Thursday, August 25, 2005

Stanford bound

Science Magazine - 5 Aug 2005

"Stanford bound.
... Hecker, who served as LANL's director until 1997 and stayed on as a scientist before retiring from the lab last month, is going to Stanford's Center for International Security and Cooperation this fall as a visiting professor. There, he'll continue his work on curbing proliferation and nuclear terrorism and teach courses on science and nuclear security. Hecker says the looming new LANL contract clinched his decision to leave the New Mexico lab...."

Pretty soon the only people left will be those on overhead. That's going to hurt.
Stanford's loss is our gain. How can we ever forget the man who gave us "flat-land" management, which was ridiculous on the face of it? Took a lot of years to undo that one, and basically rebuild the Senior Management Group. Meanwhile the Lab staggered around banging off the walls. Sig and Jim Jackson set LANL back years, by their own efforts, while UC watched, and cheered, just like they do today. Some things never change.
Good luck Sig; and good luck Stanford.
I don't think that Sig was all that bad. He was (still is) a decent person and a good scientist. He led LANL at a time when we were transitioning from the end of underground testing and that was difficult. Yes, some of his personnel decisions were not the best and buying into the "flat-land" management was a mistake. But, LANL was a much better place to work then than now. I consider that the DOE has been responsible for the decline of LANL.
9:25 and others of similar ilk,

A couple of short points.

- If you categorize the present Senior Management as "rebuilt," perhaps you'd be interested in a bridge I'm trying to sell.

- I knew and worked for Sig for most of my 20+ career at LANL. His heart was always in the right place, and while you or I might disagree with one or another of his managemnet initiatives, particularly with the advantage of hindsight, he maintained a focus on identifying and implementing a mission for LANL that could give it life and purpose beyond the end of the cold war -- stockpile stewardship.

- Compared to the recently-removed director, Sig was a management genius.

- Why is "Stanford's loss our gain." What is it that Sig has been doing at LANL recently that has been so terrible? I find the fact that while Sig ran LANL 3 directors ago, and yet still draws fire to be kind of sick. Ditto for Jim Jackson. And it doesn't do much to help the image of LANL in the real (off the mesa)world. Makes you all look like a bunch of whiny two-year olds. Folks, give it up already -- love them or hate them Sig and Jim are history; they've been gone a long while.
I think that we need to thank Sig for his work as Director. He got us through the end of underground testing. He fought some hard battles to keep the LDRD Program. Yes, Sig was NOT perfect, but I think that he did a reasonable job as Director. He always supported us, he was never abusive, and he never embarrassed us!
Sig was a good man, and he won't be the only well known figure to leave
LANL in the next year. Good luck, Sig!
Sig Hecker is the genius who RIFFED( laid off to non-LANL folk) something like 600 people because they were "support". Of course, most of those riffed were Hispanics and older people. The effect on people's lives was horrendous. The result at the lab was hilarious. Hecker had riffed almost the entire mail delivery team so the mail just piled up in the mail room. When important people began to miss important meetings because they didn't receive notices of them, Hecker's management decided that he should get some new help in the mail room. Then it was pointed out to him that when you RIF someone, it means you don't need that person so you can't replace them. Besides new mailroom workers would not have had security clearances so they couldn't handle the secure mail. So Hecker hired hourly LANL employees of various kinds -- including technicians who were paid a lot more than the original mail room employees, to come in after hours and sort and deliver the mail on overtime. This was really cost saving!
The most outrageous part of the RIF was that it was not conducted for financial reasons. It's purpose was to make the ratio of technical workers to support workers higher. LANL finished that year with $60 million extra -- not a good thing in the government world because money not spent is not allocated the next year.
Eventually the Department of Labor ruled that the RIF was discriminatory toward Hispanics and the LANL workers who were riffed were mostly rehired and got a small financial settlement.
Sig cared a lot about what Sig cared a lot about, but that wasn't support workers nor was it a whole lot of scientists who weren't doing the kind of work Sig liked.
He might workout well at Stanford. They probably won't put him in charge of any support workers, or at least I hope they won't.
I am not sure he was any better than Nanos as far as support workers are concerned. On the other hand, support workers are generally considered scum on this blog. No wonder the people who write for it liked Sig. He probably treated the people writing for this blog better than he treated support workers.
ALL of the directors that followed Harold Agnew have been greater or lesser disasters, but disasters nonetheless.
Anonymous : 8/26/2005 03:44:56 PM is correct in that the objective of the 1995 RIF was "to make the ratio of technical workers to support workers higher." This was (still is) a proper thing to do. For the period from 1985 to 1995 the ratio of overhead to direct-funded personnel continued to rise. If memory serves, there were only two direct-funded personnel for each overhead person in 1995. Of course, today, the ratio is probably one to one. Although it is hard to determine the ratio because the overhead organizations (and the Director's Office) have learned how to obscure the ratio.

