Monday, July 18, 2005

T Division Problems Run Deeper

From Anonymous:

T Division Problems Run Deeper
I have had no interactions with the COS, but I find the somehat
ad hominem remarks about her to be unpleasant and perhaps misplaced.
The real problem lies in the gutless T Division "leadership." In the
past, T Division leaders have valued science more than gamemanship, funding,
or long lists of meaningless publications, and the staff members generally
felt that they were "one of us." This is no longer the case.
During the past year we have had some world-class and still very
productive senior people retiring. More importantly for the future of the Division, some
very talented young people have left for academic positions. This hasn't
happened because of the COS. The decline of this once-renowned Division began before
the present COS and before Nanos.
The staff had no real input into the selection of the Division
leadership. More involvement of staff in these appointments would be
a very welcome change at LANL.

Indeed the problem is leadership (or lack thereof), but it is noteworthy how many of these offensive pseudo-managers (like Chiefs of Staff) were appointed during the Nanos reign or used the stand-down as an opportunity to seize power. Although the stand-down is now generally discredited, their despotism continues. Appointments made during the Nanos era should be reexamined, even technical ones that were made more on the basis of blind compliance than technical and leadership ability.
T-Division, one of the bright spots at LANL has indeed been on the decline for a long time, I suggest back to Sig Hecker. When they competed the T-Divison leadership, back during "re-engineering the corporation" in the early '90s, they had some outstanding candidates, with some very strong criticism of T-Division and Lab direction. Sig went internal. This happened also in other Divisions, like the Computing Division and NMT.
Seems that Sig had/has no stomach for criticism or strong subordinates. Since science is about validating our perception of reality, in an open arena; how is progress possible where criticism in unwelcome?
Perhaps a nuclear weapons mission can survive such stifling of dissent. Science can't. UC has been unwilling to deal with this problem.
Note; this in not a Nanos problem, it is a UC problem.
For what it's worth, my reasons for leaving T Division for a University have nothing to do with Alan Bishop, Audrey Archuleta or anyone else in line management, most of who seem to be doing the best job they can in difficult circumstances.

Rather my reason for leaving is encapsulated in two numbers: the success rate for LDRD proposals is 7%; and the overhead rate on external funding is nearly 70%. Small scale individual investigator-based research, which in the long run is the starting point for all bigger scientific projects, is being priced out of existence at LANL. Despite what may be said about an institutional commitment to science, actions speak louder than words.

Why should you ever get LDRD fuding, your work is on quantum computing and that has nothing to do with the lab mission. It might have something to do with the lab mission 10-20 years from now. But LDRD is not for basic reseach that can help the lab in the future it is about ... the lab mission.
Daniel: The commenter who followed you is correct in part. Some of the metrics for evaluating LDRD funding include the relevance to the LANL mission (since NW pays most of the cost of the LDRD Program they want some return) and how the proposal will affect future funding (this is where the proposals that are not NW-related are justified). A proposal that only has a "good science" component is unlikely to get funded. I cannot speak to how quantum computing might be related to the LANL mission 10 years out. Frankly, with a 7 to 10% success rate, writing LDRD proposals is a poor expenditure of time.
Has anyone else noticed the misogynist trend in the postings to this blog? The most personal, vituperative commments seemed to be reserved for women....
Rich Marquez is a woman?
Daniel, let me get this straight. The institution didn't bow to your brilliance and rain money on you so you could play in your niche sandbox, so you're taking your toys elsewhere.

Typical T-Division entitlement culture BS.

Good effing riddance.
"...and the overhead rate on external funding is nearly 70%." - Post 4:37 PM

