Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Let the Livermore games begin...
LLNL cited for nuclear safety breach
ROGER SNODGRASS, email@example.com, Monitor Assistant Editor
The National Nuclear Security Administration plans to issue a citation for a series of safety violations going back nearly two years ago at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, Calif.
In a letter to LLNL Director Michael Anastasio released on Monday, Administrator Linton Brooks concluded that the nuclear weapons laboratory broke a number of nuclear safety rules over more than a year, beginning in April 2004.
Anastasio is the designated director for Los Alamos National Laboratory under a contract with Los Alamos National Security, LLC, scheduled to begin June 1.
Officials of Lawrence Livermore, who had previously blamed a contractor for one of the events, for the first time accepted responsibility.
"We acknowledge our role in the incidents cited today by the Department of Energy/Price-Anderson Enforcement Office and the need for significant improvements in the laboratory's safety culture," LLNL said in an announcement Monday.
The violations include multiple radiological exposures, involving five individuals over a six-month period. The problems could have been worse, according to the notification, because of faulty protection and inappropriate responses by the Livermore laboratory.
The notice made a point of LLNL's reluctance to accept responsibility.
"None of the violations received mitigation for prompt identification," Brooks wrote, "since the underlying deficiencies were either disclosed by the events or through DOE/NNSA contract management and oversight activities."
A total civil penalty of $585,500 was imposed for the infractions, but waived by law.
Under the Price-Anderson Amendment statutes that govern nuclear safety, violations are measured by severity and fines are assessed accordingly, but the fines are waived for nonprofits. The University of California manages LLNL.
By comparison, Los Alamos National Laboratory was last cited under the Price-Anderson law in June 2004, for an event in which five workers were seriously exposed to toxic vapors.
Along with other issues uncovered in the radiological protection program, the violation was assessed a $770,000 fine.
In January 2005, in the midst of a laboratory-wide shutdown at Los Alamos National Laboratory, LLNL ordered a standdown of its plutonium facility as a result of complications related to the current set of violations.
Two draft plans to resolve the safety issues at Livermore's plutonium facility were rejected by the NNSA supervisors at Livermore, according to a Defense Nuclear Facilities Board site report at the time, triggering the standdown.
"It has not resumed full operations," said Marylia Kelley, executive director, of the public interest group Tri-Valley CAREs. Kelley lives down the street from the laboratory and has followed events at LLNL very closely.
"Livermore's role for violations from April through August 2004 isn't coming to light until the end of February 2006," she said. "I am not surprised to find that LLNL was substantially at fault."
Additional minor contamination incidents occurred during March, May and October of 2004 and reports were not filed on the events, as they should have been, according to the DNFSB site representative in his Dec. 3, 2004, report.
Two separate exposures were penalized in the notice.
One was a radiological uptake involving a trailer - the Mobile Visual Examination and Repackaging Unit (MOVER), which has a glovebox and the capacity to open TRU waste drums.
Some visual inspections must be performed on transuranic waste material prior to shipment to the Waste Isolation Pilot Project in New Mexico.
The other was a radiological spill involving phosphorous-32. The spilled chemical was carried home on the shoe of an exposed worker.
"Without improvement, NNSA cannot have confidence that all critical elements of LLNL's safety programs are being effectively implemented," Brooks wrote. "I am also disappointed by the longstanding and recurring nature of many of the deficiencies associated with the violations."
-Los Alamos Monitor, 28 February 2006
UC failed to give regents required reports Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Legal settlements, executive pay were to be disclosed
The University of California's administration, under fire for paying employees more than it disclosed to the public, neglected to provide its governing body with required reports on legal settlements, senior managers' corporate board service and executive compensation, The Chronicle has learned.
UC officials are required to provide the reports to the Board of Regents annually under policies approved by the regents and the university's president. But regents have never received a list of legal settlements, and they haven't received the other reports in years.
"It's embarrassing,'' said Republican Sen. Abel Maldonado of Santa Maria (Santa Barbara County), a member of the Senate Education Committee, which held hearings this month into UC's pay practices after The Chronicle published a series of stories on the subject. "There is no accountability."
Monday, February 27, 2006
Lawmakers seek UC reform
Almost everyone agrees that changes are needed at the University of California to regain the public trust. But there's no consensus on how to improve management of the $19 billion enterprise.
That became clear after a three-hour legislative hearing in Sacramento on Wednesday, the second hearing in two weeks that focused on the university's compensation practices.
A series of newspaper reports, which prompted the hearings, has left university officials embarrassed about pay issues, including: a $300,000 sabbatical for M.R.C. Greenwood, the provost who resigned after hiring her business partner in violation of UC policy; a $200,000 settlement for Celeste Rose, who lost her vice chancellor's position at UC Davis; and a $30,000 dog run built for Denice Denton, the chancellor at UC Santa Cruz.
And that may not be all.
"There will be more stories until we clear it up," UC President Robert Dynes told the Senate Education Committee.
Domenici when he next comes up for re-election
Domenici when he next comes up for re-election might want to consider his
current unwillingness to intervene on the side of Los Alamos in the ongoing
dispute about the impending West Jemez road closure. Aside from one minor
intervention some months ago to free up a pittance of funds for a possible
future bypass to the ski hill, he has thus far steadfastly refused to
support his constituents in Los Alamos on this issue, despite many public
and private pleas from the County Council and others in the
community. With his powerful position in the Senate he could, of course,
stop this DOE nonsense dead in its tracks with one five minute call to
Ambassador Brooks, but so far he has sided with the Washington bureaucracy
on this issue.
One can only speculate that he, or more likely the senior staffers in his
office who shape his policy for him, see their real constituency as the
Washington agencies who can offer them high-level positions in the future,
rather than the folks back home who voted to put the Senator in office. It
is true that he keeps funds coming for the New Mexico labs, but that may
just be an incidental bonus that comes from helping to keep his main
constituents, Washington agencies like the DOE, well funded.
Perhaps I have misjudged him and he will eventually do what we elected him
to do – represent us. But if not, one might want to rethink supporting his
Anastasio issues summary of science vision talk
February 27, 2006
Los Alamos National Security, LLC President and Laboratory Director Designate Michael Anastasio followed up his all-employee talk last week with a written summary of his vision for science and technology at the Laboratory that he shared during the talk. Anastasio's summary was distributed to employees Friday in an all-employee memo from Director Bob Kuckuck. To read the summary, click here (Adobe Acrobat Reader required). The talk is being rebroadcast in its entirety on LABNET Channel 10. The science and technology talk is one of several transition-related, all-employee meetings Anastasio will hold with the work force. The next meeting is scheduled for March 9 (the LANS organizational approach).
Sunday, February 26, 2006
Citing a report from the US Department of Energy, the San Francisco Chronicle says that while investigators at first only faulted the contractor who ran the Livermore facility where the mishaps happened in 2004, the lab must share liability.
Five workers at the lab inhaled plutonium particles while packaging radioactive waste that was to be shipped to New Mexico for disposal.
"I never in my life imagined that I would be standing here as the new director of Los Alamos," said Anastasio, who has worked for 25 years at Los Alamos' fellow — and fiercely competitive — nuclear weapons design center in Livermore, Calif. "And I bet you never imagined it either."
-Sorry, but it's time to bring a reality check into this slough of blather.
The story says, "Anastasio said his top priorities are listening and trying to reassure employees unsettled by the years of high-profile security and fiscal problems, and then months of uncertainty during the contract competition."
"He must bring stability and renewed focus to employees of Los Alamos, whose celebrated history as birthplace of the atomic bomb has been tarnished by repeated safety, security and fiscal problems."
LANL has been "tarnished" with malice aforethought by self-serving Congressmen, Senators, DOE/NNSA bureaucrats, a spineless UC President, an amoral UC Board of Regents, and a national media unable or unwilling to do investigative reporting or postscript corrections to their botched, biased, and unbalanced stories about Los Alamos.
If these "repeated safety, security, and fiscal problems" had had any basis in fact, then LANL, LLNL, and Sandia would have all been shut down for the past decade.
Instead, we see that the lust for privatization of our national security laboratories has compromised them without justification or precedent. Our "former" enemies from the Cold War era are doubtless jealous of the outrageous success of this incompetent insider sabotage, and Osama bin Laden and his ilk must be rejoicing.
I predict that the time will come when we'll wish this all hadn't happened. All I can say is that I hope that sanity will ultimately prevail, and that some corrective action is taken--soon.
-Brad Lee Holian
UC Senate reports/letters about the transition of the UCRP-LANL funds
Thanks for keeping this blog going. I get a lot of good information from it. The web site below has some UC Senate reports/letters about the transition of the UCRP-LANL funds to LANS and the propriety of who is in charge. I thought you might want to put it on the blog so folks know what the status is.
Saturday, February 25, 2006
"good2go" is one of the better posters on this blog. But I fear he may have committed--perhaps not even inadvertantly--one of the greater quotable quotes of all time on "LANL: The Real Story." Here it goes (are you ready?):
"Surely, UC couldn't be that tone-deaf, could they?"
A LANL group leader was quoted telling his wife on the day of the big fire of 2000, as they were hiking near Cerro Grande that fateful day in May (a hot day with gusts over 60 mph), and she had just exclaimed to him, "Why the hell are they starting a controlled burn today? Are they out of their minds?"
"-Don't worry, Dear. They know what they're doing."
Purchase health insurance
I, Like many people on this blog, are concerned about health insurance after retiring under TCP2 (or if the TCP1 retirement health plan will be canceled). I believe that in New Mexico, individuals can purchase health insurance through special plans, even with pre-existing conditions. Certainly this will not be as cheap as having the employer contribute, but it is available. I am not sure I understand the complete suite of legal issues, but suggest that people look at www.healthinsuranceinfo.net
Extention to comment deadline
Friday, February 24, 2006
Caught at that “awkward age”
Submitted by Anonymous:
Caught at that “awkward age” – 55 years old in May 2006:
Conclusion: For “older” employees especially, and for all employees to some extent the LANS TCP1 proposal is not close to “substantially equivalent in the aggregate” to the current UC benefits.
If an employee goes inactive vested in UCRP s/he is forced into TCP2. If that employee works less than 10 years in TCP2 s/he will not have assured (much less subsidized) medical benefits upon retirement. Not having access to medical insurance after retirement is a huge issue that will force many over-50 employees to roll over into TCP1. There needs to be a provision in TCP2 that an employee who goes inactive vested in UCRP with 10+ years of service credit be assured of access to the group medical plan.
So, assuming an over-50 employee does as s/he must to maintain assured access to medical and rolls over into TCP1:
List of proposed modifications in TCP1 to mitigate both the certain and the potential shortages detailed below:
Require that TCP1 will track UCRP benefits for some period of time – e.g. age factors, employer contribution to insurance premiums, leave time. The only requirement now is that on June 1, 2006 all of these factors are substantially equivalent.
Add domestic partner benefits to the extent allowed by law to match the current UCRP domestic partner benefits.
Replicate severance pay eligibility & policies in TCP1.
Replicate worker job protection policies (action track, no sudden job loss without cause).
Require an annual audit to assure that sufficient funds are placed in the TCP1 retirement fund that it is funded a level actuarially equivalent to the UCRP plan. DOE should be required to explicitly promise to make up any difference that develops.
