Friday, February 25, 2005

Employees are Perfectly Happy with Current Leadership

From Anonymous:

A recent commenter on the "Petition to Remove Nanos" post disparages the puny turnout of ~60, mostly anonymous signatures as of 2/18. Maybe he's right, maybe Nanos will win; maybe most LANL employees don't care enough to sign the petition. Or maybe they _are_ too cowardly to sign. Maybe "Baghdad Bob" Jim Fallin is right, and there is only a "small vocal group of complainers" at LANL, and most employees are perfectly happy with current leadership.

If it is the case that they are too cowardly, then LANL richly deserves the abusive environment of intimidation and retribution that Nanos has delivered to them. Actually, the same is true if the majority of the staff don't care enough to vote.

What is the excuse of the rest of you who don't fall into any of these categories? Got some special reason for not signing the petition, anonymously, even?

the staff at los alamos has stood by and watched atrocities and done nothing for more than a decade. the bear project may not have been the best idea, but the people who worked on it did not deserve to be abandoned after upper management made all the hay they could out of the results. geonet won lauds and awards and the people who worked on it were left hanging in the wind because sig wanted to keep one of his pet projects funded instead. the last time we had a security flap over stuff that was never lost brad clark got stabbed in the back. almost no one did anything about it. i admit those who did complain were punished, but if everybody stood up it couldn't have happened. learn something folks!!!!
Scientists, by their nature, are mostly docile creatures. They become easy
targets when an abusive man like Nanos finds his way into a position of great
power. The saying "grow some backbone" comes to mind. Right now, however,
most of our staff seems to consist of invertebrates. And most invertebrates,
as we know, squash easily under the force of a boot.

Will anyone dare to stand up to Nanos at his next "All-Hands" meeting and tell
him that he's got to go? Probably not. Nanos instinctively knows this. In
fact, he's counting on it.

The moment that a bully finds that people no longer fear him, he is finished.
I hope we can all discover the means to liberate ourselves from our fear.
I'll be the first to admit, however, that I'm still very much intimidated by
the man. Deep down, though, I know the lab cannot recover until a large
portion of our staff lose their fear of both Nanos and his cronies in the SET.
They deserve our laughter, not our fears.
I post annonymously because I am a "probationary employee" and can be fired at will for no cause at all.

Indeed, if you look at the manager's evaluation of employee readiness for restart criteria, one of the categories of employees singled out for special attention were "probationary employees." It looked as if Mr. Nanos was looking for an excuse to get rid of some people just to prove he's a tough guy.
One reason for signing anonymously is to be able to leave the Lab on your own terms. There is life beyond LANL, after all. If you don't like the deal you're getting here, you can always get a fresh start someplace else. Loyalty is bidirectional. Why give other people the ability to presume upon yours and abuse you as often as they choose? Send the message that if they wish to retain a workforce, they're going to have to start acting like human beings.

I believe the issue being addressed was "Why have not more people signed the petition, period." Signed, or anonymously.
I work in two divisions at the lab. In daily discussions with my peers in both organizations over the last week, it has become evident that many of them are NOT aware of the blog. That may be hard to believe but it is true.

Maybe someone should write a letter to the editor of the Monitor encouraging folks to sign on and cast a vote one way or the other. Maybe some free spirits should post the web address on every available bulletin board so folks can find it easily ( thats how I found it ).
Better yet, maybe someone should place a big ad in the LA Monitor so the whole community discovers it.

I'm amazed at how poorly some people outside the lab understand the current situation. They seem to think it will all blow away "real soon now", and business will then perk back up to normal. They have their heads in the sand. They need some education on this matter. This blog is the best education they will ever find.
Anonymos names have been used throughout history by oppressed people. Most individuals opposing the Nazi regime used pseudonyms until they were found out and executed. Benjamin Franklin's pseudonym was Poor Richard.

The main thing is to remember the advice of Thomas Jefferson: "All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent."
I am not signing because I am for Nanos. I dont think that he has done irrepable harm to LANL or to its culture. I have seen a lot worse 'cultures' withstand a lot worse beating than this and come out better than before.