You need to check those figures more closely. Perhaps there is a discount
rate for some special type of outside work, but the current tax rate for most
Work-for-Others (WFOs) is now running around 130%. The average LANL TSM
will cost an outside sponsor around $340 K per year at our outrageously
bloated tax rates. There aren't many outside sponsors left who are willing
to hire someone for $340 K per year. Unfortunately, the management at
LANL could care less about our bloated tax rates. They live off this stuff!
And many of those who live within the weapons divisions (and, thus, have
no earthly idea what they cost) will simply spout convenient mantras about
the need to "work within the core missions of the lab". Of course, when
those "core missions" suffer deep cuts in funding (as they have in the past),
the WFO funding suddenly becomes more interesting to upper management.
An analysis of "overhead" might be in order. How much goes towards paying for Nanos' standdown; for the Enterprise "Big Ditch" Project; for the teams of security folks that track and account for Accountable CREM; for costly splitting work into separate line and program; for SYA administrative processes that require more signatures than the Constitution; for facility tasks that could be done by one person requiring small armies of men and women; for inane processes that require managers to spend more time in meetings than at the point of work; for unfunded mandates that keep pouring in from NNSA; and for legal defense of a senior leadership team that showed no courage when Nanos was here and no backbone to correct the abuses that he had caused within their complicit silence. T Division is not an island unto itself.
Anonymous at 7/19/2005 12:43:45 AM is correct about the taxes on WFO, typically about 130% depending upon the division. Actually, it may be higher because some ADs impose a tax on all work and DOE/ABQ will tax WFO projects.
I happen to know Daniel. It is a great great loss to LANL. Your attitude makes me sick. This is a free market and Daniel skills
so in demand that he is getting a chaired professorship. Los Alamos should make every
effort to keep the best if it is to remain of value
If all the people like Daniel left than Los Alamos should be shut down. And yes Daniel is brilliant, as evidenced by his new position. As for the T-Division entitlement, let me say this. It is competition,
hard work, and ability that is rewarded. If you are brilliant, work really hard, and get great
results you are rewarded accordingly. That is the
way of things and that is how it should be. The people in T-division are the hardest working people in LANL, they are on average the best
and brightest in LANL. T division has only done good things for the lab.

Poster 11:27 you are a pathetic human being, and should be ashamed of your self for you
comments. I doubt you are 1/50 the the value to LANL that Daniel is. LANL needs people like Daniel it does not need people like you.
At LANL, as elsewhere, good people have choices and can leave for better opportunities. The dregs stay on and on because they have nowhere to go.
Dawn: I think that it is improper to classify those who "stay on" as "drags." Some of us stay on in the hope that we can change things.

Have you left?
Having been at SNL for a couple of months now, I can say that if Hutchinson/Lockheed Martin can run the lab with a free hand, there will be a lot of changes that LANL really needs.

One thing that will happen is that everyone will be held a lot more accountable for their actions and getting work done. Yes there are slackers at SNL.. but the percentage is a lot smaller than I saw at LANL. I would expect that the lab would either be expected to do 40% more work.. or have 40% less staff.

Taxes would be smaller on things which means that a lot less services would be available for a while as people get trained to do more with less. The NEST fellow who called Browne because the bathroom hadnt been cleaned by 0800 would probably be given a mop and soap if he couldnt wait.
DJ, your statement that "... Alan Bishop, Audrey Archuleta or anyone else in line management, most of who seem to be doing the best job they can in difficult circumstances ..." seems a bit disingenous to me. One of the first laws of Bad Management is "Do only what you can, not what needs to be done!". In difficult circumstances, we need to go beyond those afflicted by the Peter Principle and find those who can do what needs to be done!
I would suggest that they adopt the Hippocratic Oath, "First, Do No Harm".
"The people in T-division are the hardest working people in LANL, they are on average the best and brightest in LANL. T division has only done good things for the lab."

Thanks for confirming your cluelessness beyond a shadow of a doubt.
10:01 Poster,

The facts are the facts. Why not come in on a weekend mf and see who is working? It is the people in T. Why not see who gives LANL the good press? It is the people in T. And why not ask who are the people who get jobs elswhere. Which group gets 1/3-1/2 of all LANL's papers. It is T. You have no idea what you are talking about. Get you facts right. Make no mistake, there are great people at LANL and a large number of them are in T. If they go than there is a good argument to shut LANL down. Get you facts right. I know and you know you suck and are worthless to LANL and the taxpayer.

Do you have a clearance?
Do you have a brain?
I think the point 11:50 is making is that if you don't have a clearance, it's pretty silly to make statements about which parts of the lab are hardest-working, etc.

The view expressed by 10:57 would carry much more weight if he/she holds a clearance and is familiar with work inside the fence.

I strongly suspect, however, that 10:57 does not in fact hold a clearance, making his/her comments at best uninformed (or, in the words of 10:01, clueless).
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