Sunday, June 05, 2005

Los Alamos fears brain drain

Spike in retirements creates worry

By Sue Vorenberg
Tribune Reporter

June 4, 2005

One thing about smart people - they have options.

In the wake of problems at Los Alamos National Laboratory, some of the smartest people in the country are starting to exercise those options - by retiring. And that trend has lab officials worried, said James Rickman, a lab spokesman.


Full Story

When LANL employees were warning for long time about the retirement wave as a result of bidding including dirty tricks with pension plan and possible science castration, all that reinforced by lab closure with all connecyed mess nobody seemed to care. Now it becomes a fact. Will someone wake up or is it a part of the plan?
"50 or older, nearing retirement age..." says the story. Now, wait a second. I thought people were now living longer and expected to be working and productive long past 60 or 65...70 is more like the new retirement age. Or is there some subtle implication that technical people aren't really employable past 50? Ageism, anyone?
LANL has a long history of posting "Early career opportunities," an euphemism for "no one over 30 need apply."
Frankly, I'll be happy to see some of the "that's not the way we do things", "we don't need that newfangled stuff", "we tried something like that years ago and it didn't work" folks sail into the sunset.
6/5/2005 05:44... I have found the opposite true in the last 4 years. We couldnt get anyone new into our groups because we were asked to bring in someone from another group who knew the boss. The older people were very qualified, but all of them have put in their retirement paperwork and we are back in the position of not having any new blood that would be here long term.
The fact that people retire is not news, nor is the lack of "transition planning" at LANL. It has become the "LANL way" for retirees to return to disgorge the information they would not disclose earlier. This should stop. There is a tool, in LANL policy, for such folks. It allows LANL to keep the employee on full time, in the national interest. They can retire when it serves the nation's interest, not before.
Using this policy a few times would aid "transition planning" a great deal, making it a part of normal practice, as it is at most corporations.
"Retirement" which leads to a sudden entrance by another door, a too frequent Lab practice, should stop. Nanos was right on that score. Retirement should mean retirement, not simply feeding better. Whoever wins the bid, I hope this practice ends.
I wonder what the stats are for each series: TSM, SSM, Tech, AS/OS. I'm willing to bet that most of the retirements are TSMs.

I talked to a LANL employee that recently returned from working on the UC-Bechtel proposal, and their words were “it is all out war on LANL”. In assembling the UC-Bechtel team, which includes many industrial partners, it was decided to turn over technical details to LLNL and business/operations to corporations. These two sides of the house feel that nothing is working at LANL, and are going to propose total turn over. Only 2 senior managers from LANL will survive: Beason and Seestrom. Beck, Tarentino, Gibbs, Wallace – all gone. Apparently, there only was modest push back from the LANL ADs, and the one that pushed the hardest lost his job. Seestrom actively campaigned for becoming the AD of all science, and apparently became the darling of the new corporate mafia. No junior managers from LANL will be promoted, just people coming in from LLNL.

The blog has often called for a complete decapitation of senior management – it looks like those in blog land were heard. Now we have to live with it. The LANL future? Look south to Sandia or west to LLNL. For 60 years LANL was a unique place, and unique things were done there. Not all these things were good (some were down right stupid), but in the end it does not matter. LANL will become a defense contractor (which makes sense in the end, sense nuclear warheads are owned by DoD, so pit manufacturing and stewardship are not much different that building the latest fighter jet). I feel a shudder through my whole body for an ideal lost. In the last 3 years we have had to deal with Nanos and Foley, and the ensuing rage caused attack on all things LANL. People have been vocal about retirement benefits and demand the government “do something”. There have been attacks by LANL people on other LANL people that work on LDRD projects. Anything positive posted about LANL science or values has been dismissed by the hooded horsemen of anonymity on the blog. All the while a much worse thing was happening – LANL is lost.
Anonymous : 6/5/2005 06:45:01 PM said:
"The fact that people retire is not news, nor is the lack of "transition planning" at LANL. It has become the "LANL way" for retirees to return to disgorge the information they would not disclose earlier. This should stop. There is a tool, in LANL policy, for such folks. It allows LANL to keep the employee on full time, in the national interest. They can retire when it serves the nation's interest, not before."

Can you show me where this policy is documeted? Has it ever been used?

Larry Creamer DX-1 Retired
I would also like to see proof of this claim that retired LANL staff return to "disgorge" information that they had previously willfully withheld.

