whole world sees it.

You are wrong on this one, and 11:01 is correct. There are a number of reasons that retired LANL staff would not respond to the US Postal email indicating that it will be required to make a choice regarding the new health insurance provider. The open enrollment letter could have gotten lost. The staff could have been on extended travel, etc.

LANS made the greedy choice of choosing to drop staff who do not respond. More profit for LANS, hence Bechtel for running LANL by having fewer people covered. You backed LANS' decision. You look bad.

Anonymous said...

"LANS made the greedy choice of choosing to drop staff who do not respond. More profit for LANS, hence Bechtel for running LANL by having fewer people covered."

I'm no fan of LANS, but the health insurance costs are paid for from overhead as allowable costs. LANS does not pocket any savings from lower health insurance costs. Any savings would be reflected in a lower overhead rate, or in the ability to use the overhead for something else allowable.

Anonymous said...

Why do you insist on hand holding, grow a pair.

Anonymous said...

1. People have already chosen their health plan options: HMO, PPO, or whatever. They have already agreed that money will be subtracted out of their paychecks every month. If the benefits folks choose to mess around with what looks like a pretty good set of health plans, the least they could do is make the process as painless as possible for the laboratory workers. Dropping people is the absolute worst default.

2. While we are on the topic --- what exactly was wrong with the current plans? My guess is, not much. The benefits folks just had to continue changing things, to give an appearance of constant activity.

For the very same reason, the Lab (and the folks at LASO) are constantly generates a litany of new rules, memos, training plans, you name it. A stream of "computer security innovations", new travel and visitor rules, procurement changes, etc is continuously being dumped on people, severely disrupting productivity and depressing moral. The eventual loser in all of this by the way is the American Taxpayer, who pours over $2B/year into this Lab and gets less and less in return.

The truth is, if this activity-for-the-sake-of-showing-activity were to simply stop, things would improve. It would also become instantly clear that a whole bunch of folks are really not needed here. Indeed, we are paying them out of our humongous overhead to impede our work.

They themselves see that, which is precisely why they can't stop their activity-for-the-sake-of-showing-activity, even for a second.

Anonymous said...

"The eventual loser in all of this by the way is the American Taxpayer, who pours over $2B/year into this Lab and gets less and less in return."

How can we get less than the zero we have been getting?

Anonymous said...

Glenn Mara is truly a gem among LLNL management coal. Unfortunately, he promoted some real losers. How Knapp got where he is is beyond belief.

8/14/09 7:00 PM

Glenn is a real gem alright, polished and slick as hell. Knapp on the other hand is extremely hateful, vindictive, and dumb. Also, Knapp cannot even speak English (inarticulate) in public. This guy is an embarrassment to his LANS. Actually, Bret Knapp's brother Corey Knapp used his influence to get Bret where he is at today. I can't wait to hear when Knapp returns back his to his mommy in CA.

Anonymous said...

First I've heard of Corey Knapp. Does he/she have pictures of Bechtel managers? It is truly mind-boggling to see a guy like Bret Knapp mismanage the same weapons engineering outfit as Jay Wexler. Of course the same could be said for Mikey and Hecker. What is the world coming to?

Anonymous said...

Why do you insist on hand holding, grow a pair.

8/15/09 12:49 PM

Testosterone fueled He-Man makes his re-appearance on this blog. His hairy balls must be humongous! I suspect he must be one of those loud "tea-baggers" we keep hearing about in the news.

Greg Close said...

I understand that you guys are coming from a place of distrust and apprehension. Here's my attempt to alleviate some of those concerns.
@ 8/15/09 1:45 AM Yes, people are fallible, which is why I outlined our plan to prevent any accidental default to no coverage. We are not out to reduce the number of employees enrolled in benefits – as a human being and as a professional benefits administrator – I WANT YOU ENROLLED in healthcare. Unless restricted by federal law (ERISA and Section 125 of I.R.C., predominantly) I will do everything in my power to make it happen. The rules LANL won’t compromise are the ones that would disqualify our pre-tax plans. There is no bonus quota related to our medical costs or related savings- there is no “profit angle” and this did not factor into the decision at all.
Also, after reading your post I understand that you are frustrated with LLNL. I don’t know the details, so I don’t have much to say in regards to your case. But we are not LLNL, and I am not any of the LLNL people you mentioned. Don’t hold us or me accountable for whatever happened to you there.

