Friday, March 31, 2006
ROGER SNODGRASS, email@example.com, Monitor Assistant Editor
Sen. Pete Domenici expressed concerns Thursday about spending reductions in environmental clean-up programs at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Domenici, who chairs the Senate Energy and Water Development Appropriations Subcommittee, took advantage of an FY2007 budget review hearing in Washington to call attention to a $762 million shortfall in the Department of Energy's clean-up program.
He said the reductions were problematic to existing clean-up agreements for Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Domenici asked DOE officials to explain how the recommendation to cut $70 million from environmental cleanup would affect projects at Los Alamos and its legal obligations with the state government.
By PHILLIP GOMEZ
The Nevada Test Site's principal management and operations contractor for the past 11 years, Bechtel Nevada Corp., will no longer be in the driver's seat after July 1. The decision is expected to affect a small number of Bechtel employees living in Las Vegas, Henderson, North Las Vegas and the more than 200 who live in Pahrump.
The Department of Energy's semi-autonomous agency, the National Nuclear Security Administration, announced earlier this week the selection of National Security Technologies LLC, to replace Bechtel.
NTS Lead Managers
An anonymous bit just received: three of the top managers at the new Northrup Grumman-run NTS will be Steve Younger, Jim Holt, and Ping Lee. Those names sound oddly familiar.
Thursday, March 30, 2006
ROGER SNODGRASS, firstname.lastname@example.org, Monitor Assistant Editor
SANTA FE - Environmental stewardship at Los Alamos National Laboratory will be severely constrained over the next two years unless something can be done about funding cuts and budget plans that threaten to cripple the program, according to local officials.
Possible consequences include unmet land transfer commitments from DOE to the county, broken agreements under the consent order with the state of New Mexico and reduced groundwater monitoring at a time of heightened concern over laboratory contamination in the regional aquifer.
The unpleasant prospects were delivered Wednesday night at a meeting of the Northern New Mexico Citizen's Advisory Board at Santa Fe College.
"It appears to be a bad situation," said Ed Wilmott, manager of the Los Alamos Site Office, who said efforts were underway to reverse the budget decisions in Washington, D.C.
Blog hit rates
FYI, here is a graph of the hit rates to date for the entire duration of this blog. The series of left-most peaks reflect when the articles about the blog were published in the New York Times. The next tall peak was when the Tommy Hook affair happened. The tallest peak around Dec 27 was the day the winner of the new contract was announced.
I thought some of you might find it interesting.
Nukes for a Profit
Privatizing the Apocalypse
By FRIDA BERRIGAN
Started as the super-secret "Project Y" in 1943, the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico has long been the keystone institution of the American nuclear-weapons producing complex. It was the birthplace of Fat Man and Little Boy, the two nuclear bombs the U.S. dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. Last year, the University of California, which has managed the lab for the Department of Energy since its inception, decided to put Los Alamos on the auction block. In December 2005, construction giant Bechtel won a $553 million yearly management contract to run the sprawling complex, which employs more than 13,000 people and has an estimated $2.2 billion annual budget.
"Privatization" has been in the news ever since George W. Bush became president. His administration has radically reduced the size of government, turning over to private companies critical governmental functions involving prisons, schools, water, welfare, Medicare, and utilities as well as war-fighting, and is always pushing for more of the same. Outside of Washington, the pitfalls of privatization are on permanent display in Iraq, where companies like Halliburton have reaped billions in contracts. Performing jobs once carried out by members of the military -- from base building and mail delivery to food service -- they have bilked the government while undermining the safety of American forces by providing substandard services and products. Halliburton has been joined by a cottage industry of military-support companies responsible for everything from transportation to interrogation. On the war front, private companies are ubiquitous, increasingly indispensable, and largely unregulated -- a lethal combination.
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
There have been so many people downloading this paper from my web server over the past two days that on several occasions it was necessary for me to shut the server down, because all of my bandwidth was being taken up by downloads, not leaving me enough for my Vonage (voice over IP) phone calls.
In my opinion, this paper provides some of the most valuable information that has been served by this blog, in that it provides a true history of recent events at Los Alamos. Why is this valuable? Because it provides much-needed balance to the often completely dishonest versions of these same recent events as they were put forth by the LANL Public Affairs Office.
It used to be that history was written by the victors. I do not believe that this is the case any longer. As long as there are people willing to take the time and spend the effort required capture historical events, truthfully, as they happen, then the historical facts are not lost.
Submitted by Anonymous:
______________________________Doug,Please place the following question anonymously. Thanks.Question:At the LANL Benefits presentations yesterday I learned from someone in theaudience that you could transfer to LANS as an inactive vested UCRSemployee, then take the lump sum cash out from UCRS after the transfer andstill be able to retire with full medical and dental benefits under LANS.If so, this represents an improvement over what you're allowed to do underUCRS, i.e. if you lump out under UCRS you forgo your retirement medical.Does anyone know if this "loophole" in the LANS tranfer is for real?
Kuckuck to speak to Lab work force today
From the LANL NewsBulletin:
March 29, 2006
aboratory Director Bob Kuckuck will speak to Laboratory employees at 1:15 this afternoon from the Administration Building Auditorium at Technical Area 3.
Kuckuck will talk about child care, safety incidents during his tenure and management's response to the incidents. Kuckuck also will pass along any additional information he might have concerning the Los Alamos National Security, LLC transition.
