Friday, February 25, 2005

Don't Worry-Be Happy

From Anonymous:

I was fascinated at how Pete Dominici and Mr. Bodman reacted at the "all hands" meeting. It is clear that they've drunk deeply of Mr. Nano's Kool-Aid of "Don'
t worry-be happy."
I especially liked Pete Dominici's scolding at the very end. We love you, and you're doing vital work for the national security and (paraphrasing) I'm tired of your whining. He as much as compared us to Dixie Cups - useful when you need them and disposable when you don't.
Oh well, the more people who bail out, the better the opportunities for those who stay. People will quit off the top because they are the ones with other employment options and the dregs, the lifers, and those who can't afford to leave will stay behind.

Yeah - A few years back a manager called me a free spirit. I actually took it as a compliment and still feel that way. To be quite honest, "free spirit"'s are a necessary ingredient. 20 years ago thats one of the reasons I "choose" to work here. Now I will "choose" to leave at a time of my choosing. Its sad that LANL is getting turned in to mediocrity.
It is time to get out. LANL will be
of no more value to anyone. The best
will leave and you will be left with
nothing or less than nothing.
I was talking with one of my friends at Kirtland AFB today. Apparently, they have requirements like "tool control" where every work implement must be stored in a specially marked drawer with a foam cutout in the shape of the tool. Labs must be operated like flight decks with nothing left out (just in case a jet aircraft taxis through your lab). Additionally, officers spend their days doing inventories on things like capacitors down to the unit level. Now I know why Pete says we have a culture problem. We have entire pen sets not in inventory tracking.

I'm an early-career TSM. I don't care about the UC pension system. I'm not going to waste my life this way. I'll be leaving LANL soon.
"People will quit off the top because they are the ones with other employment options and the dregs, the lifers, and those who can't afford to leave will stay behind."

And then the new managment comes in at contract changeover. The organziation gets restructured. Professional management is either installed or trained, and then comes the RIF. The dregs and the lifers go, and the rebuilding process is underway.

It took decades to trash this place. It'll take a decade to rebuild it.
If you think you're going to get the chance to rebuild LANL from a green-field, you're quite delusional. Once LANL drops below critical mass and stops doing useful work, Congress is going to pull the plug. You'll have just as good a chance at rebuilding Rocky Flats.
No one is as necessary as they think. As another poster pointed out, small science can be done almost anywhere now. The facilities for large science won't go away, unless there's a better alternative in the market.

LANL will be smaller. More efficient. Better in the long run. It's the economic base of northern NM that will suffer. Which really makes this a discussion about pork maintenance, doesn't it?
"No one is as necessary as they think"

How glib. How wrong. It is this kind of thinking on the part of the bean-counters that has put us in this situation. The Lab is full of people with one-of-a-kind knowledge and skills. We already had a problem, because we have a large number of people who have critical knowledge and skills and these people are at or approaching retirement age. The uncertainty surrounding the recompetition is turning a manageable problem into a national security gamble. It has taken a problem with a five year lead time and shrunk it down to less than one year.

If you do not think that individuals are important, then you do not know the amazing people that we have here. Sure, they can go work somewhere else, but here they can make a positive difference to the entire world. This place isn't just about big or small science -- it's a nuclear weapons lab. Small and efficient? That should not be the most important consideration here. It's a nuclear weapons lab! Los Alamos is about a lot more than just churning out academic papers for our buddies to read. My God, I sure hope nobody starts using their garage-lab or their personal computer at home to try to do the kinds of things we do at work!

Also remember that many of the people here are part of dual-scientist households. And many of our children go on to pursue careers in science. At a time when too many American children are opting out of careers in science, the children of Los Alamos are truly a bright hope for the future. Each of us has invested our lives and our careers to help keep this country safe, both now and in the future.

As has been pointed out many times, for all of the investigations and allegations, not much real abuse or fraud has been found. Certainly less than one might expect for such a large diverse organization. I think this is because we all know exactly how important our work is. And how critical and irreplaceable our co-workers are to fulfilling our mission. That's right, we have a sense of mission. We are honorable people trying to help our country and our fellow citizens. It is very sad that the country, our President, the NNSA, the DOE, and the current Laboratory management have forgotten or simply don't care anymore. But none of those people or organizations represents the heart and soul of the Lab. The Lab stands for (used to stand for?) peace through security, good science, and always doing the right thing, even when nobody's looking. We don't take off our security clearances when we get home. We can't download the secret stuff out of our brains when we go home. Our pension may look good, if the stress doesn't kill us before we retire, but our other benefits are not stellar. So this is not really a "fat cat wants it all" situation, whatever certain bitter retirees may say.

The post about critical mass is correct. If the Lab loses too much of its capability, it will be shutdown. There is no reason to do non-weapons, non-homeland-security research in this isolated place. Well, maybe physical isolation is good for counter bio-terrorism stuff. I don't think the facilities and upkeep for that will be small and cheap either. We are a nuclear weapons lab; we are the best at what we do and what we do is very very important. The current management and the people in Washington are playing politics and they are gambling with our national security. If they didn't appreciate that before, then they should appreciate it now. And they should fix it now, before it's too late.

If we should swallow our hurt feelings and put the past year behind us, well, okay -- let them go first. Tell Nanos to apologize and then get him out of here. He is salt in the wound. Forget about recompeting the contract. What's at stake here is more than the embarassment and hurt feelings. Remember the IRS's new computer system? The FBI's new computer system (come on, that was just last week!)? Compac's promises for the Q machine? The list goes on and on. Consequences are what count. The potential consequences here are disastrous. I'll remind you again -- we are not bean-counters (present management excepted), this is a nuclear weapons lab.

"Put down the gun and back away slowly with your hands in the air. Don't make any sudden moves."

Well that won't happen; the wheels of government grind on without the possibility of admitting mistake, especially if there's an easier way out. Especially if the real consequences will be felt by the next generation. As lowly TSMs, we're not allowed to have feelings or egos. But their egoes and their games are more important to them than the continued security of our country.
Hey Doug, I think the above posting deserves a spot of its own. Can you move it up?
"The cemeteries are full of indispensable men" - Charles DeGaul
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