Saturday, May 14, 2005

Another Seestrom gaffe

From Anonymous:

Can you believe this? I can't.

Date: Tue, 10 May 2005 15:41:07 -0600

Dear Colleagues-

I find it sad to write on the weekend after the University of California has announced the departure of the Laboratory Director. I know that many of you have taken offense at some of the actions or words of Director Nanos. It would be a very great mistake to assume the departure of the Director means that the changes he was trying to institute in the Laboratory were wrong. There is a need for change in Los Alamos, and that need for change will not change with the departure of this Director.

The change that is needed is to create a culture of accountability that extends from the Director and the Executive Board to each and every staff member. This does not mean punishing individuals for mistakes but rather making clear the expectations for each position - supervisor to worker - and then each of us delivering on the expectations that have been set for us. It means leaders clearly telling people when they are not meeting our expectations. For each worker - it means undertstanding what is expected of us, and doing our very best to live up to that expectation.

I and my colleagues on the EB need the help of each of you to make this culture change in Los Alamos. We are fighting years of history of lack of accountability, and we therefore have an uphill battle. Our customers and regulators do not have confidence in us - and it is not because they are bad or unfair - it is because we have not acted in a way to earn their confidence. Because of this we have built up a considerable bureacracy that does not necessarily help us to be safer or more secure. But to change this we must first begin to take personal sccountability for safety , security, and compliance.

I want to be very clear: I am not saying that the present problems are problems generated by the workforce - our problems are clearly the result of a failure of leadership over many years. But the entire workforce must engage to change this culture. I know that all of you are capable of this, that you are dedicated to the mission of this laboratory, and that you are willing to do what it takes to make us successful. I am asking your help to engage positively to move the Laboratory forward.


Susan J. Seestrom, Ph.D.
Associate Director for Weapons Physics
Mail Stop A106
(505)665-4454 fax (505)665-1293

Compare that with this from our new ADSR. I especially like the line 'it is
incumbent on LANL leadership to challenge the attack on the lab ...'. I
think this guy may have his head on straight.

---------- Forwarded Message ----------

Subject: ADSR Mailgram 5/10/05
Date: Tuesday 10 May 2005 10:07 am

ADSR Emailgram
May 10, 2005

Last week, a subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives
Committee on Energy and Commerce held a hearing called "A review of
Ongoing Management Concerns at Los Alamos National Laboratory." The
subcommittee, which is called the Subcommittee on Oversight and
Investigations, questioned two panels on the Los Alamos stand down,
and perceived continuing problems at the Lab. The second panel was
made up of Jerry Paul, who is the Principle Deputy Administrator of
NNSA, and Ed Wilmot, Manager of the Los Alamos Site Office. The tone
of the hearing was extreme - that Los Alamos has a "culture of
non-compliance," and despite the stand down, the laboratory was
getting no better. Bart Stupak, the ranking Democratic committee
member, struck a particularly bellicose tone, demanded to know why
the nation needed Los Alamos. Stupak asked, "Why do we need this
lab? Is there any really unique science that can only be done there?
Why do we need Los Alamos?" Unfortunately, the NNSA response was a
very understated defense of the lab - namely that there is unique
infrastructure at LANL that would be difficult and expensive to move.

In my opinion, we are at a nadir for congressional impression of the
Lab. There are many reasons for this, including some serious
misconceptions: the fact that the Lab is held to a "gold standard"
that is not the same complex-wide, and the constant churning of
reported problems at LANL. It is incumbent on LANL leadership to
challenge the attack on the lab, and ultimately convince the nation
and DOE of Los Alamos' importance. But it is important not to rely
solely on leadership as spokespersons. In the end, we all most do
whatever possible to change the negative tide. There are two parts
to this problem that each and every one of us can help with. These
are, articulating our dedication to the national security mission,
and through practice, demonstrating our operational excellence. We
have truly outstanding scientists at LANL, but the accomplishment of
our mission relies on every person at the lab from the GRA to admin
support; from support services to RCTs. Further, how we complete our
work is important. I am acutely aware that it is very difficult to
get the work done with the avalanche of paperwork associated with
both external and internally imposed regulation. We need to balance
process with performance; in turn, we need to realize that we do have
a special responsibility for security and safety.

