Monday, February 07, 2005

Trend or Exception?

From Anonymous:

Nuclear security Agency Needs More Scientists:

The National Nuclear Security Administration, a unit of the Energy Department charged with maintaining nuclear weapons, is faced with a shortage of scientists and engineers, according to the Government Accountability Office."

If this is true then you think they would do things to try to retain and entice people to come to Los Alamos rather than to do the opposite.

I'm a highly technical staff member (when I say highly what i mean is that most of my job is technical in nature rather than managerial or project oriented). I took stock of my time spent at work last week. Approximately 6 hours or less was spent doing technical work and the rest was spent in either meetings dealing with CREM or reorgs, chasing down a myriad of non-sensical rules (I filled out over an inch of paperwork) in order to be approved to do those few hours of work, and trying to push a large number of purchases through the system which are months late. I also tried to help collegue of mine I desperatly need to complete projects and has been waiting over two years for his clearance. This is a typical work week for me, especially since the shutdown.

So what I came to realize is that although I am a highly paid and uniquely skilled technical staff member, I spend almost NO time doing technical work to help protect the country. (which is why I came here in the first place).

What does this mean? Well possibly it means I'm simply in a bad position and the lot i've drawn is to spend my life in paperwork and useless meetings. But a more scientific approach would be to poll this blogs readership for a small statistical sample to see who if anyone is in the same boat.

I am very curious to see if I am experiencing a trend or an exeption.

Sounds familiar! Too much of my time is absorbed in paperwork or meetings. Nanos will say that he wants to reduce paperwork, but then signs requirements that requires more red tape.
Same story in DX division. (TSM with Ph.D. in physics)
Nanos also claimed to be decreasing the overhead rates while doubling them for most groups. The next time Nanos uses the word "decrease," somebody must be sure to tell him, "I do not think that word means what you think it means."
One always has to look at who is making the claim that there is a shortage, or potential shortage, of scientists and engineers. It is typically made by those that have the most to gain by making the claim. They want a large supply for their relatively small demand.

The report says the, "Defense Programs'total contractor workforce fell from approximately 52,000 in fiscal year 1992 to approximately 26,000 in fiscal year 2003, through targeted downsizing and closing of production facilities.", and now there is a potential shortage of scientists and engineers?

It is typical in these type reports that claims of shortages are made by only considering the Supply side, with very little attention being paid to the Demand side.
NNSA leadership has the same problems as LANL's. They don't want top-level scientific and technical talent because this is too threatening to them. Anyone who has worked with NNSA knows that most of their technical staff are pretty mediocre, and the people they can get either didn't get tenure at an academic institution or are just plain lazy. They all hate each other to boot.
You are not alone my friend. In fact, I'd like to meet any TSM here at the lab that spends even a majority of time on actual technical work.

A point: I have heard nothing from DX managament emphasizing product delivery, with the exception of the hydro shots. The current management productivity metric is safety and security. i.e. freedom of security and safety incidents reflects a productive management. Take a look at the DX home page. Without a real metric for technical productivity, I forsee more of the same: 6 hours of technical work to 34 hours of paperwork.
I did the exercise a few years ago and came up with about 10-20 hours of techincal time per week, however if you mostly computer program or do something completely harmless it could be higher. I have to train for many hazards, the total training is something on the order of a month if you go by the hours the training office estimates.
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