Saturday, February 05, 2005

Leadership at LANL

From Anonymous:

As a retired military officer and manager at LANL, I am personally embarassed by the inept leadership coming from the Director. While his leadership style may work in the middle of the ocean with the UCMJ at his disposal, it is inappropriate (even destructive) to apply to thinking people on land with lots of options. Sadly, the caliber of the rest of the Senior Executive Team is low leading to a complete lack of direction for LANL. I have never seen such a high concentration of senior managers so willfully insulated from the real world any where or at any time. My only hope is that UC will not get the contract and new management will take over the Lab. This will be a difficult place to unscrew and will take enlightened management to do it.

I would have to agree. If it came down to a choice of UC getting the contract, and Admiral Foley still being in complete control of selecting our next Director, or some other organization winning the contract, I would prefer the latter.

I also wonder where UC President Dynes has been lately. I thought he might have had someting to say about the recent news of the non-missing "missing" CREM. His continued silence speaks volumes.
Likewise. Under the terms of the new RFP, whatever the final wording turns out to be, there can be little difference in benefits, regardless of who is selected as the new contractor for LANL. UC has certainly done nothing in recent years to make me want them to continue as our contractor. Actually, I have several reasons that I would prefer that they were not selected, most notably the fact that they picked the current director, and have done nothing to intercede on our behalf once he started running amuck.
I agree and after 20 years of service and a veteran I am totally disgusted with management at LANL and will probably need to make my biggest life altering decision within the next year. The Director, Senior management and UC are incompetent and are out of touch with reality.

A LANL manager, *and* retired military to boot who is not only *not* spouting the official LANL management party line, but who is willing to say what he thinks. That should give us some insight into how deep the discontent with our Director has spread within LANL.
Like many of the readers of this column I am not retired or leaving New Mexico. Like most I choose not to give my name because I fear the consequences. I agree that neither Nanos nor the upper management is performing very well but I think that the real LANL problem is a working staff that is afraid to speak out.
They should have spoken about all those big programs that came with fanfare and disappeared in shame. Those failures never led to a retrospective or a “lessons learned”. As a mater of fact, failure was never acknowledged. Perhaps no one wanted to be reminded of program errors that were obvious at the start.
For example, nobody spoke out when ANTARES went from research to development. It was obvious to the international scientific community that a CO2 laser was useless for inertial confinement fusion. The wavelength was much too long. Every single cent, of course, got spent in building big, useless CO2 lasers and success was declared even though it was worse than a flop. Managers got promoted and everyone kept lovely salaries and benefits. On the negative side there were few refereed publications and ANTARES experience shouldn’t be put on one’s resume’. The world of science made a judgement, however, and LANL was removed permanently from the big laser scene. The lab’s top management is a product of programs with acronym names like BEAR, MTI or APT, all flops with no follow-up. Failed program bosses were promoted and you have today’s upper management. Take a look at their scientific credentials!
The LANL choice of metric makes this point nicely. Why doesn’t anyone object to the R&D 100 award scam? It has little claim of validity and contradicts the real and pitiful patent income.
Antares? Wow problems that go before Nanos was put in charge. That can't be. People getting promoted in management to do lip service before the current crop of senior managers? Must be all lies!

Sorry for the sarcasm.. it is not directed at you. I am just tired of the fact that somehow one person is the whole reason LANL is at a low point right now. Thankyou for pointing out that these issues have been around for a long time.

I post anonymously because I got enough phone calls from the last time I used my name in a letter saying that people needed to look a little further than the current crop of management.
It's true that problems have been around for a long time BN (before Nanos). There were problems in the Laser Isotope Separation Program too. One reason is because rather than having Livermore and LANL working together to solve problems, they actually competed, trying to determine the best solution for recovering uranium from spent fuel rods. The lab with the best solution won the big pot of money.

This was WRONG, WRONG, WRONG, but the idiots in Washington (ERDA?) thought that somehow competition would produce the best solution. Teamwork was the answer, but competition between Livermore and LANL goes back to Teller and his desire to build a hydrogen bomb. Competition might work for Ford, GM, and Chrysler, but it's not the way to solve problems with taxpayers' dollars. Of course, if LANL is turned into nothing but a pit production facility, then competition will end, Livermore will walk away with the research pot, and we'll be nothing but a second Rocky Flats. Frightening, isn't it?
I’m certain that the Laser Isotope Separation program had nothing to do with spent fuel rods. It was called JUMPER at LASL/LANL. The LASL program was based on "original" research that was really a copy of an experiment with sulfur isotopes first described in a Soviet publication. The original article had been quickly translated from the Russian at Los Alamos before any other translation was made public. No attribution was ever given to the real authors but AEC/ERDA/DOE funding was generous. The Livermore process, AVLIS, was closely related to an AVCO/EXXON scheme but the LLNL scientists developed a novel laser system and made it work. There is, incidentally, little evidence that JUMPER ever worked.
A re-examination of JUMPER would prove this point as well as showing even more embarrassing lab actions. Who would want to expose this part of our history?
Gee, looks like more cases of the "big science" that St. Pete claims he is a "sucker for". I, for one, am not looking forward to the day when LANL has to stand on its own merits, without recourse to an influential parent like St. Pete to bail it out of whatever trouble it is in. Unclear LANL is up to it. The day is coming, sooner or later, and it doesn't take much of an imagination to envision a few unpleasant scenarios.
I remember in the early 80's we had reviewed an Army project (SOFTEC) to develop a digital switching system to switch various types of telephone,video and data circuits. I had just started at the Lab as a TEC and had numerous years of telephone company and Army communications experience. I stated to just give the 2 million back as it was impossible at the time to produce such a system. The TSM's thinking they were so smart decided to go ahead with the project. 2+ million dollars later they had nothing to show for it and it was a big flop. Duing this time they all received big raises and now one of them is high up in the food chain on the Enterprise project. It went on then and it goes on now. I am still a TEC and can probably run circles around alot of TSM's and the injustice still goes on. Just because I do not have a degree. Now they make a new hire SSM a TSM that has a PHD in psychology a Web/Application developer. Go figure.....
I am a manager at LANL and I am incredibly saddened by what Pete Nanos has done to the Laboratory. He simply is not the caliber of leader that is needed to run one of the nation's premier scientific institutions. The University of California and/or the DOE need to quickly get him out of the lab directorship before he can do any more damage.
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