Monday, January 31, 2005
What have people "told Pete?"
I have wondered for some time now about the content of emails sent to Director Nanos through the LANL “Tell-Pete” website. In fact, I also wonder what the total count over time has been.
While many might contain actionable complaints with specific details, it seems reasonable that many just relay general information about morale, what those at the bottom are thinking of those at the top, etc. While the former letters are confidential in nature, I think it might be interesting to see some of the letters in this latter vein. Perhaps many are saying the same thing, and the Director is choosing to ignore them, as is his prerogative, since presumably only he sees them.
I also suspect some of them might actually be quite entertaining and I think many agree we are in sore need of some laughter.
Wants to help restart group operations
While I was trying to deal with the CREM incident, I found out that there was a serious accident involving a student intern who suffered an eye injury from a laser beam. It is interesting to note that the accident happened an hour or so after the All-Hands meeting which the student and her mentor attended.
Now I find out that the CREM incident was really a clerical error. The disks never existed, and the incident moved into the category of the Wen Ho Lee disaster and the missing disks found after the Cerro Grande fire as another example of overreaction to preliminary data.
But the safety issue still exists. So many terrible things have happened in the last six months I do not remember why, in the fall of 2003, we reacted to a safety problem by writing Integrated Work Documents. Our effort was not entirely successful because the accident of 2004 was very similar to one that happened many years before.
Recently, there was a report from the Lab that about 3000 operations had been reviewed during the past six months, and around 2000 safety issues needing corrective actions had been discovered. I asked my former (I retired at the end of July 2004) ES&H officer if any of the issues applied to me since I was an employee at the time. I was told that the information I requested was not available to the public. I reminded the ES&H officer that nothing had happened since I retired and I was entitled to the same information as a member of the group. I have received no response after more than two weeks.
Over the last six months I have had e-mail contact with former co-workers, but over the last two months those contacts have ceased. I have had one phone conversation with my closest co-worker and an accidental face-to-face conversation with another, but neither person seemed comfortable with discussing issues with me. I am very concerned that I have formally offered to help my group restart operations after six months of inactivity, but I have received no response.
Larry Creamer, DX-1 (Ret.)
78 Granada Dr.
Los Alamos NM 87544
Letter From Congressman Udall
January 31, 2005
Mr. Douglas Roberts
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87506
Dear Mr. Roberts:
Thank you for contacting me regarding the Los Alamos
National Lab (LANL) Management and Operating Contract
Competition process. I appreciate hearing from you on this
I have received numerous phone calls, letters, and emails
over the past few months from people extremely concerned with
the future of LANL. As the LANL contract process unfolds, I
encourage people to continue to share with me their thoughts,
questions, and concerns. In response to many inquiries, I held a
Town Hall meeting in Los Alamos on January 17, 2005, which
was attended by over 300 members of the community. Based on
the information I gathered there and through correspondence from
constituents, I submitted a letter to the U.S. Department of
Energy's (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration
(NNSA) on January 21st. The NNSA is overseeing the draft
Request for Proposal (RFP) regarding the bidding process for a
LANL contract. Please visit my website at
www.tomudall.house.gov to view the comments I submitted as
well as other information about LANL.
The comment period for the draft RFP closed on January
21, 2005 and no further comments are being accepted by the
NNSA at this time. The final RFP is expected to be released by
late February, and a new contract award is anticipated by July 1,
2005. NNSA has proposed a transition period of five to seven
months, after which the new contract will be in effect. Please be
assured that I will continue to closely monitor this process. I
believe the vitality and stability of the Los Alamos community is
rooted in LANL, making the successful outcome of this process all
the more important.
Thank you again for sharing your thoughts with me. Please
feel free to contact me again if you have thoughts or comments on
any federal issue. You may visit my website at
www.tomudall.house.gov for more information.
Very Truly Yours,
Member of Congress
Sunday, January 30, 2005
Physics Today is Investigating the Issue of the Missing December Issues
This email message was recently sent to LANL subscribers of Physics Today:
Recently it was brought to Physics Today's attention that the December issue of the magazine did not reach some subscribers in the New Mexico area. To try and track down why this occurred, we would be grateful if you could reply to this email with the following information.
If you did receive the December issue please place put the word YES in the subject line.
If you did not receive the December issue, please put the word "NO DEC" in the subject line.
If you have not received both the January and the December issue, please enter "NO JAN OR DEC" in the subject line.
Thank you for your cooperation.
*Paul Guinnessy is a journalist for Physics Today magazine. He attended Queen Mary and Westfield College, which is part of the University of London. He studied astrophysics there and earned his undergraduate degree. He then went into the geography department to work on environmental science issues. Mr. Guinnessy is a member of the Institute of Physics in the UK. Additionally, he is a chartered physicist, a member of the American Physical Society and the American Geophysical Union.
FBI: Lab never was missing disks
By Diana Heil | The New Mexican
January 29, 2005
Case closed: Two classified computer disks thought to be missing at Los Alamos National Laboratory last July never existed, according to FBI and U.S. Department of Energy investigations released Friday.
Lab records showed 12 computer disks were prepared last September for a meeting on experimental radiographic technology. In reality, only 10 disks were created. What happened? Bar codes were put into lab records before the computer disks were created.
The federal report on the investigations adds a footnote : “The forensic evidence does not prove that no other disks were created, only that they need not have been. Taken with the interviews (which involved the use of polygraphs), however, the overall conclusion that the ‘missing’ disks never existed appears well founded.”
Lab employees and Los Alamos residents have known this unofficially for some time.
Meanwhile, lab workers and retirees have watched three people lose their jobs as others lost pay or got demoted. They have watched an inventory snafu led to the confusion.
“Although multiple investigations have confirmed that the ‘missing’ disks never existed, the major weaknesses in controlling classified material revealed by this incident are absolutely unacceptable , and the University of California must be held accountable for them,” NNSA Administrator Linton Brooks said Friday. “Of even greater concern are significant safety weaknesses which came to light at approximately the same time.”
The university could have gotten a base fee of $3.5 million for operating the lab with the rest of the money based on performance.
The lab fared worst in its rating for operations, not getting any of the $2.1 million performance money setaside.
A separate rating for science and technology was “good,” bringing the lab $2.4 million out of a possible $3.1 million.
Brooks, however, thought UC didn’t deserve all of this amount, and he ended up awarding just $2.9 million less than the base amount. “I consider this an appropriate indication of the severity and systemic nature of the problems uncovered at Los Alamos, problems which have already resulted in substantial loss to the government,” he said.
This is the first time NNSA invoked a clause in the UC contract, which allows the government to withhold up to 100 percent of the management fee for failures in safety and security.
“We don’t believe they should have gotten any of the award fee,” said Pete Stockton , director of the Washington , D.C., watchdog group, the Project On Government Oversight . But he said what Brooks did goes in the right direction.
This happened at a time when the university is considering whether to compete to continue running the lab, a job it has held since World War II. The government put Los Alamos lab up for competition because of repeated business, safety and security lapses.
“I think that’s intended as a slap in the face to try to ensure that UC doesn’t bid,” Chuck Mansfield, a retired lab physicist, said.
He said he has more trust in the University of California than in local lab management or the Energy Department.
“The problems are really at the director level,” Mansfield said. “The university is being singled out as the whipping boy, but that’s not where the strokes should be applied.”
The University of California accepted the whipping, though. “We got walloped. Unfortunately, we deserve this,” UC spokesman Chris Harrington said.
He said UC has corrected the root problems, “so we don’t have to take this kind of hit again.”
U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici, D-N .M., said the university has done a good job in trying times. “On the other hand, the NNSA has responded to the bad headlines by cutting the university’s award fee unreasonably,” Domenici said. “That willingness to succumb to political pressure reveals to me that the university is doing a better job of standing up to criticism than is the NNSA. I had expected better from the NNSA.”
Shutdown Bad For Science
Robert P. Swift, PhD
Los Alamos National Laboratory
Saturday, January 29, 2005
Wondering About LANL Management Tenure
Both the 1/30/05 New Mexican and the Journal Santa Fe report that NNSA will penalize UC by a large fee reduction for its 2004 management of LANL. While science was ranked "good" operations were ranked "worst".
Why is Tom Meyer, former Associate Director for Strategic Research, who was providing effective leadership of the lab's science mission gone? Pete Nanos, on the other hand, failed as director to correct operations problems until the lab shutdown. Why is he still here?
Why was Nanos allowed by UC to shut down the entire laboratory and keep it down for all these months? I don't see how any benefit from the shutdown can ever outweigh the damage done. UC has earned reproach. Unfortunately, the fee reduction will translate into more suffering for LANL programs.
Two LANL Disks Never Existed; Lab Shut Down In Search Last Year
Saturday, January 29, 2005
Two LANL Disks Never Existed; Lab Shut Down In Search Last Year
By Leslie HoffmanThe Associated Press
Two computer disks that supposedly went missing last summer, prompting a virtual shutdown at Los Alamos National Laboratory, in fact never existed, according to report released Friday.
In its harshly worded review that described severe security weaknesses at the nuclear lab, the U.S. Department of Energy concluded that bar codes were recorded for the disks, but the disks themselves were never created.
A separate FBI investigation supported that finding, according to the report.
"Although the FBI has validated our conclusions that the 'unaccounted for pieces of (classified removable electronic media) at the center of this investigation never were created and, therefore, (are) not missing from inventory,' the weaknesses revealed by this incident are severe and must be corrected," the report stated.
Because of the problems, the NNSA announced it would slash the University of California's management fee, imposing the largest fee reduction ever on a national laboratory. UC will get only a third of the total fee it was eligible for as lab manager during the last fiscal year ending in September.
Out of a possible $8.7 million, UC will get only $2.9 million.
In slashing the fee, National Nuclear Security Agency chief Linton Brooks said he was concerned about "major weaknesses in controlling classified material."
Those weaknesses "are absolutely unacceptable, and the University of California must be held accountable for them," he said.
UC officials on Friday accepted responsibility for the problems but pointed to the months of work they and lab officials have done reviewing Los Alamos' safety and security procedures since the initial shutdown.
"We got walloped. Unfortunately, we deserve this," UC spokesman Chris Harrington said. "But what we have done is correct the problems and put the right system in place so that we don't have to take this type of hit again."
Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., criticized the funding cut, saying the school has worked to make changes under difficult circumstances.
"The NNSA has responded to the bad headlines by cutting the university's award fee unreasonably," he said. "That willingness to succumb to political pressure reveals to me that the university is doing a better job of standing up to criticism that is the NNSA. I had expected better from the NNSA."
Lab watchdogs who have long criticized UC's management of the lab hailed the cut.
"It's certainly a step in the right direction," said Pete Stockton of the Washington, D.C.-based Project on Government Oversight.
Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., said he understood the rationale behind the cut but noted that the most important issue should be making sure the safety and security challenges raised in the report released Friday are dealt with.
The report highlighted areas in which DOE and NNSA officials believe corrective action was needed. They include enforcing accountability, improving overall handling of classified material and improving oversight of security at the lab.
One of the report's recommendations called for holding the university accountable through the management fee.
DOMENICI STATEMENT ON LOS ALAMOS FEE REDUCTION
CONTACT: MATT LETOURNEAU
JANUARY 28, (202) 224-7098
DOMENICI STATEMENT ON LOS ALAMOS FEE REDUCTION
In response to news that National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has imposed a major fee reduction on the University of California for its performance managing Los Alamos National Laboratory, U.S. Senator Pete Domenici issued the following statement:
"I think that giving UC a 'good' rating for their management is fair. That's a sound assessment. Clearly there is room for improvement, but the facts underlying all the bad headlines is that the University has done a good job in trying times."On the other hand, the NNSA has responded to the bad headlines by cutting the University's award fee unreasonably.
That willingness to succumb to political pressure reveals to me that the University is doing a better job of standing up to criticism than is the NNSA. I had expected better from the NNSA."I know the University is doing all it can to improve the management and operations of the Laboratory, and I will work on improving the management and operations of the NNSA."
The NNSA awards fees annually based upon contractor performance.
This year, with the opportunity to rate the University of California's management of Los Alamos as "outstanding, good, satisfactory, or unsatisfactory," the NNSA has rated the University as "good."
Deputy Press SecretaryU.S. Senator Pete Domenici
Baffled by the Charge
print it. If you think it is suitable for your web page, feel free to use
it. Maybe it's a bit on the tame side compared to some of the stuff, but I
think there are some notions here I have not seen articulated elsewhere.
"I believe there is something about the Los Alamos culture that we have
not yet beaten into submission… They exalt science and that's good. But ...
they devalue security."
NNSA Administrator Linton Brooks to Congress, 13 July 2004.
Is there a “culture of arrogance” toward safety and security rules at Los
Alamos? Did a “cowboy culture,” developed and nurtured over six decades,
cause the current controversies? Editorialists all across the country seem
convinced, but it’s worth careful examination.
I believe language is crucial when trying to characterize anything of
importance in human society. The word “culture” is used in my lexicon to
describe characteristics shared by a majority -- not a handful -- of the
members of a population. “Culture of arrogance” implies that something on
the order of 5000 employees of the laboratory are reckless with their own
health and with the future well being of the people of the United States.
That would be quite remarkable indeed. One might ask how these thousands
came to be hired in the first place.
