Sunday, December 04, 2005

Congressional correspondence

Dear Doug,

Please post the submission below and the included related documentation anonymously. When I initially emailed the documentation to you (ZIP format), your email server rejected the email because of the large file attachment size (~ 9 MB). Therefore, I've chopped the documents up into several emails. There should be five emails in addition to this one containing various documents (most in PDF format).

I highly encourage you to post the Congressional correspondence in its entirety. Thank you for your tireless efforts in maintaining the blog and promoting an environment of open discourse on the issues concerning the management of Los Alamos, Sandia and other national laboratories. Your work has ensured the free flow of information that would otherwise have not been possible without such a forum. Please email me if you have any questions or need clarification on anything.

Respectfully -- Anon.



Blog entry starts here:

As the award of the lucrative management contract for Los Alamos National Laboratory looms, it is apparent that the contract will likely be awarded to the team dominated by defense giant Lockheed Martin – the Los Alamos Alliance. Besides the glowing endorsements from the consortium themselves, no in-depth reporting of substance regarding Dr. C. Paul Robinson has surfaced in the media. The public perception of the former director of Sandia National Laboratories has been skillfully managed by a cadre of Sandia public relations personnel. The image of Sandia has been rigidly controlled by corporate structure of rules and regulations that prevent employees and contractors from publicly commenting on internal failings at the laboratory. Many of the security concerns and management problems that have been reported regarding Los Alamos also routinely occur at Sandia. Sandia employees are forbidden to speak with local, state and federal elected and appointed officials without first notifying their chain of management (see enclosed Sandia Internal Directive number ID012, “Executive Early Notification Policy”). Since Sandia is an at-will employer, the corporation can terminate employees at any time – for any reason. This arrangement is an effective deterrent for preventing staff from airing security, quality assurance, management, or any other concerns outside of the controlled environment of the Laboratories – even to federal officials. Under Los Alamos’ current operating manager, University of California, only certain upper management personnel (see LANL Implementation Procedure IMP 744.1 07/12/2005) are considered at-will employees. This policy will almost certainly be an integral part of the public perception management machinery at Los Alamos should Lockheed win the contract. At-will employment clauses might be appropriate for private sector service industry organizations, but certainly not for a government-owned research laboratory that performs key nuclear weapons work.

Sandia received almost $2.4 billion in funding in 2004. Under Lockheed, some Sandia staff members’ performance appraisals are impacted by how much funding they bring into the Laboratories; this practice has increased as budgets have tightened. You won’t find this tidbit of information anywhere public; you’ll have to talk to Sandia managers or tech staff who work for organizations that depend on Work for Others (WFO) projects for large portions of their funding. These people are scientists, not salespeople, and shouldn’t be evaluated on how effective they are at fundraising. The mission of Sandia and other national research laboratories is to conduct research, and apply that research to endeavors that are beneficial to the nation – not to be just another Beltway Bandit. Placing public trust and safety in the hands of a small number of corporate executives that have a vested financial interest in suppressing negative information seems irresponsible and dangerous – especially for institutions that design, produce and verify munitions in the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile. Traditionally, Los Alamos has carried out the research and design behind weapons in the nuclear arsenal, and Sandia has verified that the science behind the work is valid, and that these devices will function correctly (“stockpile stewardship”). If Lockheed emerges as the winner of the contract to manage Los Alamos, one private entity will oversee both roles; Lockheed, in essence, will be both the “doers” and the “checkers.”

There have been criticisms that if Lockheed wins the contract to manage Los Alamos, it would give the huge defense firm a monopoly on nuclear weapons work. In attempts to dispel these concerns, Dr. Robinson has repeatedly quoted “key instructions” he claims were given to him by Lockheed when he took over as Sandia: “Don’t ever let anybody try to put corporate interests before what you and your people think are the national interests.” Since Lockheed signs Dr. Robinson’s paycheck, that statement just doesn’t seem very convincing. Lockheed is in the business of making money and pleasing their stockholders. It is apparent from the included correspondence (Senator Charles Grassley, the DOE IG, and the NNSA) that there is a lot of information that was not made public regarding Dr. Robinson’s actions in the wake of the Bay Report. This is the advantage that a private corporation has over a public entity in management contracts such as Sandia’s and LANL’s. These corporations can claim that results of internal investigations and “independent assessments” are “proprietary,” and shield them from public scrutiny, just as Lockheed and Sandia did with the Bay Report. This, despite the fact that Sandia is a taxpayer funded institution. The contract to manage Los Alamos will entail managing over two billion dollars of gross operating funds annually. If Lockheed wins, it will further its domination of the weapons and weapons delivery areas for the corporation.

