Thursday, March 24, 2005

Lawmakers Say California University Should Share Los Alamos Stand-Down Cost

From Anonymous:

Lawmakers Say California University Should Share Los Alamos Stand-Down Cost
March 18, 2005


WASHINGTON - A multi-million-dollar tab to the taxpayers is the cost of bad management at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, and key members of Congress are starting to wonder if the lead contractor - the University of California - shouldn't share the bill.

"It just seems to me that the University of California was hired to do a job and they didn't do it," said U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., at a hearing on Friday. "It resulted in a stand-down that may cost taxpayers maybe upward of $360 million. The University of California should have to pay something in this process. It's just outrageous."

Walden was among several participants at a hearing convened by U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee. Representatives expressed concern over mismanagement at the nation's nuclear labs, focusing on the issues that led to last year's stand-down at Los Alamos Nuclear Laboratory (LANL).

"You have to do things right or take some responsibility," added U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak from Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the committee. "In this case these costs should be paid by the university, not the taxpayer."

The stand-down was a result of the then-apparent loss of several removable disks and a lab employee's injury related to improper use of one of the facility's lasers.

Pete Nanos, director of Los Alamos National Laboratory, says the stand-down was the right decision, as it highlight other problems at the lab. During the shutdown, the lab identified more than 3,000 issues that needed to be addressed, 350 of which needed to be addressed prior to ending the stand-down.

"The NNSA (National Nuclear Security Administration) also exercised its right to hold the university accountable for the incident. LANL received an 'unsatisfactory' performance rating in the 'operations' area of the annual performance assessment," Nanos said. "As a result, in January 2005, NNSA withheld 67 percent of the UC management fee, with a penalty assessment of $5.8 million our of a possible $8.7 million performance fee pool. This represents the largest DOE-directed management fee cut in history."

The full Energy and Commerce Committee's chairman, U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, also has said the university is liable.

"I supported the stand-down because of the severity of the security and safety problems at Los Alamos," Barton, R-Texas, said earlier. "However, the necessity for the stand-down and its duration are the direct result of recurring mismanagement by the University of California, and I believe UC should pay at least some of the stand-down costs.

"In my opinion, it is just not fair to continue asking the taxpayers to pick up the tab for the university's ineptitude," Barton said. "Probably the only real opportunity to begin to solve the problems at Los Alamos is to hire a new contractor, and I support DOE's decision to re-compete the Los Alamos contract."

Several committee members also expressed concern about the pace of implementing additional security initiatives, saying that the Department of Energy was not moving fast enough.

Whitfield, R-Ky., welcomed the Department of Energy's changes to its security policy regarding protection at its nuclear security sites. However, Whitfield is concerned that the implementation of the 14-point initiative is moving too slowly.

"I really want to know how - and how quickly - each DOE and NNSA site will comply with these extensive new requirements," Whitfield said. "These upgrades will be expensive, and they could take years to implement."

####

The Committee on Energy and Commerce
2125 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
(202) 225-2927


Comments:
Has anyone seen what those 3000 issues are? I have a hard time to believe that number. I would think that it is highly exaggerated to justify the shut-down.
 
The 3000 issues we identified by our MSA process. I would believe the number of issues. The MSA process was a good faith effort to identify problems. The CAPs are what I have trouble with. The CAPs have been watered down to the point of having no value to address issues in our "operationally challenged" institution.
 
I'm sorry. I don't understand. What are CAPs?
 
I too have a question. What is the 14 point initiative that Rep. Whitfield talked about?
 
Just more blustering by the blowhards in congress. Two things:

First, the standdown was not done in a vacuum. The DOE was fully in agreement with everything that happened during the standdown.

Second, the UC contract to manage LANL limits the liability to the management fee.
 
MSA - Management Self-Assesment.
CAP - Corrective Action Plan
 
Well, I think the shutdown was not just egregious but a criminal action, and that the two people primarily responsible for it should, at the least, repay the federal government. These two people are quite plainly Pete Nanos and Linton Brooks. Charge them, let them declare bankruptcy, and let them get a "Get out of Jail Free" card, and call it over.
 
