Thursday, February 24, 2005

This Won't be a Popular View

From Anomymous:

This won't be a popular view, but it's mine and the site says that
everyone's views are welcome. So here goes:

Director Nanos never said that the entire scientific staff is comprised of
"cowboys" or "buttheads." Listen again to the tape of that all-hands
meeting. He used those terms in reference to a very few individuals who
knowingly and/or willingly ignored the rules for handling classified
materials, thereby jeopardizing national security, or who likewise ignored
the rules for safety and jeopardized the health and well-being of fellow
employees. He has always said that the vast majority of LANL employees are
honest, hard working, and committed to the nation's best interests.

From the rants and raves on this site from those who scream like scalded
cats that the Director has impugned their professional integrity by calling
them cowboys or buttheads, I therefore can only draw the conclusion that
must be the shoe fits -- e.g., he/she knowingly or willingly ignored the
rules for handling classified materials, or for ensuring the safety of
fellow employees. Because those are the ONLY people to whom the Director
referred in pejorative terms. His language may sometimes be a bit salty, but
at least you have no doubt where you stand with him. That approach is much
preferred -- at least by me, to those in this laboratory who will smile
sweetly to your face and then stab you in the back the moment you turn away.

My background is private industry in positions that reached equivalency with
the senior executive team or executive board, whatever name you wish to use.
My tenure at LANL is relatively short -- no, I'm not yet vested. I can
assure you that the attitudes and behaviors reflected by many of those
posting to this site would NEVER be tolerated in a Fortune 100 company. You
would either abide by the rules and get with the program, meeting
expectations for your individual and/or team contributions and production,
or you would be shown the door. Period. There is no tolerance in industry
for the whining, bellyaching, prima donna complexes that seem to exist in
such great quantity at LANL.

The Director said, in response to a question at one of the forums last
summer, that he would share the full information from the investigation at
the earliest possible date. What he could NOT do is preempt a federal
criminal investigation by saying, "Never mind! We just couldn't tell the
difference between a bar code label and a disk of classified information."
DOE dictated the process -- the investigation findings went to them and
then, and only then, THEY would release the results. Until that happened,
the lab's hands were tied. Senator Domenici wasn't bound by that
requirement, but you can bet your boots -- and your program money -- that
DOE would not have taken kindly to anyone from within the lab who jumped the
gun before the FBI finished its investigation.

The detailed briefings given by Scott Gibbs fulfilled the Director's
promise, and they were given in what for the lab was an amazingly short time
frame after DOE referenced the FBI conclusions in a news release on a
separate subject. The discipline taken by the lab against people involved in
both the ACREM mess and the laser incident was measured and far more
restrained than you would have found in most settings.

This laboratory's contributions to the nation are awe-inspiring. Its future
potential is limited only by the constraints placed on us by those who feel
he or she is so special that playing by real-world rules is beneath them.

For goodness sake, get off your high horses, buckle down and fulfill LANL's
potential. That's what you're paid very well to do. And please get busy
doing it before Congress decides this bunch of malcontents on the Pajarito
Plateau just isn't worth the trouble.

The real issue with the “cowboys” and “buttheads” comments by the Director was the widespread and incredibly adverse publicity it generated about the Laboratory. Whatever nuances may or may not have been intended were quickly lost in the media firestorm. A Lab Director should know better.

In a similar vein, the real problem with the shutdown was not so much the act of stopping work, but the incredible ineptitude in which the shutdown and subsequent lengthy restart were handled. The “fear and loathing” title of the Nature piece was right on the mark.

The writer refers to a high level background in industry. Can anyone believe that management in a for-profit business could fail so miserably and still survive?
Um, wow...

The original author protests that Nanos didn't impugn all of us. Then he proceeds to make up the difference by accusing hundreds of people he can't even identify of security violations. Sir, what corporation were you an officer of? I'm feeling an urge to place a sell order.

Honestly, do you think you're the only person who doesn't want our nation's secrets to get out into the hands of bad guys? You don't even know me, and yet (I assume) you're attacking me along with everyone else. Do you have any decency, sir?

