Thursday, June 01, 2006
By Eli Kintisch
ScienceNOW Daily News
1 June 2006
"Today marks the start of a new era," wrote Director Michael Anastasio in an lab-wide e-mail. He called for "unparalleled science through leadership, innovation, best business practices, and a focus on safe and secure operations."
The new management, Los Alamos National Security, is a partnership between UC and megacontractor Bechtel, BWX Technologies, and Washington Group International. Pressed by lawmakers angered by UC's performance as lab manager, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced in 2003 a first-ever competition for the lab contract (ScienceNOW, 30 April 2003). Emphasizing new security, accounting, and management controls, the UC/Bechtel team faced down aerospace giant Lockheed Martin to win the contract late last year (ScienceNOW, 21 December, 2005).
One of two bomb design laboratories in the U.S., Los Alamos' weapons activities could get a shot in the arm as DOE pushes to build new nuclear weapons designed to be long-lasting and require no testing. But those pursuing nonclassified work note that the lab's $2.2 billion annual budget has remained flat or declined in recent years, and the new contract's stipulated $60 million to $70 million in yearly fees to the management could sap nonclassified science funding. Much of that work is done with outside companies or agencies. "A decreased amount of research done for non-DOE clients has LANL's reputation as a science institution poised to fall," wrote local resident Greg Mello of the watchdog Los Alamos Study Group on the popular blog LANL: The Real Story.
Good luck people. There must be a fat cat in this contract that I can not see, or maybe it's because I don't believe the labs will ever be the same again. The only fat cats in this contract I see are those at the top that had their salary increased by four times for doing nothing more then they have done before. Regardless, you all have fun and enjoy the new era.
I'm old enough that moving would be quite a chore.
Housing costs and taxes elsewhere are prohibitive at my current salary.
I would need a significant salary increase to afford greener pastures.
I'm old enough that I only care to work a few more years.
I couldn't sell my house of over 20 years' ownership in Los Alamos for what it was worth a year ago...a loss that I am not willing to take.
I'm one of many Lab staffers that can and likely would quit if Lab management and working conditions get worse than they already are.
My opinion is that there are a significant number of folks in the same boat, and that downsizing at the Lab could commence with the first incident of new Lab management mistreating their long-term experienced staff.
The other point is how "great science" is supported by LANL. It is NOT via outside money, it IS mostly via the LDRD program, which Senator Domenici just got raised to 8% of the budget. That is about $120-$160 million per year, which buys a lot of science; or at least a lot of papers. But, like most things at LANL, the LDRD program is corrupt, as much noted by the GAO, the IG, and others. But hey, another great "success".
Good to be off on the right foot. The new era looks an awful lot like the old one, with failure defined at "success".
The dogs'll be howlin'.
Some of us younger folks are still looking for jobs outside of the DOE complex so we have the opportunity to get the flock out of Dodge.. Takes time!
Please provide the reference to the GAO audit of the LDRD program as being "corrupt". There may be many problem programs at the Lab, but the LDRD clearly produces high quality science by almost any objective measure and has consistently done so over the years. There may have been complaints about its cost (from some Congressmen) but I don't think there have been any legitmate reports on "corruption" in LDRD.
As regards "double dipping", I'm not sure what the "waste" is. The money paying those retiring is coming from the UCRP retirement plan which has no effect on the LANS budget. Perhaps you mean the "waste" is paying these senior folks a higher salary than a new comer. I don't think the salary differentials are all that high on average and the senior folks just "might" have some useful knowledge and experience that would benefit the Lab. Sounds like a "win-win" to me. It preserves at least some of the knowledge base of the Laboratory for awhile and allows folks who wish to make a contribution to continue to do so. I don't think that it will last a long time for most, as I suspect many would just as soon be retired.
As for overpaying senior staff...I have graduate degrees plus 31 years experience in my hazardous technical domain. New technical undergraduates and inexperienced employees at Los Alamos are hired in at or above my pay grade. I personally see age and technical experience discrimination against me. No matter that I am a sacrificial white male. What matters is that I really enjoy my work and my line management likes me and my work products.