Friday, December 02, 2005

Lab, UC officials discuss Appendix F in Washington

From the 12/2/2005 LANL NewsBulletin:

December 2, 2005

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Director Michael Anastasio, standing left, and other Laboratory and University of California staff were in Washington, D.C. for an Appendix F pre-brief meeting earlier this week. Center with back to camera is Laboratory Director Bob Kuckuck. At left is John Birely of UC and John Immele, Los Alamos' deputy director for national security. Far right (to left) are Buck Koonce of UC, Glenn Mara of the Director's Office, Bob Foley, UC's vice president for laboratory management, Sharon Eklund of the UC Office of the President and Bill Wadt of the Prime Contract Office (PCO). Appendix F is the Laboratory's annual report card from the National Nuclear Security Administration. It consists of 10 objectives, six for mission and four for operations, and span the work of the Laboratory ranging from nuclear weapons, science and strategic programs, to business systems, infrastructure and the work force. Later that day, a holiday celebration was held at the Laboratory - Lawrence Livermore offices in the nation's capital.

Image Credit: Chinua Benford for Los Alamos

Of that entire room full of people, John Birely will be the only one not completely astounded when the contract is awarded to LAA. The rest are sufficiently ego-bound that they are blinded to the complete shambles they have made of running LANL, handling the shutdown, preparing and presenting their bid.
But, what about the "holiday celebration"? They wouldn't be celebrating if they knew they had lost, right?
Did I mention the enormous, blinding egos sitting around the table?

To put this into perspective, let me pose the following question to you: They wouldn't let a madman keep LANL shutdown for 7 months after they *knew* his justifications were bogus.

Would they?

Dear Finknottle:

I am still waiting patiently for a personal official response from LANL Public Affairs, re: the Physics Today article from a year ago.

Your question will be answered in the order in which it was received.


I, as it turns out, am also patiently waiting. In my case, it is to hear from the appropriate LANL person that my lab associate paperwork has successfully made it through the signature process (this time), and that I can therefore initiate the process of getting my clearance reinstated.

he he - and you thought you were going to be let back in to lanl -
Just curious-- did the "missing issues" mystery ever get solved?
Nope. But a guy in T-Division got a brand-new December 2004 issue of Physics Today from the journal, after having requested a "fresh" one, plus the February issue, in which there were official LANL PA comments on the earlier article, along with my response. Interestingly enough, the envelope had been opened at the LANL Mail Room--and the December issue had been shredded. My guess is: a shill doing the bosses' unspoken bidding.
"Waiting ... to hear ...that my lab associate paperwork .., and that I can therefore initiate the process of getting my clearance reinstated."

Ha Ha Ha----What world do you live in?

Why on earth would DOE, LANL, UC, or Lock-Mar invite you back into their bosom?
"Why on earth would DOE, LANL, UC, or Lock-Mar invite you back into their bosom? "

You are probably right about DOE, LANL, and UC not wanting Doug back. However,under C. Paul Robinson, I can see where Lock-Mart would be more than happy to hire a man with courage, honor, and integrity.
How about judgment, wisdom, discretion, fidelity, loyalty?

When something with the new contractor is not agreeable to you, how are you going to respond? Will you work thru channels. Can you avoid backbiting and criticizing decisions where you are not privy to the essential facts?

C. Paul is a great guy and may like you helping tilt the field in his direction, but would he trust you if or when he is the manager? Why buy trouble. He has your track record.
Loyalty is earned, not blindly given. UC betrayed the trust that LANL staff had placed in them when they allowed the former director to inflict the damage to the institution that he did this past year, completely unhindered.

I am loyal to LANL, but most certainly not to UC. I chose to invest the time and effort of running this blog because my intent is to help facilitate improving the current unacceptable condition that UC has allowed the lab to fall into. I am proud of my track record. Can you say the same? Obviously not, or you would not be hiding behind a psuedonym.

You may remain blindly loyal to UC if you chose to, but you are not doing LANL or yourself any favors by doing so.


The guy calling himself "which part..." is probably afraid of what his abusive UC manager would do were it to be discovered that he was posting to the blog.

Either that, or he is just a coward.
Thanks, CS. I usually discount personal attacks made by someone who is afraid to identify himself.

I would actually have a bit of respect for someone who took issue with my stance regarding UC, and wasn't afraid to let people know who he was and how he felt.

That was not the case this time.

"Which Part of No" seems to be making a broader point than just how loyal Doug, John, etc feel in their hearts.

Who is going to trust them to meet their next disappointment with solid judgment and discretion?

We hear a lot of comments about how those given authority are incompetent. I wonder how the selection process missed elevating Doug, Brad, John, Betty, Finknottle, and other visionaries to senior management responsibilities.

Maybe the "process" involves handing over one's soul to the devil, or ass-kissing, or backstabbing, or being the best friend of a manager---but maybe it is more about demonstrated competence, judgement, discretion, hard work (plus a little luck).
In my case, "Clarity", the selection process missed 'elevating' me because I refused every offer to 'advance' up that ladder. I have had very little respect for the overall quality of management at LANL for about the past 15 years, and wanted no part of it.

I chose instead to persue what I really loved: my technical work.

As to trusting my ethics, judgement, and professionalism -- I have never had anyone take issue with any of those attributes. If you want to know what I think, all you have to do is ask me, and I will tell you. If you ask me to do something that goes against my ethics, I will tell you "No." If someone does not trust my judgement, I won't work for them.