-dug (*Not* Doug)
Same, Small Group of Highly Vocal People, member #1147
Obviously, the Director never said that everyone at Los Alamos was a butthead cowboy. He would not include within that description the ten folks (possibly including you) upon which he would rebuild the laboratory. Your declarative statement in which you describe the rest of us as a bunch of malcontents who should get down off our high horses and buckle down certainly sounds remarkably familiar to someone we know.
The trouble with Vice Admiral Nanos is that, depending on his mood (or his meds), he can be manic one day--high on the Lab and its workers--and depressive the next, the proverbial Dr. Jekyll pr Mr. Hyde. Which one is he? You can quote him either way, depending on your choice, or your bias.

On that score, Mr. Unpopular here has done a cunning job of selective quotation. His piece is cleverly written--I would go so far as to say PROFESSIONALLY well written. But scientists, as opposed to "Fortune 100" employees, are inclined to look at all the facts. And if what the Director says doesn't fit the facts, they are disinclined to follow him further into the swamp.

I doubt that even 1% of LANL scientists are comfortable with Nanos: "You have no doubt where you stand with him" simply means that you know he hates scientists. One day, he's "smiling sweetly to your face," and then the next day he's "stabbing you in the back" before Congress, returning the day after that to treat you to his "salty language."

LANL needs a Director and upper management for whom the practice of science is not just a vague memory. We don't need a military man, who shouts insults down the throats of scientists, as though they were raw 18-year-old recruits. And we don't need a "Fortune 100" industrialist, who thinks that science comes out in neatly packaged deliverables at regular intervals on an assembly-line conveyor belt, dropping off in a hopper to be shipped to the satisfied customer.

Give us someone who knows the product and how it's made--a real scientist for Director. That's what we had in the past. (They may not have been perfect, but the present example is doing irreparable damage each day he's allowed to remain.)
Although it is somewhat inappropriate to speculate on "anonymos" comments, this piece is most likely written by Fred Taratino, AD for weapons programs. He has never been in the line org of a science lab, instead working for BNI at NTS. His comments are off base -- having observed the director nearly daily for a year, I can testify that Nanos is abusive, routinely refers to anyone that disagrees with him as a "C student", and is simply over his head in running a science organization.

Believe me, despite Fred's best efforts, Nanos hates LANL and los alamos. He once called the town the "dirty" and that the residents had no pride, and acted like animals. During the shut down he was asked how the lab could call back those on vacation.
His answer "they get paid so much they can burn their plane tickets". It goes on and on.

It is sad that we all have to resort to name calling. However, the anonymous post accusing the lanl scientist of being whinny is the same behavior by a member of the EB that continues to strangle this great institution.
Ah, yes, Nanos was only after a tiny group of people who willfully disobeyed the rules. Do you by any chance remember the title of that meeting? Let me remind you, it was “LANL Culture”. Nanos wasn’t talking about one or two individuals; he was clearly accusing the whole Lab culture. Straight from his memo: “…the culture at LANL must change and it must change now…” And what about his statement that he would restart the Lab with ten people he can trust? Why in the world would Nanos say these things if he was only after a tiny group of people?

I am afraid you are just repeating the myth Nanos has been trying to sell us lately. I’m personally amazed how he can think we are so naïve that we would buy into something like that. All one has to do is to go back to his old statements, which are on record. It’s because of his dubious attempts to rewrite history that Nanos has lost the last bit of credibility with most of us at the Lab.

As for your comments about Fortune 100 companies, can you really imagine that Intel could be completely shut down for many months over two barcodes?? That a CEO would be allowed to waste hundreds of millions of dollars in this fashion and not lose his job?