The recent turmoil at LANL is at a branch point - the lab can choose
to focus on positive change, or remain mired in a sense of despair.
There is no question that the challenges we face are great, but there
is also real opportunity to define a future.

I have been asked how the technical highlights are selected for
inclusion in the emailgram. Every week, the Divisions (and many of
the Program Offices) submit highlights to the Director's office.
These highlights pass through the Directorate, and I review them.
Those which I find particularly interesting are include in this
email. However, I often rewrite the material that is submitted to
reflect my understanding. This does occasionally result in mistakes
being introduced. For example, we recently reported on a record
breaking aerogel produced in MST. The reported density of the
material was 0.5 mg/cc. This would truly have been unprecedented!
There was a slipped decimal point, and the actual density is 5.3
mg/cc. The actual accomplishment should read "MST has successfully
lined the interior of several hohlraums with a 200 micrometer thick
5.4 mg/cc silica aerogel. This density is the lowest synthesized at
Los Alamos and the first attempt to successfully line a hohlraum".
Another error occurred in a recent technical highlight, when Ed Kober
had listed himself as the point of contact as Group Leader, but he is
not a coauthor of the paper in Journal of Applied Physics, as I
indicated. The authorship should be "Analysis of wave profiles for
single-crystal cyclotetramethylene tetranitramine, Ralph Menikoff, J.
J. Dick, and D. E. Hooks, Journal of Applied Physics."

Frank Harlow Selected for the 2005 Los Alamos Medal
T-3's Frank Harlow (currently a retired Fellow/Affiliate) received a
phone call from Director Nanos on Monday, May 3, to inform him that
he, along with Conrad Longmire, is this year's Los Alamos Medal
recipient. Frank's contributions to T Division are long and
numerous, as detailed in his nomination package. The award ceremony
will be scheduled for some time this summer.

Lujan Staff Member Awarded the 2005 Bridgman Prize
Professor Sergei M. Stishov has been awarded the 2005 Bridgman Award
in high pressure physics, given by the International Association for
the Advancement of High Pressure Science and Technology. The award is
named for Percy Bridgman, winner of the 1946 Nobel Prize in physics.
Professor Stishov is Director of the Institute of High Pressure
Physics and is a Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of
Sciences. He is also a staff member at the Lujan Neutron Scattering
Center at LANSCE at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Dr. Stishov is
best know for the discovery of a high-pressure phase of SiO2. As a
graduate student, Stishov had the idea that quartz might collapse to
a higher-density polymorph under pressure at high temperature and, if
true, this would have important implications for geophysics. In 1962
he found a collaborator at the Institute of High Pressure Physics in
Troitsk with whom to do experiments, found the denser phase the first
time he looked for it, and published the result in the journal
Geochimia. Shortly thereafter, the same polymorph was found in
nature, quenched to atmospheric pressure from high impact pressures
and temperatures at Meteorite Crater in Arizona.

MST Article on Metals Recognized
A recent Los Alamos Science article entitled "Predicting Material
Strength, Damage, and Fracture; The Synergy between Experiment and
Modeling" and authored by G.T. Gray III, P.J. Maudlin, L.M. Hull,
Q.K. Zuo, and S.R. Chen has been recognized by the American Society
of Metals, which requested and received LANL permission to republish
it in the June issue of Journal of Failure Analysis and Prevention.

