Monday, March 14, 2005

DOE also reads the blog

From Anonymous:

I've been reading this blog for a while now, with great interest, I might add. I have been noticing that DOE also reads the blog, apparently with great interest as well, given the frequency and length of their visits throughout any given day. This caused me to wonder: does DOE think they have been as complicit in the horrible management of LANL under George P. Nanos as most of the other posters to the blog seem to feel? Then I had yet another thought (I was having a big day): under every other DOE secretary we have had the misfortune to have "leading" LANL, there was absolutely no hope of effective management direction, or, as in our present case, intercession from DOE.

Until now. I confess to have gotten a very favorable impression of Secretary Bodman. If there is _any_ hope that the absolutely unbelievable morass we have let ourselves be led into has a path out, it will in part be through the actions of a for-once strong, effective DOE leadership.

Secretary Bodman, I do believe we need your help.

-A LANL Staff Member

Interesting thoughts, it seems like the DOE Washington bureaucracy's lack of backbone is at the root of the Lab's problems... as I remember last summer, DOE strongly supported the shutdown, so I went to their website and looked up their press release. Here are excerpts from their press release of 20 July 2004, which contained Secretary Abraham's statements;

"...Deputy Secretary McSlarrow and Administrator Brooks have thus far concluded that the failure to follow appropriate procedures is widespread and extends beyond the security area. As a result, they conclude that Los Alamos lacks an effective system to ensure the proper accountability of so-called Controlled Removable Electronic Media...

...While they were impressed with the strong action being taken by the Laboratory Director, they are concerned that some within the laboratory work force fail to understand the seriousness of the situation. This clearly illustrates the need both for immediate, effective and permanent corrective action and for meaningful administrative and disciplinary action at an appropriate time.

As a result of the McSlarrow and Brooks report, I have directed that classified operations involving Controlled Removable Electronic Media will not resume until Deputy Secretary McSlarrow and Administrator Brooks inform me of their satisfaction that the newly implemented corrective actions provide for complete and verifiable custodial control of such media. Given the very broad nature of the classified activities underway at the lab and likely differences in the ability of some divisions to implement security modifications more quickly than others, I expect the restart of the various operations to take place in stages rather than all at once.

Last week’s industrial accident also convinces me that federal concurrence will be necessary if the laboratory is to resume operations with significant safety implications...

...The department will continue to insist that the University of California, which operates Los Alamos, take strong measures to ensure that the laboratory corrects the systematic flaws that allowed this problem to occur. To bolster this effort, the local site office will be augmented with additional security specialists from DOE Headquarters.

Deputy Secretary McSlarrow and Administrator Brooks will continue to oversee this investigation and keep me fully briefed. The investigation will continue to place the highest priority on locating the missing material..."

The investigation was not even completed and DOE concluded that widespread systemic problems existed and that some staff at the Lab were not taking the issue serious. The caustic tone of Abraham's statement makes me wonder what he and DOE/NNSA would have done if Nanos had not shutdown work at the Lab. When things go bad or get embarrassing for DOE, they tend to shoot their contractors (otherwise why have us around) and then issue more paperwork generating Orders/regulations/contract clauses for the surviving contractors to try to meet. Does anyone have thoughts on what the alternative might have looked like?
"When things go bad or get embarrassing for DOE, they tend to shoot their contractors (otherwise why have us around) and then issue more paperwork generating Orders/regulations/contract clauses for the surviving contractors to try to meet. Does anyone have thoughts on what the alternative might have looked like?

Even better, I would love to hear Secretary Bodman comment on this.
Well from what some have said, Nanos should have told DOE to shove it and that there were no problems here. DOE would have said 'Ok we will accept that.' and things would have been rosy as ever. The worst that would have come out of it was the guy who drove off with CREM in the back of his truck (the original reason that found CREM that didnt exist being signed out and accounted for) would have been told not to do it again.

The laser scientist would have been told to go home for a couple of days.. and the grad student would have been paid off quietly in the background.

Nanos would also have told Congress that if it wanted to bid out the lab they could do so, but please let the lab ship a couple of bunker busters back east first.

Hyperbole on my part, but it seems that most conversations devolve to that. I also am amazed at how some people who have taken exception to the word 'butthead' have stooped to calling people who disagree with them 'nannites'.
Of course DOE was startled and upset-- Nanos had gone to them and said that the Laboratory policies and procedures were inadequate to control classified data and that there was a culture of arrogance in a substantial portion of the Laboratory population that guaranteed serious lapses. The board of directors of any company would react similarly if their CEO made such serious allegations. Unfortunately, neither UC nor DOE had enough faith in the LANL population to wait for the facts to come in. That is a condition that will persist long after Nanos is gone.
Well of course the DOE played a significant role in LANL devolving into its current condition. The lack of regulatory oversight here is profound compared to other DOE complex facilities. It is as though they are sleepwalking. When the clock strikes four they're out the door.
Dear 7:37:
You are certainly free to believe anything you want to believe. Nanos on the other hand, ad the Laboraotry Director, is an officer of the University of California and thereby an officer of the State of California. Under the constitution of that state and of the United States, he must afford due process to citizens of this republic. If you have the time and inclination you might read Greene v. McElroy et al, United States Supreme Court, 360 US 474.