Require some “benefit element” that would compensate for the reduced limit on tax deferred savings.
Detailed analysis of shortages for employees rolling over into TCP1:
Take the case of an employee who:
is not financially able to retire before June 1, 2006
plans to retire within the next 10 years and
needs to have assured (and ideally subsidized) retiree insurance benefits.
Going inactive vested in UCRP and thus being forced into TCP2 is not a viable option because of the loss of retiree medical benefits.
Similarly, taking the lump sum cashout is not viable because of the loss of retiree medical benefits. Even if an employee were to take the lump sum cashout would also cause a large loss of lifetime retiree benefits – but that’s a whole other calculation.
In the case where the employee in the hypothetical (and very possible) case detailed below of a 55 year old employee retiring from UCRP in May, 2006 to guarantee insurance coverage, the cost would be ~$472,000 (*) even it the employee is hired by LANS (and this is not guaranteed if the employee retires under UCRP). If the employee ends up with no job the cost increases tremendously.
So, we (those of us meeting the three criteria enumerated above) are left with no choice – we are forced to roll over into TCP1. This is very coercive on people who are ~50 years old and up. (One might wonder if this has a disparate impact on older workers in violation of the Age discrimination in Employment Act, ADEA.)
For these employees, how does rolling over into TCP1 compare to the “what would have been” retiring at age 60 from UCRP – the substantial equivalency in the aggregate?
Pluses (relative to having been able to stay in UCRP) for rolling over into TCP1 and retiring at age 60:
None that I can think of.
Minuses (relative to having been able to stay in UCRP) for rolling over into TCP1 and retiring at age 60:
No severance pay in the case of a RIF
Reduced defined contribution program amounts (from $40,000/yr to $20,000/yr.)
No protection from firing without cause (LANS will be an “at will” employer)
No guarantee that TCP1 will continue to track LANL / UC benefits:
accrual rate of vacation
accrual rate of sick leave
number of paid holidays
employer contribution to insurance
Reduced / eliminated domestic partner benefits
I’ll take a hypothetical situation very similar to my situation to put ballpark monetary values on some of the minuses listed above. In May, 2006 I will be 55 years old with 23 years of service credit, an HAPC of $10,000 / month and ~1 year of accrued sick leave. I assume full contingent annuitant continuance and that either my wife or I will live to 85 years of age.
In the case of a budget shortfall that requires a RIF, under the current UC-LANL policy I would be given 60 days to look for a job and would receive the maximum severance pay of 39 weeks ~$110,000.
I will have my mortgage paid off in 1 ½ years and planned to use the “freed up” money to fully fund the 457(b) plan at $20,000 / yr for the remaining 3 ½ years before retirement at age 60. Assuming a 35% tax bracket ~$24,500 in tax savings.
If I am not summarily fired this has no impact. Let’s take a rather extreme hypothetical case where I am summarily fired in a year and would not have been had the UC-LANL rules applied, I would retire involuntarily at age 56 with 24 years of service vs. voluntarily retiring at age 60 with 28 years of service credit. The difference in life time annuity, assuming full contingent annuitant continuance, would be ~$416,000 (~$1,965k - ~$1,549k).
If there are no reductions in any of the benefits (relative to what would have been with LANL-UC) there is no impact. However, I will calculate an approximate monetary value of various conceivable reductions implemented 1 year from now (4 years before I retire).
age factors – imagine the maximum age factor being reduced by 10% (from 2.5% to 2.25%) ~$200,000. Also imagine the possibility of the retirement age for the maximum 2.5% age factor increasing…
accrual rate of vacation – if reduced from 2 dys / month to 1 ½ days per month impact would be ~$11,000
accrual rate of sick leave – if reduced from 1 ½ days / month to 1 day / month and if the employee needed all of the accrued sick leave ~$11,000
number of paid holidays – reduced by 3 days (e.g. energy conservation day, Friday after thanksgiving, presidents’ holiday) ~$5,500
employer contribution to insurance premiums could be reduced or eliminated for medical, vision and / or dental. This could be over $30,000 for a couple if all employer contributions were eliminated.
Domestic partner benefits – this does not directly affect me and I have not done the monetary impact calculations on this. In no way am I intending to minimize this issue – it is potentially a huge reduction for a significant fraction of the LANL workforce and a matter of justice. It is interesting to note that in the Thursday, Feb. 16 LANS presentation at LANL the LANS representative asserted that federal law prohibits at least some of the domestic partner benefits and this is apparently false – either knowingly (a lie) or out of ignorance (surprising and disappointing).
(*) – Retire at 55 with 23 years of service credit and 1 year of sick leave with HAPC = $10,000 / month with one annuitant living to age 85 lifetime retirement income = ~$47,700 / year * 30 years = ~$1,431,000. Assuming employee were rehired by LANS at the same salary, the additional retirement benefit would be 9.5% matching 401(k) for 5 years ~$57,000.
Retire at 60 with 28 years of service credit and one year of sick leave with the same HAPC of $10,000 / month and same age at death. Lifetime retirement income ~$78,400 / year * 25 years = ~$1,960,000.
Difference = $1, 960,000 – ($1,431,000 + $57,000) = ~$472,000.
Letter to "Dyne's Desk"
establishing and maintaining this forum so the all people affected
by the LANL Contract Transition ( and future LLNL Contract
Transition ) have a means to keep informed and comment on this
important process. )
I've sent the letter below, electronically, to "Dyne's Desk", to
the UC Regents Office and to the NNSA e-mail address for all
to consider. Please post as you see fit for additional comments.
- frank lopez
February 23, 2006
Robert C. Dynes, President University of California
1111 Franklin St.
Oakland, Ca. 94607-5200
cc: Gerald L. Parsky, Chairman Regents of UC,
Dear Dr. Dynes:
As a 26+ year University of California Staff Employee, working at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, (LLNL), I have followed, with great interest, the Contract Transition Process currently unfolding at Los Alamos National Laboratory, (LANL). During a recent visit, Ambassador Lynton Brooks made a statement, in part, that LLNL will participate in a similar Contract Process on or about the September, 2007 timeframe.
With regard to the new Contract for LANL, (and LLNL's future new Contract), and specifically, the "Substantially Equivalent" Compensation Package, I would like to submit to you, and submit to all key decision makers, for your consideration, an additional option for current University of California Vested Employees.
TCP-UC - Current Vested University of California Employees will have the option to remain employed by the University and will become Contract Agents of the University providing LANS, LLC their services with the commencement of the new Contract.
In my humble opinion, offering an option of this type may be mutually beneficial to both LANS, LLC (and the LLNL Contract winner), and current staff employees of the University of California. If an employee selects this option, all benefits remain as is, (under the UC/UCRP System) and at such time that the new Contract takes effect, we continue on, in our same job positions, providing high quality, dedicated, exemplary and safe service to the National Laboratories.
The new option, 'TCP-UC', would be offered in addition to the current TCP-1 and TCP-2 plans.
I hope that you, and all of the key decision makers, give this idea its due consideration. If this option has already been thought through and been eliminated, would you please explain all of the drawbacks which lead to this option not being offered in the Contract Proposal.
I thank you for taking some of your valuable time and energy to consider and respond to these matters.
Frank J. Lopez
So no matter what option I take, I see my take home pay dropping
Feb. 17, 2006
Total compensation plan options
So, here I am thinking that with the change to Los Alamos National Security, LLC, and with the number of years with the Lab (33+), I would be sitting in the catbird seat and everything would be great. Now I find out that no matter what option I take I will be penalized.
Option 1. Retire early - If I take this option then I would have to take a significant reduction in salary. Seventy-three percent is nothing to sneeze at, but with one kid in college and another in ninth grade this is not an option.
Option 2. Straight transfer to TCP1 - Not a bad way to go except now I am one of the 400+ that do not pay in to Social Security. With Option 2 I would have to, so I would again, have to take a significant hit to my salary.
Option 3. Go inactive and become a new employee of LANS LLC, retire within 120 days, retain my health insurance and yes, double dip for several years. With the way it is set up now, even if I retired June 1, 2006, I would have to pay all my health care premiums and that would be a significant portion of my take home pay.
So no matter what option I take, I see my take home pay dropping. I know that I am not the only one in this boat, and I know several people who pay into Social Security were going to try to double dip. I feel that I have been slam dunked. Everyone who felt that going inactive and transferring to LANS LLC and hoped to keep their health insurance needs to send their comments by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thursday, February 23, 2006
Numbers runner runs the numbers...You decide
How can anyone say that the LANS retirement package is equal to the UCRP?
I have gone to the UC on-line calculator and plugged in some real numbers in order to get real results. I suggest you do the same.
Lets look at what retiring at 52 in 2006 would yield verse what retiring at 65 in 2019 would yield, assuming a scenario where I would never get another a pay raise for the next 13 years because we are over market.
Then lets look page 42 of the Mercer presentation where it shows what you will get for the same age and time, but with social security and savings. From what I can see there is absolutely no comparison between what LANS is offering and what we have under the UCRP. To add insult to injury you must realize that if you were allowed to continue under a retirement plan that mirrored the UCRP and were able to continue saving at the same rate in your 403b you have acquired over $1M dollars in your account. Rolling that alone into a fixed lifetime annuity would yield approximate $5K a month. Adding that to your monthly income from your UC retirement and you'd be set. Taking into account that both your UC retirement and your lifetime annuity would allow you survivor's benefits, your spouse would have been set for life after your death too. So again where is the similarity and how can the LANS offer be considered even remotely close to UCRP? The simple fact is that it is not.
Please take the time and run the numbers for yourself and give your input to DOEAL. As of today HR LANS reported that DOEAL has only received about 600 e-mails for consideration. You have one day left to voice your concerns.
The question then will be. Will DOE listen or will they choose fantasy over reality and lose a lot of good people?
How 87% of your base pay from UCRP without social security and savings sound, in comparison to the 36% you will get from LANS at age 65 sound?
[Editorial comment: 36% sounds just a little better than 33% from the US Govt retirement insurance, which will NOT apply to LANS, as I understand it.]
It's clear that LANS has done what it had to and no more
Friday is the deadline for comments NNSA on the benefits package. I've
submitted the following two; if anyone else is interested, you may want
to add your comments also.
Under UC, vested employees can leave UC and go inactive, taking
retirement at a later date, often years later than they separate from
UC. During this inactive time, the COLA is applied each year to the
benefits to be taken later. I have seen nothing in the LANS benefit
package that addresses whether those employees vested in LANS TCP 1 can
go inactive when they leave LANS. This is an important consideration.
If I go with LANS TCP 1 but decide to leave in 2-5 years (I'm barely
50), I would like the option of taking my pension benefits then or
waiting until I am 60 or so, letting the benefits rise with an annual
COLA. This would maintain "substantial equivalence" to UC. If I knew I
HAD to take the pension when I left, this will factor into my decision
about whether to stay here, transfer across to TCP1, or go inactive
with UC and go into TCP2.
