Saturday, March 26, 2005

Politics Loom Over LANL Deal

Albuquerque Journal North
Saturday, March 26, 2005

Politics Loom Over LANL Deal


By Adam Rankin
Journal Staff Writer

One of the more vocal proponents of the competition for Los Alamos National Laboratory is also a major recipient of political donations from companies interested in becoming the next operator of the $2 billion LANL contract.

Rep. David Hobson, R-Ohio, received close to $70,000 in campaign donations in 2003-2004 from political action committees or individual donors associated with nine different companies interested in running LANL, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

"It would be shocking if anyone wasn't giving him contributions," said Danielle Brian, director of Washington, D.C.,-based Project on Government Oversight. "You have to be careful (not) to read too much into it. He is in this incredibly powerful position in Congress— every pork barrel project comes through his subcommittee."

Brian said Hobson's motivations for a fair and open competition for the LANL contract seem genuine and that antagonism toward the University of California is a growing bipartisan trend among lawmakers.

Calls to Hobson's office were not returned.

The growing influence of politics in the LANL competition is a trend University of California officials are watching carefully and with concern.

"The University of California has consistently said that it manages Los Alamos as a public service, and the reason we believe that is because we believe politics should not enter into it," said Scott Sudduth, the school's vice president for governmental relations. "It is increasingly troublesome to the university that politics may trump public service."

Hobson's top contributor— the Columbus, Ohio-based Battelle Memorial Institute— donated $29,250 through its political action committees and employees in the last year, but recently backed out of the competition for LANL.

Officials with Battelle, which already runs five Department of Energy national laboratories, have said running LANL would stretch their resources thin, but gave no specific reason for pulling out of the competition.

Political action committees for Bechtel, Fluor and Washington Group, none of which had previously donated money to Hobson, contributed a total of $15,000 to the congressman from 2003 to 2004. All three are major DOE contractors and have been cited as potential LANL co-managers.

CH2M Hill, Jacobs Engineering, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Computer Sciences Corp. contributed a total of more than $25,000 to Hobson through their political action committees, all of which are or had been potential LANL bidders and have also contributed to Hobson in the past.

As chairman of the appropriations subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, Hobson holds a powerful position that approves funding for the DOE and the National Nuclear Security Administration, which oversee LANL and its contract competition.

In a Feb. 8 letter to Energy Secretary Sam Bodman, Hobson criticized the contract competition for favoring the University of California in many respects and for restricting competition.

He wrote of his concern that Battelle, Lockheed Martin and the University of Texas had decided to withdraw from the competition.

"I interpret their business decisions to avoid this contract as very strong evidence that the (request for proposals) is flawed," Hobson wrote.

He noted that the ability to do "world-class science," the top-valued criterion for determining the next LANL manager and top strength of the University of California, "does not provide an objective measure of a contractor's performance."

"Given that the problems at the Los Alamos National Laboratory are primarily issues of management and industrial practices, potential bidders are reading the RFP's focus on world class science as an effort by the Department (of Energy) to maximize the strength of the incumbent contractor and minimize the management strengths of potential competitors," Hobson wrote.

Hobson also urged Bodman to increase the performance management fee for operating LANL and to drop the requirement that "the winning proposal has to maintain the current pension benefit package" for lab employees, even though proposed pension plans are not part of the evaluation criteria for determining the next LANL manager.

If steps weren't taken to attract more bidders to compete for the LANL contract, Hobson warned, "I will direct the Department to revise the RFP in a manner designed to encourage rather than discourage competition."

Within 10 days, NNSA released a series of amendments to its draft request for proposals, which included many of the changes urged by Hobson, as well as potential bidders, including doubling the performance management fee to $60 million a year and requiring the winning bidder to create a stand-alone pension benefit plan.

Asked about the political influence of Hobson, potential bidders and other lawmakers on the competition process, Tyler Przybylek, NNSA's chairman of the evaluation board overseeing the competition, said he and the board have "tried to make ourselves extraordinarily accessible to anyone who had views."

He said he's met with employees, neighboring pueblos, community groups, potential bidders and lawmakers "and we are taking all of that into account."

But Przybylek said the input will stop once the final criteria are released toward the end of April.
"I take very seriously the idea that everybody involved in this process has to believe that it is impartial and there aren't any influences on the board," he said.

