Sunday, May 15, 2005


A comment on the


I've been thinking about this a lot myself, recently. I'm 54, with not quite 20 years at LANL. If I were to retire now, I could not live off of the retirement; I had planned to work at LANL for at least 5 more years. Up until last year I enjoyed my work and the people that I worked with. Nanos changed that. The work environment is now pretty much completely depressing. A number of my colleagues have left LANL, some of our customers have withdrawn funding, and I see nothing on the horizon that would lead me to expect any positive, substantive changes coming any time soon.

Therefore, I also will be paying close attention to what Kuckuck says and how he says it. If I am not convinced that he intends to turn LANL around from the destructive course Nanos laid in, then I too will be retiring and going to work elsewhere. I no longer enjoy coming to work here, and I will enjoy it even less if I am convinced that Kuckuck's mandate is to place us in a holding pattern until it is announced who the next contractor will be.

There are many other healthy places where I could go work that will be glad to have my experience and talent, and which are willing to demonstrate this by paying me a good salary and providing me with a work environment that is designed to facilitate my work, not to impede it.

I have to sadly agree with you. I've been at LANL for almost 20 years,
but no longer enjoy coming in to work any longer. I find that I'm asking
myself some deep, soul-searching questions. I like the money and
the benefits, but LANL has become like a mausoleum. Many of the staff
in my group have already either retired or left for better places. The
hallways are becoming very quiet. Is it worth serving out the next 5 or
10 years in a depressing and dying institution? Perhaps not.
I posted this remark previously under a different thread but it seems appropriate to restate it here. There will be departures in periodic waves (depending on people's own reasons). However, if there are not some significantly positive incentives, some encouraging wording in the final RFP, AND a clear binding preservation of our UCRP affiliation during a contract extension (in writing) that allows us adequate time to evaluate the successor contractor, then don't stand in front of the doors.
I agree with original post and the the two comments.

Has anyone noticed how many homes are on the market? Just drive through White Rock, every block has a home for sale. The monitor real estate ads now use lists of properties rather than pictures (they take to much room).
Re: Homes for sale

The number of homes on the market is going to be a major impediment to anyone's leaving. What I wonder, however, is if leaving is what someone in their mid 50's with 20 or years in at that lab should do. Perhaps retiring, coming back as a LANL retiree because of special skills, and then hoping to be hired by the next contractor is a better solution.

Any comments?
To: 5:10,

"The number of homes on the market is going to be a major impediment to anyone's leaving."

Not if you live off the hill.
To 5/15/2005 05:10:20 PM: "Leaving" in many cases will be leaving the Lab but not moving out of town. However, Nanos made a purposeful effort to make it difficult for retirees to come back to the Lab. Apparently, the logic was "double dipping" which is ironic because that is precisely what he was doing as a Navy retiree. Total hours from retirees were minimal anyway due to a lot of factors. Again, RFP wording is going to be critically important to what a lot of people do and the subsequent long-term impact on national security issues. Many retirees who prefer to leave the hill will just stay in place until the housing market rebounds due to incoming new employees (remember all those uncleared Post-Docs Nanos was going to hire as replacements).
I bought my house in White Rock ~25 years ago. I can afford to dump it.
The things that you need to ask yourself are:

1) What do I like doing?
2) What do I want to do?
3) How can I do that?

You need to find ways to answer those questions honestly, because a lot of times the default answers arent the real ones. I know some people here at LANL who love their job and would love working here til they die. I know a lot of others who are here because they are too stubborn to admit that they have hated the job for the last 10 years and that they wanted to be elsewhere since then.

I looked at a lot of the people in the last 12 months, and the ones who stayed happy with their jobs (they may have hated the boss, but they somehow still came in every day with a smile on their face.) were the ones who have found their calling here. The people who were the most angry about the shutdown were also the ones who have been complaining about things for the last 5-8 years and have been really upset about working here. The lab really isnt their calling but they have been here either out of stubborness or not knowing what they would be happy doing. The fear of this has bottled up for years and it breaks out in snide comments, bad attitudes, etc.

People here are going through the same issues that lots of American jobs have gone through in the last 20 years.. It has been mostly sheltered because of its academic environment and the fact that the inertia from the Cold War kept funding here in large amounts. Those days seem numbered and it is going to be very stressful if you dont know what you really want to do.