I know that LANS purports that its TCP1 is "substantially equivalent"
in the aggregate to UC's benefits and pension. However, we lose the
CAP, the 401(a), and the 457 plans. LANS' reasoning is that it is not
allowed under rules/laws for private companies. However, I think they
CAN make up this loss in other ways. They could change the pension plan
formula slightly to grant future retirees greater pensions to make up
for this loss. It could be done by adding time to a person's age, or
adding time to a person's service credit at retirement, or adjusting
the formula in some other way. These numbers could be figured out by
the actuaries. Call it a "service credit enhancement" or "age
enhancement" added to those who cross over to TCP1 to maintain
equivalence with UC's plan.
It's clear that LANS has done what it had to and no more. Where there
are losses, there has been no attempt to make up those losses--just the
excuse that "it's not allowed." Enhancements ARE allowable to make up
for the other losses, to make the plans "substantially equivalent"!
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
GOLDEN, Colo., Feb. 21 — President Bush acknowledged on Tuesday that his administration had sent "mixed signals" to the Department of Energy's primary renewable energy laboratory here, where government budget cuts forced the layoff of 32 employees who were then hastily reinstated just before Mr. Bush's visit.
"I recognize that there has been some interesting, let me say, mixed signals when it comes to funding," Mr. Bush said at the start of a panel discussion at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which researches solar and wind power as well as energy from plants, like ethanol.
Mr. Bush added: "The issue of course is whether or not good intentions are met with actual dollars spent. Part of the issue we face, unfortunately, is that there are sometimes decisions made as a result of the appropriations process, where money may not end up where it is supposed to have gone."
CAROL A. CLARK, email@example.com, Monitor Staff Writer
Lisa Etzel, M.A., LPCC, and Lashauna Hedtke, M.A., LMHC, from Corazon Behavioral Health Services will present a workshop titled "Living in Los Alamos - What it's really like in this unusual town."
The workshop is set to take place from 1-4 p.m. Saturday at Family Strengths Network in the Pueblo Complex at 1900 Diamond Drive.
"I feel like this community, at times, needs a place for understanding and expressing what it's like to live and work in this unusual town," Etzel said. "Especially during this huge time of change because of the new laboratory management contract. As an agency, we would like to provide that opportunity to the members of this community."
Mike Anastasio laid out his vision of science at Los Alamos
Mike Anastasio laid out his vision of science at Los Alamos in his presentation today. Essentially, he sees Los Alamos as addressing all the unsolved problems we need to address nationally and globally. At the end, someone asked him how he would get the myriads of petty DOE program managers to put their little pots of money together, and his answer, in a nutshell was that he (and all of us) will work to convince them.
The next question was about the fact that almost none of our managers are scientific leaders. In his response, he expressed the expectation that his newly appointed "EB" will make sure that the right people get to lead.
Sounded like a fairy tale to me...
Neither LANS TCP 1 nor LANS TCP 2 appears "Substantially Equivalent"
Neither LANS TCP 1 nor LANS TCP 2 appears "Substantially Equivalent" to the UC contract total compensation package.
Each of these UC TCP benefits (with very conservative annualized values noted) is missing from LANS' Proposal:
1. CAP Accounts annualized value: $1200
2. 401(a) Pre-tax (federal and state) benefit: $500
3. 457(b) Pre-tax (federal and state) benefit: up to $5000
4. 25% Survivor retirement continuance $4000 to $6000
And this additional cost is imposed by LANS' Proposal:
1. Investment Funds Load 401(k): -$1000 to 2500
Total benefit difference: $11,700 to $15,200 per Year
(Basis: $75K annual salary; 25% Federal Tax, 8% NM Tax; 401k value constant at $100K to 250K; Additional Retirement Funds Management Load 1%)
An additional cost of the LANS proposal is that individuals who opted out of Social Security contributions in 1978 (some 450 individuals) will be required to pay Social Security tax (estimated $8000 per year), with little or no return.
Domestic Partner Survivor Benefits
Please post this for all to view and not as a comment to a previous post.
Kathy Elsberry firstname.lastname@example.org
Domestic Partner Survivor Benefits
The LANS benefit proposal all-hands meeting presented confusing information regarding DOMA and ERISA. DOMA defines the terms “marriage” and “spouse” and ERISA mandates spousal rights with regards to pensions. The two Acts combined prohibit a state from enacting legislation mandating employers to provide spousal benefits to domestic partners. The Acts do not prohibit an employer from voluntarily providing more generous benefits than required by federal law. In addition and contrary to spousal benefits, employees must pay federal income tax on the value of any spousal-type benefits extended to domestic partners.
The LANS team portrayed the elimination of domestic partner survivor benefits as a simple fact of federal law. In fact, of the 15 companies in the benefits value peer study, 9 extend survivor benefits to domestic partners, 3 do not, and 3 don’t extend pension benefits to any employee (only 401k plans). Are Kodak, HP, Honeywell, IBM, Lockheed Martin, Motorola, Raytheon, SBC Communications, and Xerox breaking federal law?
If you feel the elimination of domestic partner survivor benefits does not meet the "substantially equivalent" test, I encourage you to let NNSA know. email@example.com
We are all in this together.
Notes on LANS presentation in Santa Fe
I, along with about 200 others, attended the LANS (Los Alamos Nuclear Security) Employee and Retiree Meeting at the Santa Fe Community College on Tuesday evening, February 21st.
The meeting was run by a NNSA guy and a LANS HR guy.
The presentation was the 27 slide PowerPoint Presentation titled "Public Briefing Slides." This can be found on the LASO website:
This presentation lasted about 45 minutes. Questions were not permitted until the end. There were a number of questions that had been answered in the presentation. Either people did not pay attention or they showed up late.
There were a few complex questions, such as how people on disability would be handled. The NNSA guy and LANS HR guy were unable to answer some of these questions and the individuals were referred to LANL HR.
The meeting lasted the specified two hours. There were more questions at the end, but some of the questions started to make the NNSA guy uncomfortable so he adjourned the meeting. People began leaving during the question and answer period and I estimate that only about 25 were present at the very end.
Here are my notes from the question and answer period. If I got any of this wrong or left out anything important, I would appreciate input from other attendees.
Currently, the retiree medical insurance premium is deducted from the UCRS pension check. The retiree medical insurance plan is directly funded by the DOE and will be administered by LANS After the transition, retirees will send their insurance premiums to LANS.
United Healthcare, Medco, and Delta Dental will be continued in their present form. New identity cards will be issued at the time of the transition.
Medicare Part B contributions are a DOE obligation and will continue.
A number of retirees and employees participate in the CALPERS Long Term Care Plan. There was no discussion of this in the presentation. The LANS HR guy stated that they had not known about this until a few weeks ago and were now studying the issue.
NNSA is quite opposed to UC separating out the LANL portion of the pension fund. This issue is not resolved. Although the LANL portion of the pension fund is only "funded at the 99% level," the NNSA guy says that this is not a problem at the present time. Problems that concern the UC regents regarding the LANL participants in the pension fund were stated as:
1. LANL employees retire earlier (~age 59) than UC faculty (~age 62).
2. LANL retirees live longer.
3. LANL employee have higher salaries.
The NNSA guy stated that the DOE is obligated to assure the continuance of the pensions of LANL retirees.
FOR EXISTING EMPLOYEES:
First, it is clear that NNSA really does not want a lot of people to retire. The TCP1 (Total Compensation Plan #1) mirrors the existing UC compensation and benefits plans to the extent legally possible. As far as I can tell, the only significant loss is that the 401a, 403b, and 457 pre-tax savings plans, which are only permitted for "public" employers, are replaced by a 401K plan, which is for "private" employers. The loss is as follows:
age under 50: max current contribution = $30K, TCP1 contribution = $15K
age over 50: max current contribution = $40K, TCP1 contribution = $20K
This is legally mandated.
ALL existing employees who do NOT elect to begin drawing their UCRS pensions will receive a LANS job offer at their current salary. Existing employees who elect to begin drawing their UCRS pension MAY (or MAY NOT) receive a LANS job offer. These individuals will be TCP2 employees.
FOR NEW EMPLOYEES:
The "new" employees who will be under TCP2 and they are screwed! TCP2 adheres to the 105% of the average compensation plans of the 15 "peer employers." That list includes General Electric, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Lockheed-Martin, Raytheon, and United Technologies. These are not R&D organizations and their workforce does not include a large proportion of PhD-level scientists. SANDIA and PNNL are included. But, comparable employers such as DOE labs like ANL, BNL, FNAL, LBL, ORNL, and TJNAF are NOT included in the calculation.
The NNSA guy stated that LANL was at 129% of the "employer cost" of benefits relative to the average of the 15 peer employers. He was quite incorrect here. In the case of LANL, the cost of the UCRS pension has been zero since about 1990.
For TCP2, there is a 3.5% to 5.5% employer pension contribution (depends on length of service). Along with that, LANS will match employee 401K contributions up to 6.5%. The major drawback is that there will be NO employer contributions to the TCP2 retiree medical plan. TCP2 retirees will be able to participate in the LANS medical plan but will pay full cost.
This is not a particularly attractive total compensation plan relative to other DOE labs.
Comments on the proposed compensation and benefits plan should be sent to:
Foxes in the henhouse
If we're going to let a business owned by United Arab Emirates operate six of our major ports, why stop there? Why not put the Saudis in charge of airport security and the Colombians or Bolivians in charge of the war on drugs?
Can't we find a state-owned company from Mexico to take over our Border Patrol?
Surely the Chinese should be invited to bid on the next contract to run Los Alamos National Laboratory, while Iran boasts unique credentials to preside over the Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Finally, isn't it time for the nations of the world to elevate Sudan to the U.N. Human Rights Commission?
Oh, wait: That outpost of genocidal barbarism is already there.
Vincent Carroll, editor of the editorial pages, writes On Point several times a week. Reach him at carrollv@RockyMountainNews.com.
And from the Albuquerque Tribune:
Editorials: Bouquets & brickbats
February 22, 2006
Brickbat: new sermon
President Bush's newfound faith in energy alternatives is raising a righteous chorus of hallelujahs around the nation, but there's little wonder why congregations out here in the Rocky Mountain West aren't yet building bigger churches.
Folks here have good reason to question the president's sincerity. Take his visit this week to the Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory up north in Golden, Colo., to promote energy proposals he made in his State of the Union address.
Two weeks ago, the lab, which develops the energy technologies the president is promoting, had to lay off 32 workers because of cutbacks in federal funds. Coincidentally - or not - the feds came up with money to restore the jobs just before Bush's visit.
Unfortunately, critics point out, the move restores only $5 million of the $28 million shortfall that caused the layoffs in the first place.
Meanwhile, alternative energy research at DOE's Sandia and Los Alamos national labs in New Mexico has languished since the end of President Carter's administration. These labs - like the lab in Golden - have the ability and the technology to end America's "addiction to oil," as Bush put it so aptly.
If the president were sincere, he'd put serious money and muscle where his mouth is. Yes, Bush has proposed a 22 percent increase in funding for alternative energy research at DOE. But developments such as the gambit at Golden raise legitimate doubts that Bush - a former Texas oilman - might be undergoing only a jailhouse conversion to energy independence.
We'll hold out for deeds to back up the words before we start adding more pews.