Comments:
The disturbing thing about Hopson’s position is that he does not seem to care about the damage the terms he want would cause. He wants the RFP to be written in a manner that clearly favors business interests and their bottom lines. He does not value the science. He does not value the employees. The net result would be the gutting of Los Alamos. He wants to serve us up on a platter. In our current weakened state, the result could be fatal. In any case, LANL would never be the same.

Perhaps this is exactly the result Hopson wants. Then the portion of the discretionary budget that goes to Los Alamos would be available for the plethora of pork-barrel projects Congress-People love to direct to their constituents. Hopson absolves himself of any guilt by making the argument that nuclear weapons do not matter and that our conventional forces provide an adequate deterrence. Congress-People are accountable only to their constituents, so he is doing exactly what any rational person would do, looking out for his best interests. Our congress-people will do the same.

Our problem is that Pete and his crew of misfits has helped set the stage for all of this to happen. Maybe this would be happening anyway, Pete or not. It is clear that truth, patriotism, or right and wrong have nothing at all to do with us. The folks in DC are fighting over how the rotting carcass will be carved up by the vultures.
 
THE BEST REPRESENTATION MONEY CAN BUY
Let's have a quiz: Battelle donated $29,250 to Member of Congress (MC) David Hobson and together CH2M Hill, Jacobs Engineering, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Computer Sciences Corporation contributed a total of $25,000 to the same MC Hobson. The University of California, that for about 63 years has managed Los Alamos National Laboratory as a public service to the benefit of the American taxpayer, donated $0.00 to MC Hobson. The question is which one of the above named potential bidders for the Los Alamos contract gets trounced on by MC Hobson? The clock unfortunately is ticking, ticking, ticking. Bingo, right answer! Member of Congress, the Honorable David Hobson, Republican representing the 7th Ohio Congressional District which abuts Battelle Memorial Institute (applause erupts in the background).

BTW, MC Hobson asked that you be made aware of this IMPORTANT MAIL ADVISORY:

"Due to new security procedures, a substantial delay continues to occur in all mail sent to my Washington, DC office. Therefore, MC Hobson urges all parties wishing to contact him to use other communication channels in order to receive prompt responses. A message written on a check certainly would be acceptable."

To continue without changing the topic, I found it exceedingly interesting that Danielle Brian, Director of the Project on Government Oversight declared, "Don't read too much into this." Translated, "Conflict of interest is just one of those good ole boy things, we all have to live with." Danielle seems to have forgotten that the US Congress is part of the Government her organization publicly inveighs to oversee.

However, there is justice thanks to the outstanding journalism of Adam Rankin, Albuquerque Journal North! Seldom does fate give one the opportunity to catch two squirrels in one trap.

Signed: A Life-Long Lampooning Republican
 
Unfortunately, LANL is involved in a doomed experiment called privatization. We already know it doesn't improve service. There have been numerous GAO reports that say that privatization does not save money for the government. And we can see that modern industry is not interested in long-term research projects, hence the death of Bell Labs.
All privatization does is give a fat check to some corporation or other and its top managers.
I don't think UC has been a great manager, but it has afforded a freer environment for research than most for-profit companies. Unfortunately, it has also allowed management to go hog wild on turf wars and personal vendettas when they ought to be facilitating and guiding research.
The fact that the management fee had to be raised to multiples of the previous one in order attract for-profit companies is only one example of ways a for-profit company costs more.
The fact is that Congressmen Hobson and Barton have been flying in to gather material every time one of these trumped up crises occurs. They have no interest in allocating the funds necessary to build a usable secure system for tracking CREM, they just come to dig up dirt to use against LANL so they can help out their donors.
Unfortunately, Nanos and his predecessors have given them plenty of cannon fodder with their histrionics and retaliation against the innocent.
To say the political system governing the bid process is corrupt is an understatement, but I am not referring to Tyler P's efforts but rather to the political system that allows political patronage to begin with.
I do not understand why corporations are allowed freedom of speech. They are not citizens and, by their very charters, cannot take into account what is best for anyone but themselves and they don't. They are required by their charters to make the most money they can for their shareholders. During the LANL bid we are seeing a great example of how corporate control of government functions is no help.
There are problems with government control as well. The government used to subsidize Los Alamos to make up for the lack of taxes generated by private use of the land it occupies and the special demands it makes on government.
In recent years, it has cut such funding leaving the county scraping to come up with enough money to keep many of its vital functions going.
The problems I see in LANL's case are based in legal fundamentals that are unlikely to be changed in the current political environment. I see this all reflected in the public vs. private war being fought over LANL. I can only hope that Americans will think harder about the harm being done in this country by the unusual powers given to corporations, as citizens are personally affected.
Corporations are good for what their charters say they will do -- making money for shareholders. They are not citizens deserving personal freedoms of citizens. In fact, the shareholders may very well not be citizens of the US. Yet corporations are allowed to donate to political campaigns as if they were citizens. I believe if we would restrict all corporations from donating to political campaigns as we restrict foreigners from donating to political campaigns, we would find much more citizen friendly and science friendly outcomes.
 