Most of the long-time scientists at the lab that I have asked are baffled
by the charge. They claim that their immediate colleagues, scientists and
technicians, are conscientious, dedicated, careful people who do their best
under sub-optimal circumstances. When asked to point out the “cowboys” in
the system, they come up empty-handed. There doesn’t seem to be any
identifiable individual who consistently breaks the rules. If there were,
they would have been tossed out or isolated by their colleagues a long time
On the other hand, accusations of arrogance at DOE labs are not entirely
wrong. On administrative levels, there is a history of contempt toward
public involvement at DOE sites. Many scientists exaggerate the scientific
value of their own research. At Lawrence Livermore National Lab, arrogance
is polished into a high art form. There is no hesitation to use wild
exaggeration in proposing large, expensive new projects to DOE, and to
insist that no other route will answer the need.
But the notion that arrogance extends to safety and security is a
provocative extrapolation. In national security work, safety and security
are prerequisites for success. Any large experimental effort entails a
tremendous amount of work to sort out the instrumental complexity and the
associated hazards. Coordinating the efforts of a team of scientists and
technicians to produce something meaningful, and assembling and protecting
the resulting classified information, can be a herculean effort that few
organizations can pull off. This describes the culture that has made Los
Alamos deservedly famous. If there is widespread arrogance and disregard
for the rules in this process, how has it gone unnoticed for so long in a
place always under such intense scrutiny? What is the basis for the claim?
I think there might be an alternative explanation for the recent failures
at LANL. Perhaps it’s time to recognize that Los Alamos and its sister labs
are the most complex, interdisciplinary technical organizations known on
the planet. The array of experimental work is mind boggling. The classified
information produced is incredibly varied and voluminous. No industry comes
even close, and no university does it at such a large scale. Safety and
security at LANL are really, really hard to do. Obviously, nobody has
figured it out yet. There is no single system that nullifies the risks for
all experiments simultaneously, at least not for a finite number of
There is no ideal computer system for managing all of the
information because it is so hopelessly distributed. There are thousands of
people in thousands of workplaces, many of them alone or in pairs, and they
are -- regrettably, and unavoidably -- human, and imperfect.
We will continue to reduce the consequences of mistakes, to minimize the
chances for error, and to compensate for the dumb things humans do. We will
employ the best possible technology in the effort. But it will only occur
in an atmosphere that is understanding, forgiving, flexible, and
constructive. Poisonous acrimony, threats, retribution, ridicule,
intimidation: these are tools that would be unwise to use to improve safety
and security at a national lab. Some may argue they work in other contexts,
but at Los Alamos they would only be counterproductive and divisive.
It may not be helpful to point to the mistakes of a handful and presume the whole
community is complicit, as the term “culture of arrogance” does. We should
start to pay attention to the language we use and the tone we adopt, if we
desire to see progress. Otherwise, LANL’s highest obligation -- to produce
something of value for the US taxpayer -- will be forever unmet.
Bernard Foy, concerned scientist.
Santa Fe, NM
Friday, January 28, 2005
Jan. 24, 2005
The analytical work required for my doctoral dissertation involved starting up a long-dormant clean room. I asked my adviser if he thought I should institute a "clean room glove and gown" rule. He answered: "I'm more concerned whether you are "thinking clean" than whether you are insisting on gloves and gowns. If you consistently think clean, the rest will sort itself out."
That was very good advice from a respected scientist. If one substitutes "thinking safe" for "thinking clean," it bears directly on our present safety situation.
Recently, one of my safety responsible-colleagues stopped one of our technicians and asked him a safety-related question. The observer, in the midst of several errands, did not make a formal "observation" but rather asked a pointed question and had to run. However, this clearly got our technician thinking. The tech came to me and we discussed the matter and thought about whether indeed there was a problem and if so, what were some solutions.
Later that day, I ran into the observer and thanked that person for taking the time to ask the question. Much to my surprise, the person was apologetic for asking a quick question rather than making a formal observation. I was floored and replied 'my gosh, you did exactly the right thing from a safety perspective' and thanked the person a second time.
Are we unwittingly encouraging the notion that our thinking about safety should be saved for formal occasions? Are we "bureaucratizing" safety to the point that our model for safety impedes our ability to spontaneously "think safe?" If the observer did not have the time for a formal observation and chose instead to do nothing, that technician and I would have been less safe. The observer's quick observation and question got us "thinking safe."
Unfortunately, I don't think this Laboratory rewards real-world "behavioral safety training" but instead something easier to measure: IWD's and hours spent in formal training. Given the "flat" injury rate graph that Director Nanos showed us last week, I wonder if we are missing something important. In my years running an analytical lab at a university, we managed to keep the ambulances away by teaching thinking and behavior rather than stressing paperwork. As my adviser taught me to "think clean," we taught our students to "think safe and think clean."
We must change our paradigm and do more to encourage safety as an attitude that springs from our culture and is thus internalized. We must encourage and reward the "quick hallway questions" from a peer, ensuring these are at the heart and soul of the system. We must streamline and simplify the ongoing bureacratization of safety. If we do not, I am pessimistic about improving our safety statistics. And frankly, I'm not optimistic that the Laboratory or DOE is willing to risk real change.
Also from the 1/28/2005 LANL NewsBulliten:
Jan. 24, 2005
I don't suppose that I am the only employee who missed the "live version" of the all-employee meeting due to other important activities, such as conference attendance, and is now only allowed to view the director's prepared comments. Apparently, the director would rather prevent outsiders from knowing his responses to questions than have all employees be informed. This is the wrong direction for management to be taking with respect towards communication with Laboratory employees.
Jan. 26, 2005
Metrics for scientific excellence
Several of the recent letters to the Reader’s Forum have commented upon the pretentious nature of the Laboratory’s motto “The World’s Greatest Science ....” It does appear that the motto is yet another example of upper management’s wishful thinking that saying it makes it real. But just what are the metrics for great science? If great science is the Lab’s product, how is it measured? Why should it be measured?
Developing metrics for scientific output is of critical importance to the future of the Lab. In industrial and commercial settings, ‘output’ is quantifiable – widgets produced, gross and net income, growth rate, etc. Thus, ‘cost’ metrics like accident rate, lost work days, production and compliance costs can be ratioed to ‘output,’ allowing one to determine when a change has a net positive or negative impact. That is the fundamental premise of benefit/cost analysis. Without a metric for output (great science), ‘cost metrics’ at the Lab, like accident rate, security incidents and financial accountability, get ratioed against each other in a spiraling closed loop that is totally divorced from output. Thus, there is no way to quantify benefit/cost. And no way to determine when increasing formality of operations has moved from a positive territory into negligible increased benefit into the negative regime. I assert that the increased formality of operations protocol has already moved us into negative benefit territory (as illustrated by the uptick in safety and security incidents), but that’s another issue...
In his message to the National Nuclear Security Administration (as reported in the Los Alamos Monitor “Domenici addresses lab's RFP concerns,” Sen. Pete Domenici targets several key areas of deficiency in the draft request for proposal. But he doesn’t go far enough.
Unless we can determine just what is the desired output from the Lab and how to quantify it, all those other metrics become meaningless and we will become another Rocky Flats. And there are no metrics for great science in the RFP. Admittedly, it’s a complex issue, where ‘output’ varies from project to project. But certainly some metrics like number of manuscripts, number of heat sources, number of pits, active beam time, active user-facility days, increase in customer base, etc. can be developed to require that the contractor actually support the scientific output. That is the purpose of having a national laboratory in the first place instead of just continuing down the current path of ignoring the impact of various arbitrary directives upon our ability to do ‘great science.’
Letter From Governer Richardson
A copy of the letter from Governor Richardson to The Honorable Samuel W.
The Honorable Samuel W. Bodman
U.S. Department of Energy
1000 Independence Ave., SW
Washington, DC 20585
Dear Mr. Secretary-Designate:
Congratulations on your nomination to become Secretary of the U.S.
Department of Energy (DOE). It is a position I was privileged to hold, and
one which gave me great satisfaction; I am confident you will enjoy your
tenure there. Your previous experiences will serve you well in your new
responsibilities as leader of this most important agency.
As Governor of New Mexico, I have been actively engaged in issues concerning
DOE's award of the contract to manage the Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Because of the strong relationship between the Lab and my State, I recently
went to California to meet with the University of California (UC) Board of
Regents, to encourage the University to enter the competition for the
contract to continue its management of the Los Alamos National Laboratory.
I told the Regents that the future of Los Alamos would best be served by DOE
issuing the new contract to the University because of its unmatched
scientific and technological quality.
New Mexico's economy, and particularly that of northern New Mexico, is
heavily dependent on the Los Alamos National Laboratory, and it is therefore
important to New Mexico, as it is to our country, that the Laboratory
continue to be an excellent scientific institution, bringing the best
scientific and technical talent to bear on solving problems of the highest
national security import.
As I said to the Regents, it is the high quality of the Lab's scientific and
technical staff that makes the Lab great. As a Nation, we must not do
anything that will drive away, or make it difficult to recruit that talent.
The continuation of these benefits will ensure that the Laboratory avoids
massive retirements by continuing to be an attractive place to work, and
continues to attract the best scientific and technical workforce possible.
The continuation of these benefits, as a matter of equity, also will ensure
that the Laboratory's retirees, most of whom live in New Mexico, continue to
receive the pension and post retirement health benefits they always have
expected for the past 62 years.
Frankly, I was disappointed to find that the Draft Request for Proposal
(RFP) contained language undermining our expectation that existing pension
and post-retirement benefits would be retained in any future contract. I
was disappointed, as well as many others, because Secretary Abraham had
promised that this would be done in April of 2003. While I am sure this was
Secretary Abraham's intent, it is nevertheless the case that clearly
inconsistent language was included in the Draft RFP.
Because of this, I request that you give this issue your personal attention
to ensure that this commitment, that you ratified at your confirmation
hearing, gets incorporated into DOE's final contract for the management of
Los Alamos National Laboratory in a way that any bidder will be required and
able to meet, just as the University of California (pursuant to DOE's
direction) has done since the Laboratory's inception in 1943. I also expect
that the final contract will require that any winning contractor continue to
be good community leaders, assisting in community and economic development,
as UC is now doing.
Again, congratulations on your nomination to become Secretary of Energy; the
Department of Energy is very important to America's security and its
economic and scientific future. I wish you well and look forward to working
with you in your new post. Please be assured that you can count on me to do
whatever I can do to help DOE advance the contributions that our State's DOE
laboratories and facilities can make to the future of our country.
Thursday, January 27, 2005
Thursday, January 27, 2005
Tuesday, January 25, 2005
Status of the Blog
LANL The Real Story Web Site Hits, as of 10:30 pm MST, 1/25/2005
What does this say? I suppose it indicates that there is a growing interest in what is really happening at Los Alamos National Laboratory these days. In producing this blog, every attempt has been made to report the facts of our current situation at LANL, usually by mirroring letters and news items as they have appeared in local news media. The mere process of making that information more generally available has garnered not only the attention of many "ordinary" people, but it has also captured the attention of the Office of the President of the University of California, as well as, undoubtedly, that of several strata of management inside LANL itself.
Is that good or bad?
That, no doubt, depends on your point of view. Interleaved with the many "Thank you for doing this!" messages I have received are a noticeable number of "I hope you survive it." wishes as well.
Well, I hope I survive the process as well. In the mean time, however, I truly appreciate the time that the contributors to this blog have taken in searching out and sending me references to letters, articles, and news items that pertain to our present situation at LANL. It is my belief that a process that cannot withstand the rigors that an open venue of discussion produces should perhaps consider the error of its ways, and strive to change itself into one that can.
Tuesday, January 25, 2005
Decision to compete contract is folly
Congress and DOE need to rethink their decision to compete the contract to manage the Los Alamos National Laboratory. The University of California has managed the Laboratory as a public service for over 60 years, and it is UC's management that has allowed the laboratory to serve this country as a center for scientific excellence and outstanding contributions to national security. A dispassionate review of the number and severity of the security and safety incidents over the past several years reveals that they are commensurate with the type of work and significant challenges that we perform here. Comparisons with other government labs and high-tech companies reveal that the lab's record is on a par with or better than its peers. Only rampant media hype and political posturing have resulted in the decision to compete the contract.
The lab has many staff members who have performed important work for many years and who are bursting with enthusiasm to pass on their knowledge to those who will take their places. These folks have displayed unwavering dedication to the lab, to the mission, and to the country. They understand that safety and security must be a part of everything that they do. There may be a very small number of individuals at the lab who are not committed to safety and security (although whether the folks that were punished for the recent safety and security incidents are among them is open to question).
The University of California contract means infinitely more to lab employees than just a fat benefits package. The history and spirit of UC management of the lab is woven throughout everything that we do. Although the lab may ultimately survive having that history and spirit ripped from the fabric of the lab, to gamble with the future of the lab and its contributions to national security seems like an incredibly foolish thing to do. We need a Department of Energy and a Congress that can see the absurdity of this and who will step forward to ensure that UC continues to manage this Lab as it has done for the past 60 years.
Dr. Wendee M. Brunish
Earth and Environmental Sciences Division
Los Alamos National Laboratory
Where are the December Issues of Physics Today?
Could LANL management really have been so, well, ill advised as to have ordered their sequestration in an attempt to hide the facts from LANL employees? If so, then somebody really crapped in his hat!
Jan. 21, 2005
Disappointed by the tone and accuracy of the director's comments
During the Jan. 19 employee update meeting, the director included some harsh remarks about the Laboratory scientist who authored a recent Physics Today Opinion column that questioned the basis and necessity of the Lab's suspension of operations.
