Saturday, January 28, 2006
The Six Breaches of Trust
The Six Breaches of Trust
or, there are hell of a lot of things they did not tell you when you signed up for this outfit.
During the incoming director's presentation of the executive team on Jan. 19th he seemed taken aback by the tone of the questioning. The questions were not actually rude in language, but usually contained a sense of distrust or started from an assumption of hostile intent by the management. Afterwards, Bob Kuckuck actually sent an email around to the staff emphasizing the esteem he holds for the incoming director, and promising that we will feel the same way after a short period of time. The new management team should understand that they are entering the laboratory as the representatives of a DOE/NNSA/UC management that has frequently violated the trust of the laboratory staff. They have to dig their way out of a hole where all the presumptions are against them. The six major breaches of trust are:
1. Nanos' firings
2. Lab shutdown
3. Perimeter project
4. Retirement ruse
5. DOE's imaginary culture
6. Science lip service
1. Former Director Nanos fired (or forced into retirement) numerous people. Many of those firings were based on the flimsiest of causes. For example, in the laser safety case there was no pattern of misconduct with a string of injured people coming out of that lab. Instead, there was one injury, exaggerated in severity, and no systematic pattern of injuries. In the security cases it has been policy to fire workers responsible for security infractions, usually after several instances. The CREM incident did not even appear to be a first security infraction for some of those workers. We have always believed that the management would tolerate imperfection in our service to the lab, as long as the staff’s intent was to address the goals of the lab. Most importantly, the continued failure to rectify these unfair actions indicates ethical problems at the top.
2. Lab Shutdown. This interfered with many projects and careers of people who were not in any involved with any misconduct. The lab projects are frequently developed through the efforts of the staff and involve a direct relationship between the sponsor and the project leader. The managers usually do not help develop that relationship and do not have an earned right to interfere. They have the right in the management structure, but have not earned the moral authority to stop delivery of the work. The cultural of misconduct named as a cause only existed in the imagination of foolish managers.
3. Perimeter Project. The new perimeter project is a direct attack on the quality of life in the community. The highway in question is our access to the recreational opportunities of the Jemez Mountains and the ski area. Other than the lab, the economic life of the county is from spin-off businesses and the few tourists that come here for a day. The promotion of spin-off businesses is good for the lab and good for the community but the undeveloped part of the Los Alamos Research Park will now be isolated behind the gate. The tourists usually visit the museum or the historic district, and then Bandelier, or vice versa. The perimeter project will force such tourists to go through the new lab security gate, certainly a blow to their enthusiasm for a continued visit. The county council foolishly tried to work with the DOE, who apparently care nothing about the town, and waited too long to take legal action. In fact, the facilities that matter are not close to the road, except for a few new buildings, such that one could accuse DOE of putting the new buildings in locations that support a bureaucratic land grab.
4. Retirement Ruse. The retirement plan is under threat from a DOE/NNSA/UC eager to back out of their expensive promises to the staff. There are two issues here. First, a small LANL only group will not be statistically representative the population as a whole, hence the plan will not have a reliable statistical basis to project future needs. In a large population of diverse people one can use national statistics to accurately project future costs. UCRS is now near statistical breakeven, and is such a large diverse group that the statistics are likely accurate. Our health oriented little group will not be near those projections and the little LANL plans will be born broke, or at least in uncertain health. Second, the new pension funds will have none of the state constitutional protections of the UCRS. When UCRS was doing well numerous parties tried in vain to raid the excess. The best the potential raiders could do was to not contribute to UCRS until the stock market run ended. The new plan must have similar protections, but how? The retirees should organize and hire their lawyers now. They are certainly a potentially injured class and should be ready to file a lawsuit when any decision is announced.
5. DOE's imaginary culture. DOE/NNSA has maintained a campaign to destroy the public image of the laboratories workers. The worst part is probably the testimony to Congress about a LANL culture of lax safety, poor security, and no financial accountability. These are just knowably false statements (I think my mom used to call that lying) from the leaders of DOE/NNSA and are often nationally distributed in the press. The truth is that we have an outstanding safety record and have passed numerous audits of property, classified material, and purchases with relatively few problems for an organization of this size. If the statistics are good where is the culture problem? We should probably call it "the DOE/NNSA culture of lying about our culture".
6. Science Lip service. We are all aware of the numerous "we like science" statements. This is not backed up by concrete action. The cost environment for science is increasingly unfavorable. The international visitor situation is unworkable. The safety hysteria is a problem for the student programs. I personally do not want to take students on as they could do something foolish, cause a small injury, and then that could get blown-up into my actual termination. Now the managers are even going to have input into laboratory directed exploratory research, the last vestige of peer review within the lab. This overall trend will endanger recruiting and retention of staff, and deteriorate the scientific base.
In conclusion, this is the situation the new management team faces. The staff is distrustful and hostile over a long series of issues. You have to dig yourselves out of a big hole.
Just so you know, Nonombre
Here are the reasons why we do not trust you.
1. Nanos' firings - Nanos lied
2. Lab shutdown - Nanos lied
3. Permimer project - DOE lied and continues to lie
4. Retirement - DOE lied
5. DOE's imaginary culture - DOE lied and continues to lie
6. Science lip servie - DOE continues to lie
Now it's up to you to generate an environment where we can begin to trust you again.