The meeting also can be watched on LABNET Channel 9 and on desktop computers using Real Media and IPTV technology
. Uncleared employees can watch the talk in the Physics Building Auditorium also at TA-3. Standard escorting rules apply for admittance to the Administration Building. Uncleared individuals and their escorts should sit in the designated area of the auditorium.
For more information, see the all-employee memo
(Adobe Acrobat Reader required).
Journal Staff Writer A former Los Alamos National Laboratory employee says he was fired after less than a year on the job for raising concerns about toxic chemical storage and inadequate safety procedures.
In one case, a procedural lapse "probably contributed to permanent medical injury," according to a lawsuit filed initially in state District Court and recently transferred to federal court.
Dr. Douglas J. Chadbourne, who was an occupational medicine physician at the lab, is suing LANL and his supervisors for "retaliatory conduct" in violation of his civil rights.
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
Today: March 28, 2006 at 16:27:37 PSTFeds dump Bechtel for Nevada Test Site management contract
WASHINGTON (AP) - The Energy Department on Tuesday picked a corporate group led by Northrop Grumman to manage the Nevada Test Site, rejecting a bid from Bechtel Corp., which has held the contract for 10 years.
A spokesman for DOE's National Nuclear Security Administration declined to say why National Security Technologies, LLC, was chosen over Bechtel for the five-year contract worth $500 million per year. The site is a 1,375-square-mile area where nuclear weapons used to be tested and is now used for testing conventional weapons, emergency response training and other purposes.
A colleague wrote the attached for an MBA degree course he is
enrolled in. (He's a good nuclear physicist in real life). I think it
has an interesting perspective on recent goings-on at LANL and
thought others might be interested. Would there be any interest in
posting this on the LANL blog? It's already been cleared for
My reason for this paper is summed up in the following quote1 from the LANL Newsbulletin’s
Reader’s Forum early in 2005, which refers to events around the Laboratory shutdown
in the summer of 2004:
At least one thing could easily be done to raise the morale: tell us what really
happened over at Dynamic Experimentation (DX) Division. Show us the
evidence. Acknowledge all system failures. Convince us that the personnel
actions are justified.
Few employees know even the basic facts that led to the shutdown, and almost none know the
thinking behind the decisions made at the time. Even worse, there has been little discussion
about how the events may have been related to others over the last 15–20 years or how those
problems will be perceived and dealt with by a new contractor. Instead, the advice from our
leadership, as represented by a comment made by Senator Pete Domenici, has been “Get over
it.” Although many employees would be happy to put the events of the last decade behind
them, others such as the writer above are still looking for some understanding that would
make such closure easier. Given the schedule for announcing the new contractor, the last
weeks of 2005 may be the last opportunity
Sunday, March 26, 2006
Response from Senator Bingaman
Submitted by Anonymous:
_____________________________________Response from Senator Bingaman regarding the unresolved issue of the proposed UCRP clone, our forced decision regarding LANS pension plans, and "substantially equivalency" follows. Do not give up: keep writing DOE/NNSA, LANS, UC and your elected representatives; take legal action.Thank you for contacting me regarding the proposed pension plan for Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) employees and retirees. I appreciate your taking the time to share your concerns with me. I understand your concerns with the proposed pension plan for LANL employees and retirees. As you know, Senator Domenici and I wrote a letter to Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman urging him to reject the request made by the University of California Board of Regents to segregate and spin off liabilities and assets. As of this time, I have not received a response from the UC Board of Regents regarding my concerns. I am aware that many employees and retirees still have serious questions about their retirement benefits, and from my perspective, the generic statement from the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) that the LANS package is "substantially equivalent" is insufficient to address those questions or provide them with confidence. For this reason, I have consistently urged NNSA and LANS to address these concerns before finalizing the package. Please be assured that I will continue my advocacy for LANL employees and retirees as I monitor any new developments in this transition process.
Mar. 26, 2006 12:00 AM
Prior to becoming Apache Junction's chief of police in January, Glenn Walp's law enforcement career spanned nearly 40 years. But what he may best be known for is his role as a whistle-blower uncovering widespread corruption at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, a nuclear-weapons facility.
Saturday, March 25, 2006
Nothing at all to do with LANL, but involving Los Alamos.
Related SlashDot article: http://hardware.slashdot.org/hardware/06/03/25/1411250.shtml
March 23, 2006 07:00 AM US Eastern Timezone
He's Back! Cold Fusion Pioneer Dr. Martin Fleischmann Joins D2Fusion Engineering Team to Deliver Long Awaited Energy Devices to the World
SAN FRANCISCO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--March 23, 2006--On the 17th anniversary of Dr. Martin Fleischmann's first public revelation of room temperature, non-radioactive nuclear fusion, D2Fusion, Inc. is proud to announce Dr. Fleischmann's agreement to serve as its senior scientific advisor. D2Fusion, a California-based solid state fusion energy firm with engineering centers in Silicon Valley and Los Alamos, New Mexico, is a subsidiary of Solar Energy Limited (OTCBB:SLRE). The company will employ Dr. Fleischmann's experience and expertise to produce prototypes of solid state fusion heating modules for homes and industry.
