Thursday, March 31, 2005


Several of the posts below received comments today in which name-calling, personal attacks, profanity, and general immaturity were featured. They have been deleted. This blog only has two guidelines: The topics discussed must pertain to LANL and its future, and submissions must be professional. Take your trash elsewhere, please.


NNSA Link for the LANL Contract Competition Page

Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL)
Management and Operating (M&O)
Contract Competition

I will welcome them with open arms

From Anonymous:

You know, given the miserable performance of UC during the past 9 months, if LockMart has an equivalent benefits package I will welcome them with open arms as the new owner of LANL.

Dynes, Foley: do not worry, you will not be missed.

Oh, and thanks for Nanos.

UCRP Query

Dear Doug,

I thought a lot of people would be interested in this question and the semi-answer. Since my name is embedded in the messages, it need not be posted anonymously. Yours, George Baker

From: John Birely
To: Ron Nelson
Date: Wed, 30 Mar 2005 03:58:33 -0800
Subject: UCRP Query


During a meeting with los alamos employees yesterday, george baker asked if
uc fails to win the los alamos management contract, is it the university's
position that all the lab's employees are terminated from uc employment and
the vested members automatically become inactive members of ucrp unless they
retire or do something else. I did not feel competent to answer this one, so
please advise.

Thanks, john

From: Ron Nelson
To: John Birely
Date: Wed, 30 Mar 2005 20:20:30 -0800
Subject: Re: UCRP Query

If the University no longer holds the contract it has no economic means of
continuing employment of the workforce. Based on economic necessity
employees would be terminated as funding for them is ended. That may or may
not be on the same date depending on the transition plan that NNSA approves.

What you have recounted is a correct statement of what normally occurs as
individuals leave UC employment either through retirement or through
voluntary or involuntary termination. Where, as may occur at Los Alamos, all
employees are terminated based on contract expiration there may be
additional terms offered to some or all of the terminating employees if NNSA
determines that it is appropriate. Should that become the case it will be
communicated to employees as a consequence of the RFP or during the
transition period between contractors.

The media loves it if we have problems

From Anonymous:

Concerning today's findings as reported in the national news, the media does not report if there were any institutions in the intelligence community that "got it right" or at least...was close to "getting it right". According to the media, all fifteen agencies were "dead wrong".
I personally do not believe this. I am particularly interested in one of the fifteen agencies...the Department of Energy. I look forward to reading the report.
At this moment in time, we have a lot to be proud of as a national laboratory. I am personally proud to serve right here...right now.
The media loves it if we have problems and it seems that no one fully stands to support us. These are hard days.
The one thing we're proving, however, is that our curiosity and desire to understand the unknown cannot be deterred. This nation should understand that. We are a strong team that operates a precious national resource in a multitude of scientific disciplines. We stand ready to serve...and deliver real answers in science.

All those agencies...
Didn't any one of them get "it" right?
And if so...,2933,152020,00.html

If you don't find your favorite news service in this stack, please read their version.
You'll find that they all read the same.

Executive Board (EB) has decided to reinstate (or resume) alternate work schedule

From Anonymous:


I sent this e-mail earlier this week to the Group Leaders – hoping that they in return would share it with you. During my walkarounds, I realized that some of you may still not have received this update. So I am resending this e-mail to D-all.

It is my pleasure to inform you that Executive Board (EB) has decided to reinstate (or resume) alternate work schedule (formerly known as 9-80 schedule) for Staff and Management. I would like to acknowledge and thank ISR Division and Doug Beason for working through the details as part of the Pilot project. There is a lot more to be done before it is officially rolled out and a very good team, headed by Lynne Richards, is working very hard to make this happen ASAP. Until then, please recognize that my e-mail is not official communication, but an attempt at keeping you update on the progress.

Here are some details. The alternate work week as being considered for implementation is more flexible that the 9-80 schedule. It enables each Group Leader to decide between four options: 1) Alternate Work Days (9-80, 4-10, or other) spread on any day of the week; 2) Flextime (e.g., work time outside the nominal 8-5 schedule); 3) Part-time or 4) Occasional Temporary Schedule to suite a special need of a staff member.

The process will require an employee to suggest the option, but the Group Leader must decide what is the bet option. GL must ensure that core business hours for external communication and program execution would not be adversely impacted. Employee or the manager may change his/her mind regarding alternate work week twice an year (e.g., April 1st and October 1st).

A big difference from 9-80 plan of the past is that management has a right and obligation to control employee’s schedule. Group Leader will decide the work schedule for each employee and the Division Leader must then approve it. Division Leader will ensure that Group operations would not be impacted and further more that the flex program provides equitable chance for each staff member.

Still a lot of hoops to get over before this plan is rolled out for implementation. Laboratory needs to engage local community because it impacts local businesses; we need to get UC/NNSA approvals on some of the details. After that roll out will be Division-by-Division.

I will keep you updated regularly.

DV Rao

Regents determined to bid on Los Alamos lab

Regents determined to bid on Los Alamos lab

Final decision on bid might be made in April.

California Aggie (UC Davis)…Brian Chen

March 31, 2005

Los Angeles -- Despite recent security and safety issues that have placed the University of California under scrutiny, the UC Board of Regents expressed its determination to continue its management of the Los Alamos National Laboratory during its meeting held Mar. 13 at UCLA.

Under the management of the UC, LANL faced 45 nuclear safety violations from September 2003 to October 2004; the most noted accident involved an intern being zapped in the eye with a laser during the summer of 2004.

For the 2004 fiscal year, the UC received $2.9 million for managing the lab rather than the $8.7 million it could have received -- a penalty of nearly $6 million.

"It's very important to the regents that ... errors that were committed in the past have been corrected, and we are proceeding ahead with an arrangement [to ensure] that these mistakes will not occur again," Regent Gerald Parsky said during the meeting.

In his presentation of the lab, Robert Foley, vice president of UC laboratory administration, emphasized that the UC's involvement with the lab is necessary if it wishes to remain competitive in science and technology.

"The only way to assure that we have good science and tech is to have active involvement with the laboratories, and I think that's something that the university must embrace as it moves forward," he said.

Saying he previously had a "wait and see" attitude about whether to continue the UC's management of the lab, Regent Norman Pattiz said his recent visit to the lab cleared his skepticism.

"There's no question that the university needs to make sure that the university's interests and responsibilities are protected in any kind of an arrangement we can make," he said. "It's also very clear to me that the work being done [at the lab] is crucial, essential and beyond the scope of what's important to the university."

The decision to vote on bidding for the lab is still "a number of months away," Parsky said, and he made a "generous estimation" that a decision could be reached by early April.

Earlier at the meeting, Jennifer Lilla, president of the UC Student Association, gave a presentation on university-related issues in the form of a pop quiz.

One question related to the recent UCSA Lobby Day at the State Capitol in Sacramento during February, where students presented thousands of fake checks to the governor representing the amount that students were in debt.

Later, Vice President Winston Doby led a discussion on campus-based student fees, underscoring their importance to the university.

"The enrichment that campus-based fees brings to campuses greatly strengthens [the UC's] competitiveness with our public and private sectors," he said.

He noted that campus-based fees at UC Davis are $1,200, as opposed to $200 at UC Berkeley. However, he said the total cost of attending Berkeley, which includes living expenses, is about $23,000, whereas the total cost of attendance at UCD is $22,500.

Outside the building where the meeting was held, UCLA service workers, students and faculty members gathered in a rally protesting for UC service workers' wages.

BRIAN CHEN can be reached at

UTexas, Lockheed teaming up for LANL race?

UTexas, Lockheed teaming up for LANL race?

POGO is hearing rumors that Lockheed Martin will be teaming up with the University of Texas System to compete for management of Los Alamos National Laboratory. You may remember that Lockheed bowed out of the competition citing costs last summer, but re-entered the competition as reported yesterday. UT backed out this January. Now it looks like they've been talking behind closed doors.

MORE: A reader posted this quote from a UT System statement released in response to LockMart rejoining the race:

"The UT System welcomes further discussions and dialogue about ways to build on our contribution to the science and security of our nation at the national laboratories, consistent with our core competencies of research and education," the UT system said in a prepared statement."

POGO couldn't find the full statement on the UT System site, but reader IH hooked us up. We've posted it after the jump...

Lockheed Martin's Reentry in to Bid for Los Alamos National Laboratory Contract

The University of Texas System recently learned that Lockheed Martin has announced its interest in submitting a proposal for the management and operations contract for Los Alamos National Laboratory. Lockheed Martin's record as manager of Sandia National Laboratories is outstanding and has appropriately received widespread praise.

The University of Texas System has several partnerships with Lockheed Martin including a recent agreement between us and Sandia National Laboratories that will be signed in early April in Washington, D.C. That agreement provides that UT System will be responsible for assessing the quality of unclassified science and engineering research, collaborate on research projects, and cooperate on joint educational initiatives. We view this agreement between UT System and Sandia as a model of university/industrial partnerships with a national laboratory.

The UT System welcomes further discussions and dialogue about ways to build on our contribution to the science and security of our nation at the national laboratories, consistent with our core competencies of research and education.


The "double dipping" opportunity

From Anonymous:

One of the reasons that Nanos, and many other retired military folks, love to come to, and screw up, LANL is the "double dipping" opportunity. Spending 10 years at LANL, from 50 to 60, yields 25% of your base. What a plum. The Sandia plan offers no such bait. It is clear that the re-treads gain a lot from this arrangement; but what do LANL, and the taxpayers, gain? The military is not known for their science, or management. Mostly, these ex officers are hired to lobby with their buddies who are still in the military, who will look for soft billets in their turn. This rather smells of corruption, doesn't it?
Can we imagine UC hiring all these retired officers for the campuses? Hardly! Admiral Foley, of UCOP, doesn't count... he's part of lab "oversight", or should we say lab "cover up".
Interesting that John Birely referred to UC "passivity" toward the Lab management. As four different UC Academic Senate reports , going back to the 1970 Zinner Report, have found; the UC "management" is a fraud, a pretense.
You can find the Zinner Report, and others, in the Study Center. The current Lab Admin Office, at UCOP, of which John is part, is a continuing fraud. They are a lobby, not a management team.
There has been no UC "management" at LANL for 63 years, simply a pretense. Given that management is capable of making a positive contribution to an organization, perhaps its time to try some at LANL. Its unclear that UC even understands the concept.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

We have entered the end-game here at LANL

From Anomymous:

One now begins to get the sense that we have entered the end-game here at LANL. The present Director, George P. Nanos, has sufficiently alienated the majority of his staff at Los Alamos National Laboratory that his ability to be a leader is generally recognized to have diminished to nil. Similarly, his masters at the University of California can only be wishing to see his backside rapidly retreating, what with the $5.8 million dollar penalty Nanos earned them as a result of his hasty and ill thought-out decision to shut the entire laboratory down last July. On a third front, Director Nanos has a congressional committee pressuring him to produce accurate cost estimates of the shutdown.

The waiting game is on. Will an interim director be appointed as an attempt to reduce the exodus of talent and expertise now leaving LANL for more amenable work environments? If so, when? This interim director will need to be quite a salesman. His task will be to try to hold LANL together long enough for the the winner of the new contract to operate LANL to have enough of a staff base remaining to justify keeping the place open. He will need to be able to convince the scientists that still remain that LANL has a future; that it will once again become a good place to work; an institution in which one could again take pride.

There is not much time left before the flood gates open wide, and the mass exodus begins. The departure rate seen to date is a trickle compared to what we will see if UC tries to stay the course with its current choice for LANL director.

Our sponsors no longer value us

From Anonymous:

"This is a post from a compadre at the other lab.
Our sponsors no longer value us. We passionate, dedicated few - who have competed diligently and brilliantly in difficult circumstances as Lawrence, Oppenheimer, Teller foretold - are now worthless. The upcoming RFP, ignoring consequences, pegs future compensation and benefits to industrial mediocrity. Those who have collaborated with average industrial or government technical professionals realize how superior the average laboratory technical staff must be to compete here. The average industrial professional cannot be hired at a lab. Even superior mid-career hires regularly fail and vanish. They can't cut it. Yet the new contract compensates only mediocre talent, like our military cast-offs.
Being outflanked by adversaries' scientific achievements was a fear that motivated Einstein, Lawrence, Roosevelt and Churchill in the last century. They experienced the consequences. This lesson is forgotten by the ersatz Wolfowitz(s) and Rumsfeld(s) who reduce valued employee benefits to finance meaningless stockholder profits. Trade top scientists for rich leaders? Brilliance for mediocrity? Now that Dr.Teller is dead, scientific sense is no longer spoken in Washington.
How will the country recruit and train the next generation of brilliant minds under these circumstances? Will Atlas finally Shrug? "

New limerick for the contest

From Anonymous:

When our Pete got in on the act
All our best upper hands got sacked
He was truly berserk
To keep us from work
Seven months to be exact!

Now the town’s really started hummin’
Over a company name of Grumman
We all like UC
With its very low fee
Without them we’ll surely be bummin’

I guess UC’s fee was too little
And it’s truly a puzzling riddle
Why they’ll pay so much more
Then go on to ignore
That our work will become second fiddle

The Ambassador who we call Brooks
Has one point which he overlooks
If you fine them so much
Over barcodes and such
Why expect more than just dirty looks?

Now Congress wants hundreds of millions
Or even perhaps in the billions
For one big cl***
Who shut us down
When we should be run by civilians

Just today I read Lockheed Martin
After deciding that they'd be departin'
Is back in the ring
Over one little thing
One more reason for us to be smartin'

But if Cheney gets in it’s for certain
We’re really going to be hurtin’
They’ll dream up their ploys
And send in their boys
Our bosses will be Halliburton

The safety situation at LANL and other DOE labs

From Anonymous:

One item has not been mentioned in most of the material about the safety situation at LANL and other DOE labs. Around the time that the laser safety incident occurred at LANL, there were two fatal accidents at other DOE facilities (Hanford and Savannah River). While an accident involving serious loss of vision is very serious, fatal accidents are also serious. The LANL accident received international news coverage, but the two fatal accidents at other facilities were featured only in the news in the local area. This points to the continued need for safety consciousness for all hazardous activities.

From the,2590.0.html
This is a story that appeared in local newspapers in the Savannah River area (South Carolina):
A worker who died after being crushed under a tractor hoe at Savannah River Site on Monday afternoon has been identified as 30-year-old Christopher McZilkey, of Thomson.
Barnwell County Coroner Lloyd Ward said Mr. McZilkey died of loss of blood after his femur and pelvis were crushed under the weight of the heavy equipment workers were trying to move onto a flatbed truck.
The accident occurred at about 3:30 p.m. Monday, and Mr. McZilkey was pronounced dead at the Medical College of Georgia at 6:16 p.m., Mr. Ward said.
Mr. McZilkey was employed by Thomson-based Gunther Grading and Hauling, a contractor at the site, Mr. Ward said. The death has been ruled accidental.
Posted July 29, 2004, 01:51:53 PM

This is a story that appeared in the local Hanford papers.
Posted: Thursday, July 29, 2004 23:17
Benton City man dies in fall at Hanford
This story was published Friday, July 16th, 2004
By Jeff St. John Herald staff writer
A Benton City man died Thursday morning after apparently falling while he was moving a mobile office from Hanford's 200 Area, the U.S. Department of Energy reported.
Doug I. Paine, 47, was an employee of All Mobile Transporting and Repairs, a Kennewick business that had been hired to remove the surplus trailer from the area, said DOE spokeswoman Colleen Clark.
Clark said All Mobile owner Gary Orr was working with Paine when he found him unconscious after calling out for him and receiving no answer.
Paine was taken to Kadlec Medical Center in Richland, where he was pronounced dead at 12:36 p.m., said Larry Duncan, Benton County deputy coroner.
"It's unclear whether he was on a ladder at the time or on top of the trailer," DOE's Clark said. DOE is investigating Paine's death, she said.
Duncan said the coroner's office plans an autopsy today, and that the Benton County Sheriff's Office was investigating the death.
Paine had begun working for All Mobile Transporting and Repairs for only three days, said his mother, Winnie Paine. He was not married and had no children, and lived with her and his father, she said. The family has lived in the Tri-City area since 1974, she said.
Winnie Paine said her son had been taking medication earlier in the week that had caused him to collapse, but she believed he had stopped taking the medication prior to Thursday's accident. She did not say what the medication was for.
All Mobile owner Orr said his company had been hired by another local business to break down and move the mobile office. The office had been bought through the Tri-City Asset Reinvestment Co., an economic development program used to transfer surplus DOE equipment to the private sector.
The last fatal accident on the Hanford site was in 1993, when Louis Beatty, 40, of Richland, was scalded when a steam pipe ruptured in a pit where he was doing routine maintenance, DOE spokesman Connie Eckard said. Beatty died of his injuries a week after the accident.

Board cites new lab incidents, improvements

Board cites new lab incidents, improvements

ROGER SNODGRASS,, Monitor Assistant Editor

Safety issues continue to devil Los Alamos National Laboratory, according to the only independent federal observers with access to classified operations.

There have been incidents of concern, said a representative of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board in a telephone interview this morning, but the laboratory is making visible progress in its safety program.

"It's a long road ahead," said DNFSB Site Representative Charles Keilers, "But from the beginning of January to now, some things are really on the upswing, including management attention and management awareness of operational issues."

The Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board reported earlier this month that two workers were exposed for an hour to unexpectedly high levels of airborne contamination while working at the Radioactive Liquid Waste Treatment Facility at Technical Area 50.

Although they were wearing protective equipment, the workers might have been exposed to plutonium uptake, depending on the level of protection afforded by their respirators.

High measurements were found after they exited from a vault where they were cleaning an old leak, the March 11 report said.

About a year-and-a-half-ago, a tank that was meant to hold caustic waste from the nearby Plutonium Facility developed a leak.

While waiting to replace the tank, a temporary work-around called for the waste to be pumped through the tank more frequently so that only the lower half of the tank below the leak was used.

The replacement plan called for the underground vault to be decontaminated and repainted before the new tank was installed

The incident occurred after the workers had started cleaning up paint chips in the underground vault, wearing equipment appropriate to the ambient radioactivity previously sampled for the room.

Two accidents involving students in the Radiochemistry Laboratory at Technical Area 48 were reported by the DFNSB in January.

One involved a broken vial containing a low-level radioactive liquid combined with a hazardous chemical. The other occurred when a 19-year-old student dropped a wrench and caused an arc on an uninterruptible power supply.

Another problem was reported by DNFSB at the Radioactive Liquid Waste Treatment Facility in January, after an operator was sprayed by treated wastewater.

With the exception of the possible plutonium uptake - which awaits further test results - none of the incidents has caused personal harm.

Keilers said they afford educational opportunities for fixing the shortcomings in the laboratory's safety program that still needed improvement.

The laboratory's non-essential operations were suspended in July, after a false alarm from a security incident was followed by an eye-blinding laser accident involving an intern.

Activities gradually resumed over a seven-month period after rigorous safety reviews, assessments, training and safety management adjustments.

An article on the laboratory's website this morning announced approval earlier in the month of a plan for a new Operational Efficiency Program related to the continuing safety project.

"Operational Efficiency is the institutional commitment and get-well plan to address areas of high risk," Laboratory Director Peter Nanos described the project, which is designed to fix secondary problems that were not addressed during the laboratory shutdown.

A DNSFB report from February noted that managers who are responsible for plutonium, tritium and radiography operations had started a series of classes developed by the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations for nuclear power plant managers.

The training acknowledges human imperfection and the importance of learning and strengthening the organization in response to individual human errors.

"People make mistakes, but safety nets can keep something bad from happening," Keilers said. "If you work in an environment heavy on blame, you won't get people to be forthcoming and may miss the chance to fix the institution in a way that could catch the next event before it happens again."

Lockheed Martin Rejoins Lab Contest

Albuquerque Journal North
Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Lockheed Martin Rejoins Lab Contest

By Adam Rankin
Journal Staff Writer

Defense contractor Lockheed Martin announced on Tuesday that it is rejoining the competition to run Los Alamos National Laboratory, with its $2 billion nuclear weapons budget, after the Department of Energy made changes to the bidding criteria.

Lockheed, which manages Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque and Britain's Atomic Weapons Establishment in London, among other government contracts, had previously withdrawn from the competition in early August, citing concerns that a LANL bid would be too expensive.

"Our business people said it just wasn't a good business decision," explained Lockheed spokesman Don Carson.

At the time, Lockheed was widely viewed as a front-runner to manage or co-manage LANL in a partnership with a large research university.

Then-Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham decided in April 2003 to put the LANL contract up for competitive bid following a series of management failures by the University of California, the lab's current manager. The university's contract to manage LANL expires at the end of September.

Carson said Lockheed officials changed their minds about competing for LANL's contract after reviewing changes made to the proposed contract in February by the Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration.

"Our people look at Los Alamos as one of the national treasures," he said.

"Lockheed Martin didn't think the contract was structured to make it successful, they didn't think they could bring in the resources and people enough to make the contract successful," Carson said. "With the new contract they feel that they can."

The two primary factors that swayed Lockheed's decision were DOE's move to require a stand-alone pension plan and the creation of a separate corporate entity to directly manage the lab, he said.

"Those are the things that made Lockheed Martin go back and look at the contract," Carson said, adding that the changes made the competition more fair and open.

DOE and NNSA received numerous comments in December and January from interested bidders concerned that liabilities associated with running the nation's largest nuclear weapons research facility outweighed the benefits.

Rep. David Hobson, R-Ohio, wrote Energy Secretary Sam Bodman in February to say the original contract competition seemed to favor LANL's current manager, the University of California, which has operated the laboratory since 1943.

He specifically cited the university's well-funded pension plan, which competitors would have to match, because the pension is "disproportionately generous compared to any other government contract."

Hobson wrote that bidders should be given the "financial flexibility to propose the most competitive" benefits packages for their proposal.

In response to concerns, DOE lengthened the contract term from five years to seven, increased the potential management fee from a proposed $30 million to $60 million— about seven times the $8 million management fee that the University of California currently receives— and proposed requiring a stand-alone pension plan.

DOE and NNSA made the changes to encourage competition after several top bidders backed out, including Lockheed, Battelle Memorial Institute, the University of Texas and Texas A&M University.
Lockheed's Carson said the increase in the management fee was also one of the factors that prompted the company to rejoin the contract competition.

Prior to withdrawing from the competition, Lockheed had been in talks with the University of California about forming a partnership to compete for LANL.

Carson said the company is once again considering potential partners.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Where _was_ Nanos today, anyhow?

As a commenter to the post notes, Hobson's delegation has supposedly spent the day of Tuesday, March 29 in Los Alamos politely asking, "How much did the shutdown _really_ cost us, Dr. Cobb?"

Several questions do pop to mind, such as: "Where was Director Nanos during this mini-inquisition?" "Why was there yet another LANL Public Affairs Office blackout on this event?" "How much did the shutdown *really* cost? "Why was there a shutdown in the first place?"

And so on.

Other questions occur: what purpose does trying to cover up this meeting, held "in absentia" of the primary culprit serve? Does anybody think that the secret meetings were a secret? Oh, and where _was_ Nanos today, anyhow?

Blogger is Badly Broken Again

All: is badly broken again. Perhaps the support staff just need to hear from more people about problems with Like, for example, how it has not been possible to submit comments for most of the day, as has been reported to me.

Send bug reports to


Letters to and from Senator Bingaman

Letters to and from Senator Bingaman

21 February 2005
Senator Jeff Bingaman
United States Senate
110 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
FAX 202-224-2852

Senator Bingaman:
I am a 15-year scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. We need your help to save this institution from demise at the hands of its own management. The situation is very serious and the intervention of the New Mexico congressional delegation may be the only option for recovery.

We now know that all of the reasons given for the lab-wide shutdown in July 2004 are baseless. The Los Alamos staff has always worked to improve safety and security and will continue to do so, but the charges that safety and security performance were dramatically worse than the other weapons laboratories are now known to be erroneous charges. An opinion piece in Physics Today (December 2004) showed that safety at LANL is NOT substantially worse than other DOE labs. Information that emerged in the last few weeks shows that security is NOT substantially worse than the other labs. Here are numbers of serious security incidents at the three weapons labs for the last three years:

Number of security incidents, by site and calendar year (source: NNSA Public Affairs)
CY2002 CY2003 CY2004
LANL 45 42 16
LLNL 11 53 23
SNL/CA 14 13 15
SNL/NM 69 44 47

We now know that the CREM incident of July 2004 was known within days of NNSA notification to be most likely a clerical error. The laser accident of July 2004 was serious, but similar accidents have occurred at nearly every DOE facility that makes extensive use of these research instruments, and no other lab director felt compelled to shut down those labs. The technical staff of Los Alamos will continue to work very hard to improve safety and security, but we cannot do so in an atmosphere of recrimination and threats.

It has become clear that Director Pete Nanos is not exercising good judgment on important matters at LANL. He has not been a leader who garners support. He does not take input from the scientific staff, and his attitude toward us has been one of dismissal, ridicule, and contempt. He has done some good things, but these have been overshadowed by his colossal mistakes. While all previous LANL directors have been criticized, nothing compares with the present. There is unprecedented mistrust and animosity between the Director and the scientific staff.
The past several months have made it clear that neither the NNSA nor the UC are capable of digging out of the current situation. Both organizations are blinded to the distortions that the current LANL management resorts to in describing operations at the lab. Both are apparently too busy “looking tough” to recognize that creativity and innovation in defense technology are the casualties of the onslaught of the absurdly caustic and uninformed rhetoric on the floor of Congress. It is time for the New Mexico congressional delegation to act to force an overhaul of the management. If you do not, the impacts will be felt throughout northern New Mexico for years to come. The careers of hundreds of scientists and technicians will be irreparably damaged. Ultimately, United States national security will suffer.


Bernard R. Foy
Santa Fe, NM

March 16, 2005
Mr. Bernard R. Foy
Santa Fe, NM

Dear Bernard:

Thank you for writing me regarding the current state of affairs at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). I appreciate your taking the time to write.

I understand your concerns about the current situation at LANL. I remain concerned about the low morale and the impact that the stand-down at LANL has had on New Mexico’s economy and LANL employees, especially the low and mid-career scientists. When I met last year with Linton Brooks, Director of the National Nuclear Security Administration, I asked him to consider the long-term repercussions of keeping LANL closed for such a long period of time and urged him to have LANL resume unclassified operations as soon as possible. I believe that the work performed by individuals, like yourself, at LANL on a daily basis is very important to the country, and I am proud that our national labs play such a key role in helping our country meet its energy and national security needs.

It is my hope that Director Nanos and the employees at LANL can work collaboratively to ensure the safety and a quick resumption of all work activities at LANL without decreasing morale. That said, I am aware of the recent reports that many of the security lapses at LANL were in fact due to clerical errors, such as the disappearance of two Classified Removable Electronic Media (CREM) disks that in fact never existed. Safety at LANL should be of the utmost concern for the sake of national security and LANL employees. But I also believe the employees have worked very hard to ensure the highest level of safety at the LANL, and they must be recognized for their efforts. As I monitor the situation at LANL, I want to assure you that I will continue to keep the interests of the Los Alamos employees in mind.

Again, thank you for your letter. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future regarding any other matters of importance to you and your community.

Jeff Bingaman
United States Senator

Does LANL spend in New Mexico?

Does LANL spend in New Mexico?

Dear Editor,

I would like to thank Bruce Norman for his very well-written letter (Sunday, March 20, 2005). It is important for the business community to acknowledge how the last almost three years have affected all LANL employees, be they UC or contractor. However, it is also important for the business community to describe the effects on them.

It is interesting that, after several posts to that reference how little LANL is spending in northern New Mexico, LANL is now extolling how they are supporting northern New Mexico businesses to the tune of $398.5 million. However, that includes labor contracts with KSL, PTLA, the bodyshop contractors, the task order contractors whose offices are spread throughout prime retail space downtown, construction, etc.

All PC and Mac desktop computer purchases come from Just-in-Time (JIT) contracted Albuquerque companies. All printer purchases come from a JIt-contracted company in Albuquerque. All stationary comes from a JIT-contracted company in Albuquerque. Most book purchases are done online.

Many computer and printer repairs go to a contracted company. Small northern New Mexico companies are no longer awarded contracts such as air conditioner maintenance after they have gone to the expense of getting Q clearances for employees unless those contracts are over $500K. KSL gets first bid on the contracts as well as the first right of refusal, and if they refuse a contract, it's placed with a company made up of all-union members, not a small non-union northern New Mexico company.

What's wrong with this picture? Probably computers, printers, books, and stationary comprise a fairly large percentage of the goods purchased by LANL. Right now the stationary stores in Los Alamos have higher prices than WalMart, Office Depot, etc. because they sell so little and have higher markups. If they sold more to LANL, LAPS, the county and LAMC, the markups would be less, and folks would purchase more locally. The same reasoning can be applied to computers, printers and their supplies and books.

Now LANL is trying to figure out how to set up procurement contracts with multiple companies. And some of those companies are concerned that if these contracts are established, they still will not get any business. And, of course, they can't compete because they are small; they have been driven out of the marketplace by LANL's exclusive JIT contracts just as Mom and Pop stores have been driven out by Wal-Mart, Sam's, Office Depot, etc.

One way to help out northern New Mexico is to allow competition between KSL and companies that provide electrical work, air conditioner maintenance, etc. because that will put more purchasing power in the hands of the small companies' employees. Second, LANL should make it very easy for folks to purchase computers, printers, books, etc. from whoever offers the the best prices and service. Purchase stationary from local stores in northern New Mexico. Open up the market, rather than artificially manipulating it, and let everyone compete.

Patricia Max

Los Alamos


From Anonymous:

Out with mainstream media; in with blogs
Des Moines Register March 28, 2005


Among my many goals as a fledgling columnist - can you say "worldwide syndication?" - the most important is to keep my loyal readers ("Hi Mom!") informed about the latest developments in the always exciting world of journalism.

Dan Rather of CBS News gave up his anchor chair a couple of weeks ago, signing off by saying, "Courage," which disappointed me. I was hoping for, "What's the frequency, America?" Or even, "Why do I have to go? I'm better-looking than Bob Schieffer."

But that's not the big news. Blogs are.

Perhaps you have not heard of blogs. The name derives from a combination of "blather" and "logorrhea."

One of the unexpected benefits of the Internet, other than the ability to look really busy at work while filling out your NCAA tournament brackets, is that people can design their own personal Web sites and then report and comment on the big issues of the day as often as they want. These are called blogs.

This has proved to be a boon to people who apparently are (A) unemployed, (B) independently wealthy, or (C) no longer content to wait on hold to get their daily fix of attention from a radio talk-show host.

Let's put it another way: You know those people who like to write letters to the editor? A blog allows them to write letters all day long, on any subject they choose, without worrying about having the profanity removed or having any of their lunatic rants checked for accuracy.

Write all you want? No editors? More profane than a David Mamet character? We reporters have a word for this: E-mail. No, wait: Heaven.

That's one way to look at it. The other is that bloggers perform a valuable public service, uncovering scandals that your average newspaper reporters don't have time to find, because they're too busy reading blogs to see if anyone has written something nasty about them.

For example, the bloggers are credited with first raising questions about the authenticity of the documents CBS News relied on last fall to report that President Bush did not fully complete his National Guard service. Apparently they were tipped off by the phrases, "This is a forgery!" and, "Let's see if we can get Dan Rather to buy this" stamped on several of the suspicious papers.

The bloggers' success has caused much fretting and gnashing of teeth in what's referred to as the Mainstream Media. Editors figure that if the blogs ever figure out a way to reprint Jumbles, we're all going to be toast.

They also are raising serious concerns about whether a person who could be sitting at home in his underwear, writing on his blog while watching "The Price is Right," should be able to call himself a journalist.

And the answer is no. True journalists would be watching "Jeopardy!," dreaming they will win as much as that little geek (term of endearment) Ken Jennings, which would allow them to quit their dead-end jobs and launch their own blogs.

But the great thing is, if you're a blogger, you get your rants linked to by other bloggers who agree with you, or other bloggers who disagree with you. Before you know it, you've taken more "hits" than Cheech and Chong, and you will achieve your dream goal: Being invited to appear on a Mainstream Media news show to explain why the Mainstream Media no longer matter.

Eventually, everyone will have a blog, writing for an audience of one. Or two (You still there, Mom?).

All of this only confirms what I've suspected for some time. In the entire country, there are about six reporters who actually interview people and write stories that reveal new information.

Then the bloggers and TV talk-show hosts move in, attacking the stories either as biased or not biased enough. Then the media critics weigh in on whether the blogs are performing a public service or just littering the information highway. Then journalism professors devote their ethics classes to whether the media critics are giving enough respect to the bloggers.

And many confused citizens eventually conclude that it's easier to watch "The Price is Right" in their underwear than try to stay informed.

As for anyone else still willing to wade through today's news swamp, I offer a word of advice:


Monday, March 28, 2005

New Director?

From Anonymous:

He's got the right credentials, a Q clearance, and is untainted by Nanos and UC.
Maybe he can save us....
Beckner to Leave NNSA at End of April
Departure a "serious loss" to the country, NNSA Administrator Brooks says

WASHINGTON, D.C. - National Nuclear Security Administration Administrator Linton F. Brooks today announced that Dr. Everet Beckner, deputy administrator for defense programs, will resign from his position effective April 30.

Beckner was nominated by President Bush on September 25, 2001 and confirmed by the Senate on January 25, 2002. His principle responsibility has been to manage the $6.5 billion program that maintains the stockpile and ensures that the nation's nuclear weapons remain safe, secure and reliable.

"Ev has played a key role in the leadership of NNSA and has served this agency well. He is one of the most dedicated public servants I know," Brooks said. "He has been a superb custodian of the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile. Ev's departure is a serious loss to NNSA, the Department of Energy and the country."

Before becoming NNSA's deputy administrator for defense programs, Beckner served as the deputy chief executive at Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) at Aldermaston, United Kingdom. Before that position, he was the vice president of technical operations and environment, safety and health for Lockheed Martin's Energy and Environment Sector in Bethesda, MD.

"It has been an honor to serve this administration as head of NNSA's nuclear weapons programs. It has been a complicated job with many challenges, ranging from concerns about the safety and reliability of the nuclear stockpile, to the health and vitality of the weapons laboratories and production plants, and to the important interactions that occur with the Congress, the OMB, and other federal agencies. I now look forward to other adventures life has to offer," Beckner said.

Before NNSA's creation, Beckner had been the principal deputy assistant secretary for defense programs at the Department of Energy (DOE) in Washington, D.C. from 1991-1995. His service at the DOE followed a lengthy career at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Beckner served in a number of positions during his 28 years at Sandia including vice president of defense programs and vice president of energy programs.

He holds a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Baylor University, and a Masters of Arts and Doctorate in Physics from Rice University. He is also a Fellow in the American Physical Society.

Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for maintaining and enhancing the safety, security, reliability and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing; working to reduce global danger from weapons of mass destruction; providing the U.S. Navy with safe and effective nuclear propulsion; and responding to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the U.S. and abroad.

Media Contacts:
Bryan Wilkes (202) 586-7371

Release No. NA-05-06

These attitudes didn't arise without some cause

From Anonymous:

There has been a lot of complaining on this blog about how terrible
everyone else is - the management, the DoE, UC, Congress, etc - and
how hostile some groups and people have become to LANL. It's always
easy to blame everyone else (and in truth there has been a good
deal of lousy management all around), but in fact these attitudes
didn't arise without some cause. If it is going to survive, LANL
has got to get real and come to grips with the fact that some of
the other national labs do just fine with the same DoE and the same
Congress -- so the hostility to LANL just might possibly have
something to do with LANL's own attitudes and ways of doing things.

That's not to say that there aren't real problems elsewhere, but
frankly the only thing LANL can change in this equation is itself,
its own attitudes, its own expectations, and its own ways of
dealing with the world. So while it certainly is cathartic to bitch
about the situation, it might be more fruitful for discussion to
focus on what isn't working at LANL and how it might be fixed, on
just why the outside world sees LANL as arrogant and how that might
be changed, on just where LANL research really ranks in the world
and how it might be improved.