I am disappointed by the tone and accuracy of the director's comments. The director stated that the author had not only ridiculed the Laboratory but, had Physics Today been a peer-reviewed journal, the article content would have been quite different. In fact, articles published in Physics Today are peer reviewed, including Opinion columns.
The director's comments implied that the safety statistics used in the article were either wrong or did not support the article's conclusions. He made this point in reference to one of his view graphs that showed two plots of accident rate versus time. He mistakenly referred to the lower curve as the Department of Energy complex average rate and stated that the Lab rate (upper curve) was more than a factor of two above it. In fact, both curves were Lab accident rates, the top curve was Total Reportable Cases (TRC) for the Lab, and the bottom curve was the Days Away from Work, Restricted Work Activity or Job Transfer (DART) for the Lab.
His next view graph did show a comparison between accident rates at the Lab and the average across the DOE complex. However, the DOE complex average includes non-scientific and non-manufacturing sites, where the principal risk of injury is dominated by office and clerical work. The Physics Today article compared TRC data for the Lab with other DOE research institutions on a sitewide basis. Thus, no meaningful refutation of either the data or conclusions of the Physics Today article were presented.
The director and others commonly allude to the rate of accident "near misses" as being unacceptably high at the Lab as compared to other sites as a justification for the suspension of operations, but no quantitative statistical data or analysis were shown to corroborate this claim. If this data exists, it should be made available to the [Laboratory] community.
Finally, the director claimed that "the author perjured himself" in the article. This is a troubling and curious statement since the word "perjury" is a legal term with a very narrow definition: "deliberate false testimony under oath by a witness in a criminal proceeding." At the very least, the director seems to be accusing the author of lying in the article. If the article does contain statements that can be demonstrated to be false, then it should be corrected as soon as possible. Nothing less than the scientific integrity of the Lab, the University of California and DOE is at stake. The director needs to write a response to the article in Physics Today pointing out what he considers the factual errors to be, and why the author should have known that they were false, i.e., was lying.
Response From Senator Bingaman
January 25, 2005
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87506
Thank you for contacting me regarding the Draft Request
for Proposal (RFP) for Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL).
I appreciate your taking the time to bring your concerns to my
I understand your concerns with the current form of the
draft RFP and agree that more attention must be paid to a variety
of issues, particularly health benefits and pensions. I believe that
the Department of Energy (DOE) must take every possible step to
retain the outstanding employees who have worked so hard to
make LANL one of our country's most important national
laboratories. DOE has made science a top priority in the proposal,
and that is good. But I believe more emphasis needs to be placed
on ensuring the benefits package offered to employees and retirees
is as good as or better than the one offered by the current
To this end, I have written a letter to Linton Brooks, the
administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration
(NNSA), offering suggestions for the draft RFP to better address
employee and retiree concerns, to develop an approach for
oversight that effectively safeguards the health and safety of
workers and the broader community, and to ensure LANL
continues the tradition of excellence in science in the future. I also
requested that the NNSA grant an extension of the deadline for
comments on the draft RFP, and I am pleased to report that the
NNSA responded by extending the deadline to January 21, 2005. I
hope you will continue to make your views known to the NNSA as
this public process goes forward. And please be assured that I will
continue to keep your letter in mind as I scrutinize the RFP
Again, thank you for writing. Please do not hesitate to
contact me in the future regarding this or any other matter of
importance to you and your community.
United States Senator
Monday, January 24, 2005
Los Alamos Monitor Letters
Also from the NewsBulletin:
Jan. 21, 2005
I have a few comments/questions regarding Pete Nanos' recent talk.
- I couldn't understand why there appears to be a factor of 2-3 between Nanos' safety numbers and the numbers Brad Holian published in Physics Today. These numbers should be a matter of fact. Somebody who works with the Lab safety numbers needs to explain to us why this discrepancy exists. Holian referenced where he got his numbers from, so it shouldn't be too hard to track down. I suspect that they are comparing apples and oranges, but it would be useful to find out. If nothing else, it would be useful to know if you can get a factor of 2-3 difference in the results depending on how you look at the data.
- I'm curious if the data indicates that there has been a statistically significant drop in the accident rate during the suspension of operations. I would assume that the accident rate during the suspension of operations is about as good as we could ever hope to do. That might give us an idea what accident rate we might reasonably aspire to. In other words, can we use the period while Laboratory operations were suspended to provide us with a baseline?
Jan. 20, 2005
Trying times for Los Alamos
As a retired Los Alamos Fellow I view with mounting concern the events taking place at the Laboratory. I have always regarded my fellow colleagues (now former colleagues) as the hardest working, most loyal group of people I have ever encountered. Now I discover that the morale among this laudable group has sunk to unprecedented depths, primarily due to inept upper management, which seems to view them with contempt rather than richly deserved respect. The gap between the mood of upper management and the lower ranking employees seems to be widening even as we speak.
Rob Vitek asks for a cure for the low morale. Partial solutions have been proposed, like going back to a 9/80 modified work schedule or not making a motto out of a pretentious phrase. These easy fixes may temporarily ease the symptoms, but the malady remains. I am deeply concerned about the Lab morale. However, considering what Wallace Harbin wrote in these pages, one might conclude that what the Lab really needs is a new direction from upper management, or, failing that, new management altogether.
Unless the current Lab director has been put in charge of the Lab's dissolution, he does not strike me as providing the best leadership in one of the most difficult years in the history of the Lab - the year of the contract bid. The damage to the Lab, should another accident occur at this time, combined with contemptuous knee-jerk reactions, will be catastrophic. Can the Lab afford such a risk? Unfortunately, the only recourse to employees is to beg upper management to remove themselves.
Regarding the motto "The Greatest Science Protecting America," I have two problems. In the first place, "science" is not just about protecting America. It is primarily about using scientific methods to search for the truth about the universe, which then in turn will benefit all of humanity. Second, by referring to oneself as "The Greatest" puts him in danger of becoming a laughing stock for his/her colleagues.
Science is done in small steps, by standing on the shoulders of predecessors. One can judge through the review process which science is better and which is worse, but it is arrogant to refer to any of it as the "World's Greatest Science." Euclid, Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Einstein were great scientists, but none of them called themselves "The Greatest." And even we, with the advantage of hindsight, cannot single out any one of them as the greatest.
Saturday, January 22, 2005
UC handshakes with mystery LANL partner
The rumor is that UC will partner with Bechtel. I don't know if that will be possible given that Bechtel is an "Integrated Contractor" for operation of the Nevada Test Site.
Los Alamos Monitor
Saturday, January 22, 2005
UC handshakes with mystery LANL partner
ROGER SNODGRASS, firstname.lastname@example.org, Monitor Assistant Editor
At a meeting of the University of California Board of Regents Thursday, Vice President for Laboratory Management Robert Foley said talks with potential industrial partners for the Los Alamos National Laboratory contract had gone well.
"We have signed nothing. We have agreed to nothing. We have handshaked," he said.
Foley told the regents that the matter was now under preparation by university legal staff, but that he hoped to formalize a team in time for the submission of proposals.
A Request for Proposal for the management contract for LANL is supposed to be issued no earlier than Feb. 15, after which bidders would have 60 days to prepare proposals.
"NNSA wants to award by July 1," he said. "We'll see."
Because of the competitive aspects of the bidding, Foley said, the university does not plan to announce any partners until the award is made, "or at the earliest after submitting a proposal."
A draft RFP was issued on Dec. 1 last year. A period of public comment, after a two-week extension, expires today.
The Source Evaluation Board, headed by Tyler Przybylek, conducted a site visit and a pre-bid conference for interested parties in December. Przybylek also discussed employee concerns about benefits and pensions at a special meeting in Los Alamos last Sunday.
A number of students and some faculty members used brief moments of time for public comments to advise the board against continuing management of nuclear weapons laboratories.
During the committee meeting the regents heard a speech from Sen. Denise Moreno Ducheny (D-San Diego), who encouraged participating in the competition and delivered an endorsement of a UC bid from the New Mexico legislature.
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson made a similar personal appeal at the regents' last meeting.
While UC officials continued to refrain from affirming their intention to bid on the LANL contract, awaiting the final RFP, the board of regents did decide Thursday to compete for Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
UC has managed LBNL since 1931, more than a decade longer than LANL, without previous competition. Recent news articles have suggested that there may be no other competitors for the Berkeley lab.
Chris Herrington, UC spokesman, said the board voted unanimously to proceed with the LBNL bid which is due Feb. 9.
A question arose during the discussion on whether the regents should decide one laboratory at a time, for regents who might want to bid on all three or none of the DOE laboratories managed by the university,
Herrington said the question of process was decided prior to the vote.
"They are three distinct competitions, to be taken up as individual decisions based on the RFP and issues at the time," he said.
The regents' next meeting is March 16-17 in Los Angeles, about a month before the final proposals might be due for the Los Alamos contract.
"We are working aggressively here in terms of preparations," should the regents give the go-ahead, Herrington said.
Friday, January 21, 2005
Domenici News Release
JANUARY 21, 2005 202-224-7082
DOMENICI LISTS CONCERNS WITH NEW PLAN FOR NEW
LOS ALAMOS NATIONAL LAB CONTRACT
WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Pete Domenici today issued his concerns with the plan under which a new management contract will be issued for Los Alamos National Laboratory, stressing that the contract must more specifically protect and outline benefits for laboratory workers and retirees.
Domenici, who is chairman of the Senate appropriations subcommittee that funds the Energy Department's national laboratories, listed his concerns in a letter to Ambassador Linton Brooks, administrator of the DOE National Nuclear Security Administration. Domenici issued the letter as part of the public comment period on the NNSA draft Request for Proposal (RFP) on a new management and operating contract for LANL.
"It is critical that the new contract very clearly outline the benefits due to current, future and past lab employees. The draft RFP is insufficient in that area and must be rewritten. I am very concerned that not doing so could have negative ramifications on the lab, its missions, its employees and the overall region," Domenici said.
In his letter to Brooks, Domenici indicated that his concerns are based on his own review of the RFP as well as concerns aired by constituents. He encouraged the NNSA to move quickly to amend the RFP and select a contract for LANL. The existing contract expires Sept. 30, 2005.
"I believe that is imperative that the NNSA move quickly to select the contractor. This process has already created an enormous distraction for lab employees and they must get on with the work of national defense, combating nuclear proliferation and other scientific research," Domenici wrote.
Domenici's comments focus on shortcomings in the RFP related to retirement, health and other benefits, as well as the need for specific commitments in a new contract to community and regional support required for economic development and public education.
"NNSA must ensure that the final RFP and the selected contracting entity provide equal benefits for retirement for existing employees and retirees. Specifically, I believe the requirement to limit LANL retirement (and health benefits) to 105 percent of the complex average is unacceptable and is inconsistent with Secretary Abraham's announcement to protect employee benefits. Unless the existing benefits are preserved, the NNSA will have difficulty retaining experienced scientists and lab employees," Domenici wrote. "As I believe you would agree, the last thing we would want is an exodus by long-time LANL employees intent on protecting their hard earned retirement benefits before the end of the existing contract."
On Wednesday, Domenici gained a commitment from Samuel W. Bodman, President Bush's nominee to replace Spencer Abraham as Secretary of Energy, to maintain and enhance the scientific capabilities of LANL, and to protect existing pension or health benefit levels for LANL workers and retirees.
The following is the text of the Domenici comments to NNSA Administrator Brooks:
I am writing to make you aware of my concerns and the concerns of my constituents regarding the draft Request for Proposal (RFP) for the competitive selection of a management and operating (M&O) contractor for Los Alamos National Laboratory. I hope that you give careful consideration to these matters and make the necessary changes to the final RFP.
I believe it is imperative that the NNSA move quickly to select the contractor for Los Alamos National Lab. This process has already created an enormous distraction for lab employees and they must get on with the work of national defense, combating nuclear proliferation and other scientific research.
Listed below are the concerns that I believe must be changed before a final RFP is released. Retirement Benefits. NNSA must ensure that the final RFP and the selected contracting entity provide equal benefits for retirement for existing employees and retirees. Specifically, I believe the requirement to limit LANL retirement (and health benefits) to 105 percent of the complex average is unacceptable and is inconsistent with Secretary Abraham's announcement to protect employee benefits. Unless the existing benefits are preserved, the NNSA will have difficulty retaining experienced scientists and lab employees. The Department must provide flexibility to allow employees to shift their benefits to a new contractor or be provided a grace period following the award of the contract to retire from the University of California systems with the guarantee of being rehired by the new contractor. In addition, the Department should consider other options such as providing additional years of service to those employees close to retirement in exchange for continued service. Such efforts will ensure that the lab protects its most important resource - its people. As I believe you would agree, the last thing we would want is an exodus by long time LANL employees intent on protecting their hard-earned retirement benefits before the end of the existing contract.
Health Benefits. The final RFP must specify and clearly outline the Department's expectations and existing obligations for current employee and retiree medical benefits. The Department must be clear as to how and to what extent future medical coverage will be covered in a future contract. Like retirement benefits, the Department must ensure that the benefits are equal to existing services for Los Alamos National Laboratory employees and retirees.
· The Department has provided specificity in what it expects with regard to regional and community support. I applaud this effort, because I believe technology transfer, small business contracting, economic development and educational development are critical, especially in rural and remote areas of Northern New Mexico. However, as I have personally shared with you, I am disappointed that Community Relations is not a specific component of the award selection process.
