Monday, December 19, 2005

Report: Cost of Security Shutdown at LANL Unknown

By Jennifer Talhelm/
Associated Press

WASHINGTON — A temporary shutdown of the Los Alamos National Laboratory during a security flap last year might have cost as much as $370 million, but the exact amount can't be calculated because of the way the lab recorded its activities, congressional investigators said Monday.

Officials in July 2004 ordered a halt to virtually all work at the Los Alamos, N.M., lab after reporting that two computer disks containing classified information had disappeared and that a student working at the lab was partially blinded in a laser accident. Officials later determined that the disks never existed, but some lab activities didn't resume until this spring.

The report was done at the request of House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton, R-Texas, who wanted investigators to examine the cost of the shutdown and whether the Energy Department's National Nuclear Security Administration should have reimbursed the lab for costs during that time.

The lab, which is run by the University of California, estimates the shutdown cost about $121 million, while the NNSA estimates the cost was as high as $370 million.

In its report Monday, the Government Accountability Office found that neither was accurate and that GAO investigators also couldn't determine the expense because of the way the lab tracked its activities.


Full Story

Huge surprise here. Both UC/LANL and NNSA have attempted to low-ball the cost of their collective fuck-up. Couple that with the unbelievably sloppy bookkeeping at LANL, and the taxpayer will never know the true cost of the shutdown.
Spode misses the real story here, Congressman Barton. The Texas congressman (who obviously only wants what is best for LANL and the nation) asked GAO for a report about the stand down……..what is not mentioned in the article is that he sent the investigators back three times to get an answer he could “use”, and then he receives the report 2 days before contract is announced. This is raw politics, especially considering that Barton and GAO think: “It is clear that safety and security approaches at the laboratory need improvement going forward,'' the report said, adding that an NNSA manager had said "the safety culture at the laboratory is not as rigorous'' as other Energy Department facilities. Barton wants it all; a stand down, paying for a stand down, and getting rid of the culture that is not rigorous (apparently Barton does not read Physics Today).
A bit further on in the story:

"We firmly believe that Los Alamos National Laboratory is a safer, stronger and more secure laboratory,'' university officials said in a statement Monday.


I'm not sure you presented Barton's story accurately. I believe what actually happened was that he sent the investigators back three times to get an answer that was not complete bullshit.

Subtle difference from your version, I recognize, but significant.

"I believe what actually happened was that he sent the investigators back three times to get an answer that was not complete bullshit."

Was the exchange anything like the one that seems to have happened over the CREM incident:

LANL: "What happened is we printed too many barcodes."

DOE: "That's a BS answer."

LANL: "We printed more barcodes than there were drives."

DOE: "Give me another answer. That one's BS."

LANL: "No, seriously. It was a paperwork error."

DOE: "Stop giving me BS answers!"

LANL: "Ok, ok, LANL is staffed by buttheads and cowboys."

DOE: "Just as I thought. I knew it!"
Actual exchange over the "missing" CREM incident:

(Bellybutton) Linton Brooks: "You mean to tell me this is another one of those 'nothing-actually-happened-at-Los-Alamos' stories ? ! ! ?"
The previous post had missing ' ' around 'exchange,' since the response on the LANL end in the Director's plush office was nothing more than a weak grin, a shrug, and a nervous giggle.
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