This type of "yellow journalism" contribution epitomizes what is detrimental about allowing anonymous postings: the ability to make outrageous, unsubstantiated claims without the responsibility of ownership is a strong argument against continuing to support this mechanism of contribution on this blog.

There is a law that can force certain people to remain in a particular national security position under extreme circumstances. However, I doubt the conditions currently exist that would allow this measure to be implemented. It is akin to declaring martial law since it denies sovereign citizens their rights.

As for the ridiculous assertion that LANL staff withhold information the exact opposite is true. Staffers beg to be allowed to hire persons to mentor. This takes years to transfer such volumes of information. Typically LANL hires a senior staf members replacement months or weeks before their departure. In many cases there is no choice but to return to teach the replacement. It is LANL's short sighted hiring policy that has caused this. Most critical technical positions at LANL are only one deep. That is the fault of management alone.
in response to the apocalyptic 06:59

As a mid career staff member, I have mixed feelings about the change. However, my direct management is so corrupt, dishonest, self-serving, anti-science, that part of me welcomes the change. There are many gloom and doom people walking around declaring: science is over, lanl is over, start worrying: details to follow. I have encountered these people and guess what, they tend to be managers.

Sorry folks, I have been lied to too many times by my management to fall for this again. It is over for many incompetent managers. It is the end for many manipulators. A new contractor will come here with open eyes: this is the end of business as usual. Unlike Nanos, they will be competent and professional and yes, change is on the way. This is the whole point of the rebid process.

If you fear any type of change and think that no change is needed in Los Alamos: you better leave. If you are open-minded, hard working, you and your quality technical work will be valued. If you believe that you are entitled to a job for life just because you moved to an isolated place, just because you are working for national defense, just because you have clearance, you better leave. If you understand that change is needed, willing to adjust to a new environment, you will do just fine. Why not be optimistic? Isn't it possible that the change will be for the better?

The rebid is not a conspiracy to ruin anybody career or work environment, or to raid one's pension, nor is it part of a grand plan to destroy Los Alamos. It is a move to fix what is broadly perceived as a disfunctional organization.

If you are one of those gloom and doom managers: we all see your panic. Please stop these nonsense rumors.
I agree! I hardly see the forced exodus of a few worthless upper managers as "the end of LANL". If the new order would get rid of Seestrom too, I would call it a clean sweep! Beason and possible Mangeng were the only managers worth their salt at that level anyway, and if the rumor is correct, keeping them is an amazingly correct decision. As much as we might hate to admit it, Livermore and Sandia have had much much much better management and services than LANL in the last decade. If the new order can throw the Nanos bums out, and still keep a fair fraction of the LANL staff, LANL will once again be the top laboratory, not only in the DOE complex (hardly a solid measure), but in the world. To quote Ronald Reagan, "...if it takes a bloodbath, lets get on with it."
Wake up! The brain drain has been going on for the last few years. A lot of very talented people have left, many well before retirement age.
I have been told, by someone who should know (i.e. from HR) that the actual number for paperwork filed for retirement is on the order of 3,000 people.
3000? uh, I call bullshit

try dividing by 10, and you'll be closer
To 9:55, I heard similar things as you cite but from very respectful scientist who are not in management positions, so I am afraid you are horribly wrong.
To mama: you are blinded by ideology, most bad managers stay, lots of first class scientist leave.
There are NOT 3000 UC employees eligible to retire!!!

The number is close to 300. Your respectable scientist should stick to science. That's not to say that more people won't jump on the wagon at the last minute, and some may jump off.

I actually SEE the numbers, not hear them second hand!
Where did you get 300? Where are the facts on that. If you do some
estimates I get 2000. If you have proof of 300 let me know. In my division about 1/4-1/3 is the number. I would really like to see where 300 come from.
My "other side of the planet" detector just went off again. Maybe it's broken...
The comment I've heard is that the number may be limited but for an absurd reason: they've run out of time slots for appointments.

Anyone have any feedback to confirm or deny this comment?
I received one of the last available slots for retirement interviews *1 hour* after Kuckuck's initial all-hands meeting.

I think it is fair to say that the current rate of retirements at LANL is limited by the ability of HR to process retirement interviews.
You don't need an interview. All the material is available on the LANL HR web site. You can fax it in.
"Fax it in"

First I've heard of this. This feature certainly is not apparent on the HR web page.
In addition to the paperwork HR needs to see and copy your birth certificates and wedding liceneses...just in case bring the dog license too.
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