Call New Mexico delegation members
This is the first time LANL employees have been faced with such a major transition. The compensation offers are detailed and complex. It is in the interest of LANL employees to have more time to analyze and review the offers. Call New Mexico delegation members and ask them to seek extensions of the comment period from DOE.
Bingaman, Jeff- (D - NM) Class I
703 HART SENATE OFFICE BUILDING WASHINGTON DC 20510
Domenici, Pete V.- (R - NM) Class II
328 HART SENATE OFFICE BUILDING WASHINGTON DC 20510
Web Form: domenici.senate.gov/contact
Representative Tom Udall (202)225-6190
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
New official LANL motto
Finknottle is misbehaving again. See his latest on
where people are commenting on the deficiencies of the new benefits package, and how it will affect LANL's claim for being home to "the best and the brightest".
I believe DOE/NNSA have come up with a foolproof (get it? Foolproof) plan to ensure that LANL attracts the "worst and the stupidest" from this point on.
New official LANL motto: "The World's Most Mediocre Science Protecting our 105% of median benefits package."
Forecast for LANL...
Here's my attempt at a forecast for LANL...
Change will occur gradually. Over the next 5 years, the ratio
of science vs. production work won't change by a huge amount.
The biggest concerns will be driven by a lack of lab funding
due to Congress/DOE and the increasing costs caused by LANL's
"for-profit" contract, GRT, transition costs, and the need
for hefty contributions to our retirement fund. Lack of funds
will likely increase over the next 5 years, thus raising the
level of worker anxiety. Be prepared to deal with the funding
anxiety. If this bothers you and you can find a more secure
place to work, then perhaps it's time to think about leaving.
Conversely, you could just hang around and wait until you got
hit by a RIF and then look elsewhere. I suspect most people
will take this second option, but it largely depends on how
you feel about working at a facility in which staff morale is
very low. If we have funding shortfalls, the morale will not
be improving. In fact, it will probably get much worse.
As far as your LANL paycheck goes, be prepared to start forking
over some cash to help keep the new TCP1 pension afloat. DOE
says that any necessary contributions to beef up the new pension
will come out of LANL's budget. However, I suspect that LANS
will eventually pass these costs on to workers by taking a chunk
out of each paycheck. Be prepared to see a sizable chunk of
cash taken from your bi-weekly earnings. The UCRP pension has
already experienced a rapid draw-down of funds. In 2002, it
was over-funded at the rate of about 138%. Last year, it was
over-funded by only about 108%. That's a drop of about 10% per
year over each of the last 4 years! The LANS TCP1 pension is
expected to start out its first year under-funded with only
around 95% of the required funds on hand (depending on how
generous UC decides to be with our current UCRP assets).
Increases in health care costs, along with contributions to
the LANS pension will mean you shouldn't expect to see your
take-home pay increase by much over the next few years. You'll
be doing good if you can keep up with inflation. If you can
find a better deal outside of LANL, then perhaps you'll want
to move to greener pastures. Younger workers will find this
a much easier choice to make, while those in the 45+ age group
with a significant number of years at LANL will be more inclined
to stay around and try to collect on their future pension.
We hired a lot of young TSMs in the 1999-2003 period, and many
of them will now decide to move on. I left my first employer
after about 6 years on the job. It's common to at least make
one job change during your career, and that frequently occurs
during the first 10 years of your job life. After this initial
10 year period has past, bigger responsibilities begin to intrude
(ie, older kids, stronger connections to a community, etc), and
it becomes much harder to leave. For younger staff hired during
the 1999-2003 Boom-Times, this "jumping-off" point it about
to approach. The really good ones who have great scientific
skills will be the ones who are most likely to leave, as they
have other job options.
Going out 10 years, the changes will be much more dramatic.
Regardless of what DOE may say, it's clear to me that LANL
is going to see significantly more production work in the
future. In fact, production work will probably be better
funded than most scientific research. This means you'll see
greater job security in positions like plutonium technician
and health & safety positions. Of course, there will also
be job security in most of the management positions. Many
TSMs are going to find "the going gets rough". Also, many
of our future managers will begin to see that they have a
brighter future as managers on the production side, rather
than the scientific side. This will influence our management,
so that future preferences of most LANL managers will lean
heavily toward favoring production type work. Ten years out,
I expect that the ratio of science vs. production will shift
toward greater emphasis on production. Managers know all
too well who "butters their bread", and will act accordingly.
As far as weapons research goes, I would be concerned if you
work in this area. DOE has already given clear warning that
weapons research funding will, at best, remain static. If
you think that RRW work is going to save the weapons budget,
dream on. It will not. RRW won't be a significant part of
the lab's budget for many years. Congress knows we have lots
of spare nukes, and they've come to the logical conclusion
that at least some of the nukes in our huge arsenal will
work if we ever need to use them. RRW won't be a significant
part of the NNSA budget until the present stockpile is much
older -- perhaps in about 15 to 20 years. By 2025, Congress
will finally start to get concerned over the thought that
they might need to fight a war with nukes that are at least
35 years in age. Till then, Congress has more pressing needs
in terms of Federal spending. After all, the leading edge
of the baby-boomers just turned 60, and we are about to see
a vicious ramp-up in entitlement costs over the next 30 years.
Who do you thing will have a stronger voice in making a case
for Federal dollars over the next 30 years -- weapons R&D
workers, or older citizens who demand the entitlements that
have been promised to them for many years? It's not even close.
The biggest increase in funding 5 and 10 years out will come
from production work that takes place at the plutonium facility.
LANL will become the defacto site for all feature pit work.
There will be some increase funding for doing Threat Reduction
work, but it won't be enough to make up for future shortfalls
in the weapons research budget. WFO's used to be about 20% of
the lab's budget. Increasingly high overhead costs will mean
that WFO's will also be a declining portion of LANL's future
budget. Outside sponsors don't have unlimited funds, even
if they sometimes need the specialized expertise that comes
from a National Lab.
That's my forecast. It's not very optimistic, and some of it
contains views that DOE and upper management won't tell you,
but I think it's realistic. Some may have different views.
I'd love to hear them. What ever happens, don't let life
at LANL make you miserable. If your at that point and have
other options, then it's definitely time to move on. Life
is short -- try to enjoy it while you can.
I thought the statement that ERISA will not allow
inclusion of domestic partners in the benefits plans
to be odd. After quite a bit of research and talking
to a non-lab benefits expert, I found that ERISA is
silent on the issue of domestic partners. Several
large companies have, in fact, included domestic
partners in their benefits plans. This includes both
same sex and opposite sex partners. If this is a
concern for you, I would suggest you immediately send
your comment to NNSA.
Monday, February 20, 2006
Nukes, Iran, and LANL...
The United States is preparing to enter a new era: an era in which it will enforce nuclear nonproliferation by the threat and use of nuclear weapons. The use of tactical nuclear weapons against Iran will usher in a new world order. The ultimate goal is that no nation other than the U.S. should have a nuclear weapons arsenal.
A telltale sign that this is the plan is the recent change in the stated mission of Los Alamos National Laboratory, where nuclear weapons are developed. The mission of LANL used to be described officially as "Los Alamos National Laboratory's central mission is to reduce the global nuclear danger"  [.pdf],  [.pdf],  [.pdf]. That will sound ridiculous once the U.S. starts throwing mini-nukes around. In anticipation of it, the Los Alamos mission statement has been recently changed to "prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction and to protect our homeland from terrorist attack." That is the present and future role of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, to be achieved through threat (deterrence) and use of nuclear weapons. References to the old mission are nowhere to be found in the current Los Alamos documents, indicating that the change was deliberate and thorough.
More UC retirees healthcare woes....
From the Wall Street Journal online 02/20/06
Big Bill: California's promised health-care benefits for retirees could total as much as $70 billion and could force the state to set aside as much as $6 billion a year to fund the looming tab, according to a state legislative analysis released Friday. The obligation stems from health benefits the state has promised to its employees and their dependants once they retire. A new accounting rule that goes into effect next year requires states and local governments to recognize the value of these obligations and start figuring out how to pay for them. The analysis recommended that the California Legislature start looking for ways to fund the obligation but noted s that "given the state's budget situation" immediately setting aside $6 billion a year "is unrealistic." -- Deborah Solomon
As a Livermore retiree,
I am an LLNL retiree. I have been following your blog with interest
I have sent a letter to UC, which I have copied below
You are welcome to post if you wish, and you may or may not
use my name as you wish
February 15, 2006.
Robert C. Dynes, President University of California
1111 Franklin St.
Oakland, Ca. 94607-5200
cc: Gerald L. Parsky, Chairman Regents of UC
Dear Dr. Dynes:
Varied press reports are concern current and retired employees of the
National Laboratories. As a Livermore retiree, I am concerned that
Livermore and Los Alamos retirees contract with the University may be
My colleagues and I worked at the laboratories for many reasons
including the unique challenges of the work; the opportunity to
provide vital public service; a total compensation system that
included fair pay and benefits and the expectation of retirement from
the University under its retirement system.
Our accomplishments were (and continue to be) many including our
contributions to the end of the cold war, our efforts to design build
a robust nuclear stockpile, a key role in sequencing the human genome,
our development of analytical instruments to fight bio-terrorism, our
development of high power lasers, and our patents of a wide variety of
technologies, many that are licensed to industry. Your employees made
tremendous sacrifices. They spent countless hours in the desert,
weeks away from family and friends – on travel, in the laboratory, on
computers, in the library.
We are distressed over conflicting reports that a new Los Alamos
retirement and benefits system is being set up, and that retirees will
be transferred to this new system. We would like to know exactly what
the new contract says regarding our benefits, and the options you have
under the contract.
When we retired, we assumed (as outlined in the employees manual) we
were in the University retirement system – the same system enjoyed by
university faculty and staff. We made decisions regarding lump sum
distributions based on the known university system – many of us might
have made different decisions had we known that our contract with the
university would change. As an honorable and ethical institution, we
expect the university to live up to its commitments- in fact the
integrity of the entire system is at stake. We can think of no
logical reason to include retirees in any new system. UC and employee
contributions were based on aggregate actuarial assumptions – we don't
understand how it is possible to now separate an entire population.
In the University tradition, we expect you to publish the facts, seek
employee and retiree input, and weigh it carefully before coming to
Comment on LANS Benefit proposal
Proposal non-start. I am a member of the "450" non-SSA LANL employees.
The LANS benefit proposal fails to address major concerns of LANL UC
employees reflecting the absence of employee involvement in the proposal
development process. A new proposal must be developed with employee
representation having input equal to that of DOE and LANS. This employee
representation must be supported by legal consul advocating for current and
future employees that is substantially equivalent to consul for the other
parties. One proposal to independently fund employee legal consul is to use
the employee legal insurance as a class.
Major failures of the draft LANS proposal are:
1. Failure to address the security of a LANS retirement program LANS/DOE
expects employees to transfer retirement funds from the most secure
retirement program without any assurance about the security of these funds
or the guarantor of the long term benefits replicated in the LANS proposal.
A better plan would be to abandon TCP2 and have the entire LANS retirement
program included in UCRS in the manner that LBL employees under their new
contract were able to remain with UCRS. All employee retirement concerns
would vanish and the transition would be much smoother for all concern. In
addition employees at LLNL would be more at ease.