Congressional Visit

From Anonymous:

Doug -

This might be interesting to post....I think this is the group that was invited to come to LANL by Nanos at the last whitewash in point here is that it is blatantly obvious why these folks are coming, yet protocol bills it as to review the Weapons Program.....only 1 hour on the agenda. Also, Pete is not here??

OFFICIAL DISTRIBUTION OF FINAL AGENDA: Dwight H. Cates, Professional Staff Member, Christopher Knauer, Minority Investigator, House Committee on Energy and Commerce

On Tuesday, March 29, 2005, Dwight H. Cates, Professional Staff Member, Christopher Knauer, Minority Investigator, House Committee on Energy and Commerce will visit Los Alamos National Laboratory. The purpose of the visit is to review the Laboratory's Weapons Program.


Rep. Jeannette O. Wallace


WHEREAS, for sixty-two years, the University of California has been synonymous with Los Alamos national laboratory as the University has managed the prestigious scientific research center under a contract with the United States department of energy; and WHEREAS, the laboratory has been a significant source of employment, economic stability and educational enrichment for generations of New Mexicans; and

WHEREAS, the state of New Mexico recognizes the outstanding contributions of the University of California and stands ready to do its part to strengthen the relationship and contribute to a vision that will make all New Mexicans proud of the partnership among the University, the laboratory and the department of energy; and

WHEREAS, the laboratory and University have made significant contributions to national security, global threat reduction and advancements in science and technology throughout the world; and

WHEREAS, the current contract between the United States department of energy and the University of California to operate Los Alamos national laboratory ends on September 30, 2005;
NOW. THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF NEW MEXICO that the United States department of energy be requested to enter into a new contract with the University of California to operate Los Alamos national laboratory; and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that copies of this memorial be transmitted to the United States secretary of energy, the president pro tempore of the senate of the state of California, the president of the University of California and the director of Los Alamos national laboratory .

Sunday, March 27, 2005

The source of much of the animosity from NNSA towards LANL

Lifted from the post:

The class warfare between Feds (DoE overseers) and the contractors (UC) is an old story, and certainly the source of much of the animosity from NNSA towards LANL. In fact, the lab has a salary process that is owned by UC HR, and is based on regional competition. The numbers for the various job titles are vetted against high tech companies and SNL. An independent analysis by NNSA decided that LANL is over paid by 1.1% at the end of FY 04. Hardly the numbers of scandal, but nevertheless, it has not stopped some mid-level bureaucrats (like Ed Wilmot) for deciding LANL is grossly overpaid. This is the same thinking about our pension plan – even though it SAVES the nation money, the Feds hate that theirs is not as “generous”.

Some analysis:
(1) On average, the TSM salaries for starting PhDs and post doc conversions at LANL is 10 percent higher than elsewhere in the UC system.
(2) On average, the TSM salaries for mid-career PhDs (15 years experience) at LANL is 12 percent lower than elsewhere in the UC system.
(3) On average, the TSM salaries for late-career PhDs (20 plus years experience) at LANL is 19 percent lower than elsewhere in the UC system.
(4) If group leaders are considered to be equivalent to Department heads in the UC system, then they are underpaid by about 5 percent at LANL.
(5) If the Director is considered equivalent to University president, or a business unit in BNI, then the director is underpaid by almost 50% (I know, even a dollar would be too high a price to pay for the present director!).

It is difficult to make comparisons for Tech series. The Admin series shows salaries within a few percent across the board with UC. If you only do a LANL-LLNL comparison, LANL is about 9 percent behind LLNL.

Unfortunately, NNSA will always view contractors as a waste of money because they [NNSA] get paid less. However, they have other benefits, and in fact, the jobs are so different the comparison is worthless.

LANL staff made too much money

From Anonymous:

I personally heard a conversation from Roberto Archuleta (Sr. Industrial Specialist) in the presence of Tyler Przybylek when both were at the high school auditorium on 1/16/05. In response to concerns from a man about LANL losing large numbers of good technical staff, Archuleta said that LANL staff made too much money and referred to a page in a binder showing an average salary of $84K for LANL compared to the rest of UC averaging $66K. Where the numbers came from (and whether correct) or if it was an “apples vs. oranges” issue, I don’t know. But I do know Archuleta expressed a strong sense of indignation about LANL salaries. I contend that the bottom line is: You get what you pay for. However, far more important, he displayed DOE’s arrogance to the man where he paused to formulate a question and said he was “trying to think how to ask it without insulting him (the man) or LANL”. He then said, “Where do all these people think they can go? I mean, there are only so many teaching positions at UNM.” The man replied that some will go to academia, some to the private sector, and some to entrepreneurial opportunities. The point is, DOE despises LANL salaries and benefits and truly believes that they have people held captive. Overhearing this conversation made it clear that DOE/NNSA has no concern for LANL’s employees or technical capability supporting national security issues; it’s all about the money, vindictiveness during a window of opportunity, control, and power. Do NOT believe the rhetoric to the contrary. Stay informed, identify your options, and be rapidly decisive to do what’s best for you, your loved ones, and your career when the time is appropriate for your circumstances.

Lab Partnership Proposal Timely

Albuquerque Journal North
Sunday, March 27, 2005

Lab Partnership Proposal Timely

EDITORIAL: After several years of successive scandals at Los Alamos National Laboratory— possible espionage, missing classified data, embezzlement— the federal government decided to put the lab management contract out to bid for the first time in more than 60 years. Many think that without the historic lab manager, the University of California, in charge, the lab will suffer a decline in prestige and scientific competitiveness.

It remains to be seen whether anybody besides UC is actually interested in running the lab. In the meantime, however, UC officials seem to have awakened to the fact that they're going to have to take a fresh approach if they want to continue in charge.

With that in mind, UC and New Mexico's premier universities announced last week that they intended to work closely with LANL to create more research opportunities for New Mexico graduate students, win more scientific research funding and keep it working in-state. The University of New Mexico, New Mexico State University and New Mexico Tech announced that they would partner with UC to form an Institute of Advanced Studies in Los Alamos if UC wins the new contract. Cynics might view the announcement as just more UC maneuvering to make sure it does win the bidding. But even if that's the proximate cause of the institute proposal, that doesn't make it a bad idea. (The proposal may be as much the brainchild of UNM president Louis Caldera, himself a veteran of the much-admired California state university system and an accomplished politician— he served three terms in the California Assembly.)

This kind of collaboration is arguably long overdue. The state, and especially northern New Mexico, would have benefited if a closer intellectual partnership between UNM, other state universities and LANL had developed somewhere nearer the beginning of the massive federal investment in science here. Even if UC doesn't win the contract, New Mexico universities should figure some way to keep the institute idea alive.

UC, LANL team joined by state Universities

Los Alamos Monitor
Sunday, March 27, 2005

UC, LANL team joined by state Universities

ROGER SNODGRASS,, Monitor Assistant Editor

A trio of New Mexico Universities will participate in a new Institute for Advanced Studies in affiliation with Los Alamos National Laboratory.

The announcement by the University of California Thursday named the University of New Mexico, New Mexico State University and New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology as potential partners should the UC Board of Regents decide to compete for the contract to manage LANL.

The arrangement recognizes the universities, to be known as the New Mexico Consortium, as the first academic partners UC intends to include on its management team. The partnership is contingent upon UC winning the contract award.

Gov. Bill Richardson said in a release the collaboration was something he has encouraged.

"(F)or too long academic institutions in New Mexico were on the outside looking in at educational partnerships and opportunities at Los Alamos National Laboratory," he said in an announcement Thursday. "I applaud the University of California for recognizing the research potential that these fine institutions have to offer the lab and the nation."

Sen. Pete Domenici, R-NM, also praised the arrangement.

"Our New Mexico universities have evolved into reputable research institutions and have plenty to offer to advance LANL research missions," Domenici said in a statement.

"I see their collaboration with the University of California as evidence that UC is actively working to present a reconfigured and competitive bid to remain the contractor at LANL. I only wish UC didn't tie this sort of effort to winning the contract and would, instead, pursue them as a matter of course."

Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-NM, also agreed.

"UNM, NMSU, and New Mexico Tech are top-notch scientific research institutions, and together they would be a tremendous asset to Los Alamos National Laboratory," Bingaman said in a statement. "I applaud their efforts to join forces to assist the lab."

The selection of the next manager of the laboratory is expected by the end of September this year, for a contract that would begin next April.

The three institutions of higher learning have all signed Memoranda of Understanding with the University of California and LANL in the last year.

The Institute for Advanced Studies would become a research and education center where New Mexico students could take part in fundamental and applied research activities in association with the laboratory.

Fields of collaboration could include astronomy, biology, computational science, environmental science, energetic materials, materials science, optics, quantum computing, water and radioisotopes, among others to be considered.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

As a manager today I keep asking myself

From Anonymous:

Every manager of complex facilities, especially ones that have exceeded their design life by a decade or more, knows that he or she has problems in maintenance and operations. These problems are found in inspections and self-assessments and are appropriately documented. Every manager I know submits this list for funding and is told to prioritize them. In medicine this would be comparable to triage. Coming up with this prioritized list obviously involves a great deal of conjecture. The manager submits his or her prioritized list up the management chain and, in almost 100% of the time, even some of the prioritized items are not funded. Yet when something happens like the laser injury, only the parties that denied funding to cover identified shortfalls escape reprimands and punishment. (Chemistry Division managers had requested and been denied funding by the Laboratory Director for a person to help oversee and enforce safety compliance.)

On the other hand, a division manager threatened to lock down TA-18 a few years ago and have his people abandon the site if money to operate the site safely was not promptly provided. Strangely, the money came post haste from DOE/NNSA and the facility continued to operate safely (and securely) in spite of the fact that it was one of oldest facilities on site.

However, hardball tactics can only be used sparingly and in healthy organizations driven by principle and not "inane arbitrariness to reduce overheads" they are needed even less. Worrying about overheads seems particularly inane considering that our senior management seems to have wasted $1B by some estimates on overhead processes of dubious long term value.

As a manager today I keep asking myself, where would my facilities and those in the rest of Laboratory be if that same $IB had been used to correct specific things that we already knew about and had documented instead wasting hours finding out what we already knew and creating mountains of useless SYA paperwork?

Politics Loom Over LANL Deal

Albuquerque Journal North
Saturday, March 26, 2005

Politics Loom Over LANL Deal

By Adam Rankin
Journal Staff Writer

One of the more vocal proponents of the competition for Los Alamos National Laboratory is also a major recipient of political donations from companies interested in becoming the next operator of the $2 billion LANL contract.

Rep. David Hobson, R-Ohio, received close to $70,000 in campaign donations in 2003-2004 from political action committees or individual donors associated with nine different companies interested in running LANL, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

"It would be shocking if anyone wasn't giving him contributions," said Danielle Brian, director of Washington, D.C.,-based Project on Government Oversight. "You have to be careful (not) to read too much into it. He is in this incredibly powerful position in Congress— every pork barrel project comes through his subcommittee."

Brian said Hobson's motivations for a fair and open competition for the LANL contract seem genuine and that antagonism toward the University of California is a growing bipartisan trend among lawmakers.

Calls to Hobson's office were not returned.

The growing influence of politics in the LANL competition is a trend University of California officials are watching carefully and with concern.

"The University of California has consistently said that it manages Los Alamos as a public service, and the reason we believe that is because we believe politics should not enter into it," said Scott Sudduth, the school's vice president for governmental relations. "It is increasingly troublesome to the university that politics may trump public service."

Hobson's top contributor— the Columbus, Ohio-based Battelle Memorial Institute— donated $29,250 through its political action committees and employees in the last year, but recently backed out of the competition for LANL.

Officials with Battelle, which already runs five Department of Energy national laboratories, have said running LANL would stretch their resources thin, but gave no specific reason for pulling out of the competition.

Political action committees for Bechtel, Fluor and Washington Group, none of which had previously donated money to Hobson, contributed a total of $15,000 to the congressman from 2003 to 2004. All three are major DOE contractors and have been cited as potential LANL co-managers.

CH2M Hill, Jacobs Engineering, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Computer Sciences Corp. contributed a total of more than $25,000 to Hobson through their political action committees, all of which are or had been potential LANL bidders and have also contributed to Hobson in the past.

As chairman of the appropriations subcommittee on Energy and Water Development, Hobson holds a powerful position that approves funding for the DOE and the National Nuclear Security Administration, which oversee LANL and its contract competition.

In a Feb. 8 letter to Energy Secretary Sam Bodman, Hobson criticized the contract competition for favoring the University of California in many respects and for restricting competition.

He wrote of his concern that Battelle, Lockheed Martin and the University of Texas had decided to withdraw from the competition.

"I interpret their business decisions to avoid this contract as very strong evidence that the (request for proposals) is flawed," Hobson wrote.

He noted that the ability to do "world-class science," the top-valued criterion for determining the next LANL manager and top strength of the University of California, "does not provide an objective measure of a contractor's performance."

"Given that the problems at the Los Alamos National Laboratory are primarily issues of management and industrial practices, potential bidders are reading the RFP's focus on world class science as an effort by the Department (of Energy) to maximize the strength of the incumbent contractor and minimize the management strengths of potential competitors," Hobson wrote.

Hobson also urged Bodman to increase the performance management fee for operating LANL and to drop the requirement that "the winning proposal has to maintain the current pension benefit package" for lab employees, even though proposed pension plans are not part of the evaluation criteria for determining the next LANL manager.

If steps weren't taken to attract more bidders to compete for the LANL contract, Hobson warned, "I will direct the Department to revise the RFP in a manner designed to encourage rather than discourage competition."

Within 10 days, NNSA released a series of amendments to its draft request for proposals, which included many of the changes urged by Hobson, as well as potential bidders, including doubling the performance management fee to $60 million a year and requiring the winning bidder to create a stand-alone pension benefit plan.

Asked about the political influence of Hobson, potential bidders and other lawmakers on the competition process, Tyler Przybylek, NNSA's chairman of the evaluation board overseeing the competition, said he and the board have "tried to make ourselves extraordinarily accessible to anyone who had views."

He said he's met with employees, neighboring pueblos, community groups, potential bidders and lawmakers "and we are taking all of that into account."

But Przybylek said the input will stop once the final criteria are released toward the end of April.
"I take very seriously the idea that everybody involved in this process has to believe that it is impartial and there aren't any influences on the board," he said.

Friday, March 25, 2005

The new management style

From Anonymous:

It seems to be the management style today. Walk off the street into a functioning and vital organization. Find a few off normal situations to complain about and use them as bludgeons to beat your staff into submission. If you cannot find real off normal situations, fabricate them. Use your findings to further weaken the organization. Call a news conference and soundly condemn the cowboys and buttheads that are responsible for destroying the organization. Be cheered by simpletons and Members of Congress for your insight.

Parallels between Hickam's observations on NASA's engineers and our weapons designers

There are interesting parallels between Hickam's observations on NASA's engineers and our weapons designers.
This is an op-ed piece from the Wall Street Journal.

March 22, 2005
Shuttle Fatigue

March 22, 2005; Page A14
The president has chosen a new NASA administrator, a young dynamic rocket scientist named Mike Griffin. I wish him well, but have a message. Most of my NASA engineer friends tell me they're worn out. The way they see it, the agency has become a grindstone where the dreams and careers of engineers are crushed into dust. This has got to change or NASA is heading toward extinction. My advice to Dr. Griffin is to take two steps: Put the Space Shuttle in the museum where it belongs and implement with urgency the design, construction and flight of a new crewed space vehicle before every good engineer you've got walks away in disgust.

I left NASA in 1998 to pursue a writing career. I'm glad I did, because I could no longer stand to work on the Space Shuttle: 24 years after it first flew, what was once a magnificent example of engineering has become an old and dangerous contraption. It has killed 14 people and will probably kill more if it continues to be launched. It has also wasted a generation of engineers trying to keep it flying on schedule and safe. [emphasis added] Frankly, that's just not possible and most NASA engineers in the trenches know it. Einstein reputedly defined insanity as repeating the same behavior and expecting different results. The Shuttle program is a prime example of this.

I hope Dr. Griffin recognizes that his job is to protect his engineers and give them something new and productive to build. [emphasis added] After bringing the Shuttle program to a rapid end (tomorrow would be good), he should implement the design and construction of the new Crew Exploration Vehicle that President Bush announced with fanfare last year. The CEV is a higher-tech version of the Apollo spacecraft that took us to the moon. I know NASA engineers would love to design, build, and fly such a vehicle. Most of them have never worked on a program that produced a spacecraft. Never! Can you imagine being an aerospace engineer and spending an entire career designing and designing again, but never being allowed to actually build and fly anything?

The CEV will need some nurturing. There are powerful forces within NASA which will protect the Shuttle with religious ferocity. If I were in charge, I'd do my best to convert if possible, or subvert if necessary, this Shuttle cult. It won't be easy: They're entrenched up and down the NASA organizational chart. Ultimately, Dr. Griffin may have to ask President Bush to step in and pull the plug on the Shuttle. I'll hold his coat.

As of right now, NASA says the CEV won't be ready to fly until 2014. That's nuts. Putting it off until then is like saying you're not going to build it at all. And if our tech edge is so dull we're not actually capable of building it, then let's just give up and buy the Chinese version. That's not a serious recommendation, by the way, but it is a wake-up call. Chinese engineers are doing cutting-edge work in space. In contrast, our engineers slave over the tired old Shuttle, or do paperwork exercises, thus proving Einstein was correct, not only about physics but insanity, too.

Mr. Hickam is the author, most recently, of "The Ambassador's Son" (St. Martin's, 2004).
URL for this article:,,SB111145768028885951,00.html

Thursday, March 24, 2005

New Mexico universities join UC in possible bid for Los Alamos contract

New Mexico universities join UC in possible bid for Los Alamos contract

Associated Press

The University of New Mexico will lead a consortium to collaborate on research with Los Alamos National Laboratory that could give the University of California a boost in a possible bid to manage the lab.

The New Mexico Consortium - consisting of UNM, New Mexico State University and the New Mexico Institute for Mining and Technology in Socorro - could join UC to form the Institute for Advanced Studies, the partners announced Thursday.

The institute would be created if UC wins the contract to manage the nuclear weapons lab. The UC Board of Regents haven't voted on whether to bid for the Los Alamos job, but have told staff to prepare as though they will bid.

UNM President Louis Caldera called the agreement historic.

"We're just excited. We think it's a great partnership," he said.

He said the universities are interested in collaborating on scientific research and educational programs with the lab.

"It makes UC a more formidable bidder to have the New Mexico universities and (Gov. Bill Richardson) and the congressional delegation effectively supporting their position in the rebid," Caldera said.

The New Mexico Consortium would not take over day-to-day management of the lab, which was effectively shut down last summer after two classified disks were reported missing. They were later found never to have existed.

Management would be left to UC, which has run the lab since it was formed during World War II to develop the atomic bomb.

"We're not trying to take on the headaches of the management aspect," Caldera said. "We're trying to have a seat at the table about how the science that is occurring there can strengthen our research."

UC spokesman Chris Harrington said joining with the New Mexico universities does not preclude private industrial partners being added to the UC team. He also did not rule out partnerships with other institutions of higher education.

Terry Yates, UNM's Vice President for Research and Economic Development, said the universities' location would be a "huge asset" for UC in the bidding.

"Because of our geographical proximity, that opens up a lot of opportunities for collaboration on education and research," he said.

UNM officials said the joint work between the lab and the universities includes nanotechnology, cancer research, astronomy, quantum computing, materials science and environmental sciences.

The consortium also would help UC recruit and retain qualified scientists, engineers and staff, Yates said.

Lab spokesman Kevin Roark welcomed the increased pool of students and postdoctoral candidates that could come from New Mexico universities as part of the consortium.

"The more (students) from New Mexico universities, the happier we are," he said.

Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., said Thursday that UC's effort to reach out to New Mexico institutions is one advantage of putting the Los Alamos lab contract out for bid.

"I only wish UC didn't tie this sort of effort to winning the contract and would, instead, pursue them as a matter of course," he said in a news release.

The federal government's final specifications for the Los Alamos contract may be released in early April; the bidding deadline will be 90 days after the release.

The UC regents may vote on whether or not to bid in late spring.

The consortium strengthens existing agreements between New Mexico's universities, the lab and UC.

"It solidifies those relationships and takes them to the next level," Roark said.

Caldera, a former vice chancellor in the California State University system and California lawmaker, said discussions about collaboration between state universities and the lab have been going on for the past two years.

Should the UC decline to bid on the Los Alamos contract, Caldera said the New Mexico Consortium would remain intact.

He said UNM has been approached by as many as a dozen private companies and other universities interested in joining forces in the competition for the lab contract.

"Many people recognized that it would be a coup to their bid to have New Mexico universities as partners in this process," he said.

Lawmakers Say California University Should Share Los Alamos Stand-Down Cost

From Anonymous:

Lawmakers Say California University Should Share Los Alamos Stand-Down Cost
March 18, 2005

WASHINGTON - A multi-million-dollar tab to the taxpayers is the cost of bad management at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, and key members of Congress are starting to wonder if the lead contractor - the University of California - shouldn't share the bill.

"It just seems to me that the University of California was hired to do a job and they didn't do it," said U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., at a hearing on Friday. "It resulted in a stand-down that may cost taxpayers maybe upward of $360 million. The University of California should have to pay something in this process. It's just outrageous."

Walden was among several participants at a hearing convened by U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, chairman of the Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee. Representatives expressed concern over mismanagement at the nation's nuclear labs, focusing on the issues that led to last year's stand-down at Los Alamos Nuclear Laboratory (LANL).

"You have to do things right or take some responsibility," added U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak from Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the committee. "In this case these costs should be paid by the university, not the taxpayer."

The stand-down was a result of the then-apparent loss of several removable disks and a lab employee's injury related to improper use of one of the facility's lasers.

Pete Nanos, director of Los Alamos National Laboratory, says the stand-down was the right decision, as it highlight other problems at the lab. During the shutdown, the lab identified more than 3,000 issues that needed to be addressed, 350 of which needed to be addressed prior to ending the stand-down.

"The NNSA (National Nuclear Security Administration) also exercised its right to hold the university accountable for the incident. LANL received an 'unsatisfactory' performance rating in the 'operations' area of the annual performance assessment," Nanos said. "As a result, in January 2005, NNSA withheld 67 percent of the UC management fee, with a penalty assessment of $5.8 million our of a possible $8.7 million performance fee pool. This represents the largest DOE-directed management fee cut in history."

The full Energy and Commerce Committee's chairman, U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, also has said the university is liable.

"I supported the stand-down because of the severity of the security and safety problems at Los Alamos," Barton, R-Texas, said earlier. "However, the necessity for the stand-down and its duration are the direct result of recurring mismanagement by the University of California, and I believe UC should pay at least some of the stand-down costs.

"In my opinion, it is just not fair to continue asking the taxpayers to pick up the tab for the university's ineptitude," Barton said. "Probably the only real opportunity to begin to solve the problems at Los Alamos is to hire a new contractor, and I support DOE's decision to re-compete the Los Alamos contract."

Several committee members also expressed concern about the pace of implementing additional security initiatives, saying that the Department of Energy was not moving fast enough.

Whitfield, R-Ky., welcomed the Department of Energy's changes to its security policy regarding protection at its nuclear security sites. However, Whitfield is concerned that the implementation of the 14-point initiative is moving too slowly.

"I really want to know how - and how quickly - each DOE and NNSA site will comply with these extensive new requirements," Whitfield said. "These upgrades will be expensive, and they could take years to implement."


The Committee on Energy and Commerce
2125 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
(202) 225-2927

LANL retirements this year to spike

LANL retirements this year to spike
By Bill Dupuy, KSFR

SANTA FE (2005-03-24) - Retirements are going up at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Laboratory spokesman James Rickman tells KSFR the projection for retirements this fiscal year is 50 percent greater than the prior year and 60 percent more than the year before that. He says the projection is for 379 people to retire this year. That compares with actual retirements of 251 in 2004 and 235 in 2003.

He says one factor contributing to the increase is the number of people at or near retirement age. The average age of staff scientists, known as technical staff members, is 47. Of that group of people, 39 percent are between the ages of 50 and 60-plus.

But Rickman confirms another factor leading to the increase in retirements as being the uncertainty over the contract to manage the lab. More than 8,000 of the lab's total workforce of some 12,000 are employees of the University of California, which hasn't yet said whether it will compete for the contract it has held uncontested for more than six decades.

Editorial from the 3/24 Los Alamos Monitor

Unsigned editorial:

Answering the questions at LANL

In his testimony before the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Peter Nanos told the representatives he had found justification in the large number of problems that had to be fixed before operations could be resumed, plus 10 times that number of problems that needed to be worked on in the future.

He was asked about the morale issues and just who he thought should pay for costs incurred by the lengthy suspension of operations at the laboratory.

No matter what you think about Director Nanos or the lab, the critical item that faces Los Alamos County and those who live and work here is that LANL is beyond being critical to life here.

Are the problems at the lab all caused by the director - as some say - or is a large part of the problem exactly what the director says, a matter of the culture having gone too far afield?

Nanos told the panel it takes years to change the culture of such a large organization. And he is just beginning.

And that seems to bring us back to the crux of the problem - many at the lab don't seem to think a change of culture is needed.

Who's right?

You can get all the data - granted it is never the complete story - you want from one side or the other fully explaining that they are completely right and the others are completely wrong.

Both can't be right.

But the reality is, they may be.

Anyone who has worked for a company or in some division for years becomes comfortable with the way things are, the way things are done. That is only natural. And when someone new shows up, talks change, talks reform, that talk is not welcomed.

Does it mean the new talk is right? Does it mean the way things have been done are necessarily wrong? Well, it's no to both. They are just different.

And the hardest thing in the world may be having seniority and accepting orders from the new boss.

But one must ask the question of the need for the shutdown - given the huge cost to taxpapers, the loss to UC in funds and the economic and emotional impact on Los Alamos. Granted, we don't know what was going on behind the scenes and may never know.

And while it is easy to second-guess and be an arm-chair quarterback, it is a different world when you are the one who must make the hard decisions.

But we think that we are owed some kind of explanation as to what happened. If for nothing else, to end the rumors and put people's mind at ease.

Report details wasting of water at LANL

Report details wasting of water at LANL

Diana Heil
Santa Fe New Mexican
March 24, 2005

While everyday citizens caught rain in barrels, installed low-flow toilets and watched plants wither from drought in 2003, Los Alamos National Laboratory missed opportunities to reduce waste, limit water consumption and save taxpayer dollars.

According to a new U.S. Department of Energy Inspector General report, the lab could have saved 41 million gallons of water a year -- plus associated chemicals -- but didn't have the $60,000 necessary to design the filters to accomplish it. The filters, which would have removed sand from water, could have saved the lab $500,000 annually through improved operational efficiencies of its cooling towers.

What's more, the lab failed to replace leaking faucets and install low-flow shower heads because the projects weren't funded, according to the report. Combined, the projects would have cost $4,000 and saved an estimated $380,220.

"It's unconscionable for the lab to waste so much of New Mexico's most precious resource when it could have been easily prevented and could have also saved taxpayers' money," Scott Kovac, research director for the nonprofit Nuclear Watch of New Mexico, said. "The lab stated that these projects were not implemented because of insufficient funding. This is another example of lab management's pennywise and pound-foolish priorities."

Across the country, Energy Department sites should do more to reduce pollution in cost-effective ways, the report says. Some sites didn't research new opportunities to prevent and recycle waste; others didn't practice strategies they had identified as workable. In 2003 alone, Energy Department sites produced 1.2 million cubic meters of waste, including radioactive waste.

Some blame falls on Washington. "We found that the department did not always support and fund pollution prevention programs, nor did it establish performance measures to monitor waste reduction activities," the report says.

Los Alamos lab, however, is ready to put the past behind it.

In May, it will unveil a new, $4.5 million plant where sand will be removed from water before the water is used in cooling towers. This prevents sludge from building up inside the cooling towers and makes them more efficient. It's expected to save 21 million gallons of water a year at first, then 50 million gallons in future years, lab spokeswoman Kathy DeLucas said. Currently, the lab consumes 400 million gallons of water annually.

Silica -- a white compound found in quartz, sand and flint -- is a huge problem in volcanic-rich soils. "Parts of Northern New Mexico are some of the worst in the country for the level of silica in water," said DeLucas, who has a problem with silica buildup in her hot-water heater at home.

Meanwhile, the faucet and shower projects are still under consideration, she said.

DeLucas noted the report does not cover more than 20 pollution-prevention projects the lab is doing. It focused on what wasn't done. In February, Los Alamos received more than half the Energy Department's pollution-prevention awards, though none of these had to do with water, she said.

After reading the report, Ron Curry, the state's environment secretary, said the waste is unfortunate. "Director (Pete) Nanos has made many positive changes at the lab, and I think this report opens the opportunity for him to make some more," Curry said.


From Anonymous:


In spite of a laboratory director who covers the anal
cleft on his scalp with a brand-new, ten-gallon hat;
belittling insults, berating criticism, and bald-face
lies from the same; endless misrepresentation in the
clueless media; a lab-wide standdown because of a
clerical error and falsified safety statistics; empty
threats of a future permanent shutdown if I "don't get
it"; an end to the semi-weekly emancipation provided
by the 9/80; an impending contract change with
guaranteed benefit reductions; the retirement and
exodus of mentors, friends, and colleagues to follow;
STOP training (soon to be followed by STOP caring and
STOP thinking); overall low morale with no end in
sight; a rapidly deteriorating working environment;
and upper-level managers with few scientific
credentials insisting that micromanagement, earned
value estimates, and gant charts will foster
scientific research; I still completed this work ...
under the auspices of the U. S. Department of Energy,
under contract W--7405--ENG--36 with the University of California.

Clarification of Nanos' IBM reference, and the analogy isn't too far off

From Anonymous:

Clarification of Nanos' IBM reference, and the analogy isn't too far off

I think that Director Nanos' reference in recent Congressional testimony to IBM's turnaround had nothing to do with the long-ago PC introduction, but actually refers to the much more recent transformation of IBM from a near-bankrupt bloated whale on the beach into a giant profit generator under the direction of Louis V. Gerstner, Jr. His book, "Who Says Elephants Can't Dance," is a fabulous read. When Gerstner left General Mills for IBM, after much arm-twisting, I wondered what a breakfast cereal guy could do in this firm, but he accomplished an amazing transformation. However, it required making many omelets (breaking eggs).

I imagine that the Director intended to compare LANL with IBM's former condition, and to compare his intentions for LANL with Gerstner's for IBM. There may be some interesting similarities between what Gerstner found at IBM and Nanos found at LANL in terms of insularities and fiefdoms. However, there are also disturbing similarities, e.g., IBM restructured its retirement program, and the LANL recompetition threatens to do the same.

IMHO, LANL is actually in a current state not that much different from IBM before Gerstner. What company could withstand what the lab has been through since last summer and, indeed, since 1999? It has been observed (but not on this forum, I think) that organizations approaching terminal collapse react by making everyone generate lots of happy-talk to bolster the corporate image.

This is happening in at least one LANL directorate. Each week, every project is expected to report up to line management something in the form of a "highlight" that can be boasted about further up the line, and back to the directorate to make everyone happy. Divisions in this directorate keep spreadsheets that account for how many pieces of happy-talk have been generated by each project. Objections that research projects simply don't work that way have been met with "Just give us nuggets in simple language and short sentences that anyone can understand."

The not-very-good movie "Office Space" pretty much captures the current LANL environment, and reflects the mood and morale of people I know who work at LANL. Truly idiotic management practices (see above) coupled with tons of petty and inscrutable rules are driving morale to new lows. I heard LANL people say long ago that "GI Jane" was their training film (Overcome Any Obstacle!), but "Office Space" is its replacement.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Expensive lessons: The story behind falsified vault records at Los Alamos

Expensive lessons: The story behind falsified vault records at Los Alamos By DIANA HEIL The New Mexican

A former supervisor of two vault keepers at Los Alamos National Laboratory says the confusion over computer disks last summer boils down to two untrained workers who took shortcuts and got scared when officials asked why the disks were missing.

“These people are not malicious at all,” Todd Kauppila, a fired supervisor, said in an interview Monday. “I know the people that did that, and they’re both very good people.”

All but the most essential work at the nuclear-weapons lab stopped in July after the disks, believed to contain secret information, could not be located. An FBI investigation later determined the disks never existed.

Last week, some members of Congress wondered if criminal charges were in order after hearing that the seven-month shutdown at Los Alamos National Laboratory might have cost as much as $367 million.

Three workers were fired — Kauppila and the unnamed vault keepers. But no one’s going to jail. The FBI concluded no criminal activity was involved.

The acts that led up to the security incident seem, on the surface, to be small departures from the rules. Twelve bar codes were entered into the lab’s tracking system, but only 10 disks were created. Workers signed the inventory sheet without checking the vault to make sure the same number of disks were in there. And soon enough, Los Alamos had a crisis on its hands.

Repeated attempts to contact the fired workers, both of Española Valley, have been unsuccessful. But lab Director Pete Nanos has said the confusion was caused by people not following the rules as well as records custodians being pressured by other employees to ignore security regulations.

The fired vault custodians, in their 50s, had earlier worked as secretaries at the lab. One had a few months of experience handling classified material and probably didn’t understand the rules, Kauppila said. The other worker was an alternate vault custodian, according to Kauppila, who said he believes she was put in the position without proper training.

Kauppila said the lab is much more diligent about training employees in security procedures now than it was then.

In June 2000, the U.S. Department of Energy set up an accountability system for computer disks and hard drives that contain secret information. Each piece must be tracked individually. The
requirements were a reaction to missing hard drives at Los Alamos and the investigation into employee Wen Ho Lee.

Three years later, when the lab prepared removable zip disks containing secret information for a slide show, lab records listed 12 disks. But FBI and Energy Department investigators concluded the bar codes were put into the records before the devices were created.

This was just the first mistake. After the slide show, the disks were stored in a safe without the custodians verifying each disk against the inventory list, according to a report on the investigation.

In July 2004, a lab worker discovered that two disks listed in the inventory could not be located. Los Alamos searched 2,006 vaults, rooms and safes but turned up nothing, except more problems. Computer hard drives had been moved to a building against proper accounting procedures and a large amount of material was not properly tracked. As a result of widespread security weaknesses, Nanos suspended all classified work on July 14 and then-Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham ordered other labs to do the same.

Other labs went quickly back to work, but Los Alamos, dealing with security and safety incidents, shut down all activities except for the most essential. Some activities did not restart until last month.

While the search for the missing disks was on, workers didn’t admit to their mistakes. “These two vault custodians were terrified they made a mistake and were terrified to say anything,” Kauppila said.

Kauppila said neither he nor John Horne — both punished in connection with the security incident — were accused of falsifying the inventory sheet or of failing to verify the inventory. “I had no responsibility to do that,” he said.

Horne, a lab technician working on secret nuclear weapons experiments, created the disks but he has told reporters that he didn’t realize how many bar codes the custodian entered into the accountability database. Kauppila was Horne’s supervisor.

After being investigated by the FBI, Horne got his job back.

Kauppila was fired Sept. 23, though he said he doesn’t understand why. He believes he was a scapegoat and has filed a formal grievance with the lab to clear his name.

Feedback to CBS

From Anonymous:

At the bottom of
there is a "contact us" link. Here's what I entered (and I suggest that everyone go there and enter their own words). The more, the better!
Bob Schieffer is failing just as Dan Rather failed in reporting on Bush's national guard service - The same ignorance of facts and lack of pursuance.
Bob Schieffer thinks that security at Los Alamos has become a joke. He has never been to Los Alamos and met the thousands of dedicated employees who espouse security, won the cold war, and are winning the fight against proliferation and terrorism. Please send a responsible reporter to Los Alamos to talk to these heros, rather than helping Iran, North Korea, and Bin Laden by attempting to close down Los Alamos!

