Saturday, March 19, 2005

I would call upon UC to read this blog


This blog has served as an exceptionally useful outlet for the unbelievable frustrations that loyal LANL staff members have felt ever since Director Nanos' unwarranted shutdown eight months ago. At that time, or possibly within a few days, the rumor sprang up that Nanos would be gone in two weeks. Like clockwork, that rumor has sprung up every two weeks, ever since.

I am now retired from LANL, not because I really wanted to do so this early in my career, but because I wanted to protect my 32.5 years invested in the UC retirement system. My years at LANL have had their ups and downs, but never such a down as the last eight months.

I got my doctorate at UC Berkeley, and I have, until the last half year, been proud of the University. Its present spineless response to Nanos' attack on that other institution that I care about--the Los Alamos Laboratory--has left me demoralized about the future. But only about the obstacles that daily mount to the Lab's recovery from the damage Nanos has done, not about the scientists and workers themselves.

I would call upon UC to read this blog and consider appointing an interim Director, who would have the moral authority to sweep out the sycophants in upper management, and set LANL back on a rational course. I would hope that someone (possibly even a former Lab Director) would respond to this crisis and serve the Lab and the nation between now and the awarding of the new contract. Such a move could possibly stem the tide of high quality people, who are presently contemplating leaving the Lab, one way or another.

The future of a truly scientific Laboratory may well be critical to the nation and the world in the next couple of years, and it would be a shame to hear people say, "Too bad LANL is so weak and wounded; we could have used them at their full strength."

It's also a shame that more people have not had the courage to step forward and truly serve the Lab and the nation, as has Doug Roberts with this blog.

Thanks, Doug.

-Brad Lee Holian, former LANL staff member

To Brad and Doug,

You both seem well intentioned, but your references to UC taking action on LANL issues seems a bit naive. Just who in UC are you appealing to? The Laboratory Administration Office? The group led by Admiral Foley and Bob VanNess, has shown no leadership of any kind, and mostly just run cover ups. They are best described as a "lobby" in the UC Office of the President, a lobby for their own cushy jobs, which entail no accountability, and lots of nice perks. If UC loses the contract, the Lab will still be here; their jobs will be gone; and good riddance.
Are you appealing to the President's Council on the National Labs? They also show little interest. They, and their panels, visit LANL and are briefed by Pete and his buds, without opportunity for critics, or the public, to address them.
That this whole scheme does not, and never has, worked, is well understood by the UC Academic Senate. See for a record of their discussions.
With that history, it would seem useful for this blog to address the reforms needed if UC continues at LANL. Reform is sorely needed.
3:50 PM: You bring up some good points. You need to realize that this blog is not a passive instrument, however. You should not just sit back and pick nits with what you feel the blog should, or should not be addressing. If you really feel you know what should be said here, then say it. The blog is comprised of a whole body of contributors, not just Brad and Doug.
Sig Hecker:

If you are called, please take time to consider coming back as Director for the interim.

You won't have to fix everything Nanos broke in the last couple of years, but your presence, even if just for a few months, will give hope to many, many people at LANL.
What I have a hard time understanding is why so many posters dont see how the rest of the country sees LANL these days. The lab has had a crappy reputation for at least 15 years.. and people all of a sudden wake up to it when their noses are rubbed in it with a shutdown.

UC is not in a position to thumb their noses at Congress and put in someone the scientists here would love. UC is having major budgetary problems and is close to having to close campuses in California.. and as far as they are concerned LANL has had a long time to clean up its act and failed. Yes they have managed it poorly.. but they have never really been in the position to manage it well.

The bigger issue is that while Nanos has made a lot of mistakes.. he isnt anywhere as bad as the standard corporate boss. I am expecting that the next guy brought here will make Nanos look like a class act.
10:03 PM. I disagree with that last bit: I've known a few corporate bosses, and they were sharp. Nanos is not sharp. Lumping all corporate bosses into one classification is like lumping all LANL TSM's into one group; it doesn't work. Some are good, and some are not worth a shit. Our current director is not worth a shit -- that raises the odds that the next director will shine in comparison.
Since the late nineties, when Washington politicians and special interests started their vicious attacks on our Laboratory, the UC strategy has been to side with the attackers.
The UC thinking must’ve been something like this: “Every time somebody comes up with another accusation against LANL, they score political points. There is no penalty for making false accusations. There seems to be no incentive to defend the Lab. In this atmosphere, it’s unlikely that we’ll get any points for saying, ‘But these are the people who work to protect our Nation…’ Why don’t we instead take the side of the attack dogs? Wouldn’t we also get our share of points by pointing our fingers at the Lab workers?”