Kevin Roark lies. Jim Fallin lies. Why do they lie? Because David McCumber tells them to lie. Why does McCumber tell them to lie? Well, it used to be because Nanos told him to lie. In that wonderful vacuum produced by Nanos' sudden departure, "Sparkey" McCumber continued to tell "Comical Ali" Kevin and "Baghdad Bob" Fallin to lie because Chris Harrington, official UC spokesperson passed the 'lie' edict down to his young ears. Who gave that mission to Harrington? Foley/Dynes. Then came "Smile'n Bob Kuckuck who gave "Sparkey" his "LIE" orders. Of course, it was still Foley/Dynes passing that direction on to Kuckuck.
Now, we are all pretty much comfortable in our expectation that it will be Mike Anastasio who will take up the torch and who will tell those PA clowns to keep on lying. We have come to expect it.
The PA folks aren't worth my time because they are only repeating what they've been told. They don't have the smarts to think up the lies. As you said, Anastasio will take up the torch and tell them what to say. They are not going to think it up on their own.
Perhaps I did not clearly make my point: it is UC that is the driving force here. That influence continues with the new contract. Nothing changes.
I want in on some of this action. How about the "We will not turn Los Alamos into a pit factory" lie. That's my favorite!
Clearly we differ. I think the biggest villain is DOE/NNSA, a collection of political hacks. Dynes doesn't have the smarts. He bows to Foley who is a DOE/NNSA puppet. After all, it was Tyler P who said the retirees' would not be affected. And it's DOE that's lying about the safety and security that will be enhanced by the perimeter road project. And DOE is the one babbling about how important science is while pushing the whole concept of private management of the labs, clearly an oxymoron along the lines of military intelligence.
If the DOE honored a carefully written FIFA request, we might find out that DOE backed everything Nanos did through their puppet Foley. Don't forget Foley's manner when he and Dynes were here. He was clearly angry about being at LANL and about the questions being asked.
1. Nanos' firings
2. Lab shutdown
3. Perimiter project
5. DOE's imaginary culture
6. Science lip servie
Now that leaves 4 & 6 that LANS/Mike can impact. What UC has done on 4 is not LANS/Mike, to make the determination let's see what the proposed benefits package is in 2 weeks (keep the powder dry, be ready). What Mike does on 6 is certainly in his control, he indicated that at the recent all-hands announcing his management team.
If he keeps the CSO Nanos-philes Bowles/Sharp to represent science (or even be a voice for science) that certainly DOES NOT bode well for science, nor for mission (good staff better pack your bags). Did you ever hear Bowles voice support for and the importance of the standdown, sounded like the Admiral himself. If CSO is anywhere near the Director's office, scientists are best leaving, Mike has indicated his intentions with science. If Mike creates any office that is a lower level office than Deputy Dir that deals with science, like the old ADSTP (S&T program) than science is on the death-walk at LANL, get out while you can.
On the other hand if Mike creates a Deputy Dir of R&D then he will be indicating he understands the importance of science at LANL and for mission. The need to have a high level of representation and strategic leadership is necessary. If such an office is created then stick around (assuming 4 works out) it will be ok.
The other major impediment to science at LANL is the cost. With the added cost of the new management team, the ten-fold increase in the management fee, the gross receipts tax, and the added pension costs, the LANL G&A rate will increase signifidantly. Or, as in the past, the LANL accountants will come up with stealth methods to collect then needed costs by direct charging for things rather than having an embarrasing increase in the G&A rates. I can see charges for parking, lab taxi service, use of the library, etc. I can also see the organization support tax on procurements being reinstated.
Don’t underestimate Anastasio and his dedication to science. He clearly has a good record of that at LLNL, and he seems to want the same for LANL. I think the difficulty will be in preserving the difference in science at Los Alamos compared to Livermore. Despite all our frustrations, fundamental science is still emphasized here, and it is much less so at Livermore. Just compare the customers at the two labs. LANL scores much better with things like office of science.
The other big unknown for science is how operations is going to integrate with science. This is a theme in all Anastasio’s speeches (see the Sunday Monitor, with the bogus picture of Anastasio). What does that really mean? Is John Mitchell going to decide what work goes forward because he is the operation integrator? This troubles me greatly. On the other hand, anything that would allow work to actually go forward at TA 55 would be a blessing (by the way, the best thing that LANS can do for SCIENCE is to deep six Dave Beck and Fred Tarantino – perfect examples of people that “don’t get it”).
I agree with: "Right now there are only two faces to science – Wallace and Seestrom." Not sure that Seestrom should be there, other than in support of pRad, read that Chris Morris (her husband).
Not sure I agree with: "Wallace seems to have done a fine job during a trying time, and the rumor is that Strategic Research is going to be a much bigger organization."
Wallace has done ok as ADSR. How can Strategic Research get bigger, there are not enough $ around to support it as is? What that really means is that there will be even fewer $ for LDRD in other places around the lab. LANS/Mike should really look at the relationship that Nanos set up, placing the LDRD program office under ADSR, seems like a bad idea and opportunity for problems. What Wallace has really done is played his family's political relationship with St. Pete very well and that is what has gotten him there.
