Saturday, August 13, 2005

Real and permanent damage

I would like to respond in part to the following statement made by Gary Stradling and also to make a few comments that I believe are important at this time. Mr. Stradling recently made these statements:


Interesting that some here count the character assassination of a
living, working, diligent Laboratory employee (manager or not) to
carry less weight than the defamation of a dead friend. Whether the
accused be Jeep, Fred, Sue, Phil, Micheline, Tom, Pete, etc., these
are people who have focused decades-long careers on serving the
nation and the Lab, to the best of their abilities, and whose future
careers can be destroyed by your “many venomous, mean-spirited
anonymous comments.”

It is the most transparent hypocrisy to claim innocence in
anonymously slandering someone ‘because they deserve it (though we do
not need to prove it)’ but to decry the defamation of a friend.


Mr. Stradling makes his statements based on his own bias and without the appreciation of the real and permanent damage that has been done directly to a few and indirectly to the entire laboratory. Todd Kauppila's career was the first to be destroyed and ultimately he lost his life. That is real and tangible and cannot be compared to Mr. Stradlings claim that comments here are destroying the careers of the people he listed. In fact, several of the people that he mentioned engaged in actions that are by any measure unethical and, in my opinion, quite possibly illegal. George P. Nanos, Sue Seestrom, and Kevin Jones worked together in an attempt to vilify both me and Todd as well as to bolster the erroneous statements made by the Director on 14 July, 04. It is a fact that Nanos knew on 17 July, 04 that nothing was missing and we had not engaged in the wrongdoing he described. From that date forward every dollar wasted on the shut down and the punishment of innocent employees were federal funds spent to protect the personal interests of LANL, UC, and other government officials who refused to admit their errors. I may be a layman but the term fraud comes to mind. The dollars we supply to the government are not there for the purpose of avoiding personal embarrassment. In any case it was hardly worth the hundreds of millions that it cost.

As for careers in ruin, the destruction of my decades-long career also has predated that of any of Gary's friends. As was the case with Todd I am also not guilty of wrongdoing and the accusations made against me by the laboratory were completely false. Such are the values of the people Gary Stradling chooses to defend. His statements are opinion. I can back my statements with documentation and the testimony of witnesses willing to come forward. That is not venomous or mean-spirited, it is a fact. Just because the truth is not pleasant doesn't mean that we should ignore it.

There has been a disturbing unwillingness on the part of Congress to truly investigate this matter. Both Todd and I spoke with Dwight Cates at the House Energy and Commerce Committee. When he heard what we had to say they opted to allow only Linton Brooks and Nanos to testify. I have made Senator Bingaman aware that Nanos' testimony was not truthful but as of this writing I have not heard back from him or his staff. I have also made him aware that there is a great deal of information that has not yet been brought forward on this issue. Naturally the laboratory wants that situation to continue. I would like the opportunity to state, for the record, the transgressions committed against American citizens who were working in the service of their country. I would like to state, for the record, that Todd Kauppila was a great American who worked tirelessly for this country and that the loss of his expertise is a national tragedy. I would like to state, for the record, that the abuses that so many have suffered at the hands of these unethical officials should never again be allowed.

Many people had a part in the events of last summer but special attention should be paid to our former Director. Not only did he orchestrate the misrepresentation of events but he shut down and critically weakened a crucial national asset during a time of war for personal gain. These are acts that, in my opinion, deserve the most severe penalties available. I will post the letter that I wrote to Senator Bingaman and I hope that those of you who agree with me will make a point to contact the Senator and urge him to take a closer look at the events that have so negatively affected the nation, the Lab, and the community at large.


John N. Horne

John Horne-
Sincerity: I believe that you are sincere but mistaken in the assumptions underling your statement, and in the remediation process you propose to rectify it.

Your accusations: You presume to be able to make accusations in a public forum and seek to be vindicated in a mob-like process. You make specific allegations of wrongdoing by others and of innocence on yours and Todd’s parts that can only be evaluated in light of the whole record. None of us is able to engage in any adjudication of the disciplinary action taken with regard to you and Todd. Those you accuse are bound from responding by respect for your privacy and by the legal restrictions of their jobs. They are restricted from defending themselves. However, the actions taken by the UC, the Lab, and the managers followed a defined process. You say: “I can back my statements with documentation and the testimony of witnesses willing to come forward.” But you do not present this documentation and or statements of these witnesses. I have suggested to you that if you want to throw public accusations in this kind of a lopsided evidentiary environment, that you sign privacy waivers relating to anything pertaining to this issue and publish relevant documentation that is available to you. If you are unwilling to do that, you should hold your piece until the matter gets into a court where all will be laid out under the equitable rule of law.