It's all pretty simple, actually.


This is not meant as a personal attack so please do not read any animosity into what I am trying to convey. I don't know you, your work or your organization so I can't offer an opinion of the 'correctness' of your choice to stay out of management.

But I do know a number of very good technical staff in my organization that have actively avoided accepting responsibility for anything other than their own personal careers. These staff are openly regarded by their peers as technical leaders in their fields ( nationally and internationally ) but they refuse to put those strengths to full use for the laboratory. They are willing to offer advice but will not devote a few years to actually helping craft consistent plans or policies, etc. In the end, they usually get more funding to do their research but they also continue to ridicule the very managers that they refuse to join. The usual comment is that 'the manangers are f-ing clueless', etc.

I am a young staff member (less than ten years) at LANL but I hope to have another 15 years. I don't understand most of the bizzare things that go on in 'management land' but it does seem a little hypocritical to constantly complain about the managers but refuse to take the job if it is offered. I am talking about what I have seen in my organization and not the larger Nanos/stand-down/blog context.

I don't know about anyone else's circumstances so I cannot pass any judgements but it seems that sometimes somebody has to join the ranks of evil empire if it is ever going to change. Maybe we can't count on a change in contractor to make a clean sweep.

But, what do I know. Brad Holian says I live in my own paranoid fantasy world.
While we're on the subject, "Clarity", let's talk about Brad for a moment. We should take a look at what he did that has caused you to doubt his ethics. Recall that one of the claims made by our former director in an attempt at an after-the-fact justification for his decision to shut the entire laboratory down last July was that LANL had the worst safety record of all of the facilities in the weapons production complex. He further claimed that the safety trend at LANL was deteriorating.

In response to that claim, Brad went to NNSA and procured the official safety statistics for the entire complex, normalized them, and wrote a paper about his findings. The paper was submitted to Physics Today, received a thorough peer review and was published.

The results of Brad's paper belied the directors claims. LANL, as it turns out, has very nearly the best safety record of the entire complex, and the trend continues to improve.

Now, whose ethics do you value more: Brad's, for having the courage to point out a lie, or those of a yes-person toady who continues to support management in spite of knowledge of the lie? Your answer will tell us a lot about you.
Doug, I wouldn't get too worked up about Mr. "Clarity of Thought" (pretentious name, that). I think he's the same person as "which part...", the blogger profiles for both of them were created in the past few days. Neither profile is open for viewing, naturally. If I were you I would write the guy off as a coward and a jerk who probably has something to lose when UC loses the contract.

I don't think you need to worry about people questioning your ethics, they have been demonstrated to be above reproach.
I'll do you one better than that, CS101. I think it was Gary Stradling posing as those two posters. His ass has been chapped ever since Doug banned him from the blog. The writing style is very similar to Stradling's.
Dear WFOaddict:

(When you said that "Brad Holian says I live in my own paranoid fantasy world," you will recall that that arose in a completely different context, namely, the desire on the part of some politicians for making LANL a weapons-only lab, where plutonium pit manufacturing might be our highest calling, and about which you voiced the opinion that we "need" to make 400/year somewhere, so why not do it here at Los Alamos? My reply was that we are a Laboratory, not a Factory, and that those two roles should be kept completely separate--for the health of the Laboratory.)

Back on track: On the subject of management at LANL, I have always argued that the academic model, where a mid-career professor takes a couple years to be department chairman, as a duty to his fellows, could work at the Lab, and would keep the level of scientific awareness among managers higher than in the present model of completely separate tracks for research and management. The notion that "managers can manage anything" has been discredited by the experience of GM, for example, where CEOs have tended in recent years to be MBAs that never once looked under the hood of a car, much less actually engineered one (like they did in the "old days"). Returning to a research career after a couple of years managing would also tend to make managers seem to be less separate from (i.e., above) their fellows, particularly if there were less of a disparity in management vs research salaries. LockMart has proposed that there be two parallel reward systems, one for management and another for research, with fewer institutional barriers between them, but with special training in "people issues" for those who serve in management roles. (Scientists might need some training in social skills, as you might have noticed.)

In any event, it is clear from comments on this blog that the present system of management at LANL is in need of deep and broad repair.


I appreciate your conciliatory tone. I reread the earlier thread and I guess the crux of my frustration with your final comment in that thread was that none of the comments posted by myself or the other two 'paranoid' posters actually suggested that a production capability for 400 pits a year should be built at LANL. All I said was that 'at least a skeleton capability to produce pits' should be supported as a necessary capability for LANL to have. I think that was what we collectively meant. The ultimate size of the production capability really would be controlled by those that control the budget(i.e Congress ). And hopefully the expansion of the core capability would be done according to a realistic plan that is consistently funded and not used as a political football. Now I guess THAT hope does stray into the realm of fantasy.

Also back on track: I think the academic model that you described has worked well in some instances here at LANL. The key seems to be for staff to not get too intoxicated with the seeming power that comes with a management job. When we get too afraid to speak our minds for fear of losing our current positions then the institution starts to do wacky things.

Also, a couple of good years of technical work sometimes gets someone noticed and promoted to management. In the operating model at LANL, this promotion is far too often followed by ten years of mediocre perfomance as a manager. Please could we get a workable method for 'early' return-to-research for technical folks that demonstrate that they are not effective managers!
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