Sunday, April 09, 2006

A bureaucratic risk-averse posture at all management levels

Something that escaped the notice of the journalists who reported on the testimony to Congress last week from and about NNSA and the weapons complex: some revealing remarks about productivity and safety. I believe these comments should be applied to 2004 shutdown.

Dr. David O. Overskei (Sec. Energy Advisory Board) testimony to House Armed Services Committee, 4 April 2006, pp. 3-4

"The DOE management has burdened the Complex with rules and regulations that focus on process rather than mission performance, productivity, and responsiveness. Cost/benefit analysis and risk informed decisions are absent, resulting in a bureaucratic risk-averse posture at all management levels."

Thomas P. D’Agostino (NNSA) testimony to House Armed Services Committee, 5 April 2006, p. 3

"The Task Force recommends that we manage risk more effectively in our R&D and production activities by employing cost-benefit analysis and risk-informed decisions. We agree this is a key issue for transformation. By being too risk averse, we hurt productivity at our facilities without improving safety and security. Rather, by implementing methods to better manage risk, including analysis of the costs and benefits of the policies and procedures for ensuring safe and secure operations at our facilities, we will get the job done and do so safely and securely."

-- Bernard Foy


Comments:
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So what's new? Remember the Galvin comission, and the many other similar comissions that preceded it?

Hazel O'Leary swore she would implement their conclusions. Maybe she will, some day...
 
Actually, there have been eight in-depth studies since 1995, including the recent Defense Science Board Nuclear Capabilities study (a classified report).

Each one has identified items that need fixing and each time the DOE or NNSA has initiated change. But in most cases, the changes do not take root. This is not, however, fully the fault of DOE/NNSA. The repeated studies and the inevitable redirection of effort are partly to blame. Also contributing has been a lack of followthru due to changes in the political appointees (Secretaries, Administrators...).

So, until I see otherwise, I will consider the promises for change to be just typical reaction to "bad audit" findings. Such reactions almost always get overtaken by events. And there are always events (budget issues, accidents, politics...).
 
Sure, go ahead and try to get some work done. That is what happened to the COWBOYS in DX who pushed to get the hydrotests done on schedule under considerable pressure from Admiral Butthea.

All is fine until something goes wrong. The your ass is hung out to dry.

Be assured that these people will put nothing in writing.
 
Everybody who works at LANL should visit DOE headquarters once. Walk down the hallways, talk with people. It won't take long to realize that you are in a decrepit, ineffectual, apathetic government bureaucracy. It is no wonder the weapons complex in general, and LANL in particular have been as poorly run as they have.
 
"Risk Management" sounds great in theory, but how do you "manage" with "incentives" safety and environment issues? Workers have a "right" to a safe environment, but who has the responsibility? And if LANL screws up on this key issue, as they have in the past, what do you do? Slap the manager's hand? Promote the manager, as in the past? Remember that O'Leary wanted to turn OSHA enforcement at the Labs over to OSHA, because the DOE didn't have the "balls" to meet their OSHA responsibities. Domenici cut the funds for the implemetation, and OSHA at LANL remains, as always, a miserable joke.

LANL is not "over" managed by the DOE, it is "mis" managed, in good part because LANL is always trying, unlike Sandia, to subvert DOE management efforts, by calling on Domenici among other destructive things.

LANL needs to accept their role, which is a contractor to the DOE. DOE represents the taxpayers, LANL does not. It does not serve the public interest for LANL, with Pete's help, to be running around and kicking the DOE in the ass everytime they get a chance. This distorts the roles and perpetuates the problems.

Will LANL change their destructive ways? Not likely! Will they continue to blame the DOE for LANL's problems? Of course!
 
There's a real difference between perceived risk and real risk. LANL has not dealt well lately with perceived risk on a political level. Perceived risk has probably cost the USA taxpayer many millions of dollars in cost equivalents(time and money). This is mainly due to the fact that we have unqualified oversight personnel and managers (DOE and LANL)in decision making positions that really don't know what the risks are associated with operations, programs, political capitol, etc. other than "it could cost me my job if something goes wrong". On the LANL side this has been amplified due to the change in contractors, whereas on the DOE side its difficult to find "qualified" personnel off the street for oversite. My personnel experience has been dealing with most oversite people and LANL managers that really have no business making decisions about operations they are responsible for. Some actions I will attribute to incompetence, other actions I will attribute to settling personal vendettas while still empowered. The end result is costing US tax payers money.
 
NNSA: Revenge of the C students.
 
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