This place didnt go downhill just because Nanos was made director.. it had a long slide down this pit (at least since 1987 when I first started hearing about lax safety, security, and a culture of arrogance on the hill.. and being told that going to LANL was a death knell for your resume by professors). LANLites just seem to have had an excellant ability to stick their head in the sand about the problems.

I know Nanos has made mistakes... but that is what humans do . I also believe that most of the people complaining are using Nanos as a personal scapegoat instead of looking at the problems that have been here all along. And it is easier to pick an anonymous fight with a figurehead than realize the reality of the situation.

The reality is that LANL has a bad reputation outside of Los Alamos county. It has had this reputation for longer than Wen Ho Lee. LANL personell (myself included) have never done a good job to dispell or show what LANL does right. We have had the idea that Science sells itself.

The reality is that LANL is a political ping-pong ball. We get a lot of taxpayer money funneled into this place and that means we are always in the eyes of XYZ Senator or Representative.. because that money was not spent in their district or state. Saint Pete has made a lot of enemies over the years shovelling money into LANL and SNL.. and with his diminished health the vultures are circling.

The reality is that this is not a university campus to the people who pay our bills and paychecks. We do not have any of the academic freedoms that we would have there.. If DOE/NNSA decides that we are all to be all shovelled to Halliburton even if it meant setting back most science projects back to the stoneage.. that is their perogative, and the best you can do is find a job somewhere that you can finish your project.

The reality is that if the Director wasnt making UC, DOE, NNSA, and Congress happy with what he has done.. he would be out faster than you can say 'John Brown'. That hasnt happened, and frankly I do not think it would happen... no matter how many people voted with their feet here.

The reality is that the contract is going up for bid, was going up for bid before Nanos, and would have gone up for bid even if LANL hadnt had bad press in 2002. Too many companies, schools and politicians have been eyeing it for too long.

The reality is that even if UC gets the contract.. we are not going to be business as usual. The RFP's changes to the benefits and retirement plans makes sure that UC could not keep its advantage in the future. The oversight and liability changes would also make it that UC would have to sit here with an navy of bueracrats to make sure that our i's are dotted and t's crossed on every form.

The reality is that DOE and NNSA are more and more ex-military than ever before. With the way America is currently looking at itself.. I think that will only increase for the next 10 years.

Anyway.. I have looked at the realities, realized what I can change, what I can accept, and what I cant do anything about. I also know that if I am not happy somewhere.. bitching about it never fixes things. Either fix it or walk away.

A gruntled LANL employee (who is not signing his name since the last time he did he got angry and abusive phone calls about how he was betraying the real LANL... talk about retribution.)
Concur with the "gruntled" employee. LANL's problems were initiated and have manifested themselves over the years because of the items discussed in his/her post.
I believe that this forum is confirming to the DOE/NNSA that there are a small group of cowboys that just don't get it.
Times are changing, open your eyes and look at the past 10-year history of industry and government. Lean, cost effective, agile organizations have come out of the ashes of big bureaucracies that once thought they were untouchable. That (lean, cost effective, agile) would be a good prescription for the future of LANL.
I will also remain anonymous.
Well, everybody is entitled to their opinion. I would like to point out a few facts, however:

1. There have been ~20,000 visitors and ~100,000 page views to this site.

2. There have been hundreds, perhaps over a thousand submissions and at least that many comments. This, plus #1 above which pretty much puts "Baghdad Bob" Jim Fallin's claim of "just a few malcontents" to rest.

3. The number of voters _for_ removal outnumbers those _against_ removal by more than 50 to 1.
The comments from "Gruntled" seem to reflect a clash between the military culture and the scientific culture. What the military does it clear and well-defined. What a scientist does is inherently unpredictable. Trying to force science to be clean and neat is one of those classic ways of killing the goose that laid the golden egg.

In the military, it pays to lock things down, because that's how you avoid incidents and bad publicity. You are paid to *stop* bad things from happening, not to come up with an innovative way to save the world. In science, you have no way of knowing where the next useful advance will come from, so you search under every rock and try unorthodox things, because that's what pays off.

