Saturday, February 26, 2005

Disappointed in the Questions Asked

From Anonymous:

After watching Nanos, Bodman, Domenici, and Brooks on Friday, it is clear that Mr. Nanos has the full confidence and support of his customers, NNSA and DOE. I was very disappointed in the questions asked from the floor and a bit embarrassed by the total lack of strategic thinking on the part of LANL staff.
The first question was, 'Why don't we have a daycare facility?' The answer is that, given our prohibitive overhead, there would be no way to recover the operating costs from the parents. For LANL to get into the daycare business would just expose them to punishing liability if any child were injured. That's a losing game and our overhead is high enough as it is.
Then we had a chemical engineer ask the Secretary of Energy why we don't use process flow and piping diagrams. This was totally irrelevant to the issues at hand. If you want to use piping diagrams, champion them in your group - no one's stopping you.
Then we had the incoherent rambler on the telephone that just kind of mumbled off into oblivion. He never could get to a meaningful question.
The question about the new award fee and GRT was so poorly stated that Bodman couldn't figure out the concern. LANL's budget is a zero-sum game: money cut out of the budget for GRT and award fees is money that is not available for operations. Essentially, we'll see a $100MM cut in the operating budget due to just these two factors.
I forget the next questions, but I do remember Mary Hockaday. She was the most cogent of the lot - and the most professional. After the way GPN treated her, I thought she was the model of professionalism. It was clear that he was also a bit taken aback by her comments, respectfully requesting publication of "lessons learned" about the CREM barcode incident. I doubt that GPN publish that, as it would show that she took the fall for a non-event. Thank you, Mary, for standing up to this jerk.
It is clear to me that the DOE is fretting about how they're going to manage the recompete. They know they've stepped in it big time and are busily looking for a face-saving exit. The UC contract extension is just the beginning of their little Kabuki dance - "we think you're great and essential to the national security - we think you're arrogant little bastards and need to be cut down to size." Unfortunately, they can't turn back now, so we'll have to stand aside and watch this one play out.
As for the future of LANL? Every year the LANL director will sign the pro-forma letter to the President making the unfounded assertion that America's nuclear weapons are safe, reliable and effective. S/He won't have any choice in the matter. Hopefully, we (and our enemies) will never find out that our nuclear weapons don't work. When they do find out, (hopefully in the far future) the people who did know how to make them work will be retired, dead, or gone off to other fields. It will be Sputnik 1958 all over again.
Horoscope for Leo for 2/26/05: "There's a corner of your world always on the verge of blowing up into a big drama. Park your lawn chair and watch the volcano action." Right now all we can do is watch and wait.
Sign me Dawna.

his posting is right on the mark. However, I hope and think that most of us are more concerned about impacts of our director's actions on our national security than on the erosion of the Laboratory’s interest in establishing a day-care center or on our retirement and benefit packages. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to carry out a public debate on the former.

Of course, it is true that benefits such as day-care centers are nearly universal in companies and organizations making the Fortune-500’s best-companies-to-work-for list and many of those are competitors with respect to recruiting. Erosion in the Laboratory’s commitment to such benefits only adds to the general view within the staff that working here is not as rewarding or appreciated as it once was. The triades and elimination of other benefits only add to the concern.
I was surprised that GPN didn't "lose it" when Mary H. kindly asked for a lessons learned (BTW, I went to the CREM briefing, and the Management is still refusing to acknowledge the REAL root cause of the incident). I have an overall favorable impression of Bodman -- but he's gonna be like all the other secretaries: a short timer.

Now, I did not think very much of St. Pete's attitude. He was basically telling us all, "so you all got screwed. So what! You've still got a job. Lots of people got screwed a whole lot more than you did. So just suck it up, siddown and shuddup!" Wait! The guy that screwed us was right up there with him...He's St. Pete, so he could've told GPN to go to charm school if he wanted...I guess when you ain't runnin' for reelection you can tell your voters to stuff it. Why is it that St. Pete seems to take good care of Foley's Boy more than the rest of his constituent?
Here's my take on what Domenici said at the end:

1. At the beginng, there was sustained and enthusiastic applause for Domenici, over his protests. This was followed by polite applause for Bodman, and silence for Nanos and Brooks. Effectively, you have the audience trying to split the panel into two factions (and not yet sure what to make of Bodman).

2. Domenici is willing to talk about "having to work with" former Secretaries of Energy, but he can't damage his relationship with the current one.