In brief, "cold fusion" involves the fusion of two nuclei of deuterium or heavy hydrogen into a single helium atom accompanied only by a burst of heat. Unlike "thermonuclear hot fusion" that requires the plasma-inducing inferno of the sun or a hydrogen bomb, solid state fusion reactions can be produced at normal temperatures in certain hydrogen-loving metals without unleashing hot fusion's dangerous radiation. Many experimental reports suggest the importance of nanoscale reaction sites and the occurrence of coherent quantum electrodynamic (QED) states that circumvent the strong mutual repulsion of positively charged deuterium nuclei. The QED features are markedly similar to processes now familiar in solid state physics, such as superconductivity, and have led the company to conclude that "solid state fusion" is a more accurate and fruitful characterization of the field.
Only required by the RFP for a year
Submitted by Anonymous:
_____________________________I understand that the LANS contractual commitment for "substantiallyequivalent" benefits, i.e., the TCP1 package, is only required bythe RFP for a year.Is this true? If so, vested LANL employees will be taking a verylarge and completely undefined risk in taking TCP1. The age andservice factors could be substantially reduced and/or (eventually)the defined benefit portion could be deleted entirely. TCP1 couldmorph fairly quickly to TCP2.So, is there a contractual limit on the duration of substantiallyequivalent benefits"?
Staff and wire reports
SANTA FE - A nuclear watchdog group has gone to court to try to get 10-year site plans covering Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Nuclear Watch New Mexico wants the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration to turn over information sought under the federal Freedom of Information Act - the site plans for the years 2003 through 2006.
The Santa Fe group said such plans contain important information on the direction of the federal nuclear weapons lab, but a spokesman for the federal agencies said the matter is one of national security.
Such documents typically include plans for new buildings and production of plutonium pits, the triggers for nuclear warheads, Nuclear Watch director Jay Coghlan said.
Friday, March 24, 2006
If you do nothing before April 14
Anon post please:
________________________________"If you do nothing before April 14"1) There are two dates discussed in regards vacation cashout: April 14 and March 312) Payroll told me that March 31 is a hard deadline for electing to defervacation cash-out to your 457b plan. If you do so after that date,e.g. between March 31 and April 14, then it will not go through as 457b and itwill get cashed out. Johnson's memo seemed ambiguous (to me): it highlightedthe April 14 date, mentioned the March 31 date, but then referred tocontributions for the months of March and April as if perhaps that's all thatwould be lost if you elected to defer cashout to the 457b plan after March 31but before April 14.To be clear: I was told that deferral to the 457b needs to be done before March 31, period.3) It was later clarified by Johnson that if you don't cashout now, but applyvacation to LANS, that if you later decide not to be a LANS employee then itwill be cashed out for you.4) Lastly, I was told that the accrual of vacation for the months of Apriland May is transferred to LANS as vacation, i.e. you start with whatevervacation you would accrue in two months, and not with 0 vacation days if youelect to cashout or defer and not transfer vacation as vacation.
SPSE E-Bulletin Number Eighty-Four
SPSE E-Bulletin Number Eighty-Four
Jim Wolford, Editor
Send e-mail messages to editor - c/o email@example.com
o Report on SPSE and UPTE Lobbying on Capitol Hill for a LLNL RFP that Preserves Employee Rights and Retirement
* * * * * *
Former SPSE President Jeff Colvin was part of a four-person UPTE lobbying team that spent three days on Capitol Hill last week in conjunction with the annual CWA Legislative Conference. Along with Manny Trujillo of LANL, Jelger Kalmijn of UCSD, and Rodney Orr of UCSB, Colvin visited several Congressional offices, as well as DOE HQ. The UPTE team was asking that Congress:
-- delay or slow down the transition to the new corporate contractor at LANL to allow employees more time to understand and decide among their options for retirement plans, particularly since numerous questions remain as to whether the new contractor's site-specific pension plan is really "substantially equivalent" to UCRP as was required in the LANL Request for Proposals (RFP);
-- pressure DOE to write a different RFP for the LLNL management contract, so that LLNL employees will not have to face the same dreary choice between retaining their vested interest in UCRS and retaining their employment, and will not have to face being converted to "at-will" status.
Here's how Colvin summarizes the three major accomplishments of the trip:
1. We got agreement on concerted and cooperative effort on our issues from both Senators from both states (California and New Mexico), as well as from the key legislators in both parties in the House. In fact, by the time we showed up at Senator Feinstein's (D-CA) office in the afternoon of the second day, the key staffer there had already talked to the Legislative Director from Senator Bingaman's (D-NM) office with whom we had talked the day before. All the legislators are now working together on our behalf.
2. We spent two hours with Tyler Przbylek, the DOE official who is the decision authority on the LLNL contract bidding. He conceded that the LLNL RFP does not have to be identical to the LANL RFP, and expressed interest in finding some way to accommodate our concerns in the LLNL RFP.
3. After much discussion, and an hour-long meeting with the CWA legal staff, we decided to file a lawsuit, and seek immediate injunctive relief, to stop the LANL transition. UPTE's attorneys advise us that the choice being offered LANL employees in the transition may violate as many as three federal laws. We informed all the officials we visited in DC, including Mr. Przbylek, that we would possibly be taking this action. UPTE will hold a news conference at the time the suit is filed, probably in the next couple of weeks.
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Watchdog group sues LANL for ‘right to know’
Last Update: 03/24/2006 8:07:54 AM
By: Associated Press
SANTA FE (AP) - A Santa Fe nuclear watchdog group is suing to learn more about the future of Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Nuclear Watch New Mexico sued the Energy Department and the National Nuclear Security Administration to force the federal agencies to produce documents under the Freedom of Information Act.
Nuclear Watch wants to see the lab’s ten-year comprehensive site plans for 2003 through 2006. A government spokesman says such plans are a security matter.
