Friday, March 11, 2005

Just keeping the offices filled will do

From Anonymous:

Many folks who dedicated their careers to classified weapons research were well aware that that decision effectively ended any academic opportunities we might have had. It is estimated that in five years a physicist has lost half his value if he is not actively publishing. Working full time on weapons work always precluded any serious publications. in the late seventies and early eighties this was well understood by the lab. The generous pension plan was one way of making up for the serious truncation of career opportunities. since the cessation of nucler testing it appears that those with the knowhow to make weapons work are much less valued. Just keeping the offices filled will do since the lab can still say our weapons are backed by a 2 billion/year lab. No need to keep good people since there is no benchmark to measure their effectiveness. Thus no need to have great pensions. The quality of the pension plan is not divorced from the quality of the science.

Judging from what I see going on, I suspect that the real goal of the re-bid of the contract is to privatize LANL. This has been a main theme throughout the current administration and remains so. Much of the bad publicity LANL has received has been trumped up -- such as the so called "lost disks" in the DX-3 incident, the safety figures, etc.

Let's face it, a government program with a $2 billion budget is a plum and the fact that scientific study does not work well with a business environment is ignored. Even UC if bidding will do so only with a business partner.

It isn't that UC, the University, has done such a great job of managing LANL. It is that they have provided the environment where UC doesn't have to worry about showing a profit for its shareholders. It is about research.

Even if UC with its partner wins the contract, I expect that Rep. Hobson will get his way, reducing employee benefits. LANL will be turned into a profit center and its work will be operated accordingly.

The fact that this will be a huge disaster for research and for employees doesn't seem to carry much weight. It is the prinicple that privatization is the best way to run everything that is dominating this re-bid process.

So LANL will be involved now in economic experimentation rather than scientific experimentation. My predicition is that we will soon learn that privatization of scientific research doesn't work. Hopefully a home for real research will be found somewhere.
The 10:15 poster is right on! Even a UC/Bechtel consortium will be a limited-liability public corporation not a university. As things might go, at least Northrup/Gruman will know how to act like a corporation. As things are now going, UC doen't seem to know how to act like a university.
Loss of retirement benefits is happening throughout the federal
workforce these days. It is how our dominant political party
treats the "little people". Here's a typical example involving
thousands of workers over at the FAA. They will be losing their
generous federal retirement benefits.

Lockheed Martin Win Could Affect 2,500 Federal Employees
-- Federal Computer Week - Feb 21, 2005

Lockheed Martin's $1.9 billion competitive sourcing contract to run
the Federal Aviation Administration's automated flight service stations
will affect 2,500 FAA employees, some of whom will lose their federal
retirement benefits.

Union officials said several hundred of the affected employees might
become FAA air traffic controllers and keep their benefits. Some will
retire with government benefits. Others will be given the option of
becoming Lockheed Martin employees but will lose their federal
retirement benefits.


Sound familiar? LANL is not unique. We are about to join the
"modern" US workforce (ie, lower benefits and poorer job security).
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