You assert that Todd’s death was predetermined by the disciplinary action against him. This is a world in which unbeckoned events are part of our common experience; e.g.: who gets sick; accidents that occur on the highway; the luck of the draw in who first meets to the pretty girl to woo and win her; who is there and qualified when the job opportunity opens up; etc. In life we respond to the challenges we do not invite, and in the process demonstrate who we are. No one sought Todd’s death, but all felt the tragedy of it. I was particularly sorry for his family’s loss. However, I have a hard time assigning blame for Todd’s death to the three people you point to.

With regard to the Laboratory stand-down, in earlier postings I have detailed the very involved political climate of the time. Since then I have heard from independent sources confirming the, then extremely punitive, attitude of some powerful figures in Congress and DOE.
-It is unfortunate that the Laboratory is in an organizational, regulatory, and media environment where punitive and prejudicial responses are spring loaded against us. In a sense it our heritage, holding the keys of nuclear weapons as well as all of the baggage that goes with them.
-That fact implies that our managers must act in a constrained decision space. The result will be actions that cannot be optimized for the good of the Lab or its mission.
-Pete Nanos is a decisive man of vision and courage. I think he was given a job, because of his attributes, during a time when the Lab was transitioning too slowly from a Cold War paradigm, of accelerating us to competence and trustworthiness in dealing with the political realities of today. He was a “change agent.” I do not endorse him for saint-hood. A less self-confident person might have surrounded himself with the help needed to compensate for weaknesses in communication and coordination. He certainly has paid a price to fulfill his assignment.

You point out a significant issue: “There has been a disturbing unwillingness on the part of Congress to truly investigate this matter. Both Todd and I spoke with Dwight Cates at the House Energy and Commerce Committee. When he heard what we had to say they opted to allow only Linton Brooks and Nanos to testify.” After you made your best case to an organization that has cheerfully taken the Lab to task a time or two, they did not call you to testify. Perhaps they do not see the events as you do?

“…Todd Kauppila was a great American who worked tirelessly for this country and that the loss of his expertise is a national tragedy” Who can doubt that? We live in a world where great men and women of national stature fall from their places because of errors in judgment. I would not presume that for someone to make errors justifying the disciplinary actions taken against Todd, that that error blackens a noble record of service or accomplishment. This fallacy, that a person’s single prominent error is the true measure of their character, seems to permeate today’s culture, but I do not endorse it. A better measure of a person is a their cumulative track record, with added weight given to the most recent actions. These reflect all the accrued wisdom and repentance from their life.

Well, I have given a big chunk of my Saturday to you with the hope that you or some who feel similarly might come to better clarity of thought on this matter and more peace of mind. Reality is what it is, including political reality. The better we understand it the better we can act. For you to respond to a hurt, in which you claim to be falsely accused, with bald, but unproven, accusations of malfeasance against everyone ELSE is fundamentally wrong.
While I hardly see this issue as John or Gary does, for myself I find it pathetic that Pete, and Susan, and Kevin never spoke with Todd, or Genny, or Francis, or John or others about their roles in the now infamous non-missing, non-CREM, non-incident. To deliberately and repeatedly ignore their subordinates, while at the same time publicly proclaiming their guilt before the facts were in - was not the burden of leadership as Gary suggests - but a mark of true cowardice. That they now walk the world with that brand is their own doing, not the blogs. A real leader would admit the mistake and would be doing everything in his/her power to make amends to Sara, her children, and the countless others who have suffered as a result of this fiasco. It is my hope that justice prevails here in Los Alamos, that the Leadership improves, and that the excuses stop.
I'm sure that our former director had some redeeming qualities. One can also argue that Hitler ended inflation, Stalin defended his country in the Patriotic War, and Mussolini made the trains run on time. No one completely lacks redeeming qualities.

I wonder whether, on the whole, my safety and the nation's security were improved by my being kept idle for six weeks. I spent three days cleaning my office and ensuring that all my papers were correctly labelled; I count those three days as well-spent.

Curiously, the stand-down did not eliminate accidents and other sources of bad publicity for LANL.

I agree with the statement that our former director was a "change agent." He worked (perhaps unwittingly) with others in the government to ensure that the University of California would lose its contract to manage LANL. In that work he seems to have been very successful. There is now strong support in the congress and the public for changing the contract manager.

Another important element in the change process has been this blog. It supports the view that LANL management is bad and must be changed by a new contract manager.

We are standing in the midst of weeds that were sewn in the mid 1980's. It's too late for us to root them out one by one. The man with the rototiller is revving up its engine.
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