In the late 80's, Apple Computer concentrated the majority of its efforts on protecting its existing trade secrets, filing lawsuits and refusing to try anything that would "rock the boat." The result was near extinction. When Steve Jobs came back, the singular revelation he brought with him is that, to survive, you need to innovate faster than everybody else, replacing trade secrets faster than they are lost. That process cannot be put in a bottle, or a document.

The uncomfortable fact is that every effort we undertake concerning security and secrecy will fail eventually. Enemy nations will eventually match everything we've got. At this point, a terrorist organization merely needs to match technology we had in 1943 to cause global havoc. The only hope we have is to innovate our way out of this mess, because no vault and no security plan is going to save us from the future.

If our leaders turn pusillanimous, our nation is one day going to pay a terrible price, and I have little doubt certain people will sit locked in their vaults insisting, "not my fault, I have a document proving this can't happen."

-dug (*Not* Doug)
Same, Small Group of Highly Vocal People, member #1147
I agree that there are serious problems with the Lab that go beyond Nanos. However, this is no justification for his actions. Those actions have been incompetent, arrogant, dishonest, and extremely destructive for the Lab.

Consider that:

(i)During his tenure at LANL, Mr. Nanos has exhibited no expertise, scientific or engineering, that would qualify him to run a leading national laboratory. As was correctly stated on this forum, his credentials would be insufficient even to get him a Director’s funded postdoc.

(ii) Worse, he feels pathological anger and disgain for scientists, as evident from great many of his statements, but especially those made during his “All-Hands” speeches at the height of the shutdown. Watch that video again! Watch Nanos spew anger and disdain for “people who think they are intelligent…” He will put them in their place. If need be, he’ll humiliate and fire all of them, and “restart the Lab with ten people”, whom he can trust. A good manager would compensate for his own weaknesses by surrounding himself with top-notch people. Nanos instead has successfully expelled the last two members of SET with any record of scientific distinction and replaced them with people whose credentials are in waste management and the like. They may not know the first thing about running a high-tech weapons lab, but Nanos can “trust them”.

(iii) Nanos’ management style is primitive and inconsistent. One day, he sends us all letters saying how proud he is of our accomplishments and the next thing you know he’s on the podium in convulsions, ready to kill us all. I still have that letter he had sent us shortly before his shutdown speeches. Such methods are grossly inappropriate for a science lab. Where did he get them? A dog obedience school? It’s no wonder his latest initiative is called “behavioral excellence”!

(iv)You may object: So, he’s not a scientist or a business manager, he’s a military man. As was argued very well on this forum, Nanos fails in that role as well. A good military leader might yell at his troops, but would defend them to the outside world with everything he’s got. Nanos, on the other hand, quickly sold us off, siding with Washington politicians. Such actions would be considered dishonorable in the military. Nanos promised to apologize to the staff should the accusations of lost CREM be proven wrong. Now that the investigation has been completed, have you heard a word “sorry” from him yet? I suggest that you do not hold your breath!

What can you say about a manager who is totally incompetent, deeply hates the very people he manages, and has basic problems with honesty?

Nanos must go, as an absolutely necessary first step in fixing our Lab. The damage his actions have caused to the long-term security of our country is incalculable. I agree that there are far more things to be done before the Lab sees its renaissance again. But the starting point is clear.
Dear dug,

I have only worked with Military scientific groups and not for the military. Your comments sound as stereotypical like all LANL employees love the bomb and deserved all this for making them that one can hear at the protests.

Yes they have a buttoned down enviroment but they also come up with a lot of stuff that LANL has not, and vice versa.

PS Apple is much more aggessive about keeping its trade secrets inside and locked down than they were in the 1980's. Steve Jobs has said that is ALL they have in the end and it is true. Yes they innovate, but my friends who worked there in the 1970's and 80's say it is no where the free-wheeling place it was then. [Actually one of them compared it to being taken over by jar-heads.. which I found rather funny thinking about just now.] And I will say that Apple is quite the innovator these days.

dug writes better than Gruntled.

