Monday, February 28, 2005

Sad, sad state of senior management

From Anonymous:

This from ADWP Update #7, an irregular e-mail from Sue Seestrom:
>This was the last week of regular season high-school basketball, and I
>have attended quite a few games over the coarse of the season. I witnessed
>an impressive act of leadership at one of these games; I would like to
>share it because it bears on the present situation at the Lab. In the
>early part of a game, a player fell to the ground with the wind knocked
>out of him; he and many fans clearly thought he had been punched in the
>stomach. There was no foul called on the play - perhaps there was no
>punch, or perhaps the referees missed it because it was away from the
>ball. This player did not yell, retaliate, or complain at the unfair
>treatment he had just received. He simply got back into the game, played
>his heart out, and led his team to a close victory. That is exactly what
>we need to do now at the lab - stop worrying about whether the shut-down
>was right or wrong, whether the someone has said unfair things to some of
>us - lets just get our heads back in the game score some points!

Spate of Pessimism

From Anonymous:

Recent posts and comments relating to Secretary Bodman's visit last Friday have given rise to a spate of pessimism. Some of the posts and comments might have been submitted by LANL management sympathizers, but more likely the oft-cited "Pete slapping Pete's back" incident, the "Pete slapping LANL staff around (get over it)" incident, and the rather pathetic showing LANL staff made when it came to the question and answer session are the cause for the new pessimism. I'm pessimistic myself: I have very little faith that an organization which would allow a screw-up of the magnitude that Nanos represents even has the ability to make things right, much less the desire. Given that, I'm still not willing to give up. At the very least, we should continue to try to get Nanos removed before he does even more damage. I like the letter that was in a comment to the post which gave Bodman's email address:
Dear Mr. Secretary:

Thank you for taking the time to visit LANL last Friday. You might be interested to know that you left a positive impression with the audience, perhaps even giving cause for some small rays of hope that our problems may soon start to be behind us. I do wish to say, however, that during the questions session there seemed to be a white elephant in the room that everyone (myself included) was afraid to talk about. That white elephant was this: most of us at LANL (Director Nanos and members of the SET apparently excluded) feel that it has been amply shown that the shutdown of last July was not justified. We feel that an accounting for that completely unnecessary and damaging act is required. We would like to take Senator Domenici's advice to "just get over it", but that will not be possible until Director Nanos is removed. Finally, to turn this into the question that nobody could apparently bring themselves to ask last Friday: why as that not been done yet? Why is Director Nanos still in charge of Los Alamos National Laboratory? He has lost our trust; he has lost our respect. By his continued presence he will lose us even more of our one precious resource, the talented people who used to take pride in working at Los Alamos. We have already seen far too many of our valued colleagues leave LANL because of Director Nanos.

If, in your considered judgment you decide that it is not possible to remove Director Nanos, could you please have the courtesy to tell us that, and to tell us the reason?


I think that if enough LANL staff voice this request to the new secretary, we might be able to salvage a bit of good.

It is Simply Not Possible

From Anonymous:

Some have noted that Senator Domenici and Secretary Bodman did not say anything directly in support of Director Nanos last Friday. However, there was body language that might not have been apparent to those watching on Labnet. The Senator found two occasions to pat Nanos on the back (literally), the last very conspicuously after leaving and returning to the stage, possibly just for this purpose so it could not be missed by anyone in the audience. Then there was his “get over this stuff” statement at the end, just in case anyone misinterpreted his more subtle communications. As a long time supporter and admirer of Senator Domenici, this was extremely disappointing. Since I believe Domenici is above crass political payoffs, I conclude that he really doesn’t fathom the seriousness and significance of the situation at LANL.

It is simply not possible to “get on with [things]” in the present environment. The time for a simple apology from Nanos is long past, and it would make no difference anyway. The basic fact is that, in addition to his irrational temper and disregard for the truth, Nanos is simply incompetent to direct a national laboratory and is driving LANL into mediocrity, from which it may never recover. He has purposefully manufactured crises to divert attention from his failures, and will do anything and crush anyone to ensure his own survival. The way he condescendingly intercepted Mary Hockaday’s question, before it could solicit a response unfavorable to himself, was disgraceful.

Unfortunately, the notion at DOE and Congress persists that it is just a few discontents that feel this way. It is my belief that the vast majority, maybe up to 90% of LANL technical staff including most managers, believe that Nanos is an unmitigated disaster, but are afraid to speak up publicly. We need to find a way to allow everyone to petition for change without personal risk. Whether this is cowardly or not is irrelevant; it is a basic fact of the fear and loathing environment. Can any of you more imaginative bloggers think of a way to accomplish this? The time is short, if it is not already too late.

Time to Start Facing Some Reality

From Anonymous:

I really enjoy this blog and the comments people have posted.

But…after reading all of it, and having been here myself for a good length of time, I think it's time to start facing some reality here, at least as a non-management person. Some general observations and comments partially based on some of the stuff written in the blog.

1) By most accounts Senator Domenici has done pretty much all he can for LANL. Sooner or later (sounds like sooner) LANL will have to stand on its own. How it will fare is subject to speculation. Saying it is very important to National Security, has unique capability, etc., no longer matters. Those factors have been made clear, and they will enter into the determination of LANL’s future, along with a myriad of other factors, some rational, some not. That’s just the way it is. In my opinion, to hope or believe LANL will be considered in a special category is wasted psychic effort.

2) To ignore the reality of future funding is sticking your head in the sand. While there have been several newspaper posts on the blog about next year’s funding, it is unclear that most people are cognizant of proposed changes. Senator Domenici releases an article and says that NM has done well by him and that’s all people see. While I agree that we can only look at about a year or two at a time in terms of funding, I consider it worthwhile to see where changes are occurring. For example, there is a proposed decrease in DP funding at LANL. Sandia was also hit in this area. Given the general state of the federal budget deficit, and Senator Domenici's eventual departure, I am not counting on increases in these areas.

3) I have a high level of confidence that DOE, NNSA, etc., think what people do here is just a job. To them, LANL is just a pool of human resources, that when combined with funding, carries out a specified set of tasks. No more, no less. To think otherwise is naïve. To try and change their point-of-view is an exercise in futility.

4) Potential bidders have already brought up the need to have flexibility regarding the workforce as an RFP Issue. These people are highly attuned to funding. As unpleasant as it sounds, the new contractor will make decisions on who is, and who isn’t, important in carrying out LANL’s tasks. Subject to budget and political constraints, those in areas deemed important will likely have more bargaining power regarding their options. I suggest accurately and objectively assessing one’s own importance relative to what LANL will become. Try not to make this a self-worth issue.

5) When the time comes, everyone will be forced to make a decision in their own best interest about rolling over, becoming inactive, or retiring. It’s stressful to have to make decisions like these, but that’s the reality. To ignore the fact that decisions will have to be made will only cause more stress. I recommend planning as information becomes available.

6) For whatever reason, it appears as though many people have equated LANL with themselves. While I think I understand some of the underlying reasons for this, I cannot believe that it is a particularly good thing to do. It’s just a job folks, and if you think of it as any more than that, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. In fact, that seems to be the case already, as evidenced by many, many posts.

7) The Director and the SET/EB are who they are. How they came to be there is irrelevant. To think they will change by complaining is unrealistic in my view. It may feel good to vent, which is fine, but that’s about it. They will be changed when those that make decisions at that level decide they should be changed, plain and simple. We are not privy to their thought processes. This is not a democracy here, the LANL population in general did not vote for them, and they will not be recalled by petition. Like it or not, they are what the outside world sees regarding LANL as an institution. Blog opinions aside, as far as most know they are the best LANL has for those positions.

8) Perhaps, as many suggest, LANL will no longer be known for doing “The World’s Greatest Science”. So what? That just means the Greatest Science will be going on somewhere else. Whatever LANL becomes in the future will not diminish its past. LANL’s history has been pretty well recorded. If you were fortunate enough to part of it, that’s great. If not, then if you stay, you’re just going to have to deal with whatever LANL becomes the best you can. Institutions evolve due to a variety of forces, that’s the way it is. If LANL takes on a different or reduced mission, then it takes on a different or reduced mission. That’s what pays the bills. If you want to do science and stay at LANL, perhaps you will need to do it on your own time as some have suggested. Perhaps you will decide you need to leave to do science elsewhere. If, as has been suggested, the best people leave, well then they leave. If LANL becomes unattractive to new employees, well then they won’t come here. Not to trivialize these concerns, but I think it is that simple at a basic level. LANL’s next contractor will work with whatever budget and resources it has, don’t think otherwise. All organizations face these challenges. Some survive, some don’t.

9) While I believe most concerns are valid and heartfelt, I think there is really nothing that can be done about some of them other than bringing them up as a private citizen to those with decision-making authority. Even if the Director and the SET/EB are removed as some advocate, there is still the RFP/contract issues to deal with, as well as future funding. As far as National Security concerns go, LANL will have to abide by what Congress and the President decide is LANL’s role in the future – however that decision is reached. While it might sound a bit selfish, I think the most anyone can realistically accomplish is to try and be prepared for what might be coming – job skill-wise, funding-wise, and retirement-wise.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

More on Bodman Meeting

From Anonymous:

Some have noted that Senator Domenici and Secretary Bodman did not say anything directly in support of Director Nanos last Friday. However, there was body language that might not have been apparent to those watching on Labnet. The Senator found two occasions to pat Nanos on the back (literally), the last very conspicuously after leaving and returning to the stage, possibly just for this purpose so it could not be missed by anyone in the audience. Then there was his “get over this stuff” statement at the end, just in case anyone misinterpreted his more subtle communications. As a long time supporter and admirer of Senator Domenici, this was extremely disappointing. Since I believe Domenici is above crass political payoffs, I conclude that he really doesn’t fathom the seriousness and significance of the situation at LANL.

It is simply not possible to “get on with [things]” in the present environment. The time for a simple apology from Nanos is long past, and it would make no difference anyway. The basic fact is that, in addition to his irrational temper and disregard for the truth, Nanos is simply incompetent to direct a national laboratory and is driving LANL into mediocrity, from which it may never recover. He has purposefully manufactured crises to divert attention from his failures, and will do anything and crush anyone to ensure his own survival. The way he condescendingly intercepted Mary Hockaday’s question, before it could solicit a response unfavorable to himself, was disgraceful.

Unfortunately, the notion at DOE and Congress persists that it is just a few discontents that feel this way. It is my belief that the vast majority, maybe up to 90% of LANL technical staff including most managers, believe that Nanos is an unmitigated disaster, but are afraid to speak up publicly. We need to find a way to allow everyone to petition for change without personal risk. Whether this is cowardly or not is irrelevant; it is a basic fact of the fear and loathing environment. Can any of you more imaginative bloggers think of a way to accomplish this? The time is short, if it is not already too late.

Secretary Bodman's email address

From Anonymous:

Secretary Bodman's email address is

(capitalization optional).

Those of you who feel, as I do, that the questions put to him during last Friday's meeting represented a poor showing by LANL staff might wish to try to make up for that by sending him your own, well-thought-out questions.

Online Public Relations Thoughts

From Anonymous:

Here is a fascinating post from the "Online Public Relations" Blog.

There are some interesting comments on this blog site regarding the
Los Alamos PR Disaster:

Bad Bad Bad - Feb 14, 2005

There is a horrific story that everyone should read whose client or company
has government business. It is here.

The government now admits that two missing computer disks at the Los Alamos
research laboratories, run by the University of California, never existed.
Yup, that's right. The witch hunt and $5.8 million fine levied against the
University for poor security management was for items that were never

University of California's reputation was dragged through the mud, and it
nearly lost control of the labs. Actually, it did lose control of the
labs but the government pays so little to manage them that the new
manager backed out.

So, how does the government say, "I'm sorry" to an organization whose
reputation it wrecked. It sends a threatening letter and fails to lift
the fine.

We have worked with other government contractors who have been hauled
before the government for lapses they didn't commit. The same pattern
happens repeatedly. Bureaucrats rarely say they are sorry, and they
rarely admit they have harmed anyone. They find flimsy excuses to
support their positions even when excuses have nothing to do with the
original charge.

The sanctimoniousness of government bureaucrats is disheartening. These
people believe they are doing the people's business. Hence, anything
they do and say must be right.

Be warned. If you work with the government, watch your flanks. Keep
public affairs specialists at agencies and on the Hill. That is the only
way to survive government witch hunts. Even then, it is difficult.


I hate to tell this PR guy, but we DO have PR people at LANL and they
are part of our public perception disaster. The whole lot of them,
including 'Baghdad Bob' Fallin should be fired immediately, as their
PR efforts seem to be directed at defending Pete, rather than the
reputation of LANL as a whole.

No one is as necessary as they think

From Anonymous:

"No one is as necessary as they think"

How glib. How wrong. It is this kind of thinking on the part of the bean-counters that has put us in this situation. The Lab is full of people with one-of-a-kind knowledge and skills. We already had a problem, because we have a large number of people who have critical knowledge and skills and these people are at or approaching retirement age. The uncertainty surrounding the recompetition is turning a manageable problem into a national security gamble. It has taken a problem with a five year lead time and shrunk it down to less than one year.

If you do not think that individuals are important, then you do not know the amazing people that we have here. Sure, they can go work somewhere else, but here they can make a positive difference to the entire world. This place isn't just about big or small science -- it's a nuclear weapons lab. Small and efficient? That should not be the most important consideration here. It's a nuclear weapons lab! Los Alamos is about a lot more than just churning out academic papers for our buddies to read. My God, I sure hope nobody starts using their garage-lab or their personal computer at home to try to do the kinds of things we do at work!

Also remember that many of the people here are part of dual-scientist households. And many of our children go on to pursue careers in science. At a time when too many American children are opting out of careers in science, the children of Los Alamos are truly a bright hope for the future. Each of us has invested our lives and our careers to help keep this country safe, both now and in the future.

As has been pointed out many times, for all of the investigations and allegations, not much real abuse or fraud has been found. Certainly less than one might expect for such a large diverse organization. I think this is because we all know exactly how important our work is. And how critical and irreplaceable our co-workers are to fulfilling our mission. That's right, we have a sense of mission. We are honorable people trying to help our country and our fellow citizens. It is very sad that the country, our President, the NNSA, the DOE, and the current Laboratory management have forgotten or simply don't care anymore. But none of those people or organizations represents the heart and soul of the Lab. The Lab stands for (used to stand for?) peace through security, good science, and always doing the right thing, even when nobody's looking. We don't take off our security clearances when we get home. We can't download the secret stuff out of our brains when we go home. Our pension may look good, if the stress doesn't kill us before we retire, but our other benefits are not stellar. So this is not really a "fat cat wants it all" situation, whatever certain bitter retirees may say.

The post about critical mass is correct. If the Lab loses too much of its capability, it will be shutdown. There is no reason to do non-weapons, non-homeland-security research in this isolated place. Well, maybe physical isolation is good for counter bio-terrorism stuff. I don't think the facilities and upkeep for that will be small and cheap either. We are a nuclear weapons lab; we are the best at what we do and what we do is very very important. The current management and the people in Washington are playing politics and they are gambling with our national security. If they didn't appreciate that before, then they should appreciate it now. And they should fix it now, before it's too late.

If we should swallow our hurt feelings and put the past year behind us, well, okay -- let them go first. Tell Nanos to apologize and then get him out of here. He is salt in the wound. Forget about recompeting the contract. What's at stake here is more than the embarassment and hurt feelings. Remember the IRS's new computer system? The FBI's new computer system (come on, that was just last week!)? Compac's promises for the Q machine? The list goes on and on. Consequences are what count. The potential consequences here are disastrous. I'll remind you again -- we are not bean-counters (present management excepted), this is a nuclear weapons lab.

"Put down the gun and back away slowly with your hands in the air. Don't make any sudden moves."

Well that won't happen; the wheels of government grind on without the possibility of admitting mistake, especially if there's an easier way out. Especially if the real consequences will be felt by the next generation. As lowly TSMs, we're not allowed to have feelings or egos. But their egoes and their games are more important to them than the continued security of our country.

Regarding the Bodman Meeting of 2/25

From Anonymous:

That was a really telling meeting.

Nanos was deferential and diplomatic in the extreme, but then of course his big bosses were there, and he wasn't about to be anything but in front of them.

Bodman was unstandably nebulous for a guy three-weeks on the job, but he was very deft at not praising Nanos, nor running him down. I think he has potential, but the DOE and NNSA bureacracy was there before him, and will be there after him, and they know it.

I don't think Domenici said a single thing about Nanos at all. Of course, Domenici has lost face now having bashed the Lab early during CREM-III without facts to support it. Pete can't get out of being responsible for how he looks now without looking bad (or, well, worse, than his rant made him look at the end of the talk).

Brooks, as has been noted, said absolutely nothing at all. This, the NNSA Administrator, in charge of the agency created to 'better' operate the NW complex than DOE. Talk about an abject failure. But he didn't say a single word in support of Nanos. Hmmm.

Overall, the supporting words for Nanos were gratefully absent from the panel. That tells me they know at least a bit what we know and they're starting to back away from him ever so gently. I hope.

Finally, what was with the INCREDIBLY LAME questions, overall, people asked?

The damage and being done to the Laboratory is extensive, long-lasting, and grave. No one I can recall presented that issue to the assembled chiefs at all, and yet it seems to be the bottom-line of all the issues at hand.

Domenici obviously doesn't have a clue. Whether or not anyone INTENDS to hurt the Laboratory or not, IT HAS AND IS BEING DONE ANYWAY.

There's no way I can see him running for re-election, and even now I have to wonder how much Senatoring he's doing himself, and how much his staff is really our 'man behind the curtain.'

Don't be selective in your reading

From Anonymous:

For the guy with question about all the bad stories on Los Alamos..

OK, lets talk about stories of government screw-ups and significant threats
to US security over the last decade, shall we?

1. Aldrich Ames (1994) - He works as a Soviet double agent inside the highest
levels of CIA Headquarters at an office that involves US agent operations
in Moscow. The info he gives to the Soviets results in the death of
many of our Soviet agents. He has drinking and financial problems, but
the CIA fails to notice them, and he operates as a Soviet double agent
for many years. What has happened at LANL in the last decade that
compares to this compromise of US security?

2. Robert Hanssen (2000) - He works in the FBI's Counter-Intelligence (aka,
"spy-catcher") branch, with constant data-base access to all ongoing
cases in which we are monitoring foreign spies. While in this high
level position as a traitor, according to CNN, he compromises:

- The National Measurement and Signature Intelligence Program

- The FBI Double Agent Program

- US studies on recruitment operations of the KGB against the CIA

- US studies on the KGB's effort to gather information on US
nuclear programs

- FBI counterintelligence techniques, sources, methods and operations

Federal prosecutors discover that Hanssen made $1.4 million from
his espionage. What, pray tell, has happened at LANL during the
last decade that compares to this fiasco?

These are the two biggest national security screw-ups of the last decade,
but one can also point to...

3. The FBI dropping the ball on the 911 hints. Field offices call in
to FBI HQ saying "we've got some strange people out here who
are taking flying lessons, but have no interest in landing the
planes". FBI HQ ignores them. 911 takes place.

And, of course, once 911 happens, we must strike back, so this gives
us two wars (Afghanistan and Iraq), and huge spending increases that
may bankrupt the US treasury. One cannot blame the FBI for 911, but
they certainly missed some important clues. What has happened during
the last decade at LANL that compares to this type of failure?

And then there are other stories, such as:

4. Missing: A Laptop of DEA Informants - MSNBC June 7, 2004

DEA loses a laptop with information on all their US drug informants.
What evil drug lord wouldn't love to get ahold of this thing?

5. Purchase card bust - Federal Computer Week - Aug 30, 2004

A guy in DOD uses a purchase card to commit $11 million in fraud,
including sending $500,000 to family members. This makes the LANL
purchase card case and the Bussolini case seem like small potatoes.

6. Marine Charged Breast-Lift to US - ABC News - Aug 14

DOD/Marine uses purchase card to pay for her breast-lift.

7. Lost Laptops Compromise Secrets - - Oct 1, 2001

FBI is missing 184 of its laptops.

8. CentCom Laptops Missing From HQ - Tampa Tribune - Aug 7, 2002

Two laptops with tactical battle plans go missing from Gen. Franks
war planning HQ right before the war.

9. Grassley Shines Light On Credit Card Abuse at Department of Defense

At least 200 Army personnel used their government charge cards
to obtain hundreds of dollars in cash at strip clubs. They use
the money for "lap dances".


I could go on and on, but you get the point.

What do you think? Perhaps we should shut down the FBI/CIA/DOD/DEA?
They have endangered our security and engaged in illegal activities,
have they not?

Bad things happen in government agencies. It's not just LANL. Unfortunately,
LANL management and the DOE do a terrible job of defending us. These
other agencies do a much better job at defense.

Yeah, you can pull up lots of articles that might make a person
believe that Los Alamos is some sort of basket case. But, in the
bigger context of things, far worse things have happened at other
places in the US government. Do some more research -- these stories
about screw-ups at other agencies are easy for anyone to find.
Don't be selective in your reading.

Who believes you now, honorable Senator?

From Anonymous:

So Domenici said, according to the Journal North: "I am trying to tell you that we have got to get over this stuff and get
on with the new contract," he said. "Nobody intends to hurt any of you, and,
for God's sake, you know we don't intend to hurt what you're doing."

Honestly, honorable Senator, regardless of anybody's intent, we have already been hurt, our mission has been hurt, our laboratory has been hurt, and our country has been hurt by the retirements that have already taken place, by the abysmal and unneeded shutdown, by the black hole into which our once good morale has disappeared. We will be hurt further as the retirements continue due in part to the apparently inevitable loss of UCRP regardless of who becomes our contractor.

Honestly, honorable Senator, you yourself have hurt us when you called for the contract to be competed, apparently assenting to the characterization of our Laboratory as a "den of thieves" or a "fetid swamp"; you yourself hurt us when you supported the shutdown, apparently assenting to the characterization of our Laboratory as a collection of arrogant cowboys and buttheads.

Who believes you now, honorable Senator, when you say that nobody intends to hurt us?

Saturday, February 26, 2005


From Anonymous:

You know, if the people who run the LANL Public Affairs office had had half an ounce of sense, the day after they discovered this blog they should have had their own blog up. Uncensored, anonymous posting allowed. If they had done that, the whole (or primary) motivation behind creating this blog would have been defeated.

On the other hand, it _is_ possible to instrument a web page so that it logs each and every ip address that visits it, and given the lack of trust most of us have for the Public Affairs office (Hi, Baghdad Bob! Hi Comical Ali!), and for LANL management in general, maybe it would not have worked for them after all.

More Lab Security Gaps Found; LANL Audit Cites Weaknesses in Handling Exiting Workers

Saturday, February 26, 2005

More Lab Security Gaps Found; LANL Audit Cites Weaknesses in Handling Exiting Workers

By Adam Rankin
Journal Staff Writer

An audit released Friday criticized Los Alamos National Laboratory for its handling of workers and scientists leaving the employment of the weapons lab.
The report, issued by the Department of Energy's Office of the Inspector General, "found no assurance that, prior to departure, LANL terminating employees turned in security badges," completed security out-processing or had their clearances and access authorizations to classified materials terminated in a timely manner.
For example, the audit notes that, of 96 employees with security clearances leaving LANL over a two-year period, 44 had not turned in their badges at the time of the audit review, 61 had not completed security out-processing paper work and 21 retained their clearances from 11 to 567 days after their departure.
LANL spokesman James Rickman contested the tone of the audit, arguing that the laboratory discovered the failings on its own in 2003 and had already implemented corrections before the audit was started.
"In fact, the laboratory already was developing new out-processing procedures at the time of the IG investigation, and these new procedures were implemented in September 2004 and have had a 99 percent success rate so far," he said.
He said the rate is expected to reach 100 percent when paperwork and reviews are included from previous quarters.
"It is important to point out that the IG investigators and laboratory inventories did not find a single instance in which property or classified material at Los Alamos was handled inappropriately as a result of out-processing weaknesses," Rickman said.
He said LANL was diligent and conscientious in its efforts to fix weaknesses lab officials had uncovered themselves prior to the audit.

Copyright 2005 Albuquerque Journal


From Anonymous:

So far this blog has demonstrated a remarkable self-regulating behavior. If somebody posts something stupid, or just way out in left field, a bunch of contributers jump on it by way of correction, and all without flames.

Admirable (in the good sense of the word, not the Nano-sense).

Work For Others?

From Anonymous:

Regarding the revelation that was dropped on us during the Bodeman meeting that Nanos is conducting (or having conducted for him, it wasn't clear) a lesson's-learned/cost analysis of the shutdown, what do you want to bet that the reviewers conveniently "forget" to factor in the lost business from all those work for others sponsors who have vamoosed? Prior to the shutdown, WFO comprised nearly 25% of our $2.2 billion budget. Want to take bets on what it is now? What it will be in FY05, FY06, FY07?

What Would Feynman Do?

From Anonymous:

From the number and the passion of the blogs on this website it is clear that there are a lot of people who care very deeply for the laboratory. While that's very commendable, it's also a mistake. Why? Because the lab doesn't care very deeply for you. Anyone who thinks that TSMs at the lab have effective tenure is woefully mistaken. LANL hires and fires by division, not as a laboratory. If the money dries up for your project, you are in deep doo-doo. It doesn't matter how well you have performed your job or how hard you've worked, you are vulnerable. During my time at LANL (25 years) I have participated in firing multiple people on two occasions. None of these people were “underperformers”. In fact, those who were most vulnerable tended to be successful scientists in their 40s and 50s who were or had been middle managers.

That being said, how should people react to the present situation? First of all, for those who are near retirement now is the time to bail. Don't worry that your departure and your colleagues departures might leave the lab too short-staffed to do our missions. That situation isn't of your making and it's not your responsibility to put yourself at risk. That problem belongs to Nanos, the NNSA and the politicians. So far, they haven't gone out of their way to give you any incentives to stay so you should extend to them the same courtesy.

For young staff people, if you have an opportunity to go somewhere else which has a decent environment for science, take it. The older you get the fewer opportunities will arise. Also, if you wait until you are older your financial risk will increase. The climate for doing science isn't going to get any better here. I think Tom Bowles is sincerely trying to improve it, but he doesn't have the resources to make much impact. The reality is that the climate for doing science at LANL has been monotonically decreasing ever since WWII. After the war, LANL received block funding and pretty much had the latitude to work on what we wanted to. Over the years that situation has steadily eroded to the point where most of the meaningful decisions are made in Washington. The present group of upper managers are control freaks who think that science is measured by pert charts and milestones. Most of them have never done any science and they don't have a clue as to what science is.

For those who would like to stay at LANL, realize that times of turmoil are also times of opportunity. This might be a good time to get funding for that project that you haven't been able to get funded. However, don't lull yourself into thinking that the long-term prognosis for science at the lab (particularly small science) is good. The ER side of DOE is facing flat or declining budgets and there is no way that people are going to be able to keep up with the increasing costs that the new safety/security culture will engender.

However, there is some good news. The costs of computing have dropped enormously over the past several years to where one can do significant computing on a box that costs less that $2k. Projects that 10 years ago had to be done in a large laboratory setting now can be done at home. People should consider taking their small science outside of the laboratory. Since small science is where the real breakthroughs and advancements come from, why bother to share this with the laboratory if they don’t appreciate it?

Finally, what do we need to do about Nanos and his entourage? There seems to be a mentality here that if we all band together we can get rid of this guy. That’s bullshit. Anyone who has ever managed at the lab has had the experience of a group of “concerned employees” going behind their back to their superiors to have them removed. It always happens and it never works. Why? Because the people they are complaining to have had the same thing done to them and they resent it. It makes it easy to be labeled as whiners and therefore dismissed.

In order to understand how to properly deal with this, you first of all have to understand the purpose of upper management. They don’t bring in any money. Since they don’t control the money, they can’t provide any meaningful strategic planning or anything else for the lab. Their first job is to be a pain in the butt. Our job is to get the job done in spite of all the obstacles they put in our way. This can require a lot of creativity, but we have a long history of accomplishing that at LANL.

Their second function is to provide entertainment. We also have a long history of that at LANL. Remember Don Kerr and Rosemary Harris with the infamous “quit talking about the director and me” memo? How about the exploits of Big Al Tiedman? If you want to deal with Nanos then you need to exploit his biggest weakness: he’s a stuffed shirt with a really short fuse who takes himself seriously. The one thing people like that can’t stand is to have everybody laughing at them. Pushing his buttons ought to be real easy. So easy you can even do it anonymously. Face it, anyone who gets bent out of shape about bumper stickers and cowboy hats is just begging to have his chain yanked. With even a modest amount of effort we ought to be able to get him and his minions popping Prozac like they are M&Ms. If we can get him to spend all of his time chasing his tail, then he won’t have enough time to continue damaging the laboratory. We need to take a tip from our fundamentalist brethren and consider WWFD (What Would Feynman Do?) in dealing with this guy.

Disappointed in the Questions Asked

From Anonymous:

After watching Nanos, Bodman, Domenici, and Brooks on Friday, it is clear that Mr. Nanos has the full confidence and support of his customers, NNSA and DOE. I was very disappointed in the questions asked from the floor and a bit embarrassed by the total lack of strategic thinking on the part of LANL staff.
The first question was, 'Why don't we have a daycare facility?' The answer is that, given our prohibitive overhead, there would be no way to recover the operating costs from the parents. For LANL to get into the daycare business would just expose them to punishing liability if any child were injured. That's a losing game and our overhead is high enough as it is.
Then we had a chemical engineer ask the Secretary of Energy why we don't use process flow and piping diagrams. This was totally irrelevant to the issues at hand. If you want to use piping diagrams, champion them in your group - no one's stopping you.
Then we had the incoherent rambler on the telephone that just kind of mumbled off into oblivion. He never could get to a meaningful question.
The question about the new award fee and GRT was so poorly stated that Bodman couldn't figure out the concern. LANL's budget is a zero-sum game: money cut out of the budget for GRT and award fees is money that is not available for operations. Essentially, we'll see a $100MM cut in the operating budget due to just these two factors.
I forget the next questions, but I do remember Mary Hockaday. She was the most cogent of the lot - and the most professional. After the way GPN treated her, I thought she was the model of professionalism. It was clear that he was also a bit taken aback by her comments, respectfully requesting publication of "lessons learned" about the CREM barcode incident. I doubt that GPN publish that, as it would show that she took the fall for a non-event. Thank you, Mary, for standing up to this jerk.
It is clear to me that the DOE is fretting about how they're going to manage the recompete. They know they've stepped in it big time and are busily looking for a face-saving exit. The UC contract extension is just the beginning of their little Kabuki dance - "we think you're great and essential to the national security - we think you're arrogant little bastards and need to be cut down to size." Unfortunately, they can't turn back now, so we'll have to stand aside and watch this one play out.
As for the future of LANL? Every year the LANL director will sign the pro-forma letter to the President making the unfounded assertion that America's nuclear weapons are safe, reliable and effective. S/He won't have any choice in the matter. Hopefully, we (and our enemies) will never find out that our nuclear weapons don't work. When they do find out, (hopefully in the far future) the people who did know how to make them work will be retired, dead, or gone off to other fields. It will be Sputnik 1958 all over again.
Horoscope for Leo for 2/26/05: "There's a corner of your world always on the verge of blowing up into a big drama. Park your lawn chair and watch the volcano action." Right now all we can do is watch and wait.
Sign me Dawna.

Report: UC overpaid to run labs

Report: UC overpaid to run labs

Diana Heil | The New Mexican
February 26, 2005

By the end of September, the federal government will have paid $30 million more than necessary over five years for the University of California to operate three national laboratories, according to a recent audit report from the Department of Energy's inspector general.

"These funds could have been used to expand the scientific programs of the laboratories or to address other pressing ... needs," the report states.

Recouping the money might not be easy.

For one thing, the federal government signed a contract that allowed UC to get reimbursed for academic-related expenses, such as student recruitment, faculty home loans and university capital projects. "Reimbursement of such expenses is prohibited under federal cost principles," according to the audit.

If the contract had been written to exclude such items, DOE could have saved about $8 million over the five-year contract period, according to the audit. But as it was written, UC is getting more than its fair share of federal reimbursements for office expenses, the audit said.

The University of California operates Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore and Lawrence Berkeley laboratories. The Office of the Vice President for Laboratory Management receives federal money to oversee the management contracts.

Calculation errors -- which went unnoticed by the Energy Department's financial analyst -- will cost the government another $21 million in unnecessary expenses, according to the audit.

The government also reimbursed UC for $880,000 worth of unallowable expenses, such as student recruitment.

The Inspector General wants the Energy Department to seek to recover some of the money. The Energy Department's contracting officers are reviewing questioned costs and will determine what amount, if any, UC must repay.

"We're examining the report and all the options available to us," Bryan Wilkes, spokesman for the Energy Department's National Nuclear Security Administration, said. "We have people trying to determine what the situation is."

UC isn't expecting a big bill, however. Ron Nelson, who heads contract administration for UC, said the university will return a few thousand dollars. Its own review showed the university had charged some office expenses to the wrong accounts, he said.

In other cases, the university's routine accounting practices caused some confusion, and the university will modify its accounting methods, he said.

Nelson noted some lab-related activities do take place on campuses. Teasing out who benefited from the university's facilities, equipment and programs can be difficult, he said. These are central expenses the institution is absorbing.

Nuclear Watch of New Mexico, a citizens group, said the Energy Department has been a poor steward of taxpayer money. "Two ex-lab employees have just been sentenced to prison for stealing $300,000 from taxpayers. Now a preliminary audit by the DOE Inspector General has determined UC has been paid $30 million in unallowable costs, making the felons' illegal gains look like chump change," Nuclear Watch of New Mexico director Jay Coghlan said.

He hopes the Energy Department will take swift action to determine what the university must pay back.

"Further," Coghlan said, "any confirmed fiscal irregularities should strongly and negatively impact UC's chances for future management of LANL. There's already been too much funny money up on the Hill."

In the report, auditors reviewed a total of five contracts -- two of which UC does not manage -- and found the Energy Department agreed to provide fees, payments or reimbursements for office expenses that were not adequately documented, not properly calculated or simply not allowed.
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By Khalil Spencer (Submitted: 02/26/2005 7:05 am )

Were these academic expenses lab-related? One would expect a national lab to have academically related expenses, right? Without more information, I'm not convinced that this isn't just another "spend a dollar to collect a dime" audit, and I've seen that before.

"These funds could have been used to expand the scientific programs of the laboratories or to address other pressing ... needs," or more likely, hiring more auditors.

By Don Nickell (Submitted: 02/26/2005 6:36 am )

If this wasn’t so ludicrous it would be funny, the scenario that a TV show could use. It seems to be a “tail wagging the dog” situation, guess which is the “dog”. My bitch about losing medical insurance just because I moved from NM to ID is minuscule by comparison!