Many may argue that oversight mechanisms built in to these management contracts provide adequate safeguards. Since the Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) have historically done an extremely poor job of oversight, this arrangement does not bode well for security and science at these laboratories. Besides an inadequate number of personnel to accomplish their assigned tasking, management at the NNSA and the DOE are simply not willing to do their jobs (see enclosed correspondence between Senator Grassley and DOE Inspector General Gregory Friedman dated 12/16/2004). Recent news reports indicate that NNSA’s Los Alamos office incredibly isn’t even ready to manage the new operating contract. This speaks volumes about the incompetence of the agency and its ability to perform capable oversight of the contract. The contract recompete should not be a surprise to the agency; they’ve had at least over a year and a half to prepare.

The NNSA site office at Sandia isn’t any better. They seemed to be confused when the issues that sparked the Bay Report publicly surfaced, even though Sandia personnel had repeatedly reported similar problems to their office numerous times in the prior years. Something seems to be seriously broken in this system, and it needs to be fixed before Lockheed descends on Los Alamos. The corporation has been allowed to operate almost unchecked at Sandia since taking over the contract in 1993. It is standard operating procedure at Sandia for management to repeatedly deny anything is wrong, discredit or fire (at-will employer) those that raise alarms, and delay/deny in their interactions when it comes to Congressional inquiries. A key tactic is to age the problems until they become irrelevant. The management and oversight contracts facilitate all of this. The bottom line is that Lockheed is a private corporation, and as such, is afforded a much higher level of confidentiality when it comes to day to day operations. The Sandia NNSA site office seems to float along with the current, not bothering to properly follow up on reports of security problems until they are forced to do something.

It is extremely difficult for the taxpaying public to get an accurate picture of the working environment at Sandia because of the secretive nature of the work, and the firm control management maintains over its employees. Following the Bay Report, Lab officials ramped up their public relations machine into high gear – both outside and inside the Sandia. The Bay Report is a supposedly “independent” examination of a series of security and management failures at Sandia. It has never been released to the public, despite being paid for by U.S. taxpayers. Dr. Robinson, Sandia president at the time of these failures, paid Mr. Norman Bay and several others $200,000 of the publics’ money to perform the assessment. This occurred only after over two years of constant pressure from Senator Charles Grassley’s office, contrary to what Dr. Robinson stated in a letter (enclosed) distributed to all employees on June 26, 2003. Senator Grassley, the Chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, even had trouble getting Sandia to turn over a complete version of the report; he was constantly stonewalled by Sandia’s Executive Vice President Dr. Joan Woodard (see enclosed correspondence from Senator Grassley to Spencer Abraham, dated June 17, 2003). It seems asinine that a senior U.S. Senator has to beg the head of the Department of Energy for an uncensored copy of an “independent” investigation that was funded by tax dollars, that concerns an institution that receives billions of dollars in public funding.

In June of 2003, it was announced to the public amidst great fanfare that Sandia senior management had swiftly disciplined personnel and held them responsible for their actions. The Vice President for National Security and Arms Control, Mr. David Nokes, was given the ultimatum to resign or be terminated. Portions of the disciplinary letter given to Mr. Nokes include:

“You made very serious management decision errors which violate Sandia’s Code
Of Ethics and Business Conduct, Corporate Business Policy 400.3.7, as well as
the trust of the Laboratories, by (1) refusing to fully cooperate in an investigation
and (2) directing the destruction of evidence… You obstructed access to
information… By ordering the destruction of the [computer hard] drive you made
it impossible for the Laboratories to prove the absence of espionage or other
serious issues…”