Nuclear Watch director Jay Coghlan says the documents typically include plans for new buildings and plutonium-pit-production rates.
Pits are the triggers of nuclear weapons.
Thursday, March 23, 2006
File this news story under...
Submitted by Anonymous:
File this news story under...
Geeze, why don't we just go ahead and invite them to run our Nuke Labs too?
U.S. Hiring Hong Kong Co. to Scan Nukes - AP News
WASHINGTON (AP) - In the aftermath of the Dubai ports
Bush administration is hiring a Hong Kong conglomerate
to help detect
nuclear materials inside cargo passing through the
Bahamas to the
United States and elsewhere.
Safety Gains At LANL: Are They Sustainable?
Board Hails Safety Gains At LANL
BY JOHN ARNOLD Journal Staff Writer
(Publication:Journal Santa Fe Section; Date:Mar 23, 2006; Section:Front Page; Page Number:1)
LOS ALAMOS — A federal safety oversight board on Wednesday praised safety improvements at Los Alamos National Laboratory following a lab shutdown in 2004.
But members of the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board also questioned the sustainability of new safety initiatives as a new manager prepares to take over LANL operations.
And a board staff member expressed concerns about recent federal investigations into safety lapses that faulted some of the same underlying problems that led to the 2004 shutdown.
The DNFSB was in Los Alamos to hear from the current and incoming lab directors and National Nuclear Security Administration officials on the status of safety programs at the lab, as well as plans for ensuring safe operations in the future.
“The sustainability (of safety programs) is a concern — not lapsing back into old practices, old ways,” said board member Joseph Bader.
A new company called Los Alamos National Security will take over lab management June 1.
The head of the U.S. Department of Energy’s NNSA, which funds and oversees lab operations, told the board that the new contract provides a financial incentive for safety improvements.
“Los Alamos National Security has the potential to earn nearly a half billion dollars in fees over the next seven years,” NNSA Administrator Linton Brooks said. “In return, I expect them to provide dramatic improvement in internal operations, including safety. And I expect that improved performance to happen immediately.”
Current lab director Robert Kuckuck said he has seen marked improvement in safety at the lab since he came on board 10 months ago.
He praised lab workers for taking the initiative to make their work environments safer, pointing to a recent incident in which a lab technician was briefly exposed to acid while working alone in the lab. The worker was not injured, but reported to her supervisor that she was exposed because she had not followed lab procedures.
Kuckuck views that as a sign that employees are taking safety more seriously.
“Because this laboratory has been under siege. It’s been under fear, and speaking up has not been something people have done readily,” Kuckuck said. “And yet, she came in and spoke up.”
But DNFSB technical director Kent Fortenberry questioned why recent federal investigations found some of the same underlying problems that preceded the 2004 lab shutdown. For example, a DOE investigation into a July 2005 contamination accident that spread radioactive americium-241 off lab property faulted lax safety controls and “a significant level of complacency.”
NNSA’s Los Alamos site office manager, Ed Wilmot, acknowledged there is work to be done.
“It just takes time to change individual attitudes,” he said.
[Interim Director Kuckuck can take considerable satisfaction in his sane approach to re-establishing an atmosphere of calm at the Laboratory after the previous Director's benighted shutdown in 2004. Removing the abusive climate of fear and intimidation is the first step on the way to recovery from Nanos' actions. An institution like LANL, with some 10,000 employees, some of which carry out very dangerous activities with dangerous materials, will never achieve--honestly--zero instances of safety missteps (or security, or accounting, for that matter) in the course of a year. Yet the "half billion dollars in fees over the next seven years" that Linton Brooks touts as a reason for expecting "dramatic improvement" in safety practices--"immediately," no less--from Bechtel (LANS) must be monitored closely, so that they aren't just part of a corporate, glossy-brochure, coverup. -Editor.]
Lack of LANS board home purchases in Los Alamos
Letter from the 3/23/2006 LANL NewsBulletin:
March 21, 2006
Lack of LANS board home purchases in Los Alamos
I have heard a rumor going around (maybe someone else can verify it) that most of the Los Alamos National Security, LLC executive team will be living in Santa Fe rather than Los Alamos. (I don't know the exact numbers, but that would probably be very telling to hear.) I certainly do not begrudge my coworkers who have made that decision. However, I think the message it sends from the executive team is that they really don't care about the average Los Alamos-based worker and what it is like to live in this town. I am sure their spouses, especially if they aren't going to work for the Lab, would probably prefer to live in more of a city environment like Santa Fe. Welcome to the club.
There are decisions made at the Lab that significantly impact life here in town. If you doubt that, just consider the impact that the new security posts will have, closing off access to the ski hill and the Jemez. By not living in this town, how could they possibly know what impacts their decisions will have on the community? They certainly won't have to live with the ramifications.
If this wasn't such a company town, this wouldn't be that big of a deal to me. However, I think this sends a message of indifference on the part of the Lab executive team for the community life of our little town. I believe it was Machiavelli who stated that the best way to lead your people is by living with them so you get to know and understand them. I am disappointed ... I guess I just expected better [from] our new management team.
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
Bechtel Cited For Safety Violations on Hanford Waste Treatment Plant
Submitted by Anonymous:
Bechtel Cited For Safety Violations on Hanford Waste Treatment Plant
The Energy Daily
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
Adding to the woes of the already troubled project, the Energy Department last week proposed a $198,000 fine against Bechtel National Inc. for multiple safety violations in the development of the massive high-level radioactive waste treatment plant that the contractor is building at DOE’s Hanford site in eastern Washington.
