Saturday, October 22, 2005

Nuke Chief Reassures LANL Staff on Future

By John Fleck
Journal Staff Writer

Whoever wins the contract to manage Los Alamos National Laboratory will have to take care of the lab's people if they want to keep the contract, the U.S. nuclear weapons program's top official said Friday.

"The most valuable resource at Los Alamos is not the high-tech equipment, but the people," Linton Brooks, head of the National Nuclear Security Administration, said in an interview.

The University of California has managed Los Alamos for the federal government since it was founded during World War II. But amid management scandals, Brooks' agency has opened the contract up for bid.


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Linton's lips are moving again. It wasn't that long ago that he was supporting his fellow admiral Nanos in characterizing us as a bunch of buttheads and cowboys, and telling us that he "fully supported Nanos' decision to shut us all down."

Get my drift?
Well, if "the most valuable resource at Los Alamos is not the high-tech equipment, but the people," then why have high-level managers in the DOE complex (like C. Paul Robinson and Steve Younger, for example) testified before courts and Congress that "the Crown Jewels of Los Alamos are the legacy bomb codes"? To which I say, AND NOT THE BOMB DESIGNERS? ? ?

We had one good former Director who said it plain and simple: "Bullshit!" (to paraphrase Harold Agnew). Sig Hecker, even though many have criticized him severely on this blog, would say pretty much the same thing, maybe in a few more words, but I know he would prefer to defend the people who have made those codes sing, rather than the codes themselves.

Finknottle's "drift" about Navy Capt. Brooks' statement is clear for all to see. And in the very next breath, his "vision of the future for LANL" is Rocky Flats II? ? ?

(Jesus wept.)
I think while we might all agree that people are perhaps the most "valuable" resource, the details of the value spectrum are not exactly clear.

Obviously, one measure of someone's organizational "value" is their salary, but there are others such as position, knowledge, ability, experience, outside funding, job function, check-the-box requirements, political realities, etc.

When there is plenty of funding to go around, most (not all) do not think about their value within an organization. When funding gets tight, like it or not, everyone's value comes into focus. In the likely backdrop of continual funding pressure in the future, as well as an evolving mission, the next few years should be interesting.
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