LANL Worries Aired; DOE Chief Vows Fair Treatment

Albuquerque Journal
Saturday, February 26, 2005

LANL Worries Aired; DOE Chief Vows Fair Treatment

By Adam Rankin
Journal Staff Writer

LOS ALAMOS— In his first visit to Los Alamos National Laboratory, U.S.
Department of Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman reaffirmed his commitment to
protecting lab worker benefits through the pending competition to run the
nuclear weapons facility.
"The people here are going to be treated fairly," he said. "We are very
much aware... of the concerns of the employees here, the rightful concerns."
Bodman, who visited LANL on Friday and Sandia National Laboratories in
Albuquerque on Thursday, spoke to Los Alamos employees with U.S. Sen. Pete
Domenici, R-N.M., during an all-hands meeting and answered their questions.
Bodman replaced Spencer Abraham as energy secretary on Jan. 31,
following Abraham's resignation in December.
Following the meeting, Bodman told reporters that he came to Los Alamos
"in awe of the history of the place" and is now in awe of all that is done
there. He said he is committed to advancing the laboratory's core scientific
mission, which he said he "views as a sacred trust."
During a question-and-answer period, one 30-year LANL veteran told
Bodman that many of his colleagues in their 50s and 60s are planning to
leave LANL "at the peak of their careers."
"It is going to hurt us as a country, as a laboratory, and it all has to
do with bad management," he said.
LANL director Pete Nanos has been the target of some employee and
scientist criticism for the way he addressed concerns last summer over
safety and security failures by shutting the laboratory down for months at a
high cost to taxpayers.
Reviews of the total shutdown cost are ongoing, and Domenici said
employees and the public will get a full accounting of what happened and
"This has to end up with lessons learned," Domenici said. "It wasn't a
trivial matter or a series of trivial situations."
Asked if Bodman had confidence in Nanos' leadership, Bodman said he only
just met Nanos but was impressed by his earnestness, commitment and
willingness to criticize himself.
At the close of the all-hands meeting, Domenici told LANL workers that
it is time for them to move beyond feelings of discontent.
"I am trying to tell you that we have got to get over this stuff and get
on with the new contract," he said. "Nobody intends to hurt any of you, and,
for God's sake, you know we don't intend to hurt what you're doing."
Domenici praised President Bush's selection of Bodman as the new energy
secretary. Bodman served as deputy secretary of the treasury beginning in
2003 and deputy secretary of commerce from 2001 to 2003.
Domenici said Bodman, an engineer who once taught at the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology, is the most experienced energy secretary since he's
been in Congress and will make LANL and America's future brighter.
Bodman told reporters that it is natural for there to be some unease
during a contract competition for the largest nuclear weapons research
laboratory, "but that everything is going to be fine, I am convinced of

Friday, February 25, 2005



Recently issued by the NNSA Source Evaluation Board

With regard to the preparation of a Request for

Proposals to operate the Los Alamos National Laboratory

The four white papers prepared by the NNSA Source Evaluation Board contain many improvements over the original draft and the board is to be commended for them. However, there are a number of items that would benefit by modification.

Employee retention: The original draft contained a provision which required the successor contractor to hire all the staff, except the senior management. In the white paper on “Major Issues,” this assurance of reasonable job security evaporates. Under issue #8, the proposed change says “… DOE expects the Contractor to subsequently exercise appropriate managerial judgment regarding employee retention … This provision provides a strong incentive for the staff to seek stable employment elsewhere!

A Big Pot of Money for the New Contractor: If you think for half a minute, you will realize that if the University of California does not retain the operating contract, almost all the current Laboratory employees will be terminated from University employment, at the very second that UC contract expires. This means that, unless special action is taken, (e.g., retirement) all the vested employees will immediately become inactive members of the University of California Retirement Plan. It can then be argued that the UCRP has a contractual obligation to those former UC employees and therefore there is no money to be transferred to any successor contractor. In these circumstances the scheme to induce industrial companies to bid by giving them a big pot of money to manage (play with?) will fail. If you read the current contract you will find that the University only agreed to consider the desirability of transferring funds to a successor contractor, and not to actually do it.

I presume that the reason that the SEB is planning not to offer guaranteed rehiring to employees who “freeze” their accounts with UCRP, is to coerce the employees to join the new contractor’s plan, thereby increasing the Big Pot of Money. If they do so, according to the SEB response to question 2 in the white paper on “Pension Benefits for Current and Retired LANL Employees”: “with respect to employees who transfer from UCRP to the LANL site specific plan the successor contractor shall consider any changes to UCRP as it administers the site specific plan.” This statement is rather unclear, but it

would seem to permit a considerable reduction in the pension benefits, particularly if the successor contractor badly manages the funds. One can not help but notice, considering the verbiage in the white paper on “Contractor Compensation,” that a decrease in benefits would not only enhance the Contractor profits, but would also save money for the DOE. This is not a way to bolster the national defense on the backs of skilled employees.

I recommend that the whole idea of funds transfer be scrapped. All employees would then retain the UCRP benefits that they have earned, and start with the successor contractor’s plan. The remaining issues to be resolved have to do with vesting. Of course, if the University of California retains the contract, these issues may become moot.

It is really bad business not to have the compensation and benefits package part of the proposal for evaluation; to expect to have it provided after the successor contractor is selected is like buying a “pig in a poke.” What if the Contracting Officer finds that the aforementioned package is not “substantially equivalent. What then?

What happens to new employees?: According to the language of the SEB response to question 2 in the Benefits White Paper, “The plan shall include a timeline as to when the Contractor can bring the benefits to within 5% of the comparator group without impacting the substantially equivalent defined benefits for employees who transferred from the predecessor contractor.” As the current benefits are claimed to be over twice those of the comparator group, then, if they are not changed (as mentioned previously), it would seem that the benefits for new hires would have to be very small. This feature would impact negatively on the hiring of high quality young people.

Please try to keep in mind that the mission is first and foremost the national defense. The duty is to assure that the Los Alamos National Laboratory is able to carry out the high calling of the defense of the nation. To do this work we need to have excellent people who could easily have a good and very rewarding job elsewhere. As you may know, a great deal of trust has been lost over the last couple of years. If the SEB can write into the RFP in clear, unambiguous and uncontradicted language the establishment of a good working environment and a sensible compensation and benefits package, then maybe the thousands of senior people who are currently preparing to retire might be retained and excellent young people could be attracted before the knowledge and experience accumulated over decades vanishes from the Laboratory.

I am pleased to acknowledge that some of these ideas were contributed by colleagues.

George A. Baker, Jr.

Get Over It

From Anonymous:

Dear Senator Domenici:

I attended the meeting today at LANL where Energy Secretary Bodeman was introduced. He seems like a nice person. I agree with your closing comments at the end of the meeting where you told the audience that "we should get over it", referring to the events of the past 8 months. I could not agree more. The first step in the process of "getting over it" is to remove Director Nanos from his position of Director of LANL. Do that, and we will, as you say, get over it and start looking to the future.


A LANL Staff Member


From Anonymous:

The LANL rumor mill says the following is cancelled for the summer of 2005. 
Why? Because no one at LANL wants the responsibility for students under the
current regime. Last summer during the shutdown working with the students
was a big problem. Part of the problem this year is the development
of guidelines for students that require the mentor always to be with the
student. Another part of the problem is that students do dumb things, like
bringing cell phones into prohibited buildings. This is now a security
violation. Since there is no slack in the way LANL staff are treated when
someone makes a mistake, everyone fears making a mistake.

June 6 - August 12, 2005
Welcome to the Home Page of the Los Alamos Summer School in Physics

Applications are now being accepted for LASS 2005. Please use the electronic
application link below.

The Los Alamos Summer School in Physics is a joint venture between Los Alamos
National Laboratory (LANL) and the University of New Mexico (UNM). The program
runs for 10 weeks in the summer and features a combination of classes in many
areas of Physics as well as individual research projects with staff members at
LANL and faculty at UNM. Supercomputing applications in physics are emphasized
throughout the program.

In addition to housing and a stipend to cover expenses, students will receive
graduate or undergraduate credit from UNM for the Summer School.

Please use the following address for non-electronic correspondence:
Los Alamos Summer School
c/o University of New Mexico Department of Physics and Astronomy
800 Yale Boulevard NE
Albuquerque, NM 87131-1156
Phone: (505) 277-2616

Don't Worry-Be Happy

From Anonymous:

I was fascinated at how Pete Dominici and Mr. Bodman reacted at the "all hands" meeting. It is clear that they've drunk deeply of Mr. Nano's Kool-Aid of "Don'
t worry-be happy."
I especially liked Pete Dominici's scolding at the very end. We love you, and you're doing vital work for the national security and (paraphrasing) I'm tired of your whining. He as much as compared us to Dixie Cups - useful when you need them and disposable when you don't.
Oh well, the more people who bail out, the better the opportunities for those who stay. People will quit off the top because they are the ones with other employment options and the dregs, the lifers, and those who can't afford to leave will stay behind.

Institutional Information Technology Strategy Project

Please post this as anonymous. I'm interested to read comments
concerning this memo....

From/MS: Richard A. Marquez, A108
Phone/Fax: 7-1973 / 7-5624
Symbol: ADA-05-021
Date: February 24, 2005

Subject: Institutional Information Technology Strategy Project

I am pleased to announce that the Laboratory is moving forward
with the Institutional Information Technology (IT) Strategy
Project. As you recall, several initiatives in 2004, including the
review of General & Administrative budgets and efforts to reduce
the cost of doing business, identified the need to develop an
Institutional IT Strategy. The Executive Board reaffirmed this
need at the December strategic planning retreat, and identified
the Institutional IT strategy as one of the Laboratory's FY05
Corporate Performance Objectives. The project goal is to develop
and implement a business-driven institutional IT strategic plan
that positions IT as a strategic asset and defines the framework
for effective management of IT. This strategic plan will provide
an important context for Laboratory decisions regarding IT
investments, IT governance and organizational structure.

Project Philosophy
A fundamental philosophy behind the IT Strategy Project is that
the Laboratory's mission, goals and objectives must drive IT. This
IT-to-business alignment is paramount in viewing IT as a strategic
asset that must be managed, much like other tangible assets such
as facilities or the workforce. In support of this asset
management philosophy, the project will reinforce that knowledge
and information are enterprise assets and must be readily
available to stakeholders. Other objectives of the project include
the need to reduce the complexity of the Laboratory's IT portfolio
through reduction of the number of operating systems,
applications, etc.; and the need for optimization of acquisition
and use of IT resources through purchasing standards, acquisition
planning, efficient allocation of resources, etc. The IT Strategy
Project will address these issues and concerns in the coming

Team Participation
The IT Strategy Project team is comprised of representatives from
the technical and business sides of the institution. Chief
Information Officer (acting) Charlotte Lindsey and Camilo Perez of
the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) division are leading the
project, and Principal Deputy Associate Director for
Administration Carolyn Zerkle is project champion. The team
appreciates the importance of ensuring that the Laboratory's
corporate IT Strategy incorporates and addresses the diverse needs
of the institution. Therefore, the project includes a number of
avenues for gathering and implementing the input and support of
key stakeholders.

In the coming months, managers and other personnel will be asked
by the IT Strategy Project team to participate in reviews, focus
groups, virtual forums and a variety of other mechanisms to
provide input into planning and execution of the institutional IT
strategy. I urge managers to participate and to encourage members
of their staff to participate as well. In this way, we will help
ensure that the Laboratory's IT strategy is representative of the
needs of the institution and is driven by the Laboratory's
mission, goals and objectives.

The project timeline is ambitious. Assessment of the Laboratory's
current IT environment already has begun with the assistance of
Gartner, Inc. and Decision Applications (D) division. In the
coming weeks, the team will develop a process for organizational
assessments of IT resources, at which time managers, or their
designees, will have opportunities to participate in the project.
The Laboratory plans to begin implementing a corporate IT strategy
this summer.

Quick Wins
The team also is developing a set of "Quick Wins" institutional
IT improvements that can be accomplished in the next six months.
The quick wins include:

- development of an IT cost tracking system,
- implementation of a desktop computing purchasing and
lifecycle management system, and
- implementation of a tracking system for software licenses
and license purchasing.

To keep the institution updated on the status of this project, the
IT Strategy Project team has developed a website located at that includes
frequently asked questions about the project and other resources,
including a planned moderated discussion forum. Those with
questions about the project can contact Project Leader Camilo
Perez at 5-8704 or submit questions and comments to online.

Feds aiming to break up lab pensions

Feds aiming to break up lab pensions
U.S. officials say UC's pension plan is too much for the competition
By Ian Hoffman, STAFF WRITER

The gold-plated University of California pension plan that kept the nation's two nuclear-explosives labs full of scientists after the Cold War is headed for a breakup.

Federal officials are proposing a separate pension plan for Los Alamos National Laboratory as part of the competition for its management contract, and they plan the same for Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

The two weapons design labs are run by the university and account for a fifth of the University of California Retirement Plan, one of the nation's largest and healthiest public plans. It has $41.3 billion in assets — about a third as much as its cousin, the California Public Employees Retirement System — but 18 percent more than it needs to pay all benefit claims.

The university and its employees haven't had to make contributions to the plan for almost 15

years, and it pays rich benefits.

If new pension plans werecreated for two weapons labs, federal officials propose that retirement benefits for all current and former employees would remain the same. So why break up a healthy plan that employees consider perhaps the best perk of working for the university?

In short, the plan is too good, and potential challengers to the university's operating contract at Los Alamos say it makes the competition lopsided.

"A number of firms have identified this as a barrier to competition," said Tyler Przybylek, acting chief operating officer for the National Nuclear Security Administration and chairman of a panel running the Los Alamos competition. "If you allow UC to keep the UCRP and everyone else has to create a separate pension plan, that seems to be an advantage to the incumbent."


government also wants more say in the pension plans for the weapons labs, such as being notified of contributions and changes in benefits. In the past, university officials decided unilaterally on the level of contributions and got full reimbursement from the NNSA's parent organization, the U.S. Department of Energy.

"We think there's a discussion role when you're using taxpayer money as opposed to simply being notified what the bill is," Przybylek said.

Under a proposal last Friday, the university would have to break out the assets for a separate Los Alamos pension plan to be managed by whoever ends up as operating contractor for the lab. Los Alamos accounts for $4.28 billion of the university plan, but the new pension plan would be much smaller.

The UCRP would continue to hold assets for, and pay benefits to lab retirees and their survivors

as well as any employees already vested. Typically, full-time lab employees are vested after five years of service.

The proposal says benefits in that plan must be "substantially equivalent" to existing benefits in the UCRP. If the benefits are more than 105 percent higher than pension benefits at other weapons sites, the lab operating contractor must propose a timeline for bringing the benefits closer to those of the complex without reducing any benefits for any current employee.

"They're going to have to come up with a very creative way to bring pension and benefits in line in a way that doesn't impact current employees," Przybylek said.

Los Alamos employees and retirees are worried that they will lose retirement benefits in the competition. But NNSA officials say they're wary of doing anything that might be construed

as a benefit cut and cause a flood of retirements or a brain drain at the lab.

"We don't intend to do that. That's not what's in the works for current employees," Przybylek said. "We want someone to come in who has an eye on recruiting and retaining engineers and scientists of the caliber that we've had for years but still do it with some business sense."

He said the move to a separate lab pension has nothing to do with a long-running dispute between the Energy Department and the university over alleged overpayments that the university made into its plan from Energy Department funds. The university contends the overfunding of its pension plan is overwhelmingly the result of prudent investment and good returns in the 1980s and early 1990s.

But Energy Department audits going back to the 1980s suggest that taxpayers

may have been charged $1 billion or more beyond what was needed to pay pensions at all three of the federal labs managed by the university.

What happens to those alleged overpayments is likely to figure prominently in negotiations between the Energy Department and the university over creation of the new pension plans for the two weapons labs.

Contact Ian Hoffman at

Petition To Remove Director Nanos

From Anonymous:

To: Dr. Robert Dynes, President of the University of California


Director Nanos has caused unprecedented damage to the reputation and productivity of Los Alamos National Laboratory, and to national security, by his unilateral imposition of a lengthy shutdown of all work at LANL;


His reasons for this shutdown have now been shown to be either misrepresented or wrong;


Most LANL employees have lost confidence in Dr. Nanos' ability to lead the Laboratory;


We, the undersigned employees of Los Alamos National Laboratory, request that the President of the University of California immediately demand the resignation of Dr. Nanos.

Sign the petition by leaving a comment; "Anonymous" is a signature that will be noted.

Employees are Perfectly Happy with Current Leadership

From Anonymous:

A recent commenter on the "Petition to Remove Nanos" post disparages the puny turnout of ~60, mostly anonymous signatures as of 2/18. Maybe he's right, maybe Nanos will win; maybe most LANL employees don't care enough to sign the petition. Or maybe they _are_ too cowardly to sign. Maybe "Baghdad Bob" Jim Fallin is right, and there is only a "small vocal group of complainers" at LANL, and most employees are perfectly happy with current leadership.

If it is the case that they are too cowardly, then LANL richly deserves the abusive environment of intimidation and retribution that Nanos has delivered to them. Actually, the same is true if the majority of the staff don't care enough to vote.

What is the excuse of the rest of you who don't fall into any of these categories? Got some special reason for not signing the petition, anonymously, even?

The time for an apology past due

Dear Dr. Nanos:

In yesterday's meeting explaining the facts surrounding the CREM incident in DX Division, Mary Hockaday, former DX Division Leader, stood up and told the audience that, on the day after you ordered the shutdown, she had informed you that there was an indication that the "missing" CREM inventory may have been suspect. Yet you have persisted for over seven months in misrepresenting the facts behind your stated reasons for the shutdown.

The time for an apology from you to the staff of the Laboratory is well past due. The only honorable course that is now open to you is to resign your position as Director of Los Alamos National Laboratory, effective immediately.

Brad Lee Holian
Technical Staff Member
Theoretical Division
Group T-12, MS-B268
Los Alamos National Laboratory
Los Alamos, NM 87545 (USA)
phone: 505-667-9237
fax: 505-665-3909

Placement of Submissions


A note on the placement of the petition to remove Director Nanos: The submitters (plural) of that submission requested that it be a "floater" at the top of the blog for a period of two weeks. After that period it will be moved to a sidebar link. I, on my own, decided to group the two posts that follow the petition with it because they closely relate to the subject of the petition.


2 Punished for Misusing LANL Funds

Albuquerque Journal North
Friday, February 25, 2005

2 Punished for Misusing LANL Funds

By Adam Rankin
Journal Staff Writer

Apologizing for what they said was a terrible mistake, two men accused of illegally buying more than $300,000 worth of hunting equipment, outdoor gear and television sets on a Los Alamos National Laboratory account were each sentenced on Thursday to serve time behind bars.
U.S. District Judge James Parker sentenced former Los Alamos National Laboratory employee Peter Bussolini, 67, to six months in prison followed by six months of house arrest and $30,000 in fines.
Scott Alexander, 42, was sentenced to one year and a day in prison. He will be eligible for release after 10 months and two weeks with good behavior.
Parker also ruled that the two former highly paid laboratory workers jointly pay $39,401 in restitution to the University of California, which manages the lab for the Department of Energy.
Bussolini, who worked at the lab for 24 years, was a team leader in facilities management. Alexander was part of the facilities management team.
LANL officials have said they have been able to return or put to good use all but about $20,000 worth of items Bussolini and Alexander bought.
The two men were fired in December 2002 after being accused of putting hundreds of thousands of dollars in questionable purchases on the lab's account, giving the items bogus names to make them seem more in line with lab uses. A television was called a "command center monitor"; a picnic table was a "workbench."
A 20-page indictment accused the pair of buying everything from televisions and CB radio equipment to vacuum cleaners and automobile tires between Feb. 1, 2001 and Oct. 31, 2002.
The sentences, with Alexander's potential reduction for good behavior, were slightly below the recommended federal sentencing guidelines of 12 to 18 months, which federal judges no longer have to strictly abide by following a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision.
"I've tried to impose what I feel are fair and just sentences on each defendant, although they are different," Parker said, adding that deciding on the terms was "not a pleasant thing for a judge to have to do under these circumstances­ this is very difficult."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Fred Federici argued that Parker should stick to the minimum guideline for both defendants and that Bussolini should receive the same prison term as Alexander.
"The people would expect the punishment to match the crime," he said. "It wouldn't be just to distinguish between the two of them." Both men "chose to turn a license to purchase into a license to steal," Federici said.
But Parker decided a combination of factors in Bussolini's case favored a lighter prison term. He said Bussolini's age, exemplary work history and community service in the past all contributed to his decision to reduce Bussolini's sentence term, as well as the fact that Bussolini's wife requires care for her diabetic condition.
"I find it most difficult to impose a sentence," Parker said.
Bussolini and Alexander pleaded guilty in October to counts of mail fraud and conspiracy to commit a felony and acknowledged their actions cost LANL $120,000 to $200,000, although lab investigators have estimated that the purchases amounted to much more. In exchange, prosecutors dropped 26 other indictment counts against the two.
As Parker read Alexander's sentence, the former laboratory employee's family and friends muffled sobs. Bussolini's wife, Lee, and son, Jeffrey, sat shoulder to shoulder in the audience, looking on quietly.
Both men apologized to their families, the laboratory and the University of California. Alexander read from a statement, punctuated by tears, and Bussolini made a few unprepared remarks.
"I know better and I want to offer my apologies," to my family, friends and the laboratory, Bussolini said.
"I know better than my actions prove," Alexander said, adding that he was sorry for the harm and embarrassment he brought to his family and the laboratory.
"They trusted me and I failed... for that I am truly sorry," he said through tears. "I do not know if I will ever be able to make it up to them, but I will not give up trying."

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Leaky Roofs

From Anonymous:

I am looking forward to when potential bidders are taken on a tour of LANL and are shown buildings (at TA-3 SM123 and SM200 for example) where water from leaky roofs falls onto expensive equipment and desks requiring them to be covered with plastic, causes mold to grow in the walls, drips into huge waste cans via an assembly called a "diaper", causes ceiling tiles to fall, and causes the work area to smell like a dirty fishtank. Who wants to contract to manange a facility where the repairs to aging buildings will cost millions of dollars and trying to build new structures can easily be a 7 year project because the money has to come from the DOE?


The facilities people at LANL have wasted several years and many thousands of dollars trying to patch flat roofs, thus making the KSL roofers richer and richer and moving the leaks from one location to another. Before long employees working under such miserable conditions will start reporting work related illnesses because of the mold and the stench.

Then another scandal about LANL will reach the newspapers.

This Won't be a Popular View

From Anomymous:

This won't be a popular view, but it's mine and the site says that
everyone's views are welcome. So here goes:

Director Nanos never said that the entire scientific staff is comprised of
"cowboys" or "buttheads." Listen again to the tape of that all-hands
meeting. He used those terms in reference to a very few individuals who
knowingly and/or willingly ignored the rules for handling classified
materials, thereby jeopardizing national security, or who likewise ignored
the rules for safety and jeopardized the health and well-being of fellow
employees. He has always said that the vast majority of LANL employees are
honest, hard working, and committed to the nation's best interests.

From the rants and raves on this site from those who scream like scalded
cats that the Director has impugned their professional integrity by calling
them cowboys or buttheads, I therefore can only draw the conclusion that
must be the shoe fits -- e.g., he/she knowingly or willingly ignored the
rules for handling classified materials, or for ensuring the safety of
fellow employees. Because those are the ONLY people to whom the Director
referred in pejorative terms. His language may sometimes be a bit salty, but
at least you have no doubt where you stand with him. That approach is much
preferred -- at least by me, to those in this laboratory who will smile
sweetly to your face and then stab you in the back the moment you turn away.

My background is private industry in positions that reached equivalency with
the senior executive team or executive board, whatever name you wish to use.
My tenure at LANL is relatively short -- no, I'm not yet vested. I can
assure you that the attitudes and behaviors reflected by many of those
posting to this site would NEVER be tolerated in a Fortune 100 company. You
would either abide by the rules and get with the program, meeting
expectations for your individual and/or team contributions and production,
or you would be shown the door. Period. There is no tolerance in industry
for the whining, bellyaching, prima donna complexes that seem to exist in
such great quantity at LANL.

The Director said, in response to a question at one of the forums last
summer, that he would share the full information from the investigation at
the earliest possible date. What he could NOT do is preempt a federal
criminal investigation by saying, "Never mind! We just couldn't tell the
difference between a bar code label and a disk of classified information."
DOE dictated the process -- the investigation findings went to them and
then, and only then, THEY would release the results. Until that happened,
the lab's hands were tied. Senator Domenici wasn't bound by that
requirement, but you can bet your boots -- and your program money -- that
DOE would not have taken kindly to anyone from within the lab who jumped the
gun before the FBI finished its investigation.

The detailed briefings given by Scott Gibbs fulfilled the Director's
promise, and they were given in what for the lab was an amazingly short time
frame after DOE referenced the FBI conclusions in a news release on a
separate subject. The discipline taken by the lab against people involved in
both the ACREM mess and the laser incident was measured and far more
restrained than you would have found in most settings.

This laboratory's contributions to the nation are awe-inspiring. Its future
potential is limited only by the constraints placed on us by those who feel
he or she is so special that playing by real-world rules is beneath them.

For goodness sake, get off your high horses, buckle down and fulfill LANL's
potential. That's what you're paid very well to do. And please get busy
doing it before Congress decides this bunch of malcontents on the Pajarito
Plateau just isn't worth the trouble.

What Bodeman Will be Telling Us Tomorrow

From Anonymous:

Anybody care to speculate on what Bodeman will be telling us tomorrow? I hear from a couple of sources that UC is more than just slightly disenchanted with our beloved director. Shouting matches have apparently been occurring on a near-daily basis between our director and the Office of the President of UC. DOE has been a frequent visitor to the blog, so they know what we collectively think of Nanos. Domenici, Bingaman, and Udall have all received requests to initiate congressional hearings on Nanos' misconduct. NNSA recently announced that UC would manage the contract for at least another 6 months; the thought of Nanos remaining here even untill September was intolerable, much less 6 more months. What do you think: will Bodman announce Nanos' departure tomorrow, or will we just be subjected to more "attaboy" crap?

Bonus for Helping with the Restart?

From Anonymous:

I would like to know if anyone has gotten, or heard of anyone getting, the so called bonus for helping with the restart?
If you use simple numbers and say the average salary at LANL is 100k. The average raise was 2% and there are 8,00 employees.
According to Pete's concept of "Shared Fate", we will all be getting a $500.00 bonus. What a guy.

Another new bumper sticker

From Anonymous:

Another new bumper sticker. This one utilizes the director's own words:

Maybe Pete was throwing us a bone

From Anonymous:

I hate to play conspiracy theorist, but did anyone else think today’s snow delay was odd? It seemed to be completely unnecessary especially given the lack of a delay when conditions were far worse. Maybe Pete was throwing us a bone the day before the new Secretary of Energy visits?

Still Are Not Up and Running

From Anonymous:

I would like to add my name to the petition to remove the director. It is clear that his actions are detrimental to the lab. As an employee in DX, I would state that we still are not up and running. As the director stated, Feb. 1 would be a day just like before the shutdown. Well it is not that way in DX. Maybe March 1 will be, but I doubt it. Even when we are running, it will not be like before. The new rules are there to prohibit useful work from being done. The only happy people I see are those who are on little power trips or the ES&H folks. I see no reason for any of this. I don't know how much longer I will be able to stay around.
Gloom, despair and agony on me.

Doubts Raised on Bids for LANL

Albuquerque Journal North
Thursday, February 24, 2005

Doubts Raised on Bids for LANL

By Adam Rankin
Journal Staff Writer

Will the Department of Energy, now holding a competition for the contract to run Los Alamos National Laboratory, receive any bids from worthwhile potential managers capable of operating the nation's largest and oldest nuclear weapons research facility?

Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., acknowledged on Wednesday that since DOE announced in April 2003 that it would put the LANL contract out for bids, he has developed some doubts.

"With the passage of time, I began to wonder and I wonder if the DOE has been wondering, too," he said.

Even before the draft criteria that DOE will use to evaluate potential managers was announced, two of the front runners in the putative field of competitors dropped out of the running­ the University of Texas and Lockheed Martin, which operates Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque.

Other potential bidders have discussed the scarcity of competitors and how slow partnerships to seek the contract have been to form. Thus far, not a single company, university or consortium has announced firm plans to bid on the laboratory's $2 billion-a-year contract.

Once close to announcing a partnership with a business to manage LANL, University of California officials now say only that negotiations with potential partners are ongoing.

UC has held the contract since the lab was created to develop the atomic bomb during World War II, but DOE decided to put the management contract out for bids after a series of security and management problems at LANL in recent years.
Domenici talked about the LANL contract competition following a talk at Los Alamos on nuclear non-proliferation issues hosted by LANL and the Los Alamos Committee on Arms Control and International Security.

Federal officials announced on Tuesday major changes in the criteria for managing LANL, many of which were designed to make the contract more attractive to bidders.

A draft request for proposals was published in December and the changes this week announced amend that document. Federal officials said they received numerous comments from potential bidders and hundreds of comments and questions from current LANL employees about the terms of the document.

They are now seeking additional input through March 4 on the changes.

Aside from doubling the proposed fee for the next manager of the Los Alamos lab­ to a level about seven times what the University of California now earns for running LANL­ federal officials have also decided to extend the university's current contract by about six months. The contract previously was set to expire in September.

Federal officials originally proposed a 1.5 percent management fee for the next manager based on LANL's $2 billion budget, but the changes boost that offer to 3 percent, or about $60 million. That dwarfs the $8 million that the University of California is now eligible to earn and doubles the $30 million fee originally proposed in the bidding criteria.

"I think the raising of the fee is a good thing," Domenici said, adding that it now "seems to be sufficient."

The contract extension for the University of California, if approved by the secretary of energy, will allow federal officials reviewing the contract competition for LANL to evaluate pension benefit packages offered by companies seeking to operate LANL.

The extra time also will allow companies to develop "substantially equivalent" benefits to those provided now by the University of California and for LANL employees to review the proposed benefits to decide whether they want to stick with the new operator or retire under the UC pension plan, according to the amended criteria released Tuesday.

Domenici said he and his staff are still reviewing the criteria changes but that he has some concerns over a proposed requirement to create a free-standing pension plan and a limited liability corporation to manage LANL.

"Seems to me they (federal officials) are looking for something," he said. "What is it they have in mind?"

Despite all the uncertainty and "commotion" about the contract competition, which Domenici said is natural in the midst of unknown territory, he predicted that LANL employees and the laboratory will come out well in terms of the contract.

"It is too important an institution to risk any changes that will elicit a major change in the caliber and quality of the workforce," he said.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Firing Nanos would not fix our problems

From Anonymous:

I have been working at the lab for a little for more than 18 years. In all this time, I have not seen the morale as low as now. Firing Nanos would not fix our problems but, certainly, would improve our morale. It is hard to imagine how successful he was in loosing the respect of almost everyone at this institution.

DOE doubles pay to run Los Alamos lab

February 23, 2005

DOE doubles pay to run Los Alamos lab

The latest amount waved in front of potential bidders ­ $60 million a year ­ is almost seven times what the University of California is currently paid to manage the lab. But the next manager will assume much more financial risk as well.

By DIANA HEIL The New Mexican

When it comes to attracting robust competitors for managing Los Alamos National Laboratory, the U.S. Department of Energy knows it must dangle bigger carrots. The agency announced Tuesday that it will at least double what the contract would pay, from its previous figure of $30 million a year to $60 million.

After putting out a draft version of bidding guidelines in December, the government heard an overwhelming complaint ­ the money wasn’t worth it, especially for private companies.

The amount the next lab operator would actually receive, however, depends on how the Energy Department rates its performance and how President Bush sets up his budget, department spokesman Al Stotts said in a telephone interview Tuesday from Albuquerque.

Doubling the pay and other concessions are part of a set of recommendations from a board overseeing the competition. The competition won’t officially begin until later this year ­ but already some, such as the University of Texas, have bowed out.

The University of California has operated the lab for the federal government since the lab was created in 1943. The Energy Department and Congress decided to break with tradition because of management failures at Los Alamos in business services and security. The UC regents have not yet decided whether to seek the contract.

The latest amount waved in front of potential bidders ­ $60 million a year ­ is almost seven times what UC is currently paid to manage the lab. But the next manager will assume much more financial risk as well.

Since issuing a draft version of the bidding criteria in December, the government has received 200 pages of suggestions from potential bidders, lab employees, retirees and members of the public.

Recently, the board overseeing the competition recommended significant changes based on those comments and wants to hear from potential bidders once again. By March 4, interested parties may review the board’s recommendations and submit comments to: LANLRe

Prime contractors and their team members may request meetings as well. One-on-one meetings via teleconference today through Friday or in person in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday through March 3, will be scheduled on a firstcome-first-served basis.

In the past, UC’s contract was renewed periodically without competition. That won’t be the case anymore. The maximum contract term will be 20 years. The next lab manager would be assured seven years, as long as its performance was adequate. That’s what the board is suggesting instead of five years, to provide stability for the workforce and the mission of the nuclear-weapons lab.

The board also addressed concerns raised by LANL employees and retirees.

Medical benefits were left out of the December draft. But now, the final request for proposals will require the next lab manager to provide both employees and retirees with health and dental benefits “substantially equivalent” to what UC offers.

Current lab workers, in most cases, will have a guaranteed offer of employment and will be able to carry over their service credit and leave balances. They will have a pension plan and benefits package “substantially equivalent” to what employees have now.

If a current employee decides to retire before a new contract goes into effect, the new lab manager does not have to offer that person employment, however.

For retired Los Alamos employees, nothing about their pension plan will change under a new management contract.

Other proposed changes:

The new lab manager would not be required to hire all current lab employees (except senior managers) as originally proposed; instead, the new manager would be allowed to use judgment regarding employee retention and job assignments.

Interested parties would have 90 days, instead of 60, to prepare a proposal.

The transition period between lab managers would be extended from 90 days to 180 days.

LANL contract extension asked by NNSA

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

LANL contract extension asked by NNSA

ROGER SNODGRASS,, Monitor Assistant Editor

One for the money, two for the show, three to get ready and ... wait ...

The National Nuclear Security Administration, which oversees the nuclear weapons complex for the Department of Energy, will seek to extend the University of California contract by six months.

During a month in which NNSA has financially penalized UC severely for management infractions at Los Alamos National Laboratory, the quasi-independent agency now finds the need to keep them on the job while NNSA struggles to demonstrate a viable procedure for competing the contract.

NNSA's surprising proposal arrived in a batch of e-mail notifications that had been plugged in the NNSA system for at least three weeks.

The recovered information included a number of potentially significant revisions to the current draft request for proposal.

NNSA is already a week behind its own projections of Feb. 15 for distributing a final RFP, and the flurry of suggested changes include an additional review period for comments on the new proposals as well as an extra 30 days, a total of 90, to prepare the proposal.

"The SEB (Source Evaluation Board which has responsibility for the contracting process) will ask NNSA to seek Secretary of Energy approval to negotiate an extension to the current UC contract," states the white paper on pension benefits for current and retired LANL employees.

An overview of the 14 major issues that will be adjusted to reflect bidder concerns provided details on the rationale for the delay, which is needed for the anticipated transition period.

Sixty days are allowed for the successor contractor to develop a "substantially equivalent" pension and benefits plan; 60 days for the Contracting Officer to decide if the plan meets the definition; and a final 60 days for current employees to decide to transfer to a guaranteed job or retire.

If approved, UC may continue to manage the contract for more than another year, until April 2006.

If senior DOE managers go along with the suggested changes, there will be no difference between pension requirements for UC and other offerers.

Both will require setting up a "stand-alone plan" for the LANL site, according to the new information.

Sen. Pete Domenici, R-NM, objected immediately to the stand-alone plan on Tuesday, saying, "Right off the bat, one significant change that raises a red flag is the call for a stand-alone benefits plan at Los Alamos. That needs to be fully reviewed."

Both Domenici and Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-NM, have expressed concerns about the prospect for destabilizing and demoralizing delays in arriving at a new contract at LANL.

Pension and benefit concerns were raised on the first day that NNSA vowed to recompete the LANL contract at the direction of former Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham in April 2003.

Two years later, NNSA is still looking for an acceptable formula.

At the time, NNSA Administrator Linton Brooks said he didn't know how the change might be accomplished, but was confident that it could be done.

After the draft RFP was released, a mounting clamor of dissatisfaction at LANL, based on vague language and perceived threats to the existing system, caused NNSA to extend the comment period briefly, while an additional public meeting was held with LANL employees at the end of January.

NNSA also failed to meet its own tentative schedule in developing the draft RFP, creating a likelihood that a new contract would not be in place when the current contract expires on Sept. 30.

Al Stotts, a spokesperson for the Albuquerque service center of NNSA, said the new proposals were in response to comments received from LANL employees and potential bidders.

"This is another step in the process, to be timely in response," he said. The second round of suggestions and bidder responses were meant to say, "Here's what we're thinking. You tell us what you're thinking about," he said.

Comments are due back to the NNSA officials by March 4.