The preliminary notice of violation cited a host of violations occurring over the period between May 2002 and September 2005 that contributed to major delays in the multi-billion-dollar project, which has been struggling to resolve questions about its structural integrity and ability to withstand projected earthquakes, among other issues.
DOE said the violations at the Waste Treatment and Immobilization Plant (WTP) include failure to abide by design codes documented in facility safety requirements; failure to abide by inspection requirements for radioactive waste processing vessels; failure to utilize correct suppliers to fabricate certain components; and calculation errors resulting in inconsistencies in structural steel design requirements.
The department said the proposed penalty could have been as large as $330,000, but was reduced due to aggressive corrective actions taken by Bechtel to prevent recurrence of the problems.
In particular, DOE officials praised Bechtel’s forthright acknowledge-ment that many of the safety violations resulted from a "less than adequate nuclear safety and quality culture" among WTP employees.
"It is our belief that if this broader issue is not fully addressed, similar weaknesses will likely manifest themselves in almost every other area of your operations," said Stephen Sohinki, director of DOE’s Office of Price-Anderson Enforcement, in a March 16 letter to Jim Henschel, Bechtel’s WTP project director, detailing the safety violations.
Sohinki noted that at a February 7 conference with Bechtel on the safety violations, the contractor said that its initiatives to improve the safety and quality culture would be fully implemented by June.
However, Sohinki said that, "recognizing that significant improvement in nuclear safety culture at WTP will take time," DOE officials view Bechtel’s initiatives as simply a first step in the process to bring about improved safety practices on the project.
Consequently, Sohinki said his office wanted to meet with Bechtel sometime in June to check on progress and see what further steps should be taken to improve the safety culture. "At that meeting, you should be prepared to discuss compensatory actions taken and planned to assure that work can continue to be done safely while the acknowledged safety culture issues at WTP are addressed," he said.
While blaming Bechtel for poor safety culture, the DOE safety citation also indirectly acknowledged that the department’s effort to fast-track the design and construction of the first-of-its-kind WTP project contributed to the safety issues. Notably, Bechtel was cited for "schedule pressure-induced violations," where Bechtel engineers cut corners on documentation in order to meet schedule milestones set by DOE.
På Gjensyn -- Until we meet again
Dear Colleagues and Friends:
It has been an honor and a privilege to have been associated with
this Laboratory for the past 24.5 years. I wish all of you the
greatest success in whatever the future may bring.
In particular, I hope that Los Alamos National Laboratory continues
to be an attractive and rewarding place to do some of the best
science in the world.
For my part, I am beginning a new career at the Center for the
Physics of Geological Processes at the University of Oslo, in Norway.
I leave immediately (3/26), and Susan will follow in the summer. We
will deeply miss all of our friends in the communities of Los Alamos
and Northern New Mexico while we are in Oslo, but hope that our path
will bring us back home once again someday.
Galen Gisler firstname.lastname@example.org
If you do nothing before April 14...
Please post this anonymously.
All current LANL employees with the option to retire should read the all
LANL employee memo released late Tuesday 3/21. It regards instructions to UC
to "cash out" your accumulated vacation or to transfer it to LANS. The form
must be submitted by April 14!!!
This totally violates the promise of 60 days (till May 15) to make
decisions. If you do nothing before April 14, your UC vacation will be
automatically "cashed out." If you had been considering transferring to
LANS, you will arrive with NO vacation accrual. If, on the other hand, you
direct that your UC vacation be transferred to LANS, but subsequently
(between April 14 and May 15) decide to retire from UC instead, it appears
your previous determination holds, and your UC vacation disappears!! I
recommend vociferous objection to both the LANL/UC transition team and to
NNSA as violating the 60 day guarantee.
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
My $2300.00 laptop is useless for the purpose that it was supposed to serve
I noticed a recent addition to the Running list of wasteful activities at LANL
sidebar link on this blog, submitted by I find it interesting that the level of service of IT support at LANL has degraded this significantly since I last worked there.
OK, I'm fed up with something.
Just got a new computer. Can't hook it to the network until it's "properly" set up.
The guy who does the approved set up is so busy (doing computer setups, among other things) that he estimates he can't get to me for about a MONTH! This, because of rules coming down from above that specify that before a computer may be connected to the LANL network, it has to have this, that, and the other installed on it, whether this, that and the other are even going to be used. In my case, I will only use my computer (it's a laptop) for demonstrating some engineering application in meetings. I don't need all the Enterprise crap, because I use my desktop computer for that.
Further, the network jacks in our conference room won't work unless the computer (or whatever) plugged into them have an IP address for our group's subnet. Which means, anybody who comes from elsewhere can't use his computer in a presentation if it requires network connectivity.
I understand the need for network protection, but some of these policies are coming down from God Knows Where, from people who couldn't care less what I actually use my computer for, or whether I get any work done.
As it stands, my $2300.00 laptop is useless for the purpose that it was supposed to serve.
I sure hope LANS will take a look at the Network Naziism going on around here, and make some sensible changes.
