Saturday, May 06, 2006

DOE: No pensions for new contract workers

The Associated Press/NEW YORK

AP Business Writer

MAY. 5 7:00 P.M. ET The Department of Energy has told contractors it will no longer pay for pensions for newly hired workers, following the lead of a growing number of private employers.

The change is drawing sharp criticism from labor unions, advocacy groups and some Senate Democrats. It comes as federal lawmakers are working on measures designed to shore up a listing pension insurance system, improve funding of pension plans and slow the move by employers away from the retirement mainstay.

The DOE's decision is intended to cut costs and ensure the predictability of future retirement obligations, a department spokeswoman, Megan Barnett, said Friday.


Full Story

DOE is clueless and idiots like Secretary Bodman (or is it Boobman) miss the whole reason congress created the concept of Federally Funded Research & Development Centers (FFRDCs). Lumping all DOE M&O contractors (production sites, cleanup sites, etc with R&D sites) into the same box is already killing science in DOE...

Why should top notch scientists/researchers go to work for Fermi Lab, Los Alamos, Argonne, Berkeley Lab, etc when they can go work for private companies (with profit sharing options and 401k matching programs) or in academia or start their own company - all places where they will make more money, deal with less bureaucratic paperwork/regulations caused by DOE's one size fits all Orders/Directives, have better retirement/benefit plans, and in general have more fun doing their research work.

The federal law (U.S Code of Federal Regulations, Title 48, Part 35, Section 35.017) governing FFRDCs explicitly states

"(2) An FFRDC meets some special long-term research or development need which cannot be met as effectively by existing in-house or contractor resources. FFRDC's enable [federal] agencies to use private sector resources to accomplish tasks that are integral to the mission and operation of the sponsoring agency...

(4) Long-term relationships between the Government and FFRDC's are encouraged in order to provide the continuity that will attract high-quality personnel to the FFRDC. This relationship should be of a type to encourage the FFRDC to maintain currency in its field(s) of expertise, maintain its objectivity and independence, preserve its familiarity with the needs of its sponsor(s), and provide a quick response capability. "

The term "private sector resources" in (2) includes "employees" of the FFRDC. DOE's restriction on retirements for employees of the 16 FFRDCs it funds will definitely not encourage "high-quality personnel" to go to work at these labs. Its as if DOE has never seen the rules on FFRDCs, nor does it understand the concept of federally funded R&D.

We here at LLNL expect a mass exodus of scientific and technical staff heading off to UC Davis, UC Berkeley, Stanford, UCSF, and any number of high tech companies in the Silicon Valley and bay area... this week the San Francisco Chronicle reported in its annual section dedicated to the top 200 Bay Area companies that "... the technology industry is bouncing back from the dot-com crash and helping the Bay Area economy turn the corner... Technology drives the Bay Area economy... the Chronicle 200 rankings show [bay area] high-tech companies as the biggest sector in revenue ($335.2 billion) and stock market capitalization ($1.03 trillion)." So a tip to all LLNL employees, polish up those resumes and go work some place fun...

The list of all 36 recognized FFRDC can be seen at
From the AP article:

DOE has told contractors they have until March 1, 2007, to deal
with its elimination of funding for traditional pensions for new
hires. It has also set a shorter timetable -- until July 26 of
this year -- after which DOE will reimburse contractors for
"market-based" medical benefit plans for new hires, less generous
than existing plans.

We are at the beginning of the "Big Squeeze" from DOE. Kiss
your retirement medical benefits good-bye. Cuts to our
existing benefits are likely to soon follow. And Bodman is
a big, fat liar. Don't believe a word from his mouth when
he says he "values the efforts" of those who work on behave
of the DOE. His words mean nothing. His actions speak
Hey LarryLiverMVR...: Any suggestions as for ex-Los Alamos talent finding new work in the Bay area? I'm good for at least ten more years.
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