· Economic development, technology transfer, and regional educational initiatives have been a lasting and continuous challenge. Therefore, it is imperative that the future contract build on the existing initiatives already underway including the work with the LANL Foundation, the Regional Development Corporation as well as the Los Alamos Research Park. Support for the RDC and the LANL Foundation should continue at no less than current levels.
· I have noted that the Draft RFP provides a $1 million cap on Technology Development Initiatives. I believe this is insufficient to facilitate the successful commercialization of lab technology. I hope the final RFP will enable the successful bidder to provide additional incentives including alternative, non-financial incentives to encourage technology transfer.
· NNSA's current small business procurement initiatives focus on increasing small business contracting on a nationwide basis, but it is coming at the expense of New Mexico small businesses as the Department attempts to pull contracts from the laboratories back to Headquarters. This trend will hurt economic development in New Mexico and undermine regional economic development initiatives identified in the draft RFP. Specific approaches to enhance regional small business contracting should be encouraged in the new contract.
· Not enough emphasis has been placed on employee retention. The Final RFP for the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory contract provides a higher scoring criterion for retention of key personnel.
· I also believe that more emphasis must be placed on developing the science strategy for Los Alamos, similar to what was included in the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory RFP. Los Alamos National Lab is a major research institution with extraordinary research competencies and the future lab contractor must be encouraged to develop the scientific capability, just as it is rewarded for managing the operations on a daily basis.
· The NNSA must specify the evaluation criteria that will be used to measure an applicant's economic development and community development. While the Draft RFP does specify the NNSA's desire to support these activities, there must be a specific score and measure to reward and encourage economic development.
· Finally, I believe the 100 point score for Oral Presentation is extraordinarily large and should be drastically reduced or eliminated to increase the scoring criteria for science, job retention, technology transfer and economic development,
Other Benefits. Under the current contract, children of LANL employees attend UC schools at in-state (i.e., California) tuition rates. Bids should discuss either how this benefit will be continued or how an alternative and comparable approach to such educational benefits may be provided.
Thank you for taking time to view my concerns and the concerns of my constituents. Please don't hesitate to contact me if I can provide addition explanation or details as your prepare the final RFP.
Disappointed by the tone and accuracy of the director's comments
Disappointed by the tone and accuracy of the director's comments
During the employee update meeting of Jan. 19, 2005, the director
included some harsh remarks about the LANL scientist who authored a
recent Physics Today Opinion column that questioned the basis and
necessity of the lab shut down. I am disappointed by the tone and
accuracy of the director's comments. The director stated that the
author had not only ridiculed the laboratory but, had Physics Today
been a peer-reviewed journal, the article content would have been
quite different. In fact, articles published in Physics Today are
peer reviewed, including Opinion columns. The director's comments
implied that the safety statistics used in the article were either
wrong or did not support the article's conclusions. He made this
point in reference to one of his view graphs that showed two plots of
accident rate versus time. He mistakenly referred to the lower curve
as the DOE complex average rate and stated that the LANL rate (upper
curve) was more than a factor of two above it. In fact, both curves
were LANL accident rates, the top curve was Total Reportable Cases
(TRC) for LANL, and the bottom curve was the Days Away from Work,
Restricted Work Activity, or Job Transfer (DART) for LANL. His next
view graph did show a comparison between accident rates at LANL and
the average across the DOE complex. However, the DOE complex average
includes non-scientific and non-manufacturing sites, where the
principal risk of injury is dominated by office and clerical work.
The Physics Today article compared TRC data for LANL with other DOE
research institutions on a site-wide basis. Thus, no meaningful
refutation of either the data or conclusions of the Physics Today
article were presented. The director and others commonly allude to
the rate of accident "near misses" as being unacceptably high at LANL
as compared to other sites as a justification for the shut down, but
no quantitative statistical data or analysis were shown to corroborate
this claim. If this data exists, it should be made available to the
LANL community. Finally, the director claimed that "the author
perjured himself" in the article. This is a troubling and curious
statement since the word "perjury" is a legal term with a very narrow
definition, "deliberate false testimony under oath by a witness in a
criminal proceeding". At the very least, the director seems to be
accusing the author of lying in the article. If the article does
contain statements that can be demonstrated to be false, then it
should be corrected as soon as possible. Nothing less than the
scientific integrity of LANL, UC, and DOE is at stake. The director
needs to write a response to the article in Physics Today pointing out
what he considers the factual errors to be, and why the author should
have known that they were false, i.e., was lying.
David E. Hanson
Staff Member, Theoretical Division, T-12 Group
Phone: 7-2306 email: email@example.com
David E. Hanson MS B268 (505 667-2306)
Return to Normalcy
1. Whether the shutdown was justified, or not. Safety first. Articles have been written that used the published, accepted statistics on safety for the DOE complex and comparable industry sectors which belie the Directors contentions of poor safety trends at LANL. Yes, I refer to the December, 2004 issue of Physics Today which the Director choose to malign in his all-hand's presentation of 1-19-2004. In spite of the Director's contention to the contrary, Physics Today is a well respected journal that carefully checks submissions for accuracy prior to publication. LANL management's attempts to "reinvent" safety statistics that "prove" the Directors contentions after the fact are, well, just plain lame.
2. Security next. What really happened with the now-famous "missing" CREM? The FBI knows. We suspect that we know. We also suspect that we have not been officially told because the facts will be inconvenient to the "official" LANL management contention of "egregious" security lapses regarding the discs.
3. The demeaning treatment leveled against LANL staff by LANL management during the course of the shutdown. There was never, is never, justification for a manager to berate his employees.
When we come to closure on these important issues, we can then consider what it will take to regain some measure of normalcy at LANL, but not until.
A "normal day at the lab"
- the staff who have left because of the shutdown;
- the customers who have left because of the shutdown;
- any morale, absent because of the shutdown, and how LANL staff have been treated by LANL management.
Otherwise, Monday, January 31 will be a perfectly normal day at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Santa Fe New Mexican…Diana Heil
January 21, 2005
In less than two weeks, it should “look like a normal day” at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
That’s what lab Director Pete Nanos told employees Wednesday.
Since July, normal work activities have taken a back seat to safety and security concerns. Some workers have been affected for a longer time than others, depending on the risk level of their activities. Nanos directed a stand down of normal operations in nearly every corner of the laboratory with the aim of creating a more reliable work environment, where violations and near misses aren’t happening on a frequent basis.
The arduous journey is about to end.
By Jan. 31, the goal is to resume a sense of normalcy, which Nanos described as “productive work proceeding without impediment.”
Meanwhile, the lab has a long list of shortcomings it must continue to address.
Nanos told the workforce of 12,000 Wednesday he was proud of the lab’s progress.
“I’m not going to give up the progress we made ... ,” he said. “It’s been a long six months, and we’ve all paid the price in one way or another.”
During this period of selfstudy, the laboratory found approximately 3,000 specific issues in need of fixing. Prior to resumption, 300 actions have been taken to address some of those specific issues, according to lab spokesman Kevin Roark.
But Los Alamos has a poor track record of fixing problems, according to the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, a governmentfunded advisory group.
“Over the years, LANL has often identified valid issues, prepared corrective-action plans that appeared credible, and then failed to execute,” according to a Dec. 31 board memo written by the board’s two technicians stationed at Los Alamos .
In the coming year, following through with the latest changes will be a major challenge that requires a commitment from managers, according to the board.
Nanos addressed that concern briefly in his talk.
“We want a continually improving state where we don’t slip backwards,” Nanos said.
The new processes developed during the six months must now become part of the fabric and structure of the lab, he said. Training from top to bottom is part of the plan.
The lab has a new way of storing and tracking computer disks containing top-secret information in centralized libraries. And it is starting a behavior-based safety program, where individuals take responsibility for their actions.
“This will be a tough year,” he said, “but I feel that fundamentally we are moving in the right direction and laying the groundwork to ensure this institution’s future and your future.”
Employee morale is low — a fact Nanos acknowledged.
In letters to newspapers and in meetings with Washington officials, employees and retirees questioned why the lab took such a long-lasting approach to beefing up security.
Plus, the General Accounting Office and U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, a Texas Republican who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, are demanding to know the cost.
Ron Moses, a lab physicist, told U.S. Rep. Tom Udall, DN.M., on Monday that the lab should have conducted a brief stand down of operations and punished workers involved in safety and security infractions.
“It dragged on for months,” Moses said. “In some places, it’s still dragging on.”
He said it felt like an “antiseptic bath of bureaucracy.”
Worse yet, Moses said, agencies other than the U.S. Department of Energy aren’t extending lab grants, and top scientists are thinking about taking their work elsewhere.
Charles Mansfield, a retiree involved in two research projects at the lab, said the stand down caused delays that affect scientists who are trying to meet a March deadline.
He said the director’s use of name-calling — Nanos once called employees “cowboys and buttheads” — coupled with months of slowed work, hurt morale.
Another letter to Senator Bingaman
As a ten-year LANL employee, I am deeply concerned with the wording and intent of
the draft RFP. Placing a 105% cap on the retirement benefits based on a comparative
group is far less than our current system rewards us. The current UCRP is
self-funding and costs the U.S. taxpayers nothing to maintain. It appears to us at
LANL that this is a DOE pension-raiding scheme, in the same manner as the Orwellian
double-speak of "Rescuing Social Security" parlayed by our current administration.
I do not want to retire, or quit and begin as a new employee. In fact, I really
don't want to think about this contract all year and distract myself from the work I
would like to accomplish. However, seven members of my team have quit in recent
months because doing research through a university has more appeal than the current
LANL climate. This contract has the potential to send the rest of us looking
I am also deeply concerned about the great number of our senior staff members that
will be forced to retire and the subsequent loss of leadership and experience at
Letter to Senator Bingaman
I have been a LANL employee for the past 17 years. I am concerned about
the upcoming change of contract. As you all know the current RFP states
that our retirement benefit must be at no more than 105% of a control
group. It is our understanding that our current UC retirement is at 170%
of this control group. This means that employees with more than 25 years
of service here at LANL and over the age of 55 will be forced to retire
for financial reasons on or before June 30. This could be a large number
of employees. The turnover of a large number of senior staff will cause
for a very chaotic environment here at LANL, making things worse for the
next several years, not better. Based on these possibilities I would
like to make the following recommendations:
- Remove the 105% barrier.
- Remove the word comparable from the RFP, use the word equivalent.
Define equivalent in financial terms.
- If a new contractor can not be chosen before June 30, delay the change
over period, otherwise senior staff will be forced to make a retirement
decision on June 30 based on the final RFP rather than the new contractor.
- Get employee/retiree representation on the contract committee. This is
the only way to assure that employee concerns are being considered.
- Let employees take over their own retirement if the new contractor is
other than UC. Transfer the amount of money from UC to an employee
account that is designated by each employee. Limits can be placed on the
amount that the new contract contributes to this account, but not how
much the employee has already earned during his tenure at UC.
Thanks for your listening to my concerns and suggestions.
Article in the ALBUQUERQUE JOURNAL NORTH
UC May Have LANL Partner
By Adam Rankin, The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Journal Staff Writer
The University of California may be close to a "handshake" deal to partner with a corporation in an effort to keep the Los Alamos National Laboratory management contract, according to the school's vice president for laboratory management.
S. Robert Foley, the school's vice president for laboratory management, told the UC Board of Regents Thursday in San Francisco that an agreement establishing a potential partnership could come soon, but he wouldn't divulge details, according to University of California spokesman Chris Harrington.
Foley gave the regents an update on the school's effort to evaluate whether it will compete to keep the LANL contract, now up for grabs for the first time in the university's 60-plus years of managing the nuclear weapons research lab.
Harrington has said the university has been preparing as if it will compete for the contract, but a final decision by the regents has not been made.
Late last week, the regents received a strong endorsement from the New Mexico Legislature's LANL oversight committee, which encouraged the board to pursue the LANL contract.
"We believe that the University of California, the largest public research institution in the world, with an unmatched reputation in science and technology, is the best partner for LANL and our state," wrote Rep. Roberto Gonzales, House Speaker Ben Lujan and Sen. Phil Griego, all Democrats.
In their Jan. 13 letter, the legislators said LANL and the university are "an integral part of northern New Mexico" and help advance regional education and economic development.
Outgoing Energy Department Secretary Spencer Abraham announced LANL's contract would be put out for competitive bidding in 2003 after a series of financial and security management failures that elicited congressional scrutiny of the University of California's management of the lab. UC's contract to run the lab expires at the end of September.
Following that announcement, Congress mandated that DOE had to allow competitive bidding for any national lab contract not put up for bids in the last 50 years.
The law affected five labs in total and all three of the DOE labs managed by the University of California the Los Alamos, Lawrence Berkeley and Lawrence Livermore national laboratories.
The university has been in close negotiations over potential corporate partnerships for LANL for more than a year.
Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., chairman of the Senate committee that funds DOE and LANL, has urged the university to seek a viable corporate partner and has said such a coupling could greatly increase its chances of winning the LANL contract.
In its draft request for proposals from potential LANL operators, DOE's National Nuclear Security Administration promotes a more business-like approach to running the laboratory, including initiatives to use industry standards, where appropriate, and to achieve greater cost efficiencies. Comments on the draft criteria are due today.
While the UC regents continue to deliberate on the LANL bid, the board voted unanimously Thursday to bid for the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory contract as the prime contractor. A proposal to run that laboratory is due to DOE by Feb. 9.
Operated by the university since its inception in 1931, the Lawrence Berkeley lab focuses on basic science research and has 4,000 employees and a $500 million budget.