Among the other major changes:

  • SEB proposes to double the total available fee from 1.5 percent to 3 percent of the budget, nominally from about $25 million to $50 million as well as doubling the reimbursable work fixed fee from 1 percent to 2 percent.

    The increase is supposed to compensate the contractor for the non-reimbursable risks, including substantial liabilities.

  • SEB wants to increase the base term of the contract from five to seven years to promote workforce stability.

  • Apparently some bidders may want to have the flexibility of hiring some existing senior management, so SEB proposes to give them that flexibility.

    Chris Harrington, UC spokesperson, said he had just received the notices for the month of February on Friday.

    "We were able to start looking at it on Friday," he said. "We'll continue to look at it, as we have the entire RFP."

    The UC Board of Regents has yet to state their intention to compete for the contract UC has held for more than 60 years, although they have a staff working to prepare a proposal, should that decision be made.

    Harrington declined to comment on what effect a potential 180-day delay might have on UC's plans.

    NNSA's webmaster in Albuquerque, Lou Lubitz, said the system had consistently delivered a message saying that recipients had duly received their notifications.

    "I screwed up, in terms of taking the automated response as gospel," he said.

    "Now, we're going to open the hood every Monday," for a weekly check.

  • The Latest RFP Changes

    From Anonymous:

    The news articles regarding the latest RFP changes are
    concentrating on the clarifications made about pension benefits.
    I've yet to see anything regarding the following paragraphs
    from the "Draft RFP Major Issues from Potential Offerors and
    NNSA SEB Proposed Actions to Stimulate Competition" document
    available on the RFP webpage,

    in which
    they propose changing the wording of the RFP regarding the
    requirement to hire all LANL employees except senior management:
    Issue #8: Section H clause on Workforce Transition requires hiring of all staff except Senior Management. Need flexibility to adjust the workforce to enhance productivity and savings.

    SEB Response: SEB proposes revising the Section H Workforce Transition clause (which requires the Contractor to offer employment to all employees except Senior Management) to specify that DOE expects the Contractor to subsequently exercise appropriate managerial judgment regarding employee retention and job assignments. In addition, for current employees who do not transfer to the successor contractor and either retire or “freeze” their account in UCRP, the successor contractor will determine whether they should be hired as new employees or not.

    Small Northern New Mexico Businesses

    From Anonymous:

    ATTENTION: Anyone at LANL who has a contract with a small New Mexico
    business for support comparable to what KSL provides will no longer be
    permitted to contract with that business unless the contract is for over
    $500,000. This is another slap in the face of small northern New
    Mexico businesses since none of them have that large a contract with

    If KSL does not want to perform the requested service, they will
    then subcontract it to another company. But they have no intention
    of subcontracting to any non-union companies. Most small northern
    New Mexico businesses are non-union. One company I have talked to
    will lose about 30% of its business at LANL because of this.

    If LANL were truly interested in saving money, KSL would have to compete
    on all contracts along with small businesses. But LANL is permitting
    this waste of taxpayers' dollars rather than supporting the small
    businesses. Furthermore, the amount of safety paperwork the small
    businesses must do is monumental, thus adding to their cost of doing
    business, yet KSL can get away with doing very little paperwork.

    Are you listening, Bill, Tom, Jeff, and Pete? Do you care about businesses
    in our state? Are you truly committed to supporting them? Or do you believe
    that farming all work out to a monopoly which can then subcontract to their
    union buddies is good for New Mexico?

    Bodeman at LANL

    From the 2/23/2005 LANL NewsBulletin:

    New DOE chief to speak at Lab Friday

    Samuel Bodman, the new Department of Energy secretary, is scheduled to speak to the Laboratory on Friday afternoon.

    Bodman's all-employee talk begins at 1 p.m., from the Administration Building Auditorium at Technical Area 3. Standard Laboratory clearance and escort rules apply for Lab workers who want to hear the talk in person. It also can be watched live on LABNET Channel 9 and on desktop computers using Real Media and IPTV technology.

    Bodman was recently named DOE chief succeeding Spencer Abraham. Bodman most recently was a deputy secretary in the U.S. Treasury Department.

    Bodman will be accompanied to Los Alamos by Linton Brooks, director of the National Nuclear Security Administration, and New Mexico Sen. Pete Domenici.

    While at Los Alamos, Bodman will meet with Laboratory Director Pete Nanos, receive briefings on Lab programs and visit several facilities. He also is scheduled to meet with Laboratory R and D 100 award recipients as well as Los Alamos' three most recent E.O. Lawrence Award winners.

    Benefits Plan Added to Proposed LANL Contract

    Albuquerque Journal North
    Wednesday, February 23, 2005

    Benefits Plan Added to Proposed LANL Contract
    The Associated Press

    LOS ALAMOS­ Federal officials have amended a draft request for proposals regarding contract competition for Los Alamos National Laboratory, ensuring that the winner of the contract would have to provide a total compensation package for employees that is "substantially equivalent" to the benefits and pensions provided by the current contract with the University of California.

    The impact of a potential switch in lab managers on employee benefits has been a source of concern within the lab and among state leaders and the congressional delegation.

    Workers would be able to transfer their accrued service credit and leave balances with the new lab manager, according to the National Nuclear Security Administration's Source Evaluation Board.

    The board said it will ask the NNSA to seek approval from the Energy Department to negotiate an extension of UC's contract to provide enough time during the transition period for the winning bidder to submit a "well thought out pension and benefits package."

    The changes came after members of Congress, watchdog groups, employees and others sent their questions and comments to the NNSA to improve the proposed contract for managing the lab.

    Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., said Tuesday he was evaluating the board's changes. "Right off the bat," he said, "one significant change that raises a red flag is the call for a stand-alone benefits plan at Los Alamos. That needs to be fully reviewed."

    The board also extended the base term of the proposed contract from five years to seven years and doubled to 3 percent the fee awarded to the contractor for DOE and NNSA work.

    The board will accept comments from potential bidders through March 4. Bidders also can meet with the board via teleconference this week or schedule a meeting next week in Washington, D.C.

    The government plans to select a contractor this summer to begin work Oct. 1. The new contract includes possible extensions up to 20 years.

    The contract is going out to bid for the first time in the lab's 60-year-plus history.

    Los Alamos has been managed by the University of California since the lab's inception as a top-secret World War II project to develop the atomic bomb. However, the Energy Department decided to put the contract up for bid before its September expiration after a series of management failures and security problems.

    Tuesday, February 22, 2005

    Mission Accomplished

    From Anonymous:

    Mission Accomplished

    Regain Some of Their Self-respect

    From Anonymous:

    Somebody made an interesting comment to me today about the blog. This someone is a Los Alamos native and a non-LANL employee. This person is a part of the local business community. The comment went something like this: "It's interesting to see the folks at LANL starting to regain some of their self-respect, even beginning to find their center again after so many months of intimidation and abuse. The freedom and social dynamic that the blog has provided has made an amazing difference in the attitude of LANL staff."

    Regarding the Petition

    From Anonymous:

    Nanos will be out Sept. 30 if not earlier, so why vote?

    Yes, this is the worst it has ever been here (speaking from 15 1/2 years as a TSM, previously DOE employee). The oversight from DOE, Congress, and NNSA, lack thereof from UC, are significant contributors along with the suspiciously rampant over reactive media coverage on LANL. Money, politics, something's behind this.

    It is very sad to see here what fear and powerlessness lead to. I agree with what's been stated above: Nanos is our punishment, not the original problem and removing him will not solve the problem. I can where intent may be fulfilled in purging the lab and that may very well have been his hired purpose. Has anyone looked across America lately? Corporations, laboratories, etc. Where has science gone? Where has holding leaders accountable gone? Who anymore expects ethics in business? Why should LANL be any different?

    One note on retaliation here at LANL: the outside legal firm that trained the managers to "recognize and prevent" retaliation admitted that in all the surveys they have ever taken, LANL had the highest perception of retaliation they have ever seen. As compared to many nuclear facilities and companies. Costly stand-downs at nuclear facilities have been mandated by the NRC simply to "correct" high perceptions of retaliation. Why aren't we doing that here? That wasn't even an issue in the Management Self Assessments in the Restart, as I recall.

    We need to bring problems to the surface in a peer-reviewed fashion, open to discussion, with no fear of reprisal. Then safety and security issues may be prioritized, strategized and resolved.

    Retaliation here is real and career killing. Extending across the oceans, even. This is a one-company town. Get fired or forced out here and you must leave. And LANL has influence across the world in our specialties. So if you really cause a stink, our Chief of Staffs have no problem contacting other companies to simply say "this person has some issues."

    And having national news coverage of newly hired employees (either fired or not) who do not understand the technicalities behind what they observe, who exponentially overstate these observations, does not help! Whatever happened to investigative reporting?

    Of course we're all signing anonymously. ADWEM, as Division would be too revealing and dishonorable.

    LANL - Where the Zeal to Achieve Mediocrity is Unexcelled


    From Anonymous:

    I like the unintentional piece of self-deprecating humor in the new
    "Director's Notebook" feature on the LANL intranet: a video clip
    titled the "Nanobyte." The ordinary meaning of this word would be
    "billionth of a byte," but since the smallest possible unit of
    information (the bit) is one eighth of a byte, it becomes a synonym
    for "zero information content."

    -dug (*Not* Doug)

    "Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible."

    From Anonymous:

    So much of the commentary about the Media applies here within our own little microcosm, LANL. Think about the Public Affairs guys and their desperate attempts to spin the Lab news.


    Blogs or Blotto?
    by Butler Shaffer

    "Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible."

    ~ Lord Kelvin (1895)

    "Video won’t be able to hold onto any market it captures after the first six months. People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night."

    ~ Darryl F. Zanuck, head of 20th Century Fox (1946)

    "I can assure you on the highest authority that data processing is a fad and won’t last out the year."

    ~ Business books editor at Prentice-Hall (1957)

    The foregoing quotations are to be found in a delightful book, The Experts Speak, by Christopher Cerf and Victor Navasky. Described as a "compendium of authoritative misinformation," it illustrates how even highly respected authorities in their fields of endeavor can get tripped up and embarrassed by the unpredictabilities inherent in a complex world.

    If another edition of this book is forthcoming, the authors would be well-advised to pay attention to the whining coming from members of the established media, who are doing their best to convince us that Internet "blogging" is just another fad that will soon go the way of the hula-hoop and the hokey-pokey. A recent CNN news feature on "blog power" was such an exercise, with one speaker focusing on the fact that there are so many sources, so much conflicting data and analysis, and so much error inherent in the blogging process that readers are burdened in their efforts to discover the truth of things. No mention was made, of course, of the lying, distortions, and propagandizing that has long infected traditional news outlets; nor was credit given to blog-sites for catching and correcting a number of these institutional deviations from truthfulness. The search for truth and understanding depends upon a constantly energized mind that searches, weighs, and analyzes, all with an enduring skepticism as to what one finds.

    In the face of so much competing and conflicting information, CNN hostess Judy Woodruff pondered, would people not be better advised to rely on the "mainstream media" for their news? She might just as well have added: "you have been content to let us do your thinking for you; why do you want to undertake such tedious and unceasing work? Let us continue to tell you what we think you should know!" That CNN is one of the "mainstream" institutions, the self-interested nature of her question expresses the empty desperation of the practitioners of an information system model that is rapidly dying.

    The image that comes to mind when I think of the present institutional order, is that of the stegosaurus, the bell-curve-shaped dinosaur with plated armor along its spine. The stegosaurus was so large that it had two brains, one in its head the other in its tail. It is said that a stegosaurus might have been fatally attacked at its backside, while the frontal brain – due to the sluggish nature of the animal’s nervous system – might have continued munching tree leaves, not knowing that its fate was already sealed.

    So it seems with denizens of the institutional order, particularly those in the news media. The minds at the major television networks, newspapers, and other "mainstream" purveyors of information, either (a) don’t understand that the vertically-structured information model – which operates from the premise "we will tell you what we think you ought to know" – is in as terminal a state as our stegosaurus; or (b) they do understand this, but hope that, by denying the inevitable, they can forestall the fatal consequences.

    There is nothing "faddish" about the collapse of vertically-structured institutional systems, and the emergence of horizontal networks of interconnected individuals. Centralized systems are rapidly becoming decentralized – a matter about which I have written before – producing a fundamental change in how people will organize themselves in society. Because of the Internet, the information-genie has escaped its institutional confines – where it has been controlled, manipulated, and hidden from view, in furtherance of institutional interests to monopolize the content of the minds of subjugated men and women.

    The role of the "mainstream media" has long been the same as that of the government school system: to condition minds to not only accept, but to desire having society organized just as it is. As the United States’ wars against Afghanistan and Iraq progressed, major news outlets were preoccupied with propagandizing the Bush administration’s party line. One retired general after another – most employed by defense contractors! – was brought on camera to assure the American people that the war policy was justified and the military strategy was in competent hands. Critics of the war were not to be seen or heard, save for the one channel that has preserved its journalistic integrity: C-SPAN.

    American television, in particular, has so diluted the substance of "newscasts" as to render them virtually meaningless to thoughtful men and women. While bloggers, Internet websites, and individual e-mailers were often making factual and analytical challenges to political policies and programs, network television was anesthetizing minds with prolonged coverage of the Scott Peterson trial, entertainment world gossip, or trivial events writ large as the "lead story" of the day. Driving down the Pacific coast the other day, my wife and I listened to a BBC News show on satellite radio – a phenomenon that is carrying decentralization into the realm of broadcast radio. It was refreshing to hear newscasters discussing something other than who had won what particular "Grammy" award the night before!

    The establishment media is so intellectually bankrupt that the most informative television news program is "The Daily Show, With Jon Stewart" on the "Comedy Central" channel. When satire becomes the most effective means of understanding human events, it is a sign that established society may be in an irreparable state of collapse. Air-headed television voyeurs who partake of the sociology of men and women transported to a remote island, or locked up in a suburban house – shows peddled to the American public as "reality" – overlook the reality that such mindless programming represents: the continuing failure of an establishment media to appeal to intelligent minds.

    News reports abound of the sharp declines in television viewing and newspaper subscriptions. Men and women intent on understanding the world in which they live are increasingly turning to the Internet, a system that expresses the phrase "marketplace of ideas" as no other has up to this point in time. Websites and bloggers are learning the same lessons that now beleaguer the established media: in a rapidly decentralizing world, men and women will develop their own demands for information that serves their interests. With the Internet, people need no longer be passive recipients of what institutional authorities regard as the "politically correct" content of their minds!

    Established interests have always been discomforted by innovation and change. In the face of the Internet challenge, I suspect that many media chieftains would find comfort in the sentiments of a Michigan banker who, in 1903, opined that "the horse is here to stay, but the automobile is only a novelty – a fad." Because, as the study of chaos informs us, complex systems generate unpredictable outcomes, "blogging" may, indeed, be a short-term phenomenon. But as long as the channels for the flow of information remain unrestricted, today’s blogs will likely evolve into more sophisticated, horizontal processes that allow individuals to freely communicate their understanding to one another, without the need for institutionalized oversight and control. Individuals who are both the producers and consumers of information will have incentives to create more effective systems and mechanisms for the pursuit of understanding.

    Such establishment shepherds as Hillary Clinton will continue their pleas for Internet "gatekeepers" to keep the marketplace of ideas as subject to rigid regulations as attend other economic activity. Nor will there be a shortage of Judy Woodruffs imploring the ovine herds to give up their wanderings into uncertain territories and return to the fold wherein minds are soothed and left untroubled by events they are told are beyond their ken.

    But such efforts will not avail the institutional order. Gutenberg put the establishment on the defensive centuries ago, demonstrating the creative consequences that flow from a loosening of monopolies on information. The Internet – with its proliferation of websites and bloggers, and the continuing collapse of the vertical into the horizontal – has taken the Gutenberg revolution to exponential dimensions. How far this will extend and what forms may arise are completely unknown, which makes the process all the more exciting. Perhaps, sooner than we think, we shall be witness to a new "reality" show, wherein Hillary and Judy find themselves on an island with a group of bloggers. Who would be the likely "survivor" in such a world? I know upon whom I would not be betting!

    February 21, 2005

    Butler Shaffer teaches at the Southwestern University School of Law.

    Copyright © 2005

    Monday, February 21, 2005

    Work-free Safe Zone

    From Anonymous:

    Here is the Work-free Safe Zone sticker of LANL All-Hands and Science fame.

    Work-Free Safe Zone

    Pete totally missed the boat on this one. He went on a diatribe about how
    the people who created this sticker didn't care about safety. This is a
    total misrepresentation of what this was about. This was a commentary on
    the increasing trend towards paper-based safety, a trend which continues
    unabated. Please post on the LANL Blog as I'm sure people would enjoy
    having their own copy.


    From Anonymous:

    There have been some updates to the website for the DOE/LANL contract:

    Blog Stats

    As of today, Monday 2/21, 12:00 pm this site has had 16,699 visitors and 80,417 page views. If you think you have something important to say, now is the time to do so, as there are lots of people listening. If I can suggest: please take an extra minute to make sure that your message is well thought out, and addresses current issues at LANL. Take another minute and run it through a spell checker. Many eyes will be looking at what you write.


    Hardware Replacement

    The replacement power supply for my home machine (the one hosting documents linked to by the blog) is here. I'm taking the machine down for about 30 minutes, during which time those documents will not be available.


    Number of TSM Retirees?

    From Anonymous:

    I have heard a rumor that 4000 LANL employees
    have put in for retirement. If these are TSMs
    this is a large fraction of the Technical Staff
    at LANL. Can anyone from HR confirm

    Bumper Stickers

    From Anonymous:

    Here are some ideas for a Nanos bumper
    sticker contest.
    Got this one from a colleague in DX:
    ** Bill lied and Hilliary cried **
    ** Nanos lied and Science died **
    ** RELIEVE NANOS ***

    Sending mail to Congressmen

    From Anonymous:

    On the subject of the recent UC policy change regarding working "at the will of the director", I sent email to Domenici, Udall, and Bingaman -- it only takes a minute to find their web pages.

    Here is the message I sent them:

    Dear XXX

    Were you aware of the following new policy at LANL?

    As one poster comments, "This is just plain wrong."

    Do you think a Congressional Hearing is in order to investigate Director Nanos?

    Regards, XXX

    Working at the "Will of the Director"

    From Anonymous:

    This comment [on working "at the will" of the director] is not quite correct. UC issued a new policy for positions determined by the directors of their three labs in early January. This new policy calls for "at will" of the employee not just the managerial title. The policy says that any "at will" can be terminated with 60 days sevrence pay -- although efforts can be made to find the employee another position in the lab, there is no obligation. In effect, a manager gives up TSM status when they become a division leader (in the UC system this is like giving up tenure to take the position of Dean -- which is unthinkable). This policy was pushed from Los Alamos -- it was one of Nanos' priorities when he first came on because he believed that when leaders were terminated they often hung around with bad attitude. That is probably true! Although this change in policy may sound subtle, it is scary to managers because it is soley at the discretion of the Director -- and the Director has a 2.5 year documented history of disregard for rationale though.

    Examples: Tom Meyer was teminated because the Director did not think he fit on the team (probably a valid point), so he was terminated. All within the Director's rights. What is disconcerting is that Nanos never meet with Meyer in the six months between his removal as ADSR and his ultimate resignation. Never - what kind of leader is that?

    Al Sattleberger was terminated because of the C Divsion laser accident. One could argue that responsiblity resides with the DL, but this is not a simple case. Sattleberger was leading a new safety approach, but an employee did not follow the rules.
    Worth removal as DL? In subsequent discussions, Sattleberger was promised some things at LANL, but the director backtracks because he has personal dislike for the former head of C division. Lab Leadership?

    Promotion of Micheline Devaurs to ADSR was stunning. Although Devaurs is a fine person, there is nothing in her background that says "scientist", nor any leadership skills for science. But, she had the confidence of the director because she did what ever he asked, and made no waves, and kept science down. Devaurs routinely goes through the motions of an AD -- goes to meetings, etc., but is amazingly clueless. This is not her fault - it is like asking Sig Hecker to run an aircraft carrier.

    Another Shouting Match?

    From Anonymous:

    Heard there was another shouting match
    involving the Director at TA-18 after
    which several employees were stood
    down. This was Monday Feb. 14.
    Anyone know details?

    Comments on Previous Posts

    From Anonymous:

    In the interests of clarity, I would like to comment on a couple of posts to this blog.

    In the case of Steve Younger and DTRA: Younger remained a LANL employee while at DTRA, the same as any of us who go on change-of-station or are assigned to another Federal agency to DC. Thus, it was not Nanos' role to rehire Younger. But it was the Director's decision on how to bring him back and at what salary - nothing is guaranteed when you return (something that many LANL folks have learned the hard way). Making him a Senior Fellow is the decision of the Director, but it could easily have been John Browne who agreed to it before Younger went to DTRA. Younger certainly would have known that one needs things in writing before leaving.

    The statement that all division leaders serve at the pleasure of the Director is true, but not new with Nanos. His ill-conceived contempt of them (like the remainder of the staff) is the novelty. Serving at the pleasure of the Director goes back to Oppenheimer. Hecker used the policy liberally - remember the Lab reorg in '94? But Nanos' authority only extends to removing them from their management position - he cannot terminate them since this is governed by the UC employment rules. But you can certainly argue that neither HR nor UC will stand up to Nanos, but he must at least go through the process.

    And he has certainly threatened them recently that they had to back him or else. But this is also not new; Jim Jackson and Joe Salgado both did this routinely, even on occasion threatening physical violence and using language that Nanos might find amusing. Nanos is just less astute - or is it that he wasn't 'one of us' before becoming Director?

    Sunday, February 20, 2005

    Atmosphere of Intimidation

    To Whom it may concern,
    I don't know how relevant this will be since my involvement with LANL ended back in 1991, but it is my considered opinion that there has been an atmosphere of intimidation and deceit by some supervisors towards technical staff at LANL at least as far back as the 1986 R.I.F..
    Case in point -
    I hired into P Division in 1979 to work on Laser Fusion and I enjoyed a very successful career there (consistently outstanding reviews, tripled my salary, advanced in Technical position) ... until the 1986 R.I.F. (reduction in force) came along.
    Like most people who are told one day that they are doing an excellent job and who are handed a pink slip the next day, I was in shock when I was told that my services were no longer required since they did not match the projected technical requirements - anywhere in the lab.
    As a 'Riftee' (one who's employment at LANL was about to be terminated) I was informed that a job search had been conducted lab-wide and that the was nothing available (or projected) which matched my skills.
    At this point in my career, I had worked on several generations of large-scale Fusion laser systems and I had a pretty firm working knowledge of High Voltage Pulsed Power, High Vacuum Systems, Complex Optical Arrays, Lasers (large & small), Control Systems... I was co-author of several published technical papers... and I was the only tech in my group at that time with any N.T.S. experience.
    I had just previously had a major disagreement with a staff member who, at the time of the R.I.F., had become the acting Deputy Group Leader.
    Coincidence ? I think Not.
    Despite a Xerox box filled with supporting evidence of my achievements, no one seemed interested in doing anything to help me, especially the E.E.O. office.
    Ironically, three years later I was rehired into virtually my same position (and then promoted), apparently due to the fact that I knew the then-current laser Fusion project better than anyone else they could find.
    Eighteen month later that project was shut down and once again I was rifted, which for all practical purposes means fired.
    The upper level management staff who, just a few weeks earlier, had been raining praise over our accomplishments didn't take (or return) my calls.
    Since then I have applied for maybe thirty positions over the last thirteen years and only ONCE have I even landed an interview.
    No black list huh ?
    At this point LANL (probably) couldn't pay me enough to interest me in working there again and I feel sorry for the people (especially the techs) who do work there.
    No one who I know who works at LANL now has anything good to say about it and that part is sad.
    The worst part (for me) is that I loved my work there and I did my best to see that the projects I was involved with succeeded.
    R. F. Alexander


    From Anonymous:

    You may command obedience; you must earn respect, as it flows up from the bottom.

    Until recently I had no plans to retire

    From Anonymous:

    I have been a technical staff member at the Lab for 24 years. Until recently I had no plans to retire because I enjoyed my technical work at the Lab. However, conditions have degenerated so badly since the work stoppage that I have decided to retire at the end of June. Nanos has allowed the bureaucrats to gain control of the Lab so that practically all we do is fill out useless forms and try to understand all the new confusing rules and procedures governing safety and security. Even when work gets back to “normal”, I believe that the added bureaucracy will be so onerous that very little technical work will get done. I believe a good safety program has to be based on simplicity (so that it can be understood by all) and must be graded so that the most dangerous situations are given the most attention. It is clear we have neither.

    I have done my own independent analysis of the Lab’s safety record based on data reported to DOE and find that the Lab’s safety record exceeds the average for all DOE research contractors over the last three years and is good as or better than those of LLNL and SNL. Where did Pete get the numbers he presented at the last all hands meeting for reportable incidents and lost work days? By the way, the viewgraph he showed comparing various safety records has not been made available on the Lab web site, which is the norm for director’s presentations. I do not believe there was firm basis for stopping work at the Lab for such a long period of time on the basis of safety, which is now what the director is tying the shutdown to. As for security, it is clear from various briefings there never was any missing CREM and thus no damage to national security. Needed improvements to safety and security could have been targeted to organizations in the lab that were most in need of improvement rather than standing down the whole Lab. This mismanagement needs to end. I whole heartily support the petition to dump Nanos.


    From Anonymous:

    WHAT'S GOING ON HERE? This director has on several occasions stated that those who have acquired legal support because he (Nanos) accused them of misconduct, must pay for their legal assistance but he doesn't have to. Are those accused by Nanos able to get the NO out of pocket legal aid that he is being afforded? Director devious has implied to them that he can defeat them by financially draining them with the cost of there legal fees but, are we the tax payers the fools who will pay for his? What a scam! (DRAIN THEM FINANCIALLY AND THE OPPOSITION GOES AWAY). Where is the Nanos' legal support coming from? Washington, D.O.E, U.C or lab funds? Whereever, we're paying for it! You, as an employee of the laboratory (past or present) if your career and or reputation have been compermised because Nanos has taken action against you for what has been investigated and determined that you are not guilty of, have the right to the same legal rate that he has. This is a work place issue at a federal institution. Don't let Nanos skate out of this.

    Irreversible Breech of Trust: Why Pete Nanos Must Resign

    From Anonymous:

    Irreversible Breech of Trust: Why Pete Nanos Must Resign
    and Other Observations

    I'm feeling a bit introspective at the moment, and the weekend weather is
    dreadful, so I decided to engage in some wild speculation on just what are
    the problems with Los Alamos. This piece rambles on for quite a bit, so
    please forgive me. I need to get this off my chest (and thanks to Doug,
    maybe I can).

    Maybe it goes deeper than Pete Nanos. Perhaps, as some have implied, Nanos is
    simply the manifestation of our problems (ie, "We reap what we sow"). Then,
    again, maybe the problems lie elsewhere, outside of the Lab. This is very
    important, because if our problems really comes from broken internal structures
    or if they comes from external sources, then ditching Pete Nanos won't really
    solve things.

    I suspect Pete came in here with good intentions, wanting to "fix" this place.
    After all, we had just gone through the Wen Ho Lee fiasco, NEST missing
    hard disk fiasco, purchase card fiasco, and the property accounting fiasco.
    Am I leaving out any fiascos? Hard to say, as there have been so many over
    the last 5 years.

    Pete's a Navy "can-do" kind of guy, so he arrived ready to roll up his sleeves
    and make some necessary changes. He had a plan. It was the IWM. Just watch
    the video (it's archived over at the LANL media site) of his kick-off meeting
    on IWM back in November of 2003 -- a full seven months before the latest
    CREM fiasco. In the video, he harangues the upper level staff, telling them,
    in effect "you'll do this IWM thing whether you like it or not". Don Cobb,
    he says, has taught him about the ways LANL really works, so you'll not be
    pulling one over on "The Admiral". Highly structured methods are required,
    he rants, as we've had a slew of safety incidents. As always, he then
    launches into very loose, ad-hoc use of the facts to make his case that the
    safety trends looks ominous. No hard evidence, mind you, just the usually
    hearsay that "the sky is falling" and he's here with the IWM plan to save us
    from ourselves. He's probably thinking, "I restructured and modernized
    NAVSEA while in my last job -- I'll do the same here, and end up looking like
    some kind of hero". This was the start of the Integrated Work Management

    Now fast forward to July of 2004 and the beginning of the CREM incident. All
    hell is breaking loose and DOE is extremely angry (though, whether that is
    justified is debatable). Pete, with his IWM plan in hand, perhaps, sees
    this as his moment of action. The reluctant staff will now have to start
    using highly structured plans to accomplish their work. They have no choice.
    So Pete takes a big gamble. He knows DOE is mad as hell, and he knows he
    wants to enforce his new way of doing business, the IWM. He decide his best
    gambit is to shut-down the Lab. By doing so, he both placates the DOE and
    can also implement the IWM plan in a radical, no-compromise fashion. From
    this point on, highly structured planning (and the voluminous paperwork
    it entails) will be required for EVERYTHING!. Unfortunately, as usual,
    Pete jumped the gun. He didn't bother to check the facts. Facts are
    things Pete seems to consistently ignore. But this time, his jumping
    the gun and ignoring the facts will cost the Lab dearly. Bundles of money
    will be lost, and his ill-timed decision will come back to haunt him.

    Pete knows how to completely shut the Laboratory down. Any clown could
    do that trick. But what he doesn't know (and worse, doesn't know he doesn't
    know) is how he will get the Lab re-started. That takes great managerial
    talent, and Pete seems to be sorely lacking in this arena. After all, this
    place is not a military installation. You can't simple order that things
    be done at Los Alamos, though, Pete hasn't quite pick up on this important
    tidbit of information, even as of yet. There is no military-style chain
    of command here at LANL. The staff has not been indoctrinated with a
    command and control mind-set. We don't go through boot-camp on job entry.
    And scientist tend to be highly individualistic people who resist demands
    from authority. Without fully understanding his actions, Pete makes a
    great mistake by totally shutting down the Lab and throwing IWM-style
    management down the throat of a reluctant staff. Bad medicine goes down
    better when taken very slowly with lots of sugar. Pete takes a bottle
    of Castor oil and dumped it down our throats and it makes everyone feel
    very sick.

    Shutting down the Lab and moving us cold-turkey into a rigid IWM-style of work
    structure may have been a bad executive decision, but it is not the worse
    thing he has done to the Lab. In hindsight, it looks like shutting down the
    Lab was probably a mistake, but we've all made bad decision at one time or
    another. Making a bad executive decision is not necessarily a good reason
    for firing a manager. There is something else that is far worse that I
    suspect Pete may have done which calls for his resignation.

    Remember the heat that Pete feels from those above him at the beginning of
    the CREM fiasco? Members of Congress are rumbling to "shut the place down",
    and talk of Congressional investigations are in the air. We've all seen
    these Congressional inquisitions -- they are not pleasant affairs. Blow-hard
    Congressman are allowed to control the microphones and usually end up staging
    these investigations into tasty little sound-bites for the media to digest.
    They are anything but fair and balanced and Pete may become their next victim.
    You've got to have some sympathy for anyone who may be hauled into these
    modern day Kangaroo courts. In addition to this, Linton Brooks has just
    sent his Deputy at NNSA, a fellow named Kyle McSlarrow, out to Los Alamos for
    an extremely brief visit of the "crime scene". Kyle is told to get to the
    bottom of this matter as soon as possible.

    Now, Kyle must be a very brilliant fellow, because in a brief 3 hour visit, he
    quickly determines that the situation in Los Alamos is far worse than anyone
    could possibly imagine. In his brief 3 hour visit he discovers that
    horrible things have occurred at LANL, and worse, there is a "culture of
    arrogance" at the Lab. Bear with me on this for a moment, because this is
    where I feel the whole CREM fiasco, and Pete's part in it, becomes extremely

    Where, exactly, did Kyle pick up this information? He was here for 3 hours.
    He may be a quick study, but a 3 hour whirl-wind tour is hardly enough time
    to come away with the broad accusations Kyle makes right after his visit.
    I'm speculating, but perhaps he picks up these views from our beloved
    Director. After all, Pete has been very clear about this -- he has the
    very same views as Kyle McSlarrow!

    If Pete, indeed, colored the facts at this critical junction to make LANL look
    as bad as possible to McSlarrow, then Pete was clearly acting the part
    of the "toady" -- the type of guy who finds advantage in selling out people
    for his own private benefit. Another name for type of person is a Judas.
    History is full of stories of people of this ilk, and they are not looked
    upon very favorable. This is especially perplexing given the military's
    strong code of loyalty. Perhaps there are times in Pete's early military
    training when he wasn't paying attention. Loyalty to your troops is
    lesson Number One in military leadership. You can criticize those under
    you, but you never, never sell them out. It appears to me that Pete may
    have sold us out at this pivotal point in time. We now know that high
    level people at the Lab who were close to the incident were telling him
    that there was a rational, non-threatening explanation behind the the missing
    CREM material. If you attended either of the two official meeting on the
    CREM incident, you heard this point being made time and again by people in
    the audience. But Pete appears to have ignored this information and put us
    in the worst possible light at this most critical point in time.

    The ethical thing to do when a leader feels he can no longer trust his troops
    would be to resign. Did anyone hear Pete offering to resign during this
    mid-July period? No, instead he adds to the general media's feeding frenzy
    by continuing with the verbal attacks on the staff. We hear it from his
    own mouth during several "All-Hands" meetings. He's leading a pack of
    "butt-heads", and is more than willing to fire the whole lot of us down to
    a core of only 10 people whom he can really trust. His use of the concept
    of trust is a bit strange at this point. After all, these words are coming
    from a man who many of the staff feels they cannot trust. And if we don't
    trust our Director, how can we reasonable expect him to put his trust in us?
    Trust, after all, is a two-way street. And our trust has been severely
    broken in the eyes of many of the staff by this point in time, for he appears
    to have sold us out to the media, Congress, and the DOE.

    This gets to what is, I think, the heart of the matter. Pete has created an
    irreversible breech of trust with the staff by his actions, particularly
    those that he made during the early part of the CREM fiasco. Once trust has
    been irreversible breeched, it cannot be healed. Pete may hang on here a
    bit longer, hoping in vain to keep his job, but the snickers he hears behind
    his back and the anger he feels from the staff will only get worse with time.
    Regardless of how he got to this point, the irreversible breech of trust
    which has now taken place between the staff and it's Director means it is
    time for him to leave.

    Pete, if you are reading this (in my dreams) then you know this to be the
    case. You've had a slight taste of it just this week during your "pep rally"
    visit to DX-3. You know the break is now complete. You have no further
    work to accomplish here. You know it's time to go. This is not the time for
    you to "win one more for the Gipper".

    The irreversible breech of trust between Pete and the staff requires him
    to leave, but that is not at the core of our problems. Our management
    style may improve with his leaving, but there are still serious issues that
    need to be be addressed at this Laboratory.

    There is some truth to this "culture of arrogance" thing. Heck, even my own
    wife tells me that people at LANL frequently act as if they own the whole
    world. It's the "Hill Attitude". And when we see it during trips "off the
    Hill", it usually makes us want to cringe. And I'm just as guilty of it as
    many others. Scientist are smart people, but that doesn't necessarily
    make them better people. I tend to forget this at times. So do others at
    the Lab. "Smart person" does not necessarily equal "better person". Some of
    the best people I have known in my life have also been some of the dumbest.
    Heart and mind can be separate things.

    Beyond Nanos (a temporary problem) and the "culture of arrogance" (a more
    long lasting, but curable, problem), there is one other major problem. That
    problem is our beloved DOE. And just as with our leader, Pete Nanos, it
    revolves around the problem of trust. DOE does not trust us -- not even one
    itty-bitty ,teeny-weeny, little bit. And since they don't trust us, they feel
    the need to set up a Rube Golberg system of check and balances containing hair
    triggers that assure them of finding fault for SOMETHING at almost any given
    moment. I have to wonder if this CREM fiasco would ever have escalated to the
    point it did if we didn't have such short mandatory warning periods for issues
    like the missing CREM. A longer time period would have given people a chance
    to take a deep breath, relax, and then do some careful investigation before
    sending people over at DOE into sudden heart attacks. We need some type of
    "circuit breakers" in this particular area. You can see how it might have
    made the CREM incident much worse than it needed to be, can't you DOE?
    Cut us some slack. It will end up benefiting both of us.

