Thursday, March 17, 2005

So remind me again, please,

From Anonymous:

So remind me again, please, why it is (besides the pension plan) we
all hope UC gets to continue to manage the lab:

Is it because of the outstanding directors they have given us in
recent years?

Is it because of the magnificent way UC has stood behind the lab
against dumb DoE actions (can you imagine UC letting anyone close
down their own campuses for a year, or making its professors fill
out two days worth of paperwork just to pour a chemical from one
beaker to another?)

Is it because of the great way UC has come to our support when the
lab is attacked in the press or in Congress or by the FBI? (Would
they meekly allow a Wen Ho Lee affair on a UC campus?)

Is it because we get to pretend to be UC faculty and staff (would
UC allow any of its real faculty to be treated the way we get
treated?)

Maybe I’m missing something here, but I just don’t see (besides the
pensions) what has been so great about being part of UC…………





Comments:
You have good points. UC has not covered itself with honor in the recent "troubles" as the Irish might say on this St. Patrick's Day. However, in order to understand the future, both our activities and those of the University must be evaluated in the longer throe of the past. Possibly, we and the leadership of UCOP should get a copy of LA Science: 60th Anniversary Edition and read it in a quiet corner somewhere.
 
In the authors notes at the end of the book State of Fear, Michael Crichton makes a statement that is relevant here. He said, "There is no difference in outcomes between greed and incompetence." No matter who takes the lead in this partenership the probable outcome, based on passed experience, does not look good.
 
Why UC? Well for one reason, I can't see the Chairman of the Board of Directors for Northrop Grumman or any other "for profit" corporation saying anything close to what the Chairman of the UC Regents Board said yesterday about Lab employees;

"We are going to be paying very close attention to making sure that their retirement, their benefits will be protected in this or we won’t bid," Regents Chairman Gerald Parsky said. "We want to give assurance to them that as part of the UC family we are very cognizant of their concerns."

Or publicly taking the heat for its management lapses at the Lab -"We feel comfortable that errors that were committed in the past have been corrected," Parsky said. "These mistakes will not occur again," Parsky said.

-----------

The Daily Californian
Regents Reaffirm Support For Lab

By TRACI KAWAGUCHI
Contributing Writer
Thursday, March 17, 2005

LOS ANGELES—The UC Board of Regents reaffirmed its confidence in the importance of the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s contributions yesterday. They advised, however, that UC should fight some of the conditions outlined by the federal government.

The draft request for proposal, which was revised by the National Nuclear Security Administration last month, includes conditions that would cause "considerable distress" to UC and the lab’s employees, said Vice President for Laboratory Management Robert Foley.

He said the revised draft, which calls for a "special purpose cooperation" to carry out the contract and a stand-alone pension plan for employees, raises questions over whether the university’s retirement plans and employee benefits will carry over if UC retains its hold on the lab.

"That game is not over yet, but it has the potential for causing some considerable distress," Foley said.

The regents said they will wait for the final request for proposal, which could be released as early as April, before making a final decision on whether to bid.

"We are going to be paying very close attention to making sure that their retirement, their benefits will be protected in this or we won’t bid," Regents Chairman Gerald Parsky said. "We want to give assurance to them that as part of the UC family we are very cognizant of their concerns."

Despite some regents’ concerns over the proposed conditions to run the lab, they stressed the importance of the lab’s contributions to both the university and the nation.

Regent Norman Pattiz said he had taken a "take a wait and see" attitude at one time, but after a recent trip to the lab, many of his questions were answered.

"It’s ... very clear to me that the wide variety of work being done here is crucial, essential and beyond the scope of just what’s important for the university but important for the nation," Pattiz said.

Although recent security lapses have raised concerns over UC’s ability to manage the lab, Parsky said the lab and the university have come up with a mutual commitment to avert such mishaps in the future.

UC is currently in talks with private corporations to team up to run the lab, Foley said, which could boost UC’s chances to keep the lab.

"We feel comfortable that errors that were committed in the past have been corrected," Parsky said. "These mistakes will not occur again," Parsky said.

Foley pointed to the string of competitors "falling by the wayside" as an indication that UC still has a chance to hold onto the lab.

"Part of it is because they can’t come up with a suitable academic partner. (If) you start looking at academic potentials out there you would have a tough time of coming up with an equivalent," Foley said. "Nobody does science and technology like the University of California."

-----------

UC may be defending itself in defending Los Alamos, but that's more than I can say about DOE's constantly throwing the Lab under the bus when things go wrong or taking all the credit when things go right. Sort of like paying a building contractor to add an addition to your house, then bragging to your neighbors about the great job "you" did and all the hard work "you" did - when in fact all you really did was; write the checks and complain to the contractor that his workers didn't keep your yard clean.
 
Talk is cheap. The Regents can say what they like to the papers - its what UC does (or doesn't do) that really matters.
 
A bigger question to the writer of the piece is why do you work for an enviroment that you so obviously hate?

This is a Federal lab.. that is managed by a University 2 states away. It is a political landmine and people are going to be tripping on it for a long time. It doesnt matter who the contractor is UC, Bechtel, Halliburton, etc.. it will be in the sights of Congress, the FBI, DOE/OA, etc for a long time to come.

Auditors from Congress, DOE, and OMB come into the lab every year and try to make it a finding that there is a mixture of Open Science and Secure Science.. and that the two should never mix. They try to make it a finding that there are foreign nationals working here.. that the majority of computers at the lab are connected to the Internet.. that scientists seem lax about security when in townsite (work conversations and badges at the Daylight Doughnuts, Starbucks,etc).. that there are offices on the townsite..

None of these things will change under the new contractor.. except that the new contractor will more likely be likely to react harshly to them so it can keep the contract.

However this is part and parcel for working for a National laboratory whose main goal/funding is making and/or maintaining nukes.. and dealing with things that are related to that. Expecting anything else is sort of living in Neverneverland. It is a nice never-neverland.. but sort of like wishing that all politicians were honest. You end up constantly disappointed.

Gruntled.
 
Strange...I thought it was because entrusting nuclear weapons design and other national security research to a for-profit "defense" contractor was a bad idea...

Get your eyes out of your navels, guys!
 
Strange...I thought it was because entrusting nuclear weapons design and other national security research to a for-profit "defense" contractor was a bad idea...

Get your eyes out of your navels, guys!
 
Hey Gruntled, just remember what happens when you turn your back on people in Neverland. As they say in the navy, "watch your six."
 
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