2. Failure to address salary issues in the total compensation package The
major part of a compensation package is salary. No salary issues are
addressed in the presentation materials of the LANS draft benefits proposal.
Are our salaries going to be reduced? What is going to be done for the
employees that are not coordinated with the Social Security system? What
about a salary grant analogus to the current vacation grant that would
assure their take-home pay isn’t reduced, wiping out years if not decades of
market driven raises.
3. Market Hocus pocus For decades our raises have been corrected to the
market. Each year our salary package is approved by DOE. How did we get to
be 129% of the market?. Our retirement program is between UC and the
employees of LANL. If we have done better than market, that is no business
of DOE or LANS and it should not be taken away from us.
Sunday, February 19, 2006
Take a good look at some of the other places where you could work
post, shamelessly promoted by the author. Maybe things will improve some day, but it looks pretty bleak from where I sit.
Hell in a handbasket is exactly where I saw LANL headed a couple of years ago. Management, and in particular former director Nanos, seemed intent on grinding the lab into the ground.
With the support of UC, NNSA, and DOE, not in spite of it.
I encourage those of you who need to make the decision of whether or not to stay at LANL to get out and take a good look at some of the other places where you could work. Until you do so, you will not fully appreciate that LANL really is as screwed up as it seems. In fact, if you do visit other companies, you will gain a fresh, (and probably much-needed) perspective on how unhealthy a place to work LANL has become.
Saturday, February 18, 2006
Pegggy Noonan piece
The University of California pension system for thousands of employees working at the UC-run Los Alamos National Laboratory is posting its first shortfall in decades.
It has also placed current and future LANL retirees into a separate retirement plan by spinning off from the University of California Retirement Plan a new pension plan termed Cloned Pension Plan.
Employees and retirees are mad as hell. It’s a betrayal of trust after working here for years.
UC, along with the Department of Energy, is skimming off our hard-earned pension assets and treating LANL employees and retirees differently from other UC employees.
UC’s retirement plan, valued at $43.9 billion, has been one of the nation’s largest and healthiest, running a surplus so high that for the past 15 years, employees didn’t even have to contribute to it.
LANL employees’ portion of that UC fund was also healthy, valued at more than $4.3 billion.
Last year, the Los Alamos portion of UC’s retirement plan was over-funded by $265.7 million, but this year’s numbers show a dramatic $300-million decline in net assets.
As part of the DOE’s renewal of the university’s contract to run Los Alamos, the lab’s retirement fund is to be separated from UC’s larger system and taken over in June by a private entity known as Los Alamos National Security LLC.
A report prepared for UC says the plan would start out under-funded by $54 million.
UC is conducting a massive raid on our pension plan. There are several deficiencies in the plan’s calculations.
We are asking that the plan be delayed until the California Legislature, and our New Mexico Congressional delegation, have been given the opportunity to evaluate the consequences.
In the last couple of weeks, our senior senators Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) and Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) sent a letter of opposition to the Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman, stating that “there are too many unanswered questions at this point for the DOE to proceed with such an irreversible action.”
Additionally, Ambassador Linton Brooks, acting administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration, sent a letter to UC President Robert Dynes writing, “I want to make sure you are aware of our position before UC performs a substantial amount of work based on an assumption that DOE/NNSA is favorably inclined toward the approach .... As we interpret the existing contract, this is not a unilateral UC decision.”
The Cloned Pension Plan is part of an overall strategy by UC to cut our pension benefits.
UC has plans to severely undermine employees’ pension benefits over the next several years — after mismanaging of the pension fund began with its outsourcing five years ago, and loss of funds over the Enron scandal.
The union is working to alert lawmakers and the public to this urgent issue.
Manny Trujillo is the president of the University Professional and Technical Employees organization at LANL.
LANS and UC should, in detail, disclose information
Your Road Map to Satisfaction
By ANDY LENDERMAN | The New Mexican
February 18, 2006
"There's outrage over the whole situation of being taken out of the (University of California Retirement Plan) system and being placed on a clone pension plan, because there's no assurance that there will be contributions later that will make this plan serviceable," said Manuel Trujillo, president of an employee group, the University Professional and Technical Employees. "It looks like UC just wants to cut themselves away from any liability here in New Mexico."
The university would continue to manage the proposed fund, and no benefits would be cut, university officials have said. The university continues to discuss a new pension plan with the National Nuclear Security Administration, a branch of the Department of Energy, a university spokesman said Friday.
The lab portion of the university pension plan had assets of about $4.3 billion, according to a July report. The overall University of California Retirement Plan had assets of $41.8 billion.
By SHANNON DININNY | Associated Press
February 17, 2006
Battelle Memorial Institute, a nonprofit group based in Columbus, Ohio, has managed and operated the laboratory since its inception in 1965 under a series of extended contracts. With an annual budget of more than $725 million, the laboratory's research areas include science and environment, energy, defense and national security. The current five-year contract expires Sept. 30, 2007.
News that the government will seek competitive bids follows criticism of a recent high-profile research error at the laboratory related to cleaning up the highly contaminated Hanford nuclear reservation. But Energy Department officials said the decision was not a reflection of Battelle's performance.
By ANDY LENDERMAN | The New Mexican
February 18, 2006
Zeke Nevarez, 28, and Joseph Sandoval, 25, have each been charged with one count of aggravated battery by a Santa Fe County grand jury, court records show. The charge is a third-degree felony.
Hook was severely beaten June 5 in the parking lot of a Santa Fe strip club. That week, he was preparing to meet with a congressional investigator about allegations of fraud and waste at the lab.
Hook's lawyer, Bob Rothstein, said then that Hook thought he was meeting another whistle-blower at the club. Hook was told to keep his mouth shut after the beating, he said last year.
The Santa Fe Police Department said the fight was not connected with the lab.
ROGER SNODGRASS, firstname.lastname@example.org, Monitor Assistant Editor
Employees of Los Alamos National Laboratory learned Thursday that under the new management, compensation would be "substantially equivalent" in "the aggregate." But as described during an evening meeting at the high school auditorium, the plan will be substantially more equivalent for some than for others.
Required by the terms of the new contract to come up with a compensation package that is more than just "comparable" - the original wording that was upgraded after protest - Los Alamos National Security (LANS) officials rolled out the rough draft of their "substantially equivalent" plan.
Ben Glover made the presentation on behalf of the LANS transition team, Tyler Przybylek, the chairman of the Source Evaluation Board, facilitated the meeting.
Friday, February 17, 2006
UC admits regents should have OKd extra pay
Review indicates compensation policies violated Tuesday, February 14, 2006
A preliminary review by the University of California found that the university system erred by sometimes giving top executives extra compensation without approval from university regents, according a letter obtained by The Chronicle.
The disclosure is the latest acknowledgment from UC that it needs to do a better job of handling employee compensation. The Chronicle reported late last year that the university paid some employees much more than it reported to the public or the Board of Regents.
Last week, UC President Robert Dynes publicly apologized to the state Senate Education Committee for the university's failure to meet its obligation to fully account for the money it gives employees. And in the past few months, UC has tapped an outside auditor, stepped up its internal audits and formed a task force to help review and improve its compensation policies and practices.
Now, in a reply to questions raised last month by Sen. Abel Maldonado, R-Santa Maria (Santa Barbara County), a committee member, Dynes went further -- suggesting in a letter to the senator that UC appeared to violate its own compensation policies by giving employees extra money or benefits without approval from the university's governing board.
"A preliminary internal review indicates that there have been instances of failure to seek regents' action with respect to all elements of compensation as defined'' in UC's policy on executive compensation, Dynes wrote.
|Publication:Journal Santa Fe Section;||Date:Feb 17, 2006;||Section:Front Page;||Page Number:1|
Pension Changes Surprised Feds Lab Workers Get Benefits Briefing BY JOHN ARNOLD Journal Staff Writer
LOS ALAMOS — The University of California Board of Regents caught federal officials off-guard when it voted to split Los Alamos National Laboratory pensions from the rest of the UC retirement plan, a National Nuclear Security Administration official said Thursday.
“We did not ask the university to propose the spinoff. We did not have a proposal to do that,” the NNSA’s Tyler Przybylek told a crowd of LANL employees and retirees. “We know what you know.”
The NNSA held the first of a series of briefings Thursday on the incoming lab contractor’s proposed benefits package.
Przybylek, who was chairman of the NNSA board that evaluated LANL contract bid proposals, explained to retirees gathered at Los Alamos High School that while the incoming contractor — Los Alamos National Security LLC — would be responsible for their health and dental benefits, UC would continue to pay their pensions.
But whether those payments will come from UC’s existing $40 billion retirement plan or a much smaller one that would include only LANL’s portion of pensions is still unclear.
UC regents approved the latter plan in January, but the spinoff still must be approved by NNSA, the arm of the Department of Energy that oversees the lab contract.
In a Feb. 6 letter to UC President Robert Dynes, NNSA chief Linton Brooks said NNSA would evaluate the plan, but stressed that his agency was committed to ensuring that retiree and employee benefits would not be diminished.
Oath of loyalty
Feb. 14, 2006
Just a thought. When I was hired by the University of California 22 years ago, I signed an oath of loyalty to the state of California. I thought that was strange since it would of course be more proper to sign one to the USA. Anyway, I think we should be released from that [oath], with a note signed by California's governor and UC President Dynes to that effect. California has not been loyal to me after all.
Thursday, February 16, 2006
Domestic partner benefits
Well, so much for domestic partner benefits. Substantially
Equivalent is apparently a very vague term.
1) Cusp Employees
I am a "cusp" LANL staff member. By that, I mean that I will be "just less than 50" on June 1st.
I will be 49 years and 9 months.
Questions were raised during Thursday's presentation about the sick-leave service credit being lost for transferring staff (inactive-vested).
In my case, I will be eligible for retirement from UCRP 3 months after the handoff (my 50th birthday). This is within the 120 days allowed under the UC system. Therefore, I SHOULD have the option of retiring from that system on my 50th birthday, including using my accrued sick-leave as extra service credit. Since I have accrued the better portion of a year of SL, this is not a minor matter.
As one staff member mentioned, this is currently an earned/promised/locked-in benefit that ANY transfer to LANS loses. This is a case of "not substantially equivalent." Indeed, the impacts of this are not factored into the decreases shown on page 21 of the briefing. In my case (18 years with UC, but only ~13.5 years of pension credit), the effect of losing 1 additional year would be a 7.4% reduction in retirement benefit. Since I am leaning at this time towards the inactive-vesting option, this is a real effect.
I would like to see an option for such "cusp" employees (those who are not quite able to retire, but would be within the UC 120 window from June 1st) to leave their sick-leave credit in the UC if they choose to go inactive-vested.
Such an option does not seem to harm LANS in any way and would allow me to exercise an option I thought I had earned through my service to the nation at the national laboratories.
Please do not penalize me for being a healthy staff member (one that did not need to use and did not abuse sick leave).
2) On the overall topic of substantial equivalency
Generall, TCP1 seems to be equal or LESS valuable in all aspects that are relevant to the large body of staff. Since the parts that are equal are indeed "substantially equivalent," the areas of less value count against equivalence "in the aggregate."