I say this as a guy who worked at a place for 15 years hating it.. but not wanting to admit it. I got laid off during the 1991 recession and found that the soul-searching for what I really wanted to do got me here. I know that the day when I am no longer happy here is the day I need to find another job.. and so I need to keep myself employable to other people.
I expect that there will be some mention of a 9/80 resumption as soon as it can be done.. The holdup for re-implementing it has been trying to get someone to come in and replace Nanos since December/January when he tendered his resignation.

No-one has wanted it, and supposedly that includes Sig. So the 9/80 stayed locked up because it is the cheese for the new guy to show that things are getting better.

You leave a out a large demographic of LANL employee: those of us who have worked for 15, 20, or more years, and pretty much liked it, except for the last year. Nanos, of course. It is us whom you will see walking out the door, if Kuckuck turns out to be a tread-water director.
The type of Director that Kuckuck appears to be is largely irrelevant. He's
made it very clear that he's only filling in for the interim period.

The real question is what type of manager is UC? They left Nanos in place
for way too long. Do they realize that? If not, then they are not the
type of organization you want running this lab. Listen very carefully to
Admiral Foley on Monday. He's the one who will be giving you hints as to
what type of people will be managing this lab in the future. He is also
a guy who seemed to think very highly of Admiral Nanos. Has he changed
his mind? Has Dynes? That is the critical question. You can expect them
to stone-wall on that question, but it is vital that the staff know the
answer. If they actually liked Nanos' performance, then get the hell out
of here as fast as possible (or hope that LM/UT/Robinson win the contract).
5/15/2005 07:42 asked:

1) What do I like doing?
2) What do I want to do?
3) How can I do that?

Great questions. I like my work here a lot, and really look forward to it every day. I've got a very good Group Leader, a very good Division Leader, a very lame AD, and a new Lab Director.

I've probably got 15+ years to go, and what I want to do now is do my job that I like a lot at a efficient, proud, capable, can-do LANL.

How can I do that?

Not a lot about the contract is in my control, but I don't see how UC/Bechtel is going to get us there, since they don't have a record of doing that in the last 10 years.

Not one person I've talked to who has worked for Bechtel or seen them work at NTS has much good to say about them.

All of us know what UC has done for us lately.

So, I look down the road at SNL, and see how they are held up as the gold standard of Labs. Riding high, they're *working* in lots of new buildings, with strong managers that preserve, protect and defend the institution, rather than denigrate, weaken and attack it, and we seldom hear a discouraging word from DC about them.

Who runs LANL? UC.

Who run SNL? LM.

While nothing is guaranteed, and certianly LM if they win is going to do things I don't like or approve of, I think looking at the case study of the two labs over the last 10 years, the probability of me getting to work at a can-do LANL appears to be greater with LM running it than UC.

So with that, I'm still hoping Kuckuck et al will knock my socks off with a 'boy we sure screwed the pooch on this one' speech today. (I'd be really surprised to hear it, too.)

But I'm still hoping for LM to take the cake.
Re: Number of Houses on the market in Los Alamos and White Rock.

I too am alarmed anew when I see the crop of houses going up for sale each day. At this point, whether I like or dislike my job and/or the current situation at the Lab, I believe my husband and I are stuck here for at least a couple of years. He's only been UC for a year and I'm still a contractor waiting to be converted. There's no way we could afford to take a complete loss on the house. I believe many of us are in the same boat.
The next year or so will be hard on those not old enough or with enough service in to retire. They will be forced to stay or find a solution to trying to sell their houses in a bad market.
The next year will also be hard on those who love their work, in spite of poor management, and who do not want to retire but who must in order to save their retirement.
These people cannot be sure of being rehired by the new company or even that their work will continue to be done.
Yet, if they are old enough to retire, it isn't so easy to get a new job elsewhere.
I went through that struggle myself and am watching others do the same.
Are Foley and Nanos related? Brother and sister, maybe. Take your pick which is which. Foley sure sounded like Pete this morning.
Are Foley and Nanos related? Brother and sister, maybe. Take your pick which is which. Foley sure sounded like Pete this morning.
Newly Hired Blues