These excerpts are taken from correspondence from Senator Grassley to Linton Brooks in a letter dated October 5, 2004 (enclosed). Shortly after the hard drive was assigned to an investigation, Mr. Nokes ordered a subordinate, Mr. Joe Quinby, to “get rid of the evidence” by destroying the drive in question. Mr. Quinby complied by smashing the hard drive with a sledge hammer; he is still happily employed by Sandia. Approximately two weeks after Mr. Nokes was forced to resign due to gross misconduct (June 25, 2003), Dr. Robinson initiated the process of reinstating Mr. Nokes’ security clearance on July 9, 2003 – completely out of the public eye. In the same letter to Linton Brooks dated October 5, 2004, Senator Grassley states, “The need to reinstate Mr. Nokes’ Q clearance was driven by a 1-year ‘no fee’ consulting contract awarded to Mr. Nokes by Dr. Robinson on July 15, 2003.” The stated purpose on the clearance reinstatement paperwork was to allow Sandia’s new management team to “have classified discussions with Mr. Nokes” in order to pick his brain – but they never did, according to the DOE Inspector General’s office. Several weeks later, Sandia chose not to continue the consulting contract, and Mr. Nokes’ security clearances were transferred to the State Department, where he works to this day. Dr. Robinson’s behavior seemed completely bizarre, as he and Mr. Nokes had made it a point to publicly spar in the press about “how much they disagreed with each other” (see Albuquerque Tribune piece dated June 27, 2003 Shortly after the media attention died down, almost all of the employees “disciplined” as a result of the investigation were given generous cash bonuses and raises. One individual involved, Mr. Dave Stout, was given a $19,200 base pay raise and a $5,000 cash award – highly unusual amounts considering the average staff raises at Sandia.

This pattern of payoffs and cover-ups is business as usual, not the exception within Sandia. The management operates with impunity, often ignoring their own rules they’ve created for themselves when it’s convenient. Staff members openly deride the required annual ethics training, and speak of its irony. Management employs sham disciplinary measures to appease Congressional investigators and the public when solid proof of wrongdoing escapes the controlled environment of the Laboratory. It is an atmosphere devoid of accountability and oversight. Cronyism and arrogance is endemic in the management chain. All of this is extremely unfortunate, as the great majority of the scientists and supporting staff are competent and hard-working people

Two Sandia Corporate Investigators tasked with performing internal investigations at Sandia tried in vain for several years to get Sandia management to address rampant security issues and incidents of theft, only to be repeatedly retaliated against and stonewalled. Their whistleblowing to Senator Grassley’s office, the resulting political pressure, and public scrutiny finally forced Paul Robinson to take some sort of action. The investigators’ jobs were saved only by the intervention of the Senator’s office. In the year leading up to Dr. Robinson’s commissioning of the Bay Report, he repeatedly refused to meet in person with the investigators, even though senior management publicly claims that “We take security issues very seriously.” The Corporate Investigations department was realigned to report directly to Sandia executive management after the Bay Report was released so they could keep a close eye on what they were doing. Management claimed it was “to ensure a clear line of communication” between the investigators and senior executives. Furthermore, employees that are engaged in carrying out senior management’s dirty work are regularly disposed of and paid off with taxpayer money. Mr. Ron Putnam, the former manager of the Corporate Investigations department, was fired early in March of 2005 after only eleven months on the job. Shortly after firing Mr. Putnam, Sandia gave him a “separation package” in return for a non-disclosure agreement – again, courtesy of taxpayer funds. This is a highly unusual arrangement, given the circumstances. Something definitely seems squirrelly here.

It is frightening that this is the environment in which nuclear weapons components are produced in, and under which our nation’s nuclear stockpile is certified. Sandia management makes it clear to staff that they are at-will employees. Their actions inside the Lab demonstrate that “troublemakers” are dealt with swiftly and severely. Employees see firsthand what happens to those who raise concerns, even within the Laboratories; it is an environment controlled by fear. Most people just can’t afford to lose their jobs – period. Sandia management knows that most employees have nowhere else to go in the area. Unfortunately, scientists definitely aren’t flocking to Los Alamos these days. Los Alamos employees can look forward to a similar system if Lockheed wins the contract.

It is a tragedy that beaten down LANL employees have reached the point that most don’t seem to care who wins; they just want the suspense to end so they can get on with their lives. The only logical solution to these problems is to turn the management of the Laboratories back to the government. Entrusting the security, design, and certification of nuclear weapons to a profit-driven private enterprise is reckless. Lockheed spent almost $10 million dollars on over 100 Congressional lobbyists in 2004 alone – from the looks of their profit statements, it has been paying off. Dr. Robinson has engaged readers of this blog in the past. Since it is likely he will soon be the new director of LANL, it seems only fair that he explain the reasoning behind some of his puzzling management decisions and policies during his tenure as President of Sandia. Will all employees be converted to at-will employees under the new contract? Will employees be forbidden to speak directly with elected officials under no fear of retribution or firing if they perceive safety or security issues are imminent dangers? Will Lockheed bring their opaque management style and draconian public relations tactics from Sandia to an institution already suffering from dreadful morale? Will Dr. Robinson promote an atmosphere that encourages employees to come forward with security and safety concerns, or will he refuse to address them because of the risks of embarrassing Lockheed and increased Congressional scrutiny? The employees of LANL deserve truthful answers to these questions, not a bunch of PR dodge ball.

