Sunday, March 27, 2005

The source of much of the animosity from NNSA towards LANL

Lifted from the http://lanl-the-real-story.blogspot.com/2005/03/lanl-staff-made-too-much-money.html post:

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 [NNSA] get paid less. However, they have other benefits, and in fact, the jobs are so different the comparison is worthless.


Comments:
From search on salary.com, using CA as location. These numbers require at least 10 yrs. experience:

Electrical Engineer 95-112K
Mechanical Engineer 96-112K
Physicist 110-127K
Chemist 87-111K
Lawyer 132-173K
Accountant 68-85K
Biologist 72-104K

LANL salaries are not high compared to this data! (Research time: 10 minutes) Where is DOE going to find 2000 physicists who will work for minimum wage with no benefits?
 
This is a bit misleading. The salaries for the lawyers are out of range for the types of lawyers that govennment labs employ. Lawyers with ~10 years experience at those salary levels are partners in private practice at very successful law firms.
 
I'm not sure where this is going... Every year, the salary exercise adjusts Lab-wide averages in each series to match averages in other industries, national labs and institutions. HR used to post the exact list of comparables. So while there may be differences in particular elements, LANL does not have higher or lower average salaries compared to the average of its assumed peers.
 
Salary is only half the story. Los Alamos is one of the highest cost-of-living areas in the state and in most of the nation. Our food, gasoline, housing, construction materials, and everything we buy that has to be trucked up the hill costs significantly more than most flat-land folks have to pay. Moreover, our isolation requires us to drive to either Santa Fe or Albuquerque and back to buy some simple item that we need but can't find up here.

Since shanghaiing and vassal bondage are now outlawed (although some in NNSA apparently would like to reinstated those practices), you have to pay for labor at the same or similar mark up.
 
My experience with the DOE is not that they resent LANL perks, they resent LANL arrogance (well represented in these postings) and the difficulty of getting deliverables from LANL; as in "pit production" for example.
The comparisons made seem bogus. Comparing LANL TSMs with UC employees of 15 years means comparing them with tenured UC profs. How many of you think you can get tenure at UC? Zero... As to comparing LANL Group Leaders with Department Heads, how many of these GLs could get tenure at UC? Zero...
Comparing the LANL Director with the UC President is a joke. Two ex LANL Directors, Hecker and Browne, are still employees of LANL. Their skills, at screwing up mostly, left LANL as their best job opportunity. In a word, they are unemployable outside of LANL. So, what are the "worth"? Something less than their current salaries.
How about comparing "apples and apples"? Compare LANL with a working model of a DOE lab, Sandia for instance. That might be useful. Comparing LANL TSMs to tenured UC faculty isn't. It is dreamland...
 
To 10:16 AM:

Rubbish!! Absolute rubbish. Are you saying that out of 2000 scientist employed here NONE would qualify for tenured jobs at UC? Where do you work? Have you ever met LANL scientists?

I can say from firsthand experience: there are several people on my floor of the caliber to be tenured faculty at Berkeley, MIT, Princeton, etc. We are talking true world experts in their respective fields. Why are they here? A variety of reasons: family (e.g., wife works at LANL), initial offer was attractive, etc. Above all, when they were hired they must’ve thought LANL was just a good place to do science.

Now, looking into the future you might actually be right: with all the humiliation and abuse LANL scientists have been subjected to lately, anybody who's any good will pack up and leave. When that happens, you will indeed have 2000 mediocre people whom nobody else wants. Things will look just fine on paper, but in reality this will mean the death of LANL.
 
Keep in mind that staff salaries at Livermore are about 10% higher than at Los Alamos. NNSA is clearly not on the warpath against Livermore.

Livermore has had its share of spies and lost secrets, stockpile disasters, cost overruns ($2 billion on NIF so far), failed programs (x-ray laser weapons), facility problems (Superblock), and scandals (lost keys, whistleblower retaliation). In spite of these failing, NNSA renewed the UC contract to manage Livermore (which runs out this year) for another two years. Perhaps if the Los Alamos contract competition goes badly, NNSA will use it as a reason to renew UC's contract with Livermore again!
 
Last time I checked, LANL delivered on pit production.

So what's the beef?
 
To 5:47 AM: You under estimate the compensation to lawyers in top law firms. Entry level lawyers from top law schools going into top law firms make salaries in the $120K to $140K before bonuses.

To 10:16 AM: I believe you need to review basic facts before pontificating about the arrogance of Los Alamos staff. If you work for the DOE as I suspect you do, you need to listen to Secretary Bodman who spoke to the issue of alleged arrogance. If you have access to Los Alamos performance records, you will observe that, by the standard metrics applied to industry and by convention to the DOE, Los Alamos under John Browne achieved a sustained best of class within the DOE and was on par with the best in industry. The same can be shown for security. Unfortunately your diatribe is all too common. It is uninformed and diabolically destructive in its intent. It's borne of a deep, despicable resentment and a pathological envy of the careers of people who have excelled academically and professionally and who have subordinated their lives to the service of this Nation.
 