C-INC Team Wins Pollution Prevention Award
The Hydrotest Program uses aqueous foam to mitigate particulate
dispersion from explosives tests and prevent hazardous and
radioactive materials from entering the environment. As collected,
the foam could not be treated at the Radioactive Liquid Waste
Treatment Facility, and solidification of the waste would have
generated a tremendous volume of waste for low-level disposal. The
team designed and built a filtration unit that allows the filtered
liquid to be disposed at RLWTF while generating a minimal amount of
solid waste. Over 40,000 gallons of waste have been processed to
date. The team consists of Eva Birnbaum, Ryan Channell, and Laura
Wolfsberg, all of C-INC, as well as Nancy Sauer (DX) and Pete Worland
The team was recognized at the 2005 Pollution Prevention Awards
Ceremony on April 28th, 2005. These awards are made by the Prevention
Program of the Environmental Stewardship Division. The Pollution
Prevention Office in the Risk Reduction and Environmental Stewardship
Division is responsible for implementing waste minimization projects,
distributing pollution prevention information and educating
Laboratory employees on energy efficient, cost-effective
environmental practices. Funding for the Pollution Prevention awards
is provided by the Department of Energy as an incentive to improve
operational efficiency and increase pollution prevention at the

T Division Team Develops New Method for Studying Ion Channel Kinetics
William Bruno (T-10), John Pearson (T-10), and postdoctoral
researcher Jin Yang have developed a new method for the study of ion
channel gating kinetics. An ion channel is a protein pore that lets
ions (charged atoms such as calcium) pass through a cell's membrane.
The ion channels' gating functions are critical to biological
function. For example, nerves and muscles could not function
without ion channels. Researchers have long been able to isolate a
single channel and detect the flow of ions and to electrically
observe whether the channel is open or closed. By looking at how
long the channel stays open or closed, they also could infer that
there are several different open and closed states. Using models
called Aggregated Markov Processes, researchers are able to represent
the undetectable changes between different open states, and between
different closed states. However, there are an enormous number of
ways to connect even a small number of states. For example, only
four open and four closed states connect in more than 2 million
possible ways. The method the collaborators developed fits data to a
new class of models, called manifest interconductance rank (MIR)
models, which will give researchers a better understanding of the
mechanisms by which ion channels open and close. This work uses
independent open-to-closed transitions to simplify the models of ion
channel gating kinetics that are used to represent undetectable
changes between different open and closed states. Using a data set
of patch clamp recordings to study ion channel kinetics, the
researchers can apply the MIR method to mathematically reduce the
level of redundancy among the millions of possible ion channel
topologies. The overall goal of the research is to provide tools and
strategies for understanding the topologies of ion channels that
allow researchers to focus on smaller, more manageable data sets.
This should allow molecular biologists to develop better, simpler
models for what is happening in ion channels. This research on MIR
models was published in the current issue of the Proceedings of the
National Academy of Sciences.

Contact Me: I encourage you to email me with your questions,
comments, or concerns. My email address is or if
you prefer, you can send email to my home address with confidence of


Terry C. Wallace, Jr
Associate Director for Strategic Research
Los Alamos National Laboratory

Phone: 505-667-3644
Fax: 505-667-3494
There have been several vicious attacks on Sue Seestrom on this blog. I think such attacks are wholly unwarranted. HOWEVER, having said that, her message makes it clear that SHE SIMPLY DOES NOT UNDERSTAND THE PROBLEM. The problem here is bad management and poor leadership, starting at the top. WHY did DX Division have the problems it did? Why was the Lab in C-Div permitted to operate the way it did? Such problems are the result of bad leadership. Seestrom's desire to "change culture" here is an effort to make staff responsible for bad management.

The culture that does need to change is that of upper management. Terry Wallace seems to be a step towards such change.
What incredible insensitivity to express sadness at Nanos leaving while the community is mourning the more substantial loss of Todd Kaupilla.
If Sue misses Nanos so much, she should leave LANL and go to DTRA to join him.
What about ADTR Beason?

At first those of us in ADTR felt this was a wise choice from a leadership perspective (he made positive changes in ISR) and certainly a step-up in terms of personality (to be mild) from Cobb (unfortunate for the rest of the lab with his current position). However given current decisions we in ADTR have begun to wonder if Beason has become disconnected (perhaps not concerned) or beyond his leadership abilities. In particular his choice of: 1) morale officer, 2) keeping N-div leader (who has destroyed N-div & continues a crusade of intimidation & reprisal, e.g., N-3), and 3) the ISR div. management selection sham (choosing the ISR Chf. Scientist for a div. leadership position, that individual is distrusted & disliked by a majority of staff in ISR, has a poor record of institutional & inter-divisional behavior, has no people skills nor line experience, has a questionable security history which sends the wrong msg. to staff, is the epitomy of self-interest, and has a knack for blithely claiming ownership of others ideas).

