Sunday, March 27, 2005

LANL staff made too much money

From Anonymous:

I personally heard a conversation from Roberto Archuleta (Sr. Industrial Specialist) in the presence of Tyler Przybylek when both were at the high school auditorium on 1/16/05. In response to concerns from a man about LANL losing large numbers of good technical staff, Archuleta said that LANL staff made too much money and referred to a page in a binder showing an average salary of $84K for LANL compared to the rest of UC averaging $66K. Where the numbers came from (and whether correct) or if it was an “apples vs. oranges” issue, I don’t know. But I do know Archuleta expressed a strong sense of indignation about LANL salaries. I contend that the bottom line is: You get what you pay for. However, far more important, he displayed DOE’s arrogance to the man where he paused to formulate a question and said he was “trying to think how to ask it without insulting him (the man) or LANL”. He then said, “Where do all these people think they can go? I mean, there are only so many teaching positions at UNM.” The man replied that some will go to academia, some to the private sector, and some to entrepreneurial opportunities. The point is, DOE despises LANL salaries and benefits and truly believes that they have people held captive. Overhearing this conversation made it clear that DOE/NNSA has no concern for LANL’s employees or technical capability supporting national security issues; it’s all about the money, vindictiveness during a window of opportunity, control, and power. Do NOT believe the rhetoric to the contrary. Stay informed, identify your options, and be rapidly decisive to do what’s best for you, your loved ones, and your career when the time is appropriate for your circumstances.

Archuleta was almost right about the LANL average salary. As of JAN 1 2005 it was about $82K. TEC average was about 55k and TSM was about 109k. He may also be close for the UC average, but I'll bet good money that, to get the number he had, he averaged every warm body including student interns, graduate students and postdocs (who average MUCH smaller salaries than we pay, and are MUCH more numerous), and failed to account for the fact that faculty salaries are generally academic-year salaries (8 or 9 months, whichever is the case in UC). This is what one would expect from the Bushie DOE and the likes of Rep. Hobson.

As to getting what you pay for, the Director makes about $350k. A private-sector executive running a similar-sized corporation would knock down 10 or more times that figure.

Faculty salaries at UC can be determined easily from the AAUP Bulletin. I haven't had a chance to do that., but once again I will bet good money that our TSM salaries are lower than the 12-month average for UC faculty.
"As to getting what you pay for, the Director makes about $350k"

We certainly did not get what we paid for. Let's ask for a refund.
Los Alamos could be staffed with people making the minimum wage. We could forego degree and experience requirements and import managers from DOE or HUD for that matter. We could go to a bar outside a boot camp and get a retired drill sergeant to be our director. We could depend on this new crew to certify the safety of our nuclear weapons by letting them drop the things on the floor to see if they go off. Of course, this might also permit certification of their reliability at the same time. In fact, I am with a team from the new crew that has been flown to Washington to render safe an improvised nuclear weapon found in the Metro. It's hot and sweaty down here but I'm sure tha/////////////(NO SIGNAL) ///////////////////////////.
The class warfare between Feds (DoE overseers) and the contractors (UC) is an old story, and certainly the source of much of the animosity from NNSA towards LANL. In fact, the lab has a salary process that is owned by UC HR, and is based on regional competition. The numbers for the various job titles are vetted against high tech companies and SNL. An independent analysis by NNSA decided that LANL is over paid by 1.1% at the end of FY 04. Hardly the numbers of scandal, but nevertheless, it has not stopped some mid-level bureaucrats (like Ed Wilmot) for deciding LANL is grossly overpaid. This is the same thinking about our pension plan – even though it SAVES the nation money, the Feds hate that theirs is not as “generous”.

Some analysis:
(1) On average, the TSM salaries for starting PhDs and post doc conversions at LANL is 10 percent higher than elsewhere in the UC system.
(2) On average, the TSM salaries for mid-career PhDs (15 years experience) at LANL is 12 percent lower than elsewhere in the UC system.
(3) On average, the TSM salaries for late-career PhDs (20 plus years experience) at LANL is 19 percent lower than elsewhere in the UC system.
(4) If group leaders are considered to be equivalent to Department heads in the UC system, then they are underpaid by about 5 percent at LANL.
(5) If the Director is considered equivalent to University president, or a business unit in BNI, then the director is underpaid by almost 50% (I know, even a dollar would be too high a price to pay for the present director!).

It is difficult to make comparisons for Tech series. The Admin series shows salaries within a few percent across the board with UC. If you only do a LANL-LLNL comparison, LANL is about 9 percent behind LLNL.

Unfortunately, NNSA will always view contractors as a waste of money because they get paid less. However, they have other benefits, and in fact, the jobs are so different the comparison is worthless.
Of course it's about the money. Always has been, always will be.

Did you really think it was about the science or national security?

Last 2 sentences of your post sum up what most of the people I deal with have been doing since the beginning of this. Whether they read the bolg or not.
Poster at 2:43 PM
The cost of a top post-doc is market driven. I have seen some of thebest go elsewhere because I could come up with a couple thousand bucks. Los Alamos might have a great reputation for science but for a young person life is more that a great reputation. The fact is that we are an hour away from civilization (when it's not snowing.)
In the past six months there have been multiple jobs posted for DOE LASO and Albuquerque. In particular there have been several GS-14 and EN-4, both of which start in the low 80's and end somewhere around 120 to 130. For many TSM's with a BS or MS and under 10 years experience, the low end would be a pay raise. Reference
We were interviewing some post-docs this month for research fields. These people came in very well informed about how LANL, Los Alamos County, and how far things were from every where else. They had been mining the Los Alamos Monitor website, and all the other news papers and definately this blog.

Statements from the post-docs covered:

Does the county ever accomplish anything (the person from California went on about how the paper showed lots of studies but no action)?

Does this county have any plan to modernize from the 1950's? [Only the canidate who grew up in a mining town in Northwestern New Mexico didnt ask this in one shape or form.]

Does the 20k increase in pay make up for the remoteness of life? How hard is it to commute from Albuquerque?

Do people whine so much (yes this came from several people..)? Most seemed to wonder why people wrote so many letter complaining about following security. I then realized that most of these people were born just before Reagan came into office and seemed to think the place was filled with unrepentant hippies. (That was from the guy from california with dreadlocks)

Why would I care about a pension? No one does pension these days... [A corrolary was can I not have a pension but have the money in a 401K so I can leave anytime I want?]

How close are the majority of the public school employees coming to retirement.. and is the schools really that good or are people just coasting to retirement like people here were.

To be honest, I felt set up by a bunch of CBS reporters...
I have not heard complaints about salaries at Sandia, Oak Ridge, or Livermore. Could it be that because Los Alamos is a "one-horse" town that the income level is more obvious-- especially given the disparity between the average New Mexican?! Having been there-- and not any longer-- I always thought the County of Los Alamos needed to pull in low income commerce to offset the obvious.

It might be worthy to note that I found 40-70% higher salaries in industry, e.g. $140-180k. I am presently in at $174k in NY. So the salaries are not unreasonable, just disproportionate to the region.
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