Sunday, April 17, 2005

Observations from a Lockheed Employee

There is a theme running through many of the postings in this blog about how terrible it would be to have an industrial partner like Lockheed Martin helping to run the lab. Perhaps it comes from the anti-business academic myths that permeate many campuses, and since LANL is sort of academic some people haven't grown beyond those myths, or perhaps it comes from personal anti-business ideologies. Whatever! I'd like to offer some observations from one who has been a part of Lockheed Martin for a long time, in the hope that these might ease your minds a bit.

First, Lockheed Martin is big and successful and it is very, very good at what it does ­ which is why it is successful. We build the world’s most advanced aircraft and radars and sonars and satellites and air defense systems and air traffic control systems and missiles and communications networks and missile defense systems and logistic systems and intelligence support systems and census systems and…and…and it goes on. And we build even more complex and cutting edge stuff we can't talk about. This doesn't just happen by accident. It takes a lot of experience and brains and innovation and hard work to get a couple of thousand people and a couple of hundred suppliers to assemble several million pieces into a fighter or radar or rocket or satellite or whatever ­ and to have the resulting product have a reliability measured in four or five 9’s. And it takes even more brains and hard work to figure out how to do that repeatedly dozens or hundreds or even thousands of times on an assembly line. You folks are proud of what you do -- we are equally proud of what we do!

What is fundamentally different about a business such as Lockheed Martin is the incentive structure. At the end of the day, we have to deliver working products to our customers and dividends to our shareholders (which includes families like yours and mine, and pension funds like your UC pension fund). The moment we don't there are plenty of competitors out there ready to replace us and plenty of other companies people can move their investment to.

Do we make mistakes and have accidents? Sure, same as any other organization and same as you folks. But mistakes and accidents cost profits and lose customers, so we have a powerful incentive to fix the mistakes and prevent accidents, and we work hard at it.

Do we have bad managers? Sure, a few, same as any other organization and same as you folks. But bad managers produce bad performance, and that costs us profit and customers, so we have a powerful incentive to work hard to train and improve our managers, and we weed out those that can't hack it.

Do we work by the book? Sure, we have processes for everything and we follow them. There is a reason for this ­ we have learned by our mistakes (and we have made some big ones in our time) that management by chaos doesn't work and that big projects get out of control very, very easily and that it is real easy to forget something in a complex assembly and as a result lose an expensive satellite or airplane, so we have a powerful incentive to get things organized and be very sure we do every step right. And we have another incentive ­- our products support customers in critical missions. If our products fail, really bad things can happen, and people, sometimes lots of people, can die. So we are really, really careful about stuff.

Do we sometimes have too much paperwork and bureaucracy? Sure, same as any other organization and same as you folks. But excess paperwork and bureaucracy cost profit, raise our overhead rates, and make us less competitive, so we have powerful incentives to be as efficient as possible. We even have formal processes, learned from Toyota, where workers sit down and figure out how to streamline their own work, and we reward people who make suggestions that make us more efficient.

Do workers sometimes get mistreated in the company? Sure, very occasionally, same as any other organization and same as you folks. But allowing sexual harassment or discrimination or vindictive treatment to exist in our company is very dangerous ­- there are a sea of lawyers waiting to sue us and a mass of government agencies who can take away our contracts for this sort of behavior, so we have a powerful incentive to be sure it doesn't happen and to deal with it promptly if it does. Doing some of these things in our company can get you fired on the spot and led to the door by the guards without stopping to clean out your desk, and that is as it should be.

Besides, the company is smart enough to realize that its most valuable assets go home every night to their families, and if they are mistreated they just might not come back some morning. That would cost (wait for it) profits and customers! So we have a powerful incentive to treat people right.

Do our projects sometimes fail? Sure, sometimes, same as you folks, and for the same reasons ­ we both work at the cutting edge, pushing the unknown, and sometimes we stumble or guess wrong or just try to go a step too far beyond the current state of the art. But we have a powerful incentive to learn, especially from our mistakes, and to do better next time.

