Friday, May 20, 2005

I’m not saying that you should accept poor, bad or abusive management

A comment from the


It’s amazing – I have been reading the LANL blog since about 5:00 a.m. (I am at home – off the DOE defense contractor’s clock.) I hate to think that you all are having so many of the same problems we suffer from.

The management teams are a disgrace for the most part. I’m not sure if the blame is lack of human compassion, lack of real management skill or such instilled fear of making a wrong decision that they are rendered useless.

Add to the mix contract renewal – do we want to keep that same incompetent management or do we want to turn our future over to the unknown? Because face it – the unknown may not be better – it could even be worse. From what I have been reading on all the various threads you people at LANL pride yourselves on your superior research endeavors. If you relinquish the reins to a defense subcontractor, I am quite afraid that you will lose that research edge that you have maintained for so many years. Defense contractors of present day have one thing in mind – making lots of money quickly and getting out fast – your ideas will belong to them and they will stifle scientific independence – can you say “research mill”. Correct me if I’m wrong but I was under the impression that some of the most ingenious, scientific minds worked at LANL – you will not like operating in a production facility where more more, more is required not quality, quality, quality. Just like “puppy mills” it makes for bad breeding.

I’m not saying that you should accept poor, bad or abusive management, I just think you may want to explore a more compromising situation for all involved. UC top management (not necessarily lab management) may be in a more receptive mood now that the bidding has begun to listen to some suggestions from the backbone of the lab. They may not but it has to be worth a shot –

I’ll be watching the updates and praying for your futures
Scared for our jobs everyday at a DOE defense-contractor-run-facility.

This post contains of a lot of misinformation. For instance, the issue of handing LANL over to "unknown" management. LM is not "unknown". Sandia Lab is well run, does "great science", supported by over $100 million in LDRD funds annually, the same LDRD that LANL uses to fund most of its science.
Unlike LANL, Sandia does its job, including safety and security, in a quiet competent manner, without a lot of media exposure or hysteria. Those of us at LANL know this, which is why many hope that LM/Sandia win the award.
The only 'fly in the ointment" is the retirement plan, but a lot of those who retire will not be missed.
Imagine the downside if UC wins, and yet another series of scandals erupts. Would you want to be DOE at that point? I wouldn't. At least DOE knows that Sandia is competent, and that is a good start in reforming LANL. If I were the DOE, this is a no brainer.... Good management, and good science, equals Sandia.
What science is done at Sandia?
LANL has over 100 papers in PRL in
year. Sandia maybe 17. Sandia just is
not a science lab. It is not what they
do. Nothing wrong with them. But we
are just very different places.
I second the question: "What Science Hss Sandia Done?"

And, the safety and security incident record of Sandia is no better than at LANL!

Sandia, being in ABQ, gets beneficial treatment from the ABQ papers.

LANL gets negetive treatment from the Sandia papers as well as from the Santa Fe papers.
Thanks for your post and your interest in LANL. Ignore the rude comment above, people are a little stressed here. Good luck.
Sandia, an engineering lab under Lockheed Martin management, produced 17 PRLs last year? If true that would be a remarkable achievement.

I'm familiar with the science being done in Area 4 (the pulsed power program) at Sandia. It is far better than the parallel effort at Los Alamos, on a par with the Rochester Laboratory for Laser Energetics, and a step below the much larger laser programs at Livermore. Not bad for a defense contractor.
4:43pm writes " What science is done at Sandia?"

I have to ask the counter-question: what competent operations management has UC/LANL done?

How much science was done last year at LANL after the Director shut down the lab in a fit of stunning management incompetence?

And speaking of Pulsed-Power, UC and Bechtel: I've been told the Atlas pulsed power equipment was left out in the elements at NTS for more than a year, suffering significant damage and added expense as a result.

If this is true, then let's look at who could possibly have been involved: UC (LANL), Bechtel (NTS), NNSA and DOE.

How much Atlas science has been done while trying to get the thing running again?
Sandia is primarily an engineering lab. They are very good at it and they have great people. They have some science as well, it is just on a much much smaller scale. By the way the people that do basic science are very good and well respected in their fields.

My point is that LANL is a very different type of lab than Sandia. If you visit both the places it is clear. It is not obvious if LM can really manage LANL like
a science lab rather than an engineering lab. Now if LM does get rid of science it would be very disappointing. This is just
my concern.

Now I have to be clear on a point that is missed time and time again on this blog.
That is what really is science and what is engineering. Now I know you people in X, N and DX think of yourselves as scientists. I want to make this very clear, you are not, you engineers and maybe applied scientists. If you do not believe me look
at what you do, the hours you keep, and the fields that you have your degree in.
Please do not get up in arms about this. What you do of course is the main purpose and mission of the lab. You are the most important part, however you are not scientists. If LM takes over it will not effect you. Maybe your perks but not you.
I just find it very strange that there is this constant "save science" at LANL when a large amount of the work is engineering. Also all you people in X and DX always have problems with the groups that do actual basic science at LANL. Than you turn around and say save the science. You cannot have it both ways.

Also a few people at Sandia seem to think they are scientists. Examples
are the "pulsed power program", Z machine and all that. These are really engineering projects. I think they are great,
the people are very good and the work is absolutely necessary. Very good. But it is not basic science.
LANL, as an organization and as individual employees who make up the organization, likes to think of itself as a scientific institution, much like the science departments at good universities and colleges. Pitching ourselves as a place that does great science for the nation makes recruiting a little easier and is good for public consumption. It sells well and makes us look good to many. It makes many of us feel good because we have science educations and we love science. But I think we fool ourselves. At its core, LANL is a programmatic entity that does difficult and complex work for the defense of the country, nuclear and nonnuclear. It is not a kind of huge university science department that performs basic research. LANL does applied research and development, plus quite a bit of engineering. In truth, not many TSMs here are doing "science" in the form of basic research. But our science backgrounds and research skills are what is needed to carry out the programmatic work that DOD and DOE tell us to do. Having UC as our "umbrella" all these years does, however, motivate us and allow us to conduct ourselves as real scientists. The hard truth, though, is that UC really doesn't do much else for us (other than the great pension plan). We really don't have true intellectual freedom at LANL and our benefits are not the same as for UC campus employees. Hard to admit as it is, we are essentially government contractors, not much different than those who work for Lockheed-Martin. If LM (or whowever) gets the contract, and if they purge the upper management at LANL, we'll be better off than with UC. And closer in reality to who we really are, and what we do at LANL.
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