Retirement Numbers

From Anonymous:

It looks like retirements are running about 16 % ahead of last year with about a month to go before the real numbers start coming in. The significant numbers at the bottom are important because retirements on July 1 normally represent about 45 percent of the total retirements for the year.

Total Retirements FY05 to 3/21/05: 106, of which 50 were TSMs

Total Elections Pending FY05: 81, of which 46 are TSMs
(31 out of the 81 are from the three weapons directorates, mostly ADWP)

"PENDING" means the employee's retirement election letter has been sent to UC. Typically, only 2% of those "pending" later cancel their plans to retire. Those listed as pending have a retirement date within the next 3 months.


BUT, in addition to retirements, people leave by other means. In January, there were 39 non-retirement terminations, the same number as retirements. This is 14 more retirements than January 2004 and more than any January in the past five years. Here are the complete numbers, as of Feb. 28:

Total terminations by employee choice: 78 (of which 37 are TSMs)
Total by Lab choice: 9 (1 TSM)
Total Medical: 11 (2 TSM)
No Data: 2 (both TSMs)
Regular retirement: 92 (44 TSM)
Total terminations 10/1/04 to 2/28/05: 192 (86 TSMs)

(remember, the numbers at the top of the show the 14 additional regular retirements between March 1 and March 21.


Total retirements, FY 2004: 256 (152 of these are TSMs)
Total pending retirements, end FY 2004: 56 (30 TSMs)
Total retirements, FY 2003: 235

Retirements, June 1-July 1, 2004: 109 (6 plus 103 on 7/1/04)
Retirements June 1-July 1, 2003: 111 (22 plus 89 on 7/1/03)

To all the (especially outside) blog readers:

From Anonymous:

To all the (especially outside) blog readers:
I am in one of the many LANL science groups, which has a variety of small to medium NNSA projects and some LDRD. (research grants). My coworkers at Los Alamos are the hardest-working people I have ever known. Los Alamos may not do everything right, but it has assembled a very bright and talented workforce.

Most of you would love to have a staff like this. Their dedication is remarkable; people stay late and work weekends. While on a 9/80 schedule, many came in routinely on their ‘Fridays off’. And our technicians, most not eligible for overtime, often put in long days voluntarily on 'their' science projects. You can’t buy this kind of energy- you get it by hiring good people and valuing their individual efforts. In current corporate lingo, motivational speakers call this buy-in. During the shutdown- my group jumped in on the hundred or so safety and security tasks with as much vigor as they routinely gave to their regular tasks. (I think ‘shutdown’ was a misnomer, as I worked my tail off...) We took the task quite seriously.

There has been a lot of discussion here about LANL’s culture. Let's not forget that culture's best feature is its truly dedicated workforce. I hope this gives visitors a better sense of what is right with Los Alamos Lab.

Monday, March 21, 2005

More CBS "News"

Regulations Governing VAA

Employment Violations at LANL

From Anonymous:

Dear Doug,

As an outsider to LANL, I have found that the inability to follow the law extends from Group Leaders to the Director's Office. Specifically, Veterans Affirmative Action (VAA) is statutory law, fully regulated, and a required condition of the contract to operate LANL.

For ten years I have unsuccessfully tried to encourage Group Leaders to the Director's Office Program Administrator to read the regulations governing VAA. The LANL Human Resources Manual does have a VAA policy statement but not a single procedure.



Nanos legacy looks bleak

(Another noon-time post from the Los Alamos public library -- Doug)

From Anonymous:

And with this on-line letter posted in today's Los Alamos Monitor, I say we begin a campaign to hire Bruce Norman as the Laboratory's new PR Director. NO, WAIT ... New DIRECTOR, period!

Here's the post:

Monday, March 21, 2005
Nanos legacy looks bleak

Dear Editor,

In less than a month, I will celebrate 30 years of living in Los Alamos. I arrived with my two tennis racquets, the clothes on my back, less than $1,000 in my pocket and the dream of making a living as a tennis teacher in this beautiful community. I've been fortunate during my time here and after running several different businesses have sunk deep roots in Los Alamos. I have two wonderful boys at the High School and still love Los Alamos as much as the day I moved here. But this is not why I am writing this letter today. I'm writing to express my grave concern for what is happening to LANL, the heart and soul of Los Alamos. In particular, I am concerned about the leadership and the extreme negative effect it is having on our community and LANL's employees.

When Pete Nanos was first named director of the lab it seemed like a good decision. From my perspective, the lab needed some shaking up and he seemed like the man to do it. Now, however, I've heard too many stories to maintain that opinion. The picture my friends who work at LANL paint is that of someone who is rude, isolated and arrogant. Now, I've never met the man and perhaps everyone whose opinion I've solicited is wrong, but one thing is for sure, morale is at its lowest point in the 30 years I've lived here and it's largely due to Pete Nanos. Sure, the uncertainty due to the management contract being put out to competitive bid hovers overhead like a storm cloud, but I've never heard so many negative remarks about a LANL director.

The employees at LANL are by and large dedicated to their jobs and while not perfect, deserve a whole lot more respect than they have been shown. So please, Mr. Nanos, come down off your high horse and show some humor and humility. The next time someone comes up to you, introduces themselves to you and extends his or her hand, please smile, shake their hand and say, "Hello, so glad to meet you" instead of turning your back on them and walking away like you did to one of my friends. And while I am sure it would be difficult for you to do, I think an apology to LANL employees for possibly overacting in your "cowboys and butthead speech" and to the business community for the extremely adverse effect the lab's standdown has had on them would go a long way to strengthen your support. These are but small suggestions and more surely needs to be done on your part, but it would be a start. Otherwise, your legacy at the once-proud laboratory will be that of its most divisive director and of one who has led to its demise instead of its advancement and in the process did further damage to our community. This Admiral needs to steer his ship in a new direction before he runs her aground or faces a mutiny!

Bruce Norman
Los Alamos

Businesses Oppose Lab Purchase Proposal

From Anonymous:

This is not directly related to the UC contract but is an example of LANL's over-reaction to DOE audits. More spineless behavior! Of course some of the statements from the vendors are bullshit. I have made diligent attempts to procure things locally. BUT, the vendors are often either greedy or not competetive. In one case, an Espanola vendor bid on desktop computers. The vendor was 30% higher than DELL and could really not provide any warranty support. However, the LANL statement that $398.5M of procurements are placed in Northern New Mexico is misleading. That figure includes the labor contracts of KSL, PTLA, Butler, etc.

Albuquerque Journal North
Monday, March 21, 2005

Businesses Oppose Lab Purchase Proposal

By Adam Rankin
Journal Staff Writer
Los Alamos National Laboratory's proposed new guidelines for buying from small businesses have riled some local business owners.

Betty Jacques with Franks Supply of Los Alamos said the guidelines propose having several businesses selected as contract suppliers compete over price for nearly every catalog order.

"It is going to be a popularity contest," she said. "Companies from Española are worried they are going to spend money to compete to win a contract then be guaranteed nothing."

In the past, procurement contracts have been exclusive to single supplier for certain items. Under the proposed guidelines, there would multiple suppliers competing on price each time the lab went out for a purchase. Critics contend the new rules favor bigger companies who can take more risks to get LANL's business.

Lab officials, for now, are delaying the release of procurement bid requests for small business contracts due to a technical problem. They are gathering more comments on the proposed guidelines that have upset at least a few local business owners.

"We are going to look at those comments and suggestions very carefully before our (request for proposals) are issued," LANL spokesman James Rickman said.

Rich Marquez, LANL's associate director of administration, said he is going to have LANL's Business Advisory Council— made up of state business leaders, including some voicing concerns— review the request for proposals before they are issued.

"We may not be able to accommodate all of their concerns, but at least we will have reviewed them carefully," he said.

A few northern New Mexico business leaders criticized LANL's proposed procurement guidelines at a hearing earlier this month over concerns the guidelines created too much financial risk for small regional businesses, with no guarantees the lab will actually buy anything from the businesses which meet LANL requirements and qualify to compete.

"There are a lot of things on that list that say, hey, if you are a small business you have no business bidding on those contracts— you will lose your shirt," said J. R. Trujillo, an Española City Councilor and owner of Quick Fix Home Improvement Center.

"They don't have to buy squat from you," Trujillo said. "Are businesses in Española asking for a handout? No way. Nobody is asking for them to spend more dollars than they have to spend ... we're asking for an opportunity for a level playing field (against larger businesses)."

Jay Gould, Northern New Mexico Suppliers Alliance president, has also spoken out against the proposed guidelines.

Marquez said LANL probably won't be able to return to exclusive contracts, because the laboratory has made a priority of creating increased flexibility within its buying program to ensure scientists and procurement officers get what they need in a timely way and at a competitive price.

"If there are a few places we can make concessions, I think we ought to do that" without compromising LANL's fiscal priorities, he said.

Rickman said LANL officials went out to regional business leaders for input.

"We heard people saying that they wanted the opportunity for more people to compete for these catalog contracts, so we reduced the size of the contracts which makes more of them and also came up with this idea for multiple awards for certain contracts," he said. "The object of this is to enhance the laboratory's business in northern New Mexico, particularly with small businesses."

He said LANL has received few complaints to date, but that most of the complaints the lab did receive were from larger firms, concerned the guidelines unfairly favored smaller businesses.

"Catalog" contract purchases— items bought as needed on a quick turnaround— comprise about $60 million of LANL's procurement, Rickman said. Overall, LANL spent about $398.5 million in northern New Mexico in 2004 out of nearly $1 billion in procurement spending.

Rickman said LANL is hoping to spend about 81 percent of its catalog contract purchases with state businesses and 74 percent of that on northern New Mexico businesses. He also said LANL officials plan to more accurately determine whether businesses qualify as northern New Mexican.

Another proposal is to establish procurement contracts for a base of two years, with possible one-year extensions up to a maximum term of seven years. Previously, contract terms were five year lengths.

Rickman said he expects about 30 requests for proposals to be issued in about a week resulting in procurement contracts for between 30 to 50 small businesses or more. Comments should be sent to LANL within the next week to be considered, Rickman said.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

How very courageous

From Anonymous:

Hey, Baghdad Bob! How very courageous of you to hide the fact that Nanos was going to testify before Congress last week until the fact of the event could not be kept from us any longer. Someone who did not know better might think upper LANL management might have been trying to cover up something of which they were ashamed.

But you, Bagdad, you are a good lackey, let no one say any different. You did your duty: you kept the truth from us once again, to the best of your ability. In so doing, you epitomized that which we despise in upper LANL management: dishonesty, lack of integrity, cowardice.

Good job!

More on Congressman David Hobson's 2/8/2005 letter

Doug -

Great work on the Blog. And very courageous, also.

Please post the following anonymously. I hate feeling like I should be afraid to sign my name, but in my opinion that's where we are at. Just ask Terry Hawkins, Bill Priedhorsky,Tom Meyer, or Al Sattelberger.


Post follows:

The letter of February 8, 2005, from Congressman David Hobson (R-7th Dist, OH and Chair, House Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development) to Energy Secretary Bodman (attachment 1) deserves more scrutiny than it has gotten. This letter was posted earlier on the Blog, but not very conspicuously (accessible only via a link).

Contrary to what most of us, in my opinion, believe about the impact of the then-current draft RFP on potential UC competition, Mr. Hobson asserts "It appears that the release of the draft RFP has resulted in limiting the competition to one bidder, the incumbent". He goes on to demand certain changes to the draft RFP, and closes with an unveiled threat, "I look forward to reviewing the final RFP and I expect to see some significant improvement in how the Government crafts this next contract. If we do not see several qualified bidders for this contract, I will direct the Department to revise the RFP in a manner designed to encourage rather than discourage competition". The changes demanded by Mr. Hobson were subsequently adopted as amendments to the draft RFP in three major respects: de-emphasis of science as an award criterion in the contract competition; a very large increase in the performance fee for a potential contractor "designed to bring into the bid process more commercial entities" [quote from Mr. Hobson's letter]; and, elimination of the requirement for the successful bidder to maintain the current pension benefits.

With regard to Mr. Hobson's demand to emphasize "management and industrial practices" at the expense of science and technology it is fair to ask at least two questions: first, what is the most important function of LANL if it is not to "foster world-class science [and technology]"; and, second, viewing the last several years at LANL as an exercise in enhancing management and industrial practices, what has been the success as measured by scientific and technological productivity?

With regard to the potential field of bidders for the contract, Mr. Hobson states "... many qualified bidders that expressed interest early in the process, including Lockheed Martin, Battelle, and the University of Texas, have decided to bypass an opportunity to bid .... I have no interest in any of the entities cited, other than to point out that these are competitive, world-class contractors who are in business to do business [sic - the University of Texas???] and they are voting with their feet ..." [italics mine]. In fact, Mr. Hobson's #1 campaign contributor in 2004 was Battelle Memorial Institute. His #2 contributor was one of the lobbying firms that Battelle retains. You could look it up on the following URL and related sites: ( Mr. Hobson has also received regular contributions over many years from Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman as well as other potential bidders in the aerospace/defense field. Earlier this year Battelle and Lockheed Martin were among UC's potential competitors. Despite what they have said to the media, they still could be. Northrop Grumman apparently will compete.

The statement in Mr. Hobson's letter that the UCRS is "disproportionately generous compared to any other government contract or private company or, for that matter, for any Member of Congress" is at best a gross misrepresentation and at worst an outright prevarication. Pension benefits and salaries for Members of Congress are matters of public record (attachments 2 and 3). It is difficult to check other government agencies or contractors, but just for comparison I include military retirement benefits which are easy to check (see, for example, Those interested in a brief quantitative comparison can see the analysis in the following paragraphs. The bottom line is, UCRS retirement benefits are good but not out of line with other defined-benefit programs for government employees, and certainly not better than those for Members of Congress (with the sole exception of UCRS service time greater than 34 years). Apparently DOE didn't check the facts, or were simply intimidated by Mr. Hobson - and, it is difficult to believe that Mr. Hobson doesn't know what his own benefits are.


Analysis of defined-benefit packages for Members of Congress, the military, and UCRS:
In all three (MC's [FERS, see attachment 2], military, and UCRS) the defined-benefit retirement income is defined as a benefit percentage times highest average plan compensation (HACP, a UCRP term but one used similarly in all three cases - the average of the highest 3 years' income).

In all three cases the benefit percentage equals time in service times a multiplier.

For MC's and military retirees, the multiplier is 2.5, independent of any other factor.
For UCRP the multiplier is an age factor equal to 1.1 at age 50 and increasing linearly at .1 per month until it reaches a maximum of 2.5 at age 60.

MC's pension plan vests after 5 years service.
Military retirees are ineligible for pensions unless they have served 20 years.
UCRS vests after 5 years.

MC's are eligible to retire at age 62 with 5 years service, 60 with 10 years service, 50 with 20 years service, with a multiplier of .025 in each case.
Military people can retire at any age after they have served at least 20 years, with a multiplier of .025.
Minimum age for UCRS retirement is 50 with a multiplier of 1.1, which increases to 2.5 at retirement age 60 or older.

Salary for all rank-and-file MC's were $158,100 as of 1 JAN 2004.
Military base pay (and other compensation) depends on rank/rate and time in service. Examples comparable to LANL TSM's near retirement age are given below.
Average salary for a full-time LANL employee with 20 years service in 2003 was approximately $92,000 (n=3000); TSM with 30 years, $130,000 (n=350); and TSM with 40, $135,000 (n=30).

A MC first elected at age 30 and retiring at age 50 in 2005 would have a pension of approximately 79k.
A Naval Academy graduate who served 20 years, made O-6 pay grade (Captain, equivalent to full Colonel) could retire in 2005 at approximately age 42 with a pension of approximately $47k.
A LANL employee with a HACP of $100,000, who joined LANL at age 30 and accumulated 20 years service credit could retire at age 50 with a pension of $22k.

A MC first elected at age 30 and retiring at age 60 in 2005 would have a pension of approximately $119k.
A Naval Academy graduate who served 30 years and made O-9 pay grade (Vice Admiral) could retire in 2005 at approximately age 52 with a pension of approximately 109k.
A LANL TSM with a HACP of $130,000, who joined LANL at age 30 and accumulated 30 years service credit could retire at age 60 with a pension of $98k.

A MC first elected at age 30 and retiring at age 70 in 2005 would have a pension of approximately $126k (the congressional benefit percentage maxes out at 80%, or 32 years service).
The military benefit percentage maxes out at 75% (30 years service). In principle the military numbers for 40 years service are the same as above, but 40 years service is a very special case.
A LANL TSM with a HACP of $135,000, who joined LANL at age 30 and accumulated 40 years service credit could retire at age 70 with a pension of $135k. The only advantage that UCRS enjoys over the others is that the benefit percentage continues to increase until 40 years of service credit (benefit percentage = 100%). Given the most recent figures an "average" TSM would have to have more than 34 years service time to surpass a MC's pension, and more than 30 to surpass a VADM.

End of post.

LANL nuke delivery delayed until fall

In brief The Associated Press

LANL nuke delivery delayed until fall

LAS VEGAS, Nev. — Additional shipments of weaponsgrade nuclear materials from New Mexico to the Nevada Test Site have been delayed until the end of the year.

The delay was caused by last summer’s shutdown of Los Alamos National Laboratory, said Linton Brooks, chief of the National Nuclear Security Administration.

The lab was virtually shut down last July after reports two classified computer disks had disappeared. An investigation later determined they never existed. Some of the lab’s normal activities did not resume until February.

NNSA began shipping nuclear materials in September to the site’s underground Device Assembly Facility, which is considered far more secure than the current storage location at Los Alamos, which has endured recent highly publicized security breaches.

More shipments, which had been scheduled for September of this year, will be postponed until mid-November.

Danielle Brian, executive director of the watchdog group Project On Government Oversight, accused Los Alamos officials of purposefully creating the delay and said nuclear material from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory near San Francisco also should be transferred to the underground Nevada facility.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

A vital insight into Nanos' thinking

From Anonymous:

A vital insight into Nanos' thinking presented itself during one of his all-hands' meetings when he invoked the Tailhook scandal as an analog to recent events at LANL. According to his retelling of it, the media frenzy over Tailhook was suddenly quenched by the suicide of Chief of Naval Operations Mike Boorda, a grotesquerie that drew attention away from the scandal long enough to let the vicious cycle feeding the story die.

The inspiration for the Lab shutdown, and attendant Cultural Revolution, may have come from this incident. Seeing an impending media crisis, the Director may have decided to force the story to a premature, if turgescent, ending by getting out ahead of the media in charging Lab employees with wrongdoing, thus seizing all the drama of the story for his own purposes. Instead of individual acts, the Director would accuse the entire organization of having a cowboy culture. Thus, instead of the problem having an institutional solution, such as improved infrastructure or the de-obfuscation of policy, Los Alamos' problems were total, requiring drastic measures -- measures Nanos assured Congress he was ready to undertake.

Unfortunately, you only get to use the "nuclear option" once, and you'd better win when you use it. Virtually every organizational failing has a cultural aspect, and promising to "clean up the culture" is all-inclusive. Nanos claims all safety incidents are preventable, if you inculcate the proper values. He claims we cannot ever fail to protect national security information, because we generated mountains of paperwork during our time of cultural reflection proving failure was impossible. From the time Nanos invoked culture to explain LANL's generation of news stories, the only acceptable output from Los Alamos was "flawless performance," a feat no one has yet achieved this side of the grave.

The failure of Nanos' gambit was only a matter of time. The next pinched finger, the next clerical error, or the next disgruntled ex-employee could bring questions no one would be in a position to answer. "Mr. Director, how did your vaunted culture change program fail to prevent this outcome?" When you get to this point, your only options are denial or total capitulation. You can see an example of the former in the Director's current "Nanobyte" analysis of the recent DX-3 accident: "Everything is okay. Someone may have been injured, but out of our new cultural awareness, we did everything right." Same failings, different spin.

Now, the media is back with another scandal, (fresh from the folks who brought you the forged National Guard memos), and this time, they are using the "culture" issue to pick up where Nanos left off. There is now nowhere for Nanos to go, no further issue to appeal to. Congressman Barton of Texas is suggesting the permanent closure of LANL, and anti-nuclear activists will be able to trumpet LANL's through-going "corruption."

All of this is causing the story in Washington and the reality in Los Alamos to look like they're from perpendicular universes. Perhaps, in a period of history characterized by the decline of scientific thinking and the resurgence of primitivism and irrationality, the fall of Los Alamos, a place dedicated to the non-ideological pursuit of fact, is inevitable. But still, I wonder, how might things have played out if we'd had a Director willing to defend us and our mission?

-dug (not Doug)

I don't normally respond to trolls, but I will make an exception in this case

Troll \Troll\, v. t. [imp. & p. p. Trolled; p. pr. & vb. n.
Trolling.] [OE. trollen to roll, F. tr[^o]ler, Of. troller
to drag about, to ramble; probably of Teutonic origin; cf. G.
trollen to roll, ramble, sich trollen to be gone; or perhaps
for trotler, fr. F. trotter to trot (cf. Trot.). Cf.

4. To angle for with a trolling line, or with a hook drawn
along the surface of the water; hence, to allure.

I don't normally respond to trolls, but I will make an exception in this case. There have been a few comments to posts recently which (putting it politely) attacked my motivations for having created this blog. I would like to say a few words to those specific individuals.

My dad came to Los Alamos in 1949. I was born a year later and grew up there. I love the place, it's my home. I have worked at LANL for 20 years, where for most of that time I got to do what I loved: designing and implementing large complex computer simulations while working with people that I liked and respected. These were not just fun toys that we played with; most of the finished simulations are now being used to perform useful studies around our nation. The most recent of these simulations to be fielded, EpiSims, is an epidemiological simulation that is being used by several of our customers (DHS and NIH included) to study remediation approaches in the event of biological terrorist attacks against large urban areas in the United States.

When LANL effectively shut down the NewsBulletin, the one venue we all had to openly air and discuss important issues at LANL, I created this communications venue where people are allowed to discuss the current serious problems at LANL, openly and without fear of retribution. If there are individuals who think that by so doing I am attacking LANL, then perhaps those individuals are a part of the problem being addressed by the contributors of this blog, and should consider leaving.

--Doug Roberts

It's limerick time again

From Anonymous:

It's limerick time again.

When our Pete got in on the act
All our best upper hands got sacked
He was truly berserk
To keep us from work
Seven months to be exact!

Now the town’s really started hummin’
Over a company name of Grumman
We all like UC
With its very low fee
Without them we’ll surely be bummin’

I guess UC’s fee was too little
And it’s truly a puzzling riddle
Why they’ll pay so much more
Then go on to ignore
That our work will become second fiddle

The Ambassador who we call Brooks
Has one point which he overlooks
If you fine them so much
Over barcodes and such
Why expect more than just dirty looks?

Now Congress wants hundreds of millions
Or even perhaps in the billions
For one big cl***
Who shut us down
When we should be run by civilians

But if Cheney gets in it’s for certain
We’re really going to be hurtin’
They’ll dream up their ploys
And send in their boys
Our bosses will be Halliburton

I would call upon UC to read this blog


This blog has served as an exceptionally useful outlet for the unbelievable frustrations that loyal LANL staff members have felt ever since Director Nanos' unwarranted shutdown eight months ago. At that time, or possibly within a few days, the rumor sprang up that Nanos would be gone in two weeks. Like clockwork, that rumor has sprung up every two weeks, ever since.

I am now retired from LANL, not because I really wanted to do so this early in my career, but because I wanted to protect my 32.5 years invested in the UC retirement system. My years at LANL have had their ups and downs, but never such a down as the last eight months.

I got my doctorate at UC Berkeley, and I have, until the last half year, been proud of the University. Its present spineless response to Nanos' attack on that other institution that I care about--the Los Alamos Laboratory--has left me demoralized about the future. But only about the obstacles that daily mount to the Lab's recovery from the damage Nanos has done, not about the scientists and workers themselves.

I would call upon UC to read this blog and consider appointing an interim Director, who would have the moral authority to sweep out the sycophants in upper management, and set LANL back on a rational course. I would hope that someone (possibly even a former Lab Director) would respond to this crisis and serve the Lab and the nation between now and the awarding of the new contract. Such a move could possibly stem the tide of high quality people, who are presently contemplating leaving the Lab, one way or another.

The future of a truly scientific Laboratory may well be critical to the nation and the world in the next couple of years, and it would be a shame to hear people say, "Too bad LANL is so weak and wounded; we could have used them at their full strength."

It's also a shame that more people have not had the courage to step forward and truly serve the Lab and the nation, as has Doug Roberts with this blog.

Thanks, Doug.

-Brad Lee Holian, former LANL staff member

UC May Have to Chip In for Lab Closure

UC May Have to Chip In for Lab Closure

Energy Department and university differ on the cost of lost or delayed work at Los Alamos.

Los Angeles Times
March 19, 2005

By Sara Clarke, Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — Members of Congress again criticized the University of California on Friday for its management of Los Alamos National Laboratory, saying the university should bear at least some of the financial burden of a lengthy shutdown at the nuclear weapons facility.

Los Alamos was the main focus of a hearing on security at the nation's nuclear sites held Friday by the investigations panel of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. UC has managed the New Mexico lab for the Energy Department for more than six decades.

Nearly all operations at Los Alamos were shut down in July after two incidents — the reported loss of two classified computer disks and a laser accident that injured an intern — prompted security and safety concerns. The lab did not fully reopen until late January, although many activities had resumed in previous months.

An official with the National Nuclear Security Administration, the Energy Department agency that oversees the lab, estimated Friday that the cost for lost or delayed work resulting from the shutdown could be as much as $367 million.

Los Alamos and UC officials, in contrast, put the figure at $119 million, and said the Energy Department figure included millions in costs not directly attributable to the closure. They said the UC estimate also took into account the gradual resumption of regular operations in many sections of the lab, while others remained shuttered.

Testifying before the panel, Los Alamos director G. Peter Nanos said that during the closure, the lab's employees still came to the facility and concentrated on such activities as management assessments and safety and security training. Such work should be funded because it was authorized under the university's contract, he said, adding: "We just normally don't do it in such heavy concentration."

Although an Energy Department investigation has determined that the computer disks originally believed to be missing never existed, Nanos said the lab had improved its handling of such classified materials and reduced the number of storage locations.

Still, the financial burden stemming from UC's lack of oversight should not be passed on to taxpayers, Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.), told Nanos.

"How are you going to change the culture, and get responsibility?" asked Stupak, who was among several lawmakers who said the university and those responsible for the problems had not been properly sanctioned.

Employees who were implicated in the security breaches and in falsifying records had been terminated, Nanos said.

Several members of the panel said UC should bear at least some of the costs. "The University of California was hired to do a job and they didn't do it," said Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.). Taking the university off the hook, he said, would be outrageous.

Linton F. Brooks, who heads the National Nuclear Security Administration, said two investigations had suggested that the closure costs would be allowed under UC's contract.

But the problems have not been without consequence for UC's reputation and the lab's finances, he said. In what it called the harshest financial penalty ever imposed on a national lab, the Energy Department in January penalized the university more than $5 million — two-thirds of its management fee for 2005. That penalty would not affect the university's other functions, UC officials said.

In addition, for the first time, the university's contract to run the lab has been opened to competition. The current contract expires in September.

UC regents will decide whether to bid for the contract after the department releases more specific information on the request for proposals this spring, said Chris Harrington, a university spokesman.

- Times staff writer Rebecca Trounson in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Los Alamos security shutdown costly

Los Alamos security shutdown costly

Associated Press
Fri, Mar. 18, 2005

Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Disruptions caused by last year's security flap at the Los Alamos weapons laboratory may have cost as much as $367 million because activities were shifted away from the lab's normal work, members of Congress were told Friday.

Lab officials virtually shut down the facility last July after reports that two classified computer disks had disappeared. An investigation later determined they never existed. Some of the normal activities did not resume until last month.

The laboratory also disclosed Friday that the mystery about the disks might have been resolved quickly last summer if two employees had not falsified an inventory sheet showing the disks existed.

Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Peter Nanos said the inventory sheet was signed though no inventory had been taken. The two individuals were fired, but when pressed at a House hearing about whether they should be criminally prosecuted, Nanos said that was not for him to decide.

During the so-called "stand-down" at the lab in New Mexico, thousands of employees were told to stop their normal work and join the search for the disks, undergo security training and undertake other safety- and security-related activities. Many of the workers returned to their normal duties after a month.

Linton Brooks, the Energy Department's undersecretary for nuclear security, told the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on investigations Friday that the $367 million figure "represents an upper limit" estimate of how much the security-related suspension may have cost the lab in lost or delayed activities.

The laboratory disagrees, putting the figure at $119 million. The Energy Department number includes tens of millions of dollars in indirect costs that should not be attributed specifically to the work stoppage, according to Nanos.

Whatever the figure, "the costs are significant," said Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., the chairman of the investigations subcommittee.

Several lawmakers questioned why the University of California, which manages the Los Alamos lab, shouldn't be charged for some of the costs since, they say, the work stoppage resulted from security failures related to poor management.

"The university was hired to do the job and they didn't do it," said Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore. He said letting the university off the hook was "outrageous."

But Brooks told the panel that in all likelihood the government would absorb the costs because activities related to the work suspension were covered by the Energy Department's contract with the university.

Nanos strongly defended the decision to suspend laboratory operations as "absolutely the right thing to do" and said the cost should not be viewed as lost money. During the stand-down more than 3,000 issues were found that raised safety or security concerns.

Nanos said the redirected dollars were an investment in the lab because the funds were refocused toward safety, security and compliance activities.

However, if the government were to determine the spending was not covered under its contract, the university would lose tens of millions of dollars it had expected to receive from the government under its contract.

Earlier this year, the Energy Department penalized the university $5.8 million because of the debacle surrounding the allegedly lost computer disks and other security and safety concerns at Los Alamos.

On a broader security issue, Brooks told the subcommittee that it will not be until fall 2008 that he expects the Energy Department's nuclear sites to meet the more stringent security levels demanded in a post-Sept. 11 era of heightened terror risks.

The tougher requirements were issued last October and the department previously had said implementation would take several years. Brooks said facilities where nuclear material is kept must submit by July implementation plans and a list of resource requirements to meet the new standards.

"Almost certainly additional resources will be required" to meet the new standard, he said, but it's too early to determine how costly the security improvements will be.

While there have been "significant security problems" at Los Alamos and some other sites where nuclear materials are kept, Brooks told the subcommittee "none of the vital national security assets - nuclear weapons, special nuclear material or classified material - are at risk anywhere within the nuclear weapons complex."

A watchdog group, the Project on Government Oversight, testified that some facilities such as Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories in California are unlikely to be able to meet the tougher standards and that the nuclear material, including plutonium, should be moved to a safer location.

Livermore officials have said they expect to be able to meet the new requirements.

On the Net:

Los Alamos:

Brooks: LANL shutdown cost $357 million

Brooks: LANL shutdown cost $357 million

Last Update: 03/18/2005 5:00:06 PM
By: Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) - Last year’s shutdown at Los Alamos National Laboratory may have cost the government up to $357 million.

That’s the figure Linton Brooks gave to Congress Friday. Brooks is the Energy Department’s undersecretary for nuclear security.

Research at the lab came to a halt last July after a report that two computer disks containing classified information disappeared. Thousands of employees were told to stop their normal work. A later report confirmed the disks never existed.

Some members of the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on investigations questioned why the University of California, which runs the lab, was not charged for some of the losses.

Lab officials estimate the shutdown costs to be about a third of the energy department’s figure. Their estimate does not include the cost of work that was delayed because of the shutdown.

Then there was a closed session down the hall

From Anonymous:

[Regarding Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Peter Nanos' testimony today before a subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee]

This was not a great day for representative democracy: The first softball regarding the minor cost overcharge on the tuff sheds set the tenor of the encounter. Considering the damage done by Dr. Nanos' stand down that line on inquiry was like a judge asking Saddam Hussein if he knew that he had an overdue book from the prison library.

Then there was that discrepancy on how much the stand down cost. Dr. Nanos (Note: only once was the title of Admiral used) gave the cost at $136M-- under oath mind you. Ambassador Brooks estimated the cost at $367M and glibly said the real answer is "somewhere in between." (Thank God that neither one of them is my banker and POGO, much closer to reality, put the figure at $1B.) Once upon a time, confessing such a discrepancy in cost before a congressional committee would have been like tossing red meat to hungry wolves. This morning opportunity to chew was fell upon toothless puppies who gummed the discrepancy and blamed it entirely on the University of California, the only party not represented at the table. In fact most of the morning was spend throwing darts at the UC. No voice came forcefully to the defense of the University including those of Dr. Nanos and Ambassador Brooks.

When Dan Brown's name was called out Dr. Nanos seemed to have leaped out to another planet. Maybe he was looking for Brown who was already there. In any case, Dr. Nanos should have had a point by point critique of the allegations Brown had raised. If one existed, he didn't seem to know about it. Then maybe Dr. Nanos thought the Congressman had said, John Browne (the "e" is silent like the defenders of the UC).

An interesting vignette transpired when Dr. Nanos was asked about his support at the Laboratory. Under oath he said, "I think that the majority of the people support what I am doing" (or something to that effect). The operative word is "think" because "thinking" erroneous thoughts can be done under oath.

Somehow Big Blue emerged as a point of discussion. Dr. Nanos said that it took seven years to change the culture of that behemoth from thinking mainframes to thinking PCs. We all know how successful the IBM cultural change has been. Almost all trolls have IBM PCs. Dr. Nanos promised to change the culture at Los Alamos in five. Similar results are expected here. He did say we are at the "tipping point." Maybe he actually meant the "breaking point."

Dr. Nanos' statement that the Laboratory would be back on schedule with its major programs, including missed stockpile tests, by the end of the month begged the obvious question: "Did the missed tests negatively impact the safety and reliability of the Nation's enduring nuclear stockpile?" Alas, again the silence was deafening.

Then there was a closed session down the hall where we can only assumed that ice creams, cookies, and punch were served.

Congress Eyes Los Alamos

From Anonymous:

In case you missed it, this aired tonight --

Congress Eyes Los Alamos
CBS News Link

Nanos defends lab shutdown

Nanos defends lab shutdown

ROGER SNODGRASS,, Monitor Assistant Editor

Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Peter Nanos told representatives of Congress this morning that he did not believe the University of California should pay for the costs of a lengthy suspension of operations at the laboratory.

"I feel that all the work that we did during the stand down was authorized under the statement of work," Nanos said during a hearing of the investigations subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee this morning.

Nanos said the laboratory had largely resumed operations within the first month with its less risky operations after the stand down last July and the most risky operations were restarted by February.

The laboratory would be back on schedule with its major programs, including some missed stockpile tests by the end of the month, he said

He said the review had found justification in the large number of problems that had to be fixed before operations could be resumed, plus ten times that number of problems that needed to be worked on in the future.

Responding to a question, Nanos said changing culture at an institution like IBM had taken seven years.

"I'm two years into at least a five-year process," he said. "We're close to the tipping point."

Earlier in the hearing the nation's chief nuclear officer answered questions about the discrepancy between LANL's estimates on the costs of the shutdown, estimated at $136 million, and an estimate prepared by a National Nuclear Security Administration.

National Nuclear Security Administration Administrator Linton Brooks said DOE's Albuquerque office had estimated costs up to $367 million because of what he included in the estimate. He said the laboratory's estimate was based on a formula for how employee's effort was charged to the stand down, and it was not auditable.

The higher figure also included indirect costs of administration and overhead.

Brooks said a final determination was pending and he thought it would fall somewhere between the two estimates.

Pressed by the subcommittee chairman, Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., Brooks said the University of California, which has managed the LANL contract since the inception of the laboratory, had been held responsible by penalties and a reduction in fee, as well as by having to face a competition for the contract.

Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., expressed incredulity that the issue of stand down-costs was not specifically addressed in the contract and objected to having those costs put back on the taxpayer.

Brooks said that opening the contract to competition was a response to the recent problems with UC, but explained to the representatives that the university has never profited from the work of the laboratory.

LANL was a focus of the subcommittee, as the subcommittee chairman asked, "How we can turn the tide on the bad news at LANL?" But the meeting also examined security issues in general throughout the nuclear complex.

Chairman Whitfield asked Brooks to report on steps that have been taken at each of the NNSA sites to upgrade security.

Stupak, the ranking minority member, sought answer to the questions of what was still vulnerable and why, as well as what still needs to be done.

Glenn Podonsky, DOE's director of security and safety performance assurance, shared the panel with Brooks and was asked if his efforts were duplicated by a similar function in the NNSA.

Podonsky acknowledged that the department does a lot of checking on itself without much improvement, but said his function was separate and independent.

"We don't want to fall into the same predicament as in past years - checkers checking checkers," he said. "I don't believe that's what Ambassador Brooks intends."

Brooks assured the committee that despite delays, nuclear material from LANL's vulnerable Technical Area 18 site would be moved by the end of this year.

The subcommittee also heard testimony from Danielle Brian, Executive Director of the Project on Government Oversight (POGO).

POGO has been particularly concerned about the nuclear material that remains at Technical Area 18 at LANL. She expressed doubts that the new schedule could be met.

"In addition, much of the material will be stored at the Los Alamos Technical Area 55 for an unknown period of time," she said. "Security costs are beginning to mount, as the delays continue."

Nanos to testify

Nanos to testify

ROGER SNODGRASS,, Monitor Assistant Editor

Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Peter Nanos will be among the witnesses before a subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which is meeting Friday morning in Washington, D.C.

The Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., is reviewing security initiatives at DOE nuclear facilities.

National Nuclear Security Administration Administrator Linton Brooks and Glenn Podonsky, Department of Energy director of security and safety performance assurance are scheduled to testify as well.

Following Nanos, Danielle Brian, Executive Director on Nuclear Security, The Project on Government Oversight, a Washington, D.C. public interest organization, will submit testimony.

Last Friday, the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, and Whitfield sent a letter to Brooks, asking for more information about the "cost and reasonableness" of the suspension of operations at LANL that began in July last year.

The letter recounted the representatives' efforts to obtain follow-up information on the stand down, which began as a result of irregularities in accounting for classified information, followed by a serious laser injury involving a student working at the lab.

Nanos originally estimated the cost of the suspension at $100 million, but the letter to Brooks cited a report, dated Feb. 22, from the NNSA's field office in Albuquerque, which raised the estimate to $370 million.

"The amount is staggering, and we are concerned that it will continue to grow," wrote the two chairmen.

"However, the necessity for the stand down and its duration is the direct result of recurring mismanagement by the University of California (UC), and we believe UC should pay for a portion of the cost of the stand down," they added.

Chris Harrington, a spokesman for the University of California, said, "We've been asked to come before the committee and we'll provide the answers to the questions asked."

Harrington said safety and security were very important to the committee and to UC and LANL.

"We've taken very aggressive actions to improve safety and security throughout the laboratory," he said.

"And this is a chance for us to review those actions and efforts with the committee.

Beth Daley of POGO said in a telephone call this morning that Daniel would talk about the relationship between the laboratory's treatment of whistleblowers and congressional oversight.

"From our sources, the costs are up to a billion dollars," she said.

The investigations subcommittee was the arena in which LANL's property and financial management problems were aired two years ago.

A reply from the support group

You might have noticed that has been slow lately. Here is a response to one of my problem reports to them.



Hi there,

Please let us apologize for the various problems Blogger has been going
through over the last week or so. All of us here depend on Blogger as much
as you do, so we completely understand the difficulties and frustration
these issues have caused.

We are currently putting a lot of focus and energy into improving the
performance of our databases. They have been under a considerable load
recently, which causes the long delays and occasional errors in navigating
the Blogger site. However, we added several new machines yesterday, and we
have more on the way. This should put less pressure on each individual
machine which will make Blogger more responsive.

This is an ongoing process, and we will probably have a few more ups and
downs before we get to a more consistently reliable state. We appreciate
your patience and understanding as we continue to work on this problem.

Thanks for using Blogger.

Blogger Support

P.S. Remember that you can keep an eye on our Status page for updates as
they become available:

We also had a post about this recently on Blogger Buzz:

Our third world economy

From the 3/18/2005 LANL NewsBulletin:

Feb. 25, 2005
Our third world economy

In some third world countries, basic goods and services can only be obtained by providing the appropriate bribe. This undermines the integrity of those societies, degrades the work ethic and hides the true cost of doing business.

Increasingly at the Laboratory, basic goods and services can only be obtained by paying an extra surcharge - not so different in some ways from how such third world countries operate. Apparently our recursive taxation system is insufficient to fully obscure the growing cost of doing business. We can more effectively hide our huge overhead from sponsors by invoking service fees for organizations to do their jobs. Dosimeter badges now require a monthly fee, and there are SM-30 delivery charges. There are fees for hiring employees and student. There’s even a new SCIF space charge. Oh, wait, you don’t actually have space in a SCIF? No problem, we can make that a people charge by taxing SCI clearances.

This fee-for-service approach is only going to grow. Can pay toilets and parking meters be far off?

I don’t want to be left behind, so I am hereby announcing my own fees for service as follows:

Preparing any approval form where writing for the justification or business purpose that, “The voices in my head made me do it” works fine: $18.

Preparing any approval form where the cost of preparing the form, obtaining necessary signatures, and filing the document exceeds the cost of the requested action or item by a factor of three: $40.

Preparing any approval form that has no chance of ever being disapproved: $20.

Preparing a conference attendance approval form for a conference with fewer than 30 total attendees so that the Department of Energy can be reassured than no more than 30 Lab personnel will attend: $100.

Reading a slick, glossy, full-color poster on any Lab bulletin board praising a project that is nowhere near complete, and that will probably ultimately fail miserably: $3. When that same poster has a photo of a person or persons standing around doing nothing: $5.

Responding to any panic corrective action, training, or compliance matter that requires me to get a new password: $20.

Each time the LDRD rules and timelines change: 5 cents.

Using any required training or Lab Web site that clearly hasn’t been alpha tested: $50.

Watching live LABNET video where the video bandwidth exceeds the useful information content by six orders of magnitude: $85/hour.

Reading a weekly log of the activities of a senior manager when nothing in there interests me: $10. Reading the same log when nothing in there could possibly interest anybody: $20.

Reading an account of a Lab retreat when the phrase “in full retreat” fails to appear: $10.

Installing software when the installation instructions for PCs exceeds two pages, while those for the Mac say, “Double click on the install icon”: $100.

Anytime I am forced to procure an item from a Just-Somewhere-in-Time (JIT) or other vendor that costs twice as much and takes 10 times longer to arrive than is available on the Internet: $9.

Being told the furniture salesperson (a.k.a. “designer”) who is required for all furniture purposes is there to save the Lab money: $155.

Being told that a rolling plastic lab cart is “furniture”: $3,000.

Reading a Public Affairs spin-doctor press quote that causes me to wince, groan, snicker, or blush, or that makes my stomach hurt: $20.

Providing a copy of this fee schedule: $2. Providing a copy of this fee schedule along with a slick, glossy poster showing me standing around doing nothing: $65.

I conservatively estimate this fee schedule should generate $22 million annually for me. Now, I don’t want to be greedy, so I am more than willing to make 6 percent of this available for LDRD projects. (Submit your proposals in 11 point Atlantis Scrawl font. The first paragraph on each page must be identical to the last paragraph on the previous page, and the proposal should be signed in orange ink by someone who is both forklift certified and a derivative classifier. No proposal will be considered that contains the word “irregardless” because the review committee doesn’t know what that means).

--Roger Johnston

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Subcommittee Names Witnesses

From Anonymous:

The vice admiral is getting set up for a gluteal chewing tomorrow....

(Barton), 202-225-5735

Thursday, March 17, 2005
Jeff Miles (Whitfield), 202-225-3115

Subcommittee Names Witnesses

For Nuclear Facilities Security Hearing

WASHINGTON - U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Kentucky, chairman of the
House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and
Investigations, has scheduled a hearing for Friday, March 18 at
10 a.m. in room 2123 of the Rayburn House Office Building
entitled, "A Review of Security Initiatives at DOE Nuclear

Portions of this hearing are expected to be closed to the public.

The following witnesses are scheduled to testify:

Panel 1

The Honorable Linton Brooks, Administrator, National Nuclear
Security Administration, Washington, D.C.

Glenn S. Podonsky, Director, Office of Security and Safety
Performance Assurance, U.S. Department of Energy, Washington, D.C.

Panel 2

Peter Nanos, Director, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los
Alamos, N.M.

Panel 3

Danielle Brian, Executive Director on Nuclear Security, The
Project on Government Oversight, Washington, D.C.

Two more employees protest CREM incident

Two more employees protest CREM incident

ROGER SNODGRASS,, Monitor Assistant Editor

Two more people who were disciplined in the wake of the zip drives, the ones that were not missing after all at Los Alamos National Laboratory, have spoken out, blaming management for mishandling the affair.

Along with a co-worker, John Horne, Todd Kauppila has decided to provide a public narration of the events before and after the classified material ap-peared to have vanished on July 6.

Kauppila was terminated on Sept. 23.

Horne was suspended from Dec. 20-31, after a review by a Case Review Board, despite having passed a lie-detector test on Nov. 10, the document said.

LANL spokesperson Kevin Roark said this morning that he was unable to comment on personnel actions.

"Our inquiry was exhaustive and the personnel actions were based solely on the facts that came out of those inquiries," he said.

Kauppila's statement was published Wednesday on the blog, LANL: The Real Story (, which has attracted a rapidly growing audience of dissident readers and contributors at the laboratory.

Todd Kauppila worked in DX-3, the office from which two pieces of CREM (Classified Recordable Electronic Media) were reported missing. He related that not only was he fired without demonstrable cause, he was fired after helping to solve the mystery of how nonexistent disks were erroneously thought to be missing.

Kauppila wrote that he had been fired despite having having had only an incidental relationship with the CREM. He chaired an international conference at the lab for which the original disks had been recorded.

When he was asked to return from a vacation because of the crisis, he wrote, he discussed what he knew with his manager over a classified telephone line over the course of two days. His manager gave him permission to continue his vacation.

Later, he learned that his delay in returning "had enraged the director, who demanded that I be fired," Kauppila wrote. "It would take a few months for him to make good on his threat, but he clearly made up his mind that day, and all his actions since then point to that very plan."

Although Sen. Pete Domenici, in a visit to the laboratory on Aug. 9, already hinted at information that the disks might never have existed, several more months and a continuation of the total suspension of activities at the laboratory ensued.

On Jan. 28, the Department of Energy announced that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had determined that the most likely explanation for the missing disks was that a pair of barcodes had never been used.

Kauppila's statement offered an insight into the reasons for the mistake, the chaos of the recovery efforts, and how the mistake was found.

He confirmed a statement last year by a former custodian of classified matter and media at the laboratory, who said the laboratory itself was to blame for failing to support those who had responsibilities for the CREM.

Kauppila stated that there was a shortage of barcoding scanning equipment, forcing CREM handlers to read barcode numbers visually.

Additionally, he charged, CREM "were sometimes given blocks of barcode numbers to apply to generate CREM over some period of time."

Describing the search for the missing CREM, Kauppila described searches that "unfolded in a series of increasingly anxious efforts, in ever-widening circles and in all directions - up, down, and all around, canyons and ceiling tiles included."

Those engaged in the search were also under the greatest scrutiny and suspicion, Kauppila reported.

"Finally, a pattern began to develop with the periodic activity and inventory records that showed the two missing items being inventoried, but then being removed from the data base three times," he wrote.

The observed pattern turned out to be consistent with the ultimate explanation, which was that two pieces of CREM had never been bar-coded because they had not existed, nor fully accounted for in the previous inventories.

Kauppila said the theory was initially suppressed by laboratory managers.

One more reason not to be a manager...

From Anonymous:

Director’s Instruction

Number 05-004


Title: Modification, AM 202, Salary Determination and Review, for Reassigned TSM Managers


This instruction modifies AM 202, Salary Determination and Review. Specifically, this instruction replaces paragraph 202.28 regarding salary for reassigned TSM managers. The salary of TSMs reassigned from management positions will be adjusted to reflect the new duties and peer group.


This instruction applies to Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) Technical Staff Members (TSMs) who are LANL managers. A manager is defined as a group level manager and above, and deputies. See Governance, Policies and Procedures Manual. Managers in structured series are not affected by this instruction, but are covered in AM 202.26. This instruction does not apply to employees who are not managers.


The purpose of this instruction is to bring LANL practice into alignment with standard business practices. TSM managers are paid a salary commensurate with their management responsibilities. When those responsibilities are relinquished, either voluntarily or involuntarily, there is no business basis to retain pay linked to the former responsibilities. As with all other TSM job assignments, salary in the new position must be appropriate for the new job duties and the new peer group.


This Director's Instruction modifies AM 202.28, which applies to employees in TSM management positions. Effective 180 days from the issuance of this Director's Instruction, paragraph 202.28, November 12, 1993, is rescinded and replaced with the following.

When a TSM manager is reassigned to a non-management or lower-level management position on either a voluntary or involuntary basis, that individual's salary will be adjusted to reflect the new job duties and peer group. The decision to reassign the manager is not subject to the complaint procedure set forth in AM 111, Complaint Resolution. However, whether the amount of the new salary has been appropriately set according to the new job duties and peer group will be subject to the complaint procedure set forth in AM 111, unless

the new position is covered by the UC-Managed DOE National Laboratories Policy on At Will Upper Management Personnel. In the latter event, the new salary level will be subject to the University of California Resolution of Concerns for At Will Upper Management Personnel policy.

Contact: Staff Relations, HR-SR, 667-8730

Nanos' live Congressional testimony tomorrow

Dear Doug and others,

Please be aware of, and share broadly, the following link for Nanos' live Congressional testimony tomorrow (Friday):

His foot soldiers have been scrambling for weeks trying to justify (and scale down) the costs to the taxpayers of the lab's "security" shutdown last year. Let's see how Admiral Wishwash fairs against some scrutiny from the real world.

The Committee on Energy and Commerce
Joe Barton, Chairman
A Review of Security Initiatives at DOE Nuclear Facilities
Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations
March 18, 2005
10:00 AM (08:00 am New Mexico time)

Hearing Webcast:
The hearing will begin at approximately 10:00 AM (Eastern Time). The link to the broadcast will become active 10 minutes prior to the start of the hearing.
Committee web casts require the free Real Player.

UC Eyes Partners In Bid For Lab

Albuquerque Journal North
Thursday, March 17, 2005

UC Eyes Partners In Bid For Lab

By Michelle Locke
The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES— The University of California is close to putting together a team of partners for a potential bid to hold on as managers of the Los Alamos nuclear lab.

Finding a partner would be a significant step in UC's bid preparations and comes at a time when a number of potential rivals have announced they won't pursue the contract.

"They're dropping by the wayside, and part of it is because they can't come up with a suitable academic partner," UC Vice President Robert Foley said as he briefed the system's governing Board of Regents on the competition status Wednesday. "Nobody does science and technology like the University of California."

UC regents haven't voted on whether to bid for the Los Alamos job, but they have told staff to prepare as though they will bid.

However, Foley told regents there are potential obstacles to a UC bid, especially recent changes to the government's draft specifications that would require UC to form a special corporation to manage the lab and create a stand-alone pension system.

Los Alamos employees, who currently are covered under UC's systemwide plan, are not happy about the pension proposal, and regents chairman Gerald Parsky said that issue will have to be resolved to UC's satisfaction.

"The employees at Los Alamos are extremely important to us," Parsky said. "We are going to be paying very close attention to making sure that their retirement, their benefits will be protected in this or we won't bid."

The government's final specifications may be released in early April; the bidding deadline will be 90 days after the release, and regents may be voting on whether to bid in late spring.

UC has run the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico since it was formed during World War II to work on the atomic bomb. The university has also managed a second weapons lab, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Northern California, since it was established in 1952.

For decades, the government extended UC's contract as manager without competitive bids. But after a series of embarrassing management lapses at Los Alamos, the Department of Energy announced it would seek bids when the management contract expired this September.

Livermore's contract also expires this fall and is headed for the bid process, but the government has indicated it will extend that contract for two years.

UC regents voted in January to submit a bid for its third national lab, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Lawrence Berkeley conducts unclassified research and has been part of the UC system since the 1930s.

Foley said he expects a decision on the Lawrence Berkeley contract soon. He said the government won't say whether there are other competitors.

In the Los Alamos competition, Foley said it's likely there will be at least one bidder, probably a consortium of academic and industrial partners.

So remind me again, please,

From Anonymous:

So remind me again, please, why it is (besides the pension plan) we
all hope UC gets to continue to manage the lab:

Is it because of the outstanding directors they have given us in
recent years?

Is it because of the magnificent way UC has stood behind the lab
against dumb DoE actions (can you imagine UC letting anyone close
down their own campuses for a year, or making its professors fill
out two days worth of paperwork just to pour a chemical from one
beaker to another?)

Is it because of the great way UC has come to our support when the
lab is attacked in the press or in Congress or by the FBI? (Would
they meekly allow a Wen Ho Lee affair on a UC campus?)

Is it because we get to pretend to be UC faculty and staff (would
UC allow any of its real faculty to be treated the way we get

Maybe I’m missing something here, but I just don’t see (besides the
pensions) what has been so great about being part of UC…………

"The employees at Los Alamos are extremely important to us,"

From Anonymous:


I just saw this on the San Jose Mercury News website. I thought this excerpt was nice and I hope you'll post it;

"...Los Alamos employees, who currently are covered under UC's systemwide plan, are not happy about the pension proposal, and regents' chairman Gerald Parsky said that issue will have to be resolved to UC's satisfaction.

"The employees at Los Alamos are extremely important to us," Parsky said. "We are going to be paying very close attention to making sure that their retirement, their benefits will be protected in this or we won't bid..."


Given the changes taking place at LANL

Hi there,

Given the changes taking place at LANL and the wealth of talented people who, for whatever reason, may be interested in finding employment someplace else, if you have a Q-clearance and would be interested in working in Albuquerque, NM as a technical writer, please email me your resume at I would be very interested in talking with you more about an opportunity with our company.

Best Regards,

Stephen Smith

Ktech Publications Manager

Santa Fe New Mexican Story

From Anonymous:


I appreciate the blog as a place where all stories are recorded. This one in the New Mexican needs to be recognized also.

Continue the good work.


News: Splash Page, LANL, Santa Fe / NM
Disgruntled Los Alamos workers share insights and gripes on blog

By HEATHER CLARK | Associated Press

March 15, 2005

NAMBE, N.M. - If loose lips sink ships, then what can a blog at a top-secret nuclear lab do?

UC close to forming partnership for possible Los Alamos bid

UC close to forming partnership for possible Los Alamos bid

Associated Press

The University of California is close to putting together a team of partners for a potential bid to hold on as managers of the Los Alamos nuclear lab.

Finding a partner would be a significant step in UC's bid preparations and comes at a time when a number of potential rivals have announced they won't pursue the contract.

"They're dropping by the wayside and part of it is because they can't come up with a suitable academic partner," UC Vice President Robert Foley said as he briefed the system's governing Board of Regents on the competition status Wednesday. "Nobody does science and technology like the University of California."

UC regents haven't voted on whether to bid for the Los Alamos job, but have told staff to prepare as though they will bid.

However, Foley told regents there are potential obstacles to a UC bid, especially recent changes to the government's draft specifications that would require UC to form a special corporation to manage the lab and create a stand-alone pension system.

Los Alamos employees, who currently are covered under UC's systemwide plan, are not happy about the pension proposal, and regents' chairman Gerald Parsky said that issue will have to be resolved to UC's satisfaction.

"The employees at Los Alamos are extremely important to us," Parsky said. "We are going to be paying very close attention to making sure that their retirement, their benefits will be protected in this or we won't bid."

The government's final specifications may be released in early April; the bidding deadline will be 90 days after the release and regents may be voting on whether to bid or not in late spring.

UC has run the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico since it was formed during World War II to work on the atomic bomb. The university has also managed a second weapons lab, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Northern California since it was established in 1952.

For decades, the government extended UC's contract as manager without competitive bids. But after a series of embarrassing management lapses at Los Alamos, the Department of Energy announced it would seek bids when the management contract expired this September.

Livermore's contract also expires this fall and is headed for the bid process, but the government has indicated it will extend that contract for two years.

UC regents voted in January to submit a bid for its third national lab, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Lawrence Berkeley conducts unclassified research and has been part of the UC system since the 1930s.

Foley said he expects a decision on the Lawrence Berkeley contract soon. He said the government won't say whether there are other competitors.

In the Los Alamos competition, Foley said it's likely there will be at least one bidder, probably a consortium of academic and industrial partners.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005


Well, for whatever reason, the anonymous posting regarding Susan Seestrom's postponed talk has been hopelessly polluted by childish, immature comments. Perhaps that was somebody's goal. As I see it, I have two choices: delete any comment in the post that is without value (which requires a value judgment) or delete the whole post. I choose to do the latter in this case, because there is not much there worth saving. So as soon as blogger, which is currently slower than [select your most appropriate metaphor here] will let me, that post will be gone.

Thanks to those who tried to impose some kind of order, Adios to the troller.


Staff-augmentation portion of Contingent Worker Project begins wrapping up

From Anonymous:

600 jobs out of 4,000? ..... "build on the momentum" ? a year later and they are still doing early phases of "staff augmentation" ?

Staff-augmentation portion of Contingent Worker Project begins wrapping up

Project advertises 900 new jobs to date

Nearly a year after it was first announced, the Laboratory's Contingent Worker Project will substantially complete a major portion of the project by month's end.

A "contingent worker" is a person who works under a Laboratory subcontract and is not an employee of the University of California. The CWP - which looked at subcontract assignments to determine whether they were more appropriate as UC employment positions - intends to wrap up the staff-augmentation portion of the project on March 31. The staff-augmentation portion of the project focuses on contingent worker assignments under the four primary staff-augmentation subcontracting firms: Butler, Weirich, Comforce and The Plus Group.

The second portion of the project, the task-order portion, focuses on work performed under task orders, stand-alone technical subcontracts or consultant agreements. The CWP team intends to complete the task-order portion of the project this summer.

In a master management memo to Laboratory managers, Richard Marquez, associate director for administration (ADA), noted that although the project did experience delays due to the suspension of operations last summer, the project has achieved significant progress (Adobe Acrobat Reader required). He asked managers in each organization to build upon the project's momentum and take necessary measures to close out the staff-augmentation portion of the project by the March 31 deadline.

The CWP team has completed its review of the nearly 1,500 staff-augmentation assignments identified under the project. The team estimates that as many as 1,000 new UC positions could be created under the auspices of the CWP.

To date, under the staff-augmentation portion of the project, nearly 900 UC jobs have been posted and more than 600 job offers have been accepted. Former contingent workers have filled 80 percent of these jobs so far. Nearly three-quarters of the new UC jobs are full-time regular positions.

Every new UC position created under the auspices of the CWP has undergone extensive analyses by Human Resources (HR) personnel to ensure that job classifications and salary levels are consistent with similar UC positions across the Laboratory. This approach helps ensure that salary fairness achieved under Laboratory Director Pete Nanos' salary initiative is maintained across the institution.

"The results of the Contingent Worker Project to date have been consistent with goals originally set out for the project," said Gilbert Ratliff, CWP co-leader. "The project has provided opportunities for contingent workers to become UC employees, and, as a result, has enhanced contingent workers' opportunities for employment stability, upward mobility and career enhancement."

Under the task-order portion of the project, about 100 subcontracted positions have been identified as more appropriately UC positions. CWP team members estimate that only about 10 to 15 percent of the 1,800 task-order/stand-alone technical services agreements could be affected by the CWP.

The task-order portion of the project is being conducted in a more deliberate manner than the other portion. Marquez is reviewing all recommendations of the task-order portion to ensure that Laboratory divisions have based their proposed actions on prudent business decisions. Based on these reviews, the CWP team is identifying appropriate strategies, such as redefining scopes of work within task orders, to maintain sound business practices. Marquez has instructed additional review of such strategies by the cognizant associate Laboratory director to ensure that the strategies address business requirements of the affected line organization.

In addition, CWP and Laboratory leaders have met with regional business leaders, through the Lab's Business Integration Board and other venues, to design processes to help ensure that the Laboratory's use of task orders is more business friendly. These ongoing dialogues with regional businesses help fulfill commitments that the Laboratory made during a CWP-sponsored "vendor town hall" meeting last spring.

"The task-order portion is an important component of the overall project," said Ratliff. "Under this portion, the team has gathered a large amount of useful information that is being used to improve business processes, such as creation of a system of centralized oversight for contingent-worker assignments. Once implemented, these improvements will help ensure that contingent worker assignments are appropriately managed and that the Laboratory utilizes contingent workers appropriately and cost effectively."

Managers with questions about completing the CWP within their specific organizations should contact their HR generalist or deployed HR group leaders, or contact Ratliff at 5-5196. More information about the Contingent Worker Project is at the updated CWP Web site at online. Questions about the project can be sent to by electronic mail .

Snow Days

From Anonymous:

Subject: Snow Days!
Date: Tue, 15 Mar 2005 20:02:36 -0700

I thought I would pass along the thoughts we went
through during the last two mornings.

Monday am we made the call about 4:20 to delay 2
hours. I went over to the EOC and worked with the staff there. We had one
roll over accident that closed the truck route before 8:00, about 8:10 we
had a van run off Pajarito Rd. and almost at the same time there was an
accident on Trinity at DP road. As we were trying to decide whether to open
or delay we had all three routes into the lab closed or would be closed to
clean up accidents. As I was getting ready to make the call to Ed Wilmot to
close, the State Police closed NM 502 due to a truck that had jack knifed.
At 8:30 am there was no way to get into Los Alamos. We were also very
concerned about how to get people out of the lab as everything froze at
closing time.

This am we made the call to delay 2 hours at about
4:00 am. About 8:20 we made the decision to cancel due to the almost
impassable conditions on SR 30 from Espanola and the poor conditions on US
84/285 and the closure of I25. At 8:30 we were also projecting we would
have less than 50% of the parking lots cleared and sanded by 10:00 am.

As people ask about why we were closed given how
clear the roads were each afternoon please pass the word.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

What corporate life might be like

From Anonymous:

One of the issues facing Los Alamos from the beginning has been the cultural clash between science and military viewpoints (Groves vs. Oppenheimer). It’s obvious that a good cultural match will be critical to our success, and the LANL culture has proven very resistant to change. Looking forward, what we need to know is what corporate life might be like under the cultures of the various bidders. Is there anyone out there who has worked for these folks and can share some first-hand knowledge? Potential LANL bidders and partners include Bechtel Corp., CH2M Hill, Computer Science Corp., Northrop Grumman, Washington Group, BWXT Operating Services, General Atomics, and Teledyne Brown Engineering. Any other bidders on the list? Specifically, we need to know:
1. Who is currently interested or not interested?
2. Who would be a good cultural match for LANL?
3. Who would be terrible?
4. What changes would they bring? For example- safety, science, quality of worklife, benefits, RIFs.
5. Have any of you worked for these companies? What did you like/ not like?
6. Would they split our work force?
7. Are they fair or difficult to work for?

Please respond if you have any direct knowledge of these entities. i.e. You have worked for one of these, or you are working on a LANL proposal, or you work for one now & want to post a commercial... Any factual non-ranting info would be appreciated! Thanks

Pension, retirement issues still hot topic

ROGER SNODGRASS,, Monitor Assistant Editor

According to promises made by the Department of Energy, LANL employees will be able to keep their jobs and their pensions and benefits regardless of who is the next manager of the laboratory.

But according to DOE's written proposals, LANL employees still have nothing definite to count on.

DOE has another chance to settle the matter when it publishes the final version of its request for proposal for LANL, now running many months behind schedule.

And some at the Department of Energy's Hanford site say LANL employees have every reason to be concerned.

"DOE and its contractors at the Hanford site have been assaulting the pension benefits of the Hanford employees since 1996," said Glynn Stevens, who heads the Hanford Retirement Benefits Action Committee.

He said it was obvious during the recompete process that pensions would become a target.

As Stevens described it, the new contractor promptly divided the site between continuing Hanford employees, whose pensions and benefits were maintained, and a new category of enterprise employees who were shorn of their expectations.

DOE has already announced its intention to set up a separate contract at LANL beginning in FY 2007 for environmental management.

Stevens said the division is arbitrary and potentially costly for employees.

Most of the people in the enterprise category are still doing Hanford work and sitting next to someone working for the lab.

The two groups do comparable work, but one group still has the old pensions, including retirement health benefits. The other's pension has been frozen; their health benefit depends on the company where they work; and they've lost their retirement health benefit.

The nest egg they expected has been whittled away.

"My pension is 100 percent less in valuation," Stevens said, due to the loss of a provision that would have paid his pension for ten years certain. Under his former Hanford pension, even if he died, his heirs would have been recipients for at least ten years.

Now, if he dies during his first week of retirement, the pension dies with him. Pension retention has been a prominent issue in the private sector for more than a decade.

In California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has called for revising the state pension system, including the University of California Retirement Plan.

The state reform, opposed by teachers and other public employees, would substitute a "defined contribution plan" - similar to a 401(k) - for the current "defined benefits plan" - which specifies how much a retiree will make.

Under a defined contribution plan, a pension amounts to whatever has been built up in the individual's retirement account at retirement.

The UCRP was so successful during the '90s that it was earning enough money from investments to pay for its members' contributions. It was self-funded.

In defending the LANL pensions, New Mexico's senators have couched their support in terms of recruitment and retention of leading scientists on behalf of national security concerns.

At Hanford, Stevens said, contractors are under pressure to reduce their long-term liabilities - in other words, their pensions.

Lab penalties blamed largely on shutdown

From Anonymous:

Well, Duh. Nanos shut us down last year for reasons that turned out not to be true, and now DOE has given the lab a bad review because we were shut down. What is conveniently forgotton in the mean time, is that DOE and NNSA "fully supported" Nanos' decision to shut down the lab last July.

Up until just recently, that is. Until it became inescapably obvious that Nanos _really_ *really* REALLY screwed up when he flew off the handle last July with his knee-jerk, gonna show-them-who's-in-charge, slap-them-around-and-put-them-in-their-place, I'm the Admiral here Fubar of last July.

Double Duh.

Lab penalties blamed largely on shutdown

Last Update: 03/15/2005 1:25:30 PM
By: Associated Press

LOS ALAMOS, N.M. (AP) - Los Alamos National Laboratory has gotten poor marks from the US Department of Energy.

The lab’s poor review was largely based on director Pete Nanos’ decision to shut down operations last July over classified computer disks that couldn’t be located. Lab operations slowly came back on line through January.

The lab developed new security procedures during the shutdown, but it also caused projects to miss crucial deadlines. Most of those projects were in weapons programs.

Lab spokesman Jim Danneskiold says high-risk operations are in the weapons program, and those are the ones most affected by the suspension of work.

The report card says many key facilities were not available for months because of the shutdown.

Blood is on her hands

From Anonymous:

The continuing thread discussing both this message [Sue Seestrom's latest communicatations to ADWP] and the previous message from Seestrom amply demonstrate the impact that Nanos is having on the entire management chain. He is poisonous, his flaws and failures are dragging everyone down with them. The Blog is no exception. The attacks on otherwise good and decent people are driven by the overwhelmingly negative actions and resulting emotions that are running rampant at the Lab. Everything and anything that supports the Director is viewed as propaganda and a de-facto lie. This is because the Director almost completely lacks credibility within the rank-and-file of LANL.

Sue’s situation is particularly problematic because the DX-3 debacle happened in her directorate, under her watch. Thus, she is a co-conspirator in the destruction of a number of people’s lives and careers. When the opportunity arose to make amends for the over-reaction to the never-missing-CREM, Sue stood silent. It seems that she should have resigned rather than continue to take part in the continuing lie. Of course, Sue is just one of many who have de-facto allowed this situation to continue, but she’s the one who had line authority over DX-3. Blood is on her hands, that’s where some of the anger expressed in the Blog comes from. In my opinion the failure of Pete to admit fault in his actions when the facts became known was the final straw for him. Until that time Pete was just some incompetent ex-admiral who got in way over his head. After that he became a malicious force that threatens the existence of this institution. The truth probably is that he had already crossed the line a long time before. In looking at the actions taken during the stand-down, Pete understood fully how wrong he was early on and then engaged in a cover-up. The inflated “charges” against staff that resulting in their terminations was the tool used to cover-up his manifest incompetence.

A manager must choose to either follow their people or follow Pete. At the level of group leader, my experience is that most choose their staff, at the division level most choose duplicity and at the AD level and above it is Pete. This may simply reflect with whom the managers spend their time. The result is the corrosion of the coherence and honesty institution-wide. If one interacts with staff, supporting Pete is the path towards the loss of the Staff’s respect and being the laughing stock of those you are supposed to “lead”. At the AD level one has to tow the line, or Pete will take your head off (metaphorically of course!). The Division level is stuck in the middle.

The problem is that every time the management implements one of Pete’s edicts their credibility takes a hit. Each manager has a finite amount of credibility. You either earn it or spend it. Pete has spent all of his, he is in a severe deficit and he is borrowing it from the management chain. The ADs are out and now he’s tapping into the Division Office’s reserves. When he’s done there, it’s the group leaders. If this happens the wheels will come off of the entire institution.

The thing I don’t know is whether anyone in the upper part of the management chain actually realizes the depth of the crisis. If we could actually have an honest discussion with them, what would we hear?

More respect to them!

From Anonymous:

Folks, in the last Nanos all-hands, after he turned off the recording, he told the story of him taking a third star to retire in order to secure his Navy pension to support his elderly mother and invalid wife. As much as most of us, uh, dislike, Nanos, I think it was one of the few things that he said that he actually meant: do what you have to do, and I respect you for it.

I think those near but not yet 50 may be the biggest "losers" in the rebid. Those hovering around 40 could probably take a hit; those close enough to 55 could probably retire. But those around 50: what to do?

With that said, I must say that I did not come here for the pension. Pension is a dying animal. Most Americans do not get a pension. Many large corporations are foregoing pension in lieu of matching contributions to the 401(k). You ought to be maxing out on the 403(b) instead of counting on a pension. Once that's taken care of, I don't waste time thinking about the pension at all.

I've known lots of people that have retired this year. I do not begrudge their desire to safeguard their pension. Many of these people have also said, however, that it's not just the contract: they are fed up with Nanos and with what's happening at the Lab, and they didn't want to bother with it anymore. More respect to them!

Finally, it's a popular belief that we are "owed" a pension because we cannot publish our work (and therefore we perish). I hope to never become so mediocre as to believe that someone owes me a job and a pension because of my particular career choices. I hope I will have the guts to move on, like so many of those that have retired before their time, when I've exhausted my usefulness, and not cling on until I turn 60 just to get "the pension that I am entitled to".

"World's Greatest Science Protecting America"

From Anonymous:

"World's Greatest Science Protecting America"

Want to find the single most visible indicator of the damage George P. Nanos has done during his short term as director of Los Alamos National Laboratory? Look no further than the motto that he mandated to be on all official laboratory correspondence, business cards, PowerPoint slides, and memoranda. Staff members despise the motto as arrogant, presumptive, and just plain wrong. Many staff, embarrassed by the bragging, swaggering nature of the motto have created their own customized versions of official LANL letterhead which leaves it off. Others refuse to get official business cards, because they are embarrassed to exchange cards with colleagues from other organizations when the offending claim is required to be on the card.

Greatness is not achieved by proclaiming greatness. In fact, if for some reason a person feels the need to bray to the world how great he is, then he probably isn't.