In the end Lockheed Martin, and for that matter any other industrial partner you might end up with, is made up of people just like you and me, hard working, bright, proud of what they do and of the missions they have supported. Despite the campus propaganda to the contrary, there is no evil ”they” in most companies, even in upper management ­ just hard working people trying to do very, very difficult jobs in a rapidly changing world with never enough information, budget or schedule.

In the end we really aren't so different. We do really important stuff in the national interest; so do you. We work at the cutting edge, even the bleeding edge sometimes; so do you. We are proud of our contributions to the nation; so are you. We are at the top of our field; so are you. I don't think it would be so hard for us to team up and work well together.

Do we have different cultures? Sure, a little. But we team with lots of other companies who have different cultures from ours, and we not only work well together in these teams, but we learn from each other’s corporate cultures and adopt ideas from each other, and I am sure that is what would happen if we were working with LANL.

If in the end we get to partner with you folks, we will be proud to do so. And I would hope you would be equally proud to have us as a partner.


Bill Godwin, a Lockheed Martin Fellow who is about to retire, lives in Los Alamos, and cares passionately about the future success of the lab.

Very well said. While I hope for personal reasons (keeping the value of pension in my UCRP vestment), perhaps an industrial partnership with Lockheed Martin would be the best of all worlds. In general, employees at LANL are top quality diligent honest safe and yes, secure folks. The chatter and discontent voiced on this blog is a reflection of a number of issues:
1) the inability and dishonorable behavior of Dir. Nanos (not gonna repaly history, but recently he should have led by example and resigned, while taking responsibility and being accountable for the FY04 performance assessment fiasco) and
2) years of stress brought on by the press's unrelenting witchhunt of fiction and real events (starting in 1998 with Wen Ho Lee, 2000 Cerro Grande fire, 2000 lost discs, .... 2003 unfounded purchase card problems, 2003 CREM incident #1, 2004 CREM incident #2, 2004 Lab standdown, ...).

With all of these events and the additional stress of the contract hanging over the staff's financial security, the staff is at the breaking point. Staff are leaving everyday and others are preparing for retirement(2000+ are eligible and filling out paperwork).

The tragedy here is the detrimental impact on national security that the political game playing has had. When it comes down to it, the national labs provide the nation an inexpensive national security hedge, as well as meeting mission requirements. This hedge has been significantly impacted by the current situation at LANL. The only possible mechanism to rollback the problem is to provide a path forward for UC to continue in some fashion in order to retain staff.

While LM undergoes continuous improvement, LANL could and should follow the example and do better in more efficient and productive implementation. Yes, there is an arrogance that LANL needs to drop. Yes LANL staff need to pull themselves up by the bootstraps and get over it and get on with it. All this whining is not moving us to the future.

A long-time (25+ yr) lab employee.
I agree with most of what 05:14:11 says. The part I disagree with is the suggestion that UC should attempt play a part in retaining staff. The most immediate reason we are in our current situation is because UC was unable to manage Nanos, after having picked him without conducting a national search for Brown's replacement. As a result, I do believe most LANL staff have lost whatever faith they ever had in UC. To tell you the truth, I honestly don't know what anybody can do at this point to stem the upcoming flood of retirements and terminations. UC had a shot, had they fired Nanos months ago when et became provable that he had shut the entire lab down without justification. They chose to do nothing. NNSA and DOE show no inclination to step in and do the right thing. I'm afraid the nation is simply going to have to pay the price for the indifference of UC, DOE, and NNSA.
5:32, I speculate all those retiring and deemed important enough can be hired back as consultants if need be.

I suggest those that might fall into this category prepare by getting info on the daily rates charged by members of the "Blue Ribbon Panel", DRC members, other lab panels, consultants, and the like.