    The Labs relationship with our owners, the DOE, is not a healthy one, but I
    don't believe DOE really cares about this issue. And, if someone other than
    UC takes over the current contract for Los Alamos, the hyper-critical management
    style from DOE will not end. To the people who do take the $50 million and
    decide to run this place next Oct 1st, I say "good luck" -- DOE is buying you
    on the cheap. I hope you use the money to buy lots of aspirin and Zoloft to
    get through the contract period. Believe me, you'll need them. About the
    only solution I can conceive of to "cure" this particular problem is for
    DOE to directly take over operations of the Lab. I've noticed that R&D
    organizations that are directly owned by government agencies tend to have
    much fewer problems with hyper-critical styles of management. Heck, if
    the Feds were willing to pay me a good salary with benefits, I'd have no
    problems working directly for the government. Going under the Fed's direct
    control doesn't mean we would have to go under the dreaded GS pay scale with
    its lousy Thrift Saving Plan for retirement. The US government can, and
    does, occasionally come up with "special" employment plans. It is my
    understanding that special pay plan are used at various other government R&D
    labs, such as the Navy's China Lake laboratory out in California. If going
    directly under Federal control would end the DOE's carping, then I might buy
    into this idea. Frankly, I'm not convince the UC moniker has been worth the
    price of late. Perhaps it's time for a radical new experiment in the Fed's
    operation of one of its premiere R&D labs.

    And to end this long, "wind-bag" of a piece and finally get the last little bit
    off my chest, I have to mention Wen Ho Lee. When this story first broke
    I actually felt sorry for the guy. No longer. In many respects, the problems
    we have suffered through over the last 5 years at this Lab have their genesis
    in the person of Wen Ho Lee. Downloading tons of classified data into the
    unsecured area was one thing. To then say, as Lee did, that you have no idea
    what you did with some of the tapes you created is completely over the top.
    Lee, I hope you rot in hell! I will no longer defend you, and I hope those
    at the Lab who did during your trial now reconsider their actions. You set
    us up for much of the current heartache we are now experiencing, and I hate
    you for it.

    Nuf' said. I can now get a good night's sleep.

    Mister Anonymous.

    PS: In case no one noticed, Kyle McSlarrow resigned his post as Deputy Dir.
    of NNSA just two weeks before the report he headed up on the CREM fiasco
    was release by the DOE. This is the report that issues the huge UC fines.
    Was the timing in his resignation a coincidence, or is there more to this
    story than meets the eye?

    Saturday, February 19, 2005

    Join The Union Now

    From Anonymous:


    It's the ONLY way we can join together as a collective voice to make a difference at OUR Laboratory! If we would all join the UPTE union immediately, then we would be allowed to collective bargaining rights that UC/LANL must recognize.

    I have spent the last several years being tortured by a previous group leader. I went to every office at the Lab that supposedly was there to help the employee. NO ONE IS THERE FOR THE EMPLOYEE. The only relief and help I found was the UNION. I joined and they have helped me through the entire mess. PLEASE - if you do nothing else, JOIN THE UNION!!!!

    Weak Scientific Credentials

    From Anonymous:

    Tom Meyer in his letter claimed that LANL senior
    management staff have weak scientific credentials. I
    checked this out using the search engines on the LANL
    library webpage. Tom is right. With only a few
    exceptions, LANL senior management do not even have
    the credentials that are generally expected for
    promotion from post-doc to staff member. Yet the same
    search engines and databases indicate that LANL as an
    institution is ranked tenth in the world in physics in
    terms of citations. Where have all the scientists
    gone? Clearly not into management.

    The last time I felt as I do now ...

    From Anonymous:

    I have spent several hours today rereading all the posts and comments to the blog, as well as a number of newspaper articles which I have kept since July. The last time I felt as I do now is the day I came back to town after the fire, and I felt totally betrayed by the NPS. The government, no matter which department, is supposed to protect, not destroy. However the decisions made by the NPS are equivalent to those made by the Director - totally destructive based upon the wrong assumptions (remember what assume does).

    In one of the comments to a blog posting someone asked what form new management should take at LANL. And it's correct that it's not enough to say out with the old with no idea of what should replace it. We do not have the option that our founding fathers had after the Revolutionary War of being able to convene a Constitutional Convention, write the Constitution, and then hold an election. The 13 colonies were able to function fairly well during this transition because they were pretty self-contained.

    But LANL can't work that way. Programs span divisions. We need a plan for a new management structure, we need a way to get there quickly, and we need the support of UC, DOE/NNSA, and our Congressional delegation, all of whom have been remarkably silent the last few months. More importantly, we need to make LANL an organization which appeals to post docs to continue the important work we do. Yes, we can point our fingers at all the programs that were not successful and the possible reasons why they were not, but the bottom line is we won the Cold War, not because of President Reagan, but because we did the work we had to do to ensure that we were stronger than Russia. And many worked 60+ hours/week with no extra pay because we believed that what we were doing was critical to the nation. How many families were sacrificed? How many of us now feel that our work has been recognized as being important?

    Is it the Director's job to decide what programs will be supported at LANL? Is it the job of the Chief Science Officer? Is it the job of the Division Leaders? Who is responsible for how money is ultimately spent - the Director, the Division Leaders, or the Group Leaders? What happens to a responsible Group Leader when the Division Leader hires a Chief of Staff who ultimately makes critical decisions that affect how the group functions? Are Chiefs of Staff technical or administrative? Do they make decisions that affect the technical side of LANL without the right background? Are they willing to make technical decisions based upon staff recommendations or their own egos? How many of them believe their responsibilities are to march to the same drum as the Director rather than do what's best for their Division when the two conflict? Who or what caused Division leaders to spin off important
    decision making to Chiefs of Staff?

    At LANL there are too many paper-pushing positions which add no value. Paper-pushing becomes the justification for the job. More paper-pushing means that your job is more important. About 15 years ago, I read the original DOE order for unclassified computing. It was clear and required very little paperwork. After that order passed through the Albuquerque office, the LAAO, and the computer security people (they were not cyber security then), the amount of paperwork was incredible. It was comparable to an unfunded mandate and required computer system admins to perform certain tasks that were not assigned by their Group/Division Leaders. In fact, the additions by LANL computer security people demonstrated how little they knew about networked computers. They were not competent to make the decisions they were making, and they were totally unwilling to modify their requirements.

    This is how bureacracy works. Jobs are pushed down to the lowest possible level with the paperwork pushed up. There is no value to much of this work. And too often decisions are made by the uneducated to justify their positions rather than to better the insitution. It would be interesting to know what is returned for every dollar the taxpayer gives to LANL now compared to 1970, 1980, 1990, etc.

    I don't have all the answers about restructuring LANL managment. However, my thoughts are the following:

    1. remove the multi-layers of management (SET) between the director and the division leaders;
    2. remove all technical decision making from all Chiefs of Staff unless they truly have a techinical background; if not, then let them coordinate the efforts of the admin staff (ssm's), but decide nothing that the tsm's do;
    3. decide what the responsibilities of the Director are and hire someone who can do the job;
    4. get rid of the Chief Science Officer, the Deputy Chief Science Officer, etc. since science is the Director's responsibility;
    5. support safety and security from the bottom up, not the top down by listening to the folks who do the work; they know where the problems are;
    6. clean up all the conflicting rules, regulations, processes, etc. that impact LANL work rather than adding to it;
    7. use EVERYONE in the community - contractors, UC retirees, etc. to support LANL's mission; contract as much as possible with small businesses, make KSL compete with local companies for work such as air conditioner maintenance, electrical work, etc; in other words, get rid of all the monopolies that support LANL and use northern New Mexico businesses as much as possible;
    8. support the staff; point out the good work that they do; point out the unfairness in newspaper articles, etc.; hold press conferences to dispute inaccuracies (such as purchasing a Mustang); punish those who break the rules but make sure that the punishment fits the crime; and
    9. stop having all-hands-meetings (all hands on deck!). It's not the Navy.

    More, WRT/Martha Stewart

    From Anonymous:

    With respect to the submission about Martha Stewart, she may be in jail for a crime that never happened however, fraud is a crime and it did happen here. George P. Nanos should be getting nervous. I can imagine the singing from Fort Leavenworth already, " Hey there Georgie Girl."

    You believe there is a double standard?

    From Anonymous:

    You believe there is a double standard? Many postings to the blog point out the various discrepancies in safety and security violations at multiple laboratories that make LANL look better than any of them. There was a death at Savannah River last year. Did NNSA shut them down? Have they been smeared like LANL? Have their employees been called buttheads and other worse names?

    Nanos says there were 322 injuries at LANL last year, but the report filed with OSHA says 267. What were the other 55 injuries?

    We have a weak UC president who won't stand up for his employees; we have a weak Congressional delegation who won't stand up for us and actually berated us based upon Nanos' description of the missing CREM which turned out to be false; we have newspapers in the state that will not write the truth (no Woodward's and Bernstein's in New Mexico ready to expose one of the largest waste of taxpayers' money ever).

    We need to keep contacting our Congressional delegation to support us and to convince DOE/NNSA and UC to remove Nanos and the entire upper management structure. We need a streamlined managment where the Division Leaders report to the Director and a Deputy Director, where the Director is the Chief Science Officer, and where the rest of the UC employees are paid to support the missions of LANL, not push paper from one desk to another. We especially need to remove the Chief of Staff management level in division offices because their main purpose is to push paper. They contribute nothing to LANL goals.

    We need a complete repudiation of the CWP and of the Director's Instruction Number 04-006.1 which is a discriminatory policy directed at UC retirees. We need a safety policy that is bottom up, not top down. And certainly there are other policies that need removing/strealining.

    But first - he has to go. We can't function as we are now.

    Vision for the Future?

    From Anonymous:

    Let's assume that UC wins the recompete and Mr. Nanos is relieved of his command. What is our vision for the future? What positive things could UC - Dynes - NNSA do to restore our trust in UC management and return us to the path of excellence?
    We've bitched enough about the present situation - what's our positive vision for the future? If you were Director, what would you do? What kind of person would you like to see as the director? What is the Director's real job? Is it running day to day operations? Is it setting policy and managing external affairs? Where does the "commercial partner" fit in?
    Much as I hate to admit it, I think John Browne was on the right track until he was overrun by politics. I think the director's job is like the president of a university - the job primarily involves kissing up to outsiders (e.g.: alumni and foundations) or (in our case) DOE, NNSA, and Congress to get money. Back home there's a full-time executive committee (Deans, VPs, department heads, etc.) who actually run the show and get things done. Browne's mistake was letting Salgado run the show.
    Put Nanos behind us, get creative, and lay out a vision of what LANL should be.

    Valentine's gift

    From Anonymous:

    On Monday, February 14th (yeah...a great Valentine's is how
    we know that Pete really cares about us), Pete Nanos graced my group
    with his presence at a group meeting, along with Doug Beason and Sara
    Scott, our AD and DL. He spent 45 minutes telling us how great we
    were and that our mission and people are the numbers 1 and 2
    priorities (although it was not clear *whose* priorities they were).

    One of the non-cheerleading messages he came to bring was that NNSA
    and Ev Beckner had decided that they would explore the possiblity of
    "federalizing" my site, TA-18. In other words, DOE or LASO or someone
    else would run it...not LANL. Ugh.

    After the 45 minutes, he was reminded by Beason that he needed to get
    back to his office. Nanos informed us that Beason and Scott would be
    delivering "the rest of the story." So after he left, Beason had to
    tell us that the problem was a perception problem in DOE that the
    TA-18 Early Move project was not moving fast enough for NNSA (despite
    the fact that we have met every deadline they have set for us). NNSA
    blamed the fact on TA-18 being managed by the TR directorate, despite
    the fact that the early move funding was coming from the weapons
    program. As a result and a preeimptive strike, Beason announced the
    the people working the early move project would be Form B-ed (yes, I
    know that form doesn't officially exist anymore, but it is an
    appropriate verb for the equivalent action) to NMT division and that
    NMT would take possession of TA-18.

    Well, the people at the meeting saw right through this. Nanos was too
    much of a coward to give us the really bad news and decided to play a
    game of good cop/bad cop that went bad. We all felt really bad for
    Beason and an even larger hatred for Nanos for doing that to, by all
    accounts, a good guy like Beason.

    But hey...if anyone is looking for someone from TR to comment on
    Beason, so far he gets a big thumbs up from me. It took a lot of
    character to deliver that message, especially when thrown under the
    bus like that.

    Nanos to Washington

    From Anonymous:

    I was told that Nanos had to cancel a number of meetings at LANL next week because he was called to Washington. Does anybody know what that is about?

    Double Standard

    From Anonymous:

    I believe that there is a double standard. Sandia may severely injure people and it never makes the news. There was a recent unintentional premature test explosion that my unconfirmed info says that permanently injured at least one person and could have easily killed several. But, it didn't make the news. This may not be true. If true, NNSA covers up Sandia mistakes, but leaks LANL mistakes. Ask NNSA or Sandia if this is true. If true, is NNSA higher-ups getting kickbacks from Lockheed-Martin to make then look good?


    From Anonymous:

    It seems there might be an opportunity for a class-action lawsuit against UC and Mr. Nanos on the deferment of our annual salary increase for three months. While individually it's not a lot of money, collectively there should be enough money here to interest a lawyer. Has anyone looked into this?

    Martha Stewart

    From Anonymous:

    Martha Stewart is sitting in jail for lying to federal investigators about a crime that never happened and hurt no one - even though she was not under oath.
    Peter Nanos is pulling down a very nice salary for lying to federal investigators and congress about a crime that never happened and hurt hundreds of people at the lab. It must be nice to have friends in high places.

    Can't Hardly Wait

    From Anonymous:

    Can't hardly wait:

    Sneak preview of Daily Newsbulletin feature to debut Tuesday

    Spring is traditionally a time of renewal. And come this spring, there will be budding trees, blooming flowers, nesting birds and a redesigned Daily Newsbulletin.

    Since the Daily Newsbulletin was launched in September 1996, it has served as a timely source for a variety of Laboratory news and information. The upcoming redesign will update the look and allow for the introduction of some additional features. One new feature will be the "Director's Notebook," which includes information, sound bites and employee recognitions from Laboratory Director Pete Nanos and other senior managers.

    The redesigned Daily Newsbulletin will continue to offer readers many of the features they've come to expect, such as a calendar of events around the Lab; the Bulletin Board; safety tips; news from the research library; links to other Public Affairs communications products; links to the University of California and Department of Energy/National Nuclear Security Administration Web pages; and of course, the ever-popular Reader's Forum, a format through which employees can share their views on Lab-related policies and issues and engage in constructive dialogue.

    As a sampling of things to come, the "Director's Notebook" will be unveiled in Tuesday's Daily Newsbulletin. Subsequent issues of the "Director's Notebook" will publish on Mondays, except when Monday is a Laboratory holiday.

    The Public Affairs Office will continue making improvements to the Daily Newsbulletin in an ongoing effort to bring employees news and information they can use. And keep watching for the redesign.

    Another Musical Interlude

    From Anonymous:

    With apologies to Gilbert & Sullivan and the Pirate’s
    of Penzance

    I am the very model of a former Naval Admiral
    I’ve information vegetable, animal and mineral
    I know the kings of England, and I quote the fights
    From Wen Ho Lee, to Waterloo in order categorical
    I’m very well acquainted, too, with matters
    I understand equations, both the simple and
    About the missing disks I am teeming with a lot
    …lot o’ news.
    ….with many cheerful facts about the futures of the
    lot of you.

    With many cheerful facts about the futures of the lot
    of you
    With many cheerful facts about the futures of the lot
    of you
    With many cheerful facts about the futures of the lot
    of you

    I’m very good at integral and differential calculus;
    With accuracy or peer review, I rarely make a lot of
    In short in matters trivial, fantastic, or incredible,

    I am the very model of a former Naval Admiral

    In short, in matters trivial, fantastic, or
    He is the very model of a former Naval Admiral.

    I know our mythic history from Teller to old what’s
    his name
    I answer hard acrostics, and basically I have no
    I quote Appendix F and other administratium
    Someday they hope I’ll even learn to spell plutonium.

    Someday we hope he’ll even learn to spell plutonium.
    Someday we hope he’ll even learn to spell plutonium.
    Someday we hope he’ll even learn to spell plutonium.

    I can write a washing bill in Babylonic cuneiform,
    And tell you every detail of Foley’s aging uniform.
    In short in matters trivial, fantastic, or incredible
    I am the very model of a former Naval Admiral.

    In short, in matters trivial, fantastic, or
    He is the very model of a former Naval Admiral.

    When I know what is meant by “mamelon” and “ravelin”
    When I can tell at sight a Cowboy from an Indian
    When such affairs as safety and security I’m more wary
    And when I know precisely where the barcodes are
    located at
    When I have learnt what progress has been made in
    modern hydrotests
    I can rid my self of experts and those pesky aging
    In short when I’ve a smattering of elemental strategy
    You’ll see when talking smack, no one is quite as good
    as me.

    You’ll see when talking smack, no one is quite as good
    as he.
    You’ll see when talking smack, no one is quite as good
    as he.
    You’ll see when talking smack, no one is quite as good
    as he.

    In scientific knowledge, though I’m plucky and
    I’m mastering the concept of the turning of a century
    In short in matters trivial, fantastic, or incredible
    I am the very model of a former Naval Admiral

    In short in matters trivial, fantastic or incredible
    He is the very model of a formal LANL Admiral.

    Friday, February 18, 2005

    At the Will of the Director

    From Anonymous:

    I have recently learned that ADs and Division Directors come to work each morning "at the will of the Direktor".

    I can confirm this. It also means that Division Leaders have been told, and coerced to sign a document, which states that they will be terminated from the Laboratory if the Director does not want them to be Division Leaders any more.

    It's clear he demands absolute and complete loyalty and will enforce with career-damaging leverage if necessary.

    The incentive is clear: even if a Division Leader wants to do the right thing, and it would be good for the Laboratory for a Division Leader to show the Director is wrong about something, their motivation to do so is seriously weakened by the jeopardy they put their Laboratory career in.

    There's no strong culture of committment to improvement when the actions of the chief leutenants are hindered by fear and scorched-earth politics.

    Nanos takes no prisoners, and no one can tell him he's wrong.

    How dangerous is this for the Laboratory and the Nation when he is wrong, and no one will say so?

    A Compromise

    Ok, most people seem to think the reference below is low-quality, fringe, conspiracy theory-class journalism. However, since it was submitted, and since the main reason this blog was created was in reponse to a newly-instituted censorship policy at the LANL NewsBulletin I will leave it here for people's amusement, nothing more, nothing less.


    NNSA Service Center's web page

    From Anonymous:
    Check out the postings for Feb. 18, 2005 on the NNSA Service Center's web page for the contract competition.
    It appears to me that NNSA is getting even for all the complaints they have been receiving from the Laboratory Employees. It doesn't look good for the retention of the workforce after the contract rolls.

    Pete – What happened to Ray Neff, LANL's CIO?

    From Anonymous:

    I remember sitting at one of Pete’s All Hands and he said that a new CIO, whom he knew and had worked with while in the Navy, was coming to LANL. A few days later, this was the official LANL press release:

    LOS ALAMOS, N.M., July 7, 2003 -- Raymond Kenneth Neff has been named chief information officer for Los Alamos National Laboratory…

    "Information management is a crucial part of the Los Alamos strategy for performance improvement," said Interim Director G. Peter Nanos in announcing the appointment. "Raymond Neff's outstanding experience at some of the nation's top educational institutions over the past three decades makes him the ideal choice to lead this key aspect of the Laboratory's infrastructure.”

    Ray Neff quit being LANL’s CIO after about 8 months. No explanation was given to the workforce. Was Ray forced out? What was the real story – we’ll never know. There was no lawsuit, so did Pete and UC make some sort of financial settlement with Ray Neff?

    The same accountability that Pete rants and raves about doesn’t apply to Saint Pete. Pete used terms like “outstanding” and “ideal choice.” Well, Pete, after Ray was forced out, you should have stood down the Director’s Office as you did the entire Lab. I find it ironic that you are so fast to blame others, but I’ve never once heard you apologize for any of your actions or even admit to making a mistake. How about holding yourself to the same standards that you hold the LANL workforce?

    But it gets better …

    LOS ALAMOS, N.M., Dec. 10, 2003 -- The Secretary of Defense has announced the resignation of Dr. Stephen M. Younger as director of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, effective Feb. 27, 2004. Younger will return to Los Alamos National Laboratory as a senior fellow.

    Pete Nanos hired Younger back, but here are the facts:

    Younger was allowed to resign. It is well known that the Secretary of Defense was not pleased with Younger’s performance or his ability to get along with DoD and the other Federal Agencies.

    It is widely known, both in DC circles and in LANL circles, that Younger would travel to DC and stay only at the Intercontinental Hotel when Steve was working as a LANL employee, at rates higher than the approved government rate. Senior Lab management allowed Younger to do this, and never made him stay, like the rest of us, at hotels that offered the government rates. John Tapia, you should look into Steve’s travel, or do the rules not apply to senior management and fellows?

    Younger couldn’t cut it at DTRA, and obviously did such a good job there that none of the DC beltway consulting firms would offer him a job, so Nanos gives him a fellowship.

    Pete: you are a cowboy and a butt-head! Thanks for hiring another incompetent.

    Dog Obedience School

    From the 2/18/2005 LANL NewsBulletin:

    Feb. 16, 2005

    Safety initiative

    I took a brief look at the new "behavioral excellence" Web page and I am a bit confused. Since the suspension of operations, safety is adversarial. The goal is to make sure that you have someone to hold accountable if things go wrong. Instead of trying to fix things, managers get brownie points for turning people in who have safety violations. Basically, it seems to be a combination of the military "cover your butt" approach and the "snitch system" which worked so well at the New Mexico State Prison in 1980.

    The "behavioral excellence" approach seems to be one of these touchy feely "we're all in this together" sorts of things. Am I missing something, or is this somewhat incompatible with the approach we have experienced over the last few months? Can someone enlighten me on this? Regardless, I do think they need to change the name. "Behavioral Excellence" sounds like we are all going to dog obedience school.

    --Rick Nebel

    Potential Bidders for the LANL Contract

    From Anonymous:

    I love my employment with UC and I want to stay a UC employee after this
    contract competition is over. Thus, I would like to suggest that we be very cautious on any information that we might post on this Blog that would give any potential bidders for the LANL contract a competitive advantage over UC.

    I would like to urge you to please keep this fact in mind when you enter your useful comments on this Blog.

    Thursday, February 17, 2005

    Fools and Wise Men

    From Anonymous:

    It is reported that Socrates once proposed that, because there were far more fools than wise men in the world, any majority decision must be worthless. His peers agreed and approved his proposition by a large majority.

    Sultans of Shout

    From Anonymous:

    A recent post mentioned a shouting match pitting our director against one of his direct reports. I have experience in that realm from having worked with the arch-shouter herself, Dr. Ines Triay lately of Carlsbad DOE fame. I didn't enjoy shouting but she did. It wasn't really a personal thing, just a way of expressing herself. But of course the subordinate has no equal footing from which to shout, leading to a thoroughly satisfying rant for her and a boatload of humiliation for the recipient of the Tourette's-like emission. But suppose you have two sultans of shout, two titans of tirade, two presidents of pout, two babies of bashing, two infants of infamy, two leaders of lash, two mullahs of the mouth trying to tear each other down instead of us. If Pete and Ines could be put in the same ring I would buy a ticket to watch.

    Another post suggested attracting Michael Moore to document the lunacy of LANL. No thanks. There are enough lies and deception flying around already. We don't need his kind of help.

    This policy clearly discriminates

    From Anonymous:

    Jeff, Pete, and Tom, please read the following carefully. This policy clearly discriminates against northern New Mexico businesses started by or employing retirees. And it is contrary to the direction of UC/DOE to contract some LANL work to small businesses.

    Director's Instruction
    Number 04-006.1

    Title: University of California Retirees Returning to Work at
    the Laboratory


    This instruction explains the process to be used whenever a
    University of California (UC) retiree (retiree) seeks to return to
    work at LANL, either as a UC employee, as a contractor, under a
    task order, or under a consulting agreement or similar
    arrangement. Director's approval is needed in most cases before
    retirees may be rehired.


    This instruction applies to Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL)
    UC retirees, LANL employees who may contemplate returning to work
    after retirement, and LANL managers who may contemplate hiring
    retirees. Managers must follow this instruction prior to
    extending offers of employment to UC retirees. This instruction
    is in effect on July 7, 2004, and supersedes prior LANL policies
    and guidance.


    In conjunction with UC, LANL is preparing a policy that will
    require a compelling operational justification for utilizing a
    retiree for work at LANL. This is necessary both from a financial
    perspective and to ensure that managers and employees effectively
    plan for the transfer of knowledge when an individual is planning
    to retire. Until the proposed policy is issued, this Director's
    Instruction provides interim direction to ensure that UC retirees
    who return to work at LANL are hired for compelling operational
    reasons. Compelling operational reasons are unusual circumstances
    that make the utilization of a specific UC retiree's unique
    capabilities critical to LANL's successful pursuit of its mission.
    Examples include transfer of critical knowledge and expertise to
    avoid failure of a project and completion of short-term LANL work
    in progress at the time of retirement that cannot be completed
    through other means.


    With the following exceptions, this instruction applies whenever
    LANL managers wish to retain the services of a UC retiree as a UC
    employee, a staff augmentation contractor, or pursuant to a task
    order, consulting agreement or similar arrangement. The
    exceptions are:

    - UC retirees who are Retired Laboratory Fellows.
    - UC retirees who will perform work for PTLA, KSL, or Aramark.
    - UC retirees currently performing work for LANL
    ("grandfathered" retirees) in a non-UC status, so long as
    there is no change in work assignment, such as assignment to
    a new project, different group, or an extension of time.
    - UC retirees currently performing work for LANL
    ("grandfathered" retirees) as a UC employee, until such time
    as the retiree is no longer a UC employee (i.e., if the
    individual ceases UC employment and thereafter wishes to
    return, this instruction will apply).
    - UC retirees performing work for companies that provide to
    LANL ancillary maintenance and repair services (e.g., copy
    machine repair) or other ancillary services such as package
    delivery (e.g., UPS or FedEx) or building construction
    (e.g., Hensel Phelps).
    - UC retirees who are receiving annuity payments and who will
    suspend such payments and re-enter the retirement plan upon

    Other than the exceptions above, the Director must approve all
    hires of LANL UC retirees. Prior to the UC retiree commencing
    work at LANL, the following steps must occur.

    1. The LANL manager must send a memorandum to the Division
    Leader for Human Resources (DHR) that states the UC
    retiree's: a) name; b) retirement date; c) position at the
    time of retirement; d) proposed assignment, including a
    description of the work to be performed; and e) proposed
    start date. The memorandum must also state the compelling
    operational circumstances requiring the UC retiree's return
    to work at LANL.
    2. The DHR will determine: a) whether the UC retiree has had a
    true separation from service (required pursuant to Internal
    Revenue Service regulations governing the UC pension plan);
    and b) whether the memorandum addresses the issues set forth
    in paragraph 1.
    3. If the DHR determines that there has been a true separation
    from service and that the memorandum addresses the issues as
    required, (s)he will forward the memorandum to the Director
    for review and decision. If the DHR determines that there
    has not been a true separation from service the requesting
    manager will be notified that the proposed hire cannot take
    place on the proposed start date. If the DHR determines
    that the manager's memorandum does not address the issues as
    required by this instruction, the DHR will so notify the
    manager; the manager has the option of revising and
    resubmitting the memorandum or dropping the proposed hire.
    4. The Director will determine whether to accept the proposal
    and will provide a written decision to the DHR. The DHR
    will then coordinate with the proposing manager to carry out
    the Director's decision.
    5. Under no circumstances may a manager commit to procure the
    services of a UC retiree covered by this instruction prior
    to the written approval of the Director as communicated
    through the DHR.

    Shouting Match?

    From Anonymous:

    I have heard a reliable rumor that Nanos got into a shouting match
    with a LANL employee yesterday (Wed) at a meeting of about
    30 people including a division director and several group leaders.
    Nanos was at the meeting to give a pep talk.
    Anyone who was there care to post a description of what happened?

    Can someone post NerdLetter?

    From Anonymous:

    I've heard about an underground newletter that had some pretty funny
    cartoons lampooning senior management. I think this is the one
    that Nanos blasted in one of his early all-hands talks.
    Does anyone remember what Nano said and can someone post
    the Nerdletter?


    From Anonymous:

    Since the Director's newest initiative has a logo, I concluded your
    efforts in Blogging Excellence (BE) could use one as well, so here is
    my contribution.


    Use it together. Use it in peace.

    Wednesday, February 16, 2005

    What Reprisal Are you Talking About?

    There have been many posted comments on the "Petition to
    Remove Nanos" posting that refer to fear of reprisal for
    signing a comment. In fact, only three comments are
    signed! ( Mine is one.) Would someone care to post
    a comment or send me an email describing exactly
    what kind of reprisal they are afraid of? e.g.
    -- reprimand
    -- bad performance appraisal
    -- reassignment
    -- verbal warning
    -- termination
    -- clearance suspended
    -- set aside as a cowboy
    -- tires sliced?
    -- car bombed?
    I'm puzzled because I have received no hint of any
    intimidation whatsoever resulting from my postings
    on this BLOG and the LANL Newletter. And I
    had at least one pretty outrageous posting.
    To the contrary, I have received friendly and
    curious comments from
    several managers in my division.
    Granted, I have resigned from the Lab effective in
    March. And maybe management doesn't think it's worth it
    to kick me in the butt on the way out the door.
    I've heard some horror stories about events in
    DX-3 during the CREM fiasco but what are these
    other people posting comments talking about?
    Do these people who won't sign really have
    anything to fear? Why not sign the comments?
    If you post a response about retaliation
    please omit names.
    This is the old cowhand from the Rio Grande remindin'
    you to keep them doggies movin'.
    Happy Trails!
    David F. Simmons
    Soon-to-be-Ex TSM
    DX Division
    (where never is heard a discouraging word
    and the skies are not cloudy all day.)

    Concept Removes the Responsibility From Management

    From Anonymous:

    In the current newsletter, the Director addresses the new behavior based safety program. It is founded on the DuPont STOP program, an approach presumably championed by Dave Herbert, formerly of DuPont and now a consultant at the laboratory. As the Director points out in the newsletter, the central tenet of the new approach is personal responsibility, or to quote the Director -- "all employees are responsible for their own safety". I know little about the program, but have heard from industrial hygienists that its true beauty is that this single concept removes the responsibility from management.

    That is certainly a cynical point of view, but may be shared by the workers at DuPont's Niagara Falls plant, a site which has been using STOP for some time. The plant was fined this summer for failing to report the injury of a worker exposed to chlorine gas. As the attached article explains, this comes on the heels of a National Labor Review Board (NLRB) ruling against the company for refusing to tell workers (the local union) where the hazardous chemicals were stored. I can only speculate as to why management would not tell the staff where the dangers lie, if indeed safety is principally the staff's responsibility.

    DuPont has had problems in the past with safety reporting. Some of you may remember the days of the tiger teams when DuPont's safety record and TRC was held up as a shining beaon by the DOE. In fact, our own Director told us at an all hands meeting this fall that we are 'not even in the same league as DuPont' in terms of safety. He was presumably not aware of the fact that DuPont paid a fine to OSHA for under-reporting during those years, and was required to resubmit the 'correct' numbers. The court ordered 'correct' numbers are reported in Holian's op-ed piece, where it can be seen that DuPont and the laboratory have been very similar in the past few years, with TRC rates of about 2 injuries / 200, 000 hrs. worked. One hopes the fact that DuPont makes over $100 million per year selling the STOP safety program had nothing to do with these reporting oversights.

    All of us agree that safety is extremely important. It is also extremely complex, and can't be captured in a single statistic such as the TRC, although that is an important indicator. Individual responsibility is indisputably important, but so is an attitude on the part of management to work with the staff, as opposed to burying them under paperwork and creating an atmosphere where fear of reporting an injury, by both employee and supervisor, is the hidden directive.

    The original article can be found at:

    Computer Hardware Problem

    I have a fan going out on the power supply of machine at home that I have hosting the attachments to this blog (e.g. all the documents accessable via the sidebar links). I need to bring the machine down (briefly, I hope), during which time those documents will not be available.


    On the Reader's Forum

    From the 2/16/2004 LANL NewsBulletin:

    Feb. 11, 2005

    On the Reader's Forum

    As the Reader's Forum staff are aware, I have been critical of their failure to publish mine and others letters in a timely manner. I still believe that criticism was justified. There seems to be a recent change in the timeliness in publishing letters since the first of the calender year. For that change, and the hope it continues, the Reader's Forum staff should be recognized for their efforts. More importantly, I brought my related complaints to Carolyn Zerkle just before the Christmas break, and it would appear she promptly addressed the Reader's Forum timeliness. Special thanks to Carolyn; if we have more senior managers willing to listen and address problems before they get out of hand, we might not have to read about them every day in area newspapers or via a non-Lab Web site.

    --Tommy Hook

    Not a "happy new year"

    From Anonymous:


    Contrary to public statements, not all of LANL has restarted and it is not a "happy new year". Most of DX is still shut down (7 months today). The main reason for this is all of DX was declared "high risk" level 3, even though most operations are minimal risk.

    Place Tongue Firmly In Cheek

    From Anonymous:

    It’s official!!! Nanos met with UC (Buck Koonce, Merna Hurd, John Birely) tuesday and they told him he was going. The new lab director for UC will be Paul Robinson from Sandia. His deputy will be Linda Trocki from Bechtel, the “industrial partner” along with BWXT, Washington Group and Honeywell. AD’s will be Paul Hommert (weapons), Doug Beason (threat reduction), Terry Wallace (Strategic Research) and Scott Gibbs (to be created since he is friend of Rich Mah UC proposal manager). All other AD's will come from "the partner". All four of them have been asked to go to Bechtel’s office in California to write the proposal for two months and they went last week to get oriented and meet the “partners.” Losers are the current SET including Don Cobb, John Immelle, Tom Bowles, Dave Beck, Susan Seestrom, Frederick Tarantino, Carolyn Mangeng, Michelline Devaurs and Rich Marquez who now all have to find new jobs. UC told them to walk the plank with the Admiral.

    Anonymous I need my job but want to celebrate Nanos going with you.

    Tuesday, February 15, 2005

    Dogged if I Know

    From Anonymous:

    A Parable about Punishment

    My wife left town yesterday morning on a business trip. When I got home
    from work, I found that one of our two dogs had urinated on the kitchen
    floor, leaving a large puddle. There was no way to know which dog had done
    it, so I gave them both a beating to be sure.

    Later that night, my wife called from her hotel room. She said that she
    left the house in a big hurry to catch her plane, and in her haste she
    spilled some soda on the kitchen floor. "Did you clean that up, honey?"

    Question: what should I do now?

    The Ballad of Hooligan's Island

    From Anonymous (understandably):

    The dictionary defines hooligan as a ruffian or
    hoodlum, traits displayed by our beloved dictator
    Nanos. Please sing these lyrics to the tune of
    Gilligan's Island.

    The Ballad of Hooligan's Island

    Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale,
    A tale of a fateful Lab
    That started from this desert site
    That's bound to get you mad, that's bound to get you

    The weather started getting rough,
    The SS Nanos ship was tossed,
    If not for the paperwork of the fearless crew
    The contract could be lost, the contract could be lost

    The mate was an unpublished physicist
    The Admiral in need of a charm school oar
    With five ADs they set sail that day
    For a three hour tour, a three hour tour.

