Tuesday, October 04, 2005

A Wish List from a concerned Los Alamos staff member

UC Regents and President Dynes: I wish you would openly, publicly state that the 2004 lab shutdown was a disastrous mistake and a dramatic over-reaction. I wish you would attempt to open a dialogue with the technical staff about how you plan to address safety and security incidents without elevating them to the level of national crisis. You need to specify how you will gather input from the staff in this effort. I wish you would publicly state that there will NOT be another shutdown.

NNSA: I wish you would acknowledge what Brad Holian has made obvious, that safety and security problems at LANL are comparable to - not dramatically worse than - what they are at other DOE facilities. I wish you would testify to Congress honestly and accurately instead of pandering to their pre-conceived characterizations. Instead, you have been complicit in making LANL the favorite punching bag for Congress.

Lab Director and Associate Directors: I wish you would admit that at least some of the disciplinary actions taken in 2004 were unfair (especially Kauppila and Horne), and that you would correct them. These actions were all about making it seem to Congress that you were just doing something, and they compromised fairness and integrity. Scientists will leave the institution if they do not have assurance that discipline is measured and that civil rights are respected.

Lab legal staff: I wish you would work on behalf of the technical staff at the laboratory, not just the director. I wish you would focus on ethics, not just legal technicalities.

LANL Public Affairs: I wish you would stop presuming that you know how the technical staff feels about the lab shutdown. You could, for example, pick up the phone and ask us. I wish you would work on behalf of the technical staff, not just the director.

Science Council: I wish you would be an independent voice for the technical staff, advocating substantive changes enabling us to get our jobs done and helping to preserve an atmosphere of creativity and innovation. Instead, you have become a wing of the director's office. I wish you would communicate to us what you are doing.

Ambassador Linton Brooks: You have publicly apologized for calling LANL a "culture of non-compliance," and I thank you for that. But you have not, to my knowledge, returned to Congress to retract the statement made in Congressional testimony. You need to make it clear that many previous assertions made about LANL operations and LANL scientists were unfounded, and even irresponsible. This is about more than just hurt feelings: national security has been damaged by making it harder to attract funding.

Congressman Hobson: I wish you would take the time to visit LANL and actually find out what we work on here. I wish you would acknowledge that nuclear weapons aging is a real problem, not a ploy to prop up a jobs program. I respect your anti-nuclear advocacy, but instead of promulgating an intelligent debate on the issue, you have reduced it to a series of provocative sound bites. I wish you wouldn't allow budgetary bickering to substitute for rational national security policy making.

US House of Representatives: I wish you would drop the vituperative rhetoric. Stop using LANL, selectively, as a favorite punching bag. To blame UC management for incidents at LANL is a crude, unjustified, ridiculous bit of deception. Senators Domenici and Bingaman have both publicly stated that "the Congress has a propensity to over-react." You should listen to them.

Newspaper Journalists: I wish you would stop taking events out of context. You are free to report on what happens at LANL, good and bad. But you have the responsibility to report the full story, not the alarming sound bites. If your editor limits the column inches available for your story, tell him you refuse to print unless you have sufficient space to get the story right. It is a matter of professional integrity and service to the public.

Senator Domenici: You have been a stalwart supporter of science and engineering in nuclear weapons R&D. But you have forgotten that advances in national security depend on a broad base of technical excellence in many other endeavors, even some basic research areas. The mission of the lab has broadened beyond nuclear weapons to national security, including environmental security, infrastructure security, health security, and computer security -- this happened decades ago. I wish you would nurture these other areas just as much as the nuclear weapons complex.

Anti-nuclear advocacy groups: I wish you would acknowledge that nuclear weapons R&D is sustained by the US Congress, and is not simply some selfish attempt to preserve jobs for PhDs. I wish you would stop demonizing LANL scientists. You could start by reading Hugh Gusterson's book.

C. Paul Robinson and Lockheed-Martin: I wish you would acknowledge that the problems at Sandia are just as severe as they are at LANL, even if they are out of the public eye.

My technical colleagues at LANL: I wish you would start fighting back by speaking out about unfairness and bad decisions.

Pete Nanos: I wish you would apologize. I wish you would publicly acknowledge your mistakes, especially in the way the CREM incident was investigated.

-- Bernard Foy

Comments:
This is an excellent letter and reflects the true opinions of many. Thank you for this, it made my day.
 
Well said, Bernie.

--Doug
 
As noted by the two previous commentors, this is an excellent letter. It's also a pipe dream. I have never EVER seen people such as Nanos, Dynes, LANL ADs, LANL DDs, etc. ever admit or fix a mistake. exgnh
 
Bernie:

You have made excellent points, every one of them! I only wish that it were possible to even IMAGINE that the people you so maturely addressed would give mature responses themselves. Even so, these things needed to be said, and you said them well. Thank you for this.

I am waiting first and foremost for the apology from Nanos, whether personal or general to all the staff; the rest will swiftly but surely follow. (Oops, sorry, I promised earlier not to use subtle sarcasm in my posts.)

-Brad
 
Wow! I just noticed that I posted that almost two weeks ago. -Still no apologies received.

In receive mode,

-Brad
 
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