@ 8/15/09 8:34 AM As our two finalists, UHC and BCBS of NM both had strong bids. BCBS of NM won out mostly because we thought they offered a local account mgt team and claims processing center that would be both accessible and accountable. There is a cost savings as well, but not so much in administrative fees as projected claims expenses – which helps create lower premium costs for employees and for LANS.
I’m glad that UHC provided good care for you in your hour of need. I think they executed this part of their services particularly well (specialty care for cancer, transplants etc). BCBS of NM will have cancer resource and transplant resource similar to the UHC offering with an excellent national network of Centers of Distinction. If you have more detailed questions, please feel free to email me (
@ 8/15/09 9:02 AM It will cost LANS and most employees less. The savings are mostly in claims projections, so it is a savings in what we hope not to pay in total claims cost (lower premium), not any sort of “profit.”
@ 8/15/09 11:01 AM The UC default coverage for the years preceding transition was the Core New Mexico Plan. This is a no-cost catastrophic coverage with a $3k deductible. Since it was no-cost, it was okay to use as a default – we will not have that option in 2010, so we can’t default to it. Also, I agree that “letting” people default to no-coverage would be wrong. That’s why we have no intent of “letting” them do that. And yes, the proof will be in the pudding, so hold us to that.
@ 8/15/09 11:45 AM I disagree. 1) Although I’m not sure “policy” is the correct term I’m comfortable stating the processes we follow. I don’t say it unless I mean it, and I don’t shy away from that. 2) If I am wrong then I DO want the whole world to see it. I’m not scared of being wrong, and I’ll admit to it when it happens. But, as it happens – I think you are wrong on this, and 11:01 is off topic. Retirees have a different enrollment window, a different enrollment process and a different billing system. We have yet to publish or discuss how retiree elections will roll over into 2010. As mentioned in the FAQ, retirees should wait for their Open Enrollment Guidebook and information letter for more details; they are not stuck with the same constraints as actives.
Greed has nothing to do with it. No one “profits” from this personally. If we were greedy, we could have held premiums flat for 2010 and not passed any decrease to employees. I didn’t “back” any LANS decision – Benefits made the decision, based on best practice for a full change in insurance carriers. As I’ve said before – the fault will be if we let people drop without trying every trick in the book to get them to enroll.
8/15/09 12:34 PM Right!
8/15/09 2:24 PM I guess you have your own topic, now. I will respond there. Short answer is: you are wrong on the facts on both counts.

Anonymous said...

Guys, please give Greg a chance. He came through for my family when our coverage was at risk.

But Greg, could you please explain this Orwellian-sounding phrase:

"The savings are mostly in claims projections"

And remember we are a little extra twitchy right now because of ObamaCare!

Anonymous said...

'And remember we are a little extra twitchy right now because of ObamaCare!'

Then you are an idiot.

Anonymous said...

8:59 am: "'And remember we are a little extra twitchy right now because of ObamaCare!'

Then you are an idiot."

Is this the rational, respectful debate that Obama says he wants? How will you apologize to him?

Anonymous said...

"Testosterone fueled He-Man makes his re-appearance on this blog. His hairy balls must be humongous! I suspect he must be one of those loud "tea-baggers" we keep hearing about in the news."

8/15/09 10:36 PM

Stop whining!!! Man-up, and be a man. I only want people with a pair near me, nothing else, jut men. You are an idiot but you did get it right about how I am a tea-bagger.

Cheney in 2012!!

Anonymous said...

Interesting Q&A on the NPR...

Anonymous said...

What other decision maker at LANL has had enough courage to answer directly to blog comments? Greg is the only one to post with his name. His messages have always been sincere and true. Do you really want to discourage his responses by attacking him? Do you realize not all LANL employees are out to screw you and some still have enough pride in their jobs to do what's right and in the best interest of their coworkers?