To 5:47 AM: You under estimate the compensation to lawyers in top law firms. Entry level lawyers from top law schools going into top law firms make salaries in the $120K to $140K before bonuses.

To10:16 AM: I believe you need to review basic facts before pontificating about the arrogance of Los Alamos staff. If you work for the DOE as I suspect you do, you need to listen to Secretary Bodman who spoke to the issue of alleged arrogance. If you have access to Los Alamos performance records, you will observe that, by the standard metrics applied to industry and by convention to the DOE, Los Alamos under John Browne achieved a sustained best of class within the DOE and was on par with the best in industry. The same can be shown for security. Unfortunately your diatribe is all too common for believers caught up in fairy tales and urban legions. It is uninformed and diabolically destructive in its intent. It is borne of a deep, despicable resentment and destructive envy of the careers of people who have accomplished extraordinary achievements academically and professionally and who were willing to subordinate their lives to the service of this Nation.
 
10:16 convinces me that in three years, we'll all be in new jobs at different institutions, with higher salaries and greater respect, watching with ironic pleasure as the DOE carries out its institutional navel-gazing over how it destroyed its flagship lab.

I'm amazed at the perceptions from Washington about LANL TSM mobility. One university hired away an entire Lab group. I'm batting away unsolicited recruiter phone calls with both hands (for now). I suspect corporate recruiters will soon be here en masse to clean the place out. There's a nasty reality check ahead for DOE.
 
To the 10:16 poster

You need to get your facts straight about the quality of the scientists at Los Alamos. About the comment that no one
from LANL could be a faculty member at UC. This is already false. I know of people in
my divisions that have been offered full tenured professorships at UC Riverside and UC Davis and turned them down to stay at LANL. Also one of the people in our division is leaving now for a professorship at UCSD. Also in my division I know of people in the last three years that have turned down
faculty positions to stay at Los Alamos at MIT, U of Illinois, Ohio State, Purdue, U of Arizona, Virginia Tech, Northwestern, Central Florida,
U of Missouri, Oregon State, WPI, Kansas State, U of Jerusalem, U of Southern Florida, U of Tennessee and SDSU. Additionally people have also left for faculty positions at U of Chicago, Cornell, two people to UC Davis,
Southern Methodist, LSU, Tulane, Cornell, U of Arizona,
Washington University, Texas AM, William and Mary. U of
Wisconsin, U of Nebraska, RPI and Notre Dame. Also several of the divisions members are adjunct faculty at U of Arizona, and UC Santa Cruz. Also there are many more that I am not aware of. Additionally some people in my group have been approached about positions at Columbia, UCSB and Boston U.
Also I believe John Brown is no longer at LANL and
is a president of a University.

Now these are people only in my division. In other divisions I know many more people
who have been offered faculty positions or who left for them . LANL is ranked 11th in the world in terms of impact from publications and citations.
Make no mistake whatsoever
all the good people can and will leave and it will be absolutely devastating to LANL and a huge blow to the United States. Finley I should also add that there are also great scientists in the weapons part of the lab.
However, due to security they do not in general publish,
and in many ways have sacrificed chances at academic positions for the security of the country.
 
6:45p is correct that those of us embedded deeply in the weapons program have sacrificed our chances in academia in order to serve the nation. It is also true that our chances of entering academia are not zero, since some of us do have modest publication records and good contacts. Maybe we won't go into tenured positions, but we do have options. I'm also certain that our knowledge of nuclear weapons can be tapped and used elsewhere by the government - and not by DOE.
 
Well, 6:45, it sounds like those people who had offers should see if they can resurrect them - and those who don't should get some.

As far as those that have sacrificed chances at academic positions for the security of the country, they'll have to be content knowing they did a good thing, explore options to use what knowledge they do have, and hope that their experience will serve as an example to others contemplating that route.
 
I always thought that the Q clearance was worth another $15k-$20k on the market. Now you're telling me that it doesn't add anything to my paycheck?

And to think that Pete Nanos put his hand in my pants this year and pulled out $400 (my October-December raise). Thanks a lot Pete.

-Dawn-
 
Will someone please tell me why in the world a bunch of people who have little or no technical skills, training, education or talent believe they should be making the same salaries as the highly skilled, educated, and internationally recognized scientific staff at LANL? Furthermore, they have always touted the "fact (desire?)" that they hire the very best scientists to support the national security work done at the Lab, but they resent having to pay for it? Am I missing something? Or is it that they want the very best, but don't want to pay for them? I'd like to see those politicians get out there and defend this country the way our scientific staff has done for 60 years! Perhaps they could start by going to Iraq on the next ship commanded by Nanos.
 
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