    The ship set ground on this uncharted desert isle
    With Donny Cobb and
    The Admiral too,
    What they found was a quagmire
    It was called a policy zoo, a policy zoo

    Rich Marquez and Kimberlyn
    The great money pit called EP
    It promises to one day
    Set the workers free, set the workers free

    The politician Phil Goldstone
    The professor Billy Press
    and senior fellow Stevie Younger
    Can someone show them how to dress, show them how to

    The Admiral barks his commands
    The auditors are a-coming
    We need to secure those classified files,
    Here on Hooligans Isle, here on Hooligan's Isle

    So this is the tale of the castaways,
    They're here for a long, long time,
    They'll have to make the best of things,
    It's an uphill climb, it's an uphill climb.

    The Donny and the Admiral too,
    Will do their very best,
    To make the others uncomfortable,
    In this high desert nest, high desert nest.

    No CREM, no disks, no parking, too
    Not a single luxury,
    Like Robinson Crusoe,
    As primitive as can be.

    So join us here each week my friends,
    You're sure to get a smile,
    From seven stranded management castaways,

    Here on "Hooligan's Isle."

    Small group of complainers?

    From Anonymous:

    'Lab public relations officials say Roberts' blog is the latest refuge of "the same, small but highly vocal (group of) people who have always been there" criticizing lab managers, as spokesman Kevin Roark puts it.'

    Did Nanos tell Roark to say that, or did Roark dream this response up on his own? In either case, the claim is wrong, and I doubt that anybody is fooled. Make no doubt about it: the majority of LANL staff would like to see Nanos go.

    Livermore security breaches overlooked

    Livermore security breaches overlooked

    By Betsy Mason

    Lawrence Livermore Laboratory has quietly weathered the media firestorm ignited by the reported loss of classified computer disks at Los Alamos Laboratory in July, but Department of Energy records show Livermore has had more serious security incidents over the past three years than its embattled New Mexico cousin.

    In response to the missing disks and resulting scrutiny from the press and the federal government, Los Alamos Lab director Peter Nanos shut down all activity there July 16. A week later, the DOE halted all work involving removable classified media, such as computer disks and drives, at all of its facilities, including Lawrence Livermore.

    Work resumed at Livermore a few weeks after an inventory accounted for all classified removable media at the lab. But work at many high-security facilities at Los Alamos remained stalled for more than six months. Recently completed investigations by the FBI and the DOE concluded the missing disks never existed.

    Many more security incidents have occurred at the DOE's four nuclear weapons labs, including Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico and California, that haven't gotten the same attention as the lost disks.

    Records recently released by the National Nuclear Security Administration within the DOE show that of 87 security incidents at Livermore Lab from 2002 to 2004, 35 were Category 1, defined by the DOE as incidents that "pose the most serious threats to national security interests and/or DOE assets and could potentially create serious security situations."

    Category 1 incidents are considered the most serious security incidents because they could result in top secret nuclear weapon information falling into the wrong hands. The incidents may include classified information provided to an unauthorized person or put on an unclassified computer system, and unsecured or unattended security containers.

    At Livermore, four incidents resulted in confirmed disclosure of classified information to an unauthorized person.

    "In all those cases, the determination was made that the impact was minimal," said NNSA spokesman Bryan Wilkes.

    While the specific nature of these disclosures is classified, an example could be one level of classified information being disclosed to a person with a lower security clearance level, Wilkes said.

    Meanwhile, Los Alamos Lab, commonly viewed as the worst offender when it comes to security lapses, had more total incidents with 102, but only 22 were considered Category 1 incidents, 13 fewer than Livermore Lab.

    Like Livermore, Los Alamos had four confirmed disclosures of classified information to unauthorized people.

    Another 39 incidents at Los Alamos and nine at Livermore are still being investigated and haven't been confirmed or rated yet.

    Sandia in New Mexico had the most total incidents with 160, but only 14 were Category 1. At Sandia in Livermore, three of 42 total incidents were Category 1. The two labs combined had two confirmed disclosures of information to an unauthorized person.

    It is difficult to compare the numbers between labs because each site uses its own judgment when reporting and categorizing security incidents, Wilkes said. "We're working on that," he said.

    NNSA takes each incident seriously, Wilkes said, but it is important to keep the numbers in perspective. "When one considers the numbers of transactions we have, they number in the hundreds of thousands or millions," Wilkes said. "So these (security incident) numbers are fairly low. We are confident in the safety and security at all our sites."

    Both Livermore and Los Alamos referred all questions about the security incidents to NNSA.

    Even before the incident numbers were made public, employees at Los Alamos had begun to speak out about the shutdown and resulting tensions at the lab. Some employees have said they think Nanos overreacted and the complete shutdown, firings, demotions and reprimands were overkill.

    On an Internet blog called "LANL: The Real Story," a few employees have been venting about Nanos, who in the days and months following the report of missing disks called workers "cowboys" who feel they are above the rules. Some lab employees have even called for his resignation. Others have called the climate at the lab "poisonous."

    The security incident numbers are adding to some employees' opinions that Los Alamos was unfairly punished for a problem that exists at all the weapons labs.

    Normalized SECURITY statistics, courtesy NNSA

    From Anonymous:

    To get an idea of security violations (Level 1 and Level 2, the most serious and moderately serious incidents affecting national security) over the 3 years (2002-2004) for LANL, LLNL, and SNL (ABQ and CA combined), I took the total incidents at each site, divided by 3, and multiplied by 200,000 person-hours over the total person-hours at the three sites (from the DOE safety CAIRS website for 2003). This gives a number that is comparable to the TRC safety numbers (~2), but now for security.


    More on state of denial

    From the 2/15/2005 LANL NewsBulletin:

    Feb. 11, 2005

    More on state of denial

    Randy Kasik asserts that "...To accuse the director of perpetrating fraud is not only ridiculous but libelous..." One must ask what evidence he has seen to believe that the accusation is ridiculous? To many here, it does not seem ridiculous at all.

    --Allen Cogbill


    From Anomymous:

    Think about this figure for a moment. If 322 people were injured at LANL during
    the last year, that works out to be almost 4% of the workforce! Does Pete
    really believe this? If so, then he's more out of touch with reality than I
    ever imagined. Either that, or the anti-nuke folks are right and this place
    needs to be shut down immediately. Which is it, Pete?

    My hunch is "The Admiral" sees this letter as a loving Valentine's Day gift. It's
    his ackward way of demonstrating to the staff just how much he cares. After all,
    he states he'll be taking the time to personally train each and every AD in the
    "Ways of Safety". The Master's knowledge will then be passed on down the line
    to the students.

    Pete, if you really want to help people from hurting this next year, then
    please resign. The biggest injury I've seen around here is emotional -- it's
    the staff who are now completely demoralized, despondent, and fearful largely
    because of your failed leadership. Let the healing begin. Please go now.

    Monday, February 14, 2005

    A request

    I received the following request, which I respectfully decline. My role here will be limited to submitting posts that are emailed to me for publication on the blog.


    From Anonymous:

    It has been suggested that a petition expressing “no confidence” in Director Pete Nanos might
    convince DOE, UC, Congress, and the public of the urgency of the situation at LANL and get some
    action [David Simmons blog and comments]. While this is a good idea, it suffers from the drawback
    of possible reprisals against the signatories. On the other hand, an anonymous web poll where people
    could vote multiple times would be meaningless. I suggest another alternative. If an unimpeachable
    agency could be found to compile unique but anonymous votes of LANL employees, the results
    should be convincing to both sides. There are companies that provide this service. The votes would
    have to come from “” email addresses and duplicates would be rejected. (I do not think that
    this “incidental” use of LANL email would be improper, but this should be confirmed.) There might
    still be some spoofing but, with appropriate precautions, not enough to seriously subvert the
    credibility of the result. The referendum would determine if indeed the large majority of LANL
    employees believe that Nanos’s actions have been contrary to the interests of the Laboratory and
    national security, or if it is just the same small but highly vocal (group of) people who have always
    been there criticizing Lab managers, as maintained by Lab spokesman Kevin Roark [http://]. Of course, some non-anonymous person would have to set up
    the process and there would likely be some cost involved. Doug, as a person who has already
    exhibited admirable courage, are you willing? My guess is that collection pots, set up off LANL
    property, or a special account at LANB would quickly recover the cost.

    What types of injuries are these?

    From Anonymous:

    Does it ever end? I agree I do not want to see people hurt but where are the numbers coming from? What types of injuries are these? I am sure the laser accident is in there but I wonder how many are sprains, ergonomic, back, scratched finger, slipped on ice? Chronic sick people? Things that happen in the real world to real people. As they say shit happens but I guess at LANL it means something more.......


    From/MS: G. Peter Nanos, DIR, MS A100
    Phone/Fax 7-5101/Fax 7-2997
    Symbol: DIR-05-072
    Date: February 14, 2005
    Subject: Behavioral Excellence Safety Initiative

    Last year 322 people were hurt at the Laboratory. This concerns
    me and I know it concerns you. Our recent work suspension
    identified over 3,000 conditions requiring action. The most
    serious ones have already been addressed; the remainder are being
    worked off as quickly as possible through the Operational
    Efficiency Project. But 322 people being hurt are too many and
    we must do more. We need to become a Laboratory where everyone
    can recognize the difference between safe and unsafe operation,
    and everyone communicates support for safe operations and
    everyone takes action to address unsafe ones.

    To take the next step in safety improvement, we are going to
    focus on "behavioral excellence". We will do this by enhancing
    our Integrated Safety Management System with the DuPont Safety
    Training Observation (STOPTM) Program. The DuPont training will
    improve our ability to recognize at-risk conditions and
    behaviors, and improve our effectiveness working together to
    address those conditions and behaviors. This year we will train
    managers and supervisors to help them be more effective in their
    management walk arounds and in their day-to-day safety
    observations. I will begin by teaching the first of eight 1-hour
    sessions to the Associate Directors on February 15. ADs will
    teach division leaders, who teach group leaders, who teach
    supervisors. After managers and supervisors have learned and
    modeled safety observation and communication skills, we'll roll
    this training out for everyone.

    Let's put our care for each other into actions that prevent
    people from getting hurt.

    Here's the latest update from Doug Beason

    From Anonymous:

    Here's the latest update from Doug Beason - it really looks like he's trying to help with morale issues. The cynic in me says I wish him well, but he won't last. The optimist in me says he's being groomed to replace G. Peter Nanos if UC wins the recompete. I don't know the man, so it would be nice if people who have worked with/for him came forward with their observations. Does he walk the talk?

    Colleagues -
    I was in Oakland, California most of this past week at the UC President's office, and made a quick stop at our sister lab, Lawrence Livermore. I learned that DOE's final "Request For Proposal" (RFP) to re-compete running Los Alamos is expected to be released anytime after 15 Feb. For those of you interested in the gory details of the RFP, you may find updates at DOE's web-site:

    I returned to Los Alamos on Friday, and because of the flurry of activity, I decided to cancel the first part of my visit to Washington DC - so I'll be around Monday and Tuesday, before I head out.
    One of the hot items last week was the claim in the CBS news piece that TA-18 has the potential to be "the next Chernobyl" because of inadequate containment of a reactor there. I asked Nancy Ambrosiano, our fearless PA person to give me some talking points on the news item, and instead of me butchering her words, here's what Nancy prepared for me in case I speak to someone outside the lab:
    "Our devices, called Critical Assembly Machines, are reactor-like -- they use special nuclear material, and we follow many reactor-safety guidelines in our operations. But they run at power levels that are many orders below a normal reactor, and they do not produce the levels of fission products reactors do. Plus, they don't require cooling, and unlike a reactor they are reconfigurable for research purposes. They are turned on and off for very brief, remote-controlled experiments that provide valuable data for reactor safety experiments -- they're especially valuable because they are able to do some reactor-like things. So in a way, the confusion is understandable, but the overstatements on the part of CBS, et al, go to far. Comparing the machines at TA-18 to a commercial nuclear power reactor is like comparing a lawnmower to a bulldozer."
    Well, put, Nancy. I'm going to TA-18 this coming week to talk about some recent activity surrounding the "Early Move" and take questions about how we can best ensure the future of programmatic activity - i.e. life after the move.
    In other news around TR, I toured the D-Division office building (DDOB) and got a chance to get outside and walk around the top of the building. The new air system seems to have fixed the overpressure problem in the DDOB, but I'd like to be appraised of any breakdown; it's a safety hazard when the outside doors are blown open from the inner air pressure, and I want to fix any problems as soon as possible.
    I understand the CXD move in ISR will finally take place "real soon now," but again, I'd like to learn of any bottlenecks. The workers in ISR have shown incredible patience with the move process, and since a lot of other sensor work depends on CXD moving to the NISC, I'd like to help.
    And to our colleagues in B-division who were kind enough to provide me with some e-mail and advice on the note I sent around answering some rumors, I appreciate your feedback. (Really!) A good percentage of B-division responded, and I am trying to reply to each comment, so please be patient if you haven't yet heard back from me.
    I learned from the D Division Leader screening committee that they have completed their interviews. I want to interview the top few candidates, and then discuss the results with Pete, so the process is pushing forward.
    Because the B Division Leader process was further along, Don Cobb retained the right to remain the selection authority - I do not know where Don is in the process, but I will ask him.
    The ISR Division Leader screening committee has met and they are "casting their net widely" - internally and externally - to find the best candidates. I encourage you to review the ISR Division Leader job ad, and if you're interested, please apply. Don't disqualify yourself just because you don't think you've met all the criteria - remember, the ad is aimed at getting the best candidate. (As an analogy, writers sometime disqualify themselves from submitting their work because they think their writing isn't good enough. In the writing field, that's called "having an editor on your shoulder." What I tell new writers is let the editor disqualify you - don't do it yourself.)
    Finally, being on travel gave me time on the plane and in the hotel room to catch up on some reading, and this week's book was a big one (and disturbing, if you have a daughter in college like myself):
    Book of the week: "I Am Charolette Simmons," by Tom Wolfe [one of the best writers of today] -- but, wow, this is certainly not "your father's college!"
    Album of the week: "Stormfront," by Billy Joel [check out "I Go to Extremes"]
    Quote of the week: "A mandate without funding is an hallucination," Commander, Marine Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate

    Best regards - Doug

    My heart goes out to my professional colleagues at the LANL

    I have been retired from LLNL for over 11 years. I was once asked if I ever took classified home with me. I replied that I did, every night (in my head). And, of course, so does everyone else with a Q clearance and access to classified information. I believe that the attempt to force security about nuclear weapons through the application of draconian measures and increased paperwork, ignores the rather obvious fact that security depends absolutely and completely upon the loyalty of the individuals in the work force.

    It is certainly true that a dedicated ideologue (like Klaus Fuchs) will successfully acquire all your secrets and make off with them, no matter how many controls are put in place to punish even the most minor infractions of the rules. The conflict over secrecy certainly goes back at least to the Groves/Oppenheimer disagreements during the Manhattan Project.

    The present-day operative model in Washington politics seems to be that of the Strict Family (replete with the autocratic, 'always right' father, who uses old-fashioned disciplinarian measures to correct 'errors' made by his subservient wife and children; i.e., the Old Testament and/or Islamic model), rather than the Nurturing Family (where husband and wife share responsibility and the children are respected and loved into adulthood, not spanked, shamed and humiliated). Alas, it is quite true these days that when congress (or 'whoever' in authority - you fill in the blanks) wants to punish someone, someone will be punished, regardless of whether the outcome is unfair, or even counterproductive.

    My heart goes out to my professional colleagues at the LANL, who are presently bearing the brunt of the mindless and punitive response to errors that have (and have not) occurred. I'm afraid there will always be those who are more concerned with punishing than with progress, with scaring subordinates than with scientific success, with building up themselves than buoying up their associates.

    --Cal Wood

    More Blog In the News

    From Anonymous:

    I suspect you've seen these suggested already, but if you haven't please add them to the blog:

    BTW, I think your blog is great. Hang in there.

    Still more Blog in the News

    From Anonymous:


    LANL Blogging Policy

    A quick note on LANL's official policy on blogging: I received the following official email from the LANL Public Affairs Office recently when a reporter contacted them requesting permission to speak with me:

    Subject: media query
    Date: Wed, 26 Jan 2005 14:29:15 -0700
    From: <>

    CALLER: Ian Hoffman, Tri-Valley Herald and ANG Newspaper Group

    STORY: I understand there's a very interesting blog on some of the
    contract issues that is done by a LANL employee, Doug Roberts. I'd
    like to talk with him.

    RESPONSE: As Roberts maintains this blog from home using his personal
    resources, I suggest you contact him directly, rather than through
    the normal Public Affairs channels.

    Of course, all Laboratory employees have the right to blog, talk to
    reporters or make speeches on their own time and using their own

    Not, mind you, that even for a moment do I suspect that LANL would rewrite that particular policy and attempt to invoke it retroactively...


    Were Are DOE's Missing DIsks?

    From Anonymous:

    Here's the most frightening aspect about the whole LANL mess. Eventually,
    the odds are we'll have another safety or security violation. It happens
    even in the best Agencies, and the statistical odds are that it will happen
    here at some point. In most places, such an incident would be taken in stride
    and proper corrective actions would be made. But when it happens here, we could
    become "Rocky Flats II". Don't think for a moment that LANL is too important
    for Congress not to shut us down. Rocky Flats was a one-of-a-kind facility
    doing strategic national defense work, yet it was closed for good by the Feds.
    Congress can rationalize that even with Los Alamos shut down, they can still
    use Livermore for doing most of their DOE defense R&D work, plus save some
    much needed cash to boot.

    Thanks to Nanos, the Press, and some in Congress and the DOE, we are now
    being held to standards that are almost sure to trigger a future "incident".
    It's become a stacked deck against us. Is it any wonder that the staff is
    totally demoralized and ready to jump ship? One might as well head for the
    Titantic's life boats while there is still room to get on. Why wait for
    the panic of the crowds near the end?

    The thing that makes me most angry about this situation is that our top
    management does almost nothing to defend us. For example, I've observed many
    other Federal agencies never bother to inventory and bar-code classified
    media starting at the secret level. At least LANL knows when this media is
    missing. These other Agencies have no system in place to even identify the
    problem! Why can't Nanos and company at least lift a finger to educate the
    Press and Congress on these matters? He worked in the Navy -- did he see
    them bar-code and inventory all their secret level floppies (I doubt it!).
    And as far as the safety incidents go, many of them, like the famous "13kV"
    substation incident that Nanos is so fond of telling, actually involved
    local subcontractors who are hired by LANL contractors to do demolition work.
    They are NOT caused by UC staff. They are caused by subcontractors to the
    contractors to the Lab. Funny how Nanos never bothers to mention this little
    fact when he spouts out his safety "horror stories". I wonder why this is?

    And speaking of missing media, why is it that we have heard nothing further
    about the classified disks that DOE announced were missing from their
    Albuquerque office. We found ours (it was an accounting error). What about
    these DOE disks? It's high time for some DOE confessions on this matter.

    Suggestions For Diana Heil

    From Anonymous:

    Diana, I suggest you research the following very carefully.

    • In the first six months of 2004, top-secret data was transmitted via e-mail 18 times at LANL, more than the three other labs combined.

    1. Did someone from NNSA say top secret or just secret?

    2. Did someone from NNSA tell you that LANL and LLNL have different metrics for reporting this problem? At LANL any email that might contain classified information that is sent on the unclassified network is reported. At LLNL only that email which leaves LLNL is reported. Of course, it's impossible to determine if the mail leaves LLNL so LLNL probably under-reports.

    3. "Further evidence of security breakdowns emerged from a report on violations over three years at the nation's four nuclear-weapons labs prepared at the request of The New Mexican. It revealed 74 violations considered to potentially pose the most serious threats to national security. Of those, 35 took place at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California; 22 at Los Alamos." This paragraph contradicts the paragraphs that claim that LANL is worse than LLNL.

    Note that NNSA does not have standard reporting requirements for all national labs so each lab can report problems in a way that makes them look less bad.

    More on NNSA

    From Anonymous:

    Gee, Pete [Domenici], now you are "upset that NNSA has slashed funding for the University of California, which operates the Los Alamos lab for the government" and you think "the university and the lab are not totally responsible for the problems".

    It's about time. Where have you been for the last 7 months? What a sinkhole for money NNSA has been, particularly since its launching was based upon Wen Ho Lee, and we all know the outcome of that investigation. It was certainly humorous to see pictures in the Los Alamos Monitor of the FBI in protective gear searching the County dump for Wen Ho's tapes! And the assumption that someone born in Taiwan would spy for the Red Chinese was a tremendous leap. Another waste of money, an apology by a federal judge, another botched FBI investigation - yet it was LANL's fault.

    How about the funding requests that NNSA did not include in the budget that would have helped to prevent the missing barcodes? Why aren't they being held responsible for their decisions?

    How about different security rules at LLNL and LANL (we all know who the favorite is)? As an example, at LANL if mail containing classified information is sent out on the unclassified network, it's a security issue. At LLNL, only if that email goes outside LLNL is it a security issue. Now do you really suppose that LLNL is reporting email that goes outside LLNL? And do you really suppose that LLNL even knows if it happens? And why doesn't NNSA insist that both LLNL and LANL follow the same rules - the LANL rules which are more secure? And why doesn't NNSA publicly praise LANL for its more stringent rules?

    NNSA wastes too much money trying to defend parts of LANL from truck bombs without any concern for the folks who pass that area on their way to and from their homes in the Jemez and without any regard for the promises made to Los Alamos County to help develop more local businesses that would make the County more self-sufficient by giving them land on the north side of West Jemez Road. Maybe Los Alamos taxpayers should file a suit against DOE/NNSA for breach of contract.

    I venture to say that NNSA has spent a lot of time researching the government's treatment of Native Americans and has decided to apply the same principles to LANL and Los Alamos County.

    Finally, don't spend time listening to Nuclear Watch of New Mexico. They have one agenda - close LANL and to hell with everyone in northern New Mexico. They are a very vocal minority which is only interested in criticizing LANL at every opportunity. They do not respect anyone whose opinion differs from theirs. They have benefitted from LANL research without giving it any credit.

    The bottom line is that problems go much deeper than missing barcodes, a dispute over safety records, etc. The basic problems are the two faced approach from NNSA ("clerical errors in Albuquerque last summer" that didn't make the press like the missing barcodes at LANL), the lack of support of their employess by UC against a Director who believes his job is to teach the employees the ABC's - Arrogant, Butthead, Cowboys - and a lack of support by our Congressional delegation.


    Sunday, February 13, 2005

    Admirable Haiku

    From Anonymous:


    Navy admiral -
    Peter Principle applies:
    in over his head

    With apologies to Jeff Foxworthy…

    From Anonymous:

    With apologies to Jeff Foxworthy…

    You know you may be the director of a formerly great national laboratory if you believe that Physics Today is not peer reviewed, but that Director's colloquia are.

    You know you may be the director of a formerly great national laboratory if you believe that just because the statistics that you use to prove your point are incorrect and concocted, the moral force of your argument is what matters.

    You know you may be the director of a formerly great national laboratory if you define an IWD as a one page document with an oil stain, and then immediately issue a 180 page encyclical outlining the process with 12 pages of required forms that need to accompany the aforementioned 1 page oil stained document.

    You know you may be the director of a formerly great national laboratory if you think that the terms "butthead" and "cowboy" are synonyms.

    And finally, you know you may be the director of a formerly great national laboratory if you think that an organization like PS, whose only mission in life is to create mountains of paperwork and byzantine process, will simplify if asked to do so politely. Can you say "IRS"?

    Pete Nanos limerick competition

    From Anonymous:

    Over beer this weekend, my friends and I decided that
    the tale of Pete Nanos and his war on the laboratory
    deserved a poetic treatment. Given the obscenely
    ludicrous nature of the situation, the limerick seems
    the most appropriate form for this. So we came up
    with the idea of a Pete Nanos limerick competition.

    After a few false starts (hmmm, what rhymes with
    CREM?), we came up with a few to get the ball rolling:

    Director Pete Nanos has said,
    if you do science you are a butt-head.
    So he stopped all work,
    that moronic jerk!
    Now science at LANL is dead.

    Under LANL's new management plan,
    if you try to do science you're canned.
    Shall we instill a revolt?
    Or just give up and bolt?
    Either way, it's "game over," man.

    Quoth Nanos, "Disks are missing, oh dear!"
    "They're neither here, nor here, nor here!"
    "You're all cowboys, I say."
    "Now we'll do it MY way!"
    Make way for intimidation and fear.

    These cowboys have met their match!
    Just watch, the bad actors I'll catch!
    Guilty or not, I'll fire the lot!
    With ten men, I'll start over from scratch.

    Security lapses must stop!
    So Nanos decides to play cop.
    After half a year,
    the verdict is clear:
    Barcodes: a billion a pop.

    Oh Nanos, why don't you just leave us?
    Your actions really do grieve us.
    Those missing disks?
    Just labels amiss!
    If we're butt-heads, then you must be Beavis!

    The next challenge is to write a Pete Nanos haiku.

    Bald Guy, Director

    From Anonymous:

    After hearing both sides of the story; Scott Gibbs and the "bald guy," the Laboratory needs to replace George P. Nanos with the "bald guy" to be effective immediately.

    More LANL In The News

    Sunday, February 13, 2005

    LANL's Priority Must Be Excellence

    By Charles R. Mansfield
    Member of the executive council of the Coalition for LANL Excellence and the president of the Laboratory Retiree Group, Inc.

    OTHER VOICES: The Coalition for LANL Excellence has recently been organized to address issues surrounding the draft Request for Proposals to select the future management contractor for the Los Alamos National Laboratory. The coalition was started by LANL retirees and employees concerned about the lack of definition of benefits in the draft. However, the issues that have been raised go beyond the issue of benefits. Indeed, these issues affect all of northern New Mexico and the nation.
    Maintaining an appropriate balance between administrative oversight­ management­ and academic freedom has been a major concern since the establishment of the laboratory in 1943. The mission of the Manhattan Project exceeded the capabilities of technology at the start of the project. Gen. Leslie Groves, who was in charge of the Manhattan Project district for the U.S. Army, argued that the project should be organized along strict military lines.

    The project's director, J. Robert Oppenheimer, knew that in order to solve the multitude of problems that existed, the maximum creative ability on the part of the participants would be required. The initial choice to manage the Manhattan Project under the University of California was a choice fought for and won by Oppenheimer. This balance between academic freedom and strict control has been difficult to maintain; however, it is one of the fundamental reasons that LANL has become synonymous with scientific and engineering excellence for the nation.

    LANL's impact
    How does this balancing act affect the people of northern New Mexico and the nation? The answer lies in the maintenance of excellence. The economic impact of LANL on northern New Mexico, including Santa Fe, cannot be overstated. LANL must continue to be the primary economic engine of this area and to expand this role when possible. The people of the area and of the nation are affected by the cutting-edge research and development that takes place at LANL.

    What factors are important in achieving excellence? Achieving and maintaining excellence are not easy tasks for management. Both technical staff and support personnel contribute to excellence. Since new concepts and approaches to solutions generally originate with the technical staff. I will concentrate on that group of employees. In order to maintain excellence, the very best scientists, engineers and professional support staff must be sought out and retained.

    The first important factor is to attract the very best. What is the attraction for the best scientists and engineers to come to a small town in the northern mountains of New Mexico? The attractions include: challenging problems to solve, recognition in universities and technical societies, an excellent local school system, the best support personnel and attractive compensation and benefits, including retirement.

    The second important factor is to keep the best. Retention factors include: leadership on the part of local management, respect given to all employees by local management, support by the laboratory for professional organizations, and encouragement of employees to publish technical results where possible. Above all, the employees must feel confident that their benefits will be substantially equivalent should there be a change of the management contract of the laboratory. Moreover, the employees must know that their efforts are rewarded with compensation and benefits commensurate with those efforts.

    Strengthening the RFP
    The coalition arranged and hosted a meeting on Jan. 16 with Tyler Przybylek, Chair of the source evaluation board that will evaluate the bid proposals received and make a recommendation for a contract award to the secretary of energy. More than 500 people were in attendance. There was a lively, extensive and informative exchange with Przybylek and the attendees addressing concerns over the draft RFP and its failing to adequately address the importance of employee and retiree benefits, including salaries, retirement plans and health care. On the following day, a town hall meeting attended by more than 300 people, employees and retirees with U.S. Rep. Tom Udall alerted the New Mexico congressional delegation that significant problems with the draft RFP might affect the long-term stability of the laboratory.

    The coalition believes that comments it submitted in response to the draft RFP will help to strengthen the final RFP in areas that will improve the attractiveness of LANL in the recruitment and retention of the best scientists, engineers and professional support staff. We encourage involvement of additional interested parties in the coalition. We intend to remain active throughout the award of the contract and beyond to ensure that our voices are heard.

    The coalition will stay in communication with our congressional delegation and the contract evaluation board throughout the award process and hopes to provide information that will be of value to these parties, as well as to those most likely to be affected by any changes in a successor contractor. The coalition has also recently requested the development of a "communications channel" with LANL: the Yahoo Coalition for LANL Excellence group Web site, available to the public.

    To date the Coalition has incurred costs, amounting to about $1,500, for such things as the rental of the Duane Smith Auditorium for the meetings with Przybylek, the production of PAC-8 videos of the meetings with Przybylek and Rep. Udall and the distribution of these videos to the New Mexico congressional delegation, Governor Richardson, the laboratory, the public access channels in Los Alamos, Española and Santa Fe and the public libraries in those same cities. A coalition account has been established at the Los Alamos National Bank under the name "Coalition for LANL Excellence." Contributions of any amount to support the coalition's efforts will be greatly appreciated.

    Mansfield is a member of the executive council of the Coalition for LANL Excellence and the president of the Laboratory Retiree Group, Inc. He would like to thank Newby Ellington for editorial support in writing this article.

    Who is Don Brown?

    From Anonymous:

    I have a hard time swallowing most of the ABQ Journal article from our
    friend, Don Brown. As a denizen of TA-18, I couldn't even tell you
    who this guy is. He allegedly was hired on in 2003 to evaluate QA
    across the facility. However, I can't point to a single time I saw
    him at 18. That doesn't mean he wasn't ever there, but how many times
    could he really have been there? Further, the article states, "...he
    recounted problems he said he uncovered at LANL's Technical Area-18,
    where the lab performs subcritical nuclear experiments." TA-18 is
    where the *critical* assemblies are housed. Sure, we do stuff at the
    subcritical level, but we also operate at the delayed critical, we do
    bursts, etc. However, the statement that TA-18 could have a
    Chornoby-type accident is just completely bogus. All of these little,
    technical errors definitely point to someone who clearly has no idea
    what a critical assembly is or does or how any type of a failure of
    the system might work.

    Yet it doesn't change the fact that we, the denizens of 18, are most
    likely going to have to address these completey far-fetched claims.
    Lab management has *never* understood what it means to operate such a
    facility. They constantly ignore the input of the experts in order to
    pacify people who have clearly demonstrated they know nothing about
    what they are talking about, such as Don Brown. The result is a set
    of safety analyses that are based on accidents that are impossible to
    occur. The scientists at TA-18 have for nearly two decades (or
    whenever it was that the tiger teams occured) had to rationalize their
    existences against a set of ridiculous and impossible safety

    The end result is that TA-18 is being shut down. The Category I/II
    quantities of nuclear material are being moved to the Nevada Test
    Site. The scientists are having a mass exodus because of managements'
    inability to demonstrate a clue. The vital missions being performed
    at TA-18 are being handed off to Livermore. One guy I know, one of
    the most brilliant minds when it comes to the designing scenarios to
    test various detectors against, is transfering out of N Division
    because, "someone needs to make management see how they are killing
    this group."

    It is truly sad that incompetant unknowns (i.e. the Don Brown's of the
    world) are dictating how we do criticality safety at LANL and in this

    Nanos' Salary

    From Anonymous:

    Nanos' salary in Oct 2002 was $200K.

    He was Principle Deputy Associate Director of ADTR.

    Domenici's View on NNSA

    February 13, 2005

    Keeping secrets safe: Is NNSA fulfilling its mission?

    Diana Heil | The New Mexican

    U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici, who fought five years ago for the creation of an agency to protect America's nuclear secrets, now says it should be abolished if it can't do a better job.

    In an interview last week, the New Mexico Republican said: "Frankly, I've implied that if they can't shape it up and show that they're doing it right, that maybe they shouldn't exist. That'll be a big shock to read, but that's what I told them."

    The National Nuclear Security Administration, an agency within the Department of Energy, was launched in 2000 to correct long-standing management and security problems at nuclear facilities that came to light when classified computer hard drives disappeared and Los Alamos scientist Wen Ho Lee was charged with 59 counts of mishandling nuclear secrets.

    Today, with a budget of $700 million plus funding for remote offices, NNSA oversees 11 nuclear-weapons labs and factories.

    "There's no question that what we considered to be the things that NNSA should do -- how they should do it, what management scheme they should set up, the kind of personnel slots they should fill -- in our opinion are far less than the law expected," the senator said.

    But Bill Desmond, acting associate administrator for defense nuclear security, said his agency overall has an outstanding and robust security program, although there have been ongoing problems at the site office in Los Alamos.

    "The NNSA has the best security program in the United States government," he said. And when NNSA makes mistakes, "we don't cover it up."

    Desmond admitted NNSA can always do better. But he emphasized: "We have not lost any nuclear weapons. There have been no attacks on our facilities."

    Almost since it began, NNSA has had a troubled existence. Former Energy Secretary Bill Richardson didn't want it. And U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., feared the agency would make the weapons labs less attractive for science not related to defense.

    By 2003, criticism had mounted. The General Accounting Office, a government investigation agency, said management problems at NNSA had slowed the improvement of security at nuclear-weapons labs. "The labs must be like a candy store with the front door left wide open and nobody at the register," Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, was quoted as saying.

    Last week, Bingaman said he doesn't know whether NNSA has helped resolve security issues at the labs. "Obviously, there have continued to be problems with security at our national labs," Bingaman said. "Whether those are any less significant than they otherwise would have been, I don't know."

    There's no good way to measure that, he said.

    Meanwhile, Domenici is upset that NNSA has slashed funding for the University of California, which operates the Los Alamos lab for the government. Domenici thinks the university and the lab are not totally responsible for the problems.

    "Maybe NNSA ought to investigate its own performance, because it could very well be that they haven't done as good a job as they should, but they don't get any fees, so we couldn't cut their fees," he said.

    Jay Coghlan, head of Nuclear Watch of New Mexico, a nonprofit group seeking the contract to run LANL, offered a contrary view. "Over the last three years, the two nuclear-weapons labs run by the University of California have had a higher percentage of serious security infractions than Sandia. Given that, the NNSA should be biased against continuing lab management by UC," Coghlan said.

    "As to the NNSA," he added, "it was established largely to address security concerns, yet the number of incidents keeps growing under its watch. Congress should hold the NNSA more accountable in nuclear-security matters as that is where the buck really needs to stop."

    NNSA isn't the only agency responsible for security oversight at the labs. The General Accounting Office, the Office of the Inspector General and a group of Energy Department inspectors also review security issues.

    NNSA's View on NNSA

    February 13, 2005

    Learning lessons from LANL

    Diana Heil | The New Mexican

    Although it appears no weapons designs have fallen into enemy hands in recent years, the federal government remains deeply concerned by failures in security management at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

    A senior official with the National Nuclear Security Administration in Washington, D.C., which oversees security at the lab, admitted last week that the agency hasn't been doing its job there.

    Bill Desmond, acting associate administrator for defense nuclear security, said neither NNSA nor the lab was aware of the extent to which lab employees disregarded security procedures until two classified computer disks were thought to be missing this summer. An inventory showed that large amounts of top-secret material -- besides the pair of disks -- were not properly tracked.

    Desmond took personal responsibility for the fact the agency did not know the lab lacked effective procedures to protect classified material. In an interview, he said NNSA's Los Alamos office "didn't have the people (in both numbers and expertise) to look at incidents in the detail that we think incidents should be reviewed at the site office."

