Friday, December 31, 2004

Was the shutdown justified?

Brad Holian, a physicist at LANL for the past 32 years published an article in the December, 2004 issue of Physics Today on this topic. The paper presents the safety statistics that were already published at the time Director Nanos declared LANL to be a place of "egregious" safety violations.

December, 2004 Physics Today Article (Pdf)

It is interesting to observe that now, 7 months after the shutdown, LANL and NNSA spin doctors are "reinventing" these safety statistics to provide an after-the-fact justification for Nanos' decision to shut the entire lab down in July, 2004. Interestingly enough, the doctored statistics are at odds with the published ones, mysteriously making LANL look worse than its peers in the DOE complex, rather than better, as the published stats show.

Insight to the current work environment at LANL

After failing to receive "approval" to publish a letter in the LANL-run NewsBulletin newspaper (and after waiting 6 weeks to be told "No!") one staff member chose to use the Los Alamos newspaper, The Monitor to get her letter aired:

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

I open this blog with the story of how the shutdown affected my group.

This story is really an expression of concern. During the recent shutdown, as I am sure you all recall, LANL staff were under strict orders that, should an outside sponsor contact one of us via telephone to discuss programmatic issues, the only allowed response was, "I'm sorry, I am not allowed to discuss that at this time. We are in a work shutdown mode."

Well, guess what? One of my group's sponsors called during week two of the shutdown, and received the proscribed response. Two hours later the sponsor called back and said, "I'm sorry, but I have no confidence that LANL will allow you to perform the work we contracted for you to do. Therefore, we are pulling our contract."

In an eye blink, my group lost a three-year, $1 million per year contract. Shortly afterwards, the group leader retired from LANL.

The deputy group leader left a week later (recalled to active duty from the reserves).

Six of the team leaders announced that they were quitting. Four have left, two will leave next month.

One additional staff member announced that she was departing next month.

Several other staff members in the group are planning to leave LANL.

These are all good people who are leaving LANL.

Over the past 15 years my group collectively brought in more than $100 million to the lab from outside customers. Those were revenues that benefited LANL. With that money, many staff members' salaries were paid to do pure scientific research, and to develop software and analysis products for our customers.

LANL not only lost those and other valued staff members, but they lost funding, and the goodwill of many external customers because of the enforced shutdown.

Should this be an issue of concern? You be the judge.

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