Change at LANL Could Be Costly

Albuquerque Journal North
Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Change at LANL Could Be Costly

By Adam Rankin
Journal Staff Writer

A change in management at Los Alamos National Laboratory will likely mean the new lab operator will have to pay some state gross receipts taxes, resulting in a significant increase to state revenue.

Billed by federal lawmakers as a means to reduce taxpayer costs and increase efficiencies, the competition for the LANL management contract so far looks like it will cost taxpayers more than if the University of California had continued to run the lab, as it has done for 60-plus years.

Federal officials have already upped the fee for running the nuclear weapons research facility from $8 million a year to a maximum potential of about $60 million a year, still short of what many industrial bidders deem optimal.

With the additional burden of a gross receipts tax, the increased taxpayer costs for LANL management could reach $100 million a year.

The management fee increase was proposed by federal officials as a way to bring in bidders for the LANL contract. Several top competitors, including Lockheed Martin, Batelle and the University of Texas System, among others, have dropped out because the financial risks were deemed too great.

Now, Jan Goodwin, Secretary of the state's Taxation and Revenue Department, is reminding federal officials that any new LANL management arrangement that includes a for-profit company means at least some state gross receipts taxes will have to be paid.

"Non-profit organizations that intend to partner with a for-profit entity for any part of the lab's operations should expect to pay New Mexico gross receipts tax, relative to the portion of the contract performed by the for-profit entity," she wrote federal officials in January.

She advised that "potential applicants, regardless of their corporate structure, should expect to have their tax status carefully monitored by the state of New Mexico."

Under state law, non-profit organizations such as the University of California, LANL's current manager, are exempt from paying gross receipts taxes, though LANL officials have said the laboratory indirectly pays about $30 million in gross receipts taxes through reimbursements to its for-profit contractors subject to the tax.

For years, state lawmakers have discussed the possibility of changing the tax-exempt status of non-profits as a way to increase state revenue. In LANL's case, gross receipts taxes on its $2 billion budget have been estimated at about $80 million a year or more.

Los Alamos County's gross receipts tax rate is 6.5625 percent.

How the additional costs of state gross receipts taxes will be factored into LANL's future budgets— whether into the lab's overall federal budget appropriation or by making the management team itself responsible for the costs— has not been announced.

How the tax would be levied against a limited liability corporation, which federal officials have proposed should be the legal structure of the next LANL manager, has not been determined either.

That a for-profit industrial partner will be part of LANL's next management mix is nearly a certainty, given Energy Department preference for privatization as a means to save money.

In years past, LANL officials have fought to prevent a change in the lab's tax status, asserting such a move would have a devastating ripple effect on the economy of northern New Mexico.

When state legislation was proposed in 2003 to make LANL liable for gross receipts taxes, LANL officials said such a move would result in at least 370 lost LANL jobs and the loss of another 750 jobs tied to LANL contractors.

Governor Attacks UC Retirement Plan

From Anonymous:

I'm probably not the only one who received this email from UPTE-CWA. The following item would make our worries regarding pensions for new employees moot (in the negative sense).

(4) Governor Attacks UC Retirement Plan
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has launched a major campaign to outlaw “defined benefit” plans, such as UCRS and PERS, for all public employees in California . Together with Assemblymember Richman from Northridge, he has proposed a constitutional amendment requiring public employers to provide only “defined contribution” plans like a 401(k).

While defined benefit plans rely on the pooled purchasing power of millions, defined contribution plans like 401Ks are individually-based. Under a defined contribution plan, the University caps its contribution to your retirement, and then you either select how to invest your funds or pull them out to use for other purposes. With the volatile stock market and underpaid employees constantly in need of extra money just to make ends meet, many UC employees will end up with little or no retirement funds.

The proposal would apply to workers hired in 2007 and after, but it would affect all of us dramatically. Current employees would be encouraged to move money out of their retirement plans into the new defined contribution plan. The defined benefit plans for those who have retired or were hired before 2007 would not have any new participants and would dwindle in funding with no new participants. UC and other public agencies have used defined benefit retirement plans as a recruitment incentive for jobs that generally pay less than those in the private sector. The amendment would make public employment less attractive and generate revolving door jobs.

Unions including those representing teachers, state workers and many others will join with UC unions to protect our retirement plan. Please stay informed and be prepared to take action.

Monday, March 14, 2005

RSS News Feed

For those of you who wish to read this blog with an RSS news reader, here is the link:


DOE also reads the blog

From Anonymous:

I've been reading this blog for a while now, with great interest, I might add. I have been noticing that DOE also reads the blog, apparently with great interest as well, given the frequency and length of their visits throughout any given day. This caused me to wonder: does DOE think they have been as complicit in the horrible management of LANL under George P. Nanos as most of the other posters to the blog seem to feel? Then I had yet another thought (I was having a big day): under every other DOE secretary we have had the misfortune to have "leading" LANL, there was absolutely no hope of effective management direction, or, as in our present case, intercession from DOE.

Until now. I confess to have gotten a very favorable impression of Secretary Bodman. If there is _any_ hope that the absolutely unbelievable morass we have let ourselves be led into has a path out, it will in part be through the actions of a for-once strong, effective DOE leadership.

Secretary Bodman, I do believe we need your help.

-A LANL Staff Member

March Physics Today Letters to the Editor

Anonymous sent me this. It was posted once before, but it's probably worth a repeat.

The Pension is a BIG DEAL -

From Anonymous:

The Pension is a BIG DEAL -

I have over 20 years service and the pension for me is a big deal. I
am not a scientist, overpaid manager or have my entire family working
here. I will be 55 years old this September and over the next five
years the monthly annuity increases by $300 per month/year = $1500 per
month increase at 60. If one was to take a lump sum it means a
difference/increase of $230,000 by age 60. I doubt that any new
contractor or UC privatized pension plan would be this generous. I
came to work here at the height of my career because I believed that
the work here was cutting edge and necessary for the defense of this
great country. The pension plan was a major part of my decision to
come here. Beautiful country here but its still out in the sticks. In
general if the pension plan is greatly diminshed as some are bent on
doing then I am afraid LANL will become a hollow shell of itself and
just another government failure.

This is the ninth weekly update in my "irregular" communications to ADWP

From Anonymous:


Sue Seestrom, who received a bit of an unfair roasting on the blog a few weeks ago, has sent out another AWDP communications, complete with a wry reference to the blog. She was perhaps ill-advised last time to tell us all, via a somewhat smarmy allegory to "get our heads back in the game", but let's just chalk that up to inexperience on her part (unless she does it again). A couple of interesting tidbits below.

Dear Colleagues-

This is the ninth weekly update in my "irregular" communications to ADWP. I hope that this note conveys to you the importance I place upon communication. I see a large part of my job as enabling your work. I hope that my attempt at openness in communication will encourage you to communicate back - either through your management chain or directly to me. I am pleased that I have received a number of emails from people I had not spoken to before as a result of this message.

Have a productive and safe week!

There are two primary losers in this debacle

From Anonymous:

In my humble opinion, there are two primary losers in this debacle: the Nation, through the virtual destruction of a prime asset, the talented and once committed workforce of Los Alamos National Laboratory, and the UC, through their failure to live up to their putative commitment to provide the Laboratory a working environment of intellectual honesty and integrity. President Dynes has been told of the Director's regular abusiveness in large groups, in small groups, in individual interactions (even at his Executive Board), by the Robbie Vogt et al team he sent to take the pulse of the workforce. This team heard the truth, the depth of the despair and lack of individual empowerment, and communicated it back to President Dynes, twice and in no uncertain terms. President Dynes either did not hear, was reassured by Admiral Foley that all was in order, or he had painted himself into a corner and did not know how to extricate himself. I think all three factors played into his inaction. He is in a difficult situation -- that is clear, but the end result is that the reputation of UC has been tarnished far more by their lack of leadership than by the sequence of operational problems that occurred on their watch. The first they could have done something about; it is less clear that the latter is under their control. I understand that steps are being taken to replace Nanos, to find him a face-saving exit and I laud that greatly, but I fear it is almost, perhaps is, too late.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

It's all documented

From Anonymous:

Hey Grumman! Hughes! Bechtel! Washington Group International, Jacobs Engineering, Honeywell, CH2M, BWXT, Fluor! Getcher insights here! Want to learn how UC lost the contract? Read all about it on Discover how _not_ to run a national lab, *starting* with who not to pick as director (not to mention how you pick him: National search? We don't need no stinkin' national search! We'll appoint one of our Good Ol' Admiral Boys).

Want to hear how not to do safety? It's all documented in the annals of the blog. Security? Double ditto. Public relations (Hi, Baghdad Bob! Hi, Comical Ali!) Yep, once again, read all about how not to do it, right here! Want to avoid lawsuits? Use the University Of California as your guide on what not to do whilst running your "World's Greatest Science Protecting America" national laboratory.


From Anonymous:

Main Entry: cow.boy
Pronunciation: 'kau-"boi
Function: noun
1: one who tends cattle or horses; especially : a usually mounted cattle-ranch hand
2: A person currently winning an argument with a Nanite.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

The single largest factor contributing to LANL's poor performance

From Anonymous:

Report on LANL's Failings Made Public

By Adam Rankin
Journal Staff Writer

In January, Los Alamos laboratory managers learned the U.S. Department of Energy was penalizing the nuclear weapons facility for poor operations. This week, the federal report card detailing the laboratory's shortcomings in 2004 was made public.

The single largest factor contributing to LANL's poor performance ratings was the unprecedented laboratory work shutdown and resumption process initiated in July by lab director Pete Nanos.

Because of the poor ratings, the University of California, which operates LANL, received only $2.9 million out of a possible $8.7 million laboratory management fee for running the nuclear weapons lab in 2004. The $5.8 million fee cut was the largest ever assessed against a national laboratory and was the first time such a fee penalty has been assessed against LANL.

The shutdown, despite improving procedures and raising important safety and security issues for review and improvement, forced laboratory divisions to miss crucial deadlines, according to LANL's 2004 Annual Performance Appraisal.

Of the projects that missed deadlines, most were in the weapons program at Los Alamos, which is the second-largest production facility in the nuclear weapons complex.

"The discussion of operational milestones not met is due to the work suspension," explained LANL spokesman Jim Danneskiold. "High-risk operations are the ones in the weapons program, and those are the ones that were most affected by the work suspension."

He said despite the setbacks, LANL managers fully intend to meet the deadlines in 2005.

Because of the shutdown, LANL delivered only 50 percent of "surveillance components," 82 percent of required packaging materials, 69 percent of neutron tube targets and 98 percent of dynamic experimentation products, according to the appraisal. Also, "Many key facilities were unavailable for the entire fourth quarter of (fiscal year) 2004 because of the suspension of operations," according to the review.

Of the 10 overall criteria that LANL was judged on, the laboratory received three scores of "outstanding" for its national security strategic objectives, preventing proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and community initiatives; four "good" scores for effective business systems, developing the work force, nuclear warhead assessment and certification, and weapon stewardship; two "satisfactory" scores for implementing a balanced weapons program and completing facility projects; and one "unsatisfactory" score for "maintaining a secure, safe, environmentally sound, effective, and efficient operations and infrastructure basis in support of mission objectives."

Also considered "unsatisfactory" was LANL's environmental compliance for meeting state regulations and for missing waste shipment deadlines.

Despite the poor operations rating, DOE reviewers praised several aspects of LANL's work in financial management and the weapons program, which they noted was hindered by the shutdown.

Friday, March 11, 2005 Seems To Have Fixed Their Problems

8:40pm 3/11/2005:

Regarding the post below: seems to be back up and working. Anonymous comments are now being accepted again.

--Doug is Experiencing Technical Difficulties

5:34pm 3/11/2005

Sorry for the inconvenience, but has been broken all day. It is not allowing anonymous comments to posts. I will announce when the problem has been fixed. In the mean time, feel free to send a bug report to Blogger Support. Blogger support seems a bit nonchalant regarding timely response to bug reports, so maybe they just need to hear from more of the people that their bugs are affecting.

In the mean time, hold those thoughts.


While you are all muzzled

At some point in time today the number of hits (page views) to this site passed 200,000.

Thanks for your interest.


Senator Bingaman

A few weeks back I wrote Senator Bingaman to express my concerns regarding the current state of morale at LANL: said morale being a direct result of our shutdown that started July, 2004, and which is still in effect for parts of the lab.  This is his response.

March 8, 2005

Mr. Douglas Roberts
Santa Fe, New Mexico 87506

Dear Douglas:

Thank you for writing me regarding the current state of
affairs at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). I
appreciate your taking the time to write.

I understand your concerns about the current situation at
LANL. I remain concerned about the low morale and the impact
that the stand-down at LANL has had on New Mexico's economy
and LANL employees, especially the low and mid-career
scientists. When I met last year with Linton Brooks, Director of
the National Nuclear Security Administration, I asked him to
consider the long-term repercussions of keeping LANL closed for
such a long period of time and urged him to have LANL resume
unclassified operations as soon as possible. I believe that the work
performed by individuals, like yourself, at LANL on a daily basis
is very important to the country, and I am proud that our national
labs play such a key role in helping our country meet its energy
and national security needs.

It is my hope that Director Nanos and the employees at
LANL can work collaboratively to ensure the safety and a quick
resumption of all work activities at LANL without decreasing
morale. That said, I am aware of the recent reports that many of
the security lapses at LANL were in fact due to clerical errors,
such as the disappearance of two Classified Removable Electronic
Media (CREM) disks that in fact never existed. Safety at LANL
should be of the utmost concern for the sake of national security
and LANL employees. But I also believe the employees have
worked very hard to ensure the highest level of safety at the
LANL, and they must be recognized for their efforts. As I monitor
the situation at LANL, I want to assure you that I will continue to
keep the interests of the Los Alamos employees in mind.

Again, thank you for your letter. Please do not hesitate to
contact me in the future regarding any other matters of importance
to you and your community.



United States Senator

Northrop builds a team to lead bid for LANL

Northrop builds a team to lead bid for LANL
Santa Fe New Mexican…Diana Heil
March 11, 2005

As the competition to manage Los Alamos National Laboratory nears,
Northrop Grumman Corp. has assembled a team to run head-tohead with the
University of California and Bechtel National.

Northrop Grumman will have the lead role in a partnership with CH2M Hill
of Denver, which would handle environmental cleanup and manufacture
triggers for nuclear weapons. “We’re pressing ahead,” David Amerine of
CH2M Hill said in an interview Thursday. A third player, Teledyne Brown,
would cover minor aspects of operations. The team hasn’t settled on a
university partner yet.

Last week in Washington, D.C., the trio met with the board overseeing the
competition . Amerine said his team suggested ways to make the contest
less slanted toward the University of California, the lab’s operator since
its inception in 1943.

The scoring system in the request for proposals — a draft document at this
point — puts too much weight on science and technology and not enough
emphasis on environmental cleanup and the manufacturing of triggers,
Amerine said.

In the latest version of the bidding criteria, the government increased
the amount of money the next lab operator could make, from the previous
figure of $30 million a year to about $60 million. The Northrop Grumman
team suggested raising the lucre even higher along with higher financial
risk, or offering a small base fee with the possibility to earn much more
depending on good performance .

At last week’s meeting, the trio asked federal officials how serious the
Energy Department is about bringing management change to Los Alamos.

“I genuinely have the impression that the Department of Energy is
interested in change,” Amerine said, “but there are other political
factors at play.”

After a series of security, safety and business lapses in the past few
years, then-Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham and Congress decided to
put the Los Alamos management contract out to bid for the first time in
history . A new contractor could be selected as soon as October .

Bidders will be scored, in part, on the senior laboratory leadership they
propose. Northrop Grumman has taken the bold move of advertising five top
positions at LANL, including the deputy director’s seat, in The Washington
Post and elsewhere.

UC regents have yet to vote on whether to enter the competition and won’t
do so until the final request for proposals is published. However, the
university is reviewing potential senior managementteam members and
considering a full range of candidates, including the incumbents, school
spokesman Chris Harrington said.

The University of California and Northrop Grumman, which has offices in
New Mexico, could turn out to be the top two contenders; however , some
interested parties are choosing to keep silent. Nuclear Watch of New
Mexico — in concert with other anti-nuke groups — is gearing up for the

Those who say they’ve dropped out of the race as prime bidders include:
Lockheed Martin Corp., Battelle Memorial Institute, University of Texas,
Texas A & M University and Computer Sciences Corp.

Just keeping the offices filled will do

From Anonymous:

Many folks who dedicated their careers to classified weapons research were well aware that that decision effectively ended any academic opportunities we might have had. It is estimated that in five years a physicist has lost half his value if he is not actively publishing. Working full time on weapons work always precluded any serious publications. in the late seventies and early eighties this was well understood by the lab. The generous pension plan was one way of making up for the serious truncation of career opportunities. since the cessation of nucler testing it appears that those with the knowhow to make weapons work are much less valued. Just keeping the offices filled will do since the lab can still say our weapons are backed by a 2 billion/year lab. No need to keep good people since there is no benchmark to measure their effectiveness. Thus no need to have great pensions. The quality of the pension plan is not divorced from the quality of the science.

Lets keep the discussion focused on the issues

From Anonymous:

It seems from some recent posts that issues are
getting muddled. There are several different ones,
some connected and some not.
1) The unethical behavior of Nanos - in direct
violation of the LANL code of ethics, personally
abusing people verbally, by threatening to use the
legal system (not citing truth and justice, but by
stating that his lawyers will "last longer"), and
firing people without (or despite) due process.
2) The bad judgment of Nanos - shutting down the Lab
for months. Even if DOE was threatening to
shut us down, Nanos could have negotiated a short
stand-down. Yesterday (3/10) an "Apprentice"
candidate was fired by Donald Trump because he didn't
negotiate the best deal he could have - did Pete
negotiate the best shut-down deal with DOE?
3) Pete used the shutdown to punish - project leaders
and group leader were told verbatim what to tell their
sponsors, resulting in several project cancellations
and subsequent departures (contrary to what Tom Bowles
wrote on the LANL bulletin board).

None of this has anything to do with contract renewals
and pensions, which we now come to:
1) A new or additional contractor (Bechtel?) could
change the way we work here for the worse. We did not
have "academic freedom" but the UC contract guaranteed
"intellectual freedom" - the ability to discuss all
points of view based on their scientific merits,
regardless of policy. This will seriously impact
hiring and morale of new and veteran staff.
2) Pension plan change - this is unlikely to effect
entry-level recruiting, but it will have a
major detrimental effect on the morale of veteran
employees, probably causing many of them to leave.

Lets keep the discussion focused on the issues without
confusing them!

Pete’s lack of communication insures that he never will hear about the problems in the first place

From Anonymous:

This post started with a simple question, “could I write something here and sign my name? And what are the implications of doing this?” To get to the point, the answer is no. Why is worth some comment.

I agree with Brad’s [Holian] assertion that we should be discussing the future of the Lab. It is vital right now, and it is something that should be a continual dialog. I’ve posted to the blog before on this matter and I’m proud of what I wrote, I’d love to sign my name, so why not?

In a nutshell it would be too dangerous to my family. They depend on me, and the current Lab leadership has demonstrated that they will destroy people who get in their way. I am not in a position where I can afford to cause them harm for the cause of the Lab. I’m sure that my position on this matter says something about the present situation and myself.

If I did sign my name, it would be a temporary boon to my reputation with my peers. Nanos is hated and his departure would be seen as a reason to celebrate among those I associate with. If I said something positive, I would be the object of ridicule and lose the respect of my peers. That says volumes about the current state of affairs as well. I’m sure this situation is repeated all over the Lab. If someone is comfortable with speaking positively about Nanos, it speaks volumes about both the person and their circumstances.

I’ll close with some observations about our leadership past and present. I sat down eye-to-eye with John Browne while he was Director and spoke about a serious management issue, the competence and behavior of people in leadership positions. Years earlier I had a heated e-mail exchange with John when he was an AD, I was a lowly staff member in his directorate. In both cases, I communicated with John without fear or reservation. Pete Nanos does not engender the same level of trust and openness. Anytime I’ve either seen or heard about someone raising an issue with Pete they have their head handed to them (“sit down and shutup!”). I’m fairly certain that John did little to deal with the matter I discussed, but at least he was open to listening and I trusted him enough to relate the problem to him. John’s ineffective management was a problem; Pete’s lack of communication insures that he never will hear about the problems in the first place.

What is worse? You be the judge. Maybe the best way to state the questions is (apologies to Ronald Reagan)

“is LANL better off now, than it was two years ago?”

"Great Pensions" over "Great Science"?

From Anonymous:

"Great Pensions" over "Great Science"? What a specious argument. I have been at this lab for less than 10 years so I don't have a significant pension to lose when the contract changes. But I have colleagues that are afraid they will effectively lose about half of their pension benefits by not quitting or retiring. They would be fools to not be worrying about it. They have families and mortgages. If we haven't learned anything else recently we should at least learn that NO ONE is really looking out for us EXCEPT ourselves.

Harping on all the 'whining employees' that can't see beyond their endangered pensions is just STUPID. Let's see how fast Sen. Dominici would respond if the Senator was asked to happily accept a 50% cut in his benefits just as he was ready to retire. It is all a matter of perspective. After all, comedy is really just a tragedy that is happening to someone else.

But I didn't come here because of UC or the pension or 'in-state' tuition at California schools. Most people that I ask still can't give me one concrete example of a direct benefit that we get from UC -except- the retirement plan. Really. Maybe it is just the people that I work with. I came here to make a contribution to what I thought was the stated mission of the lab. If we are not really going to do pursue it as an institution then please somebody just admit it so I can go work where somebody really does care about national security. Some place where the structure of the institution actually facilitates getting something done. How often do we feel that we get something done 'inspite' of the institutional inertia?

If your job is JUST a job then get out of the way. There really are some people that come here to do defense work. There are young people here who feel that this is how they pay back uncles and fathers and brothers who were at Pearl Harbor, Corregidor, Inchon, Fallujah and every other hell-hole in between. We should be here to give the President a credible deterrent and provide enhanced capability to our armed forces. We should be here to be 'mission critical' not merely employed.

If that is not ultimately why YOU are here, well, get off the Mesa. Not everyone needs to be a plutonium metallurgist or an explosives technician but you should care about 'our' success. We should expect to succeed at our mission, not just successfully retire.

Welcome to Bechtel

Welcome to Bechtel

This post is inspired by a recent article about a
Bechtel-UC partnership.
[ "Rumors of Bechtel-UC lab venture has bidders’ attention"
Wednesday, March 09, 2005 ]

"Welcome to Bechtel Nevada". These words greeted
a roomful of EG&G Los Alamos employees, including me,
in early 97. The greeter was Dennis Hayes, a manager
at the newly-formed Bechtel Nevada. (Hayes is now on the
T-Div roster at LANL). BN had just taken over the contract
to run the Nevada Test Site. Expect a similar greeting
if UC and its partner Bechtel win the contract for LANL.
You'll be joining them, not vice versa.

The General Manager of BN from 2002-2005 was Fred Tarantino,
currently AD for weapons programs at LANL. Is Bechtel
already here?

Let me give you a taste of what working at the Lab will
be like under Bechtel. I worked as a Scientific Specialist
at BN for five years before coming to LANL 2.5 years ago.
Before that I worked for 20 years for EG&G supporting LANL
at the NTS in the bad old weapons test days.

Also expect:
-- Lots of arrogant, clueless managers straight from
construction projects in Saudi Arabia.
-- Lots of managers rotating through between construction
projects in South America.
-- Six Sigma applied to everything ( Fred T. was really
big on that.)
-- No eating lunch at your desk (unprofessional).
-- Buying your own safety equipment, shoes etc.
-- Ethics training featuring inspirational videos by
Riley Bechtel, CEO of Bechtel. (This was the last straw
for me.)
-- Total revision of project planning. One of our local section
heads left BN in disgust shortly before I did when he
had to fill out a BN project planning form asking how
many rental cars and portapotties he needed for his
development project. His response was " I don't think
this form applies: I don't know where the bridge is,
how long it is or what it's made of. And the specs may
evolve as we start building it."

My guess is that Fred T. will be the new Lab Director.
He's smart, able and ex-army special forces.

Please don't take these comments as a negative reflection
on the many very competent and hard-working people at BN
who do some key work for LANL in several areas, notably
at DARHT. But they do it in spite of the nonsense handed
down from BN senior management.

BTW, I heard more than a month ago from a BN employee
that a senior manager had told a group of BN employees
Bechtel was the UC partner. And you can bet
that Bechtel will not be the junior partner.

Still sure you want UC to get the contract?

David F. Simmons, Soon-to-be-Ex TSM

DX Division (where seldom is heard a discouraging word)

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Considering how much time the Nanites spend on this blog

From Anonymous:

Considering how much time the Nanites spend on this blog, they must be taking it very seriously.

But how will they explain away these facts?:
* Los Alamos has a good-to-average safety record, as documented by public data.
* Los Alamos has a good-to-average security record, as documented by public data.
* Director Pete Nanos slandered the Lab workforce and needlessly damaged LANL's reputation when he called us "cowboys" and "buttheads" and denounced a "culture of arrogance" refuted by Secretary Bodman.
* The Director cost the United States an estimated billion dollars and damaged national security by an unnecessary shutdown, which will eventually total one year in length in some divisions.
* The Lab, under Nanos' orders, fired people without proper justification, and will probably lose several expensive lawsuits as a result.
* The Director is still pursuing angry grudges against several staffers, according to his statements in front of groups of people.
* The Director continues to waste taxpayer dollars and critical time on fad programs and discredited safety schemes.

"I like reading it to see how stupid some people are." [Comment made on another post - DJR]

I see. They won't.


From the 3/10/2005


It ain't easy, running the world's most important nuclear lab. There are billions of dollars to worry about. Tons of lethally radioactive material. And thousands of scientist employees who think they're smarter than you -- and are probably right. Worst of all, if recent history is any guide, you'll be kicked to the curb before your contract is up, the victim of the latest in a series of seemingly-endless scandals.

So maybe that's why Los Alamos is advertising for top jobs in the Washington Post's classified section. Here's one of the ads, for the Principal Associate Director for Nuclear Weapons Programs.

Responsible for the technical and administrative supervision of approximately 2,500 scientific and administrative personnel, and a budget of about $1 Billion.

Manages the Laboratory nuclear weapons technology program, which includes nuclear weapons design... ensure[s] confidence in the safety, security and reliability of the nations nuclear weapons stockpile.

Serves as the Laboratory focal point for all nuclear weapons activities, including the assessment and certification of the performance of the LANL [Los Alamos National Laboratory] designed enduring nuclear stockpile. Activities include surveillance, maintenance, and stockpile life extension and limited-scale fabrication of a variety of nuclear and non-nuclear components.

Responsible for the pit manufacturing function, which includes the development and implementation of the capability to fabricate plutonium pits [the hearts of thermonuclear weapons] on all types of pits in the enduring nuclear stockpile...

Must have exceptional management skills on large scale programs approaching a 1Billion/year or more.

Desire a nationally recognized expert in the field of nuclear weapons technology, with a strong background in nuclear physics and nuclear weapons design and evaluation.

If that position doesn't quite match up with your expertise, don't worry. There are others available, including the lab's #2 slot, Deputy Director, and associate directorships for science and technology, international security, and engineering and evaluations.

(via LANL: The Real Story)

Bad faith at Los Alamos

Bad faith at Los Alamos

The breakdown of an old contract threatens to leave a great national laboratory gravely weakened.

For an outsider, it's hard to imagine that conditions at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico could get much worse. When two disks containing classified data went missing last summer, federal investigators descended on the lab, operations were suspended for months, and scientists were berated as "buttheads" by Peter Nanos, the lab's director. Now, it turns out, those disks never existed (see Nature 433, 447; 2005).


Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Publication Decline

From Anonymous:

I went to Physical Review Letters webpage and did a search for "Los Alamos" in "affiliation"
for a one-year period, then counted the number of papers published each month. March data include papers both already published and accepted. The graph represents only one journal in a multutude, and I make no claim to perfect accuracy. In the March 2005 issue, the range of original submission dates for papers ranges from March to November 2004, with the interval between submission and publication averaging around six months. Thus the somewhat dispersed impact of LANL shutdown should start showing up about now. I make no comments on the graph, but I will gladly update it and refine it if the readers find it useful.


Rumors of Bechtel-UC lab venture has bidders’ attention

Rumors of Bechtel-UC lab venture has bidders’ attention

By Donna Heil | The New Mexican
March 9, 2005

Neither Bechtel National nor the University of California will confirm reports that they are teaming up to manage Los Alamos National Laboratory.

But Tuesday, as another potential bidder said it would drop out of the competition for the contact, it endorsed UC partnering with Bechtel, a mammoth engineering and construction company based in Frederick, Md.

"I think Bechtel makes UC a strong team," Michael Plett, of the Computer Sciences Corp., in Falls Church, Va., said in a telephone interview.

Although officials at the University of California, which has operated the lab since 1943 for the federal government, won't confirm they definitely plan to bid for the contract -- Bechtel's name has been circulating as one of UC's likely partners.

Andy Kellsey of Bechtel National said his company remains interested but declined to say whether his company is forming a partnership with UC. "We're still following the procurement," he said.

Months ago, Kellsey said Bechtel would consider being a lead bidder but Tuesday he would not define the role Bechtel is seeking.

Gov. Bill Richardson, in an interview Tuesday, offered his support for such a combination.

"If the reports are true, I do believe that Bechtel would be a good partner to the University of California," he said.

Last year, Richardson made a trip to California to encourage university regents to bid for the contract with an industrial partner and the University of New Mexico. The industrial partner would look after security, safety and other matters that have vexed the university, and the university would focus on managing scientific research.

Richardson said Bechtel could enhance the engineering and scientific strength of the lab.

"It would be good to take advantage of their contacts," Richardson said of Bechtel. "They are strong managers. They are in good financial shape. They have worldwide experience."

He said UC might bid with two industrial partners but declined to name the other one.

Years of safety, security and financial problems at the lab prompted then-Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham to open the management contract to others for the first time in history.

Now, as competitors jockey for position -- forming teams and seeking key management personnel behind the scenes -- players are coy and evasive. Firm commitments probably won't be made until the federal government publishes the official version of the bidding criteria -- which sets forth the amount of money the government is willing to pay the lab manager, the risks involved and the expectations. The Energy Department hopes to name the winner by October.

Northrop Grumman's Information Technology sector, based in McLean, Va., remains interested in being a prime bidder but has not made a decision, Juli Ballesteros, a company spokesman, said Tuesday. In a bold move, the company just advertised for the jobs of deputy director and four associate directors to work at the lab. Of course, filling the positions will be contingent on Northrop Grumman winning the contract, Ballesteros said.

"That's the potential," Ballesteros said. "If we do make the decision to bid, we would have to ramp up pretty quickly and get the talent in there."

She imagines other bidders will do the same.

Northrop Grumman, with offices in Los Alamos and Albuquerque, has 445 employees in New Mexico. A branch of the company that deals with space technology currently has a relationship with LANL, she said.

To find out who's in and who's out, The New Mexican called interested parties that attended a conference last December in Albuquerque about the competition.

Of those reached by phone Tuesday, Computer Sciences Corp. was the only company that had lost interest. "Money and a whole bunch of other things came together," Plett said, noting that CSC decided a week ago it probably would not bid.

The following companies did not return calls: CH2M Hill, Fluor Corp. and BWXT. Prior to this report, Lockheed Martin, Bettelle Memorial Institute and the University of Texas withdrew interest in being prime bidders.

CSC has 40 years of experience in assisting the aerospace and defense industry with business and technology management.

Plett said the federal government crafted a good proposal, and he supports the effort to preserve a beefy pension plan for current employees. "I think Los Alamos laboratory is a jewel," he said. "I think the benefits package has helped make it what it is."

Six months ago, CSC might have been the only prime contractor poised for the job, Plett said, but he doesn't feel bad about quitting the race now. "I think they're going to have a fine competition," Plett said.

He mentioned the University of California, Northrop Grumman and Jacobs.

But Dan Pierre, a Jacobs Sverdrup representative who attended the December conference, had little to say on the matter. "We're not ready to announce," he said.

Representatives from Washington Group International -- who attended the December conference -- were upbeat but tightlipped.

Jim Landers of Washington Group International said, "We're interested," but he would not say in what capacity.

Meanwhile, Landers said he has become an avid reader of the LANL: The Real Story, an Internet blog started by lab computer scientist Doug Roberts, where gripes are aired and issues are discussed.

"I think everybody's reading it. It's pretty insightful," Landers said.

Few companies and universities have what it takes to manage a nuclear-weapons laboratory. Here's the rundown so far:

Not interested

  • Lockheed Martin: Operates Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque and Livermore, Calif.
  • Bettelle Memorial Institute: Operates five U.S. Department of Energy laboratories.
  • University of Texas: Decided instead to help Sandia Labs improve its research.
  • Texas A & M University
  • Computer Science Corp. (Falls Church, Va.): Manages large aerospace contracts.

    Interested but undecided
  • University of California: Operates Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore and Lawrence Berkeley labs.
  • Northrop Grumman: A global-defense company headquartered in Los Angeles; more than 125,000 employees; operations in all 50 states and 25 countries.
  • Bechtel National (Frederick, Md.): The government-services arm of Bechtel Group, which has 40,000 employees. Lead partner in managing the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory. Led environmental cleanup at the U.S. government's Hanford Site in Washington state. Won $1.8 billion contract to rebuild Iraq's public works.
  • Washington Group International (Boise, Idaho): One of world's largest construction and engineering firms; recovered from bankruptcy in 2002; has operated the 310-square-mile Savannah River Site for the U.S. Department of Energy since 1989.

    Not saying
  • Jacobs Engineering Group (Pasadena, Calif.): Provides technology engineering services to aerospace and defense projects; remediated contamination at three Energy Department sites.
  • CH2M Hill (Denver): Provides engineering, construction, operations and technical services.
  • Fluor Corp. (Aliso Viejo, Calif.): Oversees construction projects.
  • BWXT Technologies Lynchburg, Va.): Manages nuclear production facilities and the closures of such facilities.

    -- Diana Heil

  • UC's Los Alamos chances looking better

    The original article can be found on here:
    Monday, March 7, 2005 (SF Chronicle)
    UC's Los Alamos chances looking better
    Charles Burress, Chronicle Staff Writer

    UC's chances for continuing to manage the nation's leading nuclear
    lab, the Los Alamos National Laboratory, have won an apparent boost with
    the withdrawal of one of the most formidable potential competitors.
    The Battelle Memorial Institute, which runs five other U.S.
    Department of
    Energy labs, decided not to compete in order to focus on its existing
    lab contracts, said Bill Madia, Battelle's executive vice president for
    laboratory operations.
    UC has managed the Los Alamos facility, birthplace of the atomic
    since its World War II origin, but security and management lapses
    prompted the Department of Energy to open the contract to outside
    bidding. The current contract expires Sept. 30.
    The removal of Battelle from the competition is likely to boost UC's
    prospects for keeping the contract if UC regents decide to proceed with
    their own bid and if the shrinking field of potential competitors
    doesn't provoke a delay in the contract renewal process.
    Battelle, based in Columbus, Ohio, just recently added its fifth
    lab when a Battelle-led consortium won a 10-year, $4.8 billion contract
    to manage the 3,000-employee Idaho National Laboratory. That new
    responsibility, in combination with seeing the Department of Energy's
    draft competition guidelines issued in December for managing the
    8,300-employee Los Alamos facility, convinced Battelle to withdraw,
    Madia said in a telephone interview Sunday.
    Battelle was a top potential competitor for Los Alamos because it
    manages or co-manages the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory,
    Brookhaven National Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the
    National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
    "We thought it would be better for us to focus on running these five
    with excellence rather than extend beyond our current resources," Madia
    He said Battelle decided not to compete about six weeks ago but did
    announce it. "We don't typically announce no-bid decisions," he said.
    Battelle's withdrawal follows that of several other potential
    including the University of Texas, Texas A&M University and Lockheed
    Martin. Among those still believed to be eyeing a bid are Northrop
    Grumman and General Atomics.
    The Department of Energy is expected to release its formal request
    proposals for the Los Alamos contract in the next few weeks, triggering
    a 60- day period during which official proposals would have to be
    submitted. Selection is expected this summer.
    UC spokesman Chris Harrington declined to speculate Sunday on whether
    Battelle's withdrawal would strengthen UC's chances.
    "The university is not watching the playing field here," he said,
    "but we
    are focused on the ongoing playing field of managing our national labs."
    UC also is the founding manager of the Lawrence Livermore National
    Laboratory and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Those labs'
    contracts also were opened to competition, though continued UC
    management of the Berkeley lab appears assured. Congress authorized
    extending the Livermore contract until 2007.
    UC officials have been actively preparing a bid to keep the Los
    contract, and UC regents are expected to vote soon on whether to give
    the green light. A UC bid would likely include a private-sector partner.
    "The University of California is preparing a very strong bid (for Los
    Alamos) should the regents decide to compete," Harrington said.
    E-mail Charles Burress at
    Copyright 2005 SF Chronicle

    Tuesday, March 08, 2005

    Laser eye injury in mid January at the DOE laboratory NREL

    From Anonymous:

    It is worth pointing out that there was a laser eye injury in mid January
    at the DOE laboratory NREL (Natl Renewable Energy Lab.) in Colorado. The
    accident was in many ways similar to the LANL accident. A preliminary
    accident report is available at:

    There have been no expressions of outrage from Congressman Hobson or
    Congressman Barton.