BTW, I'm definitely not one of them. I suspect there are many Divisions where no one truly falls into the "important" enough category.
Bureaucratic similarities aside, Lockmart and LANL should have very different motivations for being. And the motivations are not so much different as they are symbiotic. Without concern for immediate financial gain, LANL is (and I insist should) be at liberty to pursue blue-sky ideas and technology that may find use by companies like Lockmart a decade or more hence. Corporate shareholders are not known for such patience, and so it falls to the federal government to invest where corporations dare not, for the long term. The federal government, however, does not invest with complete disinterest but for the private sector to eventually assimilate what were once scientific curiosities into products that further our national security, defense, and economic might in ways that might even advance worldwide peace. It is unclear whether Lockmart or any other corporate entity would set aside its culture of profit to view a multi-program laboratory like Los Alamos as a long-term national investment rather than a subsidiary by which it can gain intellectual property for its own economic advantage.
Interesting expostulation, 06:27. However, regarding your last sentence,

"It is unclear whether Lockmart or any other corporate entity would set aside its culture of profit to view a multi-program laboratory like Los Alamos as a long-term national investment rather than a subsidiary by which it can gain intellectual property for its own economic advantage."

Isn't that exactly what Lockmart is doing at Sandia? Sandia is a multi-program laboratory with long-term ROI on its investments. And I really don't think it will benefit anybody to start all that egotistical crap again about how different Los Alamos is from Sandia.
Plus Paul Robinson is no stranger to Los Alamos and probably knows more about the role, mission, and uniqueness of Los Alamos than anyone currently in senior management.
6:37 states that LANL and SNL are not different (well, rather, 6:37 states that it is egotistical nonsense to suggest that LANL and SNL are different), and that LM would manage LANL to the same mission as it presently has. This is actually nonsense -- within NNSA headquarters there is much discussion about how difficult it is to manage LANL because they are too interested in science and not enough in pit production. SNL on the other hand, would embrace the pit production role (but can't because of authorization basis and Pu capability). Make no mistake - the fundamental reason LM manages SNL is for profit, and everything is a business decision. UC does not manage LANL for profit (the management fee is at maximum 8 million, and MOST of that is plowed back into university or LANL research). UC manages LANL for public service.

It is truly unfortunate that UC does not have a strong hiearchal structure - they would have fired Nanos long ago if only they understood accountability. But unfortunately, Nanos plays UC like a fiddle.

Nanos aside (and that is a big aside!), nothing would be the same under a LM M&O. Profit will be the motive - and this is evidenced at SNL on how decisions are made. They are not a science lab, but an engineering lab. This fits perfectly with the LM model. The profit motive is reflected on how the management is paid at SNL -- the salaries are not public, but even Robinson admits with bonuses he make more than twice the directors at LLNL and LANL.

The question that needs to be answered is "does the nation need a national security lab that is dedicated to basic research? There are dozens of things LANL is uniquely supplying for the nation (all are classified) than no one else can do. But, these are not necessarily stewardship of the W76, etc. But the things that we have learned by building the most advanced warhead in the US arsenal are the things the nation needs to understand the very real threats that are out there.