How does the lab choose its leadership/mgt. personnel?
I believe Sue may be one of those "incompetent" managers referred to a comment on this post:
8:35 --

Re Terry Wallace Emailgram.
I have never personnally met Terry Wallace, although I worked closely with his father--what a gentleman. I would agree with the comments, "this guy has his head on straight." From the words and "actions" Terry has taken, it looks to me like he has the potential of being the leader Los Alamos needs. He has the vision, the understanding that we all are important, and most importantly the willingness to say, I screwed up and got the decimal point wrong.
To 07:44,

Add to your list of questions:

"Why did Seestrom remain silent as Kaupilla and Horne were railroaded by Nanos?"
Terry Wallace is a wonderful leader who came to LANL under some pretty trying circumstances. He was hired as Deputy DL to Paul Weber who chose to abandon him on the day he started, at which point he became an acting DL. He landed on his feet and has earned my respect as ADSR. The question is, can he keep Strategic Research well enough integrated with the weapons and TR programs to stay alive??

He gets my vote fot the new Director! Unfortunately, the selection of directors seems to be at the whim of DOE/UC, and competition seems to be gone from the upper-level jobs. We waste a lot more time choosing admins than we do directors.
Rumor - Seestrom has been told to find another job or take a severance package from UC, along with Mangeng, Marquez, and Tarantino.
Seestrom is clerly clueless. Sending out that memo was credibly poor judgement on her part.
Does Anonymous @ 5/14/2005 09:39:50 AM know something? The departure of these individuals would be the cause of more popping of corks.
I advise caution regarding rumors posted as anonymous comments to the blog. Without substantiation, that is all they are: rumors.
Anonymous @ 5/14/2005 08:35:25 AM has it right about Beason. He started off fine, but those three items listed in the post (" 1) morale officer, 2) keeping N-div leader (who has destroyed N-div & continues a crusade of intimidation & reprisal, e.g., N-3), and 3) the ISR div. management selection sham (choosing the ISR Chf. Scientist for a div. leadership position)") show him to be unqualified for his position and totally out of touch with reality.
Readers may need to refer to the Archives of this Blog: See March 06,April 04, and April 15 regarding Beason. Someone knew what would happen on this man's watch.History has a way of repeating itself. Here is one prophetic quote:

To 6:47PM poster: "We have to wonder how he can work for Cobb and Nanos...I hope it is because he is a saint."

You must use your scientific skills, analyze the situation and conclude that there are NO saints in this case People who can appease both sides in an ongoing controversy usually are not committed to either faction, often only to themselves. Sounds as if this man has his own PR group on the 4th floor.(See previous postings re him in the Archives. They all begin with praise from an anonymous poster.)

Nice as this man may appear to be to you, he has a LONG work relationship/history with Nanos...and more recently with Cobb. They seem to be pleased with his actions even though mistakes have been made.

# posted by Anonymous : 4/7/2005 10:59:52 AM
I have to admit the email for Sue
is really creepy. I think it would be
best for her to step down. The big problem
at LANL is the managers. They simply care
about themeselves and look out only for
themselves. If we cannot clean them out
than I am for just shutting down LANL.
It might not be so bad. The really good
people can get faculty jobs. Some of the
good weapons people can move to the other
labs. Seestrom is just makes me feel bad.
Sue also throws out the world culture.
Ok back it up. Prove we have a culture
problem. Numbers please.

Terry Wallace seems like a great person
to me.
Susan says that weapons designers need to be slapped around to keep them in line.
"Susan says that weapons designers need to be slapped around to keep them in line."

It seems that is the only conclusion one can draw from her statements. She says that "our problems are clearly the result of a failure of leadership over many years," which would ordinarily imply that this is a problem the upper management needs to go and fix, but the following sentence fragment, "But the entire workforce must engage to change this culture," suggests that the failure of leadership consists only in an overly permissive posture towards purported rampant misbehavior.