Regents Chairman Gerald Parsky said the vote Thursday to bid on the Lawrence Berkeley contract was "an important first step" in the process but doesn't necessarily indicate how decisions on other labs will fall.
"We do view this process as one contract at a time," Parsky said.
Before the contract vote Thursday, some speakers urged regents not to bid for the weapons labs, saying the competition would be expensive and the labs are out of step with UC's mission as an educational institution.
Harrington said the regents also voted to keep the Lawrence Berkeley staff as university employees and included as part of the university's systemwide pension and benefits program.
LANL employees have voiced concern that even if the university wins the LANL contract, it might decide to keep LANL employees off the university's impressive benefits system.
Thursday, January 20, 2005
Senator Bingaman News Release
U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman
Democrat, New Mexico
703 HART SENATE OFFICE BUILDING, WASHINGTON, DC 20510
CONTACT JUDE McCARTIN, 202-224-1804
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Wednesday, January 19, 2005
BINGAMAN RAISES CONCERNS ABOUT LANL CONTRACT WITH ENERGY SECRETARY NOMINEE
WASHINGTON - At a Senate Energy Natural Resources Committee hearing today, U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman, the top Democrat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, raised concerns about the process associated with bidding the Los Alamos National Laboratory contract.
The hearing was to discuss the nomination of Samuel Bodman, President Bush's choice to replace Spencer Abraham as secretary of the Department of Energy. Bodman, a former science professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is currently a deputy secretary at the U.S. Treasury Department.
Bingaman told Bodman that the lengthy process associated with the contract bid has been problematic for many lab scientists.
"It's been almost two years since the Bush administration first announced it would bid the LANL contract. Since that time there has been a high level of uncertainty among lab employees, and I think it's very important to ensure that the date for awarding the contract is not delayed," Bingaman told Bodman. "I hope that you will take a personal interest in seeing to it that the contract award is made by mid-summer."
For more than a year, Bingaman has been pressing DOE to ensure that the future contractor offers a benefits package to lab employees is as good as or better than the package offered now. In a letter earlier this month Bingaman said he believes DOE's final "request for proposals," which will outline contract specifications for prospective bidders, should be changed to give proper consideration to the benefits package.
Bodman today agreed to give benefits a high priority. Bingaman said he appreciated Bodman's commitment. However, he continues to believe the RFP should be changed to ensure that benefits are evaluated, along with other criterion, before the contract is awarded -- not after as the RFP currently reads.
"If we are going to prevent the early retirement of the lab's invaluable senior scientists and retain the best and brightest of the young scientists, I believe more emphasis needs to be placed on ensuring the benefits package is as good as or better than the one currently offered by the University of California," Bingaman said after the hearing.
Bingaman also asked Bodman to give careful consideration to comments about DOE's new polygraph rule. The regulation, which is not yet in final form, reduces the number of laboratory employees who are currently subject to polygraph tests, but continues to call for use of the test as a screening tool.
"This proposal permits a more liberal use of that tool than is justified by science. I ask that you listen closely to member the scientific community before it is finalized," Bingaman said.
Senator Domenici News Release
JANUARY 19, 2005 202-224-7082
DOMENICI GAINS COMMITMENT FROM DOE SEC.-NOMINEE
TO MAINTAIN LANL BENEFITS IN NEW CONTRACT PROCESS
Bodman Says Makes Commitment, Wants to Enhance Laboratory
WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Pete Domenici today gained a commitment from Samuel W. Bodman, the President's nominee to be the new Secretary of Energy, that no Los Alamos National Laboratory employee or retiree will lose an existing pension or health benefit as a result of this competition.
Domenici as chairman of the Senate Energy Natural Resources Committee that today conducted a confirmation hearing on Bodman, who is currently Deputy Secretary of the Treasury. If recommended by the committee and confirmed by the Senate, Bodman would replace Spencer Abraham as head of the Department of Energy.
Domenici questioned the nominee on issues ranging from a national energy policy, to the science capabilities of the national laboratories, to plutonium disposition and nonproliferation. He also pressed Bodman on his commitment to fully implementing the law that established the National Nuclear Security Administration.
From the start, Domenici addressed the ongoing process to award a management and operation contract for LANL, and concerns being raised by LANL employees and retirees. The contract for management of Los Alamos National Laboratory is being competed for the first time in over 60 years.
"The outcome of this competition, as you might suspect, is causing concern among a number of superb scientists at the lab to the point that some are indicating that they may be considering retirement rather than trusting the outcome of the competition. I have tried to assure them that they should not do that, and that the process will protect their interests and benefits," Domenici told Bodman.
"Do you share the commitment made to me by Secretary Abraham that the Department fully intends to maintain and even enhance the scientific capabilities of Los Alamos, and; that no Laboratory employee or retiree will lose an existing pension or health benefit as a result of this competition?" Domenici asked.
"I am happy to make that commitment, sir," Bodman told Domenici. "I would go on to say that I consider Los Alamos to be among the crown jewels really, I guess a phrase perhaps that is overused, but the crown jewels of this nation's technological effort. And anything that I can do to enhance that-not just leave it the way it is but enhance it, I will do. I remain very enthused and frankly humbled at the opportunity."
DOE is currently receiving public comment on its draft request for proposals through Friday, Jan. 21.
Bodman previously served as Deputy Secretary of the Department of Commerce, beginning in 2001. He is a financier and executive by trade, with three decades of experience in the private sector. An engineer by training, Bodman had specific oversight over the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Patent and Trademark Office, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology at the Commerce Department.
Albuquerque Journal story regarding LANL benefits
DOE nominee wants LANL benefits to stay
Albuquerque Journal North…Adam Rankin
January 20, 2005
Samuel W. Bodman, President Bush's nominee for Energy secretary, promised Wednesday that no Los Alamos National Laboratory employee or retiree would lose an existing pension or health benefit due to a change in the lab's management.
"I am happy to make that commitment," Bodman told Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, according to a statement issued by Domenici.
Bodman spoke during a confirmation hearing before the committee in Washington.
LANL employees and retirees have been voicing increased concern over the security of their retirement benefits, which they fear are perceived as excessive and therefore vulnerable to cuts in a new contract.
The University of California has managed LANL since 1943, but the contract is up for competitive bidding. Employees fear that a new manager, unless required, won't match the quality of UC's benefits.
Earlier this week, hundreds of LANL employees and retirees turned out at a meeting sponsored by Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M., to urge the congressman to help protect their benefits. Several warned Udall that unless benefits are protected in writing, thousands of LANL scientists and other employees might retire early to preserve the value of their pensions, rather than risk having the benefits transferred to a program of lesser value.
Domenici, acknowledging the contract competition is causing concern "among a number of superb scientists," asked Bodman if he shared the commitment to protect the benefits first made by outgoing Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham two years ago.
"I would go on to say that I consider Los Alamos to be among the crown jewels... of this nation's technological effort and anything I can do to enhance that— not just leave it the way it is, but enhance it— I will do," Bodman said, according to the statement from Domenici.
Bodman, currently deputy Treasury secretary, previously served as deputy secretary of the Department of Commerce. He was also a science professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., the top Democrat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said he appreciated Bodman's commitment.
Bingaman said he believes benefits packages should be evaluated as part of bidders' proposals to run the weapons lab, and not after the contract is awarded, as DOE's request for proposals from potential LANL managers currently reads.
"If we are going to prevent the early retirement of the lab's invaluable senior scientists and retain the best and brightest of the young scientists, I believe more emphasis needs to be placed on ensuring the benefits package is as good or better than the one currently offered by the University of California," Bingaman said after the hearing, according to a statement issued by his office.
Bingaman also asked Bodman to give "careful consideration" to a proposed new DOE rule for using polygraphs on lab employees. Not yet in final form, the rule reduces the number of lab employees subject to polygraph tests for security purposes but continues to call for use of the tests.
"This proposal permits a more liberal use of that tool than is justified by science," Bingaman told Bodman. "I ask that you listen closely to members of the scientific community before it is finalized."
Copyright 2005 Albuquerque Journal
Jan. 19, 2005
Response to UCRP and DOE
The clause to which Mr. Streit refers, in the draft request for proposal, appears in: "H-37 Pension Plan, (e) Contract termination and selection of a successor contractor, (2) Contract service assets in the event there is a successor pension plan, (iii) Notwithstanding the provisions of this paragraph (e), the parties further agree to consider the desirability of covering pensioners, survivors, UCRP disability recipients, and terminated vested and nonvested members under a successor plan."
However, this language in the draft RFP refers to the next contract, and transitions out of the next contract. It is, therefore, irrelevant to the transition, which is soon to take place between the current contract and the next contract.
Alas, in the current contract, language identical to the above occurs in: H-008, (f), (2), (ii); i.e., the so called "double ii" clause. This language, in the current contract, is legally binding on the parties, who are DOE, UC and [the Lab]. Retirees and employees are not parties to the current contract, and have no rights under this contract.
Now, this past Sunday Tyler Przybylek, chairman of the DOE's Source Evaluation Board, said publicly that he has no intention of invoking this clause, during the upcoming negotiation for the new contract. But, he also said very clearly that he cannot speak for UC in this important matter. When asked specifically if DOE would refuse to allow this clause to be invoked, in the event that UC would find this to be advantageous, Przybylek said that he "could not do this" because it might "compromise the interests of current employees." He also admitted, however, that he was quite unsure as to the purpose of this clause in the current contract. He thought somehow that it "might be there to protect the interests of current employees."
Finally, Przybylek also said that, generally, he "did not think that government should be attempting to decide important issues relating to the upcoming contract negotiation for employees." Rather, he believed "that employees should be deciding these important issues for themselves."
Does all of this give you a warm and fuzzy feeling, Mr. Streit? Go figure!
Jan. 19, 2005
"Worlds Greatest Science ..." making bad parking lots
I am having just as much of a hard time stomaching the phrase "The Worlds Greatest Science Protecting America" as anyone else. I am sure that anyone who has been to a conference lately understands just how in error this phrase is. (Like Carl Gable in his Dec. 10, 2004 letter, I too refuse to get business cards that say this.) Yet I am trying to remain optimistic looking for reasons that it might be true, even by seeking examples close to home.
As a resident of Technical Area 3, I frequently use the new west parking structure. However, I have noticed over the past several months that the upper floor of the four-floor structure has not been open. That means that 25 percent of the structure is not usable. Having come recently from academia in a town where parking was far worse, I don't complain about how it is here because we really, in fact, have it quite good. But the fact that this floor was closed for months with no apparent work being done puzzled me. When I asked what was going on, I was told that the Lab couldn't figure out how to remove snow from the upper deck and therefore could not open it during the winter.
Ok, so I can understand that maybe nobody thought about this when that structure was initially built. However, if we really have the "World's Greatest Science ...." that should imply some intelligence is actually based here, right? One sign of intelligence is that we don't make the same mistakes twice.
So why are we building that huge parking structure in front of the Otowi Building (of the very same design, but twice in size) with the very same flaw?
Perhaps we should rephrase it to the "World's Most Expensive Science ..." or the "World's Least Planned Science ..."
Missing issues of December, 2004 "Physics Today"
Did you know that none of my colleagues, nor I received our December issues of "Physics Today"? We investigated and found that they had been delivered to the mail room at LANL, where they were apparently last seen. One staff member was told that further inquiries into the matter would be "career limiting".
Wednesday, January 19, 2005
Comments on the 1/19/2005 "All Hands" presentation by Director Nanos
The sparse audience did provide a graphical depiction of Lab "morale": grim faces with set jaws, not one smile, plenty of stifled yawns, and some furtive glances at watches. I understand that the "Admiral" still can't get his arms around the safety data; apparently, he completely botched the presentation of the graph of data for accidents in the last couple of years (with a sharp upturn after the shutdown--it's on the LANL safety webpage). For a non-scientist like Nanos, graphs are a bit of a challenge, I suppose.
LOS ALAMOS MONITOR, January 19th, 2005
LETTER TO THE EDITOR
One candidate shouldn't be considered
Glen Walp is one of eight finalists for LAPD Chief of police? I hope that those that make this decision remember who he is. Glen Walp came to LANL as retired Chief of State Police, PA, if my memory serves me. He came to LANL to get another nickel in his retirement package and left with a cool million.
This cannot be held against him as he was a "whistle-blower" and as such was protected at the time of his firing. However, the facts that came to light in the Congressional investigation and FBI investigation cannot be ignored, and are a matter of public record.
Effectively, none of Glen Walp's and Steven Doran's statements were substantiated by the investigation. I have at least some of those records if needed (1538 pages in PDF). According to the FBI, there was no Mustang. Glen Walp may not agree with that conclusion but that was the result of the investigation.
Glen Walp alleged that the valley was being painted green with the monies being stolen from the lab, or some similar statement. He should be required to clarify and explain. I personally find the content of his statement to be racist, and I am sure others do also.
Glen Walp said the only hope for the laboratory was to gut it. Do the citizens of Los Alamos deserve to have Glen Walp inflicted upon them one more time? Please tell me that those that make these choices will look at his record.
William T. Buttler
Domenici, LANL, Benefits
Read this. Now we will all feel better.
Albuquerque Journal North
Wednesday, January 19, 2005
Around Northern New Mexico
Journal Staff Report
Sen.: Don't Fret Over Lab Benefits
Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., said Los Alamos National Laboratory employees should not be overly anxious about what will happen to their benefits if a new manager wins the contract to operate the laboratory.