The 6:56 post is very interesting, and troubling. It is quite believable that the MSA could find 3000 issues, because an adequate MSA, in spite of years of "walking the spaces" and "self assessment" hasn't been done prior to the shutdown. DX Division couldn't even do the MSA without a lot of hand holding. In spite of LANL claims ISSM wasn't working, it was just going through the motions. That is what the MSA established, beyond doubt, and this is documented in the DOE's 2004 Appraisal of LANL.
Having, finally, been forced to do a "real" MSA it is imperative that LANL have "real" CAPs and work them off. Here, history is not encouraging. In the 1991 Tiger Team LANL management, under the gun, did a "real" MSA. They also did "real" CAPs; and I was "in charge" of closing a few of them out. I, and others, got no support for this. We did "paper plans", but no action resulted, no resources were provided. Then, in the 1995 RIF, they terminated the "tracking team" which was tracking the TT CAPs and the fact that they weren't being given resources. After the RIF Sig declared that TT was history; and LANL "walked" from its responsibilities; with the claim that TQM/CQI would fix all the problems; the old "silver bullet" trick. A year later the "flatland" reorganization was to fix all the problems. LANL is truly unique; they, alone in the DOE complex "stiffed" the TT, and got away with it. Result, the problems remained. Go to the Study Center, and read the TT findings; it will sound familiar.
It seems we are about to get an "instant replay". Having been forced, under duress, to a "real" self assessment, the managers will now "get religion" like they did for the TT in 1991, because "getting religion" is necessary to keep their jobs. Now comes the "watered down" CAPs. Look for a "silver bullet" next. Only the labels change, as history repeats, once again.
For completeness, we only need to put Charlie Robertson in charge of working off the CAPs. He knows the drill from the TT; malicious "compliance" is the name for this game.
 
The Lab recently received its performance fee for the FY04 Appendix F Performance Assement. The Lab FAILED the performance assessment in a gigantic fashion receiving only 33% ($2.9M) of the possible fee (see post). If you go to the new communication spin called Dir notebook on the LANL home page you will find a video in which Dir Nanos admits that it was not a "good year because of the shutdown".

Please tell me who is responsible for the shutdown?
Didn't the same individual berate the staff for not being accountable?

Dir Nanos should follow his own requirements and behave in the only responsible manner and in an honorable fashion. He should have taken full responsibility, acted in an accountable fashion and RESIGNED. In fact he should still do this.
Dir J. Browne was at least honorable and responsible.
 
One of the most notable (or prominent) corrective actions was to expand the secure network. All that one needs to do is watch this slothly endeavor to see how serious management really is about solving problems.
 
The poster at 12:33 has some interesting points. I was in charge of a large facility with a wide variety of hazards during the Tiger Team visit. The Tigers were brutal and the staff just broke their backs to fix every problem identified immediately. In the end I was handed my head and encouraged to resign with the explaination I had been too concerned with safety. My manager at the time was only interested in finding ways to drag his feet on any proceedure the Tigers wanted implemented.

Sometime later I was acting as the Quality officer in another division, and again I was told to go attend my quality conferences, but not to bother the division office with any of that quality nonsense.

It looks to me like the shutdown was an awful, unnecessary and even cruel action by a megalomaniac, but their is a culture problem at the Lab. It is the culture of the midlle and upper management.
 
UC still has $2.9 million of the fee left. Might just have to take that and write the rest off as an "uncollectible debt".
 
Every manager of complex facilities, especially ones that have exceeded their design life by a decade or more, knows that he or she has problems in maintenance and operations. These problems are found in inspections and self-assessments and are appropriately documented. Every manager I know submits this list for funding and is told to prioritize them. In medicine this would be comparable to triage. Coming up with this prioritized list obviously involves a great deal of conjecture. The manager submits his or her prioritized list up the management chain and, in almost 100% of the time, even some of the prioritized items are not funded. Yet when something happens like the laser injury, only the parties that denied funding to cover identified shortfalls escape reprimands and punishment. (Chemistry Division managers had requested and been denied funding by the Laboratory Director for a person to help oversee and enforce safety compliance.)

On the other hand, a division manager threatened to lock down TA-18 a few years ago and have his people abandon the site if money to operate the site safely was not promptly provided. Strangely, the money came post haste from DOE/NNSA and the facility continued to operate safely (and securely) in spite of the fact that it was one of oldest facilities on site.

However, hardball tactics can only be used sparingly and in healthy organizations driven by principle and not "inane arbitrariness to reduce overheads" they are needed even less. Worrying about overheads seems particularly inane considering that our senior management seems to have wasted $1B by some estimates on overhead processes of dubious long term value.

As a manager today I keep asking myself, where would my facilities and those in the rest of Laboratory be if that same $IB had been used to correct specific things that we already knew about and had documented instead wasting hours finding out what we already knew and creating mountains of useless SYA paperwork?
 
I completely agree that the cost of the suspension should be borne by UC, because it happened on UC's watch. Let 'em take it out of the credit due to UC for operating the Laboratory for peanuts for 62 years!
 
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