There are still plenty of critical questions that been given no definitive answers by either UC, LANS, or DOE
A well thought out comment from "good2go" on the
_________________________________________Most staff have received both their LANS employment offer and their UC pension information in the mail. However, it seems to me that LANS/DOE have giving out only the bare minimum of info to help LANL staff decide their pension future. And even at this late date, there are still plenty of critical questions that been given no definitive answers by either UC, LANS, or DOE. A suspicious person might wonder if they designed it to be this way.Nevertheless, the May 15th "drop dead" date is approaching andeveryone must soon make up their minds. I thought it might behelpful to post some important links and review some possiblerisk/reward scenarios. For starters, get a copy of the UCRS Benefits Percentage chart. This chart has years of Service Creditalong the Y-axis and years of Age Credit along the X-axis. I'm amazed at the number of LANL staff who don't have a copy of this chart. This critical chart should have been included in thepackage which UC just mailed out. If you don't have one, hereis a link for obtaining this chart, plus some links to otheruseful tools for performing some pension analysis:------------------------------
***** UCRP Pension Benefits Table *****
***** UC Retirement Plan *****
***** Compound Interest Calculator *****
With these tools in hand, let's have some fun! The first thing
you'll note about the Pension Percentage chart is that the percentage
for most employees goes up much faster with increasing age than it
does for years of service. This is because the chart is based on
actuarial tables that indicate your odds of death are going up
quickly as you approach the big "Six-O". Drats! I would rather
not know that.
Now, let's take a particularly case -- a poor fellow named Joe who
is a youngster at 55, but has 30 years of service credit with LANL.
Assume this fellow is a TSM who averages around $105 K per year and
he plans on walking out of LANL at the point at which Age Credit
stops increasing, which is age 60. If Joe truly believes that
the LANS TCP1 pension will always track the UC pension, he can
plan on leaving at age 60 with about 87% of his HAPC. This is
very, very enticing. However, the risks are not insignificant that
LANS may decides to reduce payouts rates in the next few years. I
conjecture that the odds of LANS doing so are much higher than the
odds are of UCRS taking this action. I base this on the fact that
the UCRS pool is huge and there would be strong political forces
which would counteract any desire for UCRS to take this action. The
same cannot be said for LANS. Therefore, by taking the LANS TCP1
route to achieve his goal, Joe has taken on greater risks but has
seen no increase in his rewards. (See DOE "substantial equivalent"
If Joe wants to minimize this particular risk he could decide to
lock-in his current UCRS assets by going inactive. By doing so,
he'll only get Age Credit for the next five years, but no build-up
of pension Service Credit. Thus, when he retires at age 60, he'll
get 75% of his HAPC, and not 87%. However, it is my understanding
that the UC COLA increases would be added to Joe's HAPC for the
intervening years between 55 to 60. Let's assume a 3% COLA figure.
Let's also assume that LANL raises will be at the same 3 % amount.
When Joe retires, his effective UC HAPC will then be about $122 K.
His UCRS lock-in of 75% will then buy him an annual payment of
$122 K x 75% = $ 91.5 K per year. If LANS keeps its TCP1 promise,
he would have been given $122 K x 87.5% = $106,750 per year. By
taking the inactive route, Joe has a shortfall of about $15 K/year.
Perhaps Joe can make this up with the TCP2 401K plan. Assuming
Joe is willing to take a drop in his current lifestyle by $10 K
per year and LANS matches this with a 9.5% match, he'll sock away
about $20 K per year into a retirement 401K. Assuming a reasonable
7% compounded return on this investment, he'll leave at age 60 with
an additional $123 K. If he invests this money after age 60 and
makes a more conservative 6 % return (after all, he's now in his
retirement years), he'll make an additional $7,380 per year during
his retirement. While this only covers for about half of the $15 K
shortfall, note that Joe has acquired access to $123 K in principal
from the 401K he now owns, and yet he only had to contribute $50 K
to this fund. The remaining $73 K was a "freebie" that came from
returns and the LANS matching cash. However, as with the TCP1 route,
Joe has taken on increasing risk via his 401K investments in the
markets, and yet has seen little in the way of additional rewards.
(See DOE "substantial equivalent" clause).
Another exercise that you might find interesting is to look at
calculations involving a UCRS lump-sum pay out. You can do these
calculations using the "UC Benefit Estimator" and the "Compound
Interest Calculator" links shown above. The primary advantages
of getting the lump-sum (which won't be available with TCP1)
include: (1) the ability to remove reliance on both a shrinking
pension pool and the investment acumen of the TCP1 trustees, and
(2) the chance to possibly pass on portions of your retirement
lump-sum to your kids. If you're worried about out-living your
lump-sum, you can always decide to use a portion of the lump-sum to
purchase an annuity. For an additional expense, you can also get
an inflation protected annuity and a spousal protected annuity.
Of course, if you take the lump-sum you'll pay a lot more for
medical coverage during your retirement years. Then again, LANS
may be playing us all for fools and suddenly decide to pull most
of the retiree medical benefits for all employees in the next
few years. It would not be unexpected, since this is what most
of corporate America has been doing to their retirees.
Other unknowns that can be thrown into this pension analysis are
* LANS TCP1 staff may have to contribute significant amounts to the
new pension (say, around 5 % of salary?). Those who lock-in with
UCRS won't have to make any payments into a pension fund. They'll
no longer be UC employees and won't be members of the LANS pension.
* No one knows how much of our current assets in UCRS will be
transferred over to LANS TCP1. It is unlikely you'll know this
before the May 15th deadline. Thus, you'll have no information
on the *SINGLE MOST CRITICAL* data point in this whole analysis!!!