It's depressing to read the comments in this column, knowing that I won't be able to retire soon, along with so many other 50-somethings. Word of advice to the newly-hired: Don't trust HR. They are dishonest, cut-throat, deceiving and shrewd. An underpaid contractor for almost a year, they drug my hiring package (with me hanging on behind) through the mud for over 6 months. This was one of the most frustrating, insecure and depressing times of my life. Yet, I still had to come to work everyday, give an impressive performance and endure the instability. After months of trying to get the real status, HR had emailed the forms, without a person's name, to the administrative assistant, which sat around for a week and a half. When they finally did decide to make the hiring call (by telephone), I was insulted by the representative time and again. They offered almost $5K less than my minimum, in addition, they requested an immediate decision. My supervisor had offered to help me try for an acceptable salary, and request an increase, but they highly discouraged me from "waiting" because the package would necessitate going through the incredibly long cycle of approvals - again. When I received the paperwork by fax, it stated that I had 2 weeks to let them know if I accept the offer. HR bamboozled me into believing that they were bringing me in at the same, or a little higher amount. Ha! That was a lie. As it turns out, they did not include the 10% that my contracting agency was kicking in per year. What made it even worse was my first paycheck. Something like "DCAP SAVE" was included as a pre-tax amount and when I inquired with Payroll, they told me that was a deduction for the General Retirement Fund! Now, I do not mind helping out LANL's "Social Security Fund", but from where I come from, Jet Propulsion Lab, employees did not have to contribute to a fund. JPL has enough of Cal Tech's money to fund their own plan! So, if you are 55 and you have 20 years here, be happy. Some of us will be contributing to a retirement fund we many not even get to use (if we leave or die) and in the best case, we have to wait at least 5 years for the Lab to contribute something for us! The Good 'Ol Days are Gone for the new hires. Hmmmmm...doesn't seem quite fair.

To Disgruntled at 5/16/2005 01:21:31 PM:

I have been a hiring official in a technical group for many years at LANL. I have never EVER experienced anything such as what you relate. However, I have seen it happen in other organizations. I believe that you are incorrectly blaiming HR. Yes, sometimes HR does not function as promptly as we would like. BUT, it is up to the hiring official (that would be the GL, DGL, or TL) to push things along. As far as the starting salary, that should be set by the GL with concurrence of the DL. HR has guidelines, but you can hire outside of those guidelines with proper documentation. At some point above the guidelines, you need to get DOE approval. I have done that in the past.

Yes, I agree that HR Division is not a stellar performer. BUT, every time that I have seen a problem in hiring it was due to the Hiring Official not taking care of business. Then, of course s/he blames HR. HR screws up enough on their own without needling to be blamed for the incompetance of others.
Many are trying to figure out why Pres Dynes even brought up the holding off on retirement comments due to uncertainty, other than he was relaying that message from Brooks.

Any idea what the latest estimate for the First Wave, end of June number is?
To Disgruntled:

So what's the difference between contributing to DCAP and Social Security? both pension plans you'll never see a dime in your lifetime. At least with DCAP, I only see ~120/mo flying from my paychecks as opposed to ~$450 for S.S. You'll get no pity from me. Also, I just recently went through the hiring process for a postdoc to TSM conversion. Starting salaries are lower and it's tougher to negotiate with HR to get higher than the suggested salary band. When I asked our HR rep why salaries were down, she cited the Welch study.
1:21 and 5:22 are a bit confused about the UC Retirement Plan. Perhaps someone else can explain it to them this time.
Sigh... okay, I'll do it. The UC pension plan, like most pension plans, has an employee contribution to sustain it. However, unlike most pension plans, UCRP has done very well in the market, to the extent that employee contributions ARE NOT REQUIRED. This is actually pretty amazing. It has been true since around 1990.

What you saw on your paycheck was the contribution that you would have given to UCRP, that has been redirected into an account that you own and control yourself. It's called a defined contribution plan (as opposed to the UCRP defined benefit plan). It's basically like your 403b plan, and grows tax-free until you withdraw it. Yes, you must pay it, but you get it all back eventually (as opposed to, say, Social Security).

More info here.
To the first poster and many others - whether this place will go down- or up-hill depends on us. It reminds me of the two shoe salesmen who went to a desert island. The first saw that the inhabitants were bare-footed, and decided that staying there was a waste of time since he would never be able to sell shoes. The second wrote home "send me every box you have - no one here has shoes".

The future is what we will make it. Let the people who want to, leave, and then let's make this the best Lab in the world. It's up to us.
7:31, I think most (not all) employees' futures at LANL are pretty much going to be what their managers direct them to do.
No, 7:31 is right. It just takes some effort and flexibility. I don't believe that management problems have half the impact on the survival of the lab that our attitudes do. The people who stopped putting in their best effort because 9/80 stopped are a prime example.
The lot of you need to stop whining and be grateful for your careers working for the most admired lab in the world. In addition, recognize that UC is not your "daddy" anymore and are doomed to lose control of LANL. Welcome the change ahead, a bright future, and the newly appointed contractor.
Post a Comment

<< Home

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