Sunday, February 27, 2005

More on Bodman Meeting

From Anonymous:

Some have noted that Senator Domenici and Secretary Bodman did not say anything directly in support of Director Nanos last Friday. However, there was body language that might not have been apparent to those watching on Labnet. The Senator found two occasions to pat Nanos on the back (literally), the last very conspicuously after leaving and returning to the stage, possibly just for this purpose so it could not be missed by anyone in the audience. Then there was his “get over this stuff” statement at the end, just in case anyone misinterpreted his more subtle communications. As a long time supporter and admirer of Senator Domenici, this was extremely disappointing. Since I believe Domenici is above crass political payoffs, I conclude that he really doesn’t fathom the seriousness and significance of the situation at LANL.

It is simply not possible to “get on with [things]” in the present environment. The time for a simple apology from Nanos is long past, and it would make no difference anyway. The basic fact is that, in addition to his irrational temper and disregard for the truth, Nanos is simply incompetent to direct a national laboratory and is driving LANL into mediocrity, from which it may never recover. He has purposefully manufactured crises to divert attention from his failures, and will do anything and crush anyone to ensure his own survival. The way he condescendingly intercepted Mary Hockaday’s question, before it could solicit a response unfavorable to himself, was disgraceful.

Unfortunately, the notion at DOE and Congress persists that it is just a few discontents that feel this way. It is my belief that the vast majority, maybe up to 90% of LANL technical staff including most managers, believe that Nanos is an unmitigated disaster, but are afraid to speak up publicly. We need to find a way to allow everyone to petition for change without personal risk. Whether this is cowardly or not is irrelevant; it is a basic fact of the fear and loathing environment. Can any of you more imaginative bloggers think of a way to accomplish this? The time is short, if it is not already too late.

"He has purposefully manufactured crises to divert attention from his failures, and will do anything and crush anyone to ensure his own survival. "

I know several people ( including some group leaders ) who act the same way. Funny how they are the successful ones.

Basically circumvent/ignore the rules, use political pressure and/or job threats to keep those people who try to enforce the rules in line, lie, and manipulate anyone and anything you can .... and the road to success opens up for you at LANL.

This explains two very important things : The specific reason why people are so often mistreated, and why I will never become managment.
I watched on Labnet so I did not see the back-patting. However, I saw a snake-oil salesman in action when Nanos jumped in to respond to Mary Hockaday. All the questions were directed to Bodman, not Nanos, and Nanos had no business opening his mouth.

Domenici should have kept his mouth closed too. He lost a great deal of support when he ranted at us (a quiet Howard Dean sort of rant) at the end. Is Domenici clueless or hoping for the best? Doesn't he realize that besides another "summer of discontent", it will be a summer without students, LANL's future researchers? Several summers without students, counting last summer since it was a failure for many of them, will seriously hurt us down the road, if we still have a laboratory rather than a safe, secuire work-free zone.
I'm not a big fan of Mr. Domenici, but I thought what he said and the end of the meeting was likely sparked by one of the horribly whining "questions" (the caller never actually asked a question; just whined) that came over the telephone. I'll give Domenici the benefit of the doubt for the moment: we'll know more about his real attitude when the final RFP comes out. At the moment, it does not appear to look good.
Perhaps someone close to Mary could suggest that she approach Domenici or Bodman. Her question was polite and relevant, deserving more than a "spider to the fly" response.
I really enjoy this blog and the comments people have posted.

But…after reading all of it, and having been here myself for a good length of time, I think it's time to start facing some reality here, at least as a non-management person. Some general observations and comments partially based on some of the stuff written in the blog.

1) By most accounts Senator Domenici has done pretty much all he can for LANL. Sooner or later (sounds like sooner) LANL will have to stand on its own. How it will fare is subject to speculation. Saying it is very important to National Security, has unique capability, etc., no longer matters. Those factors have been made clear, and they will enter into the determination of LANL’s future, along with a myriad of other factors, some rational, some not. That’s just the way it is. In my opinion, to hope or believe LANL will be considered in a special category is wasted psychic effort.