In the end, the fundamental reason to hope for a UC lead contract for LANL is the science.
Slight problemo gents...a very critical difference between an "institution" like LANL (and SNL before LockMart) and a "business" like LM was (repeat, WAS) the possiblity that its leaders would say or do something that went against the expressed desires of the political/military establishment, solely in the interest of national security. Such as: "The stockpile is not certified due to problem X", or "NIF is a giant waste of money", or "We printed some labels we didn't use, we didn't lose classified information, bug off." LockMart will do whatever it is told by the political/military elite, because they know that their bread and butter, "profits for shareholders" depends on getting and keeping contracts largely dictated by the political elite as that the professional DoD acquisition corps has been gutted (gee whiz, any coincidence that a UT guy has headed that up for a while??? Nawwww...) Time to smell the coffee. It is the end of an era.
Actually, I think it is naive to think that Lockmart manages Sandia for near-term profit. On Lockmart's scale there are lots of far more profitable places to invest than a lab. No, I think Lockmart manages Sandia because of the potential long-term spin offs that might come from their work, and because it enhances their capabilities and credibility with their government customers -- and frankly I think that relationship serves both Lockmart and Sandia very well
I think Godwin's post is very articulate. As a divison level manager here at LANL I've grown increasingly disenchanted with upper management and UC's inability to impose any kind of adult supervision. Our entire management approach has degenerated into something some anthropology student could do a very interesting dissertation on. The number of standing meetings, work force reviews, director's reviews, program reviews, division reviews, STOP trainings, etc. are totally consuming. There is no time to actually focus any effort on our mission. It's most discouraging. While I'm not anxious to have my retirement raided by NNSA and I greatly appreciate the benefits package we have with UC, I'm ready for a change. I've been here almost 20 years and I'd like to accomplish something meaningful in my remaining time here. Something other than the silliness that consumes nearly all of my time now, merely struggling every day to "keep the doors open" for business by adhering to the never ending myriad of crap that flows down on us from above.
Lockheed Martin is good at manufacturing things. LANL, on the whole, is a research institution. No doubt the reason Lockheed Martin wants LANL -- and the other companies as well, is so they can manufacture pits. LANL isn't interested in manufacturing. A switch to Lockmart would be a switch to manufacuring. This is a major change of direction for LANL and will require a whole new set of employees, which is good, because most of the old ones were attracted by the research atmosphere. As has been said before, this is the end of an era. The sad part is that the folks in Washington who are behind all this won't have a clue what happened. They just aren't paying attention. They aren't interested.
One of the reasons so many people at LANL are horrified at the thought of working for Lockheed Martin is that they already have. And many of the rest have heard their stories and don't like the sound of the experience. Many of our employees started out at Sandia. Others came from other Lockheed Martin facilities around the countries. They left only to find that LM has pursued them to Los Alamos. If Lockheed Martin is so great, why do we have so many refugees from it at LANL?
And even more curious, why does a Lockheed Martin fellow, as Mr. Goodwin says he is, live in Los Alamos? Is he just part of the advance team for LM or does he just like the 2 hour drive to the nearest LM facility?
>>But allowing sexual harassment or discrimination or vindictive treatment to exist in our company is very dangerous ­- there are a sea of lawyers waiting to sue us and a mass of government agencies who can take away our contracts for this sort of behavior, so we have a powerful incentive to be sure it doesn't happen and to deal with it promptly if it does.<<
If Lockheed Martin really practices this, many of us would be willing to give up our wonderful benefits so we wouldn't have to spend so much for doctors, psychiatrists, and anti-depressents. The problem is that LM will have the same deal as UC -- infinite funds to support legal battles against employees paid for by DOE and not LM and no accountability for failure to produce.
LANL employees have a hard time believing a company with and even better deal than UC -- everything the same but a larger management fee -- will improve over UC.
If LM or some other company comes in we will all be waiting to be impressed. If the flogging ends, employees will probably kiss the feet of the new company.
I have worked for private industry. I didn't like it. That is why I came to work at Los Alamos. Why would I be thrilled to have private industry take over, lower my benefits and probably manage like Enron? Private industry doesn't have any better reputation than UC for treatment of employees. Will we next outsource our nuclear weapons program? Isn't that what private industry does? I hear that North Korea has some bombs and missles for sale and plutonium can be had on the cheap from Russia. We can save a lot of money that way.
LM is here for the profit. LANL will
be closed down. Maybe if there is war
with China or N Korea will another lab
be made. Think in "the now" do think
in "the future" what gets the profit now. Come on the attention span is
I do have a slight concern with the "big" picture here. Walmart is the world's largest retailing business, i.e. total world dominance. The other 'mart is becoming the controller of the world's defense business. Now LockMart wants to add to it's dominance the control the world's nuclear weapons business also (AWE, SNL, LANL...). Someone in Washington should take note!!!!!!
From 12:18 : "..... why does a Lockheed Martin fellow, as Mr. Godwin (one O, please) says he is, live in Los Alamos? Is he just part of the advance team for LM or does he just like the 2 hour drive to the nearest LM facility?"