It's amazing that in many of the opinions being expressed up there on the hill to justify your Director's actions, the Consitution seems to be Cinderella sitting forgotten by the hearth.
You know we've hit rock bottom when people start looking to the DOE to
come and save us. Bodman seems like a nice fellow, but I suspect the
career people under him don't really give a damn about Los Alamos. In
fact, they may even be taking some perverse pleasure in watching us hang
by our thumbs. Torture is an "in" thing these days, I hear.
I guess we'll see. I sent him (Bodman) a copy of the post, pointing out that there had been a request for his feedback on the issues identified in the post. We'll see if he responds.
I would have to agree: we have hit rock bottom.
I agree Secretary Bodman seems to be a nice fellow. However as we all know, "nice guys finish last".
I know three of his staff who are on the Los Alamos contract recompete committee. They are vindictive, self-serving federal career contract management misfits who have their own agendas to do Los Alamos harm.
I ask Secretary Bodman, if he even reads this at all, in all boldness to have the huevos to recognize and admit a big mistake and to stop the contract recompete activity dead in its tracks.
The contract renegotiation will do great harm all the way from Secretary Bodman himself, through DOE/NNSA and down to the last bottom feeder at the Lab. The pending loss of the current laboratory management arrangment with DOE and UC will be a legacy permanently attached to Secretary Bodman from which he will never shed the stigma.
There are sufficiently believeable threads throughout this blog from which to easily weave a rope strong enough to strangle the careers of a great number of evil-doers in the DOE/NNSA/UC mismanagement of LANL. Attention evil-doers, "what goes around comes around".
Secretary Bodman, please stop the contract renegotiations, remove Director Nanos and his henchmen, and restore the life-blood of freedom of scientific creativity and weapons design to make sure our country regains its greatness again. To do anything other leaves the United States as a laughing stock to our enemies.
Mr. Bodman, please don't hand us off to a fat-cat corporation who will use us pork to fatten their coffers at our expense. You've got to see through the Administrations affections for big business and privatization at the expense of real people like us. Indeed we are excentric in many ways, but once scattered to the four winds, our collective unique weapons science knowledge and wisdom will be gone forever. You cannot bring in green-horns to pick up where the experienced staff has left off.
Add to the 11:46opm comment.

Dr Bodman should also know and I hope he does, that LANL is the top DOE basic science lab. LANL is best of the DOE labs in terms of peer review publications and overall citations. LANL is also 11th in the entire world in terms of publications and citation impact. There is a lot of science at LANL that simply cannot be done in any other place in the US or the world. If things get bad a large number of the people will leave for university jobs, however a large number may also be lost to the US science base if about 300 people are all on the job market at the same time. The will be a huge loss to DOE and the US. Some of the
best scientists in the world are at
LAN as reflected by some of the places that have offered them faculty jobs. Examples that I know of faculty offers that current
staff have gotten over the last four years are, MIT, Cornell, U of Chicago, UCD, UCR, Northwestern, U of Illinois, Notre Dame, Purdue, FSU, Virginia Tech, Ohio State, Colorado, Arizona, U Mass, William and Mary, Dartmouth, Emory, Southern Meth, Texas AM, Oregon State, CFU, U of Michigan, Nebraska, Iowa State,and Tulane. There are many others. There are also countless other people who have gotten their Phd training at LANL and have done postdocs. LANL has had a far reaching impact on US physics. If the current talent and future talent that can be
fostered at LANL is lost it will be a huge blow to the US. Also I might add this will send a chilling message to the other DOE labs all of which do not have the same amount of scientific impact as LANL. That message is that DOE no longer cares about science or the US. No DOE lab will be safe if the very best DOE lab is lost. This will degrade the performance at all
the labs as people will see what may be comming.
You can follow the decline of American industrial science with a list of the great labs that are no more: ATT Bell Labs, Eastman Kodak, Polaroid, RCA Sarnoff, Hughes Santa Barbara, Xerox Palo Alto, etc. American doesn't need or want science anymore - it wants wardrobe malfunctions. I'm afraid that LANL may be one of the last of the great science labs.

These great institution were relegated to history by executives more concerned with current year profits than decades of progress. Myopic decisions -- such as closing research laboratories or shutting down operations to impress the media -- are not part of the process that made this nation free and prosperous. Our historical wealth was predicated on inventing things (refrigerators, transistors, epoxy resiin, graphite fibers, computers, software, light bulbs, post-its to name a few) and only secondarily on producing things (automobiles, airplanes, hamburgers). Most of the things we manufacture are things we had invented. The point is that abandonment of scientific institutions is using tomorrow's seed stock to feed today's pigs.
The fat-cat porkers and those responsible for their care and feeding need to be spotlighted.

Likewise those who keep Nonas in office.

Any bureaucrats out there listening to your less-than-middle-class bottom-feeding taxpayers who will take some decisive corrective action? Your silence is creating the cases against you.
It's my understanding that Bodman has no say in the matter of recompeting or not.

Congress passed a bill, made law, IIRC, requiring the DOE Lab contracts be put up for bid.
Yeah, that's right. The RFP was mandated by law. We're screwed.
And to think, Congress didn't even have the common courtesy to
give us a 'reach-around' while they were screwing us. That's
gratitude for you. Next time they ask us to save the nation
in some ugly ass World War, they can just forget it.
One needs to ponder - There seem to be some in congress bent on destroying the last of the great research institutions such as LANL & LLNL. Perhaps those congressmen need to be investigated for un-american activities. They should be ashamed of themselves.
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