I believe the analysis presented on pluses and minuses is flawed (page 21 of the briefing).
It does not take into account the closure of the OPTION to save more. The presenter stated that only 450 people would have to cut back their current contributions, but no one would have the OPTION of increasing their total contribution beyond $44k in the future.
I believe the figures should be run as if everyone contributed to the pre-tax limit on either side (a factor of two) and look at the difference. That is the POTENTIAL difference in equivalency.
By the way, I do not recall hearing the phrase "in the aggregate" before in the discussion of equivalency.
The only such context for a similar concept in past discussions was in respect to the value of the entire compensation and benefits package, not averaged over the level at which current employee's excercise their options. Yet that seems to be how the analysts arrived at the current low estimate of difference.
By tying substantial-equivalence to the current level of participation, you add a factor that reduces the range of options for individuals. It sets the cap at or near the current average, not at the current max. Capping at the average means that around half the people are capped at less overall compensation and benefits than they take advantage of now. Such a result could not, in good conscious, be considered substantially equivalent
Larry J. Cox, LANL TSM
Journal Staff Writer
A National Nuclear Security Administration spokesman on Wednesday defended his office's decision not to conduct a radiological survey at a Kansas hotel room, where a Los Alamos National Laboratory employee had unknowingly carried radioactive americium contamination last year.
According to a U.S. Department of Energy investigation report, NNSA's Los Alamos office and a radiological response team reasoned that any contamination levels in the room would be too low to present a health risk and that a survey "was likely to attract public and media interest."
"They were afraid that if they get these people going in (to the hotel) with suits and stuff, that it might freak people out," spokesman NNSA spokesman Bernie Pleau said in a phone interview. "We didn't want to cause a panic."
In July 2005, a LANL researcher was accidentally exposed to americium while working in the lab's Sigma facility, and he unknowingly spread low levels of contamination to his White Rock home and to Great Bend, Kan., where he and his wife traveled to visit a relative.
Radiological response teams eventually did survey and find traces of radioactive americium-241 in the hotel room where the worker and his wife stayed.
"...communications will increase." Uh Huh.
New message available on Transition Web page
February 16, 2006Picking up the pace is the focus of the newest message on the Laboratory's transition from Rich Marquez, associate director for administration (ADA), leader of the Transition team. The message is on the Transition Web page.
In the message, Marquez talks about how as the Laboratory continues its transition to a new management and operations contractor on June 1, communications will increase. He also notes that Los Alamos National Security, LLC, is continuing its personnel mapping so LANS can send out offer letters by March 15.
The Laboratory's Transition Web site is the Laboratory's official source for up-to-date information about the Laboratory's transition from the current management and operations contractor, the University of California, to the new contractor, Los Alamos National Security, LLC. The Transition Web page now also has a search tool for searching information related to the transition (see story in today's Daily Newsbulletin).
February 15, 2006Employees at Los Alamos National Laboratory have until Feb. 24 to make comments about a pay-and-benefits plan proposed by the newly formed private company scheduled to take over the lab later this year.
A spokesman for the new manager, Los Alamos National Security LLC, said his company feels the pay-and-benefits plan is about the same as what lab employees enjoy now with the University of California.
The head of a Los Alamos community group agreed, but noted the elimination of lump-sum cash payments to people who retire from the lab under the new proposal.
The National Nuclear Security Administration will hold two meetings in Los Alamos on Thursday to present the plan and allow people to comment on it.
I see nothing yet that could make me proud to be a LANS employee
First, let me really thank you for your countless hours required to
maintain the blog. Because I moved far away from the area when I
retired, your blog is the best (and almost only) source of
information I have on the continuing contract saga.
I worked for the UC for 32 years before leaving more than 2 years ago
(because of my age, not because of all the chaos that had already
started). I was proud to be a UC retiree and didn't really think of
myself as any different from any retired UC faculty member
(wrong!!!). If UC pays attention to Brooks' letter, maybe, with
regard to my pension, I remain essentially the same as a UC faculty
But, whoa, what about medical benefits? I had hoped, as a retiree
long gone, I would not have to have anything whatsever to do with
LANS. How come LANS, and not UC, is going to provide the retiree
medical benefits? It seems certain that time will see any LANS plan
diverge from the UC plans, and there doesn't seem like there's a
prayer in ___ that the divergence will be in favor of those of us who
have already retired from UC. Does this make any sense to anyone
(except UC)? Sure would like to see this explained.
It was interesting to see the list of big employers who will be used
to limit the LANS TCP2 plan to 105% of average. Once upon a time
(boy, it seems like a long, long time ago), LANL tried to hire people
who were way above the average scientist of those big employers
(possible exclusion: SNL). Looks like LANS won't have much of a
prayer of hiring those who are way above the average.
Like I said above, I am proud to be a UC retiree. I see nothing yet
that could make me proud to be a LANS employee.
Wednesday, February 15, 2006
These plans are not substantially equivalent.
I am commenting on the issue of "substantial equivalence" between the
proposed and current plans. I believe that they are not substantially
Page 11 of LANS Total Compensation Design and Strategy, Revision 1
(hereafter "LANS Plan") states: "The survivor continuance feature will
be eliminated." I believe, based on calculations (see below), that
this elimination, with no compensating benefit, results in a plan that
has a significantly smaller net present value, and that the statements
in the last bullet on LANS Plan page 6 (that the plans are equivalent
to within a fraction of 1%) are incorrect and misleading.
The UC Retirement Plan Summary Description (July 2004), hereafter "UC
Plan", states (page 14): "Postretirement survivor continuance is not
optional, [and] is built into the retirement benefit (BASIC RETIREMENT
INCOME IS NOT REDUCED TO PAY FOR IT)" [emphasis added]. This is not
the same as the statement in LANS Plan (page 11), "The survivor
continuance...requires setting aside 25% of the basic retirement
income to be payable as a life annuity to eligible beneficiaries...."
In other words, a retiree who elects the Basic Option (UC Plan, page
12) now receives the survivor continuance in addition to the basic
retirement income. I believe that the LANS Plan summary misrepresents
the UC Plan benefit.
I have calculated, using U.S. Life Tables (2002, National Center for
Health Statistics, Tables 5 and 6) the present value ("PV") at the
time of retirement of the Basic Option for an employee who retires at
age 60 with 20 years service credit, and with HAPC = $10,000. I have
done the calculation with and without the 25% survivor continuance. I
assume a discount rate of 5% and average post-retirement COLAs of 2%.
(With other assumptions the results would be qualitatively similar.)
With survivor continuance Without survivor continuance % diff
------------------------- ---------------------------- ------
Case 1. Male employee, female spouse same age.
PV = $941,000 PV = $884,000 -6.1%
Case 2. Female employee, male spouse same age.
PV = $1,015,000 PV = $982,000 -3.3%
Case 3. Male employee, female spouse five years younger
PV = $959,000 PV = $884,000 -7.8%
The percentage differences would be the same for any assumed HAPC.
These are significant differences, much larger than claimed in the
LANS Plan (page 6). In Case 3, the employee loses nearly 8% of his
accrued pension benefit, equivalent to more than 1.5 years of service
credit. Unless I am misunderstanding the provisions of one or the
other plan, these plans are not substantially equivalent.
Although, community and employee input will be provided at three planned community meetings and whether or not the input provided will be valued and accepted to create change is yet to be seen.
We don't have much time and if discussions are occurring at all levels with different people making decisions unilaterally (UC) as indicated by Mr. Brooks, in order to meet a specific deadline, it is conceivable that a meaningful and positive out come will not be forthcoming. If rash and dubious decisions such as the "Pension Plan Spin Off" are made in meeting a critical deadline, if ultimately affected stakeholders aren't fully informed and have no time and opportunity for meaningful input, it is the dedicated and loyal employees, past and present, who stand to have their livelihoods negatively impacted.
Tuesday, February 14, 2006
Missing web site
Doug - If you know the answer, would you kindly reply? (I've never written to you, but have come to rely on you to have answers to burning questions.) If not, could you post this anonymously? Thanks!
I see the following on the LANS transition web page under Benefits Q&As. It is now February 14th and I cannot find anything on a NNSA web site about the LANS benefits plan proposal. Has anyone found this web site?
002 Q: When will we know specifics about the proposed benefit plans and will we have time to make decisions about our benefits? A: LANS submitted the proposed new benefits package for Laboratory employees to NNSA on January 25, 2006. The LANS proposal will be posted on the NNSA web site for comment on February 14, 2006. Once NNSA has approved the package, anticipated in early March, employees will be given an offer of employment with LANS, and will have a 60-day period beginning on or about March 15, 2006 in which to study the NNSA-approved benefits package and make the best decision based on their personal needs before LANS assumes Lab responsibility on June 1, 2006.
Monday, February 13, 2006
Recently retired, Marty is about to mail out "Mesa by Moonlight," a ceramic pot he created when his wife comes home from an awful day at work - and then marriage, mediocrity and retirement collide.
So goes the first film written by Elaine Jarvik of Salt Lake City and Robert Benjamin of Los Alamos.
The screenplay is based tightly on the writers' original script, titled "Handle With Care."
"The screenplay is not much different than the script for the touring stage play," said Benjamin. "I helped the film director to cast the roles and I made some script changes during the filming. As it turned out, the actors who performed the touring stage play in Albuquerque were also cast in the movie."
He said "Mesa by Moonlight" is a "low, low budget film."
During the shoot, "the crew consisted of the film director and a single technical person for lights and sound. In a sense, the filming exemplifies some of the issues raised in the script."
Despite a small staff, the movie turned out well, and its subject matter is extremely topical for Los Alamos, said Carol Meine, activities director for Mesa Public Library, which will offer a preview screening of "Mesa by Moonlight" this week.
Editor's note: This is the second part of a two-part series on the National Nuclear Security Administration's evolving plans for the nuclear weapons complex. Part one, last Sunday discussed the agency's consolidation plans. This article is about the revised nuclear weapon that has emerged as the catalyst for transforming the system.
For a relatively minor item in a $9.1 billion weapon's agency budget request, the Reliable Replacement Warhead has inspired a wide interest since it quietly became an item in the nuclear weapons budget last year.
Next year's request will be $27.7 million, according to DOE fact sheets which would represent an increase of $2.7 million over current levels.
Address where you can get answers...
Here is an answer I got from the LANS suggestion site . I guess it was supposed to go to Rachel but it came to me. Anyway I thought you might like to post the address where you can get answers or give them hell what ever comes first.
From: LANS Suggestions <email@example.com>
Appreciate your question and concern expressed. The LANS Q&A web site
did not go live until 1/31/06. Can you tell me where you submitted your
question - was it through the UC-LANL FAQs web site perhaps? I will be
glad to follow up if you will provide me with more specifies. We have
had other employees think they were contacting us and it turned out that
they submitted a question through the LANL FAQs web page.
Please send me your question and I will follow-up for you.
Feb. 7, 2006
Why is the transition Web site so slow in answering our questions? It
hasn't been updated since Jan. 12. A month is a long time to go between
updates. I would submit this question to the Q&A site, but obviously I
am concerned that I will never get a reply.