* Many people at LANL "game" the system by jacking up their HAPC
any way they can during the last few years of service. Since the
HAPC is a high 3 year average, taking on a Group Leader, Dep. Group
Leader, or other management positions can make a HUGE difference
in your retirement income. You don't even have to carry a manager
position very long to go this route. It's one of the reasons that
I think LANL has had such lousy managers over the years. People
who have no business being managers take this route simply to
"juice-up" their retirement benefits when they leave a few years
later. Those who have plans to play this game for a big, fat,
retirement income will probably be strongly inclined to follow the
* If LANS TCP1 pension is under-funded, there is a chance that
the TCP1 trustees will take the risky route of "juicing up" the
pension returns by turning over a portion of the pension assets
(say, 25%) to private equity management. The private equity
investment guys will promise high returns (like 20%), but it's
quickly becoming a fool's game. Many pension are going this route
to make up for short falls. For more info, check out the latest
issue of Forbes (Mar 13). It has a front cover with private equity
guys stealing wheel-barrows of cash from the pensions. Forbes
equates the shady actions of these guys with the type of things
the Mafia once did with pension funds. One of the biggest and
shadiest of the private equity managers is Carlyle Group (sound
familiar?). If you're interested in this subject, the Forbes
cover has the title "Bubble Buyout" and the article is entitled
"Private Inequity". It's a very interesting article. This is
a risk which I believe will be much greater for the LANS TCP1
pension than for the UCRS pension. The UCRS pension tends to
have lots of people who monitor its actions very closely.
Finally, I have heard some staff who seem to think that going
the TCP1 roll-over route, rather than the inactive route, will
somehow buy them some senority "brownie points" when we have a
future RIF. This is delusional thinking. When the RIF comes,
none of this will matter. Your most important protection during
the RIF will be to avoid being at the Wrong Place (ie, organization
or project) at the Wrong Time (ie, when your well-liked supervisor
has just left and the new supervisor doesn't know you or like
you very much). This is the lesson I learned after talking to
some of the people who got RIF'ed back in 1995. The fact that
you are a long-term LANL employee doesn't matter much in a RIF.
In fact, LANS may actually be more inclined to get rid of the
high cost, long term TCP1 staff, rather than the younger and
cheaper TCP2 staff. The only way that having a long-term record
with LANL will matter is in the area of severance pay. Current
UC severance policy is very generous to long-term LANL employees.
However, it remains to be seen how generous this policy will be
once LANS management takes over after June 1st.
In all of this analysis, it has become very apparent to me that
DOE is trying to shift future risks away from DOE and onto the
shoulders of the staff at LANL. However, even though we take on
increased risks, we don't seem to benefit from any chance of
increased rewards. LANL, and soon LLNL, are following a well
worn path that has become all too common throughout America.
Only those at the very top of the system seem to benefit from
this ugly process.
From the 3/21/2006 LANL NewsBulletiun:
On Thursday, March 16, the University of California Board of Regents approved a series of actions aimed at ensuring the stability of the UC Retirement Plan, including resumption of UCRP contributions effective July 2007.
In a letter to LANL employees dated March 9, 2006, UC Vice President for Laboratory Management S. Robert Foley said, "As the proposed effective date is after the transition date to LANS, and since LANL employees who transfer to the new contractor will no longer be active members of UCRP at that time, they will not be directly impacted. In addition, the proposed action to reinstate contributions will not affect retirees or LANL employees who choose to go inactive during the transition."
The Regents asked for a July 2007 start date and a multi-year contribution strategy in which contribution rates will increase gradually over time.
Both the University and UC employees will be asked to make contributions for the ongoing funding of the UCRP for the first time since the early 1990s.
For represented employees, the reinstatement of contributions to the UCRP is subject to the collective bargaining process. Reinstatement of contributions also is subject to the availability of funding and completion of the state budget process.
Keeping the UCRP fully funded ensures future retirement benefits for all UCRP members and avoids the funding problems that have affected so many other pension plans across the nation.
The Regents are expected to hear specific recommendations as to how costs will be shared between active UCRP members and the University, possibly as soon as the May 2006 Regents meeting.
To stay informed, go to UC's special Web site
, "The Future of the UC Retirement Plan," which is updated with the latest information. The site also is accessible via the At Your Service Web site
Monday, March 20, 2006
Pension bill article in New York Times
Saturday, March 18, 2006
The Energy Department routinely issues substantial fines it isn't even allowed to collect.
Federal law exempts the national nuclear laboratories from most financial liability, but the Energy Department has issued some $2.5 million in fines against Los Alamos, Livermore and Argonne national laboratories since 2000. The fines - issued and waived in the same sentence - involved 31 different workers who inhaled or touched radioactive or toxic materials.
In 2004, Energy's National Nuclear Safety Department fined Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico $770,000 for five separate violations after two workers were exposed to dangerously high levels of plutonium. The violation notices add in parentheses: "Waived by Statute."
"This is kind of an exercise in absurdity," said Greg Mello, who heads the Los Alamos Study Group, a nuclear disarmament activist organization in Albuquerque.
Even so, the Energy Department includes the fines in its annual reports to Congress and often announces them in press releases.
Last year, Congress tightened the rules so that as nuclear laboratory contracts are renewed, the fine waivers are eliminated. Eventually, said DOE spokesman Jeff Sherwood, nuclear labs will have to pay imposed fines.
The reason DOE issued fines it could not collect was to show what the problems were and how bad, he said: "A $1 million fine says something different than a $10,000 fine."