I’m sorry but your arguments just don’t hold water.
First of all Nanos was wrong about
the disks being missing due to in
his words "cowboys". There was no
cowboys. It simply was not true.
Also he was full of it with the
cultural problem. If there was
such a problem why was the first time
we heard about it in July? Either
he made it up or he was so utteraly
stupid that he just noticed it in July.
It is clear he just made it up.
Also he never shared the results
from the investigation with us.
I have yet to hear a word out of his
own mouth about that. Why did he
not come out and say something
rather than Scott Gibson. Why did
he not go about before a TV crew
and say somthing. He sure was on the
news in July. What company would
every close itself down for something done in one divsion.
Nanos should be out there saying,
the disks where never missing.
There was no culture of theft.
Wen Ho Lee was never shown to be
a spy.
We are the safest lab in DOE. We
have one of the lowest securty
violations for a DOE lab. We have the most scientific impact of the
DOE labs. That is what he should be

We are not a for-profit company. We are a lab. Comparing to industry is

Also I could get paid much more than I do in another field. I know that there are many
others who could as well. We can
leave this lab and get jobs elsewhere. The problem is that
if the best people leave than
this place will have no value.
If everyone must meet
"expectations for your
individual and/or team contributions and
production" there will
soon be no basic research
at LANL; only weapons
engineering like the hyros.

The use of "cowboy" as a
pejorative doesn't sit well with
anyone raised in the West. And
there are still some people in
N.M practicing this honorable,
hard and dangerous profession
in one of the basic industries
of N.M -- ranching. Sounds like
the author should join the
Director in some diversity
and sensitivity training.

The author appears to be in senior
management position at LANL -- or
did he leave senior management to
come here as a TSM? After reading
his article I don't think he need
fear retribution from the
Director. And neither do I since
I have resigned from the LAB
effective in March. So why didn't
he sign his name as I do now.
David F. Simmons, TSM DX division
First, thanks for the post, its great to know how small minds think. I wasn’t sure whether to be mad at you or just sad. I’m mad that people like you have been put in a position to chart the future of the Lab. Its sad if you really think you’re actually helping. If you think so, you are delusional. This Lab would be better off if people like you would leave and quit destroying our future. You are part of the problem.

Second, your boss is a liar and bully. He has earned no respect and deserves less. He created the crisis that shut us down. Every day he brings dishonor on the armed forces of this country through his inept actions. We have every single problem that we had before he took over and all he has done is create a bunch of worse problems. He has distinguished himself as the worst director this Lab has ever had.

Third, we are not industry. Treating the Lab like industry is doing the Nation a great disservice and is harming National Security in a major way. We now have a senior management team that is completely ineffective and largely clueless about science and National Security much less how the two can be combined. Somehow we managed to win the Cold War, build a great institution, and achieve levels of unparalleled levels excellence without your kind of thinking. I think we can again without your “help”.

Fourth, if we were a company we would be bankrupt and out of business under the sort of “leadership” the Director has provided. We had no productivity for months, and continue to suffer under the choking red tape and management indecision left in the wake of Pete’s astute “leadership”.
Myth? There's no myth. The culture of arrogance at the Lab is real, pervasive, and may be fatal. I've been here nearly two decades, and the things I've seen would definitely not be tolerated in the real world.

First, a few facts:

This is a nuclear facility. Nuclear. We are required by law to have our act proveably together. Once DOE started using people who actually understood how to peek under the covers, we were in trouble.

Activists have figured out how to use the press to hyperventilate about anything untoward that happens at LANL. Congress reads the newspapers. Excrement rolls downhill.

The prevalent HR regime at LANL for the last couple of decades is to create effective tenure for the TSM position.

So, if anything goes wrong, it's going to be amplified. We have a lot of Peter Principle researchers and managers entrenched across the organization, thanks to TSM "tenure." Things tend to go wrong when people have reached their Level of Incompetence (LOI). It's not just safety. It's not just security. It's keeping up with the modern world. The modern world does things a bit differently, in case you hadn't noticed.

With apologies to Mr. Foxworthy:

If you spend more time whining, complaining, and trying to find fault with a written form than you would have spent just filling the thing out in the first place... you might be at LOI.

If you don't understand that the objective of the form is to make you actually think through what you're going to do before you do it, or allow someone else to understand what you're up to without picking up the phone and dragging you out of an experiment... you might be at LOI.

If you think a Doctorate in Physics qualifies you as a subject matter expert on everything... you might be at LOI.

