Tuesday, October 25, 2005

(You want to know what I think?)

I just returned from a trip to Ohio State U. to give an invited physics colloquium about some fine theoretical work my colleagues (and I) are doing here at LANL, and also to talk with young people there about conditions at the Lab. Some have the distinct impression that UC has already been awarded the contract. One guy even said he was sure he saw it in print last week. (I disabused him of that notion. I hope nothing happened while I was gone that I didn't hear about...) All the professors, postdocs, and graduate students that I met at OSU were concerned that the events of the past couple of years have done untold and unnecessary damage to a fine scientific institution--one young person called it "the nation's leading resource for science." That's honestly how we are viewed, at least by a significant number in academia.

My own view on the contract bid, which I will restate here for clarification, is that it appears to me that the LockMart/UT team is doing a more professional job of presenting its case, in public at least, than Bechtel/UC. By saying that, I was hoping that the latter team would be prompted to be more forthright in addressing the concerns of all of us (including us semi-retired guys). It appears that they are so hamstrung by legal issues that nothing more will be forthcoming. I truly had hoped for better, but have come to realize that it doesn't do you any good to hope for a savior. -From either camp.

That's just my impression.

Comments:
"All the professors, postdocs, and graduate students that I met at OSU were concerned that the events of the past couple of years have done untold and unnecessary damage to a fine scientific institution--one young person called it "the nation's leading resource for science." That's honestly how we are viewed, at least by a significant number in academia."

It is truly amazing that we can still do good science, in spite of all the BS we have to deal with to do our jobs. That is one of the reasons I stay here (in addition to the raging LA nightlife ;-)
Frankly I don't give a damn who wins the contract, as long as the winner makes it easier to do work.
 
"Some have the distinct impression that UC has already been awarded the contract. One guy even said he was sure he saw it in print last week."

Wow. There's someplace else on the planet that's even more out of touch with reality than Los Alamos. Who would have thought?

Seriously, the world does not revolve around LANL. Most of the rest of the country doesn't know, nor could care less about what goes on in our little part of the world. We sometimes forget that.
 
I suspect the Lockheed will make working at the labs easier. I know for a fact that Bechtel will not. Just ask anyone who has to work with them at the JASPER complex at NTS and you will find out what your future will be if they win. Multiply the time it takes to get the job done now by four and that is what you will have. Compound that with a lack of common sense and six engineers to do one mech techs job and you have your new LANL / LLNL. If the labs are to be saved they had better hope they get someone in their that is interested in making money or they are doomed.
 
I was in the directory looking for a name in HSR Division the other day and ran through a few of their groups. I was shocked. Their headcount is absolutely enormous, compared to even a few years ago. Whoever gets the contract, I hope that they take a meat ax to this Division. Human Resources also.... Both of these Divisions totally out of control.
Another favorite to cut is Lab Legal, which has more than doubled in recent years. They are an overpaid, arrogant bunch with little experience or competence. A group that spends our money to hire competent outside attorneys, and watches them work. This is law as a spectator sport for big bucks. Giving Frank Dickson, and that whole lot, the ax would save a lot of money, and grief. Clean out the lot, figure out what Lab Legal should be doing, and hire a couple of people to do it. No reason to wait, tomorrow wouldn't be too soon. They should have been cleaned out after Walp/Doran.
 
Regarding the last paragraph of the Original Post: I don't think that UC or the State of California really wants LANL. We provided UC with too many opportunities to embarrass themselves with the credit card non-scandal, the not-lost CREM, and Admiral Butthead.

BUT, I suspect that UC feels that they must go thru the motions of bidding the LANL contract (with Bechtel) so that they can get the LLNL contract. I really do not think that it would be politcally correct for the DOE to re-award UC the LANL contract after all that has gone on.

So, it is no suprise at all that LN/UT appears to be doing a better job of presenting their case. Not that they are doing such a great job of it, but the Bechtel/UC team is tanking.
 
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