Quite a few years ago I worked for a company based in Hanford, Washington.

Recently, I made an inquiry about how much my pension from them would be.

This pension fund is administered by several entities, perhaps most notably, including FLUOR, CH2MHILL, and BECHTEL.

Of course, my salary was quite a bit lower then. But I worked there for some seven years.

My pension, for having worked for seven years (if I wait until I’m 65)…

About $70 a month.

A portent of things to come?

Anonymous
 
Back in 2003 my wife (who does not wish to publicly come forward) made a call to the DOE offices in Washington to express her concern about the situation that was developing with LANL. She was connected with an attorney for the DOE named Tyler, who for several reasons we believe was in fact, Tyler Przybylek. She expressed her concern to him that most of the LANL employees preferred to remain under UC, and the UCRP retirement system.

Tyler was extremely hostile and sarcastic. He said that the LANL employees had already had their say, and now the DOE and others would decide what would be the final outcome. He stated that LANL employees were overpaid and had too large pensions; but that the government was going to change all that. He said that he had previously worked at Los Alamos, but would rather work in Washington at less salary, than work at LANL.

(It was openly apparent that this person deeply resented LANL and its employees. It is quite possible that as an attorney, he had come to Los Alamos expecting a high status; and then became resentful when he discovered the scientists get more respect here.)

It was obvious that this particular Tyler had an anti-LANL, Anti-LANL-employee agenda. If we, as employees, can do anything about this is arguable. It may be too late to do anything. We may never have been able to have done anything.

People who have had dealings with the DOE operation in Washington say that many of the people there have an extreme resentment of LANL. They feel that we overpaid and over-privileged. In reality, we aren’t paid any more than many technical companies in Silicon Valley would pay similarly qualified workers. And many of the DOE employees do not have degrees in technical fields, and are not technically qualified.

I cannot suggest anything effective we can do to help ourselves. But be aware that, just like the song “Smiling Faces”, seemingly friendly people aren’t always your friend.
 
Keep in mind that staff member salaries at Livermore are 10% higher.
 
I think there may be some truth to DOE and others saying that LANL employees are paid too much. However, I would disagree in that I feel that is not true in everyones case. We all know about the deadwood and non performers. There are plenty of people in that group that are overpaid. Then there are the non-scientists that are TSM's when in reality they should be SSM's. There are plenty of support employees that fit that category. You also have to factor in that managers that promote people or give out raises really have no clue as to what those peoples roles and contributions really are. Factor in all the managers that failed and are now sitting in some corner pushing paper. There are quite a good number of employees that get higher positions and huge increases because of who they know, kiss ass or cry and threaten managers that what the do is so important. I can go on and on but in the end its a failure of management and a lack of leadership. So now you have a bunch of people that are in over their heads and way overpaid as well. This goes way further back than Nanos.
 
Hate to say this but one good thing Pete did was the memo regarding lowering salaries of people that went into management resulting in a huge increase, failing and then going back to "?". It actually may drain the swamp of these boneheads as there salaries will go down and since UCRP is based on the highest 3 years they would make more money if they retired. Cool move.
 