If your manager has to threaten you with shutting off the beam line to your lab before you'll fix the mess of electrical spaghetti covering 75% of your floor... you might be at LOI.

If you're writing code in an ancient language because that's all you understand... you might be at LOI.

If you instinctively use ad hominem, ad populum, and petitio principii arguments to make your point... you might be at LOI.

If you show up at another Lab with poorly documented samples, or poorly documented code (I've seen both), and are genuinely surprised when they turn you away... you might be at LOI.

If you think a pretty presentation with nice graphics is going to compensate for your lack of management planning and metrics... you might be at LOI.

If you have a Doctorate, and thus understand the rigor of the experimental method, but don't believe this kind of rigor should extend to nuclear, laser, or biological facility operations... you might be at LOI.

If you believe aggression toward and intimidation of people tasked with safety, security, or quality assurance compliance is the way a scientist should behave... you might be at LOI.

If you believe that forcing scope or structural changes into a project won't have negative consequences... you might be at LOI.

If you believe that initiating a project with only a general idea of what you want written down won't have negative consequences... you might be at LOI.

If you believe that putting your head down and ignoring operational requirements will work because you haven't been audited on that particular topic yet... you might be at LOI.

If you ignore a Laboratory requirement because it isn't written into your IPOs... you might be at LOI.

If you're a manager and haven't done enough reading in operations research to understand Nanos' role as change agent... you might be at LOI.

If you tolerate subordinates that exhibit these behaviors... you might be at LOI.

Finally, if you don't believe that the real world is going to arrive at contract changeover (no matter who wins), then you are definitely at LOI. Get out while the getting's good.
I’m starting to enjoy this Blog a lot and I agree with the previous anonymous comment about the use of ad hominem attacks. I do, however, wish to make a single point. Are we LOI if we stand by and don’t tell the truth about the illegitimate programs that fund a large part of LANL? One can make a decent “Emperor’s New Clothes” argument with the example of the child that says that “He’s naked!” is the contractor that went to the US Congress about the two guys that went to jail for very open embezzlement..
Thank you myth buster. In addition, I think Doug has turned what was supposed to be an open forum for dialogue into a one-sided whine and cheese party, but the cheese is missing.
It’s unfortunate that this vehicle (Blog) has turned into a polarized, angry and mean spirited venue for a small population, and those that dare offer differing points of view are labeled as uneducated or small minded. In one case, a person who posted a comment received a statistics lesson that is also blatantly one-sided. But, educated people know how statistics can be manipulated to suit the point of view of the analyst.
For example, the reply to that post said that because the Blog received over 21,000 hits and that the pages viewed exceeded 100,000, there is a large majority of people who are in agreement with the Blog.
However, if you dig a bit you will discover that there are an average of 969 visits per day and 5787 average page views per day. Therefore, one could assume that there are only 100 - 200 people a day who are spending their time on the Blog with repeated visits and repeated page views.
With a Lab population of 14,000, that would indicate that a relatively small number of cowboys and butt heads spend way too much time on this Blog.
OOPS, this means that now I’ve sunk to the level of many of the people who are posting on this site.
Sign me anonymous.
I would like to point out that Doug has not "turned" this blog into anything. It was created as a forum open to anyone who felt they had something important to say about the future of LANL, and it remains just that. If the opinions presented here appear one-sided, then perhaps you should consider the possibility that the thoughts presented here are actually an accurate reflection how the majority ofLANL employees feel.
The overwhelming sentiment at this Laboratory is that the Director is an abject failure and an embarrassment to Los Alamos and should be an embarrassment to the University of California. Anyone who does not believe that reality must never have visited laboratory cafeterias, talked with customers in and out of the DOE, listened to Laboratory mental health experts or local physicians, seen the empty auditorium when the Director speaks, tallied up the programmatic shortfalls and egregious cost over-runs caused by his mismanagement, heard the Director's anti-social tirades and demeaning profanity, seen people walk away when the man enters a room, or said good-bye to young employees who represent our future and older employees who represent the corporate knowledge that once made this institution great.
The guy with the whine and cheese party had a point. Doug may not have turned the blog into what it is, but why not paint him with the same wide brush that people use to paint others. After all, what I'm hearing in this Blog is that someone has to be held responsible, whether they are the true culprit or not.
Subordinate: Belonging to a lower or inferior class or rank.