Wow. Great contribution. It will be nice to read Robinson's response. I am holding my breath. Among other fine attributes of Lockmart is helping keep Congress full of people with integrity: people like the recently tearful Rep Duke Cunningham, who LM was one of the top supporters of.

I wonder .... if this is how they select the people they finance and promote for Congress, why ahould we expect anything different for management of a lab?
I second that 'Wow.'

I wonder if Bechtel is an at-will employer.

I guess this is the end of the spirited debates about technical work underpinning the strategic nuclear deterrent. Oh well...
I was told by Paul Robinson that LM has a policy similar to LANL's with respect to freedom of speech issues; specifically, that employees' freedom of speech rights (to include blogging) are protected, so long as

1. it is not done on company time,
2. it is not done using company resources, and
3. the individual expressing his views does not represent himself as an official company spokesperson.

Reading this contribution I was struck by the fact that I could substitute "LANL" for "Sandia" in 90% of the complaints and it read be just as true. Remember when all those managers involved in Walp/Doran got going away presents? While Bruce Darling, VP of UC, testified before Congress that he didn't approve?

One bit is simply false, namely; "Traditionally, Los Alamos has carried out the research and design behind weapons in the nuclear arsenal, and Sandia has verified that the science behind the work is valid". So far as I know, LLNL and LANL design the nuclear components and critique each others designs. As far a Sandia having a "monopoly" that is exactly the case with UC at this moment. LLNL and LANL are very careful in their public criticisms of each other, though privately they have some hot issues.

Bringing in some other party to manage LANL, other than Sandia, would have dealt with the "monopoly" issue, but Domenici's involvement in the RFP eliminated that prospect. That RFP made in almost impossible for an "outsider" to bid, so they didn't.

There are very real problems with DOE oversight at Sandia and LANL, such as the problem with the RFP. The central problem is Senator Domenici, who controls the DOE budget and inserts himself in far too many DOE management decisions. He is the DOE's worst nightmare, and until he dies DOE oversight in New Mexico will not work. It can't. Other DOE sites, such as ORNL, seem to work much better, because Domenici doesn't live there. Since Pete's Senate seat is secure our only hope is that his health will fail, the sooner the better.

The difference to date is that Sandia's management culture is still pretty sound, dating back to their decades under ATT. Robinson hasn't screwed it up totally yet. With new LM/Sandia management will surely come change, as Sandia's culture is very different from LANL's and Sandia knows LANL weaknesses all too well. Should UC get the contract the denial will continue, under Anastasio and Parsky. The choice seems to be between some hope and none.
Lucky continues to sound the anti-LANL drum, and at best his hatred from LANL is a bellwether for those that want to shut down the nuclear weapons complex. However, the nuclear deterrent is a very important part of our national security, and scientific stewardship is an essential component of maintaining that deterrent. Scientific stewardship is an incredibly difficult problem, and there are “wrong turns” along the way to certification. Many of these wrong turns are not nefarious schemes to defraud the country. Lucky is so blinded by his hatred of Domenici and UC that he can not separate facts from fantasy. Now that he is wishing for the death of a senator, it is time to ban “Lucky” from the Blog, and leave Chris to write letters to the editor in the New Mexican.

By the way, ONRL does not work better, and Frist is very active in securing Office of Science monies (read the story of SNS), and forcing DHS to fund redundant work.
Lucky is correct that most of the SNLs could be replaced by LANLs and the piece would still largely be accurate. All this time I have been hoping that bringing in a private company with fiscal sense could help eliminate all the non- value- added garbage that we have to do in order to get work done. sigh....
Not a dime's worth of difference.
LockMart vs Bechtel?
Even if you throw the feckless UC into the mix with Bechtel, it looks as though nothing will change, because nothing is being done at the DC level: to NNSA, to DOE, to Congress.
The incredibly incompetent people who gutted FEMA are now poised to gut our national laboratories.
We will hear from St. "Just-Get-Over-It" Pete later this week.
I have differing opinion from St Brad. 1)There is at least a dime's difference. between Bechtel and LM. Bechtel's history is in construction not war. While Bechtel was influential in the Reagan times, LM's influence in the 'Bush Doctrine' is deep and now. 2)Big difference between gutting FEMA and gutting NNSA/labs. The powers that put Brownie in charge of FEMA don't care about the public. The DO CARE about nuclear (and geopolitical) supremacy. Its not JUST about greed and privatization.
(Well, I've been called lots of things in my life, but never--ever--a SAINT ! ! !)