    There have been no stern warnings issued from the Secretary of Energy.

    There have been no calls to cancel the contract to run NREL.

    The NREL Director has suspended Class 3b and 4 laser operations, but has
    not called for a labwide shutdown.

    There have been no public announcements of the accident, as a google will show.

    Pete Nanos is taking a focused, planned approach from the ground up and is firm in resolving problems he sees

    Letter to the Editor from the 3/8/2005 Los Alamos Monitor.

    LANL NewsBulletin Reader's Forum Disappears

    From Anonymous:

    The sidebar link on the left called "Reader's Forum" is no longer where it used to be, between "Job Openings" and "Research Library". Just a gaping hole there now.

    Monday, March 07, 2005

    The Time for Balance on These Issues Was Long past Due

    Referring to the ta-15-crem-incident-and-aftermath post:

    In the interest of accuracy I would like to address a few of the recent comments that have been made. I am the coauthor of the CREM article, and I stand by every word of it. We were very careful to make certain that the article submitted was scrupulously accurate and could be verified. There is not a single statement in this piece that cannot be corroborated by witnesses or backed up by supporting documentation. The individual who posted his comments at 7:44 said the “account is extremely biased, self-serving, and emotional.” I would submit to you that the months of erroneous information fed to the world by the Director was biased, self-serving, and indeed emotional. Above all it was untrue.

    It is difficult, if not impossible, to remain completely dispassionate when writing about an issue that one is so deeply involved in. Considering the devastating consequences of the Director’s actions and strident claims, I believe our words were reasoned and appropriate. While some might feel our account is self-serving, our right to defend ourselves with facts is completely justified. Who in his right mind would silently tolerate the indignity and injustice of a false accusation followed by outrageous punishment? In our opinion, the time for balance on these issues was long past due. Recall as well the Director’s remark that a few innocent people might be casualties before the Lab was able to resume operations.

    While there was a direct case made to fire two employees involved in the barcode incident and responsible for the inventory error, Todd and I were not among them. Contrary to the assertion of the post, I am still a Lab employee. Moreover, the federal authorities found that Todd and I were “completely nonculpable,” which is a very important point. The federal investigation found that we were both blameless in the events that transpired, yet Todd was fired and I was suspended for ten days. These actions were political in nature and designed to lend credence to the shutdown and the Director’s claims that maverick employees were the cause of his CREM problems. That is why we are fighting the sanctions taken against us. Neither Todd nor I were signatories on any of the documents in question, so indeed no mention is made of that in our statement.

    The 9:25 post says that we avoid inconvenient aspects of what happened based on his assertion that if someone at DX had been more careful this blog would not exist. The posted statement is a nonsequitur. We address the fact that the inventory was inaccurate, which was the root cause of the CREM debacle, and a problem, I might add, that we uncovered and reported to the SIT through our OCSR. The Director knew about the hypothesis on July 17, as did NNSA.

    Lastly, I would like to address the 10:48 post. The footnote is not misleading. The Director did call me a fool. If you were actually in the room that day then you know that Nanos had lost his temper long before I told him that “his black cowboy hat was a slap in the face to everyone in the group.” Your post is misleading because you fail to provide the context for your statement. Additionally, to claim that I am asinine for pointing this out is more misleading. I have personally briefed the director numerous times. I have close friends and family that work at TA-3. All of them agree that the hat that Nanos habitually wore before the barcode incident was a leather “Indiana Jones” style hat that I have seen many times. The black cowboy hat is a new addition to his wardrobe and designed to send a statement. I stand by my comment. I believe I know who you are. You certainly know who I am. The fact that you did not have the common courtesy to say this to me personally or to post your name is telling.

    I cannot relay to you exactly how stressful the last nine months have been for us. Both Todd and I have been slandered, maligned, and defamed. Our life savings have been depleted and our careers destroyed. We have had to sell personal property and go into debt to pay attorneys’ fees. Neither of us is the type of person to shirk our responsibilities. Had we deserved any of the charges made against us or the punishments exacted, then we would have quietly accepted it and moved on. However, we are also not shrinking violets that will allow unethical people to abuse us and our families. When we believe we are right we will fight for vindication.

    We both realize that we are not the only ones who have been abused in this situation. The actions of the Director, UC, DOE, and the NNSA are reprehensible. All of you have been unreasonably attacked. Even those who do not work at the Laboratory have been deeply affected. Due to the uncertainty at the LANL property values have plummeted, businesses have failed and everyone here has been placed under completely avoidable stress. As lifetime members of this community we are deeply distressed and dismayed at what has occurred. We hope that you understand our defensive motivation in fighting the actions taken against us.

    The information that we presented was an accurate description of the CREM incident. We tried to give as much detail as possible for the venue in which it was submitted. However, it is unreasonable to think that we could cover every nuance and anticipate every question in such a brief account. The proper place and time to delve deeply into the details should be in a House or Senate subcommittee hearing that we expect to happen later this year. We anticipate our testimony becoming a part of that record so that Todd and I can clear our names in an official capacity.

    John N. Horne

    Terry Wallace, ADSR EmailGram

    From Terry Wallace:

    ADSR Emailgram
    March 7, 2004

    In the next month and a half all the technical Divisions in ADSR will
    undergo their Division Review. This process is a very important
    element of assessing the quality and health of science at LANL. The
    DRC "grades" the Divisions, and that information is rolled up to the
    University of California, and ultimately, to NNSA. The final report
    card for LANL performance is based on Appendix F of the prime
    contract between UC and NNSA, and the grades impact that award fee
    given to UC. For the first time in history, UC received a
    substantial fine based on their FY 2004 report card (sort of the
    opposite of paying your children for every A they bring home). ADSR
    owns the part of the report card grading science excellence. It was
    one of the few areas in which LANL was graded as outstanding last
    year. One thing is clear looking at the DRC materials for C, EES,
    MST and T divisions: I expect that the performance will be
    outstanding again. I don't believe that there is grade inflation in
    this assessment. LANL has a very specific mission (National
    Security), and constraints on how work is conducted. Despite these
    obstacles, LANL continues to produce more peer reviewed publications
    that our sister labs, and has numerous national awards given to its
    scientists. We are at a significant juncture in time though - unless
    we improve the environment for science soon we will begin to start a
    downward spiral, losing key personnel and research focus.


    Contact Me: I encourage you to email me with your questions,
    comments, or concerns. My email address is, or if
    you prefer, you can send email to my home address with confidence of

    Terry C. Wallace, Jr
    Associate Director for Strategic Research
    Los Alamos National Laboratory

    Phone: 505-667-8597
    Fax: 505-667-5450

    What 35 Years Gets You

    From Anonymous:

    With Much Warmth And Appreciation

    Senators defend LANL pensions; express concern

    Tuesday, March 8, 2005

    Los Alamos Monitor
    Headline News
    Senators defend LANL pensions; express concern

    ROGER SNODGRASS,, Monitor Assistant Editor

    New Mexico's two senators were on the same page Friday, joining to issue a single set of comments to the most recent revisions of the Department of Energy's request for proposals on managing Los Alamos National Laboratory.

    The senators were not satisfied with Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman's answers to their questions during a committee hearing on the administration's budget request for the department in Washington Thursday.

    Sen. Pete Domenici, R-NM, and Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-NM, the two top leaders of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources committee with jurisdiction over DOE, objected particularly to the idea of a stand-alone benefits and pension plan for LANL employees.

    The idea was included in white papers prepared by the Source Evaluation Board (SEB) overseeing the competition process. The white papers were intended to respond to a first round of comments on the draft request for proposals.

    The first draft drew criticism from LANL employees and expressions of concern from the senators that employee pensions were not adequately protected.

    Now, the senators rejected the procurement committee's suggestion that the winning bidder would create a separate corporate entity to carry out the contract.

    Such a move, the senators say, could push senior weapons designers into retirement, in order to lock in current benefits, while deterring younger scientists from seeking employment at LANL.

    A management mechanism in the previous draft described a process for adjusting lab pensions closer to prevailing compensation at other DOE laboratories.

    Since LANL employees under the University of California pension plan receive pensions well above average, a leveling could only mean a reduction.

    The revised RFP language would still apply the leveling influence, but over a period of time established by the contracting officer.

    In a joint letter to Bodman Friday, the deadline for submitting comments, the two Senators insisted that the National Nuclear Security Administration that manages the nuclear complex for DOE "not foreclose the option of continuing the existing benefits plan or allowing the new contractor to utilize the existing plan."

    The senators called for flexibility and preserving options. They criticized "competition at any cost."

    They wrote, "We believe the best way for the SEB to guarantee that employees receive 'substantially equivalent' benefits would be to allow existing employees to remain within the University of California Retirement Plan."

    Following the current course outlined in the RFP, the senators estimated for the first time, could add $100 million per year to the lab's overhead, an increase that runs counter to the FY 2006 budget request which proposes precisely the opposite funding, a reduction of $500 million over the next five years.

    "We hope the SEB will publish a Final RFP that will not: reduce employee compensation and retirement benefits, reduce the mandate to support world-class scientific research, or increase operating costs to a level that cannot be supported with the budget," they concluded.

    The senators did find positive features in the proposed modifications, including the 180-day contract extension that will be requested, in order to provide adequate time for the winning bidder to prepare pension and benefit plans that meet the contracting officers approval and allows employees enough time during the transition to evaluate any changes and differentials.

    LANL: past, present, future

    From Anonymous:

    Brad Holian is giving a talk "LANL: past, present, future" this Wednesday
    at 4:30 PM in MSL Auditorium.

    Hans Bethe

    From Anonymous:

    I don't really care about Admiral Butthead and the rest.
    But Hans Bethe, who died Sunday, was (and is) one of my heroes. In the history of Los Alamos, he was one of the giants. One of the last.
    Bill Broad has a fine piece in the New York Times, which would make a great post.
    Hans Bethe will be remembered long after "them and us." Where are the Hans Bethes of today?

    Of Particular Interest

    From Anonymous:

    The above was posted today on the NNSA recompete site
    <>. Of
    particular interest is the section regarding the loss of some of UC's
    fee attributed to "serious security violations". If you look at the
    overall rating for LANL the fee seems rather steep especially given
    the fact that there was no missing CREM. Nanos cost UC a couple of
    million + .

    Hope they think he is worth it.

    More on the online recruiting ads.....

    More on the online recruiting ads.....

    Multi-national company recruiting for key jobs at LANLBy Bill Dupuy, KSFR News

    SANTA FE (2005-03-07) -- A multi-national company based outsideWashington, D.C. has posted online recruiting ads on the web for several key positions at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, including the job of deputy director.

    A spokeswoman for Northrup Grumman Information Technology tells KSFR she was unaware of the job postings. She says the company has been watching the process for bidding for the Los Alamos lab contract but would not comment whether the job postings indicate a possible partnership between the company and the University of California or whether the company is considering a bid on its own.

    In addition to the number two, deputy director positon, the recruiting ads say Northrup Grumman IT is looking for an Associate Director for Nonproliferation and International Security division and an Associate Director for Engineering and Evaluations. Lab spokesman Kevin Roark says those two specific job titles do not now exist at Los Alamos. About 7,000 of the Los Alamos lab's 11,000 employees work for theUniversity of California, which has held the contract for more than 60 years.

    Northrup employs 23,000 people worldwide and generates $4 billion annually in revenue.

    More Job Ads

    From Anonymous:

    I believe this warrants a forefront posting:
    In today's (3/7) Washington Post online (, click on Jobs (blue bar near the top) and then "Find a Job". Enter "Nuclear" as a keyword, click "Search", and look at the Job Ads for Northrup Grumman on 3/5. They are for LANL AD's and a DD.
    Example: ADTR -
    Posting Title Associate Director, Nonproliferation & International Security
    Business Unit TS
    Job City Los Alamos
    Job State NM
    Requisition Number 37620BR
    Labor Type Direct
    Job Description Responsible for the technical and administrative supervision of approximately 400 technical and administrative personnel and a budget of about $300 Million.

    Responsible for the development and application of science & technology required to prevent, detect and respond to the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Manage the development and deployment of unattended ground based instruments and space based instruments to detect weapons of mass destruction and threats posed by terrorism.

    Manage the United States/Russia nonproliferation program which is responsible for activities pertaining to nuclear materials protection, control and accountability.

    Support the U.S. nonproliferation and national security policies by developing sensors as well as analytical and modeling capabilities for detecting and characterizing the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.

    Direct efforts, in conju! nction with DOE intelligence to assess nuclear weapons technology, materials production capabilities, nuclear proliferation potential and dual use technologies by rogue nations or terrorists.

    Manage the nuclear materials disposition program, which is designed to reduce the significant quantities of weapons-grade plutonium and highly enriched uranium that is surplus to the defense needs of the United States and Russia.
    Job Qualifications Strong management skills required.

    Must have a strong background in the area of arms control and nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. Experience in the foreign policy arena would be very helpful.

    Possess a working knowledge of the technical and policy issues confronting the federal agencies involved in arms control, nonproliferation and intelligence activities. A working relationship with key agencies, including the DOD, DOE State Department, and the intelligence community is required.

    This position requires extensive contacts with key officials and top scientific and engineering personnel of the DOE laboratories and key federal agencies.

    Proven experience in formulating and applying innovative technologies and analytical concepts for resolving complex nonproliferation issues is required.

    A masters degree in the physical science or engineering is des! irable Masters a PHD is desirable.

    A Q and SCI clearance is required to effectively manage this organization,
    US Citizenship Required Yes
    Security Clearance Required Yes

    Sunday, March 06, 2005

    Job Ad

    From Anonymous:

    Northrup Grumman looking for a Deputy Dir at LANL

    While I was conducting another random search of other career opportunities, I stumbled into
    the following at I thought a few people might be interested.



    America has a government founded on the principles of freedom and liberty. The founding fathers were inspired and motivated to form a separate nation from Great Britain for a variety of reasons. Most of these reasons or principles were summarized in the original statement of "Unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness . . . That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed." Though Great Britain was supplying America with safety and security as its mother country, as an imperialist government it failed to bestow on its citizens certain liberties and rights deemed important to the new Americans who chose to explore and stake out a life in the New World. The principles of freedom and liberty are paramount to a strong nation made up of creative and inspired individuals who can tackle the challenges of making a new and better life for each and all of its citizens. Without freedom and liberty, how else can one truly explore and investigate, experiment and experience, and learn by failure and success, on the awesome journey of discovery in any new world or on any new knowledge frontier. America therefore chose freedom and liberty as its founding principles in government, and the nation has grown strong and prospered accordingly for over 200 years.

    Freedom and liberty must be balanced with safety and security, which necessitates a government and nation of laws and protections for its citizens. These laws by their nature limit some of our personal freedoms and liberties, and are necessary to maintain our civilized society and culture. The 9/11 event brought into focus the importance of safety and security in a free society. It was an attack using methods of terror that motivated our country to implement more laws and regulations with the goal of creating better protection for its citizens. Therefore, to some extent the terrorists have won a battle by forcing us to give up some of our freedoms and liberties in favor of safety and security. It is critical, therefore, that we as a nation maintain a clear and strong balance between freedom & liberty and safety & security.

    Currently at Los Alamos National Laboratory safety and security has mostly eliminated the freedom and liberty of its employees. Dr. Oppenhiemer, the Laboratory’s founding father and first director, had many conflicts with General Groves, the military leader of the project, regarding how much freedom and liberty should be allowed to the laboratory scientists. Dr. Oppenhiemer’s leadership prevailed and the scientific community was free of most of the more unreasonable restraints to its freedom and liberty. Recently the mission of the Laboratory has radically changed from that of doing research and science to maintain our personal and national freedom and liberty to that of regulating and documenting safety and security in order to maintain our livelihoods. Fear and intimidation are the driving forces that now direct Laboratory employees’ efforts. Employees are no longer free to do the jobs they were trained for and do not have the liberty to investigate new discoveries. I believe the director said something to the effect that we will have no safety incidents and no security infractions. I interpret that to mean we will have no freedom and no liberty at Los Alamos National Laboratory! Laboratory management says we are going in the right direction now. Do we really want to go there?

    Don Gettemy

    UC Seeks New Los Alamos Director

    (A rare noon-time post made from the Los Alamos Public Library computer, during my lunch hour.


    UC seeks new Los Alamos director
    Despite expressing confidence in embattled leader, officials are quietly searching for his replacement
    By Ian Hoffman, STAFF WRITER

    While the University of California has expressed high confidence in the embattled director of Los Alamos National Laboratory, university officials quietly have been searching for his replacement.
    Headhunters for the executive-search arm of A.T. Kearney recently contacted senior figures in business and the nuclear-weapons complex in what the recruiters termed a "sensitive" recruitment of a director "for one of the national labs."

    It's no secret which one. Retired Vice Adm. Pete Nanos, tapped by the university to turn around a troubled Los Alamos, now faces a virtual mutiny after verbally berating scientists as "buttheads" and shutting down the New Mexico desert lab for months, largely over a security breakdown that apparently never happened.

    Last month, the National Nuclear Security Administration and the FBI confirmed what scientists had muttered for months — that two disks of nuclear secrets that supposedly were lost last summer never in fact existed.

    Los Alamos attaches bar codes to all its portable electronic secrets. Within a day or two of reporting the "loss," rank-and-file scientists and a senior weapons manager realized that someone mistakenly had created two more bar codes than disks.

    Those scientists say Nanos and federal officials at the NNSA dismissed that explanation. By then, several lawmakers in Congress were demanding accountability and swift discipline for the losses. Several scientists lost their jobs or were demoted.

    When a senior physicist criticized Nanos in the pages of Physics Today, the director suggested the scientific journal lacked integrity, was not peer-reviewed and that the scientist had "perjured" himself. For reasons unclear, that edition of Physics Today never reached more than half of the lab's 400-plus subscribers.

    With acknowledgment by federal authorities that the disks never existed, hundreds of Los Alamos scientists have signed a petition demanding Nanos' resignation, and the university is searching for a new Los Alamos chief.

    The hunt for a new leader of Los Alamos comes at a delicate time for the university and for the lab that maintains, by number, most of the nuclear explosives in the U.S. arsenal.

    The NNNSA is expected by the end of March to begin taking competitive proposals to run Los Alamos, starting a 90-day clock for the University of California to identify its executive team.
    Los Alamos public relations officials waved off speculation on Nanos' departure, saying new and creative rumors of his tenure's end circulate every week. But UC officials did not repeat their usual assurances about Nanos' leadership.

    University spokesman Chris Harrington steered clear of mentioning Nanos in response to questions about the leadership of the laboratory and the search for a new lab chief. Because federal officials will judge the university's operations partly by its management team, he said, "it is therefore important to the University of California that the best people, with the right skills and expertise, are in the right management positions at the lab."

    Contact Ian Hoffman at

    What happened to Doug Beason the new ADTR?

    From Anonymous:

    What happened to Doug Beason the new ADTR? There were two postings
    about him in Feb. He sounded like a decent, enthusiastic fellow. Did he
    shortly thereafter have a little talk with Director Nano or Don Cobb?
    Did he find out suddenly and brutally how things really work
    for LANL senior management under Nanos?

    Saturday, March 05, 2005

    UC's lab prospects still dicey

    Posted on Sun, Mar. 06, 2005

    UC's lab prospects still dicey

    By Betsy Mason


    With the countdown to the Los Alamos Lab contract competition likely to begin this month, the University of California is in the spotlight on several fronts.

    Though UC still has not officially decided to bid for the New Mexico nuclear weapons lab that it has managed for more than 60 years, the University's chances of winning the contract seem to be getting simultaneously better and worse. But the worse appears to be outpacing the better.

    The deadline for a second round of comments on the draft request for proposals for the Los Alamos contract was Friday. A final request is expected by the end of the month, after which bidders will have 90 days to respond. The Department of Energy hopes to award the new contract by Oct. 1.

    On the plus side for UC, several major players who had expressed interest in managing the lab have bowed out of the competition, including Lockheed Martin, the University of Texas and Texas A&M. This leaves UC looking like the front-runner.

    Also in UC's favor, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson is supporting the university, as is the New Mexico legislature.

    But the list of potential obstacles for UC seems to be growing faster. Difficulty finding an industry partner, the revelation that highly publicized missing classified computer disks never existed, recent changes to the proposed contract by the Energy Department and talk of replacing the lab's director, could all spell trouble.

    The university is in ongoing discussions with potential partners, Gerald Parsky, chairman of the UC Board of Regents, told the Times in an email Friday.

    "The University recognizes that there are some areas in which we are particularly strong, specifically science and technology. There are other areas that an industrial partner could certainly help us to enhance, including business practices, the handling of hazardous materials, environmental matters and security issues," Parsky wrote. "Clearly these are where we have seen some of the challenges at (Los Alamos)."

    However, the field of desirable industry partners shrunk in size and stature when Lockheed Martin decided not to compete. The company, considered by many to be the strongest potential partner, was rumored to be in talks with both UC and the University of Texas.

    "The decision was one of resources," said Lockheed spokeswoman Wendy Owen. "We wanted to stay firmly focused on what we are doing right now."

    Some big companies still may be interested, including Northrop Grumman, Bechtel and the Washington Group; a whole host of smaller companies have expressed interest as well.

    But cementing a partnership may be much easier said than done. One reason the University of Texas cited for pulling out was an inability to find a workable partnership after months of discussions with potential partners.

    At a regents' meeting in November, Parsky said that UC would want to be in overall charge in any partnership they might form.

    But Regent Sherry Lansing worried about keeping a partner from meddling with the scientific management, likening the situation to the separation of church and state. "That is scary because they overlap," she said.

    And Robert Foley, UC vice president for laboratory administration, said that talks with potential industry partners had broken down over who would be top dog.

    "We've had two walk away just on that point," Foley said. "They say, 'If we are going to team up with the University of California to bid for Los Alamos, UC must get a minority part and we must have the lead.' So we have walked away from these discussions or they have walked away from us."

    There may be other reasons UC might have trouble finding a partner, said Marylia Kelley, executive director of Tri-Valley Communities against a Radioactive Environment, a lab watchdog group that plans to bid for the lab contract along with Nuclear Watch of New Mexico. "I think the University of California is having trouble finding partners because its management of Los Alamos has been so dysfunctional," she said.

    Another potential setback for a UC bid came two weeks ago, when the National Nuclear Security Administration announced proposed changes to the management contract. The new rules include a requirement that bidders form a separate corporation to carry out the contract -- a move that could mean even if UC wins, Los Alamos workers would not be UC employees, a prestigious academic affiliation that has helped attract top scientists.

    Another change would be a standalone pension plan for Los Alamos employees, who would consequently lose access to UC's generous retirement benefits, another big draw for recruiting.

    On Thursday, Senators Pete Domenici, R-N.M., and Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., confronted Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman Energy during a Natural Resources Committee hearing saying the changes "could be construed as being unfairly calibrated to make it very difficult for UC to get the bid," Domenici said in a statement after the hearing.

    The National Nuclear Security Administration also raised the management compensation from 0.6 percent of the lab's $2 billion annual budget to 3 percent, possibly to attract more interest from industry.

    Trouble for UC may also be brewing again at the lab. After two classified computer disks were reported missing at the lab last summer, director Pete Nanos shut down all activity at the lab for months and fired five people and punished seven more. Investigations recently concluded the disks never existed and now two of the punished employees are saying they were used as scapegoats. And some are calling for Nanos himself to be fired on a blog set up by Los Alamos lab employees.

    In response to questions about Nanos' future, UC spokesman Chris Harrington said, "As strong managers, we are continuously evaluating our senior management team and will continue to do so in the future."

    All the turmoil surrounding the bid has some, including Domenici, speculating that the Energy Department could have an empty mailbox on the day bids are due.

    Re: The LANL of the future revisited

    From Anonymous:

    The LANL of the future revisited

    I am a procurement specialist at LANL and am accustomed to being perceived and portrayed as an FTE that sucks money away from important mission activities. If I were a TSM, I suppose that I would feel that way. But the sad reality of the situation, folks, is that the bureaucracy imposed on procurement only continues to increase, the number of procurement staff continues to decrease, and yep, it's only going to be worse this fiscal year. There have been over 30 job offers made to job seekers for procurement positions and the rate of rejection is well over 90%. The reason - lack of competitive pay.

    At one time, LANL had a signature authority of $25M per contract; today, after the Bussolini/Alexander/mustang debacle, our signature authority has been stripped to $10M. What that means is that every procurement exceeding $10M has to be reviewed at DOE/NNSA headquarters (read scrutinized with a microscope) before it can be awarded. And I'm not kidding - a simple typo, a misplaced comma - can be grounds for rejection. So before the package is sent to headquarters, a team of about 20 individuals, from procurement folks to attorneys to senior managers, spend weeks reviewing each and every page.

    We've had six procurement managers in the past 8 years, some left to other positions outside and inside the Lab, and one was removed by Salgado for lack of performance, only to be reassigned a lesser job at the same pay until he retired. Since September of 2003, when the Director imposed the IWD process and later the QA process on procurements, the amount of time it takes to get all the t's crossed and the I's dotted has just added another delay layer to the procurement process. Add the number of IG agents who show up at our offices with their badges along with other auditors, it's a test of endurance to work here any more.

    By the way, you don't need to worry about procurement sucking out too much money much longer. The current staff is about 30% less than it was five years ago and over half of the staff is eligible for retirement (and many are already starting to leave). I wish the successful contractor all the luck in recruiting and retaining procurement personnel in the future. After a couple of years of extended work weeks and with no future relief in sight, this 25 year veteran of the procurement wars is polishing the resume and sighing a relief of good bye.

    Good luck to the new contractor because I don't see any of the new recruits with the same work ethic that I possess. And good luck to you TSM's - if you thought the procurement process was slow, try having your procurements placed by half the current staff and by individuals with only 1 to 3 years of experience. As a data point, Sandia has half the procurement budget and twice the procurement staff than LANL. A job there sounds very good to me!

    BTW, I've truly enjoyed working with most of you TSM's - your science is awesome - and once we achieved a level mutual respect for each other's roles - we had successful interactions and you were pleased with my efforts. Heck, sometimes we even laughed together. Laughter at work - what a concept!

    Why Now?

    From Anonymous:

    Folks, before we rush out to purchase that bottle of bubbly to celebrate today's news leak that UC is hunting for a replacement for our beloved director, pause for a moment and stop to think: why now? UC has been silent through this entire process. Even after the FBI reported that there was no missing CREM. Especially after Physics Today reported that LANL's safety record was pretty damn good, bearing no resemblance to Nanos' claims regarding our safety record.

    Why now? Could it be the release, just two days ago, of Todd Kaupilla and John Horne's account of the actual events surrounding the CREM incident?

    Yes, it could be that.

    Could it be that UC would like to try to staunch the flow of retirees and younger scientists leaving LANL for better places to work?

    Yes, it could be that.

    Could it be that UC has no intention of doing anything more than putting on a show of looking for a replacement for Nanos, and then throwing up their hands and saying "We tried, but we can't find anybody"?

    Yes, it could be that.

    Do you trust that UC is looking after our best interests, or could it be that UC is trying to perform damage control, without actually having to make any difficult decisions.

    Yes, it could be that, too.

    Warning To Viewers Using Internet Explorer


    There are numerous bugs in Internet Explorer (all versions) that can affect your viewing satisfaction while browsing LANL The Real Story. Here are two that I know about:

    Bug 1. The sidebar links which appear at the top right-hand side of the page are usually incorrectly rendered by IE to be at the bottom right-hand side of the page.

    Bug 2. When clicking on a link to a pdf document, IE frequently complains that "file must begin with %pdf-" and then refuses to bring up the pdf file.

    To fix these problems, I encourage you to upgrade your browser to Firefox ( Try it, you will be glad that you did.



    From Anonymous:

    Re: "One scientist recently posted on a popular blog Web site that he was considering wearing a red "R" pinned to his shirt to symbolize to LANL management that he is prepared to resign and that he has job offers elsewhere."
    While the original statement was probably made somewhat facetiously, perhaps there is a kernal of a good idea contained therein.
    This issue certainly seems to be shaping up as an "us against them" conflict. (Staff v. Management). This blog has given the staff a place to vent its feeling and share dialog. Perhaps it is now time for the staff to show some solidarity in the face of all of the unsettling issues that now face us.
    Just as many are displaying yellow ribbons in solidarity with our troops in Iraq, perhaps we can display a red ribbon as a symbol of staff solidarity--that the "doers" of the Lab, be they Staff Members, Techs, Support, Admin or what ever, are united in support of each other against all of the travails that confront us at this time.
    However, many are worried about retailiation and retribution , so perhaps a red ribbon worn by a just few would be too obvious--too much like singling out those few individuals. Perhaps it should be more subtle --wear a red shirt one day -- red socks the next. Perhaps some thing as simple as a red dot punched from a Post-it note stuck to one of our many training badges. (But not your Lab ID Badge -- that would be against the rules) Something initally that is simple and innoculous so that if one is challenged you can just laugh it off with some comment like --"Oh, I just like red--its my favorite color."
    Perhaps this is a way of helping us recognize all of the other "anonymous" posters on this site--a subtle way we can hang together no matter what happens. However, it can also be a way of saying that we are united in confronting the threats and insults that are thrown at us every day, and a way of saying that we are prepared to take unified action against them if necessary.

    DX Attorney Assistance Fund

    From Anonymous:

    Blog readers: please check this first before putting $$$ into the account: according to my records, near the end of September 2004, I made a check (for 10% of the United Ways donations that I would have made) to
    DX Attorney Assistance Fund
    LANB # 0025062701
    Again, I don't know if this account is still active, or if this number is correct. Somebody please correct me if this is in error.
    This came from an e-mail being circulated among friends of DX-3 back then (and aren't we all now).

    The LANL of the future revisited

    I authored the “LANL of the future” post last month and got few responses. Now with Mr. Nanos apparently on his way out, let’s think about where we’re going and what we want LANL to look like. Put on your strategic thinking cap and do a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis.

    Facing a flat (not inflation-adjusted) budget, a higher management fee, pulling out the environmental cleanup costs, and paying NM GRT, LANL will see a declining operating budget for the foreseeable future. How much lower? Perhaps $100 to $150 million. At $250K (burdened) per exempt employee, that works out to a decrease of perhaps 800 - 1000 heads, depending on the mix of exempt and non-exempt workers. Under those circumstances, retirement may be an attractive alternative to a RIF for all concerned. For the employees, it removes the uncertainty of their job stability and the monkeying around with their retirement plans, and for the new contractor, it helps bring costs in line with the future budgets by restructuring the workforce.

    If you were BWXT (the rumored UC partner for the LANL bid), how would you restructure the LANL workforce? Everyone complains about the crippling overhead rates, and this translates directly to two issues: the “tooth to tail” ratio and the gross inefficiencies in the support organizations. The “tooth to tail” ratio is a military term describing how many doers (the teeth) are supported by the logistics and support people (the tail). I suspect that at LANL, there are far too many bureaucratic indirect people (purchasing, HR, middle managers who don’t contribute to the mission) and too few direct support people (skilled trades, technicians, etc.) who do.

    The incentive in commercial organizations is to have the work done by the lowest competent pay grade. Management makes a concerted effort to assure that highly skilled technical personnel are used to maximum efficiency by multiplying their hands with skilled support personnel. My experience in industry is a ratio of about 1:5. At LANL, we have highly paid people doing clerical and technician work because of the chronic misallocation of labor resources into non-value-added activities.

    Then there is the KSL problem. KSL is notorious for low quality and low productivity, and exorbitant pricing. It would make sense to vet three or four small, disadvantaged business contractors in each trade area (plumbers, HVAC techs, painters, masons, telecom installers, computer hardware support, etc.) under blanket purchase orders and let them bid on task orders. You could set them up on a fixed price time and materials basis at negotiated labor rates (just as the body shops do now – or as they did before Nanos tried to kill them) and then assign the work orders on the basis of capabilities and backlog.

    So what does the LANL of 2006 look like? There will be fewer employees overall, both technical and clerical. There will be more body shop employees, because they offer staffing flexibility and are cheaper than “permanent” employees. The featherbedding overhead jobs in facilities, HR, purchasing, division offices, and the host of other non-business-related functions will be cut back. If the DOE/NNSA follows their roadmap to a new contractor management paradigm, the micromanaging will be reduced as the new LANL proves that it can deliver on time and schedule.

    Current LANL management has no credibility with either the customers or the employees. It’s time for a change, and I hope it will be a change for the better as LANL focuses on the national security mission and prunes out the deadwood. What does your LANL of the future look like?


    UC rival pulls out of nuke lab bid

    UC rival pulls out of nuke lab bid

    Los Alamos victory could come at cost to Lawrence Livermore
    By Ian Hoffman, STAFF WRITER
    Inside Bay Area

    The sole firm experienced in running large, federal research labs has dropped out of the competition to operate Los Alamos National Laboratory, improving the odds that the University of California will keep running the birthplace of the bomb.

    As a matter of political logic, however, what's good for the university at Los Alamos could make for tougher going at Los Alamos' sister nuclear-weapons lab, Lawrence Livermore, in UC's back yard.

    For months, some officials at those and other federal labs have wondered whether Congress and the Energy Department, having thrown all three of the university's contracts for running federal labs open to challenge, could tolerate the university winning more than two of them.

    That scenario is becoming more likely, with the university facing no competition at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and, now, with the recent decision by Battelle Memorial Institute not to seek the Los Alamos contract.

    Battelle, a nonprofit research, development and management firm, has swept up one U.S. Department of Energy lab after another in recent years and now with teams runs five of them, from Brookhaven lab in Long Island, N.Y., to Oak Ridge in Tennessee to Idaho National Lab and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

    Battelle Executive Vice President Bill Madia said running Los Alamos could take management attention away from those labs.

    "Our focus is to make sure we manage those laboratories with distinction," Madia said. "It would take significant resources for Battelle to play a major management role at Los Alamos, and I have great concerns whether that would jeopardize the great performance we have at our other laboratories."

    Los Alamos is a $2.2 billion-a-year enterprise covering almost 40 square miles of New Mexico mesa top and canyonlands.

    Its primary mission is maintaining most of the nuclear explosives in the roughly 10,600 H-bombs and warheads of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

    The University of California has operated Los Alamos since 1943 without competition. But a series of security, safety and financial problems in recent years led Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham to put the lab management contract up for bid.