This post, which I'm guessing comes from upper management, clearly shows what we don't have here at LANL -- we don't have anyone whose job it is to defend us. LANL is attacked by congress, the press, and our own managers. If we didn't have Hollian and Doug and the posters to this blog, we would have no one who has an interest in pointing out that the attacks often have little or no merit. You can be sure, that if there are two ways to look at some set of statistics, our management will find a way that makes us look bad. Other Government agencies, CIA, NSA, FBI, State Department, also have security and safety lapses, but they have leaders who are willing to defend them. We don't.

The comparisons to industry are weak -- while it may be true that in industry the managers would not put up with all of us uppity "subordinates" (at least not without a union to back the employees), it is also clearly true that no manager in industry would shut down the plant for so long for so little cause. If I am wrong, maybe my superiors would deign to show me an example of where that happened in industry. But if I'm not wrong, then let's discuss how we compare with other government agencies.

In contrast to industry, government works by opposing sides doing their best to make their points. The opposing sides are not trying to be objective, they are trying to get their way. It makes some sense for congress and the press to attack us. After all, that's how government is kept in line. What does not make sense is for us to be without a defender. Congress and the press do not have to be objective any more than the prosecution at a trial. Our management should not be objective either -- they should be defending us the best they can. They aren't.

Perhaps our new secretary will see fit to give us managers who are willing to find out how our practices and records compare to NSA, CIA, Livermore, etc. Based on what I've seen so far, when they do that, with the aim of defending us, many of the attacks will fall by the wayside. Until we have that kind of management, nothing we do will be good enough.

By the way, although I am security and safety conscious, I do have some arrogance. I think the useful work in this lab comes from the "subordinates". Even with my arrogance, I don't think I come close to the arrogance of those people I am the "subordinate" of. We could use a lot less arrogance from our, I use the term loosely, superiors. If they wouldn't treat people who disagree with them like scum, maybe they'd get some respect. As it is, I have no repsect for upper management. They don't whine, they ridicule and harass.

One could imagine a lab where management worked together with the scientists. After all, the scientists' work pays for the managers. My overhead costs are such that, from any money I bring into the lab, nearly twice what I get in my salary goes to get me support -- most of that probably goes to my superiors. I don't get help from my support -- I get hassles. They tell me the limits but not what I can do. My support is there to catch me if I make a mistake, not to defend me if I do.
Make no mistake, there ARE people who have benefitted (in the short run anyway) from the terror of Nanos. Fred T. is certainly one of them. Most of the SET owe their high salaries to the admiral. I think Pete had it right at about 10 or so. Certainly the DOE top brass would LIKE to believe Pete. I can honestly say that I admired his straight talk and had high hopes for him as a Director ... until I found out the truth in numerous situations where I had first hand knowledge. The Nation is not well served by this man or his minions. My recommendation to Dr. Dynes is to adopt a false persona (not UC president!), travel the Lab and town a bit, talk to a few folks, try to find out what is real and what is nonsense. I guarantee that what he would discover with such an approach would shock the hell out of him and he would rapidly distance himself and UC from Pete Nanos. BTW, why does the author expect his post to be unpopular? Why be anonymous when supporting Nanos? Maybe you know the time has come for a genuine change and you don't want to be associated with Pete either?
I wish to thank the fellow (probably from upper management) who made this post.
It is obviously well written and highly polished. I find it both fascinating
and repulsive at the same time. Fascinating, because I think it gives me an
insight into how some of the close associates of Nanos must feel about the
general staff. Repulsive, because the writer, who I assume is at a high level
position, seems to have no desire whatsoever to understand why much of the
general staff now hates their Director. It's not a dialog -- it's more like
a diatribe. Regardless, I would like to see more such posts from those in
top level management positions at LANL. Let's hear how people on the SET
really feel about the current situation. You can post anonymously, just
like the rest of us. Tell us how you see things. I'm truly curious. Here
you can be far more blunt about what you wish to say than in a LANL News
Bulletin. Maybe you can change some minds, maybe not. Take your best shot.
I think some members of Lab management are reading Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's The First Circle and thinking it's a wonderful model for LANL.
Myth Buster responds:

First, I'm not in upper management. My most recent experience is middle management, but most of the things I've seen in my LOI list came during my experience as team leader and project manager. Like many others, I prefer not to receive angry phone calls and sacks of burning excrement at my door, and so choose to post anonymously.

This blog is what it is. It is perceived as a whine and cheese party because those who are fed up with the wannabe whistleblowers, complainers, and "uppity subordinates" have not chosen to participate. I, and a few others, have chosen to express an opposing view and thus make this a real debate.

It's obvious the union proponents here haven't had experience with an actual, real union. A real union contract acknowledges the primacy of law and the regulatory environment, and commits its members to full compliance. To do otherwise brings instantaneous nullification under federal law. This means putting up with the paperwork and following the procedures. Most unions don't have staff capable of analyzing and negotiating regulatory compliance issues, and choose to focus on the membership's greatest interest: employee benefits. So what will you get with a union? Put up with the regulations, toe the line, or be reassigned by the union to a janitorial position. Actually, that might be kind of nice. There are a few "scientists" here who would be much more productive pushing a mop, in my opinion.

If you think management doesn't defend this place, you've got another think coming. The problem is, a significant portion of existing management, from group leaders on up, are accustomed to the "hand waving" style of presenting at performance reviews. Pretty presentations focused solely on future steps, without acknowledging how woefully behind the organization is when compared to the goals identified in last year's pretty presentation don't cut it anymore. Everyone nods and smiles, and a few DOE staffers or congressional staffers go back to their office, review last year slides, and get a better picture. Then we all wonder why DOE suddenly has a bug up its butt about regulatory compliance, quality assurance, and operational rigor. This isn't happening just to us, it's happening complex-wide. The skill sets and culture of DOE staff have evolved. Like someone else mentioned, there are more military there now, and a lot of the old guard is gone. Most other DOE sites have adapted. We haven't. We will adapt; one way or the other.

Basically, a significant portion of management here is either incapable, or refuses to implement a "plan what you do, do what you plan" environment with reasonable metrics. That level of rigor would interfere with "real science," according to the whine and cheese club. It doesn't matter that the vast majority of the budget here goes to security, construction, facility operations, administration, and computing infrastructure; everything must be as informal as possible so that the "real scientists" aren't inconvenienced.

Modern managers know how to make this work. They know how to identify the real intellectual assets in their organizations and give them the support they need, including the technical and administrative staff that makes everything magically happen in the background. Those projects are identified as exploratory and open-ended and justified based on prior breakthroughs and peer reviews. A good manager can make the case for those projects because he or she has a stable of engineering and/or operational projects that are well defined, measured, and properly controlled. In short, the manager has an excellent track record that is very defensible, and thus is allowed discretion on what gets funded and what doesn't.

Unfortunately, we don't have many modern managers here. Most of our management is old-line, climbing the ladder from the science side, and very familiar with the fuzzy funding and "high-level reporting only" management model that has embedded into our culture over the decades. Unfortunately, most of them now have to manage 10% science and 90% operations, and the cluelessness is rampant, entrenched, and not about to change. They simply don't do the reading necessary to gain the skills. If you don't believe me, check out our online library databases. If a journal has the word "science" in it, it's in there. But go ahead and try to find any substantial number of journals related to management, operations research, or leadership.

We have never had a directors colloquium focused on management or operations research here.