"I think people ought to settle down," Domenici said in his weekly radio address on Tuesday. "We're fully aware of the benefits, of the pensions, of the health care, and so is the laboratory."
Domenici said bids to manage the laboratory have to include benefits and "that if they don't, they will be turned down."
"Let's let it (the competition) go and be sure they (LANL employees) are protected and they will be," he said.
Employees at a town hall meeting sponsored by Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M., in Los Alamos Monday aired concerns that language in the draft request for proposals detailing the criteria for bidding on the LANL contract doesn't sufficiently protect their current benefits under the University of California, the current manager.
UC's contract expires at the end of September 2005. The Department of Energy plans to choose a new operator by sometime this summer.
Employees warned Udall, that unless the criteria is reworded to more firmly protect their accrued benefits under UC, as many 2,000 older employees may choose to retire early.
"I don't believe, in the end, that is going to happen," Domenici said. "I am as worried as they are," he said, about ensuring the benefits remain comparable if UC is no longer managing LANL.
More Comments on the RFP
More on the RFP Comment Period
More Concern About the RFP
Date: January 18, 2005 12:12:24 PM MST
Subject: Fwd: Urgent: info and links to DOE draft RFP
Read the forwarded message and attachments first and the the following paragraphs will make more sense.
The DOE tried to remove "excess pension funds" in 1993 (confirmed by Bob Drake), and were still trying to do this as a part of contract negotiations with UC (http://www.ig.doe.gov/text/IG-0394.txt). They can't do much now as the DOE RFP board stated on sunday night that the pension is funded only to 109% of liabilities right now. With a change of age factors from 0.025 to 0.015 (at age 60) the pension would then be "overfunded" again. Only as an estimate of how much, the UC pension that will be segregated by doe is $6Billion, then dividing by 1.09 gives liabilities of $5,504,587,156 and excess funding would be $495,412,844. Just as an estimate liabilities would decline probably somewhat proportional to the change in age factors (only an estimate, let me know if you have a better estimate) so the new liabilities would then be:
0.015/0.025 * CurrentLiabilities = $3,302,752,294. This makes for excess pension funding of an estimated $2,697,247,706.
The DOE may not be able to take over the pension as there is a "process in place to evaluate and decide upon legal owner/obligor of the [retirement] plans." This comes from a PWC audit of LLNL dated 6-30-2004 (pages 17 and 18 of the pdf are of interest, www.universityofcalifornia.edu/regents/regmeet/nov04/902attach4.pdf).
A representative of Senator Bingaman mentioned on monday that they are trying to scrap the whole rfp process...
Begin forwarded message:
Date: January 17, 2005 7:05:51 PM MST
Subject: Urgent: info and links to DOE draft RFP
Subject: Urgent: LANL/DOE RFP info
Get the word out about the new DOE RFP. I read it, it is potentially terrible for LANL, and most people don't know. (see attachment) The main threat is to those who have not yet retired. They worked many years toward a decent UC pension and DOE is planning to drastically reduce pensions.
1.They are creating a spinoff LANL retirement account, under any scenario.
2. They are going to audit it yearly against actuarial responsibilities, ( i.e. how many people times life expectancy)
3. They are going to remove excess funds yearly.
4. They are going to limit future retirement contributions to about .60 of current contributions.
5. The future pension multiplier of yrs. of service may be much less than 2.5% , maybe 1.5%
6. At change of contract, LANL Employees will have three choices: (Quote: DOE Contract Officer, meeting Jan. 16, 2005.)
a. Remain 'on board' and switch companies, guarenteed job. (past yrs. of service go to new contractor) get whatever benefits contractor offers.
b. Become 'inactive' UCRP by 'quitting' LANL job prior to contract change, no guarenteed job, lose sick leave balances, benefits calculated as new employee.
Read the first attachment for supporting facts from the contract (RFP).
As I got a few requests for one, second attachment is a sample comment.
Please get this info to anyone you know who is concerned about the LANL operating contract.
Tuesday, January 18, 2005
Observations From a LANL Staffer
The situation at LANL is completely out of hand; the UC is, by now, so complicit in the disaster that they can't even contemplate the first thing they should have done when Nanos shut the Lab down: relieving the "Admiral" of command. Six months later, the Lab is STILL down (especially if you do something as mundane as--experiments), and UC has done absolutely nothing! Their invertebrate response to Congress, DOE, NNSA, and Nanos (the inside saboteur for who-knows-whom) has boxed them into a corner. Now McSlarrow and Brooks are backpedaling so fast that there's dust in their faces--Oh, no; THEY would NEVER have shut the Lab down--as Nanos and apologists are all saying in unison.
Where has President Dynes been through all this? Covering his ass? Whistling past the grave, hoping that everything will just calm down at Los Alamos? And now, Congressman Barton is calling for an "investigation" as to where the taxpayers' money went during this shutdown. He thinks "it may be more than 100 million dollars". Well, YEAH! Maybe like half a billion and counting! And Congressman Udall, bless his heart, has been the only Congressman to say that the shutdown was wrongly executed; instead of top-down diktats, management should have asked the scientists what improvements were needed in security and safety practices, so as best to protect the SCIENCE done at LANL! This is remarkably brilliant insight for a Congressmen, let me tell you!
Until someone starts pressing UC, DOE, and NNSA to think about changing the entire management style of science at Los Alamos, all this flurry of worry about benefits, salaries, and retirement plans will be smoke. If management actually valued the product--science--then they would try to foster the best environment for its production, and therefore care about the people who actually DO the science. All the rest would then fall into place. But under the present faith-based (and bribery-based) Congress, science does not matter one little bit, and neither do the lives of the scientists. So expect no miracles from such thin air.
There's an analogy that comes to mind. The CEO management style of the 21st century allows the CEO to tell any lies he can get away with; the gullibility of the customer is his only constraint.
* Bush lied about the weapons of mass destruction and the connection of Iraq to 9/11; we are now in the quagmire of Iraq, with no end in sight; the invasion of Iraq has, by Bush's lights, been "endorsed" by the 2004 election.
* Nanos lied about the culture of arrogant disregard for safety and security at Los Alamos; we are now in the sixth month of the quagmire of the shutdown, with no end in sight; the shutdown has, by Nanos' lights, been "endorsed" by Congress, DOE, NNSA, and UC.
Admittedly, in the scheme of things, Iraq is a far bigger quagmire than LANL. Still, the operative words are "lies," "quagmire," and "endorsed" by those in power.
If UC "wins" the contract, the deterioration in the life at LANL will continue apace; if one of the Carlyle Group defense contractors gets it, maybe minor increases in the deterioration will take place. Does it really matter at this point? Is there anything that ANY of these politicians say that can be trusted? As for morale...
Mark me down as realistically (and thoroughly) discouraged,
P.S. I tried to set up a meeting today with a benefits representative for a retirement date of two months hence, but could not get through to her voicemail until after three tries; her voicemail box was so full that she had to answer somebody else before I was let in. Management has assured everyone, on the contrary, that the rumors of 2300 applications for retirement were WAY out of line. -Which direction, I wonder?
Wondering about an apology
Why has no one pointed out Nanos' hypocritical behavior? In the all hands meeting he said that if it turned out that there was no missing CREM he would apologize. There is no missing CREM, and there has been no apology. Either he seriously believes that we have forgotten what he said at that meeting, or he believes that he does not have to keep his word. But that's not what is taught at Annapolis!
So he's violating the oath he took as a plebe at the Academy. This kind of behavior would have caused him to be expelled. Too bad it's the norm now for the Lab's most highly placed double dipper.
Two articles in the ALBUQUERQUE JOURNAL NORTH
LANL Workers Threaten Exodus
By Adam Rankin
Journal Staff Writer
LOS ALAMOS In a meeting here Monday, Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M., got a clear message from Los Alamos National Laboratory employees: Unless retirement benefits are maintained when a new manager is chosen to run the lab, there will be a mass exodus of the most experienced scientists from Los Alamos.
Udall came to Los Alamos High School during the lunch hour to gather employee and community comments on the draft criteria the Department of Energy has proposed for deciding who should be the next LANL operator.
"If you don't do this right, you could jeopardize all of the good things at LANL," Udall said after the meeting about the process for selecting a lab manager.
Udall was told by several senior LANL scientists and technical staffers that unless proposed criteria for the LANL management contract are changed to secure retirement benefits equivalent to those offered now by the University of California, as many as one in five to one in four of the 8,000 UC employees at LANL may retire.
Udall said the possibility of a mass exodus of scientists is the primary message he will be delivering to the DOE and the National Nuclear Security Administration, which is overseeing the competition for the LANL contract.
"We've got to fix it," he told the about 300 people present for Monday's meeting.
The University of California's current contract to run LANL expires in September, and for the first time ever, DOE has put the lab's management contract out for bid following years of security and management problems at the lab. UC has run the lab since it was created during World War II to develop the atomic bomb.
DOE will decide on a new operator by this summer. Comments on the draft criteria for awarding the contract are due Friday, after the deadline was extended from Jan. 7. Udall and Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., had urged DOE's National Nuclear Security Administration to extend the comment period.
Of those who spoke Monday, nearly everyone had something to say about retirement benefits and how the draft request for proposals fails to address them. Udall and employees speaking about their concerns often were supported by rounds of applause.
The primary concern is that the University of California's desirable retirement benefits will disappear for longtime lab employees unless they retire before the university potentially loses the contract to another manager.
That puts employees in their mid-50s, such as David Carroll, in the position of having to retire early for financial reasons. Carroll said he would lose out on tens of thousands of dollars in long-term benefits if he has to retire early to avoid ending up with a lesser pension plan under the next manager.
LANL employee Robert Kares told Udall that the way the draft criteria are written now creates a huge disincentive for employees to stay with the laboratory. He said employees will likely be financially better off to retire early, rather than risk having benefits transferred into a lesser program with a new manager.
Kares, and several others, suggested one solution would be to allow current UC and LANL employees to keep their UC retirement benefits and start a new retirement account under the next manager. Udall said the idea seemed reasonable and that he would propose it to NNSA.
Longtime LANL employee Ron Moses said he knows many people in his lab group who are actively making alternative working arrangements and are developing contingencies "to get as far removed from the DOE as possible" should the University of California not win the LANL contract.
"They simply must opt for their personal interest," he said. "Most of us have our life savings in this."
Moses said the loss of institutional knowledge from scientists retiring early could be substantial, could deeply impact the next LANL operator and would likely have "huge national security implications" due to the loss of talent.
Many in the audience cited instances in which the draft criteria for awarding the contract and uncertainty about LANL's management future are affecting recruitment and retention of top scientists.
"Without those benefits, you are going to be getting second stringers, third stringers," said LANL employee Michael Sorem.
Matthew Murray said he knows of 20-, 30-, and 40-year-olds who have signed job offers from universities and will likely leave LANL.
"If you want the best, it is going to cost some money," he said.
Tuesday, January 18, 2005
Employees at LANL Organize
By Adam Rankin
Journal Staff Writer
LOS ALAMOS The people of Los Alamos are looking to unite.
"We need workers, we need dollars, we need organization," said retired LANL scientist Joe Ladish in a call to gather Los Alamos National Laboratory employees, retirees and community members, as well as concerned people and organizations from the rest of northern New Mexico.
The group is hoping its collective voice will have a more substantial impact on the LANL contract competition process than their individual voices alone.
Ladish and about 40 others met after a town hall meeting sponsored by Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M., Monday to lay the foundation for creating a group focused on generating a consensus statement on the LANL re-bid.
Ladish sent around a clipboard and green index cards for people to write their contact information down.
"We need your names, your e-mails, your willingness to participate," he said.
He said he wants the group to reach out to other communities affected by LANL and the contract competition. "It is bigger than all of us" because of the laboratory's economic impact on the region, he said.
Released Dec. 1, the so-called draft request for proposals lays out what the Department of Energy and National Nuclear Security Administration expect from the next manager of LANL.
For many at the meeting, the document falls short, especially in addressing employee benefits.
More than a year ago, out-going Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham promised that LANL benefits would match those currently offered by the University of California. But the draft criteria says the benefits offered by the next manager need only be comparable, not equivalent.
"We believe, a number of us ... that we need to organize and put out a sustained effort," Ladish said about ensuring the final criteria are acceptable.
Among the items on the group's to-do list is creating a strategic committee to guide its efforts and determine exactly what it wants to say.
Comments on the draft version of the criteria are due Jan. 21, but Ladish said the group should push for change until the final contract is signed.
Monday, January 17, 2005
Request For UC Contract Extension?
I just got home from LA. A LANL Retirees association hosted a meeting at the LAHS auditorium and invited Tyler what's-his-name, the head of the contract SEB, and Robert Archuleta, his side-kick.
They are planning to fix several of the issues that I have been worried about:
1) They have asked the LANL Contract Administrator to extend the UC contract by 3 months so that,
2) They will give 60 days for those employees who are eligible for retirement to evaluate the compensation package offered by the new contractor, and to make an informed decision about whether to:
3) a) Roll over all of their pension, service credit, etc, into the new plan,
b) terminate from UC, become inactive in UCRP (waiting to retire until some later date), and to become new employees of the new contractor, or
c) terminate AND retire from UC. Rehire with the new contractor (double dipping) WILL be allowed.
Downside of b or c is that the new contractor has the option of NOT hiring you back.
4) They assured us that their intention is that anyone who terminates from UC prior to the conversion date will retain their retirement funds in UCRP. But that is actually up to UC. If UC chooses to negotiate with the new contractor, anything could happen.