So they rubberstamped Nanos and installed him without a search. The guy who obviously had no scientific or technical expertise, nothing whatsoever that would make him qualified to run a national laboratory. The guy, whose only skill, as it turned out, was political maneuvering and ruthlessness.

In a short period of time, it became clear that Nanos was a Trojan horse. UC undoubtedly saw how his actions were crippling the Lab from the inside, but decided not to act. Last summer, Nanos went into a frenzy and shut us down. Scientists were called “buttheads” and forbidden to do their work for months. This was basically tantamount to openly demolishing the Lab with a sledgehammer. Still, UC stood silently by, thinking that as Nanos was scoring points so were they, since they “appointed” Nanos. Coming to the defense of the LANL scientists didn’t seem politically profitable, even as it became clear that one of the most important laboratories in the Nation had been shutdown over a clerical error involving two barcodes.

Now, the recent Congressional hearings have finally shown to UC, beyond any doubts, what a grave mistake their LANL strategy has been. The Washington anti-LANL gang members consider Nanos to be one of their own, and NOT PART OF UC! All mistakes Nanos made got taped to UC. UC didn’t score any points! By betraying this Lab and refusing to fight, UC has actually been caught defenseless and stabbed in the back.

So, UC, what are you going to do now?? Pay the cost of Nanos’ shutdown? Do you have the guts to stand up and fight for us and for yourself? Do you have the guts to remove Nanos now? Without waiting for the contract to be resolved, without trying to give him a face-saving exit that would satisfy his Washington friends? Remember, Nanos said that his plan of LANL destruction will take five years. By removing him now, you can still avert it.

Dr. Dynes, be a man! It’s better to lose the contract while trying to do the right thing, then to lose the contract while also betraying the people who depend on you.
"Do the right thing"...

What a great idea. I'd forgotten there was such a concept! The last time I heard it was at a LANL Leadership Institute training, that long predates Nanos. Unfortunately, most division (and above) leaders never availed themselves of the wisdom shared between Harry Thomas, John Zondlo and other there. They even talked disparagingly about the Institute "not teaching the right values".

If one wants to understand what leadership should be, I suggest that people read "Good to Great" by Jim Collins. None of our (or UC or DOE) upper level "leaders" resemble the "Level 5" leaders that Collins describes as the requirement for success.
Regarding 7:31 AM, when I attended the Leadership Institute, Harry had to put a moratorium on “Nanos-Speak” because Pete provided a living counter-example to every lesson. During Q&A sessions hands would shoot up to point out how Pete did not model the leadership behavior we were being taught.

I also recommend Jim Collins’ book “Good to Great” as depicting what it takes to be a great organization. It takes focus, energy and hard work. As the earlier poster points out, we do not have the brand of leadership needed to get us there (in fact our management is nearly opposite of what is needed). I firmly believe that the right sort of leaders exists at LANL, but they are being systematically DESELECTED for management positions rather than promoted. Perhaps worse than this systematic selection of terrible leadership, the management positions are so incredibly unattractive that the best people never even apply.

LANL can be fixed, if people in positions of authority do the right thing. It is our job from the rank-and-file to stand strong, and do the right thing from below to preserve LANL as something worse saving. Keep the part of LANL worth saving alive-and-well, value science, do excellent work and serve the Nation and the World. If enough of us do this, we can outlast the seven years of plague we find ourselves in.
On spring break this week in California. (it has not been sunny) Sunday's paper, 03/20/2005 'The San Francisco Chronicle', has a article in Section G which reads."UCSF Missions Bay's quest to become the Bay Area's research center is creating a host of new jobs". ( includes a statement "A decision was made to build a new 43-acre campus in Mission Bay, a desolate and dilapidated section of San Francisco's eastern waterfront.
Sounds like NM with water to me.

Section B "Business" of the same paper and date reports that in Mondays Chronicle's Technology section, you can read more about the role that research labs such as Sandia, Lawrence Livermore, and Lawrence Berkeley play in the technology defense economy. Companies that have received money for research and development or testing include Lockheed Martin, Kaiser Electronics, Northrop Grumman, and SRI International.
Lockheed, one of the area's largest employers, with 8,500 workers, helps design a fleet of sophisticated satellites and missile systems.
Two of the largest area defense contractors, Bechtel in San Francisco, and Environmental Chemical Corp. in Burlingame, focus on construction and engineering projects.
The Bay Area received $5.7 billion last year, up 3,6 percent. By contrast, the overall procurement budget jumped 10 percent last year, to $230 billion, according to The Chronicle's analysis.
The article ends with "Regardless, the data underscores an important truism: Despite the region's liberal leanings, Bay Area companies are playing a critical role in the country's military (defense) machine.

Seems that the country forgot about us, and what we do, or did.
This statement should also include the UC.
UC does read this blog!!!!!
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