The whine and cheese club would have us believe that the old model is the only way to keep "real science" happening here. If that were a valid argument, there would be no "real science" happening at pharmaceutical laboratories, genetics laboratories, aerospace research centers, and the list goes on. Whiners: don't try to justify the old model based on this breakthrough or that breakthrough. We may have put an instrument on a spacecraft, but someone else put the whole thing together, along with a bunch of other instruments. If you wish to argue by post hoc, ergo propter hoc examples, the case can be made that the number of available examples is so small that, when taken in context of all the scientific advances in this nation, they could be considered outliers or even random events.

Most of the management at this Laboratory is untrained, unfit, and doesn't even keep up with basic reading in modern management practices. But most have tenure. The coming transition is going to be painful.

Signed, Myth Buster.
Dear Myth Buster:

I'm sorry, I don't take your word as gospel when you tell us that "those who are fed up with the wannabe whistleblowers, complainers, and "uppity subordinates" have not chosen to participate."

This, being a completely open forum, represents everyone. If you see more people presenting their displeasure with current LANL management than you would like, well, it's because most people are unhappy with current LANL management. You clearly do, as we can all see, belong in that LANL management club.

However, I encourage you to keep your opinions coming; maybe it is not to late for you to learn something from the responses you receive.

Signed, A non-management LANL TSM.
As a previous comment suggested,
this article is probably by Fred
Tarantino, AD for weapons
programs. It sounds like him.
I heard on good authority
that he retired from army special
forces. He's smart, able and
energetic -- very impressive
fellow. And if UC wins the
contract then their partner
Bechtel will probably be the ones
running the Lab with Fred as
Lab Director.

Let me give you a small taste
of what that might be like. I
worked for Bechtel Nevada as a
Scientific Specialist for five
years before coming to LANL
2.5 years ago. BN inherited
the NTS contract from EG&G
whom I worked for 20 years.
BN brought in their own
clueless managers used to
construction project in Saudia
Arabia. We supported the LANL
subcritical experiments at NTS.
Fred T. was the G.M. of BN.
One of our local section
heads left in disgust
shortly before I did when he
had to fill out a BN
project planning form
asking how many rental cars
and portapotties he needed for
his development project. I'm not
making this up. His response
was something to the effect:
"I don't know where the bridge
is, how long it is or what it's
made of. And the specs may
evolve after we start building
it." I'm told by friends at BN
that things have gotten worse
since then.

Also expect the Six Sigma
program to be implemented
and applied to everything.
Fred was big on that
-- in spite of the fact
that almost everything we
did was one-of-a-kind
development work. (It's hard
to get good statistics when
you only have one event.)
Also expect ethics training
featuring inspirational talks
by Riley Bechtel, CEO of
Bechtel. (This was the
last straw for me.)

Please don't take these
comments as a negative
reflection on the many very
competent and hard-working
people at BN who do some
key work for LANL. But
they do it in spite of
the nonsense handed down
from BN senior management.

You'd better pray UC
doesn't get the contract.

David F. Simmons
Soon-to-be-Ex TSM
DX Division
(where seldom is heard a
discouraging word)
As someone outside the lab, I continue to be amazed by the steady stream of bad news about the lab. Now comes another report from Washington, DC about former employees strolling off with security badges etc. Will the incompetence ever end? From Wen Ho Lee to missing hard drives to missing (oops, was never there) CREM. All these incidents are certainly not being orchestrated by the top level of leaders. Complaints I see here from scientists whose divisions are shut down and who chafe under new security requirements. Yet, our nation's national security is at stake, something that seems not taken too seriously by some.
For the guy with question about all the bad stories on Los Alamos..

OK, lets talk about stories of government screw-ups and significant threats
to US security over the last decade, shall we?

1. Aldrich Ames (1994) - He works as a Soviet double agent inside the highest
levels of CIA Headquarters at an office that involves US agent operations
in Moscow. The info he gives to the Soviets results in the death of
many of our Soviet agents. He has drinking and financial problems, but
the CIA fails to notice them, and he operates as a Soviet double agent
for many years. What has happened at LANL in the last decade that
compares to this compromise of US security?