Greg Close said...

@8/16/09 8:50 AM
could you please explain this Orwellian-sounding phrase: "The savings are mostly in claims projections"

Sure - it just means that through their network and provider arrangements, we expect the cost per service to be reduced somewhat. We expect that, plus our re-alignment of EPO, PPO and CDHP without zip code restrictions, to increase our network savings.

So, it's not like we are cutting benefits/services to achieve the savings, we're just making the most of their network. Hope that helps!

Anonymous said...

Greg is leaving the lab and hence is posting with his real name. People who are staying, whether on Greg's side or not, are all anonymous. Telling, no?

Greg Close said...

I have been posting with my real name since 2006. At first, I just signed an anonymous comment with my name/email. Sometime (last year?) I actually got a blogger account and posted that way.

Doug Roberts said...

Now, Greg:

You should know better by now than to confuse the readers here with facts. 9:34AM was obviously attempting to build an argument that posting non-anomalously will cost you your job.

A more reasonable argument could be made that non-anonymous posters are more likely to have the courage to go elsewhere, should working conditions at LANL become unacceptable.

In other words, Greg, you are at present a minority of 1 among all of the contributors to this blog! I've appreciated the openness of your contributions here, as well as your willingness to contribute using your own name.


Anonymous said...


I do have a question: during the last three years, did you have a signed post that was seriously critical of the lab's management? God knows, there's plenty to be critical of. If so, did you experience any retribution from the management?

I confess I didn't do a search of your old posts, just looked at your recent ones. I see you are defending the benefits office, the lab, and even the director, Mike Anastasio. I guess that even as one's leaving the Lab, one has reasons to be careful? Indeed, your new employer might not like someone who criticized his old boss publicly?

I don't agree that all of us "anonymous cowards" here are just cowards. A great service can be performed by a anonymous post that brings a serious issue into the open. Arguably more so than if Mr. Roark were to post a signed rebuttal. (Would he one day?)

Greg Close said...

@ 8/18/09 10:51 AM That's a fair question. Here's my honest answer:
My primary goal on this blog is to correct poor and/or misleading information posted about our benefits package and/or calm panic/hysteria. Benefits is my area of expertise, and I rarely stray from it.
Since I do not do any real science at the lab, I cannot comment with any authority on how the Lab is managed in terms of science and research and interactions with Washington, etc. I'm too ignorant on such subjects - I admit it. Sure, I have opinions, but I don't have a lot to back them up outside the realm of Star Wars trivia, science fiction/fantasy, how to make the perfect pizza, or benefits administration. I stick to what I know, or try to.
That said, I am on record on this blog stating the obvious - transitioning from UC to a private LLC was stupid. Bad decision by NNSA/DOE/Congress and I personally think the politics of that decision has (irreparably?) harmed the way good science is and will be performed at this and other National Labs. At most, any transition from UC should have been to a non-profit. That's my humble, and mostly worthless, opinion.
But I don't think our benefits suddenly suck because of that bad decision. Statistically and objectively, we are very well off as employees in terms of comp and benefits.
Therefore, if you criticize the way science is managed, NNSA, Congress etc. I am pretty silent. If, however, you start going after our benefits plan, or just being nasty toward individuals that you don't agree with and slinging juvenile epithets at each other - I might jump in and give my two cents worth.
I don't think all anonymous posters are cowards - anonymous posts that help blow the whistle on questionable practice can be very valuable. You seem very reasonable, for example. However, there are a lot of people here who just practice being nasty anonymously, call names, make baseless and unsupported accusations, etc without much in the way of solutions or constructiveness. THAT is kind of annoying.
And of course I've got lots of frustrations with my individual job, bureaucracy, infrastructure etc. at the lab - but it's not blog-worthy stuff. At least not for this blog. This blog should be about stuff that really matters/affects the lab/science as a whole.

Anonymous said...


We'll miss you. Truly.


Anonymous said...

It's good that Greg is leaving. Yet another point towards my latest PBI of 5% attrition at LANL. I smell a fat bonus heading my way!


Anonymous said...


It was nice to read your posts with factual information instead of the usual fear-mongering.