It would be a nice gesture to try and answer at least some questions
every week at the very least. To have this Web presence but not offer
regular updates sends a message that Los Alamos National Security, LLC,
doesn't care about us. I think answering questions is a pretty easy way
to show that you do care about our concerns. When you go for a month
between answers it doesn't give me a warm fuzzy feeling that you guys
really have your act together. I can forgive you for not having an RSS
feed or a blog, but to start this Q&A and then just drop it like
yesterday's news is just a bad move.
Sunday, February 12, 2006
Anyone hear the real story?
The Transition and LANS sites have also been silent
about the fate of the ~3500 LANL employees who
work for Butler, Comforce, Weirich, and the Plus Group.
The only word so far is that they will let us know
by the time the contract expires on 1 June.
Anyone hear the real story?
Saturday, February 11, 2006
"In good standing"
Every assurance of UC employees being hired by LANS has been qualified by
"in good standing". I have a few questions related to this:
1. What does that mean?!?
2. Who decides who is in good standing? And,
3. If LANS decides, what do they base it on.
I've asked this via the Transition site, but no answer has been forthcoming.
Not to abandon any pensioners?
The coming transfer of some UCRP assets to the LANS "successor"
pension plan is something all UCRP members need to follow. From my own
observation of discussions of this topic at the Regents' meeting and
by University leadership I can report that the intent of all the
contemplated actions is to properly assign pension obligations between
UCRP and LANS, and not to abandon any pensioners.
There is a lot of confusion right now because it is complicated. One
of the complications was created by the University recently in
recommending that an intermediate step be taken before assets are
transferred to LANS: that all of the obligations of the University to
LANL pensioners, active and inactive employees, that the federal
government is also underwriting through the prime contract, be
identified before the LANS transfer.
Would this action transfer UC pensioners from UCRP to a LANS plan? No.
Would this action eliminate UC's obligation to current LANL retirees
and to individuals who retire or go inactive rather than
"transferring" from UC to LANS? No.
Why would UC suggest that this intermediate step be taken? It is of
extreme interest to all UCRP participants, whether they are at LANL,
another DOE Lab, or a campus, that the federal commitment in the prime
contracts be properly discharged. From the University's perspective
that commitment is not simply the pension contribution costs that have
been authorized to be charged to the contract in the past (and which
have not been charged for the last 15 years) but the actual University
obligations incurred at LANL and at the other DOE Labs. The
University's interpretation of the prime contract is that the federal
government's obligation backs up the University's obligation whether
or not the current assets are sufficient to meet them. (An exception
exists for University mismanagement of UCRP investment.)
In the era when the contracts were extended non-competitively there
was little concern about how the federal obligation would be
fulfilled. But as the contract arrangements are changing it is
important to eliminate any uncertainty regarding the extent of the
future federal obligation. The first step in eliminating that
uncertainty is to define and agree upon the universe of obligations
involved. That is what was recommended to the Regents in January.
UCRP members should not exclusively focus on the assets of UCRP; just
as important, and possibly more so, is the acknowledgement of
obligation. The assets that are currently in UCRP reflect assumptions
about the future and the level of success in investing money collected
in prior years. (There has been some discussion of starting
system-wide contributions again as early as July, 2007.) There will be
some transfer of UCRP assets to a LANS pension plan, but the January
Regents action did not and will not do that; that will occur only
after it is known which of the current UC employees at LANL have
"transferred" to LANS.
The most immediate question is quantifying the University's UCRP
obligation to LANL retirees, active and inactive employees and
assuring that the federal government acknowledges a continuing
obligation to them as well. This is of interest to all UCRP
members. If the federal obligation is limited to past financial
contributions to UCRP and there is a major economic downturn, pensions
may be at risk for all UC retirees. That is not what the University
believes is the deal with the federal government, and now is the time
to ensure that any disagreement on this point is identified and
As stated at the beginning of this post, my own observation is that
the Regents and University leadership is committed to delivering on
the obligations that have been made to all UC employees. Key to making
sure that happens is to eliminate any uncertainty on the federal
commitment that backs up the University's obligations to UC employees
and retirees at DOE Labs. I believe the retirees and employees can be
assured of this intent. But that does not mean that UCRP members
should not follow this closely and become informed about what is
The California Privacy Act
Friday, February 10, 2006
By Jon Van
Tribune staff reporter
Published February 10, 2006
In a surprising development Thursday, the research university consortium that operates Fermilab said it will partner with the U. of C. in making a competitive bid to continue managing the physics research lab near Batavia.
Thursday, February 09, 2006
Sends a message
Feb. 7, 2006
Why is the transition Web site so slow in answering our questions? It hasn't been updated since Jan. 12. A month is a long time to go between updates. I would submit this question to the Q&A site, but obviously I am concerned that I will never get a reply.
It would be a nice gesture to try and answer at least some questions every week at the very least. To have this Web presence but not offer regular updates sends a message that Los Alamos National Security, LLC, doesn't care about us. I think answering questions is a pretty easy way to show that you do care about our concerns. When you go for a month between answers it doesn't give me a warm fuzzy feeling that you guys really have your act together. I can forgive you for not having an RSS feed or a blog, but to start this Q&A and then just drop it like yesterday's news is just a bad move.
ROGER SNODGRASS, firstname.lastname@example.org, Monitor Assistant Editor
Ambassador Linton Brooks said budget considerations would influence future activities of the National Nuclear Security Administration, including consolidation of the complex and redesigning existing weapons.
"There are a lot of things that are very good things to do," he said, adding that the point of making a budget was "to pick which ones are most important within a constrained resource."
Brooks visited the laboratory on the day after the federal budget was announced in Washington. He bestowed awards for excellence in scientific research and leadership, checked on transition activities in his local office and met with Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Robert Kuckuck and incoming director Michael Anastasio.
Brooks said he saw his own budget fall from $9.3 billion this year to $9.1 billion in the proposal for next year and was not optimistic that the Department of Energy budget would go up any time soon.
Wednesday, February 08, 2006
ROGER SNODGRASS, email@example.com, Monitor Assistant Editor
Los Alamos National Laboratory's weapons activities would expand by $80 million and its supercomputer budget would grow by $47 million, two apparent bright spots in the federal budget proposal released in Washington.
A surprising decline in environmental cleanup, down $50 million, and a $49 million reduction in nonproliferation, headed the list of cutbacks at Los Alamos.
They were among the many gainers and losers in the administration's $2.7 trillion spending proposal released Monday. The Department of Energy's share held steady at $23.6 billion, although several new initiatives necessarily carved out cuts elsewhere in the department.
Speaking of DOE and National Nuclear Security Administration prospects, Sen. Pete Domenici, R-NM, summed up, "This is not a year of splendid growth at all, but rather a year when we could say we've held our own."
Tuesday, February 07, 2006
Looking for talented technical writing candidates
I am the publications manager for a Ktech, a contractor for Sandia National Labs in Albuquerque, NM. I am looking for talented technical writing candidates with the following skill sets:
Genres: Software or hardware procedures, conceptual overviews, reference, user interface specs, requirements documents, business rules, context sensitive help, possibly regular help, probably user guides on paper.
Tools required: Word, PowerPoint, email.
Tools desired: Web page editor such as DreamWeaver, Visio, paint program, screen capture program, HTML, XML, PHP, Java, database such as FileMaker, Access or mySQL
Skills required: Ability to write clean prose. Quick study. Non-confrontational interviewing style. Understanding of document design, scheduling. Ability to edit technical prose for an ordinary reader, without losing key details or points. Ability to work well with the client.
At least two of the following amples required: 1) Procedure for user, 2) some kind of conceptual overview or description of a key concept, 3) reference such as a command description, 4) edits before and after.
Resume required, with details on actual writing and editing, in whatever circumstances (full time staff, part time, freelance, or volunteer all acceptable)
Please submit your resume and any writing samples to firstname.lastname@example.org
February 7, 2006
More money for nuclear-weapons work and renewable-energy research would go to Los Alamos National Laboratory under President Bush’s proposed budget for the 2007 fiscal year.
Increased funding to make plutonium pits, or triggers for nuclear bombs, also is included in the budget proposal, released Monday.
The lab’s science program received a slight cut compared to the 2006 fiscal year, which ends in October. And one environmental-cleanup program received a major cut.
Journal Staff Writers
WASHINGTON— Federal officials on Monday proposed expanding nuclear weapons manufacturing at Los Alamos National Laboratory, part of a sweeping plan to develop new nuclear weapons for the first time since the end of the Cold War.
By 2012, they hope to be able to make 30 to 40 new plutonium nuclear weapon cores per year, according to the Bush administration's fiscal year 2007 budget request.
The government's top nuclear weapons official cautioned that the new program remains primarily a research effort for now, aimed at finding ways to build safer and more reliable nuclear weapons. But the spending plan delivered to Congress on Monday includes, for the first time, a long-term spending plan for moving the weapons from the drawing board to production.
Monday, February 06, 2006
Something doesn't add up
DOE's 2007 budget request is now on their website
I checked the "Lab Tables" and something doesn't add up.
LANL is down $10 million from 2006.
FY 2007 = $1,844,461,000
FY 2006 = $1,855,230,000
So how are all the new additional cost[s] associated with LANS running LANL to be paid for by DOE?
BTW, LLNL is up $32 million from 2006;
FY 2007 = $1,240,542,000
FY 2006 = $1,208,443,000
ROGER SNODGRASS, email@example.com, Monitor Assistant Editor
Editor's note: This is part one of a two-part series. Part one is about consolidation plans for the nuclear weapons complex. Part two, next Sunday, will discuss related issues surrounding the Reliable Replacement Warhead.
A new analysis released Wednesday by the Congressional Research Service questioned many of the assumptions and implications underlying one of the most prominent plans for reorganizing the Department of Energy's eight nuclear weapons sites.
The paper written by national defense specialist Jonathan Medalia dissects a key report prepared by the Nuclear Weapons Complex Infrastructure Task Force and published in final form in October 2005. The Energy Department document is also known as the Overskei report, for its chairman David Overskei, an advanced technology consultant and President of Decision Factors located in San Diego.
Medalia's countervailing analysis is presented in the bipartisan style characteristic of the CRS, laying out the key points and arguments from the task force report, before exposing contradictions and raising concerns of observers and critics.
As some of you have pointed out, blogger.com has been experiencing problems over the past few days. Here is the current status of the system:
Sunday, February 05, 2006
Friday, February 03, 2006
News & Analysis: February 2006
Physicists are increasingly using Internet forums to exchange scientific views and share gossip. Paula Gould explores the rise of "blogging"
In July 2004 security and safety fears led to the temporary closure of the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), the original home of the atomic bomb. Months passed and parts of the lab remained shut. Some staff members opted to leave, while others grumbled to friends and family but essentially endured the situation. Concerned at the lack of public debate, Doug Roberts - a computer scientist at the lab - decided to start an online discussion forum to allow staff to air their views.
But Roberts' Web log (or "blog"), LANL: The Real Story (lanl-the-real-story.blogspot.com), has been more than just a place for people to moan. It has also been credited with contributing to the resignation, in May 2005, of Peter Nanos, the director of the Los Alamos lab. Indeed, the blog spawned numerous reports in the national and international press, and has so far been visited by about half a million people.
