Saturday, March 05, 2005

Re: The LANL of the future revisited

From Anonymous:

The LANL of the future revisited

I am a procurement specialist at LANL and am accustomed to being perceived and portrayed as an FTE that sucks money away from important mission activities. If I were a TSM, I suppose that I would feel that way. But the sad reality of the situation, folks, is that the bureaucracy imposed on procurement only continues to increase, the number of procurement staff continues to decrease, and yep, it's only going to be worse this fiscal year. There have been over 30 job offers made to job seekers for procurement positions and the rate of rejection is well over 90%. The reason - lack of competitive pay.

At one time, LANL had a signature authority of $25M per contract; today, after the Bussolini/Alexander/mustang debacle, our signature authority has been stripped to $10M. What that means is that every procurement exceeding $10M has to be reviewed at DOE/NNSA headquarters (read scrutinized with a microscope) before it can be awarded. And I'm not kidding - a simple typo, a misplaced comma - can be grounds for rejection. So before the package is sent to headquarters, a team of about 20 individuals, from procurement folks to attorneys to senior managers, spend weeks reviewing each and every page.

We've had six procurement managers in the past 8 years, some left to other positions outside and inside the Lab, and one was removed by Salgado for lack of performance, only to be reassigned a lesser job at the same pay until he retired. Since September of 2003, when the Director imposed the IWD process and later the QA process on procurements, the amount of time it takes to get all the t's crossed and the I's dotted has just added another delay layer to the procurement process. Add the number of IG agents who show up at our offices with their badges along with other auditors, it's a test of endurance to work here any more.

By the way, you don't need to worry about procurement sucking out too much money much longer. The current staff is about 30% less than it was five years ago and over half of the staff is eligible for retirement (and many are already starting to leave). I wish the successful contractor all the luck in recruiting and retaining procurement personnel in the future. After a couple of years of extended work weeks and with no future relief in sight, this 25 year veteran of the procurement wars is polishing the resume and sighing a relief of good bye.

Good luck to the new contractor because I don't see any of the new recruits with the same work ethic that I possess. And good luck to you TSM's - if you thought the procurement process was slow, try having your procurements placed by half the current staff and by individuals with only 1 to 3 years of experience. As a data point, Sandia has half the procurement budget and twice the procurement staff than LANL. A job there sounds very good to me!

BTW, I've truly enjoyed working with most of you TSM's - your science is awesome - and once we achieved a level mutual respect for each other's roles - we had successful interactions and you were pleased with my efforts. Heck, sometimes we even laughed together. Laughter at work - what a concept!


I'm sorry now for each time I was impatient with one of you purchasing folks.

I thought we had it bad.

-- A TSM
You should take every opportunity to point out the problems with the bureaucracy, with how it gets in the way of the LANL mission, of how you are unable to accomplish what you need to accomplish because of it. Yes, it's a Don Quixote approach, but if you have a desire to be a good citizen, you will fight the good fight, you will document the problems, etc.

Send that documentation to the blog so that it can be forwarded to UC/DOE/NNSA/Congress.
"Send that documentation to the blog so that it can be forwarded to UC/DOE/NNSA/Congress."

Which it will be.
Yes, the documentation will be forwarded, maybe multiple times. And you can address the point made in other comments about why contracts under $500,000 automatically go to KSL, rather than being bid out. Has LANL become such a huge welfare program that it must support KSL at the expense of northern New Mexico businesses? Let's nip this in the bud. Give us the name of the person making this decision so we can send it on to UC/DOE/NNSA/Congress with an explanation of what terrible idea it is. Let's get this published in the Monitor, the New Mexican, etc. so small companies know who is responsible for taking away their livelihood.
Haven't heard any laughter at work for a long, long time. Don't think we'll be hearing any in the near future either.
Maybe the procurement specialist could comment on the following which was a comment posted under the main post entitled Leaky Roofs dated February 24, 2005.

"The Support Services Subcontractor (KSL) was hired by Joe Salgado over the recommendations of the committee established to evaluate the bidders. It is true that Haliburton is the major stakeholder in the company. In addition, the contract is a cost plus award fee agreement where the contractor is paid for all work (right or wrong) on set hourly rates. The award fee is in addition to the loaded labor and materials charges. This is THE WRONG CONTRACT FOR THE SSS! Making matters worse, the performance measures for the first 6 months of FY05 were never made public for facility staff to use or provide feedback to senior managers to support award fee determination. In essence, senior managers will likely award or slash KSL fee as they see fit without input from the field.

What is KSL's punishment for all this poor performance? Senior managers are going to hand 2.5M sf of "green buildings" to KSL for them to manage without LANL involvement. So, it seems poor performance is being rewarded with a lucrative sole-source and uncompeted facility management contract for over 25% of all Laboratory space.

Just when you think things can't get any crazier...."
Be careful not to blame the Buyers for the inefficiencies in the LANL Procurement function. It is the old guard managers that are the problem. A few new managers have been brought in and they are doing their best to overcome the obstructionism by the old guard managers.
One way to push back at the bureaucracy is malicious compliance. Work to the letter of the rules to illustrate how absurd the rules are.
As measured by the empty parking lots at 7:45 AM and at 5:10 PM, it would seem that working-to-the-rule has already started. Then maybe the empty lots are caused some other factor. Some folks may not be driving out of fear that they or their vehicles might fall into the potholes. They seem to be both proliferating and getting larger.
I think I saw a rabbit with a pocketwatch jumping into one of the potholes in the parking lot in front of the T-Div building, muttering something about being late for a meeting.
Strange, in about the same location, I also heard someone in a black hat running around saying "Off with their heads, off with their heads!"
I really sympathize with the writer. As a long-time heavy user of SP/MAT/BUS/SUP services, I agree that things have gone pretty far away from what it once was.

The main changes I see is management attitude and the move away from the original concept under which the Lab operates.

Today, all I hear is how it is impossible for them to get what is needed when it is needed, as opposed to figuring out a way to get the job done. It's not the fault of the buyers - they're doing their best. But the SUP management is in full compliance mode, which means running procurement strictly by the book without regard to the impact on programs - the procurement tail is definately wagging the science dog.

The original intent of the "Managing and Operating (M&O)," or "Government-owned, Contrator-operated (GOCO)" concept was that the government did not have the expertise to do the Lab's work and could not work efficiently due to tons of government regulation. So the idea was for the government to define their requirements and for the contractor to determine the best way of meeting those requirements. For more than 60 years, it worked well. In the last few years, however, we have come increasingly under the full federal regulations. For example, we used to do procurements by the "government norm," that is, the spirit of the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FARs). Today, we are almost completely operating under the letter of those regulations.

If the Lab cannot get out of compliance mode and return to the original spirit of the GOCO concept, we might as well be federalized.
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