    NNSA, a semiautonomous agency in the U.S. Department of Energy, was created in 2000 after the Wen Ho Lee nuclear-secrets scandal to try to reduce security lapses at the nation's nuclear-weapons laboratories.

    A search for the missing disks exposed the deficiencies in the security procedures and led to an unprecedented, six-month stand down at the facility that cost taxpayers approximately $1 billion. All employees set aside normal work, for weeks or months, to focus on safety and security matters.

    The investigation, which recently concluded the missing disks never existed, disclosed that NNSA, the University of California, DOE and other agencies had substantial evidence Los Alamos was having trouble following safety and security procedures prior to the missing-disk incident.

    According to the report:

    • In the first six months of 2004, top-secret data was transmitted via e-mail 18 times at LANL, more than the three other labs combined.

    • The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board, a federally funded group that tracks problems on a weekly basis, notified DOE and LANL that 32 percent of all nuclear-safety complaints filed between 2002 and 2004 concerned Los Alamos.

    • The fines levied by the federal government against the lab were four times the total assessed against all other NNSA facilities.

    • Los Alamos' combined injury and near-miss rate exceeded that of the other three labs, although the difference might be related to the greater complexity of operations at LANL.

    Further evidence of security breakdowns emerged from a report on violations over three years at the nation's four nuclear-weapons labs prepared at the request of The New Mexican. It revealed 74 violations considered to potentially pose the most serious threats to national security. Of those, 35 took place at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California; 22 at Los Alamos.

    But few of these lapses resulted in top-secret information getting to an unauthorized person. In many instances, the violations are as simple as a guard falling asleep, a vault left unlocked overnight or a visitor bringing a camera into a restricted area.

    In 10 cases, however, secret information was disclosed, but all were low-impact and occurred inside a DOE institution, according to NNSA.

    A typical example would be an instance when a lab secretary, who does not hold a security clearance, inadvertently sees top-secret information.

    Of the four facilities, only Sandia's two labs in Albuquerque and Livermore, Calif., listed the number of times classified information got to unauthorized people.

    On Friday, NNSA said that, over the three years, there were four disclosures of classified information at both Los Alamos and at Lawrence Livermore.

    Another 60 incidents of all types are still under investigation, but none of those is believed to be serious.

    When lab workers, after-hours security forces, the NNSA site office or others suspect classified material has been compromised, the facility where the lapse occurred has 24 hours to categorize the incident according to level of threat and report the three most serious levels to the NNSA.

    Other layers of protection usually keep security lapses from becoming a dangerous affair, said Ron Detry, chief security officer at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque. It's like in your home, he said. If you forget to lock the door, you might have other defenses in place: a locked gate and a guard dog, for instance.

    "NNSA is concerned whenever there is a security incident," said Desmond of the NNSA. "However, we have a process in place -- the incident-reporting process -- which allows us, our site offices, our contractors to address each and every security incident. And we're satisfied the process works reasonably well. We don't establish a goal because any incident is not acceptable."

    But NNSA said it has learned a lesson -- it will no longer rely on documents to gauge the work of site offices scattered across the country. It has relied on each lab's self-assessment, each site office's annual security survey of its lab and on visits every two years from Energy Department investigators.

    This year, Desmond plans to organize a group to review, in person, whether the site offices around the country are carrying out their responsibilities, he said.

    Meanwhile, security specialists are gradually being added to Los Alamos' site office.

    Although Desmond is concerned Los Alamos' site office hasn't been aggressive enough in tracking security at the lab, he believes, in general, that the agency's larger program is a good one.

    The lab and the site office declined comment for this story.

    Whistle Blower Blew Before


    Sunday, February 13, 2005

    LANL Critic Whistled Before

    By Adam Rankin
    Journal Staff Writer
    Last month was not the first time quality-assurance specialist Donald W. Brown filed for whistle-blower protection while working for the U.S. Department of Energy.
    Brown, a 30-year veteran of quality assurance in the nuclear industry, was hired by Los Alamos National Laboratory in May 2003 as a contractor to do reviews of nuclear manufacturing and quality assurance, according to a complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Labor on Jan. 14.
    After writing a 22-page analysis of LANL's "broken" quality-assurance program, which he wrote is "in desperate need of repair" and puts the public and workers at risk, Brown went to the Washington, D.C.-based watchdog group Government Accountability Project and filed for whistle-blower protection, also in January.
    While working for a DOE contractor at the Yucca Mountain nuclear-waste repository project in Nevada 15 years ago, Brown also filed for whistle-blower protection after losing his job when he raised a number of concerns about worker safety. That complaint was settled out of court.
    In his most recent complaint, Brown alleges he was demoted for reporting critical failures in reviewing the quality of critical nuclear facilities and manufacturing processes at the weapons lab.
    Among Brown's findings at LANL were a lack of a proper welding and inspection qualification program, failure to implement industry standard welding processes, failure to inspect welding projects, and improper procurement of welding materials. These factors resulted in more than 1,000 faulty welds in LANL's 50-year-old Chemistry and Metallurgy Research building, he said.
    In a separate audit, which he said he was never able to finish, Brown said he found LANL had a longstanding failure to address quality-related concerns of its nuclear weapons component manufacturing process.
    He also asserts that when he tried to apply for a full-time position at LANL­ because his position as a contractor is being made into a LANL position­ he was told he wasn't eligible and wouldn't be considered, nor was he allowed to attend a training class.

    Claims reviewed
    LANL officials have said they are reviewing Brown's claims of retaliation and contend that none of his findings reveals public or worker safety risks. LANL spokesman Jim Fallin said the notion that the weapons lab has no quality-review procedure for its weapons manufacturing systems is "absurd."
    National Nuclear Security Administration officials have said they believe Brown's reviews focus on old problems addressed during LANL's recent shutdown and review of safety and security concerns.
    Fifteen years ago, Brown filed for whistle-blower protection under the same federal regulation he is citing in his current complaint, the Energy Reorganization Act. At the time, he was working for Holmes and Narver Inc., a DOE contractor at Yucca Mountain.
    Brown said he raised concerns that workers were not properly qualified. When proper actions weren't taken to resolve the situation, he pressed the matter.
    "Ultimately, that ended up costing me my job," he said.
    His complaint of retaliation was settled out of court, and the settlement agreement and documents were sealed from public view, according to Labor Department records. But the terms were found to be "fair, adequate and reasonable," by then-Labor Department Secretary Robert Reich.
    "It is not a get-rich-quick scheme," said Government Accountability Project attorney Tom Carpenter about Brown's complaint against LANL. "It is trying to get him back to the job we think he was unfairly removed from" and to get him training he was denied, allegedly because of his reviews of LANL quality-assurance procedures.

    Systemic problems?
    Carpenter said there are systemic quality-assurance problems across the laboratory's most critical facilities, impacting everything from construction to nuclear weapons designs.
    "He has raised issues everywhere he goes because that is his job," Carpenter said. "Frankly, if there had been adequate responses to his concerns, he never would have gone public."
    In his review, Brown reports, "The good news is that all problems identified in this paper can be fixed."
    LANL spokesman Kevin Roark said that, in fact, many of the points in Brown's analysis were known even before Brown was hired.
    "And many of the problems have long been solved," he said.
    Roark said LANL always reviews concerns raised by employees, often by independent sources, as it is doing now with Brown's analysis. LANL officials have also said they are reviewing quality-assurance matters and are "self-identifying those that need to be addressed."
    Aside from LANL, Brown said DOE and its Los Alamos Site Office are responsible for not ensuring adequate quality-assurance reviews.
    "Only recently has LASO treated quality assurance as a primary function and not as a secondary consideration, when convenient or as a 'necessary evil,'" Brown wrote. DOE should be functioning as a "third line of defense," he said, but has failed because its regulators and resources are spread too thin.
    Brown said he met with DOE's Los Alamos Site Office manager Ed Wilmot about his findings. Bernard Pleau, National Nuclear Security Administration spokesman for the office, said Wilmot told Brown he would follow up and evaluate his concerns.
    Brown said he recently received a response from DOE's Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board saying they would take up his worries in coming meetings.

    Saturday, February 12, 2005

    Just Doesn't "Get It"

    From Anonymous:

    I confess to being one of the many who "just don't get it". I don't get why thousands of hard-working safety- and security-conscious people have to get punished for the mistakes (whether deliberate or innocent) of a few. The ruler who chops off the feet of the residents of a village on account of the disrespect shown by a few justly deserves the criticism of posterity.

    The climate at LANL has become poisonous. Many have already left, many more are contemplating doing so. The rest of us dread opening the morning newspaper for fear of yet another revelation that will send the gavel of doom down upon us again.

    What would happen if a real spy were detected in our midst? Our Nano-manager might well shut the doors and gates and close us down forever. Meanwhile our spy (who must be very smart, if he were hired by Los Alamos in the first place) would have eluded the trap set for him and is now living comfortably in the country that employed him, while the rest of us have lost our livelihoods forever. (Forgive the arbitrary gender assumption.)

    Is it any wonder that we are preparing our exit strategies?

    From Anonymous:

    I went to the CREM meeting too. I was buying everything that the speaker was saying until people started asking questions and that bald guy stood up and started to tell what really happened. After that one lady asked about the people who had been fired and Scott Gibbs ducked the question the bald guy said his boss was fired for taking too much training. Is that possible at LANL? He came right out and said this guy was fired for reasons totally unrelated to what happened. To me that just screams SCAPEGOAT!!! I wish he would have talked a little longer about that. He also said that they can't find a single rule that he violated.
    If that's true then Nanos IS a liar and a fraud and all the grief we've been taking about cowboys and culture problems was a scam. If these guys were as bad as Nanos says then they should have had pages of rules violations to show us.

    The bald guy also said that they tried to set him up and that people actually quit the lab over it. He said offices were being entered after hours and records were seized and people were pressured to keep quiet. It sounds like NanoGate to me. Gibbs tried to say that wasn't true but then that other lady stood up and said she was there and that everything he said was true. Something really stinks here and I don't think we're anywhere near the source of it yet. The guy said there was a lot more to this than we've heard and I believe him. They're planning on giving another meeting because there wasn't a single seat in the auditorium that wasn't filled. I think they should let that bald guy give the next one so we can hear what really happened.


    From Anonymous:

    Don Brown seems to be claiming that there are (at least) 23 "warehouses" at LANL containing "nuclear supplies" that are not accounted for in a formal "chain of custody." I suspect (hope) that this is not the case and that there is a rational explanation. At least, I hope that these materials are not used in critical applications that require a degree of quality control. But, after the secret sequestering of a few $100k of "camping materials" on Lab property, what else might be there without the knowledge of most workers? Can anyone shed light on this issue? Is this just an "obvious" miss-interpretation by someone not familiar with the Laboratory?

    The Online News Source for Los Alamos
    Friday, February 11, 2005
    Last modified Thursday, February 10, 2005 2:56 PM MST

    Whistleblower claims quality assurance failures

    ROGER SNODGRASS,, Monitor Assistant Editor
    A quality assurance auditor for a Los Alamos contractor has come forward as a whistleblower, claiming that he has been punished for discovering and documenting a dangerous breakdown in quality assurance programs at LANL.

    Don Brown was hired in May 2003.

    According to documents he has distributed through an independent government watchdog group, including a formal complaint to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Brown charges that LANL's nuclear facilities are too unsafe to operate and that it's modern pit production process has been compromised.

    In a recent interview on CBS Evening News, Brown said, "I started finding problems that would stop any other nuclear facility in their tracks."

    He said he found as many as 1,000 faulty welds in one nuclear building.
    "It looks like it was welded with a Hershey Bar," he said.

    Contacted in Los Alamos, Brown referred questions to his lawyer, Tom Carpenter of the Government Accountability Project (GAP).

    Speaking by telephone from Seattle, Carpenter said Brown had approached GAP last spring, and was advised to go through normal procedures, and then if he wasn't getting anywhere, to escalate his concerns.

    The response was a stone wall, barely an acknowledgement, and then he was informed that his job was being reorganized and that he would have to apply to keep it. He was not selected for an interview, and has been told that he is expected to resign, GAP said.

    Among his findings was the existence of a score of warehouses, which Brown claims are "off the books." These warehouses are full of equipment and supplies and are known as "Graceland." The warehouses are said to contain material without bar-codes and serve as a supply depot for nuclear operations at the lab.

    Carpenter said that procurement formalities for nuclear supplies requires very explicit acceptance, inspection and certification. A formal chain of custody procedure provides assurance that the pedigree is known.

    "When it comes time to put it in, you know the pedigree," Carpenter said. "None of it is in place. Graceland is one area, 23 warehouses with supplies that don't exist."

    GAP has written to new Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman calling for a full investigation of the matter under the Price-Anderson laws.

    LANL public affairs had not responded to a request for information by today's publication deadline.

    Management styles quiz

    From Anonymous:

    Check out number 209 at this website:

    In Reference to LANL's Security Incident Numbers

    From Anonymous:

    Hmmm. Diana Heil says:

    "The New Mexican last July asked the U.S. Department of Energy for data on Los Alamos, Livermore and Sandia — the nation’s labs most involved in nuclear weapons."

    It took 6 months to receive this data? Is this a case of NNSA concealing information from the taxpayers? Or is it the Public Affairs folks at LANL? Or both, perhaps?

    Is this an example of how LANL senior management believes in transparency and open communication?

    UT rejects any LANL alliance

    UT rejects any LANL alliance

    ROGER SNODGRASS,, Monitor Assistant Editor

    Off again, on again - the University of Texas finally made it official. They will step up participation with a national laboratory, but it won't be Los Alamos National Laboratory.

    Instead, University officials announced they would strengthen ties with Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque.

    The Board of Regents approved a five-year agreement with SNL on Thursday, spelling out an expanded relationship of educational collaboration and research initiatives, as well as a project for UT to review Sandia's science and technology programs.

    The Regents also voted Thursday to drop its pursuit of a bid to manage Los Alamos National Laboratory.

    The Sandia option appears to have been a back-up plan that was developing behind the scenes in parallel to preparations for bidding on the Los Alamos management contract.

    Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, who had encouraged UT to pursue the Los Alamos contract, was credited with arranging meetings between UT and Sandia officials last year where discussions about the expanded collaboration began.

    "Because of the complexity and magnitude of the (Los Alamos) lab, we always envisioned that we would be part of a joint venture to put forward a proposal to manage and operate Los Alamos in partnership," UT System Chancellor Mark Yudof told board members.

    As reported by the Associated Press, Yudof recommended that the system not bid to manage Los Alamos, because they had not been able to find a workable partnership.

    The decision puts a final full stop on a quest UT began in February last year, when the Board appropriated $500,000 to begin preparations for the competition.

    Then in July, UT's presumed partner for their bid, Lockheed Martin decided not to pursue the Los Alamos contract.

    The arrangement with SNL is significant because it is specifically limited to non-classified activities.

    John Pruett, a member of UT Watch, a student organization that has tracked UT's weapons lab ambitions, said he attended the meeting and was impressed that the Regents made a strong point about only doing basic and not applied research.

    That was peculiar, he said, in an institution where security clearances measure status and level of involvement.

    In 2002, UT geared up for a potential bid for SNL, but were thwarted in that effort when DOE decided to renew Lockheed-Martin's contract without competing it.

    "Why are they spending all this money and investing these things if they're not even going to go through with the bid?" Pruett asked, speaking by phone from Austin.

    Pruett said a team of 15 scientists would be visiting Sandia next month.

    The agreement between UT and SNL calls for UT to conduct a review of the science and technology program. UT officials called it the first independent peer review agreement conducted at any of the 15 Department of Energy national labs.

    More on The Contingent Workforce Project

    From Anonymous:

    Regarding the Feb. 9 posting, same subject, here is an important point: (too many characters for a comment)

    Please note an important insecure position all these new UC employees were being put in: LANL has new employee probationary periods up to to 2 years plus for TSMs (1 year for SSMs and 6 months for non-exempt employees). LANL HR and Legal informed UPTE in September 2004 that any employee still in their probationary period during the contract change-over the end of September 2005, would be a risk of losing their job. So, for exempt employees in hired after 9/04, it wouldn't matter if they were Contract or brand-new UC employees, they are just as much at risk. Now that we're down to 6 months away from the contract change-over, all employees converted now, including non-exempts, will still be in their probationary period come 9/30/05. And they would all be at risk. Granted, they may never earn time towards UC vesting, but this way these contractors can accrue more time under their current employer. The RFP must address contract employees, not just UC. But if the "real" intent is to drastically cut the LANL work force, then I guess not.

    [...] we deserved an "F."

    From Anonymous:

    I remember Pete telling us that we deserved an "F." Well, it takes one to know one, and Pete deserves an "F" for Failure to Lead.
    I urge anyone who knows anything about Pete's Navy career to post to this blog. I have a couple of problems with the spin that LANL PR machine has given.
    1. Most Admirals leave the Navy and are courted by SAIC, Northrup-Grumman, Lockheed- Martin etc., at salaries twice as Pete is currently making. Why did these for-profit companies never hire him?
    2. Even though he ran a successful company, why did he leave it for a TSM salary. After all, he came here as a TSM. How successful was this company that he jumped at an offer to be a TSM at LANL?
    3. Why has not even his Navy buddies come to work here at LANL? Why are they shunning our Frankenstein (or better Petenstein)? I expected to see a number of ex-Navy folks walking around here, but it just didn't happen.
    So let's drain the swamp of our Petenstein!

    Friday, February 11, 2005

    Former LANL official critical of lab director

    Former LANL official critical of lab director

    ROGER SNODGRASS,, Monitor Assistant Editor

    The former associate laboratory director for Strategic Research, who said he was forced to resign during the safety and security crisis last July, has publicly reproached Los Alamos National Laboratory Director G. Peter Nanos for mismanagement and failure of leadership.

    "In a relatively short period of time, a series of critical management mistakes have started to undo what it took 60 years to build," said Thomas J. Meyer during a return visit to Los Alamos Wednesday. "When you look back, the lab shutdown was a cover up for mismanagement at the top."

    Meyer has written an eight-page essay, "What Happened at Los Alamos," (available on an Internet weblog at, giving his account of the circumstances surrounding the total suspension of operations at the lab on July 12 and the implications of that decision for the lab's future.

    Meyer was the highest ranking laboratory employee disciplined by laboratory management, which made a point at the time that it was meting out punishment high and low, without regard to position. Four others lost their jobs at that time.

    Because of his responsibilities in charge of a major directorate at the lab and as a member of the senior executive team, Meyer wrote, he could see what was happening at the highest level.

    "I have a perspective on the shutdown that I feel obligated to share with the larger Los Alamos community," he said.

    What he saw as the problem was not the "negative culture" within the LANL scientific community, which was publicly rebuked and subjected to a kind of collective punishment and humiliation.

    The laboratory's decision to idle 12,000 employees for more than seven months, in some cases, was not justified, according to Meyer, who said there was an alternative.

    "At other laboratories, staged stand downs are commonly used to focus on areas where there is known concern," Meyer wrote. "This allows limited resources to be brought to bear quickly and effectively on problem areas with the work force sensitized, best practices instilled, and training provided."

    Meyer defended the safety record of thechemistry division, which was his responsibility before the laser accident, noting that management had not supported an effort to hire an Operation Deputy for the Division, whose job would have been to oversee the day-to-day operations and safety.

    Meyer said Nanos whipsawed the overhead charged to customers last year, driving prices to uncompetitive levels at first, and then reducing them in the middle of the year, creating havoc for many support organizations and new projects, including a day-to-day safety officer for the chemistry division.

    Among other accusations:

  • The University of California has expressed concern that there is inadequate representation for science in the current senior management team.

  • Important scientists are gone or leaving the laboratory.

  • Important programs have been lost to other laboratories; others are threatened.

  • Current recruiting for postdocs is at an all-time low.

    Meyer said his departure from the laboratory was handled crudely.

    "I never spoke to Nanos, never got anything in writing. There was nothing, zero," Meyer said. "No exit interview. No pretense of dealing with this in a sophisticated way."

    Meyer said he will be returning to UNC-Chapel Hill as the Arey Professor of Chemistry. He was on the faculty there for many years before coming to LANL.

    Despite the bleak evaluation of the situation, Meyer saw a potential rebirth in the lab's future.

    "LANL is a sleeping giant, waiting to reassert itself," he concluded his critique. "A path forward must be found quickly to provide leadership and a clear vision for the future."

    LANL public affairs did not responded to a request for information by today's publication deadline.

  • More on justified blame

    Feb. 8, 2005

    More on justified blame

    I read David Simmons and Doug Tuggle's letters; one hass been here 2.5 years, the other 27 years. I have been here 25 years off and on. Lot's of changes? Is it the Department of Energy/National Nuclear Security Administration fault? We use to have an office for Laboratory contract compliance, one for UC/DOE. That was compromised years ago. We used to have a local DOE office that lavished us with excellent appraisals. Did we lose the check and balances we once had? We allowed groups with budget to drive policy. Are we drowning in red tape now? Did we or do we "have sloppy inventory controls and security failures? Who pays us, and who watches the "Lab Coop" now?

    So we were fined ... somebody did something wrong ... where were the "checks and balances." I have enjoyed working at the Lab at times, and sometimes the "my way or the highway attitude" has made me move to different job areas to do work and stay out of the politics. We all are facing a new challenge, maybe a new employer, and I hope new and better attitudes. Change is not always bad. So Mr. Simmons had to go to "Wendy's" ( doing very well in the stock market), and Mr. Tuggle may have to find a Wendy's of his own, to do work. Wouldn't it be nice, if now that there is an opportunity to change, we could change the Lab for the better.

    --Johnny Baca

    State of denial

    From the LANL NewsBulletin:

    Feb. 10, 2005

    State of denial

    Just came back from the CREM incident briefing and I must say that based on some of the questions and statements made there are many still working at the Laboratory that just don't get it. To accuse the director of perpetrating fraud is not only ridiculous but libelous. The sooner everyone can gets past this state of denial the sooner we as an institution can continue to improve our secure work practices.

    --Randy Kasik

    Remove Director Nanos

    From Anonymous:

    I'm afraid it's time to face some harsh reality, folks. Our "chain of command" has had ample opportunity to invoke its system of checks and balances and intervene in the now moderately famous case of "LANL management run amuck". In the aftermath of recent news proving what we at LANL have always known, e.g., there was no rational justification for shutting the entire laboratory down last July; for castigating honest, well-intentioned staff, and for running off many talented scientists and a not-insignificant number of good customers. Have we heard a peep from UC President Dynes? How about NNSA head Brooks? Or the brand, spanking new DOE Secretary Bodeman? The head of the Albuquerque DOE office? Domenici? Bingaman? Udall?

    Nope. What does that tell us? Aside from telling us that the system is pretty badly flawed, and that there is more cowardice than integrity at the top levels of our food chain, we should be getting the message that we are being told, "Don't rock the boat, we don't want the Vice Admiral to fall out!"

    Why is that, do you suppose? Is this condition immutable? If enough people shed their fears of reprisal and spoke out in a way that could be heard do you think we could cause at least one "right" thing to happen?

    The one individual upon whom the blame for causing this disaster at LANL squarely falls needs to be removed. Most of you agree that we cannot even begin to put this disaster behind us until Director Nanos has been removed. Why are you still afraid to say so? If we all continue to remain silent, we will be no better than UC President Dynes, or Linton Brooks.

    Thursday, February 10, 2005

    Petition to Remove Director Nanos

    The old cowhand is surprised that no one has started a petition to remove Director Nanos
    and has attached a draft petition below. He welcomes suggestions for wording of the petition
    and how to gather signatures. He has no fear of retaliation since his last day is in March.
    ( What could scare an old cowhand anyway after riding the range all these years.)
    But he is saddened by what is going on at the Lab, likes to see people get what they
    deserve and would like to make the world a better place before he rides out.

    This the old cowhand from the Rio Grande hopin' you'll help and wishin' you Happy Trails!

    David F. Simmons
    Soon-to-be-Ex Technical Staff Member
    DX Division (where the deer and the elk play)


    Robert Dynes, President
    University of California


    -- Los Alamos National Laboratory has officially concluded that no classified media
    was ever lost nor any classified information jeopardized in the classified media
    incident of July 2004.
    -- The reaction by Director Nanos to this incident of shutting down the entire
    Laboratory was hasty and unnecessary and has resulted in serious damage to LANL
    including triggering the rebidding of the LANL contract which threatens
    to cause a mass exodus of senior LANL employees.
    -- Throughout this incident Director Nanos instead of defending the Laboratory has
    been a severe and verbally abusive critic of the staff of institution he has
    managed for more than two years.
    -- Director Nanos has created an atmosphere of fear and intimidation at LANL and
    crippled it with useless red tape.
    -- Peter Nanos has demonstrated that he has neither the judgment nor the temperament
    to serve as Director of the Laboratory.

    We the undersigned employees of Los Alamos National Laboratory respectfully request that:

    -- Peter Nanos be immediately relieved as Director of Los Alamos National
    Laboratory as the first step in the healing and recovery process that must now
    -- The next director of LANL be a former working scientist with management experience
    such as yourself and not a career military officer.

    Puzzling Allegations

    Don W. Brown's allegations of "1000 inadequate welds" and lack of a containment vessel in the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Building (CMR) reported in the ABQ Journal

    (Feb. 9 [] & Feb. 10 [])

    are quite puzzling. Also confusing is that the earlier article, which quotes from a CBS Evening News interview, refers to TA-18. Perhaps Mr. Brown inspected both buildings; it isn't clear.

    1) The CMR is not a nuclear reactor. There is no credible scenario wherein an explosive release of radioactivity to the outside could occur, because there is no reactor core to breach; thus no requirement for a pressure containment vessel and the very high weld standard required in nuclear reactors. The "hershey bar" welds he observed (his description, whatever it means) were probably completely adequate for low pressure applications.
    2) Radioactivity is contained in both buildings through the use of controlled air and water flow and filtration systems, which are rigorously inspected on a regular basis.
    3) Bringing up the possibility of a Chernobyl-like accident is a gross exaggeration and rather amusing, except that Brown said this on network TV. Thousands of ill-informed people are no doubt now quivering with fear and indignation that the "cowboys" at LANL are putting the populace at such grave risk.

    I'm sure that Don Brown feels disrespected because his report did not result in immediate shutdown of both facilities, but was that likely? I agree that a retaliatory demotion is absolutely unacceptable (if indeed that's what happened--did his pay decrease?). However, when I saw that his lawsuit had an "emotional distress" component my cynicism level shot up drastically.

    Thanks, Doug Roberts, for hosting the blog!

    --Dan Schwartz

    More on the auditor claiming LANL retaliation

    LANL Sees Budget Hike; Sandia Funds Drop

    Albuquerque Journal North
    Thursday, February 10, 2005

    LANL Sees Budget Hike; Sandia Funds Drop

    By Adam Rankin
    Journal Staff Writer
    For the second year in a row, New Mexico's take of the Department of Energy budget is scheduled to decrease, according to the 2006 fiscal year funding request made public earlier this week.
    Across the state's two national laboratories and various U.S. Energy Department projects, New Mexico is slated to get $4.1 billion, or about $20 million less than it did for 2005, a decrease of about 0.5 percent.
    Los Alamos National Laboratory is expected to see a slight budget increase, but funding for Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque will be cut, according to the proposal.
    "While there are some positive elements to this budget proposal, overall New Mexico's labs don't fare as well as I would like them to," Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., said in a statement.
    DOE's statewide funding drop, if Congress meets the request, is less than the previous year when New Mexico's DOE projects saw a decrease of $88.1 million from $4.2 billion to $4.1 billion, a 2.1 percent reduction.
    "This is, without a doubt, one of the tightest budgets I've ever seen," said Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., adding in a statement that the core funding is still adequate: "For our labs, their basic programs are well-funded."
    Los Alamos National Laboratory is slated for a 1.6 percent funding increase from $1.8 billion to $1.83 billion, but with significant cuts in several project areas, including nuclear waste disposal, a 12 percent cut, and fossil fuel energy research, a 45 percent cut.
    Also seeing significant cuts at LANL is nuclear weapons research, which is projected to be down $63.3 million, a 4.5 percent drop from 2005.
    Both LANL and Sandia are expected to see significant cuts in their advanced simulation and computing campaigns that are part of the DOE's stockpile stewardship program to ensure the safety and viability of the nation's nuclear weapons without testing.
    DOE proposes to cut LANL's computer simulation budget by $46 million, a 24 percent cut, and decrease Sandia's computer simulation funds by $48.5 million, or 28 percent.
    "I am concerned about the impacts that these reductions will have on our ability to carry out the life extension programs with our nuclear weapons systems that are so critical to monitoring the safety and reliability of our stockpile," Bingaman said.
    The largest proposed budget increases at LANL come by way of funding for nuclear non-proliferation work, which is scheduled for a $78.8 million increase, a jump of 56 percent, to $220 million.
    Domenici said he is pleased with the administration's emphasis on non-proliferation programs, which will benefit New Mexico's labs.
    Sandia, however, is projected to see a decrease in funding for its non-proliferation work from $145 million to $137 million, a drop of about 5.5 percent.
    Overall, Sandia's proposed 2006 budget of approximately $1.4 billion is $121 million less than in 2005.
    Basic science research at both Sandia and LANL is targeted for significant cuts in the proposed budget. LANL is facing a $15 million cut from $70 million in 2005 to $55 million in 2006, a 21 percent decrease. Sandia's science cuts are less severe but still pegged at a 12 percent drop from $64.8 million in 2005 to $57 million for 2006.
    Bingaman said he was pleased with funding increases for LANL's environmental cleanup projects, which increased overall about 21 percent to $142 million, up about $25 million. Of that, about $2.2 million is proposed for short-term cleanup through 2012.
    State Environment Department chief Ron Curry said he expects LANL to have some spending discretion with its environmental funding so it can meet the time line and schedule agreed upon in a recent "fence-to-fence" cleanup consent order with DOE.
    "That doesn't mean, however, that we will not continue to be vigilant, making sure cleanup is done on the time schedule that is set forth," he said.

    LANL Auditor Claims Retaliation

    Albuquerque Journal North
    Thursday, February 10, 2005

    LANL Auditor Claims Retaliation

    By Adam Rankin
    Journal Staff Writer
    A nuclear facility quality assurance auditor contracted by Los Alamos National Laboratory filed a claim with the U.S. Department of Labor earlier this month alleging that he was demoted in retaliation for his reviews critical of lab safety and security.
    Donald W. Brown, 59, asserts in his complaint filed Jan. 14 that despite repeated written and verbal notices "regarding dangerous failures in safety and security practices" at LANL, his concerns were never adequately addressed. Following his reviews, Brown's "duties were severely restricted" to jobs well below his ability, according to the complaint.
    Brown­ who appeared this week on the "CBS Evening News" to report his findings on safety problems at several of LANL's highest-risk facilities­ is seeking to have his job reinstated and compensation for "emotional distress and the deliberate infliction of pain and suffering."
    Hired by LANL as a contractor with Butler Services in May 2003, Brown is also seeking through the complaint to require LANL to institute proper quality-assurance programs across the laboratory.
    "From day one, I started seeing this was a serious problem," Brown said by telephone on Wednesday. "In my career, I have never seen anything that would even compare."
    In his complaint, Brown said he found no quality-assurance programs to ensure the reliability of the nuclear components in the W88 and W76 nuclear warheads and that several of LANL's nuclear facilities threaten worker and public safety.
    National Nuclear Security Administration spokesman Bryan Wilkes challenged Brown's assertions.
    "What makes him a weapons design expert?" Wilkes asked, adding that NNSA has found no reliability issues with any of its weapons designs. "We are absolutely confident," he said.
    Wilkes also stressed that during LANL's recent shutdown, initiated in July following a series of safety and security concerns, laboratory and NNSA managers reviewed many of the lab's systems in restarting work.
    "We are confident his claims are on old concerns," Wilkes said. "He may have had a case a year and a half ago, but this shutdown really did a lot to clean up and get things in order and take care of necessary safety and security issues."
    LANL spokesman Jim Fallin said the laboratory is addressing Brown's situation through two independent reviews. One will evaluate the merits of Brown's reviews of LANL's quality-assurance programs, while the other will determine whether LANL managers retaliated against Brown for his audits.
    "This institution has learned from past mistakes, and it is vitally important to us that people understand that we are committed to protecting our employees to ensure that they feel they can speak up when they have concerns," Fallin said.
    "There is no room for unfair treatment here," he said. "Reprisals will absolutely not be tolerated."
    On Oct. 22, 2004, Brown wrote and widely distributed a 22-page analysis of the failings of LANL's quality-assurance program, often suggesting the problems were common across the DOE complex.
    He said writing that review and several highly critical audits angered LANL managers and forced him to file for whistle-blower protection.
    "I had hoped I wouldn't have had to report it at the laboratory, but when I started looking at the audits and where the problems were with the quality-assurance program, and I looked at the consequences of failure ... after many sleepless nights I decided I needed to report these problems up the chain," he said.

    LANL auditor claims he was demoted for criticism

    LANL auditor claims he was demoted for criticism

    The Associated Press

    ALBUQUERQUE — A quality-assurance auditor at Los Alamos National Laboratory said Wednesday that he was demoted in retaliation for audits that were critical of lab safety and security practices.
    In a complaint to the U.S. Labor Department, Don Brown said he was hired in May 2003 to conduct safety audits on facilities and procedures at the nuclear weapons lab in New Mexico.
    He said he was involved with two major audits beginning in June 2003 before he was demoted in the fall of 2004.
    The first audit found that more than half of the welds inspected in the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Building, one of the lab’s oldest facilities, were defective. Brown said in the complaint that before he and co-workers
    could complete the audit, lab managers told them to stop.
    A separate audit of the lab’s Nuclear Weapons Engineering and Manufacturing System division found no qualityassurance program covering two missile components used for nuclear warheads, the complaint said.
    Brown said he decided to go public with his findings after lab management ignored his requests to fix the safety problems. He is also seeking to get his former job back or a similar position, according to the complaint.

    “I don’t want us to lose one life, much less a lot of life,” Brown said in a telephone interview from his Los Alamos home. “The quality-assurance program that’s used to assure nuclear safety is broken.”
    Los Alamos spokesman Kevin Roark said lab management does not ignore safety concerns from employees and added that any welding problems at the research building presented no threat to safety. He said the lab has “a welldocumented program” to deal with welding issues.
    In an October internal report written just before
    he was demoted, Brown wrote that poor management and an atmosphere of complacency have created “an environment fraught with the potential for dangerous consequences” similar to the Chernobyl disaster. He said the lab has about a fourth of the resources required to maintain quality assurance.
    In addition, lab managers have an “attitude of intellectual arrogance” and a sense that the lab does not need to follow normal industry requirements, because the status quo is adequate, Brown wrote.
    “I tried to get manage
    ment’s attention,” Brown said. “All I got was lip service and even very little of that.”
    Roark called the comparison to the Russian nuclear disaster “ridiculous.”
    The complaints by Brown follow several problems at Los Alamos, including a virtual shutdown of the lab last summer after two computer disks supposedly disappeared. It later turned out the disks never existed.
    As punishment for the problems, the Energy Department recently slashed by two-thirds the management fee it paid to the University of California for running the lab.

    Noise-to-signal Ratio

    From Anonymous:

    I hear the noise-to-signal ratio climbing here.

    I was very pleased to see this forum but I hate to see us
    chew each other up while the problems continue.

    I'm a 25 year staff member at LANL and I knew
    Chris Mechels personally before and after he
    left the lab. He had some legitimate beefs AND
    he was prone to hystrionics. If he's posting here,
    more power to him, most of us know how to
    ignore his wild overstatements and listen for the
    gems of truth that we know are substantiated.

    When Nanos came "on board" lots of people gave
    him the benefit of the doubt and applauded his
    "tight ship" approach. He seemed like someone
    who could help turn some of our problems around.
    I was reluctantly hopeful.