In answer to your question, I live here because I like it and have family here. I am not an advance team for LM. In fact I work on the National Missile Defense Team in Arlington, VA, and although I have an office there, LM is smart enough about employee relations to let me telecommute from here much of the time -- though I do have to go back to the Arlington facility to do the classified stuff.

I do think this anti-business stuff is a little overblown, and reflects an overly simplistic view of the world out there. Companies are not in general the money-grubbing evils that some people think they are, any more that you folks at the lab are a bunch of war-mongering baby killers, as some other people think.

Organizations are made up of lots of ordinary people just trying to earn a living for their families and get by in the world -- sure there are a few real SOBs here and there, but this simplistic, largely liberal academic view that companies are all the big bad wolf is not worthy of people of your high intellectual capability. The real picture, in life as in science, is a lot more subtle and complicated and mutli faceted than that.

Mr. Godwin, our community is fortunate to have someone as articulate as you here with us during this time of chaos. Thanks for sharing your work experiences with us as we face this new challenge.
Bill, Thank you very much for sharing your experience with L-M. It is greatly appreciated.
Thank you Bill.

I worked for Martin at the Denver rocket factory before it was Lockheed Martin, where I did highly classified work for the Air Force. Part of our "unofficial" job duties where to educate and maintain long term program continuity as the blue suits came and went, as they rotated through to other, more glamourous assignments.

It was we, the contractors, who provided the continuity and cohesion to the program - and to "suggest" guidance to the AF program officers, who were frequently clueless about the serious technical issues we were solving.

One of the good things we convinced them to do was to fund a "Skunk works" for advanced program concepts. It takes years and years to develop, build, and field a system. It is a truism that our military goes to the field with 15-20 year old technology. We (rightfully so, I think) convinced the customer that while we were building the current (first generation) system, we should be working on advanced technology R&D so that when the next challenge came along, we'd have it available.

The EvilBushChaneyHaliburton crowd will decry it, but the political reality is that it is the contractors who keep the system running. The high-level government employees are political hacks in the DC revolving door. The low-level government employees are there because they aren't too smart and have the comfort of civil service and a fat pension.

The risk takers are the contractors - if you get the program, you've got a job. If not, you're on the street.
It's possible we worked the same program. I worked a classifed program partly based at the Martin Denver works back when my part of Lockheed Martin was sitll IBM.

And you are quite correct about the contractor role. I even recall an Air Force program manager once explicitly telling us that was our role, and that he depended on us to fill it.

I would hope that whatever contractor ends up helping manage LANL, that they could help insulate the lab somewhat from the ever-changing political winds from Washington and provide some long-term stability to the lab's programs. LM seems to have managed to do that at Sandia.

Thinking of Lockheed Martin (Schlockheed Murder to some)refreshes memories of a C5A transport contract gained through political influence, then subject to enormous cost overruns paid for by the taxpayer then finally topped off with cracking wing spars. There's plenty more dirty laundry there; LM is just good at hiding/buying off the problems. I'm not so sure LM are the gleaming hope some claim them to be.
Well, at least they're good at hiding things. That shows some good ingenuity and business acumen.
I agree. We're too good for them. None of our projects ever fail,and we NEVER waste taxpayer money.....
If a significant number of the projects and experiments do not fail or produce negative or unexpected results then it's product development not science or high risk, "stretching", R&D. That is the difference between a "nuclear weapons depot" (Sandia) run by an corporate aerospace firm and a national laboratory run by an academic group. The Laboratory is not a business and it's purpose is not to save money. To paraphrase Norris Bradbury: it's purpose is to do spend money doing R&D.
That's right, we are supposed to spend the publics money wisely on R&D not piss it down a rat hole on bureauracy, waste,fraud, and abuse. The lab could learn from an entity with a good old fashioned profit motive. Capitalism is not evil. Mr. Godin makes some very good points.