We have seen that Nanos' actions met overwhelming resistance, and that forces us to consider two possibilities: either that Nanos was right and the world was wrong, and that he had a unique courage in trying to set straight thousands of unruly people; or that Nanos' actions were the result of a destructive pride that refused to admit error even in the face of mounting evidence, coupled with a fear of the consequences of contradicting the thunderous cataract of nonsense coming from the echo chamber of the media and Congress.

Given the perspicuity of the LANL safety data, and the imprecision of Nanos' charges, I'm inclined to believe it is the latter. As Judge Lourdes G. Baird once said, "One does not seriously attack the expertise of a scientist using the undefined phrase 'Butt-Head.'"
We need to get rid of people like
Seestrom or shut LANL down. It is total
disgrace for her to write that memo.
It would be prudent not to demonize Seestrom or deify Wallace. Seestrom probably falls in the class of "bad" managers, but part of that is due to her own inexperience (look at her track record, and the issues she had to deal with. She really was promoted way too fast, and for reasons other than merit), and partly because she was in Nanos' cabnet. She desparately wanted to be an AD, and Nanos was her ticket.

On the other hand, Wallace appears to be a pretty good manager. But, I know from a friend that worked for him in EES that he does play favorites. My friend worked for him, but Wallace took credit for my friend's accomplishments, and now does not give him the time of day. I suspect that Wallace is just like all the other high level managers at the Lab -- power hungry. He did not step down when Nanos fired the folks from DX. I also have heard that Wallace thinks scientists are much more important than support staff or technicians. He does seem really impressed with his own intellect.

I think all the SET needs to be fired. Not in one or twos, but all at once. We have lots of division leaders that are smarter and better that etiher Seestrom, Wallace or Beason.
I'm sorry, but I fail to see how Seestrom was wrong in this memo. Admittedly, it was foolish to come out and say anything that could be taken as pro-Nanos, but many of the other points she made are valid:

-"It would be a very great mistake to assume the departure of the Director means that the changes he was trying to institute in the Laboratory were wrong. There is a need for change in Los Alamos, and that need for change will not change with the departure of this Director. " - Absolutely. We have problems at LANL that existed well before Nanos, and continue to exist. Some of Nanos's initiatives were wrong-headed, but the problems he tried to address were real.

-"Our customers and regulators do not have confidence in us - and it is not because they are bad or unfair - it is because we have not acted in a way to earn their confidence." It is obvious that Congress and NNSA have lost confidence in us, as have many of our users and other funding sources. We won't fix this by whining.

-"...our problems are clearly the result of a failure of leadership over many years. But the entire workforce must engage to change this culture." My impression is that this is what a number of the more reasoned and mature posters on this blog have been saying - many of our problems can be traced back to 60 years of management issues, but we will be the ones that suffer if we don't pull together and fix them.

So what if Seestrom liked (or even had respect for) Nanos. That doesn't matter. What matters is that LANL has problems that dwarf what any one director can cause or solve. We need to stop sitting on our thumbs and be proactive.
I am trying to think through the list of division leaders I know who exhibit real leadership. I don't know them all, but one name comes to mind - Paul Lisowski. And I doubt that even he would be successful in an AD position, let alone anything higher.

I never heard that Beason took Priedhorsky as the ISR division leader. Is this a fact, or a rumor, or pending UC confirmation?
To the Anonymous : 5/14/2005 06:23:47 PM commenter: Lisowski is a jerk! He has trashed LANSCE Division. It will cease to exist in two years.
Suaan: Go away, Get a life, take Chris with you!
"'Our customers and regulators do not have confidence in us - and it is not because they are bad or unfair - it is because we have not acted in a way to earn their confidence.' It is obvious that Congress and NNSA have lost confidence in us, as have many of our users and other funding sources. We won't fix this by whining."