    I've been on the wrong end of too many "cowboy"
    and "butthead" actions by my peers to say that Nanos
    was completely wrong in those statements. Unfortunately
    most of those "cowboys" and "buttheads" got promoted
    through the years and are now peppering the middle
    and upper management positions.

    Nanos himself was *hired in* by one of these types and
    he *had to know* how egregious this person's behavior
    was, yet when he was promoted to LANL director, he kept
    this unnamed person on in the very same position despite
    clear bad behaviour and numerous complaints filed
    against him.

    I don't know that Nanos was hired to, or directed to
    destroy staff morale, but his actions this year have
    generally been very effective at that.

    Yes, we have huge problems, but I don't believe Nanos did
    anything to improve them by shutting us down, by overreacting,
    by "dressing everyone down" in public, by never admitting he had
    overreacted or made a mistake or acted out his own role in
    what he himself calls "a culture of arrogance".

    I continue to try to do my job the very best I can, I try to
    take (yet more) seriously all aspects of safety and security,
    not because I believe we were not attending properly to them
    before but because I understand that we are under a microscope
    and because "appearances" are currently more important
    than reality.

    I believe that UC was complicit in many of our problems but
    so was DOE and every one of us. I want UC to keep this contract
    and I *don't* want a "Halliburton" to take it. Part of this is
    selfish. I like the deal I have as a UC employee and expect to like
    what is offered by someone else a lot less. But also I think UC
    can and does offer as good of management as we are going to

    Let's help UC keep this contract and help them fix our
    problems, starting by cleaning house *from the top down* instead
    "bottom up" as Vice-admiral Pete thought he needed to do.

    Pete can go first and at least one, probably more AD's. I'd call that
    a "good start".

    Wednesday, February 09, 2005

    Re: Tom Meyer's Letter

    From Anonymous:

    C’mon, are you saying that the Acting AD for Strategic Research has no qualifications for the position other than being a yes-person to the Director? Hey, this is Los Alamos National Laboratory we’re talking about here.

    Look at the following excerpts from the LANL NewsBulletin and tell me this person is not qualified to act as head of the Directorate responsible for strategic research at THE institution where “The World’s Greatest Science Protecting America” is taking place.

    “Micheline A. Devaurs is the new leader for the Decision Applications Division…A graduate of Utah State University with a masters degree in watershed science, and holding a bachelors degree [in Natural Resources] from the University of California, Berkeley…As program manager for pollution prevention, she was responsible for management and implementation of the Laboratory's pollution prevention and waste minimization program.”

    If this doesn’t qualify someone to be the Acting ADSR providing direct managerial and scientific research leadership to T, C, MST, and EES Divisions, as well as for a meaningful role in guiding strategic research carried out elsewhere in the Lab, I don’t know what does.

    LANL Boss, Security Under Attack

    Albuquerque Journal North
    Wednesday, February 9, 2005

    LANL Boss, Security Under Attack

    By Adam Rankin
    Journal Staff Writer

    A Los Alamos National Laboratory contractor and a former high-ranking LANL scientist have independently come forward with a range of concerns relating to last summer's work shutdown and nuclear safety at one of the weapons lab's highest-risk facilities.
    Thomas J. Meyer­ the former associate director for LANL's strategic research and a former member of the senior executive team that reports to director Pete Nanos­ is critical of the way Nanos halted the work of 12,000 lab employees July 12 over safety and security weaknesses and wants to air his views so other employees and the community can gain some perspective on what has transpired since then.
    Echoing the sentiments of some anonymous employee e-mail and Internet messages, Meyer said he feels Nanos transferred blame for procedural failures away from himself and senior managers while creating "an environment of fear and intimidation," and that Nanos went too far by publicly referring to LANL scientists as "cowboys" for not following safety and security procedures.
    "They (scientists) have been inappropriately pilloried and impugned publicly by their own director," Meyer wrote in a seven-page missive distributed to local media Tuesday evening.
    LANL spokesman James Fallin said he couldn't comment directly on Meyer's letter because he had not read it and could not comment on his resignation because that was a personnel action. But he did take issue with Meyer's depiction that Nanos is attacking scientists.
    "What (Nanos) is attacking is complacency and the attitude that things are well enough if left alone and the idea that accountability isn't something used at this institution," he said.
    In using the term "cowboy," Nanos was referring to just a few scientists who didn't follow the rules and did not apply the term to all LANL scientists, Fallin said.
    Fallin also said that as employees learn the circumstances and factors involved in Nanos' decisions, most scientists and employees understand their propriety.
    As a result of a laser accident and a 2003 clerical error that made it appear as though two classified computer disks were missing, four LANL employees were fired and a fifth, Meyer, resigned.
    After reviewing the shutdown and the circumstances leading up to it, DOE investigators reported in a Jan. 21 memo to former Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham that "we have been consistently impressed by the attitude and actions of the Los Alamos Director."
    In his letter, Meyer writes that many of the problems leading to the shutdown had previously been identified, but not fixed, and that the shutdown itself was excessive. Similar corrective measures could have been achieved through a rolling shutdown, avoiding the chaos and cost of a complete work stoppage while more effectively targeting problem areas, he said.
    A chemist and member of the National Academy of Sciences, Meyer resigned his position at LANL, effective Oct. 12, in lieu of termination following a summer laser accident that seriously injured the eye of a student intern.
    Meyer said he was tied to the accident because he oversaw the scientist responsible but that his was just an "inferential connection" without a direct link and that he couldn't have been fired for it.
    He argued that the problems that provoked Nanos to take the unprecedented move of shutting down the laboratory lie in the support and management structures "that have not kept pace as the laboratory has grown."
    Meyer also holds accountable DOE and the University of California, which manages LANL.
    At the same time Meyer has come forward, Don Brown, a LANL contractor responsible for evaluating quality control over DOE nuclear facilities, is publicly disclosing his concerns.
    On Tuesday night's "CBS Evening News," he recounted problems he said he uncovered at LANL's Technical Area-18, where the lab performs subcritical nuclear experiments.
    Hired in 2003, Brown told CBS he "started finding problems that would stop any other nuclear facility in their tracks," including more than 1,000 faulty welds, which he suggested made the facility susceptible to a nuclear accident.
    Brown said TA-18 is also susceptible to a nuclear accident, such as the one that occurred in Chernobyl, because it does not have a "containment structure."
    He also said security was lax enough that a scientist was able to walk away with radioactive material that was not discovered missing until a burglar broke into his home and police investigated.
    LANL spokesman Kevin Roark strongly contested each of those points. He said LANL officials have known about the welding issues, which were solved years ago. LANL's Fallin said the welds pose no risks to workers or the public and that "there is a very aggressive program in place to rectify the very issues" Brown raised.
    Roark said TA-18 is not required to have a containment structure because there is no nuclear reactor to contain and that the radioactive material found in the scientist's home is a type that can be bought commercially and is used for calibrating safety equipment.
    "To assert that someone walked away with materials is completely disingenuous," he said.

    Tom Meyer's Letter

    Security data shows LANL not the worst offender

    Publication:Santa Fe New Mexican; Date:Feb 9, 2005; Section:News; Page Number:1

    Security data shows LANL not the worst offender
    By DIANA HEIL The New Mexican

    Add up all the security lapses reported from 2002 through 2004 at the country’s four major nuclearresearch labs, and you’ll find the highest number of serious threats happened at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.


    Take 2 prozac and go home

    From Anonymous:

    Micheline Devaurs commented on this site that LANL management is taking part in an effort as stated "We need to recognize that the contract competition will be a continuing source of risk and anxiety for our staff. It is designed to do this so we should not be surprised. " Perhaps this is the reason why LANL management has refused to give back the 9/80 schedule. We now have Beason offering to help the head of ISR to look at the 9/80 schedule. I'm sorry guys, but this is not rocket science, and hardly justifies you two guys, with really big salaries, looking into it. Grab a government vehicle and drive down to the state building. They've done this for years. Come to think of it we did it for 4 years. It was only when George Nanos, yeh "pete's" an alias, had a panic attack and decided to change everyrthing ,that our 9/80 came under fire and was taken away. Might I suggest that you 2 looking into a "quality of life issue" is like me looking into "quality of science issues". Give us back the 9/80, and the next time "george" has a problem, tell him to take 2 prozac and go home.

    Later, maybe

    From Anonymous:

    I just got an email from an old classmate who was fed up with the Boston winters and was thinking about a senior-level software engineering job in the Southwest. My advice to him - don't come here! Think about it (maybe) in a couple of years after Nanos is gone, but don't come now.

    Contingent Worker Project, Dead

    From Anonymous:

    The highly publicized Contingent Worker Project (CWP) is apparently
    dead. The CWP was initiated to "convert" 3,000-4,000 long-time
    contract employees at the Lab and save upward of $30 million a year in
    contractor fees and gross receipt tax. It got about 1/3 done before
    the infamous Stand Down, dribbled out a few more jobs after
    resumption, and is now apparently no longer economically feasible to
    continue because of UC contract uncertainties and budget problams. The
    Stand Down will continue to rack up losses in budget monies lost and
    projects that have moved to other labs, and the 1,500 or more contract
    employees who did not get "converted" before the knee-jerk Stand Down
    get screwed.

    The "conversion" never was a conversion in any case. Employees
    basically had to apply for their own jobs. UC does NOT award
    retroactive "service credit" for years spent at the Lab as a
    contractor. Contractors do NOT get UC pension monies. So even if the
    CWP were to continue, those who were not converted in 2004 lose yet
    another year of service credit toward any possible UC pension.

    An interesting note is that the conversions that were made in 2004
    were pretty much restricted to specific directorates at the Lab. One
    specific directorate made practically no conversions, although it
    posted job ads and conducted interviews. So a UC-sponsored, Lab-wide
    program NEVER WAS carried out in an equitable manner. The CWP was
    incredibly badly planned from the get-go and swamped HR. The project
    lurched forward in fits and starts. Some groups at the Lab converted
    ALL of their contract employees; other groups converted NONE.

    So while UC employees fret about future retirement benefits (as they
    should), the many contractors at the Lab continue to work every day
    without any UC benefits at all. They continue to work every day
    without accruing any service credit. They continue to work every day
    while colleagues doing the same work in other groups and divisions but
    who were converted accrue service credit toward retirement
    pensions. Equal pay (benefits) for equal work?

    Aside from the inequity and questionable ethics employed by the Lab in
    implementing the CWP, there is also the issue of job security. As was
    announced at a recent "brown bag" lunch, contractors are easy to get
    rid of. If the 2006 budget is as bleak as we're being led to believe
    it is, how many contractors will simply lose their jobs? It has
    happened before.

    The bottom line is that Lab management has screwed up again. It has
    botched a worthy initiative and has clammed up about the status/future
    of a once-publicized project. Rich Marquez gave a much-publicized
    update to the state legislators in August 2004, but nothing much has
    been said since. It is likely that more than 1,500 long-time workers
    at the Lab will be denied UC status and maybe even denied a job all
    because of mismanagement at high levels.

    And even now I can hear the Director's response because we've all
    heard it before: If you don't like it here, go work somewhere else!
    Maybe it's time the Director took his own advice.


    From Anonymous:

    Please remember when addressing current director Nanos that he never attained the distinction of Admiral. He was simply a Vice-Admiral deserving no credit for an Admiral's distinction. The difference in rank is significant.

    LANL auditor claims he was demoted after pointing out safety concerns


    LANL auditor claims he was demoted after pointing out safety concerns

    Last Update: 02/09/2005 6:12:45 PM
    By: Associated Press

    ALBUQUERQUE (AP) - A quality assurance auditor at Los Alamos National Laboratory says he was demoted in retaliation for audits that were critical of lab safety and security practices.

    Don Brown has filed a complaint with the U.S. Labor Department.

    Brown says he was involved with two major audits at the lab beginning in June 2003 before he was demoted in the fall of 2004.

    The first audit found that more than half of the welds inspected in the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Building were defective.

    Brown says in his complaint that before he and co-workers could complete the audit, lab managers told them to stop.

    A lab spokesman says management doesn’t ignore safety concerns from employees, and that any welding problems at the research building presented no threat to safety.

    Budget squeeze spares LANL

    ROGER SNODGRASS,, Monitor Assistant Editor

    It was face-the-music day in Washington, D.C., as Bush administration officials presented an austere budget proposal for next year, with deep cuts to many social programs on Monday.

    Doug Beason, new ADTR

    From Anonymous:

    Here's a status update from Doug Beason, new ADTR.
    I caught his all hands meeting on LabNet and I was positively impressed. He's trying to be a Theory Y manager working under a a hard-core Theory X boss, so I don't think he'll last too long. He alluded to that in his talk, when he explained that he maintains his residence in Albuquerque and, as a retired military officer, he doesn't really need the money from the LANL job. I got the impression he was doing it for the challenge and perhaps out of a sense of duty. We could use more like him.
    For further insight, check out "The toxic handler" at
    You can also Google for Theory X, Theory Y. While somewhat passé, it provides some insight into management behaviors.
    The mention of the NASA RTG's for the Pluto mission is telling - LANL is the only place in the country where you can build them, and with Nanos' shutdown, it jeopardized the entire NASA mission because there was the possibility that they wouldn't make the launch window. Looks like some people worked really hard to pull this one off. We thank you, even if Nanos doesn't care.

    From: "J. Douglas Beason" <>
    Colleagues -
    I've just finished my second week in my new job as associate director, and I am still on an emotional high. I've only just begun to see the vast capability that exists across TR, and I continue to be impressed with the competence and professionalism of everyone I meet. I want to thank you for your support, and I sincerely appreciate the work everyone is doing.
    I will try to communicate with you at least every few weeks by e-mail, and in addition to my walk-arounds, I want to make myself available via brownbag lunches, as well as group and division meetings. We'll set up a schedule for my visits, but please feel free to work with your line management if you'd like me to speak to you sooner. We have 1,200 people in TR, and I want to make myself as available as I can.
    As far as what's been going on in TR, this past Friday, TA-18 came up for Level 3 work! This is great news, and everyone should be proud of this accomplishment. As an example of what this does, this frees up the Jupiter Icy Moons Orbiter (JIMO) work, which is the first of the many programmatic items that had been backed up. If Naval Reactors says "go," we can do some important characterization and criticality work for JIMO. . . as long as it doesn't affect Early Move, which is the 800-lb gorilla driving TA-18's work and schedule.
    The TA-18 resumption also allows us to conduct the first of a series of IAEA safeguards training schools. Many people are working hard to get it in place and congratulations to all involved.
    Some additional news is that Randy Erickson's program folks have delivered the Radioisotope Thermal Generators to NASA for the Pluto mission. Because of the stand down, they delivered not as many as originally hoped for, but enough to get the launch underway on time. NASA will have to ramp down a little on power usage over the life of the mission, but it's better than the alternative, which would have delayed the mission to a later launch window, 200 YEARS from now.
    Although I've only been on-board the TR office for 2 weeks now, I've been called to the University of California for most of next week to learn about the contract proposal. The week after, I will be in Washington, DC to introduce myself to some of our major customers, and after I present a paper at a conference (which I had promised to do last fall), I'll be back at Los Alamos. I've asked Cliff Giles and Paul Weber to cover for me while I'm gone, and I'll be participating in meetings via conference calling when possible.
    Again, I'm excited for the opportunity to work with all of you. In my first TR "All-Hands" meeting two weeks ago, I promised I'd concentrate on people first, and balance this with ensuring our programmatic deliverables and increasing our science. As a result, in the next few weeks I'll be championing activities ranging from the alternate work-week study being conducted in ISR to other "people programs" of which I'll be looking for your feedback.
    Finally, in the spirit of Jefferson Airplane's charge to "feed your head," I'll be ending these missives with what I've been reading and listening to … so you'll know where I'm coming from if I ever start rambling:
    Book of the week: "Whiteout," by Ken Follett (a biothreat thriller)
    Album of the week: "Toto: Past to Present," by Toto
    Quote of the week: "What we do in life echoes through eternity." from Gladiator
    Best regards - Doug

    I'm not quite sure what to make out of this myself,

    But somebody requested that it be posted:

    More on the CREM II Incident

    From Anonymous:

    I was just wanted to inform blog readers of a couple of finer points associated with the CREM II incident that may not be widely known:

    1) All are aware that NNSA concluded on 28 January that the "missing CREM" never existed and what actually occurred was a clerical error. Did you also know that this very same story was spelled out in excruciating detail on a white board where the first 11 LANL employees being placed on Investigatory Leave were sequestered the morning of July 22nd (black Thursday) before being escorted off LANL property?

    2) On July 24th, the first Saturday following black Thursday, a picnic was organized at North Mesa Park and attended by some of the employees placed on Investigatory Leave and a few X-division personnel who had first hand experience with the investigation that followed the previous, famous, missing hard drive incident in X-division. After the picnic, laboratory management got wind of the event and accused the X-division personnel and other picnic organizers of attending a "conspiratorial gathering" designed to impede the investigation. Keep in mind, this was a picnic, off LANL property, on a Saturday.

    Tuesday, February 08, 2005

    Blog In The News

    I suppose I should acknowledge that the blog itself has been in the news recently.

    We are *ALL* in this together!

    From Anonymous:

    I am getting a bit tired that all the emphasis is placed on "Scientists" that are being trampled on. I am a TEC and feel just as trampled on as the scientists, perhaps even more so. I am sure that others in support (non-scientist) roles feel the same way. I agree that Science should be at the top of the agenda. However, top notch science requires excellent support as well. While the events of the past few months have made me think hard about my future here there has also been a culture of mismanagement alive and well at LANL for years that I am more concerned about. The continued nepotism, lack of a uniform HR process, clueless management and hiring of peoples' buddies has pretty much contributed to the decline. In my opinion those practices have greatly contributed to the mess we are in now.

    UC, Please Do Not Bid on the Contract

    From Anonymous:

    There is a group out there calling themselves "The Coalition for LANL Excellence" advocating that everybody hush up regarding all the glaring deficiencies in the current LANL management body. This, in the hopes that, if we are all real quiet, UC will win the new contract for LANL and Everything Will Be All Right Again. However, a recent poster to the "Coalition" news group ( more fully expresses the opinion of more than just a few of us:

    Subject: Don Janney's assumption about the wrong track

    Don Janney's leading assumption must be examined with a cool and cautious eye. I, personally, don't have any anecdote to share to the effect that Director Nanos is a bad person; my interactions with him one-on-one have been nonexistent--not even a phone call. However, Nanos is responsible for horrendous damage done to the Laboratory by his unilateral shutdown. The reasons he cited have all gone up in smoke: When he called us "arrogant," "buttheads," and "cowboys," he accused LANL, of which he had but two years experience, of a "culture" of disregard for security and safety. Yet the "missing" CREM is now declared nonexistent by the FBI; the safety statistics demonstrate that Los Alamos continued to lead Sandia and Livermore--until the shutdown, when, counter-intuitively, the rates climbed sharply. (Why? -Primarily minor accidents caused by the stress of the shutdown itself.) Now, we hear, as we suspected all along, that there exists NNSA data on security incidents at the three nuclear-weapons labs, showing that LANL is comparable to, or better than SNL and LLNL.

    Since the Director of the Lab is solely responsible for the shutdown (his words), then surely, he must take sole responsibility for his misguided actions. If his pride prevents him from resigning gracefully, then his immediate supervisor, UC President Dynes, must step forward and relieve him of command. Will he do so? No? -Pride again?

    I believe that most of the people who come to this website are most concerned about salaries, benefits, and retirement; science takes a secondary--though by no means unimportant--place in their concerns. I suggest that it should be the other way around. If the chain of command--Congress, DOE/NNSA, UC, and upper LANL management--truly cared about science, they would then care for those who do the science, and they would strive to insure a better work environment for getting that science done. In other words, science drives better working conditions; it will NEVER work the other way around. If Congress, or DOE/NNSA, or UC need to be educated about the Lab, then that's a job requiring the skills, patience, and understanding of the Lab Director. Here, we have a Director that has attacked us from within, and with no grounds for doing so! And who defended us? Surely not Congress; surely not DOE/NNSA; and sadly, UC stood by and did nothing.

    I suggest that "cooling it" is very good advice; but we must also strive to put science first, or else life at LANL will be a hollow shell of what it once was. I suggest also that people read these comments, think about them, and then write a cool e-mail to:

    I would like to add to these thoughts: UC, please don't bid on the contract. A number of us feel that you simply are not good enough for us. We would rather see a more capable organization assume the responsibility of managing Los Alamos National Laboratory.

    Budget Proposal

    The New Mexican
    February 8, 2005
    Diana Heil

    The Bush Administration dished out a few surprises for the Energy Department with its Monday budget proposal.

    "While there are some positive elements to this budget proposal, overall New Mexico's labs don't fare as well as I would like them to," U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., said in a news release.

    If Congress goes along with it, spending for the Energy Department would fall 2 percent to $23.4 billion.

    New Mexico would see a $6 million decrease over current funding, which is at $4.5 billion.

    "It's possible, even likely, that the nuclear-weapons budget may decline for the first time since 1995 in projected constant-dollar terms," according to Greg Mello of the Los Alamos Study Group in Albuquerque.

    But Mello and other anti-nuke activists aren't celebrating.

    The proposed budget is streaked with "misplaced priorities," according to Jay Coghlan of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, a watchdog group in Santa Fe.

    Back on the table are four controversial nuclear weapons programs that Congress last year either completely cut, substantially reduced or redirected, Coghlan said. Of the increased funding, $4 million, would go toward studying "bunker busters," a new weapon that could destroy hardened, deeply buried targets.

    Meanwhile, a program to stop the spread of nuclear materials throughout the world got a 15 percent increase, to $1.6 billion, a boost both senators Bingaman and Pete Domenici, R-N.M., praised.

    New Mexico workers, however, may wonder what the 2006 budget proposal means for them. Some programs in the state would swell while others would shrink.

    Los Alamos National Laboratory stands to gain more: $1.8 billion, up $29 million over this year.

    Funding at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque would decrease to $1.381 billion. That's $121 million below what it got this year, according to Domenici.

    "It's too early to speculate on what it would mean," Sandia spokesman John German said, noting that the proposed budget has a long road ahead through Congress.

    The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad also would take a hit. The budget proposal includes $226 million for WIPP, down
    $11.5 million from this year, according to Domenici.

    WIPP, which accepted its first radioactive shipment in March 1999, is designed to permanently store plutonium-contaminated waste more than 2,100 feet underground in ancient salt beds.

    Within the LANL budget is money for programs to stop the spread of nuclear materials in the world, make plutonium triggers for nuclear weapons, build the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Facility, upgrade the power infrastructure and accelerate cleanup of contamination on lab grounds.

    There's also $27 million for the controversial and vastly over-budget Dual Axis Radiographic Hydrodynamic Test facility, an X-ray machine intended to produce three-dimensional images of materials during an explosion.

    "Accelerated" waste cleanup at Los Alamos would receive $142 million, up $23 million from this year. The state is prepared to sign a massive environmental cleanup order with the Energy Department and Los Alamos lab. But Ron Curry, the New Mexico environment secretary, said he isn't sure what the budget means by accelerated cleanup and he plans to talk to lab Director Pete Nanos about it.

    "There's a possibility that the funding the Department of Energy needs to push forward on this order could be cut," Curry said in an interview Monday.

    NNSA Test?

    From Anonymous:

    Readers of LANL: The Real Story might be interested in the
    following recent email from acting ADSR Devaurs.

    What I find particularly concerning is the 'comment' following
    the third bullet. Is the contract competition really designed to cause
    us stress and anxiety? Was this added by Nanos or did this
    come from Devaurs? The draft RFP was bad enough but is the
    entire process another 'test' that NNSA is subjecting us to in order
    to weed out the weak?

    From: Micheline Devaurs
    Subject: SR news this week


    As usual, another busy week. The Laboratory is now fully resumed, thanks in great part to all of your efforts. Although SR work has been fully resumed for some time, other Divisions and operations are only now restarting. The focus will now shift to Operational Excellence (OE).

    At the LIM this week, Pete Nanos congratulated the Laboratory on achieving restart and then proceeded to outline 4 key challenges we face as an institution for the coming months.
    * We need to focus on delivery on our programmatic commitments.
    * We need to have vigilance and not allow ourselves to fall back in the operational assurance area.
    * We need to recognize that the contract competition will be a continuing source of risk and anxiety for our staff. It is designed to do this so we should not be surprised.
    * We need to get back to our marketing and program development game plan.

    Pete Nanos discussed the fact that he has met with both the Congressional delegation and the new Secretary of Energy and discussed the issue of employee benefits, the change of which will result in employee decisions regarding early retirement. The response from all parties is that they recognize the challenge and are working to obviate any drastic impact on benefits resulting from the contract decision. The quote attributed to the congressional delegation is that "drastic changes in benefits will be dead on arrival". there is recognition though that some changes will almost certainly occur.

    Monday, February 07, 2005

    How To Post Anonymously

    I have created a new sidebar link on how to post anonymously. The instructions are repeated here:

    How To Post Anonymously

    The preferred way to post anonymously is to send your submission to and request that the post be made anonymously. A super-safe double-blind way to post anonymously is to submit an anonymous comment to an existing post. All anonymous comments are mailed to me from "", and I have no idea who they come from. I scan all comments, and those that contain important information or insight will sometimes be promoted to their own anonymous post. This method is sometimes used by individuals who are particularly sensitive to not wanting their identity tied to their comments. LANL managers, for example, who do not want people to know their true feelings about LANL's current upper management layer. I suppose this motivation would hold if someone wanted to post positive feelings about the current regime, but I have yet to put that hypothesis to the test.

    Re: The Open Letter to President Dynes

    From Anonymous:

    In reference to the Open Letter to President Dynes:

    What a beautifully succinct letter to a Gray Davis kind of cover-your-ass politician! The only thing I would add is that if a thousand LANL staff members each sent a letter to UC President Dynes with their own succinct version of this letter, in their own beautiful words, something just MIGHT happen. -Namely, Admiral Nanos might actually be relieved of command. What a BOOST in morale for Los Alamos that one single action, by a fortified UC, would be! Just stop now and imagine it... After a half a year, something positive, a glimmer of hope on the horizon.

    By the way, there is only one piece of information missing: UC President Robert Dynes' e-mail address:

    Let a thousand flowers bloom! Remember: the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. As the Dalai Lama might say, "Let your words be gentle, but full of truth--there is no harder rock than the truth."

    Trend or Exception?

    From Anonymous:

    Nuclear security Agency Needs More Scientists:

    The National Nuclear Security Administration, a unit of the Energy Department charged with maintaining nuclear weapons, is faced with a shortage of scientists and engineers, according to the Government Accountability Office."

    If this is true then you think they would do things to try to retain and entice people to come to Los Alamos rather than to do the opposite.

    I'm a highly technical staff member (when I say highly what i mean is that most of my job is technical in nature rather than managerial or project oriented). I took stock of my time spent at work last week. Approximately 6 hours or less was spent doing technical work and the rest was spent in either meetings dealing with CREM or reorgs, chasing down a myriad of non-sensical rules (I filled out over an inch of paperwork) in order to be approved to do those few hours of work, and trying to push a large number of purchases through the system which are months late. I also tried to help collegue of mine I desperatly need to complete projects and has been waiting over two years for his clearance. This is a typical work week for me, especially since the shutdown.

    So what I came to realize is that although I am a highly paid and uniquely skilled technical staff member, I spend almost NO time doing technical work to help protect the country. (which is why I came here in the first place).

    What does this mean? Well possibly it means I'm simply in a bad position and the lot i've drawn is to spend my life in paperwork and useless meetings. But a more scientific approach would be to poll this blogs readership for a small statistical sample to see who if anyone is in the same boat.

    I am very curious to see if I am experiencing a trend or an exeption.

    Questioning Costs of EP Project

    From Anonymous:

    Enterprise Project (EP) – Fraudulent Times at LANL

    Back in 2000 I attended a meeting chaired by Joe Salgado, then Deputy Lab Director. He made the statement that he didn’t know what ERP stood for, but it was a great idea. The Gartner Group, an IT for hire consulting firm, had convinced upper management that the total cost for a new ERP would be around $75 million and could be implemented in 4-5 years. The Gartner Group is still consulting on the ERP project, although it is now called the Enterprise Project (EP), and the delivery schedule has slipped to 7 years.

    The EP Project is the Oracle based enterprise project that will replace our financial system and HR. The current costs are expected to reach $190+ million and is supposed to make the Lab more efficient and allow more dollars to flow to science.

    But lets look at the history of this project. It is on its fourth project director, and the first deliverable was scaled down and released in October 2004. The project continues to underdeliver while project costs rise due to the large number of outside consultants working on this. Savings were projected at around $20 million per year, and if those actual savings can in fact be realized, it will be 10 years before the project breaks even.

    What was wrong with the old systems? We got paid, we were able to purchase items and have them delivered quickly. It is the palace building of our senior management that feels a need to use taxpayer monies to construct shrines similar to what we recently saw in Iraq with palaces and statues of Saddam Hussein. I am surprised that there has not been erected a statue of Sir (or is it cur) Pete Nanos outside the admin builing or a street named after our flagship (or it is flogship) leader.

    Like Iraq, the OIG and GAO should investigate where these dollars are going. I do not see any value for the lab or the taxpayer.

    Justified blame?

    From the 2/7/2005 LANL NewsBulletin:

    Feb. 3, 2005

    Justified blame?

    David Simmons puts it right on the mark in his Jan. 28 letter. But then the saga continues when I read with amusement (better than the real emotions I felt) that the Department of Energy/National Nuclear Security Administration is "fining" the University of California millions of dollars for "sloppy inventory controls and security failures" as stated in the Jan. 31 Albuquerque Journal. All the direction I have seen is from DOE/NNSA rather than UC.

    With all the current morale and contract issues we once again see DOE/NNSA blaming others rather than accepting the blame themselves and throwing more salt on our already open wounds. I have worked at the Lab for more than 27 years and am finding it continually more difficult to stay. I love my work and most of the people I work with, but the difficulties now incurred to perform the most mundane task is to say the least, frustrating. When I first hired on I was impressed with the concern my fellow workers had in the job they performed and pride they had in doing it. There were dangers present but they were recognized and respected.

    It now takes $5,000 worth of effort to purchase a $10 item if you can get it at all. It takes reams of paperwork and hundreds of hours of effort to perform a simple one-day job. And it has not been UC but DOE/NNSA who has been the driver of these hurdles. DOE/NNSA wants all of us to be accountable for our actions that they have so complicated and made so difficult to accomplish. They seem increasingly effective at creating the problems but blame others, and they still refuse to be accountable for the Trojan horse they have created.

    I hope I can hold out for several more years, but with each destructive and demoralizing event I have my doubts if I'll make it. I have truly enjoyed, for the most part, all my years of truly dedicated service to this Laboratory, but I am getting worn down and tired of being beat up, used, abused and made to question my ability to perform my job.

    Mr. Simmons, if working at Wendy's works out for you let me know as I may join you.

    --Doug Tuggle

    Sunday, February 06, 2005

    Security Trends

    From Anonymous:

    So, the December, 2004 Physics Today LANL safety article pretty much put to rest the myth that LANL had bad, deteriorating safety trends.

    The recently released FBI report pretty much put to rest the myth that a really bad CREM security incident had occurred at LANL.

    What about LANL's security incident trends? What about LANL's security incident trends as compared to other facilities in the DOE complex? Anybody want to take a whack at that?

    Oh, in case nobody noticed, paragraphs 1) and 2) above pretty much put to rest the myth that Nanos had good reasons for shutting down the entire laboratory last July. If someone can show that security trends at LANL were also healthy, then that should be the final nail in Nanos' coffin, shouldn't it? How many Goddamn nails should a coffin need, for crying out loud.

    Foundering Fathers

    From Anomymous:

    If President Dynes reads this, he needs to know that the skipper who drove the USS Francisco into an undersea mountain might be looking for a job. As a swabbie myself, I commend that skipper for at least he got his crippled ship back to port. Our admiral – who never commanded a real ship in the real Navy-- has managed to drive the USS Los Alamos into a mountain that is 8,000 feet above sea level but, mate, he has no clue as to what a port is and lacks the internal compass to find one anyway. It is time to have the admiral piped overboard, but Dynes or the new Secretary of Energy will have to blow the whistle, Foley and Brooks certainly lack the wind to do so. Otherwise the theme song at Los Alamos will continue to be: “Ho, ho , ho, to Davie Jones’ locker we go.”

    Nanos' Mission

    From Anonymous:

    The call for Nanos to quit, when the man is doing a perfect job, probably will accomplish little. His job is to demoralize and rip the lab apart, and he is very good at it. The lab needs to outsource facility management, and soon the entire waste management and environmental work. So where do you get the approximately 2,000 positions required to do this, if a RIF (LANL is not good at this)is not an option? Well guess what, there are 2,200 employees over the age of 55 at LANL, and 3,700 over the age of 50. If one can anger enough of these people, by making their work environment a living hell, maybe enough will retire or leave.
    Do not kid yourself, there are only a handful of people that really need to be retained.
    What to do? Relax a little and follow the revised RFP. Make no mistake, the reason that Nanos appears so glum lately is that together with our political advocates we shot huge holes in his ship.
    If we hang together, and endure the man a little longer, we will still be here and he will be gone. In the next few months, when management makes us do something really stupid, smile and think how nice it will be when THEY are gone. So for a while, just smile.

    LANL and NASA

    From Anomymous:

    The foreseeable outcome of the past two years of turmoil at LANL and the contract recompetition will be the lab following the declining path of NASA. All the smart old white guys who made the technology happen will be encouraged to retire and the replacement workforce will be chosen to "look like America," regardless of their academic preparation or contribution to the mission. Meeting AA/EEOC targets will be the primary metric used to evaluate the new managers.
    Fortunately, our mistakes will continue to be hidden behind the veil of secrecy, so SNAFUs like Solar Max, Hubble, Challenger, and Columbia will not come to light.


    From Anonymous:

    2/5/2005 "Missing Journals Spark Mistrust" ABQ Journal North Edition
    1/31/05 "Blog a Forum for LANL Workers" ABQ Journal North Edition
    1/30/05 "'Missing' LANL Disks Weren't" ABQ Journal North Edition
    1/30/05 "FBI: Lab never was missing disks" Santa Fe New Mexican

    These stories will have no effect on the monumental problems with LANL
    management unless they appear in the New York Times, the Washington
    Post, etc.

    How about suggesting to the Journal's Adam Rankin and The Santa Fe New
    Mexican's Diana Heil that they should send them to the wireservices?
    How about numerous phone calls to Udall's, Bingaman's, and Domenici's
    offices pointing out what folks have sent to the blog? How about
    contacting CNN to see if they would be willing to provide a link to the
    blog from their main page? Without national attention nothing will
    happen. If people really want a change, then the story must be


    From Anonymous:

    The most recent audit from the IG (November 2004) on LANSCE basically says "fix it or scrap it." The facility is obsolete and work that used to be done there can now be done elsewhere.

    New Draft Student Policy

    From C. J.:

    Has anyone read the new policy (still in draft form) concerning work
    with students? This policy was drafted as a corrective action plan as
    a result of the student injured by the laser last summer. They are
    writing this up to describe the required training for students and
    mentors. But I would particularly like to draw your attention to
    sections 4.6.5 and 4.6.6 (I isn't a long document and if I
    got these numbers wrong, it should still be easy to find). These
    sections state that:

    All LANL students doing work (and it is clear that they mean either
    office or lab work) shall be supervised by their mentors or
    equivalently-qualified staff members 100% of their time. Any mentor
    who violates this policy is subject to disciplinary action.

    In my 2.5 years at the lab, this is by far the dumbest thing I have
    read yet! (And that is saying quite a bit given the advent of IWDs.)
    So that means we have to supervise our students as the read their
    email, go to the library, read articles, and write papers. What about
    when we have uncleared students? That means that I need to relocate
    outside the fence while they are here.

    And what will all of this accomplish? Not a bloody thing! The
    student who was injured with the laser was working WITH HER MENTOR
    WHEN IT HAPPENED. That injury would not have been prevented. If this
    policy is adopted (which, the plan is, that it will be finalized by
    March some time), the end result will be that nobody will take on
    students because upper management, in its infinite wisdom, has decided
    that it can make things right by adding more paperwork and policies.