Same, Small Group of Highly Vocal People, member #1249
Hi Gruntled:

I won't dispute that Apple is more "battened down" than in the mid 90's when they threw good money at everything that moved. The difference between Apple and LANL is that our leaders have lost sight of LANL's core competency. We've got a bunch of parts that think they're the whole and a bunch of bureaucrats who think work is an intrusion into their managed environment. This is institutional suicide. Congress and the taxpayers won't continue funding the Lab if it is producing only IWDs.

I am told that DOE (not LANL) shut down a major part of the firing site activities in DX because one of the fence segments around the site is missing one of its three strands of barbed wire. Apparently, no one is properly trained and certified to replace said strand of wire, and so activities have been halted for a week, and nothing can proceed until this fence is repaired. (Maybe Noah Schactman is threatening another penetration.)

If finding this kind of nonsense infuriating makes me a "stereotypical scientist," I happily accept the epithet. That there are apologists for this kind of thing makes me fear for my country and despair for my institution. Al Qaeda is not shut down, nor are they writing safety documents.

-dug (*Not* Doug)
Same, Small Group of Highly Vocal People, member #1147
I am certainly interested to know there are some employees who consider themselves perfectly happy. That's refreshing. But, I'm concerned when you refuse to acknowledge your co-workers who are not happy and attempt to portray an idealistic and untrue picture to the public. Pete Nanos has displayed some very unprofessional and uncalled for behavior at meetings I have attended, and this should not be ignored. His shutting down the Laboratory when he knew there was not a problem is also uncalled for and the group of people who are "mirroring back" to society the factual situation are in fact displaying conscience. Perhaps some folks would rather keep their heads in the sand, and that's fine for them. If you think good science is getting done, then I'd be interested to know where you work, because I haven't seen any science being able to be done now for 7 months (much to the waste of the taxpayer's funds), and thanks to Pete Nanos. Since I too know that this blog site is monitored by the powers that be with the intent to terminate anyone they can identify, I will not be so stupid as to give them my name. They can hunt for witches elsewhere! I vote for the right to free speech and the right to not be retaliated against.
Someone higher up the management chain must be reading the blog fairly frequently because one post "The last time I felt as I do now ..." included the following:

9. stop having all-hands-meetings (all hands on deck!). It's not the Navy.

Notice that today we are having an all-employees meeting.
I wouldn’t call the world’s attention to the comments on this blog if I wanted to keep a nice LANL job and benefits. We’re revealing a bunch of guys not worth their salaries. Complaining about Nanos seems pretty irrelevant compared to explaining the years of press releases claiming success for ANTARES, BEAR, MTI and the like.
Much of the outside scientific world has made judgements about the scientific value of these programs. They are waiting to see if LANL will be diminished (read: after Domenici has left the chairmanship of his committee) before they say out loud how they felt about such a big chunk of the nation’s research budget spent on programs that could never have passed peer revue. Just imagine what will happen if LANL scientists all had to write proposals that were reviewed by their peers – outside the lab. That’s the real world of science today, incidentally.
Absolutely correct. We should keep quiet about the fact that the entire lab was damaged by an unnecessary shutdown ordered by an incompetent director. Maybe if we don't say anything things will be ok. After a while.
That is just the point. Why did crappy big science continue to happen over the past decades? Nanos might actually have to leave at some point. But will LANL be able to go forward to do anything meaningful in the next decade. 'WE' have done great things in the past, 'WE' are doing some good stuff now. But everytime 'WE' let crap be passed off as the next big thing to make the world safe, or ( maybe more importantly ) bring a big chunk of money to LANL then we are guilty of very BAD things.

Yes, the management seems to make the decisions on these things. But the LANL community has seemed to turn a blind eye to the problems. Was that because next time we hope to get the big project? I don't know.

A change of the management team won't SAVE LANL if we keep playing the same old game.

I think a blog like this one might be an interesting vehicle to allow people to air concerns and get answers about proposed projects in the future. Something like 'public comments' but maybe an internal LANL blog so there was no access for the public.

Of course, I would probably log in from the reseach library to remain anonymous until it became clear that the folks in charge weren't using it a vehicle to find problem children in the organization.
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