Monday, May 30, 2005

Questions for Dr. Robinson and Dr. Anastasio

From Anonymous:

Dear prospective directors,

Foreign nationals have had a long and rich history at LANL right from
its inception. We are concerned about the future of foreign nationals
(FNs) at the Lab. One thing UC has done well is to attract and retain
FNs who go on to citizenship and a long, fruitful career at the lab.
We wonder how each of you will address the issue considering that
companies are typically averse to hiring FNs. In particular, LM at SNL
has had a poor record of this. When I graduated LANL offered me an
opportunity while SNL policy forced it to shut its doors on me, even
though I was perfect match for one of its groups. We desperately hope
that UT/LM or UC/Bechtel will not institute policies that will diminish
the contributions of FNs at this wonderful place and strongly urge you
to continue the previous policies regarding FNs. Contrary to popular
thinking, FNs are seldom the security problem they are made out to be -
they cannot be, as they never come anywhere close to any sensitive
material. They do, however, require more paperwork, but if an
institution is willing to pay that small price the benefits are

Here are some specific questions for the two teams:

1. What will be your policy toward current Limited Term and Permanent
Technical Staff Members who are Foreign Nationals?

2. Will you continue to encourage the hiring of new FN graduates as

3. Will you continue to encourage the hiring of FN postdocs as Limited
Term Staff Members and support their eventual conversion to permanent

4. Will you ensure that new, excessive controls are not placed on FNs
that they will leave out of frustration (source of funding, excessive
justification for their hiring beyond normal competency considerations,

Thank you

A Foreign National TSM

These questions are misdirected. The winning bidder(s), including current UC, have very little latitude on FNs. DOE/NNSA are driving the policies. This is also true for most of the other ill-conceived policies we must contend with.
What the 2:38:55 pm poster wrote is true. The real question should be, "Will you stand up to the DOE/NNSA and point out how ridiculous their policies towards foreign nationals are since FN's at LANL are contributing so much to scientific research."

Unfortunately DOE/NNSA is reflecting the attitudes in Washington starting with the isolationist in the White House.
I don't think it is purely a question of DOE/NNSA policy. If that was indeed the case, why is there a discrepancy between SNL and LANL+LLNL? I believe that LM does not want to really deal with the trouble of managing FNs. I think, however, that it is as much trouble to manage cleared and uncleared work/workers
To the 5:19:08 poster: What do you mean by "isolationist"? As far as I know, "isolationist" describes the attitude of many in the US between
WWI and WWII, who wanted to withdraw from world affairs and chose to ignore the rise of Hitler and Stalin rather than get involved in being a global policeman. This seems to be completely opposite to the attitude of President Bush, who has chosen to be involved overseas, in spite of the opposition of many people. Whether you agree or disagree with his policies, it is totally inaccurate to call him an isolationist!
Bush got his "isolationist" moniker from the way foreign nationals are being denied entry into the US and are being rounded up and jailed for almost no reason. It isn't that Bush dislikes foreign wars, he just doesn't like foreign nationals lingering around the country. Nor is Bush the sole perpetrator of isolationist policies. Much of the Republican party is uncomfortable with foreigners in the US.
Of course, when most of the top graduates of science Phd programs in American universities are foreigners, it is hard to see how we are going to remain anything better than average if we refuse to hire them.
DOE is part of the executive branch of government and does as directed by the president and his appointed staff.
The University of California is from, you guessed it, California where people are far more comfortable with foreign nationals and better able to see the value of their contributions. For Lockheed-Martin, my guess is, that in the sort term it is easier therefore cheaper not to do the paperwork for foreign nationals. Pennywise and pound foolish is the way I would describe it.
Come on people.. as long as I can remember (well from the early 1990's..) Congress and the White House have sent their regular auditors at LANL, and every year.. there is "Why are there uncleared foreign nationals here?" From the way other security people handled the questions.. it must have come up every year for at least 20 years..

The answer then was that they were needed to fight the Cold War. Yeah some of them were spies.. but so were probably some of the "true-blue" americans here. The rest were needed for the lab to fulfil its core mission of nuclear bomb building (and its other missions too).

Now that the Cold War is gone.. and we dont blow up holes in Nevada anymore.. we dont have an answer that sounds as good anymore. We have no mission that sounds as important as maintained roads, new schools, and businesses in some Congressmans home district. So when the Foreign National question comes up.. our old answers just dont cut it.
No matter what the bidders say about FNs before the RFP is awarded, I don't
see how anyone can think things will be good for FNs in the future. DOE is
destined to put greater pressure on the use of FNs at Los Alamos. Unless
their use can be heavily justified, I think it may become very difficult to
keep them here. It's yet another way DOE wants LANL to fall in line with
most of the other labs. DOE is very short-sighted.
Too bad people forget 9/11 so soon. The Lab is needed to have sufficient capability to think of the impossible before someone else does, to avoid technological surprise. We need the best, dedicated, minds in the world to do this. Since most of the good students are coming from other countries today, to ignore them in the equation is to put the nation at peril. I don't support foreign nationals because it is nice but because it is essential to the security of the nation. It must be done properly and with caution, but to ignore Foreign Nationals is disaster. And 9/11 should have been a wake up call. Things could become much more serious. If the Lab is only around to "improve the local economy" then we have already lost this battle before it starts.
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