    I encourage your readers to fight back on this one. Contact STB.
    Contact HR. Contact your division leaders. But don't let this policy
    be accepted!

    Raiding "small science"

    From Anonymous:

    As if all the problems facing folks at the lab aren't enough, one of the weapons DAD's is now

    manuevering to raid much of the "small science" programs funding to divert $'s to

    revamping LANSCE and the P-RAD facilities. Studies are being started to make these

    "small science" programs justify themselves. How about starting by making this DAD

    justify why it is important for him to feather his nest and divert all these funds to his

    white elephant.

    Assurances From C.S. "Tyler" Przybylek

    Albuquerque Journal North
    Sunday, February 6, 2005
    LANL Workers Will Get Benefits

    By C.S. "Tyler" Przybylek
    NNSA attorney and chairman of the Source Evaluation Board in the Los Alamos management contract competition

    OTHER VOICES: The government's recent draft Request for Proposal (RFP) that competes the Los Alamos National Laboratory management and operating contract has created some concerns on the part of current and retired laboratory employees of the University of California (UC), the laboratory's only contractor since it was created in 1943.
    The laboratory is vitally important to the security of our nation and we recognize that the people who work at the laboratory are its greatest asset. To this end, it is our intent to ensure quality pay and benefits to match the high caliber of the laboratory's employees.
    Right now none of us know who will be selected as the next contractor. At this point in the process, the National Nuclear Security Administration's (NNSA) Source Evaluation Board (SEB), which I chair, has received hundreds of pages of public, academia and industry questions and comments on the draft RFP. We are analyzing those questions and comments for possible use in developing the final RFP. But while we're doing that, I want to address some concerns that laboratory employees and retirees alike have expressed about pension and retiree health benefits and set the record straight.

    Equivalency of benefits:
    Under the new contract, whether the winner of the competition is a new contractor organization or whether it continues to be UC, should they bid and win, there will be no requirement for an automatic reduction in benefits. The new contract will have a requirement for substantially equivalent benefits for employees who transfer to the successor contract.

    Retiree pensions and medical benefits:
    Retirees will continue to receive their pensions from the University of California Retirement Plan (UCRP). Although, as the UC Retiree Handbook states, there is no vested right to retiree medical benefits, retirees will continue to enjoy medical benefits administered by either the new contractor or UC, with the costs being reimbursed by NNSA.

    Alleged siphoning of pension funds: The government has no intention of siphoning off pension funds. We have a contract obligation to reimburse UC for any contributions it makes. The government will not permit any contractor to siphon off pension funds­ that's illegal.

    Continuity of service credit: If a new contractor is selected, current laboratory employees who decide to transfer to the new contractor will receive full service credit and have their portion of UCRP assets and liabilities transferred to the new contractor's site-specific pension plan.

    Fiscal status of the UC retirement plan: Laboratory employees know that UCRP currently enjoys an excess of assets over liabilities and many feel that the government has no role to play concerning UCRP.
    After all, no contributions have been needed since 1990 due to the healthy funding status of the plan. However, the most recent Actuarial Valuation Report prepared by the Segal Company for the UC Trustees suggests that contributions will have to be made in the next few years, possibly as soon as 2007.
    These employer contributions will continue to be reimbursed by the government.

    Opportunity to evaluate a new benefits package: The SEB is examining what needs to be done to design an appropriate extension to the transition period under the new contract that will provide employees sufficient time to evaluate the benefits package offered by the new contractor while they are still UC employees, in the event that an entity other than UC is selected and, in that light, make their own employment decisions.
    Should headquarters approval be received to extend the new contract's transition period, we would need to negotiate such an extension to the current contract with UC.

    Having made these points, I would ask employees of the laboratory to withhold judgment on the future of the laboratory and not make any career decision until they have had an opportunity to review the benefits package to be offered under the new contract, to consider their options under the existing pension plan, and to have a few months of experience with the contractor that will operate the laboratory under the new contract.

    I invite everyone who is following this process to regularly monitor its status through our Web site,

    Przybylek is an NNSA attorney and chairman of the Source Evaluation Board in the Los Alamos management contract competition.

    Still Trying to Hide The Story

    From Anonymous:

    Here we are again, hiding the real story from the public, even though Nanos has wasted over $850 million dollars.

    Briefing on July 2004 CREM security incident is Wednesday

    Laboratory personnel with an L or Q clearance can learn more about the July 2004 CREM security incident at a presentation scheduled for Wednesday (Feb. 9) in the Administration Building Auditorium at Technical Area 3. Scott Gibbs, acting associate director for the Security and Facilities Operations Directorate (SFO), will present a talk entitled "July 2004 CREM Security Investigation: Results and Path Forward."

    Gibbs will detail the investigation into last summer's missing CREM incident. Gibbs will recount the inquiry teams' findings as well as highlight the root causes and actions taken to prevent future incidents.

    The talk is at 1:30 p.m., and will only be available by attending the presentation in the auditorium. The talk will not be broadcast on LABNET, nor will it be accessible on desktop computers. No uncleared people will be allowed in the auditorium.

    Saturday, February 05, 2005

    Investigating the Missing Issues of Physics Today

    Albuquerque Journal North
    Saturday, February 5, 2005

    Missing Journals Spark Mistrust; Issue Had Column Critical of LANL

    By Adam Rankin
    Journal Staff Writer
    Call it the case of the missing issue of Physics Today. But is it a case of conspiracy or coincidence?
    Most likely coincidence, according to magazine and Los Alamos National Laboratory staffers who are investigating the disappearance of nearly one-quarter of Los Alamos National Laboratory employees' copies of the scientific journal two months ago.
    But conspiracy theories that have grown out of the disappearance, offering a telling glimpse of morale at the lab. The issue featured a column critical of LANL management.
    About 100 out of 450 issues of the popular monthly magazine published by the American Institute of Physics failed to turn up in employee mailboxes. Some feared the worst­ that LANL managers blocked delivery because the magazine contained a letter critical of LANL director Pete Nanos and his rationale for halting all work at the nuclear weapons research facility last July because of safety and security concerns.
    Since the shutdown, employee morale has plummeted as uncertainty over pending management contract negotiations, benefits and pensions percolates among workers.
    LANL public affairs director James Fallin said the laboratory is working with Physics Today and laboratory mail room managers to figure out what happened to the copies that were never delivered.
    "There never has been nor would there ever be any attempt to keep those kinds of publications away from employees," he said.
    Mail room managers are now working on a way to track periodicals so that if they aren't delivered, the reason can be determined, he said.
    The author of the critical column, 32-year LANL theoretical physicist Brad Holian, said the question of the missing December issues remains a hot topic in laboratory employee chatter.
    "I think it speaks to the morale and it also speaks to the degree of trust that people feel toward the management," Holian said, adding that he doesn't believe there was a conspiracy himself.
    His column on safety, which challenged LANL director Pete Nanos' assessment that a "cowboy" culture made work at the nuclear weapons research lab unsafe, used numbers gathered and posted by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the U.S. Department of Energy.
    According to the numbers, Holian argues that "From 2000 onward, LANL took the lead in safety performance among comparable labs in the DOE complex ... "
    Holian's column was a direct challenge to the primary reason Nanos gave for calling a halt to all work at the laboratory, costing millions in taxpayer dollars and frustrating scores of scientists.
    On a popular employee Internet blog, one anonymous employee questions: "Could LANL management really have been so, well, ill advised as to have ordered (the magazine's) sequestration in an attempt to hide the facts from LANL employees?"
    Another employee responded: "I wondered where my copy of PT got off to, now I know!"
    Holian is more temperate.
    "I personally don't think that it is really a conspiracy, because you can always explain it by some incompetence somewhere," he said. "But it sure is telling whether some people jump immediately to the defense of the director."
    Fallin said mail room managers understand the importance of Physics Today to lab employees.
    "They are just wringing their hands over there in the mail room," he said. The magazines are shipped second-class bulk mail so they are difficult to track, he said, adding that LANL mail room managers are checking with the postmaster in Albuquerque to find out what might have happened.
    "It has been looked at from just about every possible angle," Fallin said.
    He said there is no indication of wrongdoing and that most people did get their December issue of Physics Today.
    In discussions with the magazine's editor, Fallin said he learned LANL has about 450 subscribers, 270 of whom responded to queries on whether they received their issue. Of those, Fallin said, about 100 didn't receive copies, though they could read the issue online.
    LANL may post Holian's column on the employees' Reader's Forum, Fallin said, so that everyone is guaranteed to be able to read it.
    Physics Today reporter Paul Guinnessy is taking a look at the lab closure issue and plans a story for the March edition, which will include a new column from Holian and two responses to Holian's original op-ed from LANL managers.
    With 125,000 subscribers, Guinnessy said, the magazine normally gets about four or five requests for new copies because issues weren't delivered.

    Leadership at LANL

    From Anonymous:

    As a retired military officer and manager at LANL, I am personally embarassed by the inept leadership coming from the Director. While his leadership style may work in the middle of the ocean with the UCMJ at his disposal, it is inappropriate (even destructive) to apply to thinking people on land with lots of options. Sadly, the caliber of the rest of the Senior Executive Team is low leading to a complete lack of direction for LANL. I have never seen such a high concentration of senior managers so willfully insulated from the real world any where or at any time. My only hope is that UC will not get the contract and new management will take over the Lab. This will be a difficult place to unscrew and will take enlightened management to do it.

    Friday, February 04, 2005

    What cowboys _really_ are

    From Anonymous:

    This Wall Street Journal Editorial gives the proper definition of "cowboy":

    [...] So can they call us cowboys? You bet. Because we are. Our response ought to be that of the Virginian when he was described as a son of a bitch: "When you call me that, smile!"

    NNSA, black kettle

    From the 2/4/2005 Los Alamos Monitor Letters section:

    From Bob Park, American Physical Society

    13 Aug 2004
    The word from Los Alamos this week is that the missing disks from the
    weapons division, which have had the government in an uproar (WN 16 Jul
    04), never existed. A sheet of 20 labels was printed out and entered into
    the database, but only 18 were used. As a result, 23 scientists were placed
    on leave and research has been halted for weeks as the FBI hunted for two
    nonexistent disks. If this incident was really a clerical error, rather
    than a consequence of the lab’s "culture of arrogance," then somebody owes
    these scientists an apology.

    Reasons for Leaving LANL

    From Anonymous:

    I recently joined the ranks of those mid-career scientists who decided to leave LANL for an academic position rather than pretend to support the laboratory's corrupt, self-serving, and frankly hateful senior managers. How these people rose to such positions of power seems incomprehensible, but they have bought into the nepotism game and appoint their friends into other high-level positions, thus eliminating true competition from qualified outsiders. LANL's senior management would never make it in the real world of modern business practices, but then again they don't seem aware that there is an outside world.

    I could no longer tolerate seeing our taxpayers' dollars wasted and misallocated on
    projects that senior managers dismiss at will and redirect towards their own interests. They've created a culture at the Lab of broken promises, fostered by insecure leaders who've become entrenched as if they're under attack. Are they accountable to anybody? Numerous LANL employees who've attempted to complain or initiate whistleblower intitatives no longer work there as the senior management retaliated against them. If one wants to get promoted into a senior management position, they must figure out pretty quickly that they'll get paid big money to be silent and not criticize their colleagues or make any decision that might stir up the pot.

    And heaven forbid if a LANL employee gets too much recognition from outside the institution. My Division Leader turned out to be a pathological liar with a passive-aggressive complex, and the deputy Division leader a vindictive and
    not-well-liked opportunist who backstabbed his employees randomly. Example: one of my young colleagues in my division received a great deal of press and a prestigious nationally-recognized prize for his work. What did the Division leadership do? Cancel his funding. Oh, and does anyone remember Dr. Paul Ginsparg of T Division? Paul was very talented and became famous for his work on the arXiv web publishing project. Rather than support him, LANL management drove him out. Paul moved to Cornell in 2001, and received the prestigious MacArthur Genius award in 2002.

    In the early 1990s I was very proud to work at LANL, but given the past few years'
    antics I can no longer say that as the atmosphere there degenerated into one that is
    personally and professionally destructive. Its terribly saddening to see such a great institution pulled down so low, but I'd rather enjoy my academic post that pays a little less than I was making at LANL rather than have to put up with superiors taking credit for my work, supporting rampant plagiarism, and going on all kinds of taxpayer-funded travel simply for fun. When I tried to report this behavior to the level of management above my Division Office, I was told to be quiet and was blocked from getting on that Associate Deputy Director's calendar.

    A LANL HR recruiter once told me that working there was "all about the retirement."
    Wow! If that's the case I hope the UC contract gets canned so the senior management
    has to work for a living for once in their lives.

    Posting Guidelines

    Apparently, even this blog needs some posting guidelines, so here they are (you can also find them under the "Posting Guidelines" link on the right-hand side of this page).

    Posting Guidelines

    Send submissions to Indicate whether or not you want the posting to be submitted anonymously. If so, the posting will be listed as "From Anonymous". Anybody is allowed to comment; all comments are made anonymously.

    Sadly, even this blog needs some posting guidelines, so here they are: keep it professional. If you don't, it won't get posted. For those few of you who need to have "professional" spelled out for you, try the following:

    1. no racism,
    2. no personal attacks,
    3. try to stay on-topic, and
    4. try to use whole sentences.

    UC still unsure on lab

    UC still unsure on lab
    Meanwhile, new report finds allegedly missing classified disks never existed

    Thursday, February 03, 2005


    In the midst of all this seriousness, a friend sent me the following.

    What if there were no hypothetical questions?

    Is there another word for synonym?

    Would a fly without wings be called a walk?

    Why are hemorrhoids called "hemorrhoids" instead of "assteroids"?

    Whose cruel idea was it for the word "Lisp" to have "S" in it?

    If you ate both pasta and antipasto, would you still be hungry?

    What was the best thing before sliced bread?

    One nice thing about egotists: they don't talk about other people.

    If the police arrest a mime, do they tell him he has the right to
    remain silent?

    If you spin an oriental man in a circle three times does he become

    Atheism is a non-prophet organization.

    If man evolved from monkeys and apes, why do we still have monkeys and

    I went to a bookstore and asked the saleswoman, "Where's the self-help
    section?" She said that if she told me, it would defeat the purpose.

    and last, but clearly least,

    Do infants enjoy infancy as much as adults enjoy adultery?

    Computer Support Issues

    From Anonymous:

    In my over-20 year career at Los Alamos National Laboratory, I have seen very few examples of employees being treated dishonestly. However, since the shutdown, my Division office has been seriously mistreating the people whom I depend upon for important computer support.

    My Division has never had a team of system administrators. Rather they have attempted to spend as little as possible, hoping that staff members could provide computer support as well as fulfill their real job responsibilities. For a period of time almost 9 years ago, we had a CCN-2 employee who provided some of us with support. Because one CCN-2 employee was not enough, our Division generated a service contract with a woman-owned small business in Albuquerque that already had one Q-cleared employee on site supporting one of our groups. Shortly after this service contract was set up, the CCN-2 employee quit the Lab. We were left with the support provided by this company - three Q cleared LANL retirees.

    Their support has been outstanding. If there are weekend problems, one of them always responds to email. If there are problems after hours, one of them always responds to email. If necessary, we can reach them at home after hours. They work with us to provide what we need in a timely manner. With what appears to be very little effort they manage to make sure that there is always someone available, yet they all seem to take vacations. Even when on vacation, they monitor their LANL email and respond if necessary.

    However, the CWP and the shutdown are being used as excuses to dismantle this service-oriented team. They have been forced to work from month to month while our Division attempts to assemble a team to provide the support that three less then fulltime people provide. This cost effective way of dealing with computer support in a time of tight budgets is being done "behind the backs" of our current computer support team. Our Division has never discussed their plans with these people; they have no regard for the work these people have done; in fact they belittle this work, never acknowledging how important the over 60 years of total experience is to the user community in the Division. So much for the Director's core values of openness and honesty.

    I am ashamed of my Division Office and its inability to treat people in a straightforward manner. I am ashamed of the Director who allows this to happen. I am ashamed of those whom I work with who will not speak up because they fear for their jobs if they tell the Division office that they do not agree with their decisions.

    I work with cowards, and I will retire soon.

    February Nature Magazine News Article About the "Missing" Disks


    I received a prompt and polite rejection to this from the Reader's Forum
    so I am sending it to you.

    Date: Wed, 02 Feb 2005 08:51:46 -0700
    From: David Simmons
    Subject: Improving morale

    Improving morale.

    Given the current atmosphere of intimidation and fear at the Lab., I was astonished that the Reader's Forum promptly published my letter "Farewell LANL." This encouraged me to submit a suggestion for improving morale that I mentioned to a colleague. He liked the idea and so do I.

    Roman commanders occasionally used a procedure after troops of the Empire had done badly in battle. The name of this practice is the origin of the word "decimation". After drawing lots, every tenth solder was killed by his fellows. This reportedly improved morale and performance.

    Perhaps some modern (and possibly less lethal) version of this could be tried here. And perhaps the 10% could be heavily weighted towards upper management at the Lab. This would be far more humane than the death by a thousand indignities that staff members are currently suffering.

    I regret I will miss any possible benefits from such an action as I have resigned from the Lab effective this March.

    And so as the sun sinks slowly behind the Jemez this is the old cowhand from the Rio
    Grande wishin' y'all happy trails!

    David F. Simmons
    Chief Assistant Associate Principal Vice-Deputy for the World's Greatest Science, Acting
    and Technical Staff Member
    DX Division
    Los Alamos National Lab

    Open Letter to President Dynes.

    From Anonymous:

    Open Letter to President Dynes

    Dear President Dynes:

    In case you haven't been keeping up with the news lately, you need to know that we are in trouble here at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Seven months ago our director, Admiral George P. Nanos shut the entire lab down claiming that we were flagrantly violating security and safety guidelines. In December, Physics Today (a well respected, peer reviewed professional journal) published an article that refuted Director Nanos' claims of deteriorating safety trends at LANL. Last week, the FBI released a report that belied the director's claims regarding the nature of the now famous "missing CREM" incident.

    Where have you been lately? Your silence regarding these recent developments has been noticed. We at LANL have endured 7 months of derision, abusive treatment and ridicule at the hands of our director. Many staff members have left as a result. So have many customers. You should know that your continued silence on the matter of LANL will be interpreted as complicit agreement with Director Nanos' actions. In which case, I would like to suggest that UC consider not bidding on the next contract for Los Alamos. We need better management than we currently enjoy.


    One of the remaining LANL staff members.

    Wednesday, February 02, 2005

    Comment on the blog

    The following was prompted by one of the blog readers (BTW, as of 2/2/2005 we have had nearly 12,000 page views on the blog since January 9).

    Quoting from the reader who suggested this post, "
    Some of the quotes come across as grey on white (low contrast) and are hard for my old eyes to see. Can you up the contrast?"

    Translation: This is an uncensored forum. If you have something to say, either unabashedly good or unabashedly bad about the current state of affairs at LANL, the current management regime at LANL, UC, NNSA, or DOE, you should feel free to post here. Don't be circumspect, you can say what's on your mind.

    Anonymity is guaranteed for posts, if requested. You have no choice regarding comments: they are all anonymous.

    If, on the other hand, you feel that things at LANL are currently just hunky, by all means feel free to not say anything.

    *Personal invitation: LANL management are welcome here too. Unlike the LANL NewsBulletin, there are no edits performed on posts, and anonymous posting is allowed.


    My Vote for Comment of the Week

    "Does this guy really think I'm going to appreciate a sentimental Christmas or New Year's "card" from a guy who has insulted me and my co-workers by every possible means, with no intervening expression of remorse?"

    Another insight into the current environment at LANL

    LANL in the News

    Wednesday, February 2, 2005

    Headline News
    Lab's deficiencies cost UC $5.8 million

    ROGER SNODGRASS,, Monitor Assistant Editor

    The missing CREM didn't exist.

    Federal nuclear chief Linton Brooks announced late Friday afternoon that several investigations of an incident at Los Alamos National Laboratory last July have concluded that the supposedly lost Classified Removable Electronic Material never existed.

    "There was no evidence of criminal activity," said Kevin Roark, a laboratory spokesperson. "There was an inventory discrepancy that occurred because two bar code slips were generated but were never actually attached or signed to any physical CREM item."

    Brooks' statement mentioned the resolution of the CREM problem in passing, while handing out what the announcement called, "the largest fee reduction imposed on a national laboratory in history."

    "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," said National Nuclear Security Administration Administrator Brooks in a prepared statement.

    "Of even greater concerns are significant safety weaknesses which came to light at approximately the same time."

    Brooks explained how he calculated the fine, charging $2.1 million for the safety deficiencies and an additional amount for the gravity of "the weaknesses uncovered."

    Brooks continued, "I consider this an appropriate indication of the severity and systematic nature of the problems uncovered at Los Alamos, problems which have already resulted in substantial loss to the government."

    In the same announcement, Brooks gave the laboratory a "good" rating for achieving its mission objectives last year, including non-proliferation activities and establishing a strong science base. "Good" represents a "three" out of a possible "four" rating.

    After the non-existent CREM was thought to be missing, a laser accident caused serious injury to a student intern.

    After that, laboratory Director G. Peter Nanos announced a total suspension of activities at the laboratory. Most activities have gradually resumed over the last six months, while laboratory officials have said they identified thousands of safety-related corrective actions.

    As a result of the CREM incident and the laser incident, 23 employees were placed on administrative leave; four were eventually fired; one resigned and seven were penalized.

    Suspicions about the existence of the CREM were raised when Sen. Pete Domenici, R-NM, said after a lab briefing in August that there might not be any missing materials.

    Domenici responded by criticizing NNSA for giving in to negative publicity.

    "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," he said, in a statement on Friday.

    Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., said in a statement that he understood the rationale behind the financial penalties.

    "I have talked with Director Nanos several times during the past few months, and I know he has taken many steps toward meeting these challenges," he said.

    The hefty fines come at a time when the contract to manage the laboratory has been opened to competition due to business and financial management scandals that came to light two years ago.

    A Request for Proposal is scheduled to be issued by the middle of February.

    The Board of Regents of the University of California has not yet made a formal decision on whether to bid or not.

    LANL in the News

    Wednesday, February 2, 2005

    LANL Ditching Its Disks; Lab Gets Funds To Go 'Medialess'

    By Adam Rankin
    Journal Staff Writer
    In response to recent classified security concerns at Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Energy Department is allocating about $20 million to expand the lab's "medialess" computer network, reducing reliance on less-secure computer disks and CDs.
    At the same time, LANL officials are restricting access to so-called "Classified Removable Electronic Media," or CREM, such as Zip and floppy disks, by moving them into secure libraries and destroying tens of thousands of unneeded disks.
    In fact, LANL has destroyed or erased about 66,000 pieces of CREM in a little over a year, reducing its inventory from about 90,000 pieces to a little more than 23,000 pieces.
    LANL spokesman Kevin Roark said the laboratory has so far reduced the number of rooms where CREM can be stored by 95 percent, from 733 rooms down to 37, including 19 CREM libraries, which house the majority.
    He said LANL officials have also restricted employee and scientist access to CREM by a whopping 99 percent, so now only 50 people have access, down from 4,500.
    The $20 million allocated for fiscal year 2005 is expected to further reduce the CREM inventory, Roark said.
    All these actions come on the heels of 24 months highlighted by a series of clerical errors impacting classified information that Congress and federal officials deem unacceptable.
    Since January 2003, four separate clerical errors have resulted in confusion over 14 pieces of CREM at LANL, 12 of which lab officials say were probably erased or destroyed, although they lack documentation to prove it.
    Two classified disks, discovered missing in July 2004, never existed. According to a Jan. 26 DOE report on the matter, a CREM custodian entered 10 bar codes into the CREM tracking database in late 2003, when only eight Zip disks had been created. The other two bar codes were never taken off the database.
    The mistake should have been caught during an April inventory, but wasn't, apparently because proper procedures weren't followed during the "hands on" inventory; the person doing the inventory recorded that they were accounted for, when they actually weren't, according to the report.
    Only after careful forensic review, analyzing the computer that allegedly created the missing disks, were federal investigators able to determine that the disks were probably never created.
    The inherent risks of a classified computer system that allows disks to be removed and tracked with a system susceptible to human fallibility have long been known to government officials.
    After the Wen Ho Lee case, in which the Los Alamos scientist pled guilty to mishandling classified data, LANL officials said they were aiming to establish a "medialess" computer network so classified information could not be copied to tapes, CDs or disks by September 2000.
    The need for reducing the number of classified computer disks was highlighted shortly after Lee's case, when a pair of computer hard drives were misplaced for 11 days and were eventually found behind a copy machine in LANL's Dynamic Experimentation Division.
    Glenn S. Podonsky, director of DOE's Office of Independent Oversight and Performance Assurance, told Congress in June 2003 that many of DOE's computer security lapses in the late 1990s "were partially attributable to the fact that DOE policies and practices... did not always keep pace with changing technology."
    But it has only been in the last year, after a series of clerical errors highlighting those liabilities, that efforts to reduce those risks have been implemented with any kind of imperative.
    In May 2004, former DOE Secretary Spencer Abraham proposed an initiative to move to a "medialess" classified network across the DOE's 59 sites over the next five years "to permanently eliminate the threat of such problems."
    Across the entire Energy Department network, there are nearly 190,000 pieces of accountable CREM that can be plugged into computers or disk drives, then carried away.

    Tuesday, February 01, 2005

    More On Housing

    From Aanonymous:

    Yep, Nanos rented in White Rock, but now lives in a small mansion in Western Area, that UC either built for him or purchased from him. I'm sure that Oppenheimer didn't own his house in Los Alamos, as the Feds likely owned it (they owned _everything_), but I'm pretty sure that UC certainly never purchased housing for any other Laboratory Directors. Nanos is a real special sort of fellow: just ask the brown-nosed folks who work directly for him.

    Nanos Trivia

    From Anonymous:

    1. UC-Paid Director's Housing?
    If you look up George Nanos on QwestDex, you get a telephone listing address of 454 Ridgecrest in White Rock. This is a modest home in one of White Rock's "less expensive" neighborhoods. If you go to the LA County Tax Assessor's office, the owner of the house in question is the "Jan and Richard Warren Educational Trust" of 119 Grand Canyon, also in White Rock. This house is a little nicer, but certainly no mansion befitting a LANL Director.
    What triggered my curiosity was a rumor that Pete Nanos had built an executive-quality custom home in Los Alamos. Then a "friend of a friend" who works at a title company in town claimed that UC bought his custom home so he could live there mortgage-free. This is only a wild rumor, but it would be interesting to see if anyone can confirm or deny it. Does anyone know if UC provided housing assistance to previous Directors?

    2. What motivates Peter Nanos?
    I'm not a psychologist, so this isn't a professional opinion, but it is based on observation of human behaviors. At one of the Director's briefings shortly after he took over, Dr. Nanos vowed to "drain the swamp." I thought that this was an interesting choice of phrase, as it conveys the opinion that the organization he took over was somehow fetid ("a fen of stagnant waters") and needed a thorough housecleaning - he seemed to view himself as having been appointed to "kick ass and take names." At the time, I was embarrassed for LANL after the sacking of Walp and Doran and I thought that his strong leadership was just what we needed to get back on track.
    Then we started seeing the "Inner Pete." My first concerns were raised in one of the all hands meetings when he subjected us to ten minutes of film clips as a motivational exercise. (BTW, I haven't been able to find that segment in any of the LabNet archives - perhaps someone remembers the particular date of the address).
    Anyway, I started pondering the message of those film clips. They all seemed to be segments of sports teams or military units composed of sad-sacks, slackers, and misfits - teams that were worthless compared to their peers. Then along came a Cary Grant-style charismatic leader who whipped them into shape, restore their pride, and lead them to greatness as the pride of the fleet. I think this is Pete Nanos' self-image. LANL was a bunch of slackers, cowboys, buttheads, and the dregs of science until Pete Nanos came in and led us to greatness.

    3. Shared fate - or punishment of the innocent.
    One of Dr. Nanos' favorite phrases to justify his management style is "shared fate" - that we're all in this together and so should be punished collectively for the errors of the few. I've been pondering this too, as to me it has some strong conservative biblical overtones of the righteous smiting the wicked.
    Clearly, the concept of punishment of the many for the sins of the few has it's origins deep in Christianity. One can almost hear the grim satisfaction of the John Ashcrofts knowing that 120,000 tsunami victims will fry in Hell forever because Adam ate the forbidden fruit 7,000 years ago. Dr. Nanos' punishing the poor Hispanics that work for Aramark for the laser eye incident, or canceling the 9/80 work schedule isn't in the same league, but seems to have its origins in the same philosophy. If someone in my group makes a mistake, will we all be sentenced Gomer Pyle-style to pushups on the quad?

    4. Hiding problems
    I was in a meeting a couple of weeks ago that included some senior people from outside LANL. One of the managers was having trouble getting some deliverables out of one of the subtask leaders and used the threat that "If I have to take this to Pete Nanos, he'll make the decision and you won't be happy with the result." On the one hand, we can applaud a management style where decision making is pushed down to the lowest possible level; on the other hand "I'm gonna tell Pete Nanos and then you'll be sorry" is a poor way to manage anyone. Threatening to "tell the teacher" is quickly becoming our current management style.

    5. Post-recompete LANL structure.
    My reading of the draft RFP is that NNSA envisioned a University-Commercial Entity joint venture of equals to run LANL. This is going to be very difficult to implement and still keep all current UC employees in the UC system. The only feasible mechanism I can see under this co-management scenario is to create a separate corporation as a joint venture (JV) between UC and the commercial entity (call them Acme Aerospace Corp). All current LANL UC employees would then be transferred to the JV, which would be responsible for all the pension and benefits as called out in the RFP, as amended. There is no way politically that all the TSMs could remain within the UC system and all the support people could be transferred to Acme Aerospace. Affirmative action and EEOC would prohibit it, as the TSMs are predominantly white and male, while the administrative support people are predominantly minority and female. You just can't split the workforce that way, and you would run into the sacred rule that no UC employee may be directed by a non-UC employee.
    The alternative, subject to a little rubber-banding of the NNSA requirements, is that UC remains the prime contractor while they agree to subcontract "management consulting" to Acme Aerospace. Acme would then be paid as consultants out of the contract as an allowable expense, but would have no direct say in the day-to-day operations of the organization. This could be a really cushy contract - lots of money and no accountability - and UC would have someone to blame if things didn't go right.

    The Director Speaks

    From Anonymous:

    To/MS:  All Employees
    From/MS: G. Peter Nanos, DIR, MS A100
    Phone/Fax: 7-5101/Fax 7-2997
    Symbol: DIR-05-044
    Date: February 1, 2005
    Subject: Thank You, Happy New Year


    This is hardly the time for a New Years message, but yesterday I
    finally felt as if a new year had arrived as we announced that
    Los Alamos had resumed operations. That this has been a dark
    time for most of us goes without saying. Many don't fully
    understand why what we have been through was necessary and many
    think that some lesser response would have been sufficient.
    Those are valid feelings and opinions and will either be upheld
    or fade over time. What is beyond dispute is that this was a
    time of uncertainty and hard work. That we suspended operations
    at a laboratory of this size and brought it back into operation
    is an unprecedented accomplishment for Department of Energy
    nuclear facilities.

    This was accomplished by personal sacrifice and dedication by the
    vast majority of our colleagues in the Laboratory. Those who
    organized the inventory of CREM and set up the new media
    libraries, those who organized the resumption process, those who
    manned the resumption review board and performed site walk-downs,
    all the division and group leaders who performed the self-
    assessments and prepared their divisions for resumption, those
    who kept critical national security work going, those who
    conducted the MOX shipment operation and the TA-18 early moves,
    and those who gave up hundreds of hours of personal time on
    weekends and holidays are worthy of our respect and appreciation.
    I am extremely grateful for what they have done and tremendously
    proud of the results they have achieved for our Laboratory. Some
    start-up work remains to be done before we are fully back on
    schedule. For example, many employees in DX division are working
    weekends to restart our hydro experiments.

    Of course, there is still the anxiety that we all share about the
    impending competition. There is not much that we can do that we
    haven't already done collectively and individually to affect the
    competition process. What we can do is to continue to improve
    the operation of our laboratory and the quality of our science as
    we build the future of Los Alamos. I believe that this will have
    a profound effect on the outcome. The Laboratory that shut
    itself down, identified 3,000 elements of operational risk,
    corrected over 300 of the most serious elements and restarted in
    six months is a Laboratory capable of any challenge. I believe
    in Los Alamos and I especially believe in the capability and
    dedication of those who work here.

    Thank you for getting us restarted and all the best in the
    New Year.

    A complement

    From Anonymous:

    Your LANL blog is a tremendous contribution to the situation here.
    Even though everyone I know seems very negative about Nanos, the
    atmosphere at the Lab kept meaningful discussions in dark corners
    among small groups of trusted people. Now, the truth will get out, and
    Nanos' hamfisted attempts to intimidate everyone into silence will

    Thank you for your excellent work.

    Be Careful What you Wish For

    From Anonymous:

    To all those advocating the removal of Director Pete Nanos, be careful
    what you wish for.

    Take a long, hard, penetrating look at the list of potential
    candidates from which (at least an Acting) Director would likely be
    drawn. The list would no doubt include the two Deputy Lab Directors
    and the eight ADs. This is the senior management team assembled and
    embraced by the Director.

    In working your way through this list of candidates, think of your
    answers to the following. Does the Director strike you as the kind of
    person that would assemble a team that would do anything other than
    take orders without question? Do you think any one of these candidates
    possesses the courage to say anything but "Yes Pete:to the
    Director? Do you think any of them fearless enough to tell Pete
    anything they think he does not want to hear? Do you believe there is
    a selfless, independent thinker with a backbone capable of leading the
    Laboratory among them? In other words, is the potential remedy better,
    or worse, than the condition from which many seek relief?

    Resounding Silence

    From Anonymous:

    All right everybody, gather 'round. Pay attention. The news is now official, what we at LANL have known for months. The two points upon which Director George P. Nanos based his entire rationale (and career, most likely) for shutting the laboratory down for 7 months have now been refuted.

    1. There were no missing disks.
    2. There were no bad safety trends.

    Where are the official announcements of recognition of these facts? Has anybody heard Director Nanos issue an apology? What about UC president Dynes? Where does he stand on this position? How about DOE? NNSA? Oh, wait, we do know about NNSA. Linton Brooks says it's not NNSA's fault (even though he "strongly" supports Nanos' decision to have shut down the lab). Back to Dynes: why is he still stonewalling? Why has he not come back from the dark side and at least slapped Nanos' wrist? Why has he not fired Nanos?

    Are all these players in our little drama simply too mortified by the magnitude of their collective screw-up to now do the right thing?

    St. Pete? We need you now.

    Farewell Los Alamos

    From the 2/1/2005 LANL NewsBulletin:

    Jan. 28, 2005

    Farewell Los Alamos

    I have enjoyed working with many good people at [the Laboratory] but have resigned as a staff member after 2.5 years. I had planned to stay five years and get vested but I am not going to make it.

    I have seen enough of management that:

    I fear [the Laboratory] is in a death spiral from which it may not recover for years, if ever. I'd rather not be there at the bottom. As I told my group leader, I'd rather work at Wendy's.

    And so as the sun sets over the Jemez ...

    I'm an old cowhand from the Rio Grande
    But my legs ain't bowed and my cheeks ain't tanned.
    I'm a cowboy who never saw a cow,
    Never roped a steer 'cause I don't know how;
    And I sho' ain't fixin' to start in now.

    (thank you, Johnny Mercer )

    --David F. Simmons

    Nanos Should Resign

    From Anonymous:

    Ok, the "missing" disks never existed.

    The "bad" safety trends weren't.

    NNSA has punished UC for bad management of LANL.

    Director Nanos works for UC.

    Why has he not yet resigned?

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