No small part of this loss of confidence comes from Nanos' own statements. We went, quite instantaneously, from being an organization with business infrastructure problems to being an organization with a systemic problem on July 16, 2004. People who were heros on July 15 were villains the following Monday. Did all of LANL experience some fantastic ontological shift, or did the spin just change?

Just listen to the language associated with criticism of LANL. It all bears Nanos' fingerprints, even in Congress. You still hear the same contentless phrases repeated about "getting it," and "culture" (all calculated to have a psychological force without actually making a claim that can be refuted). If Nanos or Seestrom were proposing a plan of action, rather than just creating a state of turmoil to take advantage of, you would see specifics, not endless language games.

People who are interested in actually solving the problems that surfaced over the past year are proposing concrete solutions: if you want to avoid mishaps, you design systems that encourage good behavior. You don't rely on hand-carry to move data between facilities. And with robust encryption like AES available, you don't have removable media floating around with sensitive data in plaintext. I wrote Nanos (directly, not tellpete) about using file system-level encryption on CREM, and that went into a black hole. Why can't we have actual security solutions instead of the urgent appearance of it?

Nanos created this crisis of confidence. Kuckuck has the power to shut it down, if he will only demonstrate the conviction to do it.
Nice observations of the obvious, Dug. I do hope you are not holding on to any real hopes about Kuckuck, however. Short timer UC company man, him. I expect I could be proven wrong Monday morning, but I'd bet beer that I'm not.
"I do hope you are not holding on to any real hopes about Kuckuck, however."

Always leave room for somebody to disappoint you, and never let cynicism lead to a normalization of mediocrity. Nanos injured our reputation in an act of political expediency. Kuckuck, being within a year of his retirement, has little to lose in setting things right.
Full support for dug.
LANL reorganization must start with the understanding that our purpose is science, and the support organizations are here to support that goal. They are not the goal. In the "good old days" science was done by divisions and support was done by departments. This organization clearly delineated the roles of science and support.

Our new director needs to recognize that support should be supporting, not driving, science. Remove 30% of the 3rd and 4th floors as well as all the wasteful division level staff, work with DL's to develop a structure that will work for them, return the group money to the GL's, don't try to standardize the computing needs of the science side, and return computer support to the groups and divisions rather than increasing centralization because only the groups and divisions understand their computing needs. Science, supported by groups and divisions, should again drive LANL.
"I find it sad to write on the weekend after the University of California has
announced the departure of the Laboratory Director. " - Seestrom

Seestrom is totally tone-deaf. So she is sad to see Nanos leaving? The
only people sorry to see Nanos leave are those who are beholden to him
for their jobs.
To the 5/14 7:52-53 posters:
If it weren't for Paul Lisowski and a few visionaries that worked with him, LAMPF would have been closed in 1995, and there wouldn't be a LANSCE today. Chris Morris doesn't deserve this treatment either - he has come through with several excellent ideas, and the fact that not all of them panned out doesn't detract from the person who conceived them. Muon radiography was an interesting concept, and it took time to find that it was flawed.
To 4:39.
Muon radiography was Chris's original idea correct. Well at this point Priedhorsky claims it as his. My point is that Priedhorsky is again claiming another's idea with no attribution/credit of Morris.
Sue, you really disappoint a lot of people. Just where have you had your head in the sand over the last year? Isn't it obvious that upper management has driven away numerous highly qualified staff members in your own directorate -- hello! -- throughout ADWP and its divisions in the last year? Or are your division managers and ADWP staff managing *you* and telling you what you want to hear?
To 5/16 6:11 - this doesn't make sense. Since muon radiography has now been shown to be unviable, why would anyone go out of their way to claim it?
Has muon radiography really been shown unviable? How come no one's heard about it? I thought it was never even peer-reviewed by an objective panel at LANL. I'm sure Chris and Susan had to sign a stack of paper so that Chris won't get preferential treatment from Susan at work (Susan being Chris's AD); surely someone in Chris's chain-of-command could have ordered a more critical look (like perhaps there just ain't enough muons passing through for the scheme to work?) before local TV news viewers heard another sensational story about LANL fighting terrorism?
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