5) Retiree health care will be covered by the new contractor, not UC.
The presentation was taped by PAC-8, for repeat broadcasts in the near future. You should look for it and see if you hear the same things I did.
Sunday, January 16, 2005
More on morale at LANL
From the LANL NewsBulletin (letter, for some reason, not delayed 6 weeks):
Editor's Note: Laboratory Director G. Peter Nanos has stated on more than one occasion that he will review a return to a modified work schedule at such time that he feels it is appropriate and if such a schedule is a sound business decision, is cost-efficient and meets operational requirements.
Jan. 12, 2005
Morale problem at Lab
I think it’s pretty much a given that we all realize that there is a “morale problem” at the Laboratory. Since the Lab suspended operations, Lab employees have been under a constant bombardment of negative un-healthy attacks. Uncertainty has been the norm the last six months. Lab employees also lost the benefit of the 9/80 schedule. The talk about the RFP and how it was written has caused even more uncertainty and morale problems. All this said; there has been no mention of how we can improve Lab employee morale.
Wouldn’t it make sense to re-instate the 9/80 schedule to help bring up what’s left of the little morale we do have? Why aren’t employees hearing anything about bringing morale back to the Lab? Are we just all going to wait and limp along until the contract is resolved? I don’t have all the answers, but common sense tells me something needs to be done as soon as possible. The longer this unhealthy disease lingers, the harder it will be to find a cure.
The World's Greatest Science Protecting America?
Dec. 10, 2004
The Lab's "Worlds Greatest Science..." phrase
I was going to get new business cards printed by Information, Records and Media Services (IM-9) and found that the only option was to have cards printed with the Laboratory's Unique Value Proposition (UVP), "The World's Greatest Science Protecting America."
Is it just me or am I just not pompous or arrogant enough? I decided to not get business card if it has to say that.
Friday, January 14, 2005
Brooks' White Paper
Meet with Director Nanos
From the 1/14 San Francisco Chronicle
Chancellor advising school isn't ready to run Los Alamos
Thursday, January 13, 2005
Under the Unsubstantiated Rumor Category
I was told by a co-worker today that 2300 LANL employees have signed up with Human Resources for retirement inteviews!
That would be about 23% of the lab's work force who are considering voting with their feet.
Another take on the Joe Barton Letter
One has to wonder when people are going to start asking to see proof of the following "official" contention:
Lab spokeswoman Kathy DeLucas said the lab had to shut down or the DOE would have ordered it to.
U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas: Letter
WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, today sent a letter to David M. Walker, comptroller general of the United States, asking him to review the costs associated with the ongoing suspension of classified and high-hazard operations at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Barton Requests Cost Review Associated With Suspension of Operations at Los Alamos
The full text of the letter follows:
January 10, 2005
The Honorable David M. Walker
Comptroller General of the United States
U.S. General Accounting Office
441 G Street, NW
Washington, DC 20548
Dear Mr. Walker:
I am writing to you regarding the ongoing suspension of classified and high hazard operations at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) due to severe safety and security incidents at LANL last year. LANL Director Peter Nanos ordered the suspension of operations in response to mismanagement of classified removable electronic media (CREM), and a severe safety incident involving a research laser that permanently damaged the eye of a graduate student. These incidents are the latest examples of a historical and cultural lack of focus and attention to safety and security management by the University of California (UC), the site contractor for the National Nuclear Security Administration at LANL.
During an October briefing of Members of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Director Nanos informed us that he believed the work suspension at LANL would cost the taxpayers approximately $100 million as funds are shifted out of program activities to pay for safety and security improvements. According to a November 22, 2004 letter from Director Nanos, this figure had grown to $134 million. However, this revised estimate only covers the period up to November 10, 2004, and therefore the final cost of this work suspension will likely be much higher.
In addition to the rising costs of this work suspension, several major research programs have been disrupted, and will experience cost increases and schedule delays. According to Director Nanos, suspended research programs have been disrupted, and “will likely require more time to accomplish results than if the suspension had not taken place.”
I would like you to review the stand down at LANL to determine (1) the total costs to the taxpayers related to the stand down; (2) the status of major research projects that have been disrupted, and how these programs recover; and (3) whether the costs associated with work suspension are reimbursable to UC under its contract.
If you have any questions regarding this request, please contact me directly or have a member of your staff contact Mr. Dwight Cates of the Committee staff at (202) 226-2424.
Update for 1/13/2005
Wednesday, January 12, 2005
From: "Another Los Alamos Physicist"
I do not like anonymity, but in this environment is think it is well justified. Thanks for your efforts.
Fear and Loathing at Los Alamos
Nature 430, 709 (12 August 2004); doi:10.1038/430709a
Fear and loathing at Los Alamos
The laboratory that gave birth to the nuclear bomb is caught in an unsettling downward spiral of weak leadership and dwindling staff morale.
The plagues afflicting Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico are beginning to reach Biblical proportions. Since 1999, when the lab became the target of a so-far inconclusive probe into the apparent leaking of warhead design details to China, it has endured multiple security crises, forest fires and congressional investigations into the alleged theft of computer equipment by employees. This summer, more computer disks containing classified information have disappeared, causing Peter Nanos, the lab's director, to place 19 employees on administrative leave and suspend all research activities indefinitely (see Nature 430 , 387; 2004).
The suspension holds up not just work on nuclear weapons, but also an array of non-classified research ranging from genetics to computer science. Adding insult to injury, media accounts of the suspension portray the Los Alamos scientific staff as arrogant and disdainful of the bureaucratic necessities of handling classified data.
Yet the latest security crisis should not be taken at face value. The contract for running the lab, held by the University of California since 1943, is up for competitive tender next October. Two universities from the politically well-connected state of Texas the University of Texas and Texas A&M have expressed an interest in winning the contract. This might explain why Congressman Joe Barton (Republican, Texas) saw fit to visit Los Alamos as soon as the disks went missing and then called for an FBI investigation into their disappearance.
There is a growing impression that Los Alamos is not being treated fairly. It has emerged, for example, that it was not the only nuclear-weapons lab to lose some classified material this summer: in late June, Sandia National Laboratories in nearby Albuquerque misplaced a disk containing such data for three weeks. No alarm bells were sounded in Washington, however, and there have been no calls to re-examine Lockheed Martin's contract to manage Sandia.
The lock-down at Los Alamos has, according to senior scientists there, had a profoundly negative impact on laboratory morale, which was already beaten down by the prospect of staff losing their valued academic affiliations with the University of California if it loses the contract. And Nanos has blasted his own staff for what he termed a "cowboy culture" at the laboratory; the tone of his public statements suggests a frightening gulf between the leader and the led.
Energy secretary Spencer Abraham, who heads the government agency that oversees Los Alamos, has also denounced the lab's employees. Linton Brooks, head of the National Nuclear Security Administration, which was set up in response to the 1999 scandal to improve management at the nuclear-weapons laboratories, has said and done nothing. And even Senator Pete Domenici (Republican, New Mexico), the most stalwart defender of Los Alamos in Congress, despairs of its future: "Today, in Washington, Los Alamos' reputation as a crown jewel of science is being eclipsed by a reputation as being both dysfunctional and untouchable," he declared in an open letter to laboratory employees on 22 July.
Any security lapse at a nuclear-weapons laboratory must be taken seriously. At Los Alamos, classified information is currently stored in more than 2,000 safes spread across its sprawling complex; it probably should be centralized along lines already used at the rival Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California. But without strong, credible leadership and the full cooperation of researchers, such reforms cannot be properly implemented.
It is intolerable that a national resource as important as Los Alamos should be allowed to languish for years as a political football, losing people and prestige with every bounce. It is time that Abraham, Domenici, Nanos and others sat down to decide how to give people at Los Alamos some degree of stability until the new contract is let.
Tuesday, January 11, 2005
The Ghost of Raspberry Jam Lost
Aviation Week & Space Technology Editorial 09/20/2004, page 66
When Lord Wellington was hotly pursuing Napoleon to drive him from the Iberian peninsula, an allegation arose that certain accountable items had been lost or misplaced. Word of these indiscretions was fanned to a fever pitch in London newspapers, which provoked a predictable inquiry from accountants in Whitehall, the Pentagon of its day.
Mr. Clark's Letter of 1/5/2005
"[...] when well meaning employees call people who choose to retire this summer deserters and saboteurs, who needs terrorists?"
Jan. 5, 2005
I too have thought about leaving the Laboratory due to the recent turmoil. Then I realized that I had forgotten why I came to the Lab. I am not here for the benefits, for good parking or a decent cafeteria. I am not here for the pay or so my projects can be funded and recognized. I am here, as is the institution itself, to protect the interests of the national security of this great country.
All of the problems we have experienced (knocks from the media, lost CREM, business problems, attrition, accidents) are simply more attacks on our ability to defend the security of this country. The difficult nature of these attacks is that they are often from within and rather than recognizing them as such, we are seeing them as a degredation of benefits to us. If, for example, we were experiencing terrorist or other external attacks on our purpose would we retreat? Or turn and fight?
The Lab is currently under attack from many sides, but luckily it has an army 10,000 strong to defend it. If this is an army of deserters and saboteurs then we are truly lost.
I for one plan to stay and respond to every attack as best I can.
Monday, January 10, 2005
Once more, for the record
Now the students are starting to get the word
The Los Alamos Monitor
1/8/2005 Albuquerque Journal Op-Ed piece
Saturday, January 8, 2005
Scientist Weighs In: LANL Shutdown Wasn't Justified
By Brad Lee Holian
Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Pete Nanos took the unilateral action of completely shutting down the lab after a security incident and then a safety incident last July.
Was a complete shutdown necessary? Was it worth it?
The recent security difficulties at LANL began with the Wen Ho Lee incident about six years ago. That was quickly followed by the missing hard drives in 2000 and, in July 2004, the missing CREM (classified removable electronic media).
At the end of the Wen Ho Lee matter, we found that no Red Chinese spy had burrowed into the lab, and if there was a security leak about a Los Alamos-designed nuclear weapon, it wasn't from anyone at Los Alamos.
The hard drives were found behind a copying machine, and no national secrets were deemed lost.
The "missing" CREM from last summer was soon found to be a procedural inventory error once again with no secrets lost.
These were not trivial matters by any means, but they did not live up to the level of political hype that roared like wildfire through the national media. Likewise, the "millions of dollars of fraudulent purchases" that were supposed to have occurred at LANL a couple of years ago turned out to be about $200,000, out of an annual budget of more than $2 billion that is, less than 1 one-hundredth of a percent.
Again, this fraud, perpetrated by two lab employees (one a manager), was surely no small matter; both men were indicted and both pleaded guilty. But to put this into perspective, this is far from the routine level of waste and abuse at the Department of Defense and not remotely comparable to the Enron scandal.
In talking with colleagues at other Department of Energy laboratories, it became clear that when it comes to security or accountability, Los Alamos appears to be neither significantly worse nor significantly better than any other place in the DOE complex.
In terms of security, the shutdown was not necessary. So, how about the question of safety? In a letter to all hands a month or two before the shutdown, the former admiral praised the staff for great strides in improving safety and security practices made, of course, under his leadership.
But when the two incidents occurred, he turned right around and vilified the staff, angrily using pejorative terms like "arrogant," "buttheads" and "cowboys."
In order to see whether his criticism was valid, a couple of my colleagues and I, with little else to do in the early days of the shutdown, decided to look up data in the public domain on rates of accidents for Los Alamos, other DOE labs and comparable industries.
Does the data show that Los Alamos is "hundreds of times worse than any other place in the DOE complex," as one high DOE official claims? Not at all.
Though seven years ago the lab's safety record was worse than the chemical industry nationwide, a successful safety awareness program was implemented and the accident rate dropped significantly.
In fact, Los Alamos began to lead the DOE complex in safety about four years ago, and the rate since then has been comparable to the industry leader, DuPont Chemical. It has been about half the rate of the chemical industry nationwide and four times better than the manufacturing industry.
In terms of safety, the shutdown was not necessary, but did it really hurt anything?
Almost everyone agrees that Los Alamos' highest value contribution to the country is world-class scientific research.
Shutting all operations down for three months most experimental facilities have by now been closed for almost six months has meant that fully one-quarter of the lab's annual budget has been diverted from the science that taxpayers had come to expect from Los Alamos.
The question must then be turned around: Was the training of some 800 managers (7 percent of the work force) in the vulnerabilities of the work they are supposed to supervise and the reams of self-assessment paperwork they churned out worth the lost science?
Lab management argues that in shutting down the lab, Nanos showed that he really cares about the individuals who are injured (or are nearly killed) and their families, rather than only "the statistics."
The implication is that we scientists care only about statistics. But I would argue that we care far more about the human costs arguably more than management because we are the troops in the trenches.
The shutdown itself has had human costs, too. There has been a serious erosion in trust, a deep loss of morale and an upheaval in careers that have taken years to build. Now, there is the threat that good graduate students may not want to risk their future at a place as politically unstable as Los Alamos.
All we were saying in reporting the safety statistics is that there was no objective, publicly available evidence to justify the catastrophic measure of shutting down the whole laboratory.
Lately, management apologists have begun turning the statistics game on its head, claiming that Los Alamos is much more dangerous than the previous publicly available data suggest. Moreover, they say the data we reported on earlier are somehow flawed.