-(Just plain) Brad
will do nicely, thanks.
No matter who wins, it will be up to the LANL staff and the entire community to take a more active and positive role in the Laboratory. The new leadership can and will probably do a lot to help, but in the end, it's up to us.
The current working atmosphere at Sandia is definitely not like it used to be about five years ago. Staff in our group are very wary of pursuing any concerns with management, especially when it comes to security or safety issues. My experience is that those that do often find themselves under increased scrutiny and perceived by management (at least where I'm at) as non-team players. For most, it is just not worth the hassle and potential for adverse reaction from management. It is definitely not an environment that is conducive to the reporting of potentially "bad news;" managers just don't want to hear about it. The Laboratory just isn't what it used to be, and I'm just biding my time waiting a few years for retirement. I completely agree with almost everything in this entry, despite the postive propaganda that senior management pumps out to the press. Cronyism and nepotism are endemic problems. I recently saw a case where a manager that was sleeping with an interviewee for a management position promoted the candidate. Ethics training is widely bemoaned and a source of constant amusement every year because of the reality of how business is really conducted behind the gates. UC has made some foolish management decisions, and generally made life miserable for LANL employees, but Lockheed will destroy whats left of the academic environment if they win the contract. Although I'll miss my colleagues and the work I do, I'm relieved that I don't have much more time until retirement.
Yet another big American company dumps it's pension benefits and cuts
the medical benefits of retirees. This time it is Verizon going after
it's managers (but I'll bet their top guys are taking no cuts). No
surprises here, but it does seem ironic hearing this just one day after
Dubya made a puffed up speech about how he's going to protect the
pensions of all American workers. Right.

I wonder what the chances are that the LANL LLC will freeze pensions
and cut retiree benefits in outlying years as the federal deficit
spirals out of control. Regardless of DOE promises, I would bet
the odds are high. LANL staff is going to really miss their UC
pensions in the future. And to think, it cost the Feds absolutely
nothing to fund it. What a bone-headed decision the NNSA has made.


Verizon to Halt Pension Outlay for Managers -- NY Times - Dec 5, 2005

Verizon Communications, the nation's second-largest telephone company,
said yesterday that it would freeze the guaranteed pension plan covering
50,000 of its managers and expand their 401(k) plans instead.

In freezing the plan, the company will pay workers the benefits
they have already earned but will not let them build additional benefits.

Verizon said that it would also contribute less to the health care
benefits of the managers when they retire. Over all, the company
hopes to save about $3 billion over the next decade by taking the steps.


The company's decision to scale back benefits for some employees
echoes similar steps taken in recent months by other big technology
companies, including Hewlett-Packard, I.B.M. and Motorola. Businesses
across America have been trying to find ways to reduce their pension
burdens and contain health care costs that are spiraling upward.

Pension experts, however, say that Verizon, which operates in 28 states
and controls about 50 million phone lines, may find it harder to recruit
workers as it cuts back on benefits.

All I really care about are the facts. What is the delay in announcing who got the contract. I can only hope that it is not UC / Bechtel. They are the last people you want running either lab. So does anyone have the facts? We heard a rumor at LLNL that the reason was Lockheed's pension plan needs help through use of your funds and for this reason there is a mass exodus at LANL. I hardly believe this since I have seen no indication on this blog that most of the LANL employees plan on pulling the plug come June of 2006. It's quite the opposite.
I guess Dr. Robinson doesn't have much to say about this posting. Seems odd, considering his past willingness to engage readers of the blog. I guess LANL employees will just have to hope that similar shennanigans won't happen there when he takes the reins. Think positive happy thoughts! After all, the Sandia public relations team keeps parroting that things are A-OK out there, and that Paul is a great guy. Too bad they never actually provide meaningful responses to inquiries. Are you out there Paul?
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