2) To ignore the reality of future funding is sticking your head in the sand. While there have been several newspaper posts on the blog about next year’s funding, it is unclear that most people are cognizant of proposed changes. Senator Domenici releases an article and says that NM has done well by him and that’s all people see. While I agree that we can only look at about a year or two at a time in terms of funding, I consider it worthwhile to see where changes are occurring. For example, there is a proposed decrease in DP funding at LANL. Sandia was also hit in this area. Given the general state of the federal budget deficit, and Senator Domenici's eventual departure, I am not counting on increases in these areas.

3) I have a high level of confidence that DOE, NNSA, etc., think what people do here is just a job. To them, LANL is just a pool of human resources, that when combined with funding, carries out a specified set of tasks. No more, no less. To think otherwise is naïve. To try and change their point-of-view is an exercise in futility.

4) Potential bidders have already brought up the need to have flexibility regarding the workforce as an RFP Issue. These people are highly attuned to funding. As unpleasant as it sounds, the new contractor will make decisions on who is, and who isn’t, important in carrying out LANL’s tasks. Subject to budget and political constraints, those in areas deemed important will likely have more bargaining power regarding their options. I suggest accurately and objectively assessing one’s own importance relative to what LANL will become. Try not to make this a self-worth issue.

5) When the time comes, everyone will be forced to make a decision in their own best interest about rolling over, becoming inactive, or retiring. It’s stressful to have to make decisions like these, but that’s the reality. To ignore the fact that decisions will have to be made will only cause more stress. I recommend planning as information becomes available.

6) For whatever reason, it appears as though many people have equated LANL with themselves. While I think I understand some of the underlying reasons for this, I cannot believe that it is a particularly good thing to do. It’s just a job folks, and if you think of it as any more than that, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. In fact, that seems to be the case already, as evidenced by many, many posts.

7) The Director and the SET/EB are who they are. How they came to be there is irrelevant. To think they will change by complaining is unrealistic in my view. It may feel good to vent, which is fine, but that’s about it. They will be changed when those that make decisions at that level decide they should be changed, plain and simple. We are not privy to their thought processes. This is not a democracy here, the LANL population in general did not vote for them, and they will not be recalled by petition. Like it or not, they are what the outside world sees regarding LANL as an institution. Blog opinions aside, as far as most know they are the best LANL has for those positions.

8) Perhaps, as many suggest, LANL will no longer be known for doing “The World’s Greatest Science”. So what? That just means the Greatest Science will be going on somewhere else. Whatever LANL becomes in the future will not diminish its past. LANL’s history has been pretty well recorded. If you were fortunate enough to part of it, that’s great. If not, then if you stay, you’re just going to have to deal with whatever LANL becomes the best you can. Institutions evolve due to a variety of forces, that’s the way it is. If LANL takes on a different or reduced mission, then it takes on a different or reduced mission. That’s what pays the bills. If you want to do science and stay at LANL, perhaps you will need to do it on your own time as some have suggested. Perhaps you will decide you need to leave to do science elsewhere. If, as has been suggested, the best people leave, well then they leave. If LANL becomes unattractive to new employees, well then they won’t come here. Not to trivialize these concerns, but I think it is that simple at a basic level. LANL’s next contractor will work with whatever budget and resources it has, don’t think otherwise. All organizations face these challenges. Some survive, some don’t.

9) While I believe most concerns are valid and heartfelt, I think there is really nothing that can be done about some of them other than bringing them up as a private citizen to those with decision-making authority. Even if the Director and the SET/EB are removed as some advocate, there is still the RFP/contract issues to deal with, as well as future funding. As far as National Security concerns go, LANL will have to abide by what Congress and the President decide is LANL’s role in the future – however that decision is reached. While it might sound a bit selfish, I think the most anyone can realistically accomplish is to try and be prepared for what might be coming – job skill-wise, funding-wise, and retirement-wise.
I totally am in agreement with the above. It's bigger than any of us or the so-called blog collective. You need to do whats right and best for you. Whats going on here at LANL is bigger than any of us. Its time to suck it up and move on.
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