B. I am a long term member of a Strategic Research directorate, and I can tell you that compared to the last 3 ADSRs (I am counting the 7 month debacle under Micheline Devaurs) Wallace is a blessing. W88, you seem not to know that LDRD as a program is run under the CSO. Bowles makes the decisions. IMHO, Bowles is just a terrible CSO. I believe that the office could be okay, but Bowles is not a leader, not a visionary, and a Nanos suckup.
C. I am embarrassed that Seestrom is the designated woman in science. Although ADWP has the reputation as the “girl AD”, Seestrom and Snow are just awful. There are far better leaders in the science divisions of the lab, and Anastasio would do well to do some homework.
Thank you! Your post was dead-set perfect. A true bull's-eye. I only wish
all blog posters could demonstrate such clarity in their postings.
Some of the truth presently remains buried by questionable and unchecked injury/illness over-reporting. I predict LANS LLC will achieve almost instant safety success by bringing some real-world sense to this process.
LANL is tried to be run as a college campus, when it has to deal with stuff that people can't talk about. This causes all kinds of mental headaches for people, but you can't get therapy without losing your job.
(Or your neighbours making snide comments about you.)
LANL has at least 2 populations that seem to be on mental warfare with each other. The WMD people bring in the lion share of the money, and the non-WMD people play second fiddle. This gets into all kinds of back-stabbing between organizations, or forming duplicate support groups since neither side will use the other guys.
Another set of populations set against each other are the TSM and the TEC(etc) series. I remember getting nothing but snide orders from one TSM while I was a TEC, but as soon as I made TSM.. it was phone calls for advice on how to get stuff done.
LANL has an ingrained culture of back-biting, sniping, and other passive aggressive things. It seems a constant story about how when someone is in the room, everyone talks about what a nice guy (s)he is, but as soon as they are out of ear-shot every rumour and horror story comes out. And if that someone gets to be a manager, they will hear to their faces about what a great job they are doing, and their manager will hear usually anonymously about what a sadist they are.
The number of anonymous tips to various senators, congressman about how badly run LANL is.. is not a new phenomena. I remember one congressional investigator saying it always peaks after raise time.
All of these things can be seen in the town, where a redevelopment project has been talked about for 10 years and the town gets more run down every year. One major reason why students and new candidates have been turning appointments down has been because Espanola looks a heck of a lot nicer to live in these days.
At this point, my advice to any organization is to bite the 10 gauge shotgun shell, and rebuild from the ground-up. Very few of the "friends" you have here are trust-worthy, and you arent going to win any more playing soft.
required to pull their employees out of UCRP into a special corporate
pension. In fact, the LBNL RFP didn't even require the winning bidders
to be an LLC. All current LBNL employees are still working for UC.
This brings up some interesting questions:
(1) Will the upcoming LLNL RFP require the construction of an LLC and a
separate corporate pension? If not, then, why not?
(2) Will UC, if they win the LLNL competition, proceed to remove current
LLNL retirees out from UCRP and into a separate UCRP-LLNL pension?
Could they begin making this move even before winners of the LLNL RFP
*** People out at LLNL need to start asking this particular question
to UCOP management NOW! You deserve an answer, as your retirement
future may be at stake. It's not a hypothetical question, as I'm
sure that some out there at Livermore may now be thinking of leaving
LLNL if UCOP appears to be heading in this direction. You deserve
a quick and decisive answer -- don't let UCOP equivocate on this one.
(3) Likewise to question (2), is UCOP now considering pulling the
LBNL current and retired staff out of UCRP and into a special UCRP-LBNL
pension? Again, an immediate answer from UCOP is deserved on this
As far as a special UCRP-LBNL and UCRP-LLNL pensions go, it sounds
like the justifications being given out by UCOP for the new UCRP-LANL
separation would also immediately apply to both LBNL and LLNL. If UCOP
doesn't immediately head in this direction, then our NM politicians and the
lawyers need to start asking tough questions as to why not? What's the
true justification for making this sudden move on the current retirees
within the LANL pension? Is UCOP hiding their true motives?
So with that in mind.
1) Unless Congress changes its rules, I think the bid on LLNL and all other DOE labs will have to be done with the formation of a LLC or similar company.
2) UC could do this at any time they want. They may even do it sooner than the LLNL bid as a poison pill for any other organization bidding on LLNL. In many ways, LLNL is more important to UC than LANL because it is in the home state.
3) I dont think the LBNL people are likely to have this happen til at least the next competition if the LLC rules are still in place. LBNL is also not run out of NNSA but out of the normal DOE channels. It doesnt handle the amount (if any) classified material so it is not considered a threat to national security if it has problems. As a LLNL person once told me, LBNL is a federal check to the UC system by California's large congressional votes.
separate corporate pension? If not, then, why not?
Probably not. Congress got what it wanted competing LANL and giving UC a black eye. When the price tag gets fully exposed, and people understand that LLNL is not LANL, some sense may come about, especially with budgets so tight.