2. Robert Hanssen (2000) - He works in the FBI's Counter-Intelligence (aka,
"spy-catcher") branch, with constant data-base access to all ongoing
cases in which we are monitoring foreign spies. While in this high
level position as a traitor, according to CNN, he compromises:

- The National Measurement and Signature Intelligence Program

- The FBI Double Agent Program

- US studies on recruitment operations of the KGB against the CIA

- US studies on the KGB's effort to gather information on US
nuclear programs

- FBI counterintelligence techniques, sources, methods and operations

Federal prosecutors discover that Hanssen made $1.4 million from
his espionage. What, pray tell, has happened at LANL during the
last decade that compares to this fiasco?

These are the two biggest national security screw-ups of the last decade,
but one can also point to...

3. The FBI dropping the ball on the 911 hints. Field offices call in
to FBI HQ saying "we've got some strange people out here who
are taking flying lessons, but have no interest in landing the
planes". FBI HQ ignores them. 911 takes place.

And, of course, once 911 happens, we must strike back, so this gives
us two wars (Afghanistan and Iraq), and huge spending increases that
may bankrupt the US treasury. One cannot blame the FBI for 911, but
they certainly missed some important clues. What has happened during
the last decade at LANL that compares to this type of failure?

And then there are other stories, such as:

4. Missing: A Laptop of DEA Informants - MSNBC June 7, 2004

DEA loses a laptop with information on all their US drug informants.
What evil drug lord wouldn't love to get ahold of this thing?

5. Purchase card bust - Federal Computer Week - Aug 30, 2004

A guy in DOD uses a purchase card to commit $11 million in fraud,
including sending $500,000 to family members. This makes the LANL
purchase card case and the Bussolini case seem like small potatoes.

6. Marine Charged Breast-Lift to US - ABC News - Aug 14

DOD/Marine uses purchase card to pay for her breast-lift.

7. Lost Laptops Compromise Secrets - - Oct 1, 2001

FBI is missing 184 of its laptops.

8. CentCom Laptops Missing From HQ - Tampa Tribune - Aug 7, 2002

Two laptops with tactical battle plans go missing from Gen. Franks
war planning HQ right before the war.

9. Grassley Shines Light On Credit Card Abuse at Department of Defense

At least 200 Army personnel used their government charge cards
to obtain hundreds of dollars in cash at strip clubs. They use
the money for "lap dances".


I could go on and on, but you get the point.

What do you think? Perhaps we should shut down the FBI/CIA/DOD/DEA?
They have endangered our security and engaged in illegal activities,
have they not?

Bad things happen in government agencies. It's not just LANL. Unfortunately,
LANL management and the DOE do a terrible job of defending us. These
other agencies do a much better job at defense.

Yeah, you can pull up lots of articles that might make a person
believe that Los Alamos is some sort of basket case. But, in the
bigger context of things, far worse things have happened at other
places in the US government. Do some more research -- these stories
about screw-ups at other agencies are easy for anyone to find.
Don't be selective in your reading.
Interesting that at the end of the piece, the writer says, "That's what you're paid very well to do." - as opposed to "we're" - appears to be a definite management style to the manager talking here. Am I to infer that he or she is not well paid, or that they have a: There is a "Me/Us/Manager", and then there is "You/Them/Employee", mentality?

The last line, "And please get busy doing it before Congress decides this bunch of malcontents on the Pajarito Plateau just isn't worth the trouble."

Wow! Need to have the word "bunch" defined. Is it 5, 100, a 1000? Sounds bigger than a "few". This indicates to me that the number of "malcontents" is perhaps not as small as some people say. If it were a small number, why would Congress, or anyone else for that matter, care? Would be most impressive if a few "malcontents" could cause Congress to toss in the towel. If, indeed this person was told such by Members of Congress, does not appear to say much for LANL's "awe-inspiring" contributions and existing and future "potential" alluded to earlier.
To the list of Government screw-ups listed by the poster. Let's not leave out Government Contractor screw-ups like Christopher Boyce at TRW - a very damaging incident to US National Security.

What, you say I can't blame all of TRW for the acts of one person? Of course I can - it's easy.

Unfortunately, I cannot remember the ramifications for TRW, although I thought there were some. No shut-down as I recall though.
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