If you calm down a bit, and really look at what Hobson is saying, he has a good point, a couple in fact. What the DOE has done at other sites, like Sandia; what they did at JCI, and what they expect to here, is to replace the top management. They expect the staff to remain, but under new management. Given that this is true, as they expect, then putting most of the evaluation on "great science" makes no sense. The staff is the same, the site is the same, ergo the science should remain. Removing Nanos, and his stooges, won't ruin the science, far from it. So, the priority should be on management, as Hobson suggests.
The House, not just Hobson, has a "belly full" for LANL for some years now, and who can blame them? Its been one damned thing after another since 1991. LANL has done a lot of cosmetic "safety and security" but they have not held people accountable. Browne just would not do it; he kept promoting the screw ups.. And UC has done nothing but fly cover. Remember Walp and Doran? The only reason Browne left is that the UC cover up failed, and the House demanded action... At least twice in its history Sandia Lab management got "cleaned out" by folks from ATT, and it did them a lot of good. LANL management needs to be cleaned out, it never has been. Hecker and Jackson got their buddy, Browne, installed and the corruption continued.
Lastly look at the free loaders, especially the ex managers (we all know them); and don't forget the 12 "Senior Advisors". Perhaps giving UC the boot would stimulate these over paid parasites to retire. Until then, they are like ticks, sucking the blood of the lab.
 
Naive me! I thought the Secretary of the Department of Energy ran the DOE, not Congressman Hobson. I think it is quite interesting that he can tell Tyler P. what to do. That isn't how I remember the Constitution.
 
Tyler P. worked both in Los Alamos and Albuquerque DOE Offices. However, there is an entire board overseeing the contract-
 
and here's that highly qualified board (if you like lawyers and bean counters - guess they couldn't find an actual scientist in DOE)...

Members of the Source Evaluation Board For the Selection of a Management and Operating Contractor At Los Alamos National Laboratory

Voting Members:

Chairperson: Source Evaluation Board Tyler Przybylek, General Counsel, NA-3

Technical Member: E. Dennis Martinez, Deputy Site Manager, NNSA Los Alamos Site Office

Technical Member: Patrick T. Cahalane, Nuclear Engineer, Office of Emergency Operations, NA-40

Technical Member: John C. Ordaz, General Engineer, Office of Infrastructure and Facilities, NA-50

Technical Member: George N. Pappas, Acting Deputy, Office of Planning Budgeting and Integration, NA-133

Technical Member: Richard F. Sena, Manager, Environmental Programs Department, NNSA Service Center

Procurement Member: Michael G. Loera, Contracting Officer and Sr. Contract Specialist, M&O Contract Support Division, NNSA Service Center

Non-voting Members:

Executive Secretary: Daniel J. Saiz, Sr. Contract Specialist, M&O Contract Support Division, NNSA Service Center

Legal Advisor: Wilfred E. Maez, Assistant Chief Counsel for Acquisition, NNSA Service Center, Office of Chief Counsel

Procurement Advisor: Juan D. Williams, Acting Director, M&O Contract Support Division, NNSA Service Center

Procurement Advisor: Anthony L. Lovato, Contract Specialist, NNSA Los Alamos Site Office

Industrial Relations Advisor: Roberto A. Archuleta, Sr. Industrial Specialist, Contractor Human Resources Division, NNSA Service Center

Financial Advisor: Gary L. Gilliland, Sr. Cost/Price Analyst, Acquisition Support Division, NNSA Service Center
 
Dennis Martinez and Michael Loera are cronies of our Rich Marquez. Mr. Martinez and Mr. Loera definitely do not have the interests of LANL technical staff in high regard. It is in their interests to promote growth in the NM economy at any cost to what LANL used to do best. Tehy would rather that LANL be an alternative federal funding mechanism for the New Mexico economy. These two folks should recuse themselves from the SEB.

Of course we have heard about Tyler's vehement anti-LANL posture in posts elsewhere in the blog.

Science and Technology as well as nuclear weapons development are doomed to mediocrity if these folks prevail.
 
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.
 
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.
 
If I were absolutely an innocent but accused person and walked into a courtroom only to see a jury of the persons listed as Members of the Source Evaluation Board For the Selection of a Management and Operating Contractor at Los Alamos National Laboratory, I would try to cop a plea knowing that justice would not be possible. How in the name of contract law and principles of basic fairness can this group that, by in large, has been so openly hostile to the University of California, be selected for this assignment? Why not get a committee that at least is impartial and that understands that parochial interests and agendas must be subordinated to the demands of national security.
 
It is all part of the plan. See:
http://www.truthout.org/docs_2005/032705Y.shtml
 
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?