    Congress later ordered other lab contracts bid out as well, including Lawrence Berkeley lab and Lawrence Livermore lab.

    Battelle is only the latest potential lab contractor to look askance at the Los Alamos bid. Lockheed Martin, the nation's largest defense contractor and operator of Sandia National Laboratories, dropped out first, followed by the University of Texas.

    What remains are about a dozen smaller defense, engineering and management firms.

    The question is which of them is prepared to bet an estimated $5 million to $10 million in consulting fees and other bid preparation costs to challenge the incumbent University of California.

    If the university's team wins the Los Alamos contract, the fate of university management of Livermore could turn on whether UC can reverse years of bad impressions in Congress and the Energy Department over its operation of Los Alamos.

    Contact Ian Hoffman at

    "If UC ends up operating Los Alamos and fixing all the problems, they'll have a very easy time of successfully competing for Livermore," said one knowledgeable national lab official. "The converse is equally true."

    Comments on Representative Hobson's Letter

    From Anonymous:

    I read Representative Hobson’s letter with great interest, but little surprise. His views are consistent with his legislative behavior. Our problem as a Laboratory is to quit making us such easy objects of criticism. Representative Hobson rightly targets our idiotic slogan “The World’s Greatest Science…” as the object of ridicule. Our science as a Laboratory has been “World Class by definition” for quite a while because of the increasingly inept management and the failure to apply any sort of rigorous peer review internally. It would be inaccurate to simply place all the blame on our management (Nanos, UC or DOE). This problem is long-standing and the result of collaborative incompetence from all the players starting with LANL’s scientific staff and ending in Washington DC.

    UC deserves much of the blame as does Congress and DOE. Congress has increasingly pushed the time horizons in our core programs to be increasingly shorter, more engineering-oriented and less scientific in content. Look at the general quality of science in the United States as compared with the rest of the World! It is arguable that the European Union has already displaced the US as the scientific leader of the World ( East Asia is close on the EU’s heels. DOE is responsible for over-selling programs and over-administering the Labs. LANL (and our sister Labs) are responsible by willingly playing into all of these forces of mediocrity. We’ve allowed ourselves to become political “pork”. We’ve allowed the standards applied to us to be lowered. We’ve bought into programs that were poorly constructed and aided in their over-selling.

    How does the current administration of the Lab fit in? All the above problems were with us two years ago and we have made no measurable improvement. Just the opposite, our problems have never been worse. Morale is rock bottom and we are losing talent at an alarming rate. The political environment is utterly poisonous and Pete’s failure to support the Lab has created a view of the Lab that is overly negative and critical. The RFP is simply pouring rocket fuel on the inferno that Nanos created. His efforts have made an already bad situation, untenable and created the circumstances that may well destroy the Lab. If he succeeds through his ineptness, he will have damaged the Nation and our National Security immeasurably.

    In the interests of fairness I must admit that Nanos and his crew of misfits have done a couple of things right. The return of lab-wide classified colloquia is wonderful, and the “science roadmap” is a good idea. The problem is that his inability to provide positive leadership has turned the entire workforce against him. The negative forces Nanos unleashed will overwhelm anything positive. He has also buried the Laboratory in a flood of meaningless and ineffective safety and security paperwork. The climate of fear has made the vast majority of managers go into CYA mode and emboldened the empire-builders in support side of the Lab to increase the non-productive load on the working scientists. The ability to produce scientific results simply has no currency at the Lab; all of the emphasis is related to safety and security. Most of those who support Nanos simply do so out of fear or vested self-interest. Few have the best interests of the Lab or Nation in mind. Nanos can not succeed because he has alienated the very people he needs to produce results.

    In addition, we have had a torrent of meaningless and ineffective project management and project managers heaped on us, adding more cost, but little or no value to our increasingly poorly constructed programs. Adding project rigor via technically clueless project managers is simply accelerating our decline. We are failing as a Laboratory to apply focus and sound technical judgment to a slew of important National issues. From where I sit the level of management inattention to issues of importance has never been greater and the focus on meaningless form-without-function paperwork has never been higher. New management structure has been a key player in draining science from the Weapons Program. There is a clear propensity to apply the management-fad-of-the-day mindlessly. Our management seemingly spends all of its time and effort in “fighting fires” and over-reacting due to Nanos’ fear-based style of leadership. The net effect has been to completely gut our management of scientific judgment.

    Our management failings have never been more profound. I would gladly go back to the problems we had under Brown or Hecker. Nanos makes them look like management savants.

    What can we do to move forward as to thwart the sort of critique that Hobson applies? We need to start by confronting our problems head on. This will be painful and open the Lab to more criticism. It will be difficult and success is not assured. We can only do this with support from DOE and Congress (are they willing or able?). First, the present management team is incapable of succeeding. Pete’s behavior, poor judgment and failed leadership have destroyed any chance of success. We will need space and support to recover from the damage done in the last two years. Second, we need to stop applying “World Class by definition” and accept rigorous external and internal peer review. We need to act decisively on these reviews. The “great science” part of the Lab and the programs need to be brought together. The great science needs to be focused toward institutional success and stop merely being window dressing. The programs need to accept the much-needed infusion of great science and the renewed collaborative spirit that once made the Lab a great place. Thirdly, we need to stomp out the culture of entitlement that is pervasive in both the “great science” and the programmatic parts of the Lab. Once these steps are taken they must be reapplied continually with increasing vigor and focus. New programs need to be undertaken only if they truly pass a rigorous scientific standard and through a collaborative effort including DOE and Congress. We need to be active in making sure this is done in a manner that the science really is serving public and National interests, not merely pork for Northern New Mexico.

    We must recognize that the Lab still has a great deal of positive things going for it. We have a compelling mission that the Nation needs. Our Nation’s security is at risk and we have a large part to play in reducing this risk. Despite our losses, we still have a talented staff that needs to be unleashed. Our site represents an enormous National investment that needs to be harnessed to achieve its potential. Our prevailing institutional culture is based first and foremost on scientific excellence. These resources simply need to be drawn together in order to transform our future.

    With the right approach the Lab can return to its former exalted place. Our alternative is to continue circling the drain at any increasingly alarming pace. If we don’t face up to, and start solving our problems, the Lab will transform into a place most of us will want nothing to do with. The Lab will cease being a place that can serve the interests of the Nation. Everyone is going to need to contribute in order to succeed in making the future brighter rather than dimmer.

    Regarding "No one is as necessary as they think."

    "No one is as necessary as they think."

    Normally, I would agree with that statement except that at LANL we have lost,in the last few years, some incredibly important scientists and other workers who were the backbone of the US nuclear weapons program. Some have retired and moved away. Some have died. And many have been driven away. Most of the experienced employees who are left will retire by June 30th to prevent the loss of their pension which is inevitable if the contract is changed along the lines recommended in either of the draft RFP's. Frankly the experienced people LANL has left are of the utmost importance.

    Thanks to Nanos, some who have already retired, are not allowed to come back because they will be seen as "double dipping". Of course, Nanos himself is double dipping, but what is good for the goose is not necessarily good for the gander at Los Alamos.

    But the loss of scientists is not the only problem at LANL. The loss of all kinds of employees is a problem. LANL has lost administrative professionals, technicians and clerks who understand how the weapons programs work on a different, but very important, level. LANL has lost its classified library, a great deal of which has not been converted to electonic media and it has lost or punished the people who know the intricate and ill-defined rules of maintaining classified resources.

    LANL's dirty little secret is that for every scientist or engineer fired there are usually at least two lower level employees who are fired or disciplined. Just look at the case of the non-existent media. Several managers were demoted. One technical staff member was fired. And two vault workers were fired. These people were doing their best to work within a system that had never been truly defined.

    In fact, often scientists and engineers who make mistakes are neither fired nor disciplined. Only those who are lower than Technical Staff Member level take the blame.

    For those who have never tried it, maintaining a collection of classified media for use by scientists and engineers is far from trivial. And for low level employees who attempt to enforce rules on scientists, engineers, and, God forbit, managers, the future is bleak. They are just as likely to be fired or disciplined for enforcing rules as for breaking them.

    Why would anyone want to work on classified work after the beatings taken by Wen Ho Lee, the members of the NEST team (whose hard disks disappeared and then reappeared behind the copy machine) and now the career damage done to the folks in DX-3 who were fired and/or punished -- apparently only for PR purposes?

    If only Nanos had done what he said he would do, solve safety and security problems and hold people accountable. Unfortunately, he only held non-management employees accountable and he only held them accountable for the failure of management to provide a system that actually worked for tracking classified media. It is time that someone hold Nanos accountable.

    I agree that LANL has driven off and continues to drive off people with important science and engineering knowledge. But I also believe that not enough has been made of the firings and punishment of lower level employees without whom the laboratory could not function. Their jobs also require knowledge and experience that LANL can ill afford to lose.

    Sadly, LANL is being run by a bunch of managers who know little about management,in general, and specifically about the management of a premier nuclear weapons program. They don't understand that their only tools are people and that unlike tools, people and their skills cannot be replaced by a trip to Sears or Home Depot. People have to be trained and maintained, no matter what their line of work. They need to feel safe and appreciated and to be treated respectfully. If the US can't get it straight, there are a several countries waiting in the wings to take over. Let us not forget that national security isn't a joke and can't be maintained just by putting up a good facade. It takes real people working hard and as a team -- managers and all.

    Posted by Betty Ann Gunther to LANL: The Real Story

    The Legal Process

    From Anonymous:

    There are several people with fairly good reason to sue the Lab for its recent behaviors. Perhaps this scenario will help them plan ahead.
    Prevailing against a 2 billion dollar entity may be next to impossible. The Lab lawyers will unfairly try to win by running you out of money and driving you crazy.( Nanos was telling the truth.) Their lawyers are on a payroll and win when you go away. Most would not take this type of case on contingincy...

    Based on a true story:
    1. They will let you hire a lawyer, pay them for $200 an hour for several months work, then get them disqualified. You will have to start over with a new lawyer and new money.
    2. They will ask for a continuance time after time, just to run up your fees.
    3. They will change venue, disqualify judges, and/or move to federal court.
    4. They will deposition half the town (say 200 people most of whom you have never heard of) so that you must pay your lawyer many thousands to sit in on long court interviews.
    5. They will try so many stalling tricks that even a New Mexico judge will order them to stop.
    6. They probably even do research on how much money you might be able to come up with.
    7. You will need to mortgage your house, drain your savings, maybe even borrow against your retirement.....
    7. They will, of course, tell horrible, hurtful lies about you in court and in documents.
    8. But if you can ever actually get to court, they might offer you a settlement 5 minutes before the proceedings start or halfway thru if it is going badly for them. ( the Lab does not like to be in the news)
    9. If they settle, they will have a gag order so that you can't tell anyone anything about it.

    My friend who went thru this is like a cancer survivor- a year or more of pure hell. Good Luck.

    The Absurd Fiasco

    From Anonymous:

    First, I would like to express my appreciation for this blog. The absurd fiasco to which it is devoted needs to be honestly dealt with for the sake of LANL, its employees, and the very important work that they (used to) do there.

    I am a former DX employee who worked very closely with Todd Kauppila and John Horne, two of the individuals upon which LANL management has decided to lay blame for the supposed CREM security lapse. Each of them were actually supervisors to me at different points in time. I am absolutely outraged that the laboratory director may have been referring to these men when he spoke of "cowboys" and "buttheads" and "bullies." If so, he clearly does not know them at all.

    Out of all of the great people I met while working at LANL, Todd and John are the two that I was most impressed by. To begin with, they are both purely genuine, honest, and trust-worthy individuals. Straight-talkers, yes, (because you need to be in their business) but, believe me, the ridiculous words used by the laboratory director do not, in any way, apply to their characters. These are men who I, honestly, admire and respect with all of my heart. In addition, Todd and John were two of the smartest and hardest working individuals in DX division. Although that may seem like an exaggeration, it really isn't. They were typically put in charge of the most challenging experiments because management knew that they could do the job and do it well. Together, they were like the wonder twins, pulling off data collection on these extremely difficult experiments, even after supposed experts in the field had told them that it would be impossible to do so. All the while, I never once observed them having anything but the utmost respect for security issues.

    I know for a fact that these guys did not deserve this - not one bit of it. It makes me so angry to think about it. What's more is that I wonder, now that Todd has been fired, who will do the very important work that he did? I wonder how this will impact the stockpile stewardship program - a program that is so important for both our national defense and our diplomatic efforts abroad. I also wonder how long John will stay on, knowing that the hard work he put in for so many years is so scarcely appreciated by the highest levels of LANL management. All of this because of a bookkeeping error? It's mind-boggling!

    The bottom line is that by senselessly scapegoating these two men, work that is critical to our national security has been directly jeopardized. This is what the American people and their representatives in government really should know.

    Senators Fear for Lab's Future

    Albuquerque Journal North
    Saturday, March 5, 2005

    Senators Fear for Lab's Future

    Journal Staff Writer

    New issues are being raised— along with tension levels— concerning the contract competition for Los Alamos National Laboratory.

    The University of California is using a search firm to troll for a potential laboratory director— although current director Pete Nanos has given no indication he's leaving the job— and New Mexico's senators say changes in the competition are biased against the university and threaten the nuclear weapons laboratory's mission.

    The University of California has operated LANL since 1943 but its current contract expires at the end of September. Then-Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham decided to put the contract up for competitive bids in April 2003 following a series of financial, security and management problems highlighted in widely publicized congressional hearings.

    Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., said this week that he is concerned that the purpose of the contract competition— to strengthen LANL's scientific mission and its oversight of the nation's nuclear stockpile— has been lost.

    "Instead, the contract competition has become a substantial destabilizing influence on both laboratory morale and the ability to retain the skilled employees who are the heart of the laboratory's technical strength in the future," Bingaman said in a statement.

    Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., said he worries the competition is being slanted against the University of California.

    "The more I look at the situation, the more troubled I am by the current (National Nuclear Security Administration) proposal, which could be construed as being unfairly calibrated to make it very difficult for UC to get the bid," Domenici said.

    "We need a bidding process that is fair and does not have the unintended consequence of causing a mass exodus of our best scientists from the lab," he said.

    Changes in criteria
    The NNSA, which is part of the Department of Energy, made some changes to the competition criteria in February, including requiring a standalone pension and benefits plan for LANL employees and establishing a separate corporate entity to run the laboratory.

    The senators said in a joint letter to new Energy Secretary Sam Bodman that such a move could trigger an exodus of the most senior weapons designers who would retire to secure their current, lucrative UC benefits and could lead to younger scientists seeking employment elsewhere.

    The senators also expressed concerns that some changes in the criteria could increase by $100 million LANL's overhead costs to operate the lab.

    "Make no mistake; this will have a negative impact on program funding and scientific research," the senators wrote.

    Changes in the bidding criteria that the senators agreed with include allowing a 180-day transition period for employees and retirees to evaluate the winning bid and proposed benefits plan and extending the contract term to seven years from five years.

    Over the last year tension has grown between some LANL scientists and Nanos, who took over as LANL director early in 2003, highlighted by last summer's labwide shutdown over safety and security concerns.

    Many scientists took offense at Nanos' description of scientists who didn't follow procedures as "cowboys" and "buttheads" and continue to harbor hurt feelings over their perceived poor treatment through the shutdown.

    One scientist recently posted on a popular blog Web site that he was considering wearing a red "R" pinned to his shirt to symbolize to LANL management that he is prepared to resign and that he has job offers elsewhere.

    Lab director's job

    The University of California's decision to use a search firm to look for a lab director has spurred speculation about Nanos' own future at Los Alamos.

    UC spokesman Chris Harrington, in a prepared statement, said Friday: "The Los Alamos National Laboratory draft request for proposals identifies senior laboratory leadership as part of the criteria upon which any potential bidder will be scored. The University of California as part of our due diligence is conducting a thorough review of potential senior management team members. The University is looking at a full range of candidates, including the incumbents..."

    "The University of California is continuing to prepare as if we will compete for continued management of Los Alamos National Laboratory. The final decision will be made by the UC Board of Regents after the final RFP is released. "

    And Nanos, in his own statement, said: "As director of Los Alamos National Laboratory, I serve at the pleasure of the University of California Board of Regents. As the University continues to prepare for the forthcoming competition, I believe it is in the best interest of the laboratory and the university to conduct a thorough review of the senior management team. I am particularly proud of this laboratory, the great science performed here, and the men and women who work here on behalf of the nation's interest. I look forward to this Laboratory's bright future."

    Friday, March 04, 2005

    Letter From Rep. David Hobson (Ohio) to Energy Secretary Bodman

    From Anonymous:

    Attached is a letter from Rep. David Hobson (Ohio) to Energy Secretary Bodman. The timing and content of this letter reveal much about what motivates the changes that have been proposed by DOE to the draft RFP. None of the changes appear to be favorable to UC or to present LANL employees. Instead, the changes mirror Rep. Hobson's anti-UC bias and his complete lack of regard for the concerns of LANL employees. All in the name of "leveling the playing field" of the competition. The most chilling part of Rep. Hobson's letter is the assertion that "world class science" should not be the most important part of the competition evaluation criteria because it gives UC an unfair advantage. Precisely what is unfair about this advantage?? The importance of maintaining the quality of science at LANL was recognized as the most important evaluation criterion in the competition process by several blue ribbon panels (including the National Academy of Sciences: Any attempt to lessen the importance of this criterion would be disastrous.

    It is no coincidence that the corporate headquarters of Battelle, one of the industrial parties highly interested in the LANL contract,is located in Columbus, Ohio. (Full disclosure: the 7th Congressional District that Hobson represents does not include Columbus, but closely borders it on 3 sides) Nothing less than our national security is at stake in this competition and it must not succumb to partisan politics.

    A deeply concerned TSM, making plans to leave just in case.

    USA Today Article on Kaupilla & Horne

    Los Alamos scientists say they are scapegoats in disk case
    ALBUQUERQUE — Two Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists involved in the case of classified computer disks reported missing last summer say they are being used as scapegoats by top managers at the nuclear weapons lab.


    The TA-15 CREM Incident and Aftermath

    Executive Summary

    The TA-15 CREM Incident and Aftermath

    Todd Kauppila

    On July 6, 2004, two CREM items appeared to be missing in DX-3. A wall-to wall inventory of all DX-3 CREM had revealed a discrepancy in the amount stored in a safe. The discrepancy was reported to the DX Organizational Computer Security Representative (OCSR), DX-3 and Division Office management, as well as to the Security Division, in strict accordance with Laboratory requirements. When the discrepancy could not be reconciled within 24 hours, NNSA was also notified. A local Security Investigation Team (SIT) was convened, and over the course of the next few weeks, a chaotic series of thorough and intense physical searches was conducted, both inside and outside the building where the safe resided. At about the same time, the SIT sequestered the nearly dozen people who were authorized access to the safe, and interrogated these individuals repeatedly and at great length.

    Though not very likely, the possibility that the missing items could have been mistakenly put in a different repository was explored, along with thorough searches of the building where the CREM was stored and the surrounding area. Finally, a few of us who were on administrative leave, because we were authorized access to the safe in question, began to look at the CREM tracking system, past inventories, and all classified portable computers that had been used with the CREM over the past year. A pattern began to emerge that suggested there were fewer actual CREM items than the inventory listed. We analyzed all the records from the electronic tracking system all the way back to a classified international conference we participated in during the fall of 2003, where the CREM was initially generated. During this conference the CREM custodian had mistakenly entered a set of bar-code numbers into an electronic accountability system, even though the amount that had actually been assigned to specific media was less. A series of previous audits that failed to reconcile this mistake were the root cause of the difficulty in reaching our conclusion.*

    When this plausible explanation was advanced by our OCSR to the SIT, it was not only rejected categorically, but also, in very short order the pertinent records were confiscated, and the OSCR was forbidden to speak to anyone about this line of thought. After nearly two long weeks of tense meetings devoted to the CREM issue, this threatening confrontation was the final insult that provoked The OCSR’s decision to resign from the Lab. Alarmingly enough, this development strongly suggested that the SIT had already reached a conclusion about faultfinding and was unwilling to consider the strong probability that the allegedly missing CREM never existed. However, this information leaked out and may have influenced the Lab to hurriedly assemble an independent team to test the hypothesis. Meanwhile, the Director had already forced a work suspension across the board, because a laser safety incident, with injury, complicated the Lab’s operational picture. Moreover, the FBI had begun to investigate the missing CREM. But before long, the Lab’s story began to change, and in an August 11 news article, Senator Domenici revealed the possibility that the CREM issue might actually be a case of a “false positive,” or that of a system indicating that something was missing, when it actually wasn’t.

    In August, though the account custodian attributed the CREM issue to error and was later terminated from LANL, a series of Case Review Boards were convened to make recommendations for punitive action against others with authority to access the CREM repository. In my case, curiously enough, the Board recommended 3 week’s suspension without pay, essentially for taking excessive training and being on vacation when the CREM issue developed. Nevertheless, the Acting DX Division Leader proceeded with my firing on September 23, 2004. The Board’s review was little more than subterfuge, for the Director had carried out a threat made against me in early July for not rushing home from vacation as the CREM crisis began.

    * Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and another independent panel have supported this conclusion.

    The TA-15 CREM Incident and Aftermath


    In a late December 2004 brown bag lunch held by Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) Director Nanos at DX-3, the Director spent more than an hour regaling attendees with stories of his military career. Posing with his black cowboy hat, he explained that he had proudly shot the cowboys who were responsible for the safety and security problems that prompted the July shutdown of the Lab. He said that he would make certain “those SOBs” would never work at Los Alamos as long as he was Director. He continued by bragging that his “government-funded attorneys were cheaper than the cowboys’ private attorneys” and he could “outlast them indefinitely”.[1]

    Until now, John Horne and I have been silent regarding the “cowboy/butthead/C-student” accusations voiced by the Director in his first all-hands meeting in July 2004.[2] However, after the DX-3 classified removable electronic media (CREM) incident, lengthy investigations, Case Review Board recommendations, disciplinary actions at odds with those recommendations, and an official investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), it is our hope that a narration of events leading up to and following the CREM “incident” is now timely. The Director has failed to maintain his composure and his objectivity during the entire course of the CREM investigation, unduly influencing the latter through actions and rhetoric that reflect poorly on him, the University of California, the Laboratory, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the Department of Energy (DOE), and the Nation. His conduct, in a word, has been unbecoming and deserves condemnation. His consuming interest was in finding scapegoats, and his quest was thus far successful. Pity that he was indifferent to the truth.

    We now know the official results of the FBI investigation have become public and their conclusion matched our own,[3] that no CREM were missing at any time. These findings suggest we have every reason to expect exoneration, yet we continue to be vilified by the Director at every turn, and perhaps have only faint hope that promising careers can be rescued from the scorn and suspicion of unenlightened managers, who must demonstrate fealty first and integrity second.


    Procedures to account for CREM derive from corrective actions taken following the well-known Wen Ho Lee security incident of 1999, and are called Requirements for Accountable CREM. These requirements describe a lengthy assortment of nonvolatile digital storage media (removable hard disk drives, laptops with removable hard drives, floppy diskettes, CDs, DVDs, Zip and Jaz disks, etc.) that can qualify as CREM, and dictate how these items must be catalogued, protected, and tracked.[4] Traditionally, technical presentations containing text and image view-graphs are created with computer software, stored on electronic media such as a hard drive or disk, and displayed through the use of a computer-linked projector, eliminating the need for transparencies. If the display material is classified, then the computers and media used must be authorized for such use and are accountable as CREM.

    At the time of the latest CREM incident in July 2004, so long as the general stipulations in Notice #0136 were met, line organizations at Los Alamos were free to develop and implement their own procedures for handling and tracking CREM. While barcoded serial numbers were required for marking CREM, a shortage of barcode scanning equipment forced many organizations (including DX) to visually read the numbers of each barcode and enter those numbers into accountability, increasing the likelihood of entry errors. Software needed for tracking CREM items could also be developed locally, and so the only common feature of LANL’s CREM process was the haphazard approach taken by the line organizations in attempting to satisfy the general requirements.[5] The CREM custodian, charged with oversight of the CREM process in each organization, generally took on this job assignment with the understanding that it was only a part-time job and an added duty that wouldn’t interfere with the person’s primary job function. The approach to training can be similarly casual and treated as a chore that could be postponed until the training time was convenient for the assignee. This assignee generally was not proficient in computer skills, but was persuaded that the simple barcode accounting task was easy to master and was not a burdensome or particularly risky task. Verification of the CREM inventory was not required and seldom occurred when custodians changed, increasing the likelihood of proliferating errors without prompt detection. Those personnel likely to generate CREM were sometimes given blocks of barcode numbers to apply to generated CREM over some period of time, and the numbers were only to be entered into the accountability system when the CREM custodian was notified that one or more of the barcodes were actually affixed to created CREM. Since the CREM incident, requirements for creating and accounting for CREM, as well as training requirements for custodians, have become more rigorous. In fact a recent job ad for a CREM custodian required “flawless performance” as one of the job criteria, prompting several letters to the editor of the Los Alamos Monitor and causing much astonishment among Lab staffers. [6]

    During the fall of 2003 I served as chair for a classified international conference at the Metropolis Super Computing Center. To support classified presentations at this conference, John Horne received from his CREM custodian eight barcodes to use as necessary to mark any CREM that might be generated. Unbeknownst to us when the eight barcodes were issued to John, the issuing CREM custodian, who had held the job for only one month, immediately entered all eight barcodes into the accountability system. In the course of preparing presentations for the conference, John actually applied only six barcodes to CREM, which were delivered to the custodian by placing the properly marked CREM into a safe along with a conveyed message to enter the disks into accountability. At that point John’s obligation under existing CREM procedures was fulfilled, there being no requirement for him to oversee or witness the custodian’s subsequent activity. Thus, because of an accounting error at the conclusion of the conference, eight disks were in the CREM accountability system, while only six were actually generated (thus the “missing” two disks). Nearly nine months would elapse before we would stumble onto this accounting error.

    DX-3 CREM Inventory Crisis

    On July 6, barely a month after an institution-wide CREM inventory had revealed an accounting error in the DX-7 inventory (totally unrelated to this current crisis), the DX-3 inventory of CREM items assigned to John indicated that two items could not immediately be accounted for. A frantic search for the allegedly missing items ensued, but when they couldn’t be found in the first 24 hours, notification beyond the Division was required.[7]

    At the time of the DX-3 CREM incident, I was enjoying a long-delayed family vacation in Washington, D.C., where I answered a page from my Deputy Group Leader on July 6 (my 20th Wedding anniversary). Upon phoning in, I learned for the first time about the inventory discrepancy. I was asked to return to Los Alamos immediately to discuss details that could not be revealed over the phone. Reluctant to terminate my vacation at that point (for the CREM items in question were not mine), I suggested instead that because I had my badge with me, I could travel to the Forrestal Building (DOE HQ) and arrange to discuss the manager’s concerns over a classified (STU) phone. The manager agreed to this offer, and in brief conversations over the course of the next two days, we discussed the problem, and the manager’s concerns were alleviated; he agreed that there was no reason to rush back, and gave me permission to continue my vacation.[8] After all, the CREM items were not in my name, and it looked like I could not be of much help even if I were at the Lab. I would later learn that this delay in my return, even though approved by my manager, had enraged the Director, who demanded that I be fired. It would take a few months for him to make good on his threat, but he clearly made up his mind that day, and all his actions since then point to that very plan.

    Near the end of my vacation, my deputy group leader paged me again. When I phoned him this time, he told me that I was really needed back at Los Alamos and must return right away. I thanked him for giving me the few extra days and agreed to fly back the very next morning.[9] I left my family to fend for themselves and returned to the Lab. Upon arrival at DX-3, my badge was confiscated and I was summoned to what would be the first of numerous meetings with the LANL Security Investigation Team (SIT) that had been convened for the case.


    Once the CREM inventory revealed that two items could not be accounted for, the searches unfolded in a series of increasingly anxious efforts in ever widening circles and in all directions—up, down, and all around, canyons and ceiling tiles included. News of the suspicious incident had spread swiftly to UC, NNSA, DOE, Congress, and the media. By the time the SIT appeared on the scene (July 8th), the focus was on the roughly dozen people authorized to access the safe where the allegedly missing CREM should have been stored. Badges of the dozen people were confiscated, and everyone was treated with dark suspicion, though none more than John and myself, even though my role seemed to be little more than incidental. The presumption now was that misconduct (if not outright espionage) might well be in play, and the trail was growing colder with the passing of time.

    As pressure increased, the SIT investigation stalled, with no discernible progress being made in the face of a daily requirement for a SIT status report to the Director. Our situation was complicated by the mid-July appearance of Federal investigators, who immediately targeted us for scrutiny. Frustrated by the lack of progress, though, the Director lashed out at DX managers, and in one meeting the DX Division management blamed the current crisis on the DX-3 “cowboys” who simply wouldn’t follow the rules. By declaring helplessness in the face of these few uncontrollable workers, management had attempted to deflect criticism from themselves directly to John and myself. The “cowboy” term resonated with the Director, who then used it on the frequent occasions in July and August when the CREM issue was a subject for discussion. The Director also seized on his discovery of a bumper sticker (“LANL: Striving for a Workfree Safety Zone”) as yet more evidence of a deplorable cultural mindset at the Lab. He may have seen the sticker somewhere other than DX, but the way he used it in his first All-Hands Meeting did not make that point clear. Rather than to be stimulated into probing to find out what procedural frustration might provoke someone into displaying that damning slogan, he chose an illogical extrapolation that gave him license to declare it was indicative of a general contempt for rules by LANL workers. In mid-July a laser safety incident with injury occurred and was used along with the CREM incident to justify forcing a suspension of work at the Lab by the Director. The “cowboy” label continued to be used, but now its derogatory meaning had expanded to apply to anyone who demonstrated even a hint of skepticism about the decision to suspend all work at LANL. Indeed, line managers were directed to identify “cowboys” in their organization so that these personnel could be isolated and eventually removed from LANL’s ranks. The Director was widely quoted in the press, with two notable newspaper articles appearing in the July 13 and July 20. By this time, personnel in DX were being blamed for putting the UC contract at risk, contributing to a cultural attitude that needed to be stamped out, and displaying academic arrogance that dated all the way back to the Manhattan Project.

    In this atmosphere and with this kind of treatment to contend with, we had enormous difficulty concentrating on the CREM problem that was our daily and nightly cross to bear. Because the issue seemed to track all the way back to the fall 2003 conference, it was hard enough to try to piece together events that long in the past. Meanwhile, the CREM investigation was going nowhere, and so a few of us who had come under accusation, along with other colleagues, decided to go back over the records from the CREM media tracker and the computers with extreme care, to see if we could find any clues about the allegedly missing two items. Many days were spent at this task, but finally a pattern began to develop with the periodic activity and inventory records that showed the two missing items being inventoried, but then being removed from the database three times. I found this unusual activity strongly suggestive of a case where two items might have been mistakenly entered into accountability and then eliminated when a subsequent inventory failed to uncover them. As this sequence repeated with each of the inventories (supposedly verified three times since the international conference), it made no sense. Interrogating the registry on the computer confirmed the only media, which had touched the computer, had been barcoded and accounted for and that the unused barcodes never existed. This suspicion was shared with the DX Division OCSR (Organization Computer Security Representative), who then in turn revealed it to the SIT. The OCSR’s information was not only rejected, but she was also then warned not to reveal this discovery to anyone else. Nevertheless, the information was apparently credible enough that the SIT came in after hours and confiscated the OCSR’s records.[10] Alarmed by the combination of the threat and records confiscation, which was just too much for her after nearly two weeks of pointless searches and tense meetings on the CREM issue, she abruptly resigned from the Lab after more than twenty years of dedicated service.

    It was this cover-up that persuaded John to hire counsel for his own protection, as the SIT’s astonishing and probably illegal action strongly suggested that John could easily be blamed for the loss of nonexistent CREM. He was convinced that he had retained the two barcode numbers and simply kept them, later shredding them with other items he no longer needed to keep during a midyear cleanout, but he couldn’t prove this claim. Now it looked like the most likely explanation was not only going to be rejected, but also any reference to it was going to be suppressed. The SIT had made it known that the most important goal of the investigation was to protect the credibility of both the Laboratory and the Director, and here was appalling evidence that the SIT would even conceal exculpatory information to achieve its aims. Nor could he necessarily rely on his own management, for the DX-3 Deputy Group Leader had recently declared at a Group Meeting [11] that “HR and S Divisions exist solely to protect the Director.” Despite the attempt to suppress the information we had given the OCSR and SIT, it leaked out anyway, and the Lab was then apparently forced to assemble an impartial team consisting of DX employees to test this theory. Only then did the Director suddenly change his official story and admit the possibility that the missing CREM might never have existed at all. This change would eventually lead to Senator Domenici’s comment on August 11 about the possibility of “a false positive” in the CREM case. Though my concern had grown sharply, I still felt that we had successfully shown—with the actual records—what probably happened; besides, I was still only peripherally involved.

    The Director’s position continued to harden. A July 15 safety incident with injury tipped the scales, and he declared a work shutdown shortly after that date, again blaming “cowboys” who wouldn’t follow safety or security procedures as undermining his confidence in the entire institution. In one GLIM (Group Leader’s Information Meeting) he exclaimed, “ If innocent people get caught up in this, tough, I can’t worry about the buddy system here.” He went on to say that he was going to take them out, and if he had to restart the Lab with only 10 employees, then that’s what he was going to do.[12] Anyone who disagreed with him was threatened with dismissal. FBI investigators had been called in to reinforce the investigation into the missing CREM. Now, however, the leakage of the plausible explanation of the two CREM items clearly forced the Director’s hand, leading to his previously mentioned admission that the CREM items might not have gone missing. Further speculation by the Lab on the CREM issue ceased, and we can only sadly conclude that this shift in emphasis was influenced by the need for the Director to justify his earlier rush to judgment in his hysterical claims about worker misconduct. Firings of scapegoats were then essential, or a loss of public trust would be the inevitable result. For the CREM issue, the ones chosen for firing were those who were not yet represented by counsel (including myself, having also been targeted back in July for not returning from vacation on my 20th wedding anniversary!) Again, the sole motivation appeared to be the protection of the Director and Laboratory management.

    Case Review Boards

    In August, though the Laboratory was silent about progress in the CREM case, and while we were still on investigatory leave, Case Review Boards were assembled to consider charges against us, although at the time the specific accusations were unknown. I was grilled by two specialists from Human Resources for hours on Aug.22. The central points had nothing to do with CREM, but instead concerned my interactions with colleagues, weekend and afterhours time spent at work, and my training records. On September 16th, to my complete astonishment, I received an adverse action letter that invited me to supply written arguments to show why I should not be fired for cause (supposedly the Board’s conclusion). The principal charges against me were clearly trumped up and included ridiculous allegations of misconduct, such as taking too much training. I defended myself with pertinent facts at some length, but was then terminated on September 23 by the Acting DX Division Leader, who said my arguments were not convincing. Weeks later, when I learned that I could use the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to request a copy of the Case Review Board findings, and finally received a redacted version of the same, I learned to my utter bewilderment that the Board’s actual recommendation was three weeks suspension without pay, contradicting the claim by the Acting DX Division Leader that the board had recommended termination. In the summary, much was also made of my delay in returning from vacation, though not included was the fact that I had permission from the DX- 3 Deputy Group Leader to remain in Washington longer. The Administrative Mandate (AM) 112 requires the examination of one’s career and a bottom up investigatory approach. These requirements were not observed, and of the 22 people questioned about me, astonishingly (in violation of AM 112.09), my own Group Leader was excluded from such discussion because of an unclear time constraint. I suspect the information she would have given would have contradicted a significant portion of the review board report and was intentionally omitted.