Now we spend money NOT doing R&D.

And, UC has little motive to stop spending money to not do R&D.

Just jack up the overhead rate to cover it...or, like during the work-suspension, just keep charging the programmatic cost codes to not do R&D.

7:34 also suggests that 'If a significant number of the projects and experiments do not fail or produce negative or unexpected results then it's product development not science or high risk, "stretching", R&D.'

So, I'd imagine that the A-10, the F117, the F-16, the F-35 JSF, the F/A-22, the Airborne Laser, the Trident C4 & D5, the U-2, the Titan IV, and so on were all just 'product development' from off-the-shelf parts, which didn't stretch science and technology anymore than a new blender developed by Sunbeam.

I'm sure none of these have had any failures stretching technology and scientific discovery. Nope, all worked right the first time, because they've all been done before. Haven't they?

Get real. A whole world of real science and technology development is done outside the ivory towers of academic institutions by profit-motivated companies, all the time. These companies take really big risks, and take really big failures, if they are to ever return value to their shareholders and customers.

The bias against the possibility of a private firm running LANL as well or better than an academic institution like UC, especially with UC's record over the past 10 years, is very difficult to attribute to rational thought.

I can only speculate the bias I see is driven by political feelings against private business in favor of socialized institutions, or those with the bias are enjoying a personal R&D playground at LANL with no customers, no deliverables, no worries, while the welfare-science funds keep coming in from the sky, or the bias is from those who's top priority is to continue to accumulate a UC pension regardless of whether their work at LANL is productive, needed, enjoyable, efficient or useful to customers or the advancement of knowledge.

UC has a documented recent record of failure managing LANL.

Lockheed-Martin has a documented recent record of success managing Sandia.

Lockheed-Martin also has a documented recent record of success managing (in partnership with two other firms) the British AWE.

Those that continue to support UC to manage LANL need to help those of us who have given up on UC understand with supportable facts why UC would be a better manager in the future than a private firm.

Simply asserting that private companies such as Lockheed-Martin aren't motivated to take risks or make discoveries or support R&D is simply false right on its face.
I know there are times when technical professionals must stand up to politically-motivated individuals in management and the civil service. If a considered technical opinion, based on independently and scientifically-reviewed work, is contrary to the wishes of the political, business, and civil servant entrepreneurs, the proponents of that view will be attacked. They will try to go after your job, and failing at that, will try to ruin your career. If a private company is running LANL, it will be that much easier to muzzle independent technical advice and intimidate technical professionals. I have a piece of paper on my wall and a pin on my lapel to show for my crusade...but not a corner office or a future of increasing opportunity here. I know for certain that such management will cover up anything embarassing to the current administration in DC. Sorry to break it to you folks, but as bad as UC can be, I assure you LM can be worse.
"If a private company is running LANL, it will be that much easier to muzzle independent technical advice and intimidate technical professionals."

On what evidence do you base this assertion? Under UC/Nanos it's been pretty easy to "muzzle independent technical advice and intimidate technical professionals". Why do you think they are better than a profit-making corporation woul be?
U2 is a "parts bin" plane; front half is from the F104. The CIA paid for the U-2's design and development; Lockheed had little money at risk.

The "stretching of science and technology" needed to create LM's jet aircraft and missles was done long ago in the Third Reich and the UK.
10:13pm's must be right--I vaguely recall we went to the moon on a V-2, right out of the crate.
Actually we went to the moon on the back of the Saturn V designed and built by a team lead by the famous California beach boy and Lockheed employee Werner von Braun. Oh well, at least his hair was blonde. Americans think they did everything.
Post a Comment

<< Home

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