When they did the preliminary numbers on the RIF, they found that a disproportionate number of the RIFees would be women and minorities. SO, it was dictated that ALL divisions would have to RIF some people. That would get some White Males involved.

The problem with the RIF was how it was carried out and what was done after the RIF. The planning and execution were poor. Sig's mistake here was trusting Jackson and some others a bit too much.If that RIF created a surplus of funds, well that was good because the idea was to have more money for science and technology.

The RIF did not unfairly target women and Hispanics. It just turns out that they tend to be in the overhead areas. As far as being discriminatory, there was a trial that had to be held in ABQ because the extreme negative publicity from the Santa Fe New Mexican and Rio Grand Sun justitified a change in venue. Of the five plaintiffs (two women, two Hispanics, and one 55-year old White Male Physicist), only the 55 year old White Male prevailed. Of course, then all of the Clinton appointees in the DOE and Department of Labor got involved and declared that the RIF was discriminatory and that some fraction of the RIFees had to be hired back. They are the ones who now staff FM and PS Divisions.
LANL presently has a much higher support to TSM ratio than LLNL and SNL. This problem was made much worse by the actions after the RIF -- we are continuing to hire instead of investing in infrastructure. AND, the hires are ssm not tsms.

There is run away hiring in PS and PM -- we are drowning in "support". Sig had it right, but failed in execution. We should not be a "welfare lab".
Lets see. All of the accidents lately have involved technical folks. Even some do no wrong Phds.Oh, but the lights stay on(mostly) the toilets work, the 50 year old buildings are still standing and warm or cool.You guys are right. Lets get rid of all the support folk and only hire Phds.Then every thing will be all right.
Regarding the previous comment: Yes the accidents do mostly involve the technical staff. That is because they are involved in the dangerous work. The major safety concern of the overhead people (including PM and PS) is a paper cut.

As far as the statement about the facilities, the cost of facilities management at LANL is obscenely high. FM is the least cost effective organization at LANL. The facilities do not operate all that well. My experience with the FM people is that they are not interested in fixing problems with simple solutions, just finding ways of extracting the maximum funds from the line organizations. We pay an infrastructure charge (formerly called space charge). But everytime we need something fixed, we have to pay extra.
To the 7:29 poster. I can't disagree with you on the cost. Not only are programs charged but KSL is very good at feather bedding.I do disagree about the technical folks doing the hazardous work. Mixing a couple of MLs of acid shouldn't be dangerous. Shouldn't send you to the hospital for six days.On the other hand facility folks routinely work on very hazardous systems. Have you ever removed an entire glove box line? Have you ever repaired a leaking transfer line full of nitric acid and Pu. Have you ever restarted the plutonium facility in the dark,wearing a resperator working on 13.2 Kv switchgear. Or how about moving a generator that weighs several tons and not getting hurt. Or working in supplied air.How about trying to keep a thirty year old building open 24/7 with systems that just CAN'T fail. FM Div office is where the paper cuts are. Not in the field. Get a clue. With out the people in the field doing the work there would be no place for science. Except maybe T div.
To 6:05PM...there are really just a handful of facilities people that keep Los Alamos afloat. The vast majority of facilities management is comprised of bloat and duplication of effort with KSL.

Quite a number of KSL field people spend a lot of their workday driving around, looking busy, snooping into unlocked rural offices and transportainers to see what might be in it for them. If you're reading this my friends at KSL, I have your number!
KSL will be dead-meat as soon as the new contractor takes over. It is
long over-due for them to be given the boot. They are sucking the dollars
out of this place any way they can, which is not suprising when you consider
that KSL is really just Halliburton's KBR with a slight name change.
Yes, we may have too many support people, but that doesn't excuse the evident disdain many of you folks seem to have for them. Many of them do hard, dangerous work for a lot less pay that the "more important" TSMs. Sure some of them are slackers - so are some of the TSMs - probably about the same proportion. But in fact if they all walked off the job, most the TSMs couldn't do diddly-squat. So please be more respectful of your fellow humans. They have wives and kids too, and need to make a living just like you do.
9:15pm, based on previous comments it sounded like a large part of the support staff was female. Perhaps many of them are the ones supporting their families?
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