Thursday, March 31, 2005

UCRP Query

Dear Doug,

I thought a lot of people would be interested in this question and the semi-answer. Since my name is embedded in the messages, it need not be posted anonymously. Yours, George Baker

From: John Birely
To: Ron Nelson
Date: Wed, 30 Mar 2005 03:58:33 -0800
Subject: UCRP Query


During a meeting with los alamos employees yesterday, george baker asked if
uc fails to win the los alamos management contract, is it the university's
position that all the lab's employees are terminated from uc employment and
the vested members automatically become inactive members of ucrp unless they
retire or do something else. I did not feel competent to answer this one, so
please advise.

Thanks, john

From: Ron Nelson
To: John Birely
Date: Wed, 30 Mar 2005 20:20:30 -0800
Subject: Re: UCRP Query

If the University no longer holds the contract it has no economic means of
continuing employment of the workforce. Based on economic necessity
employees would be terminated as funding for them is ended. That may or may
not be on the same date depending on the transition plan that NNSA approves.

What you have recounted is a correct statement of what normally occurs as
individuals leave UC employment either through retirement or through
voluntary or involuntary termination. Where, as may occur at Los Alamos, all
employees are terminated based on contract expiration there may be
additional terms offered to some or all of the terminating employees if NNSA
determines that it is appropriate. Should that become the case it will be
communicated to employees as a consequence of the RFP or during the
transition period between contractors.

Why, pray tell would this be of interest?

This is common sense stuff.

Unless of course, you're trying to wind everyone up and get them screwed into the ceiling with rage and anger over something that would happen no matter who has the contract for the lab.

I just hope that the mentality of LANL moves into the 21st century when the new manager comes on board.

The relics from the past have got to go...
Thank-you. Even though it is a cryptic note, it is good to have insight into the possible contract change-over. Regarding contractual matters, what is written counts- common sense doesn't enter into much.
I believe that the point of the pair of memoranda between Birely and Nelson was that at least *they* believe that UC's normal or default practice would be to terminate all of it's LANL employees, thus making us inactive members as a matter of course.

The implication is that NNSA/DOE might specifically request or require otherwise. Unless our retirement funds are part of the "package" being offered LockMart-TX or Halliburton or whomever, there is no obvious reason to do anything different than to allow current, vested UC employees to maintain their UCRP status as inactive members.

I am less than 2 years shy of minimum retirement age with over 25 years of service. The projected value of my retirement as a UCRP member is likely to be significantly higher than if it is turned over to another retirement system, particularly a Defined Contribution rather than Defined Benefit type of plan.

I'm all for enlightened self-interest but I often go light on the "self-interest". This time I want to at least be aware of what I am giving up if I let this pass without taking any action.

I am more concerned that a new contractor will do egregious damage to the functioning of the laboratory, that it will truly not return to a place I would want to work at.

As for being unmarketable outside of LANL? I happen to have turned down several job offers this past year and am currently on a sabbatical in lieu of simply quitting and taking another position elsewhere. My frustrations with the standdown and with the general tone of management from the top down drove me to seek some respite, if only partial and only temporary. If I did not like living in New Mexico and did not believe that the Laboratory could be a good place to work again, I would have simply beaten the rush and left.

Like all large institutions, LANL has a distribution of employees. Some might very well be unmarketable elsewhere, some might be buttheads and cowboys (I know my share), some might be whiners and dilletantes (again), but I also know that many are top people in their fields, in high demand, and often quite humble and loyal.

I read and post to this blog infrequently and am equally heartened and dismayed by what I see here at times. I am heartened that there is a place like this for people to vent and to announce new information and to discuss possible issues and things they can do to improve the situation *for everyone*. I am dismayed by the sniping and fear/hate mongering that seems to come up on both sides of the debate.
The initial furor LANL employees raised when the draft RFP came out seemed to make NNSA/DOE re-think at least some of the contents. Local politicians told us not to worry, that everything would be fine, that they would do whatever necessary to stop the ‘exodus’. For short time, it seemed like employees actually believed this—they actually had HOPE again. That optimism was short-lived however. Companies that formerly bailed out of the competition are now jumping back in. Why? What has changed to make LANL more attractive to them? Is it something new within the RFP? Whatever it is, you can be sure it isn’t good for the employees. Something’s happening. The dynamic is changing and the downward spiral is accelerating.

The new RFP won’t address the concerns raised by LANL employees as long as its being administered by incompetent, mid-level, civil service weenies jealous of the brilliant, successful and well-compensated folks at LANL. I’ll never understand how LANL let itself get to the point where its being run by NNSA/DOE—but that’s what’s happened. As long as NNSA micromanages LANL’s operations, things will not change and they’ll only get worse. It doesn’t matter who the director is and it doesn’t matter who gets the contract: LANL--as we used to know and love it--is dead. I can’t envision any scenario whereby LANL would return to its preeminent status while under such stifling and meaningless oversight by imbecilic career bureaucrats that don’t have a clue what LANL does. Congratulations NNSA. Congratulations DOE. Congratulations Congress. You’ve been trying to bring LANL down for a long time and it looks like you’ve finally succeeded.

One other thing: at some point during the next several years, the US will likely need to either redesign, test, or even USE some of our weapons. We wish your GS-13s luck in coming up with viable new weapon designs. We wish your LockMarTex junior executives luck in fielding a successful nuclear test and and analyzing its data. We’d like to help—but you’ve made it painfully clear that you no longer need—nor want—our expertise.

A 29+ year employee of the weapons program that will be FORCED to retire…
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