3. Domenici can't leave the impression that he and Bodman/Brooks/Nanos are on opposite sides and still be politically effective, so he has to try to unite the camps, which worked out to Solomon splitting the baby, and was not well received.

4. Don't take it too seriously.
I am so sick of hearing the whining about day care. I paid for private day care for my kids. Let others do the same. Basically these whiners want someone else to pay for their kids daycare. What's next, there housing?

As for Domenici, his speech make me think we should change his title from Saint to Lord. I'd like to see the fur fly in the Senate if someone tried to cut their retirement in half. Lord Domenici, remember that we are your constituents too.
I thought I heard Bodman say something to the effect that this great deparmtnet (DOE?) was formed right on this spot 60 years ago. Did I hear that or was he really referring to LANL?

Also, did anyone catch his email address?
The daycare issue continues to be a problem, and some, like a previous poster, believe that what LANL employees want is subsidized daycare. In reality what employees want is onsite daycare, or daycare fairly close to where they work.

Almost 13 years ago, when my 15 year old was 2, I participated in a series of meetings where needs were outlined. Those needs have not changed; yet a series of LANL managers have come and gone and still no daycare.

It is a valid point that LANL is the only DOE National Laboratory without daycare onsite.
Daycare? Excuse me, DAYCARE?!?

The people at LANL who need DAYCARE are the ones who applauded Massa Domenici after he watched his overseer, Darth Nanos, whip them unmercifully, and then told the assembled scorned and beaten slaves to kiss the whip, "Get over it, and quit'cher damn whimperin'!"
If I heard it right, the email address was:

If this is wrong, please correct me. It is unfortunate better questions weren't asked.
I've watched the daycare issue wax and wane with interest all the while knowing that it wasn't going to come to be while my children were of the age to need it and now it appears to have been one of the first issues raised in this meeting. Amazing. I would have thought there would be other issues which would be much more important and yet, this one is fairly safe territory which can express employee dissatisfaction without putting one's neck in the noose by blasting Nanos' attitude and behavior or the negative impact of the same on the work environment and the employees.

As for the topic at hand, the Lab isn't an entity I would trust to care for my kids, especially after what I've seen in management's handling of adults. It would be a struggle, in my opinion, to find an acceptable balance between a 'safe' location and a 'convenient' location. Thinking about the Oklahoma City tragedy, I wouldn't want the kids to be exposed to an on-site threat, nor would I want the kids to be at an entry point to the community (as Canyon School was under consideration at one time, I think) where they'd be easily targeted if a local threat were considered. Also, even in the private daycare environments there have been struggles over parents who bring their ill children and expose all the other kids until there are virtually local epidemics. One might wonder if an employer-operated daycare would encourage parents to continue to work if the employer also had to contend with the ill kids in the scenario above.

Interesting topic to some though probably not worthy of Bodeman's time and a shame that there weren't other topics aired.
Those questions also made me feel sad. Just like last year when UC President visited us after the shutdown. People asked so many questions about "retirement" and "benefit".
How about a short, focused list of just what you wish you or I had courage enough to stand up and ask? Please moderate the tone, hyperbole and conspiracy theories.

Are the questions about big versus small science? How about true staff development and retention activities? How about true management training ( before they are managers ). How about the perceived adversarial relationship between LANL and DOE/NNSA? How about the NNSA management model?

What are the questions that we would like to get thoughtful answers from Bodman and his people?

On Domenici's comments... Being told that we should not really care that DOE is proposing that we get by with a much reduced pension plan is a little silly. Maybe Senator Pete should take a similar hit when he leaves the Senate. We should go forward doing our work in the national interest but we should not complain about being compensated less.

'They' should not be surprised if a significant number of younger folks vote with their feet. I was looking for a job when I came here and I am looking for one now. Talk about staff development and retention.
How about posting the questions you'd like to have asked on the blog for someone to volunteer to send to Bodman. Who is brave enough to stand up in the Auditorium and ask, "Mr. Secretary, when is UC going to fire Nanos and his EB (formerly SET)?"
I was thinking about that during the meeting. The only reasonable question that I could think of that needed to be asked went something like this: "Mr. Secretary, there is a white elephant in the room, and everybody is afraid to talk about it. We were shutdown without valid reason, and there needs to be an accounting. Why is Director Nanos still working here?"

Unfortunately, I could not make myself ask it.
On 2/26, Anonymous wrote, "As for the topic at hand (daycare), the Lab isn't an entity I would trust to care for my kids..."

For that matter, I'm not sure I'd trust ANY daycare to care for my kids!
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