    In a brownbag luncheon meeting held at DX-3 since my termination, the Director said that he fired me because I had been bullying people since my days at the Nevada Test Site (NTS). Because I don’t bully people and I’ve never worked at NTS, it is obvious that this information was manufactured to justify my termination. Clearly the Director believes that the power of his position affords him the freedom from accountability for his shameless mischaracterizations, untruths, and exaggerations. In my case, he has demonstrated that the end justifies the means, however sordid, and he apparently has the full support of UC and NNSA for this behavior. One further point deserves mention. When I filed for unemployment compensation in late October to help me at least feed my family while looking for employment, the Lab protested in writing that I had violated policy and deserved no consideration. I successfully refuted this claim at a formal hearing on December 17, as the official record shows.[13] This time I was not surprised by the Lab’s actions, for I had become accustomed to its propensity for defamatory and slanderous actions.

    Meanwhile, John was unaware that a Board had also been assembled to consider his case, until he also received an adverse action letter on November 23 soliciting his arguments to show why the Board’s recommendation of two weeks’ suspension without pay should not be followed for his failure to see to it that CREM under his name was not properly entered into accountability. This letter from the Acting DX Division Leader, refreshingly enough, admitted that the two CREM items were not missing after all. We are disappointed that the Director did not officially share this conclusion with the public, although he allowed a manager to put the statement in writing. John had already passed a lie detector test on November 10 before he had been reinstated, and his detailed response to the letter was confidently written with the expectation that the Board’s recommendation would have to be rescinded. Instead, he was told on December 16 that the suspension would be carried out, and that the period chosen was from December 6-17. Having no other recourse at the time, he agreed, adding that he certainly could not bear the thought of missing a Nanos brownbag lunch scheduled for December 21. Curiously, later that same day, he was told that suspensions couldn’t be postdated, and his actual time off would have to be taken from December 20 to December 31. It seems likely that management did not want any employees with detailed knowledge of the events at that meeting. A subsequent meeting held the next week required questions to be prepared beforehand and in writing. When John obtained his redacted copy of the Case Review Board’s conclusion, the redaction was so extensive that he could read little more than the date of the summary document. He is seeking a more sparingly redacted version, although he is saving the original copy in case journalistic interest in his predicament might be expressed later—perhaps before there is a decision on the UC contract competition.


    In looking back, John and I must wonder whether our joint 42 years of spotless service at Los Alamos merely represents wasted sacrifice. Why do our personnel files not count in our defense instead of suddenly becoming weightless on the scales of justice? What was the point of sacrificing countless nights and weekends in the creation of the elaborate hydrotest procedural checklists, detailed schedules, and redundant signature protocols that were once so highly prized by the Director, UC, and NNSA? Why are our unique developments there still singled out as the gold standard for complex, multi-diagnostic, hydrodynamics experiments at DARHT, PHERMEX and other firing sites, exemplifying our dedication to safety and security, but now only in our absence? What is the gold standard for management conduct at Los Alamos, or is bronze even too much to expect? When the human cost is so severe, why is justice so elusive? If we had not been able to figure out the significance of the swing of numbers in the CREM tracking records, the terrible conclusion we would be battling right now is the assumption of two missing and highly classified disks, and I suspect that many other workers would have been wrongfully terminated.

    —Todd Kauppila

    —John Horne

    (Communicated to Doug Roberts on March 2, 2005)

    [1] Brown bag meeting with DX-3 personal December 10, 2004

    [2] Nanos All-Hands meeting July 14, 2004

    [3] CREM II Meeting February 9, 2005

    [4] Lab/UC Notice, 0136

    [5] Lab/UC Notice, 0136, Page 3

    [6] Job ad # 208755

    [7] July 7, 2004

    [8] STU-III conversation with line manager and SIT July 8, 2004

    [9] 6 am flight to Los Alamos leaving spouse and 2 children to fend for themselves July 16, 2004

    [10] July 20, 2004

    [11] DX-3 group meeting July 15, 2004

    [12] All-Hands Meeting, July 22, 2004.

    [13] State of California EDD case#1458179


    On February 16, 2005, in a meeting in front of at least 20 personnel at DX-3, Nanos called Todd Kauppila a “bullying SOB all the way back to his test site days” and was “glad to get rid of him.” In addition he exclaimed his attorneys were “cheaper than ours and would outlast us indefinitely” and then proceeded to claim John “was a fool.”

    New Mexico's senators accuse Energy Dept. of anti-UC bias

    (A rare noon-time post made from the Los Alamos Public Library computer, during my lunch hour.


    New Mexico's senators accuse Energy Dept. of anti-UC bias Bush administration has opened contract for Los Alamos to competitive bidding
    Zachary Coile, Chronicle Washington Bureau
    Friday, March 4, 2005

    Printable Version
    Email This Article
    Washington -- Two powerful senators accused the Energy Department Thursday of an anti-University of California bias in how the agency is shaping the competition over who will manage Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.


    LANL scientists: We are scapegoats in disk case

    Friday, March 4, 2005
    LANL scientists: We are scapegoats in disk case
    By HEATHER CLARK The Associated Press

    ALBUQUERQUE — Two Los Alamos National Laboratory scientists involved in the case of classified computer disks reported missing last summer say they are being used as scapegoats by top managers at the nuclear weapons lab.
    Todd Kauppila, a team leader with 21 years of experience at the lab, was fired Sept. 23. Along with his last paycheck and termination letter, he said the lab sent him a distinguished service award for experiments certifying the nuclear weapons stockpile.
    John Horne, a 22-year veteran, was put on unpaid administrative leave for 10 days in December. He said his career at the lab has been “destroyed.”
    The two scientists wrote a letter explaining their version of events leading up to the “missing” disks that was posted on an Internet blog for lab employees.
    “We want the truth to come out,” Horne said Thursday. “We are scapegoats, and that’s the truth.”
    The U.S. Department of Energy in a January report concluded that bar codes were recorded for the classified disks, but the disks themselves never existed.
    The mix-up led to a virtual shutdown of the lab last July and prompted the National Nuclear Security Administration to slash the University of California’s management fee by $5.8 million.
    Lab spokesman Kevin Roark said the personnel actions taken by the lab in relation to the incident “followed all due processes and were based solely on the facts uncovered during the lab’s inquiry.”
    Kauppila and Horne said the incident was the result of an accounting error stemming from a classified international conference in 2003. Horne received eight barcodes and used six of them for conference presentations. He said he later shredded the remaining two barcodes, though he could not prove that.
    Kauppila, who was conference chairman, said he never had direct contact with the disks or barcodes.
    When the disks were reported missing last summer, Kauppila said he was contacted while on vacation in Washington, D.C. After talking with his manager, he was told there was no reason to hurry back to Northern New Mexico. He returned a few days later, leaving his family.
    He said his failure to return immediately was one of the reasons he was fired.
    “The principal charges against me were clearly trumped up and included ridiculous allegations of misconduct, such as taking too much training,” Kauppila wrote.
    Kauppila said he and other co-workers who had come under suspicion discovered the accounting errors and traced the problem to the conference. They said they reported their findings to the proper lab authorities.
    Both men said they followed security procedures in place at the time, but added the security system is broken. “The system is a catastrophe. It’s the people at the lab that make it work,” Horne said.
    In the letter, they wrote that a shortage of barcode scanning equipment forced many employees to visually read the numbers of each barcode and enter the numbers, which increased the likelihood of errors.
    Kauppila, whose case is in arbitration, said he decided to go public with his version of events after the University of California, which manages the lab, began dragging its feet.
    After months of wrangling over his case, he said he expects a decision in mid-March.
    Kauppila and Horne wrote that once lab Director Pete Nanos had declared the shutdown and claimed worker misconduct for the “missing” disks, his hand was forced.
    “Firings of scapegoats were then essential, or a loss of public trust would be the inevitable result,” they wrote.
    Roark said Nanos was adamant that the investigation of the incident disks be thorough, unbiased and independent, and lab employees would be held accountable. Roark said he thinks Nanos accomplished all these goals.
    On the Web
    Los Alamos National Laboratory:

    2 LANL Whistle-Blowers Sue UC

    Albuquerque Journal North
    Friday, March 4, 2005

    2 LANL Whistle-Blowers Sue UC

    By Adam Rankin
    Journal Staff Writer

    Two Los Alamos National Laboratory whistle-blowers, both former internal auditors at the lab, filed a lawsuit against the University of California and five of its employees on Thursday alleging retaliation for their outspoken criticisms of what they claim are LANL's ongoing financial and procurement problems.

    Chuck Montaño, a 26-year LANL veteran, and Tommy Ray Hook, who was hired by LANL in 1989, allege in the suit that LANL and University of California managers attempted to make their jobs so miserable in retaliation for uncovering management failures that they would be forced to resign.

    The men name Richard Marquez, LANL's associate director for administration; John Bretzke; Vernon Brown; William Barr; and University of California head auditor Patrick Reed in their lawsuit.

    The Santa Fe-based law firm of Rothstein, Donatelli, Hughes, Dahlstrom and Schoenburg and the Washington, D.C.-based firm of Bernabei and Katz are representing the men. Bernabei and Katz represented LANL whistle-blowers Glenn Walp and Steve Doran in another suit filed against the university in 2003.

    The two whistle-blowers claim that each of these men conspired to retaliate against them by "downgrading their performance evaluations, denying them positions and promotions for which they applied, denying them meaningful work, repeatedly threatening them with termination, and denigrating them to (U.S. Department of Energy) officials in order to silence them from speaking out publicly about matters of public concern... "

    Hook and Montaño seek to have all adverse employment actions stricken from their employment histories, a return to meaningful work commensurate with their experience and at least $2 million each for economic damages and $2 million each for punitive damages.

    Officials at the University of California, which operates LANL under contract for the DOE, say they take Montaño and Hook's whistle-blower complaints seriously.

    University spokesman Chris Harrington said university officials are working on a "full and completely independent outside investigation," which he said is nearing completion.

    He said the investigations have been extended twice due to the length and breadth of the reviews, which have included an evaluation of more than 7,000 documents, many of which were provided by Hook and Montaño, and more than 20 employee interviews.

    Harrington wouldn't comment on the specific allegations made in the lawsuit, but he did say the lab has worked hard to accommodate both men and understands they have previously said that they found their current jobs rewarding.

    In the lawsuit, Hook and Montaño say their current positions are below their skill levels and that their supervisors refuse to provide them with meaningful work.

    Part of the lawsuit claims LANL stifled their First Amendment rights to free speech by trying to prevent them from disclosing serious management failings relating to purchasing and contract matters.

    Thursday, March 03, 2005

    Lab terms could cause migration

    From The Albuquerque Tribune:

    By James W. Brosnan
    March 3, 2005

    WASHINGTON - New Mexico's senators sternly warned Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman today that many of the top scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory will leave if the terms of competition for management of the lab are not changed.

    Albuquerque Republican Pete Domenici, Chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, and Silver City Democrat Jeff Bingaman, the ranking Democrat, criticized proposed contract language that would require lab employees to switch from the University of California pension plan to a lab-only plan managed by whatever corporation wins the competition.

    Domenici, an Albuquerque Republican, opened the committee's hearing on the Department of Energy's budget by telling Bodman that "some of the things that have been proposed are just very discouraging to me" and that lab employees "are having a very hard time understanding what this does to them."

    "You can't afford to have a huge migration because of a contract bidding process," Domenici continued. "Maybe that won't happen. But you don't want it to happen. We don't want it to happen."

    The lab has been run from its inception by the University of California, but repeated safety and security concerns caused the department to put the contract up a competitive bidding. The contract is to be awarded this fall.

    But instead of strengthening the lab, Bingaman said, "I'm concerned that the effect of this competition is to destabilize the laboratory." Bingaman said he fears "many of the most talented people" will move to another employer.

    Both senators stressed that Bodman, who has been on the job about a month, needs to become personally involved in the contract competition. Bodman promised he would involve himself in the pension question. He said he already has spoken at length to Linton Brooks, administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration, about the pension issue and plans to speak next week to the chairman of the selection board for the contract.

    Bodman assured Bingaman the goal of the competition "was to level the playing field and not to try to exclude anyone."

    Domenici and Bodman will have the weekend to talk more about the issue: They're leaving on a junket Friday to Alaska to publicize the administration's push to open up oil drilling in the caribou breeding grounds of the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge. Interior Secretary Gale Norton and four other senators, all supporters of drilling, will accompany them.


    From Anonymous:

    Heard there was an accident in DX-3 today (Thursday, March 3). Something about a crushed finger that had to be amputated. Anyone know more?

    Two more employees protest CREM incident

    Two more employees protest CREM incident

    ROGER SNODGRASS,, Monitor Assistant Editor

    Two more people who were disciplined in the wake of the zip drives, the ones that were not missing after all at Los Alamos National Laboratory, have spoken out, blaming management for mishandling the affair.

    Along with a co-worker, John Horne, Todd Kauppila has decided to provide a public narration of the events before and after the classified material ap-peared to have vanished on July 6.

    Kauppila was terminated on Sept. 23.

    Horne was suspended from Dec. 20-31, after a review by a Case Review Board, despite having passed a lie-detector test on Nov. 10, the document said.

    LANL spokesperson Kevin Roark said this morning that he was unable to comment on personnel actions.

    "Our inquiry was exhaustive and the personnel actions were based solely on the facts that came out of those inquiries," he said.

    Kauppila's statement was published Wednesday on the blog, LANL: The Real Story (, which has attracted a rapidly growing audience of dissident readers and contributors at the laboratory.

    Todd Kauppila worked in DX-3, the office from which two pieces of CREM (Classified Recordable Electronic Media) were reported missing. He related that not only was he fired without demonstrable cause, he was fired after helping to solve the mystery of how nonexistent disks were erroneously thought to be missing.

    Kauppila wrote that he had been fired despite having having had only an incidental relationship with the CREM. He chaired an international conference at the lab for which the original disks had been recorded.

    When he was asked to return from a vacation because of the crisis, he wrote, he discussed what he knew with his manager over a classified telephone line over the course of two days. His manager gave him permission to continue his vacation.

    Later, he learned that his delay in returning "had enraged the director, who demanded that I be fired," Kauppila wrote. "It would take a few months for him to make good on his threat, but he clearly made up his mind that day, and all his actions since then point to that very plan."

    Although Sen. Pete Domenici, in a visit to the laboratory on Aug. 9, already hinted at information that the disks might never have existed, several more months and a continuation of the total suspension of activities at the laboratory ensued.

    On Jan. 28, the Department of Energy announced that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had determined that the most likely explanation for the missing disks was that a pair of barcodes had never been used.

    Kauppila's statement offered an insight into the reasons for the mistake, the chaos of the recovery efforts, and how the mistake was found.

    He confirmed a statement last year by a former custodian of classified matter and media at the laboratory, who said the laboratory itself was to blame for failing to support those who had responsibilities for the CREM.

    Kauppila stated that there was a shortage of barcoding scanning equipment, forcing CREM handlers to read barcode numbers visually.

    Additionally, he charged, CREM "were sometimes given blocks of barcode numbers to apply to generate CREM over some period of time."

    Describing the search for the missing CREM, Kauppila described searches that "unfolded in a series of increasingly anxious efforts, in ever-widening circles and in all directions - up, down, and all around, canyons and ceiling tiles included."

    Those engaged in the search were also under the greatest scrutiny and suspicion, Kauppila reported.

    "Finally, a pattern began to develop with the periodic activity and inventory records that showed the two missing items being inventoried, but then being removed from the data base three times," he wrote.

    The observed pattern turned out to be consistent with the ultimate explanation, which was that two pieces of CREM had never been bar-coded because they had not existed, nor fully accounted for in the previous inventories.

    Kauppila said the theory was initially suppressed by laboratory managers.

    LANL Scientists Say They're Scapegoats

    Albuquerque Journal North
    Thursday, March 3, 2005

    LANL Scientists Say They're Scapegoats

    By Adam Rankin
    Journal Staff Writer

    The two Los Alamos scientists involved in the incident last summer over some missing computer disks that actually never existed say they are being made scapegoats for a broken system safeguarding the nation's top nuclear secrets.

    Todd Kauppila and John Horne, both 21-year LANL veterans, say they have taken the brunt of the blame for a human accounting error that wasn't their fault, essentially cutting short their promising careers in nuclear physics experimentation.

    The situation is even more painful, they say, because the disks that were never created would not have contained classified information even if they had existed. They said the two disks would have been part of a batch of eight other real disks created to store unclassified information for a fall 2003 slide presentation. For security purposes, they said, the disks are considered classified because they were created on a classified computer.

    They say the only reason real disks don't turn up missing regularly, despite convoluted rules and a lack of resources, is because of the incredible integrity and care of the scientists in charge of them.
    "I did not violate any rules; I was very careful," Horne, who first received clearance to work with classified information when he was 19 years old, said in a recent interview at his home. "I followed the rules to the letter."

    LANL officials say procedures were in place to prevent such mixups but that they weren't followed.
    LANL director Pete Nanos has said the scientists at fault seemed to think their work was more important than following procedures and called those few responsible "cowboys" and "buttheads."

    "Procedures were in place that should have prevented this from ever happening," LANL spokesman Kevin Roark said.

    But it did.

    A July 6 inventory showed a discrepancy over two classified disks in the tracking system of the work group Dynamic Experimentation-3, or DX-3, responsible for conducting physics experiments on the behavior of nuclear materials.

    Assigned to Horne, a LANL technician working on some of the country's most secret experiments on the dynamics of nuclear explosions, the two disks were entered into a tracking system as if they existed in late 2003 when eight other disks were created.

    Horne said in a recent interview that he was given 10 bar codes for tracking classified disks, but only created eight disks. When he turned in the disks to the group's disk custodian, he didn't realize the custodian had entered all 10 bar codes into the accountability database. That error was only discovered about two weeks after the July 6 inventory, Horne and Kauppila said.

    Horne said he thinks he shredded the other two bar codes sometime after turning the disks in but can't prove it.

    'Ungodly tense' period

    An April "wall-to-wall" inventory of classified disks reported the two disks were accounted for, even though they didn't exist. How that happened and who was at fault is unclear, but Horne was assigned to the disks and would have had to produce them for the official conducting the inventory.

    When they couldn't be found in July during the next inventory, LANL officials initiated an FBI investigation and then-Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham took the unprecedented step of calling a halt to all classified work across the DOE complex.

    Horne described this period of intense scrutiny and investigation as "ungodly tense" and said he spent 18 hours a day, working through weekends, to try to determine the reason for the accounting discrepancy. He passed a lie detector test in November.

    Kauppila said LANL investigators searched haphazardly through canyon bottoms and above ceiling tiles instead of rationally thinking through the problem.

    Both men say that even though LANL officials learned early on that the disks never existed, the investigations continued because officials needed a scapegoat.

    "That's when the finger-pointing began," Kauppila said. "We were convenient targets."
    Horne was not fired, but he received a letter of reprimand and 10 days off without pay.

    'I was foolish'

    A supervisor to Horne, Kauppila said he played only an incidental role in the classified disk accounting mixup but was fired Sept. 23 because he failed to immediately return to LANL from an East Coast family vacation during the investigation.

    "I was so collateral to the incident that not in my wildest dreams did I think I would get terminated," he said. "In retrospect, I was foolish."

    Both men have filed formal grievances with LANL and say the only reason Horne wasn't fired was because he hired an attorney early in the investigation.

    Roark said LANL's policies prevent him from talking about personnel actions and the details of the investigations into Kauppila and Horne.

    "All personnel actions were taken following exhaustive inquiries and the actions were taken based solely on the facts that came out of the inquiries. That is all we can say," he said.

    Roark said laboratory officials have held two classified-level briefings for all classified-cleared employees on what was discovered during the inquiries, including time lines and what was done and when it was done, except for the names of the people involved.

    Last week, Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., told reporters that a full accounting of the laboratory's July shutdown would be coming.

    Prepare a Letter of Resignation

    From Anonymous:

    One thing I notice in the postings is a sense of helplessness. "Pete
    has wrecked the Lab", people say. "What will we do?". The thinking
    seems to be that one is an indentured servant, unable to move except
    by permission.

    If it is not clear to you now, you ought to realize that you should be
    preparing your exit strategy. Not because you're going to exit, but
    because you should be prepared. It gives you freedom. You have the
    freedom to stay here 20 more years, or to leave tomorrow. But the key
    is that YOU have the freedom; you are master of your fate.

    I recommend you do this: fix up your resume. Get in touch with people
    who can hire you. Start interviewing NOW.

    YOU need to take action to get control of your life.

    So what's the scarlet letter? It's "R". As in resignation. Not
    'resigned to the disasters befalling you' but 'I can leave when I need
    to, not when they decide I have to'.

    You should prepare a letter of resignation, undated but signed, put it
    in an envelope, and carry it with you at all times. It's liberating.

    You need not leave. But what you need to do is retain a sense of
    freedom, and this little exercise can do it. It's a mental health
    measure you can take when you're faced with working in a dysfunctional
    organization. I've seen it used in other places.

    I was even going to advocate that one day, say June 1, those of us who
    have done this wear a bright red 'R' pin to the Lab. But I've since
    realized -- far better for our managment to live with the uncertainty
    of not knowing who's prepared to slam a letter of resignation in their
    face, the next time some managment idiocy comes down the pike. So,
    it's good for the lab to know people are doing this; it's bad for them
    to know who, or how many. Keep 'em guessing. Maybe it will enforce a
    little more caution in their behavior.

    Wednesday, March 02, 2005

    Letter to Secretary Bodman

    Dear Secretary Bodman:

    Director Nanos is responsible for unprecedented damage to Los Alamos
    National Laboratory by his unilateral shutdown last summer. The reasons
    he cited for it have all gone up in smoke: When he called us
    "arrogant," "buttheads," and "cowboys," he accused LANL, where he had
    but two years experience, of having a "culture" of disregard for
    security and safety. Yet the "missing" classified removable electronic
    media (so-called CREM) is now declared nonexistent by the FBI (it was
    reported to Nanos and NNSA Administrator Brooks to be so within days of
    the shutdown, and Senator Domenici admitted it just a month later). The
    safety statistics, which I presented in a peer-reviewed opinion piece
    in the December 2004 issue of Physics Today, demonstrate that, since
    1998, Los Alamos continued to lead Sandia and Livermore with lower
    accident rates--at least until the shutdown, when (counter-intuitively)
    the LANL rates climbed sharply, primarily due to minor accidents caused
    by the stress of the shutdown itself.

    Now it has been reported in the news, as we suspected all along, that
    NNSA had data on security incidents at the three nuclear-weapons labs,
    showing that--as in safety--LANL security practices are comparable to,
    or better than SNL and LLNL. With all the original "reasons" having
    come up groundless, Nanos now resorts to making vague references to the
    incidence of "near misses" in safety as the REAL reason he shut down
    the Lab ("before DOE did so," according to him), yet he has not
    produced the "data," with comparisons to other national labs, to
    support such a charge.

    Workers at LANL are concerned about salaries, benefits, and their
    University of California retirement, but these are secondary to the
    science produced at LANL. During the shutdown, the delivery of
    salaries, benefits, and one of the best retirement systems continued as
    usual, apart from the handful of people who were disciplined for the
    security and the safety incident. What caused the utter demoralization
    of the LANL staff was the interruption for up to half a year of their
    primary concern--their livelihoods--the science that is not only
    central to their careers but a vital cornerstone of our national
    security. Here, instead of a skillful, patient, and understanding
    Director who knows the value of the science produced by LANL and who
    can calm the worries of Congress, DOE/NNSA, and UC, we have a Director
    that has attacked us from within--before the whole world--and with no
    objective grounds for doing so! And who defended us? Surely not
    Congress; surely not DOE or NNSA; and sadly, UC stood by and did

    I suggest that, as the new Secretary of Energy, and as one who has had
    a career in science yourself, you must strive to once again put science
    first at LANL, or else life here will be a hollow shell of what it once
    was. There is only a narrow window of time for you, Secretary Bodman,
    to address the damage to the scientific atmosphere at LANL, and the
    damage to national security, that Nanos' shutdown has caused.

    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 the Secretary of Energy must step forward and relieve him of

    -Brad Lee Holian
    (LANL Technical Staff Member, Theoretical Division)

    March, 2005 Nature Article on the Missing Issues of Physics Today

    From March, 2005 Nature:


    This is your moderator speaking. Some of the comments to posts, as well as some of the posts themselves have started to take on a strident tone. Knock it off with the name-calling or I will be forced to start deleting comments.


    Tuesday, March 01, 2005

    Objects to Criticism

    I am employed by LANL but am writing to this blog as a private citizen.

    The comments about Susan Seestrom are really over the top and have violated the ground rules of this blog:

    1. no sexism,
    2. no personal attacks

    Again, a few buttheads and cowboys, blogging anonymously, have made reckless comments without any basic knowledge of this individual.

    I worked with Susan a number of years and she is a fine scientists and recognizes good work. I supported her promotion to Physics Division leader, and insofar as anyone cared about my opinion, also her promotion to ADWP.

    If she ever steps down from her position, I would be happy to have her contribute to any project on which I am working.

    I will probably be accused of being a sycophant for writing a letter in support of a big bad LANL manager, but in this instance the comments, in particular the anonymous, are way off base.

    There was a good message in her basketball allegory: The employess of LANL need to move on with their lives. I've seen adult men on the verge of tears over being called a butthead/cowboy. Get over it. Grow up. Pick yourself up off the court. Chin up and all that rot. You will feel better.

    Some months ago I had an audience with the Director. I was going to complain, but instead simply stated that I am staying at Los Alamos until I am told to leave (e.g., when the Lab gets shut down), and asked what to do to retain a new recruit who attended the meeting with me. At that moment, the standown etc. was behind me. It was refreshing.

    Unfortunately, LANL is a big burden on the taxpayers of this nation; the product the Lab produces is of limited usefulness and really only made sense in the context of the cold war.

    You will feel better if you
    1. Concentrate on your work
    2. Forget about your retirement-- I have an impression that anyone who is overly concerned has crawled up their own asshole and died.
    3. Understand that you are not irreplacable in the organization
    4. If you don't like the situation, seek employment elsewhere

    I call for the immediate shutting down of the Blog. It just is keeping whiners whining. Why not come up with something to help people move on with their lives?

    Please give up on the petition to dismiss Nanos as the director. It is embarassing and it is not your decision. Nobody care what you think about anything. The fact that you think the shutdown was unwarranted means you are clueless.

    Steve K. Lamoreaux
    Private Citizen

    Letters to the Editor from the March, 2005 Physics Today

    Correcting a Misconception

    From Anonymous:

    I would like to correct one misconception presented in a previous comment: when you shout here, you are not shouting into the wind. You are shouting in front of an audience that now comprises approximately 26,000 visitors. Some of those visitors come from DOE. Some come from the US Senate. Some from the House of Representatives. Some come from the Office of the President of the University of California. Some sit on the 4th floor of the ad building. Some are reporters for the Associated Press, Physics Today, Nature, the Albuquerque Journal, the Oakland Tribune, and, yes, the Los Alamos Monitor.

    Starting to get the picture?

    Article From the March Issue of Physics Today

    Here is a link to a story from Physics Today on the missing issues of the December, 2004 issues. If the link takes you to a login page, you may use the following account to view it:

    To access Physics Today's content please use the email address

    And password: tip2005

    To login click here

    Here is the article:

    Dominici has long been able to count on the votes of Los Alamos citizens

    From Anonymous:

    While I agree with the poster who says that LANL is not a democracy, it does belong to a democracy. I believe we can draw hope from the kind of actions performed by the citizens of the Ukraine lately ( who would ever have expected to hear that 50 years ago?) They successfully changed a government that they disagreed with.

    It is possible to say no to corruption within a democracy but it is scary and it has to be done by many people simultaneously. If only 20 come out against the status quo those people may very well face serious trouble. But if 20,000 come out against it, they have a chance and if 200,000 come out for change, the government gets the message. The problem is the citizens must send a clear message, not a fuzzy one. Politicians have to understand what they actually want.

    Dominici has long been able to count on the votes of Los Alamos citizens, yet he seems to take their support completely for granted with insulting statements like, "For god's sake we aren't trying to hurt you."
    And my guess is that Dominici believes what he says. LANL employees agree with him when they vote, but not when the principles Dominici openly stands for are applied to them.

    The last draft RFP gave with one hand and took away with the other. Supposedly benefits of current employees are now guaranteed, but now the new company won't have to hire all of those who currently work at LANL. And there are other outrages in it as well. LANL employees cry out against this new plan, but this is what they voted for the last time Dominici ran and during the last Presidential election.

    The biggest problem I see is that Dominici and his supporters generally believe they are really doing the whole country a favor by privatizing public institutions and bringing benefits and salaries lower, to enable the private industry to compete with government institutions such as LANL. They think private ownership and competition will create more efficiency in everything. Unfortunately, this approach has been tried before and it did not work. ( Look up laissez faire capitalism in history). It certainly isn't the kind of atmosphere that made LANL great. It certainly didn't make the LANL cafeteria great!

    The bottom line is that most of the people in Los Alamos agree with the idea that it is competetion and private ownership that make for a strong economy except when the competition principle is applied to their own work place. It is time for LANL employees to think these issues through. If one believes that the best way to make the US great is to put our support into large corporations in "open" markets then one ought to pleased to see that principal applied in one's own workplace. It appears however that that is not the case at LANL. No wonder Dominici is confused.

    If it feels like a bad idea in one's own workplace then how can it be a good idea for all workplaces in the US and even in the world? Yet free, open markets based on competition are what the US and Los Alamos voters are pushing these days , for all people throughout the world.
    Why don't Los Alamos employees want privatization and competition in their own work place? Until they think this confusion through LANL employees will continue to appear to outsiders to be spoiled children and Dominici will continue to stand for the principles he has believed in all along.
    If LANL employees and other citizens change their minds, Dominici and other politicians will be more amenable to the kind of workplace LANL employees have enjoyed for so long, which is government owned, government managed with a substantial defined benefit pension instead of a 403b or 401k with some matching funds from the employer.

    What keeps most employees at LANL is the retirement fund, yet our current government is seeking to make defined benefit retirement programs a thing of the past. And most LANL employees are very upset about the loss of their defined benefit pension fund.

    The voters of Los Alamos haven't thought through the economics of their politics. Until they quit voting for privatization of everything, they will have to have to continue to worry about their own workplace.

    Re: "What Would Feynman Do"

    From Anonymous:

    I have to agree with the commentator in the "What Would Feynman Do" post
    who says Feynman would leave through the hole in the security fence and
    never come back. Science is dying at this place, and we all know it. You
    can smell it in the air.

    During the start of the Cerro Grande fire, I remember going down to the
    grassy knoll at the Medical Center on the Sunday when the fire was trying
    to jump Los Alamos Canyon. It was almost a picnic like atmosphere in many
    ways. We watched as the tanker planes made their targets and dropped their
    retardants. There was an air of unreality about the whole scene that
    day. I remember telling my son, "now, if the fire jumps the Canyon,
    the town of Los Alamos is gone". I said it nonchalantly, somehow
    knowing that it just couldn't, it wouldn't happen. It was unthinkable!

    Well, it did happen, and my neighborhood was burned to ruble. The
    fire could not be stopped. Somehow, this seems like a fitting analogy
    for what is now happening to the Lab itself. It largely escaped the
    burning fires of Cerro Grande. It will now be scorched by DOE. You can
    sit around thinking it couldn't, it wouldn't. Well, yes, it will.

    The hills above Los Alamos are now full of dead trees, but new life
    is starting to emerge from the catastrophe. The natural landscape has
    changed dramatically. The forms of the mountains are now plainly
    visible. In another decade or two, it won't be so bad. The cycles of
    nature are in motion. One can hope that at some future time, the
    Lab, likewise, will recover from what is now occurring. The big question
    is whether those who are here today will ever see this recovery.

    I wish I knew the answer to that question. I truly wish I knew. But
    the true answer is no one knows -- not DOE, not the Senator, and not
    even the staff of Los Alamos. At this point, we can only hope that
    the destruction is minimal enough that it will be possible to rebuild
    for the future once the "fire" has passed. And it is now time to gather
    your loved ones and prepare to either "hunker-down" or to flee from
    the Hill. Let's hope that this fire passes quickly.


    From Anonymous:

    Perhaps to protect LANL employees rights its time to think about
    hiring a lawyer thats an expert in labor contract law. Just wondering
    if others think its a good idea to persue this? We would of course
    require money to do this and could probably set up a legal fund at a
    local bank to do this.

    Good, Stable Contractor

    The Coalition for LANL Excellence (yahoo groups) has been following the new LANL contract process. The coalition members are concerned employees and retirees who would like to assure a viable institution into the future. Honestly, this issue overshadows any recent short term events. We need to attract a good, stable contractor and retain a healthy workforce. Any contractor will bring in their own management team.

    There are several changes to the proposed RFP listed in the four white papers posted by the SEB Feb. 18th 2005 on the DOE site. These changes came from employee/retiree concerns, and also potential contractor input. The employees most at risk during this change are mid-career (i.e. baby-boomers). A summary of the four papers follows:

    1. Retiree health care (white paper d)
    A. Retiree healthcare is assured; they will be in a risk pool with LANL employee population.

    2. Contractor Issues (white paper a)
    A. Contractor's Operating Fee doubled to 3% of 1.7 billion = 51 million first year.
    B. Contract term will be 7 years to start (up to 20 years allowed).
    C. Removes special clause retaining UCRP (old section H) if UC wins contract. (was a competition issue voiced by bidders) Therefore UC can't have a special clause and must create LANL spinoff retirement fund under any scenario. Does not address if this creates new LANL pension rules, i.e. service credit vs. pension amt. is immediately lower because spinoff value is less.
    D. No longer guarantees ALL current employees a job- contractor may choose to hire some fraction. Retirees and those who freeze UC service are definitely NOT being guaranteed employment. (this was also bidder request)
    E. Gives 180 day evaluation period- 60 days contractor, 60 days DOE, 60 days current employees.
    F. Savings created by removing inefficiencies at LANL will be spent on R&D. (no portion to contractor)
    G. Gross receipts tax will not be addressed in the RFP.

    3. Pension Issues (white paper c)
    A. All current retirees remain UCRP.
    B. Transfer employees to receive `substantially equivalent' pension, but new employees hired after new contract can have different pension rules. (similar to current vacation difference )
    C. Transfer employees (those offered jobs) transfer at base salaries. (However see section 2 item D.)
    D. UC or any other contractor will have separate LANL pension plan.
    E. Contractor will submit plan to bring LANL into compliance with 105% Ben-Val. Transfer employees are not to be impacted substantially.
    F. NNSA requests a time extension. 6 months minimum.
    G. Employees who become retirees near contract change are not guaranteed jobs.
    H. Employees who become inactive (quit) near contract change are not guaranteed jobs and would become new employees if hired. (Employees who quit would lose leave balance and would have new pension rules, however retain UC service credit - see Section 3 item B.)

    4. Contractor Compensation (white paper b)
    A. 3% fee first year; after first year - 30% fixed, fee 70 % at will fee of 3%~ 60 M.
    B. Unlike the current UC contract, there is no future cap on contractor liability.
    C. There will be no share in savings for contractor. (from efficiencies eliminated. See Section 2 item F)


    Please Sign

    I'd like to request that the petition to remove Nanos be raised back to the top of the blog. Or, at least add a link to get to it quickly. There have been several advertisements in the Monitor to bring this site to peoples attention. I've noticed a marked increase in hits on the site and I think it would be helpful to give new arrivals an easy way to find the petition.

    To all of you out there, you can sign anonymously but, please sign. I have devoted my life to this lab and I hate to see what has become of it.The Director has disgraced this laboratory and the nation. If you don't stand up for what's right now there might not be anything left to stand up for at all in the near future. This is a critical time and I respectfully ask that you stand with those who have already signed this petition. There is some chance that the damage can be repaired but the window of opportunity is quite narrow. I have proudly signed my name to this petition in hopes that others would follow the lead of the few of us that have done so. Unlike our Director, I believe that leadership is best done by example. Please help to lead this institution back to the greatness it once deserved.


    John N. Horne

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