Running the blog is no easy feat for Roberts. At the height of its popularity, maintaining the site took about five or six hours a day. Even though he no longer works at Los Alamos, Roberts still spends two or three hours every day reviewing and posting contributions to the site. "This isn't for the weak of heart," he says. "If you create a forum where issues that are not complimentary to your place of work are discussed, you are not going to be very popular with the management."
Thursday, February 02, 2006
The latest forecast from HR
Relating to last night's (2/1) post of # of retiring employees/severance
pay/probationary period issues:
Kuckuck told LANL employees immediately before the December closure that
the purpose of the Hiring Council was to limit hiring of external
employees, that the forecast was for 750-1,000 employees to retire and
the Hiring Council was to limit hiring of externals to no more than 350,
given the first set of numbers. Indeed, many requests put forth before
the Hiring Council to hire proposed external employees have resulted in
their response, "You may only hire an internal candidate for this
position" - regardless of how the job ad was posted.
However, the latest forecast from HR is that up to 2,000 employees are
now expected to retire. So the latest word is the Hiring Council has
been disbanded and ADs have given assurance that their signature alone is
all that is necessary for a hiring package to go forth. I wouldn't worry
about budgetary-driven RIFs, although the concern about a probationary
period for transferring employees, combined with the real threats to
probationary employees's job security that have long been felt at LANL,
makes it difficult to believe a new contractor will mean an improvement
in this area.
Message from UPTE's President
The following provides a glimpse of some of the things UPTE has done for LANL workers:
• UPTE provided formal input with respect to the RFP, plus met with Tyler Przybylek in Washington DC regarding specific concerns related to the RFP.
• UPTE provided formal input to the National Academy of Science Committee regarding the RFP, plus the Blue Ribbon Commission established by the DOE to provide guidance on competing the Management and Operations Contracts for DOE's National Laboratories.
• UPTE testified before the joint New Mexico and California Legislative Oversight Committees on UC.
• UPTE lobbied elected officials in Sacramento CA, Santa Fe NM, and Washington DC regarding Lab worker protections and benefits.
• UPTE helped spearhead a class action lawsuit to eliminate gender and ethnicity pay disparity at LANL.
• UPTE helped create awareness regarding significant shortfalls associated with the Lab’s own salary parity analysis (the Welch Report).
• UPTE provided support and guidance in establishing a LANL retiree's group to address issues under the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program Act.
• UPTE provided input at the UC Regents Meeting in Sacramento regarding the so-called pension spin-off, which would effectively separate from UCRP all past and present LANL employees opting to retire under UCRP.
• UPTE-Los Alamos is a member of UPTE-UC, which has approximately 10,000 UC employees as members. Through it's system-wide affiliation, UPTE-Los Alamos is affiliated as well with the Communication Workers of America (CWA), which itself has a membership exceeding 100,000.
• UPTE has established itself as a strong and credible voice for Lab workers. UPTE will never isolate or pit one segment of the work force against another, recognizing instead that when one worker benefits, all stand to benefit.
The overriding UPTE mission is to protect and enhance employee rights guaranteed by law and principle, including the rights of past, current and future LANL employees and retirees.
With respect to current efforts by UC President Robert Dynes to transfer all LANL retirees from the UCRP Pension Plan to a stand alone "Clone Pension Plan", UPTE strongly objects. This objection was made forcefully and without ambiguity at a recent UC Board of Regents meeting, and fortunately, it did not fall entirely on deaf ears. While the Regents did not reject President Dyne’s proposal outright, the Regent body did require that legal and regulatory implications be fully understood before any further action could be taken by President Dynes in advancing his proposal.
On this UC retirement issue, LANL workers and retirees should be aware that:
• UPTE is currently engaged in discussions with law firms about the prospects of filing a class action lawsuit if necessary.
• UPTE's constitution allows retirees to join UPTE so that they too can participate in UPTE efforts to protect and preserve the pension and benefits of Lab workers.
Many individuals have sent letters and made phone calls alerting UC Regents and elected officials of President Dyne's efforts to segregate LANL workers from the UCRP retirement pool. While these individual efforts have been very important, they can be made significantly more effective by utilizing the combined resources of an organization like UPTE. With united action, commitment rooted in a common interest to improve the workplace, and the dedication of the many individuals who comprise the union, we can preserve the legitimate interests of all LANL workers. Together we can control our own destiny.
This message is not simply an informational sound bite. In order to be effective, UPTE needs a strong membership, reflected both in numbers and in the willingness of individual members to become involved. The purpose of this message is to inform people that they are neither helpless nor alone. We need your commitment for UPTE to continue to confront the challenges facing LANL workers. A united front can make all the difference in the world.
To learn more about how you can get involved in making the Lab a better place, visit the UPTE web site at
-Manuel Trujillo, President of UPTE-LANL
Retirement Fund Accounting Fiasco
I would like to point out some important questions and issues regarding the computations that UC is proposing for separating out LANL retirement from the current UC fund.
My first point is related to how UC is computing the amount to go into the LANL retirement pot. In the field of accounting there is often more than one way to compute things -- but they have to be applied consistently -- something which UC is not doing.
Currently, with regards to retirement benefits, all workers at UC, including LANL and LLNL, are considered equivalent. If it were not for the future separation LANL from UC, all employees would have contributed based on the same UC-wide formula. The inconsistency arises in that UC is now proposing to divide the retirement pot using actuarial computations for the LANL population and not the UC-wide population. This means that the UC pot will be over-funded while the LANL pot is underfunded.
Of course, such a situation is more advantageous to UC's employees, in particular the UC management. This would appear to me like a big conflict of interest. Can a majority of employees of an organization be allowed to change the rules in midstream against a minority to further their financial gain?
I don't see how situation where the LANL retirement fund will start off with being approximately 10% underfunded compared to staying with UC meets the requirement of being "substantial equivalent".
My second point is that being initially underfunded does not meet the requirement of "substantially equivalent" in the RFP. LANL employees will have to make higher contributions in the future to keep the fund solvent than they would under the UC system. We do not know at this stage whether LANS will discontinue defined benefits to new employees. If they do discontinue, the situation will become worse for current employees. An actuarial study should be done to make sure that the above factors are included in determining what is "substantially equivalent" in the RFP. LANL employees will have to make higher contributions in the future to keep the fund solvent than they would under the UC system.
We do not know at this stage whether LANS will discontinue defined benefits to new employees. If they do discontinue, the situation will become worse for current employees.
An actuarial study should be done to make sure that the above factors are included in determining what is "substantially equivalent".
Former LANL employees who retired as UC employees
Pay close attention to the answer to question 005. It looks like you will in fact be separated from the primary UCRP.
At will employees
My understanding is that we will receive two letters - one terminating our employment effective May 31 and another new offer letter, effective June 1.
I've heard that the offer letter will emphasize two points - one, we are at will employees but more importantly, THAT ALL EMPLOYEES OF THE NEW LLC WILL BE ON A ONE YEAR PROBATIONARY PERIOD - read - we can rid this place of you "problem" employees without any advance notice, and of course, since you are all new employees, there is no severance pay provision. Has anyone else heard about this?
Wednesday, February 01, 2006
Comment of the week
post, courtesy of "Finknottle":
The "Bob"s (Dynes and Foley) deserve big, fat, $300,000 raises for the stellar jobs they have done this year.
Now that we're on the subject, let's give "Pete" one while we're at it. He's still on the UC payroll, after all.
February 1, 2006
Investigators aren't sure why someone set fire to a trailer full of equipment related to Lockheed Martin's unsuccessful bid to run Los Alamos National Laboratory, a spokesman from the Albuquerque Fire Department said. The trailer burned the night of Jan. 21 in the parking lot of Arpin of Albuquerque, a moving company at 4525 Paseo del Norte N.E., said spokesman Capt. Mike Paiz. The trailer wasn't destroyed, but "there was a lot of fire and heat damage to everything in there," Paiz said. [...]
The trailer burned the night of Jan. 21 in the parking lot of Arpin of Albuquerque, a moving company at 4525 Paseo del Norte N.E., said spokesman Capt. Mike Paiz.
The trailer wasn't destroyed, but "there was a lot of fire and heat damage to everything in there," Paiz said.
Mr. Gerald Parsky, Chair
Board of Regents
University of California
RE: Action Item 3C (January 18, 2006)
Dear Chair Parsky:
The Regents should not implement last November’s decision on the Senior Leadership Compensation Group (SLCG) as though nothing has happened since then. Over the past few months there has been widespread criticism in the press and the legislature of venality and secrecy in the UC administration’s recent approach to executive compensation. Some individual regents have also commented negatively on the judgment of UC’s top officials. Giving these officials regental license to raise each others’ salaries by as much as $200-300,000 over a three year period without any apparent process of review and oversight would be another big mistake that UC can ill afford as it faces legislative hearings.
In advising you to reconsider the SLGC, we understand the need for a more efficient and systematic way to classify and review executive salaries: we do not object to the new classifications as such but to setting the stage for large across-the-board pay increases in all categories and much larger discretionary increases within each category. The Mercer study, taken on its own terms, is not an adequate basis on which to proceed down this path: it says that “total compensation” is the relevant criterion for all salary comparisons but did not gather data on the “total compensation” of top administrators, as it did for other employees. Now that the “total compensations” of UC top executives has become a matter of public controversy, the Regents should not raise their base pay while its own study of these matters is still pending and should not take steps to reward them massively at a moment when their handling of this issue has brought UC into disrepute.
It may sometimes be necessary for UC to pay higher salaries to attract top people from the outside, but UC should not encourage its present administrators to measure their own worth by the standards of the external market as the Mercer Report does. We doubt, moreover, that they would want market standards to be consistently applied. If it is true that UC pays far too little to attract top people to administrative positions, this is not a reason to pay much more to the people we already have.
The Council of UC Faculty Associations urges you to postpone consideration of Item 3C until it includes safeguards addressing the issues recently raised about executive compensation at UC.
President, Council of UC Faculty Associations
The above letter was quoted in an article published in the San Francisco Chronicle on Janaury 17, 2005. The article was titled "Bill would help state probe university pay; UC calls the move premature during its own investigation" and was written by Todd Wallack and Tanya Schevitz.
Staff and wire reports
February 1, 2006
ALBUQUERQUE — An arson fire destroyed documents related to Lockheed Martin’s unsuccessful bid to manage Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Fire officials wouldn’t release many details, but fire-department spokesman Capt. Mike Paiz said investigators found evidence an accelerant was used.
“It was definitely an arson fire,” Paiz said Tuesday. “Right now, this is an open investigation. There are a bunch of leads the investigators are examining. The only comment we can make is that we know it was arson.”
No suspect has been identified, he said.
Lockheed Martin spokeswoman Wendy Owen said a trailer in Albuquerque that contained paper files, computers and other equipment burned either late Jan. 21 or early Jan. 22.
The “research materials” related to the bid had been moved from an office to the trailer to be sent to a Lockheed Martin office on the East Coast, she said.
Last month, the Department of Energy awarded the Los Alamos contract to a team headed by Bechtel Corp. and the University of California.