So, which is it? Were the statistics about LANL's safety that appeared in the public domain simply window-dressing? Is there secret data available only to management, showing, say, that the plutonium pit-manufacturing facility is horribly unsafe by nuclear industry standards?
LANL management really can't have it both ways, now, can it?
Friday, January 07, 2005
Response to Safety Observation
I'm not aware of what they are alluding to. My task is just to insure
the integrity of the data that goes into the system--the description of
illnesses, injuries, and their causes and corrective actions. I do
know that others at a higher pay grade "do the numbers" to fit their
goals. Last week, a good person who works with me said
Nanos found out that our injury/illness stats put us "in the green" as
acceptable. SO, he changed the parameters to put just about all
directorates in the red.
Brad's response to the above:
Bottom line: It appears that Lab management is trying to bend the
statistics to fit their public relations agenda. The data that was
cited in the Physics Today article were taken from DOE and LBNL
(Lawrence Berkeley) websites. Presumably, they are unlaundered site
statistics for injury rates in the DOE complex, along with nationwide
industrial averages. Now, in order to cover Nanos' decision, they are
trying to make a case that LANL is "orders of magnitude worse." Before
the incidents that led to his decision to shut down the entire lab,
Nanos tried to make the case that he had solved the myriad problems in
security, safety, and business practices that had plagued Los Alamos
for the years prior to his arrival as Director. When those incidents
occurred, his ego got wrapped up in the mess; he lost his temper; and
he over-reacted. Now, in hindsight, he and the public relations
apparatus of the Lab, DOE, and NNSA are working overtime to justify the
fiasco as being "just in the nick of time, or else something REALLY,
REALLY horrible would have happened." Either that, or they lied earlier
about the safety data, in order to make Los Alamos look good (or good
enough, depending on which set of data you choose), or else now there
is something even worse they are hiding. Which is it? They can't have
it both ways--can they?
We know that in the week before the shutdown one person died at Hanford
and one at Savannah River (they are "in the DOE complex", by the way).
None have died at LANL in the past year, though there may well have
been some "near misses." What is this "orders of magnitude worse than
at any other place else in the DOE complex"? Lee McAtee (Health, Safety
and Radiation Protection Division Leader at Los Alamos National
Laboratory) stated in an opinion column for the Los Alamos Monitor
(Nov.29, 2004) that "At the end of 2003, the Department of Energy
(DOE)-wide average rate was 1.8, compared to our current value of 2.5.
(By comparison, Brookhaven National Laboratory and Lawrence Berkeley
National Laboratory had injury rates of 1.5 and 1.2, respectively.)"
While he selectively chose to report site averages for LANL (including
both construction workers, and researchers) to compare with
researchers at the other labs, nevertheless the numbers do not show
more than a factor of two difference--not 10 or 100 times ("orders of
magnitude"). If site averages are used for all three labs, there is
virtually no difference in injury rates. In an article in the Santa Fe
New Mexican, Chris Steele (LAAO DOE Safety Officer) was quoted to the
effect that the plutonium pit manufacturing facility should remain
closed. So, I asked a colleague in the LANL safety analysis section if
there was some horrible ("secret") information about safety violations
at the plutonium pit manufacturing facility at LANL that upper Lab
management doesn't want the public to find out about.
Linton Brooks, NNSA
On Dec 17, 2004, at 4:17 PM, Douglas Roberts wrote:
Well, I'm sure you are on pins and needles to hear about how today's
meeting with L. Brooks is going to cause this laboratory to be turned
around, and will solve all the problems that have resulted under the
I hope those are comfortable pins and needles. Bottom line: it was,
in all likelihood a complete waste of time. While Brooks was a good
listener, jovial, sincere, obviously intelligent, etc., it became
increasingly clear that the party line started with him. He "fully
supported Nanos" in his decision to shut the lab down. He was,
although, "concerned" about staff retention issues. He sympathized
with our difficult situation. The only time I saw him appear to be
even a little taken aback during the meeting was while I was reciting
the saga of how the shutdown destroyed my group and large fragments of
its customer base. His response, once I was finished telling the
story, was basically, "Do you have any suggestions on how to fix it?" I
did not, as much as I wanted to, suggest that he fire Nanos.
Towards the end of the meeting, when he was asking if there were any
more questions, I slid Brad's Physics Today article across the table to
him, suggesting it as reading material for the plane trip back home.
He was, as it turns out, already intimately familiar with it, and
proceeded to rebut its findings with a set of findings (cited, but not
presented) of his own selection that showed that safety and security
problems at LANL were orders of magnitude worse than at any other place
in the DOE complex, irrespective of what Brad's findings
The collection of staff members present seemed to possess similar
opinions to mine, i.e., that Nanos overreacted in shutting the entire
lab down, and caused immense damage in the process. However in light
of the fact that Brooks outed himself at the very beginning of the
soiree as firmly backing the party line, everybody pretty much just
skirted the issue. That fact alone, I suppose, can pretty much put you
in tune with how the meeting went.
I sent a letter to the staff of the NewsBulliten thanking them for their new policy of openness, only to receive a somewhiat snippy response back from the Public Afairs Office informing me that the NewsBulliten had never been less than open. I guess our opinions differ on that.
My letter, regarding CSO Tom Bowles' comments
Karen Pao's letter
Jan. 6, 2005
Like Anthony Clark, I intend to stay past June 30. Indeed, I confess that I spent much of the winter break contemplating careers outside science. However, I still like what I do right now, in spite of its myriad non-scientific challenges.
I find the paranoid rhetoric expressed in Clark's letter a bit disconcerting. There is not an outside conspiracy to beat us down. Not everyone out there is out to get us. I believe that most of the "attacks," actions that caused many staff members to contemplate leaving, have come from within. These actions, I also believe, have little or nothing to do with the benefits, the salary and/or raise, or even the parking and traffic. These actions have to do with the unfinished business from last summer.
We do not retreat from attacks; however, if the attacks come from within, there can only be retreat: if one senses one's own system is the source of the "attack," how is one to "fight back"? I'm sure I'm not the only one feeling a bit beaten down right now, and it's not by the press or by some congressman from Colorado or Texas.
At least one thing could easily be done to raise the morale: tell us what really happened over at Dynamic Experimentation (DX) Division. Show us the evidence. Acknowledge all system failures. Convince us that the personnel actions are justified. Don't wait 3-4 years to give us the briefing, like what we did with Wen Ho Lee's case. Tell it all now. An emotional event now, that reverses the emotional event last July, will go a long way to restoring employee morale.
I note how timely Anthony Clark's submission was published, as opposed to Doug Roberts's. Here's another way to improve morale: let our concerns all be heard in a timely manner.
Wallace Harbin's letter
Jan. 6, 2005
Attacks against the Lab
I agree with Mr. Clarks' assessment and concerns, almost. We are no longer an army of 10,000. Many of us are not fighting terrorist or external attacks, but internal ones. The Laboratory used to be a good place to work, where we took pride in our work and felt satisfaction for a job well done. These things have changed. I no longer feel that the Lab is working for our best national defense, but for its own self defense.
The many attacks directed from outside the Lab were numerous and cruel, and most of us took them for what they were worth because we knew these people did not know what they were talking about. These people do however have control over our fate. But when the attacks started coming from within, that was too close to home, from people who supposedly knew us, what we did, and what were capable of. When [Laboratory] Director Nanos stated that we were liars, cheats and cowboys, that hurt. When the director agreed with outsiders that said they just couldn't "understand how any group of people that purported to be so intelligent can be so inept," and when the director said that Richard Feynman couldn't work here today, that, at least put things in perspective for me.
Four years ago, I was told that I was one of the best employees at the Lab, at least that's what I believe they were conveying to me when then-Lab Director John Browne handed me a Distinguished Performance Award. I now must be one of the worst. I only make that judgment based on the fact that I have done little or nothing for the last six months, with no real prospects for the next six, and no one misses the work I did. If indeed the project I work on ever gets up and running again, it will be to shut it down. Due in part to a statement from Director Nanos, the important production mission I worked on is being moved to Sandia, at great taxpayer expense. This project, although small in scope, provided about a third of our groups' operating budget, and supported about a quarter of its' employees and nearly a score of scientists in other groups.
I have noticed from Mr. Clarks z-number that he is a relative newcomer to the Laboratory. I believe most of us who have worked long and hard (for me more than 30 years in the defense of this country) have now got to think about ourselves and our families, and leave the battles to the younger folks. When Congress, the Department of Energy and Lab management are out to change our way of life, when well meaning employees call people who choose to retire this summer deserters and saboteurs, who needs terrorists?
Oh, I guess there was a third one as well, another one of mine. I know for a fact that it was published in a timely mannor, and that it was not "edited". All three letters will be presented in subsequent posts.
Wednesday, January 05, 2005
In further response to the CSO
Dear NewsBulletin staff:
To celebrate your new policy of not waiting the requisite 6 weeks for
management approval prior to publishing letters in your publication, and
in honor of your long-standing policy of not censoring letters to the
NewsBulletin, please accept the following letter:
In response to Tom Bowles comment on my letter to the NewsBulletin,
published 1/5 (excerpted below), I would like to remind Mr. Bowles that
the orders in question came from the Director's office. I refer, of
course, to the the instructions to tell customers that "I am sorry, we
cannot discuss programmatic issues; we are in a work shutdown mode,"
in the event that a customer called in the early weeks of the
shutdown. So, I am interested in knowing if Mr. Bowles believes
1) The Director should not have issued those instructions,
2) we staff should have ignored them, or
3) those orders were a figment of our imagination, and we should not
have given ourselves over to flights of fancy.
Excerpt from Bowles' letter:
Response to concerned about science
I appreciate Mr. Roberts' concern in his Nov. 12 submission to the
No Laboratory technical staff member should have been told to provide the
response Mr. Roberts notes in his letter, and it is indeed unfortunate if
such responses led to the Laboratory losing important scientific research.
For the Record
My Letter to the CSO regarding his comments
Tom:Download this as a file |
If you note, the version of my letter that was finally published in the
NewsBulletin was censored, apparently to make it sound like my group only
lost a measly $3 million. The part of the original letter that described
a fuller context the nature of the loss to LANL (i.e. a group of people
successfully leveraged pure computer science into over $100 million of
revenues to LANL, and the attendant customer base during its 15-year
existance) was left off, as well as the suggestion that what happened to
my group was not an isolated incident.
What follows is a link to the complete version of my letter, as it
appeared in the December 22 issue of the Los Alamos Monitor.
Also, one could infer from reading your response to my letter that the
proscribed response of "I am sorry, we cannot talk with you, we are in a
work shutdown mode," was one which we mistakenly gave to our customers.
I need to remind you that those very strict instructions were issued from
the Directors office during the shutdown.
The LANL CSO's comments on my letter
Dec. 23, 2004Response to concerned about science
I appreciate Mr. Roberts' concern in his Nov. 12 submission to the Reader's Forum. His concern also was shared by Laboratory Director G. Peter Nanos, myself, and other members of the Executive Board. To that end, shortly after the suspension of operations began, I wrote a master management memo that spoke to, I believe, the points Mr. Roberts makes.
In my July 27 master management memo, Restart Exemptions, I said that the Laboratory had no intention of defaulting on its scientific committments, and that any staff member who had concerns about the suspension of operations could contact me. Additionally, staff members could contact their associate directors, who I would then work with to address issues related to the suspension of operations and how it may affect their research on a case-by-case basis.
Early on in the suspension of operations, associate directors also were asked to contact [funding] sponsors and explain the Laboratory's situation and how the suspension of operations was done with the goal of making Los Alamos a stronger and better laboratory.
The Chief Science Officer office and others worked aggressively to mitigate the types of situations that Mr. Roberts described in his letter. We attempted to address these situations as expeditiously as possible while also making sure that we also were meeting all of our restart requirements. No Laboratory technical staff member should have been told to provide the response Mr. Roberts notes in his letter, and it is indeed unfortunate if such responses led to the Laboratory losing important scientific research.
I invite any staff member who shares Mr. Robert's concerns, or would like to discuss other matters related to the science that we perform at this Laboratory, to write me at firstname.lastname@example.org by electronic mail. Rest assured, we will continue to address this matter and work to ensure that Los Alamos is best in class.
--Tom Bowles, chief science officer
LANL Censored My Letter
Nov. 12, 2004
Concerned about science
Recent letters to the Daily Newsbulletin have questioned the recent lack of meaningful submissions. In response, an Editor's Note assured us that the Public Affairs Office "encourages employees to express concerns..."
Ok, then. Here's a story that is really an expression of concern. During the recent suspension of operations, as I am sure you all recall, Laboratory staff were under strict orders that, should an outside sponsor contact us via telephone to discuss programmatic issues, the only allowed response was, "I'm sorry, I am not allowed to discuss that at this time. We are in a work shutdown mode."
Well, guess what? One of my group's sponsors called during week two of the suspension of operations, and received the proscribed response. Two hours later the sponsor called back and said, "I'm sorry, but I have no confidence that the Lab will allow you to perform the work we contracted for you to do. Therefore, we are pulling our contract."
In an eye blink, my group lost a three year, $1 million dollar-per-year contract. Shortly afterward, the group leader quit in disgust at having been forced to shun a customer that we had all worked hard to get.
The deputy group leader quit a week later.
Two of the team leaders announced later that they [were] quitting, and three more team leaders in the group are planning to leave the Lab.
Several staff members in the group are planning to leave the Lab.
These are all good people who are leaving because they feel Lab management has created an environment in which science can no longer be done.
Should this be an issue of concern? You be the judge.