Sunday, July 17, 2005

Power and Money in Los Alamos Contract

July 17, 2005 : Business

  • The UC system, which has run the sprawling nuclear weapons lab since World War II, is battling its critics and an imposing challenger.

  • The competition for the newly lucrative contract to run Los Alamos National Laboratory is now a head-to-head battle between two formidable teams: on one side, the University of California and engineering powerhouse Bechtel; on the other, the University of Texas and Lockheed Martin, the nation's largest defense contractor.

    At stake is not only the day-to-day operation of Los Alamos, the vast nuclear weapons design center that stretches across 40 miles of New Mexico high desert. The contract winner also will claim a key role — potentially for the next two decades — in advising policymakers on the safety and reliability of the nation's aging nuclear stockpile and whether new bombs are needed.


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    The new privatization model ensures profit-driven motivation toward mindless compliance for the sake of compliance with ALL DOE/NNSA demands (no matter how poorly conceived or damaging) to perpetuate more profits through contract extensions at near 10x what UC historically loses but, more importantly, our nation loses. Money, power, influence, and more money; meet the new LANL.
    I have to wonder if 11:25:30am works at LANL.

    If there's anything I've seen in 16 years at LANL, it is UC's total devotion, especially in the last 10, to "...mindless compliance with ALL DOE/NNSA demands (no matter how poorly concieved or damaging)..." to quote 11:25:30am.

    The Laboratory under UC is so spineless in the face of astonishing stupidity, waste and abuse from DOE/NNSA, that we have been turned into jelly.

    All I hear is "science loses."

    I don't buy it at all.

    Did science "win" under UC last year, the year before, the year before that? How did the shutdown bring home a victory for "science?"

    It seems that there are those who's unsubstatiated complaints about science dying at LANL after the contract is let (since there's no crystal ball, they can't know for sure) is just fear mongering.

    What is the motive of such fear-mongering?

    And we then hear repeatedly that "it's all about the money." Surprise!

    We live in a capitalist society, and it is always about the money.

    Ivory tower universities are always after the grant money for research, untenured profs are always working to publish to get tenure and, among other things, financial security.

    So join us here in the present.

    The Cold War is over.

    Bucket loads of money for LANL to do whatever LANL wants, regardless of what our customers need, are gone. However amazing and intense and rewarding those times were, they're over.

    For those who would like to live in the former LANL where anything goes, I hate to tell you, but you're probably going to be a whole lot happier somewhere else, where it's not "all about the money."

    If you can find anywhere like that on earth.
    I also find it interesting how people keep going on about the loss of science at the lab.
    I am very worried about LANL cutting back on basic science since that is what I do. However, the reality is that on the whole most of what is done at LANL is not science at all. The weapons people are not doing science so nothing is going to happen to them and they make up the vast majority of the people. The basic science is done at T, MST, B, and C. Although these groups also have very applied components as well.
    On the whole maybe there is 200-300 people who do science
    who would be affects to some degree. Thats it out of
    8-10,0000 people.

    Another thing people do not seem to realize is that if you do real basic science at LANL you have to fight tooth and nail for your funding, so ya it is all about money and nothing but. For the rest of the lab their funding is secure and they have no worries. So I still do not see what the big deal is. Maybe it is just about pensions.

    Some bloggers seem to continue to assume that UC can "win" the contract. In fact "UC" has not even bid on the contract and therefore cannot win. The new corporation, led by UC and not related in any corporate sense to UC (as required by the RFP) will run the Lab. Current UC workers will work for "XYZ, LLC" and NOT for UC. You want UC benefits? Retire before June 1, 2006. If not, you are out of luck. Please educate yorselves about this - even if you cannot retire, going UC "inactive" may be your best choice.
    Los Alamos is an interesting place. A number of my co-workers have told me, "I want UC to win so that my benefits won't change."

    My response, similar to that voiced in the previous comment, was "It doesn't matter who wins the contract, your benefits are going to change. The benefits will be determined by the terms of the RFP, not by who wins it. So even if Bechtel/UC wins, benefits will change."

    Hiding one's head in the sand is certainly a characteristic of many Los Alamosans. Cowardice, exhibited in the form of fearing to speak out against incompetent, abusive management, unfortunately, is another.

    My bottom line assessment: LANL staff will get what they deserve out of the RFP process, or perhaps better, if LM wins.
    Mr. Anonymous boldly stated:

    "Cowardice, exhibited in the form of fearing to speak out against incompetent, abusive management, unfortunately, is another."

    I'm hoping that CCNS follows thru with a bid and actually wins. We need to get everyone back to work on finding the bacteria that eat plutonium and excrete gasoline.
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