Friday, March 17, 2006
In a Positive Light
You may use my name in regards to this posting. I have read your blog for the last few months. I’ve seen a lot of complaints about how terrible LANL is to work for and that new contractor will be just as bad.
Over the years, things have varied—I must admit. However, I must say that I am proud to be affiliated with Los Alamos National Laboratory. I was hired as a high-school co-op in 1986. I worked half-time. I had not inclination of going to college. I worked for the training group. The people I worked for encouraged me to go to school. The group and the Lab supported my education. If I did not have that type of support, I don’t think I would be where I am today. Thanks to the many good people at the Laboratory, I went on to get my Master of Arts degree and set my sight on a Ph.D.
I stayed on with LANL as student, a contractor, and then a fulltime employee. I had some setbacks, but the setbacks never persuaded me to have a negative viewpoint of the Laboratory.
I have worked with several groups—and I have had several mentors. The people are what make this Laboratory unique. And for every one negative, I can give several positives. Yes, we are going through some significant changes and the fear of the unknown is what is driving us to the stress we experience while we work.
Rumors run rampant, but remember, we should close one ear to them until we actually SEE what is going to happen and not assume. I left the Laboratory for a year. If people want to complain, then here is a complaint. I worked for a private company in Omaha, Nebraska. I worked hard and the company could not keep me busy enough—so I was placed on copier duty for 20 hours a week (for five weeks straight—I guess this is a new way of saying I was kept “productive” at work). I ended up quitting. I told the company that they were wasting my time and their money to pay me to run a copy machine. I returned to LANL as a captive contractor in late September 2005. I am glad to be back because I have enjoyed the work and the group that gave me the opportunity. I am learning new things and the people—as I have stated—have been very supportive and they go out of their way to help me learn new things.
So, until things are definitive, we will hear the complaints and the rumors. However, until everything is said and done—remember, it is only a rumor. We all must be patient during this time of high stress and heavy anticipation—go out for a walk, do something with friends and family—refocus your stress to other, positive and motivating things. And, maybe see the change as an opportunity…
I will be forever grateful to the people and the Laboratory for their support and the opportunities that I have been provided over the years.
No, I thought--something else...
Submitted by Anonymous:
______________________________While watching Anastasio speak during one of his "all-hands" meetings, I kept trying to figure out WHO or WHAT he resembled. Mxxxxx said, "He looks kind of like a teddy bear..."
No, I thought--something else...Then, it came to me! An EWOK! Compare the EWOK's picture next to one of Anastasio--see the resemblence?
Who's looking at what
I still find it interesting to occasionally check in on what people are looking at on the blog. The picture at the left, for example, shows somebody at the UC Office of the President running a Windows box at a measly 800X600 resolution: must be a manager of some kind -- real computer users invariably run at higher resolutions. In any event, this person came into the blog doing a google search on "uc regents contributions ucrp", and ended up reading thehttp://lanl-the-real-story.blogspot.com/2006/02/message-from-uptes-president.html
post. I wonder if UC is starting to get nervous about unions?
Thursday, March 16, 2006
Watch ordered for plutonium facility at lab
ROGER SNODGRASS, email@example.com, Nuclear operations at the plutonium facility have been on standby mode for nearly three weeks, according to an official of Los Alamos National Laboratory.
A site report by a federal safety agency, released today, confirmed that the laboratory has established a continuous fire watch and placed Technical Area 55 in "standby (Mode 2)," because of an "emergent concern over operability of sprinkler heads" in the plutonium processing building PF-4.
LANS offer letter problems
Could you post the following for me anonymously?
"I was wondering how many people found glaring errors in their LANS offer letters. I received mine today. I am currently in the TR Directorate, D-Division, D-4 group. My offer letter states that I have been assigned to the Business Services Directorate, Information Resources Management Division, Record Management Group. This is completely wrong! I realize there have been re-organizations BUT the TR directorate and D-Division are staying around from what I understand. I realize this *could* just be a typo but if I sign the offer letter, legally I will be held to whats contained within it.
Luckily, I terminated from the laboratory today, but I'm sure if others run across such glaring errors there will be much confusion and headache. I hope that I am one of the few. Good luck to everyone during the transition....it seems like you are going to need it!"
By Rebecca Trounson, Times Staff Writer
University of California President Robert C. Dynes, under fire for an executive compensation controversy at the public university, on Wednesday announced steps aimed at strengthening controls over UC pay practices and reiterated his commitment to fixing the problems.
Addressing UC's Board of Regents at the beginning of a two-day meeting at UCLA, a somber-looking Dynes said he was "intent on … tightening up the system so the things that have happened do not happen again."
The university is facing a number of investigations into its compensation policies and practices, after media reports that it has spent millions of dollars in recent years on bonuses and other perquisites for top administrators without fully disclosing that spending. During the same period, UC has repeatedly raised student fees.
New retirement flowchart
LANS meets northern new mexico
Submitted by Anonymous:
______________________________ I saw some comment earlier in the blog w.r.t. "wonder what LANS willdo when they find out what NNM is like?"So, today is a first example. The UC "decision" letters were mailedout, along with the offers. So, at my house, we could expect fourletters. I got my "decision" letter, my wife got the offer. Myneighbor got my wife's "decision" letter. As to where my offer is,well, who knows? I wonder who's reading my offer letter right now :-)LANS just put something like 10,000 big white envelopes into the NNMpostal system. I guess you could call this an impulse. Will we get afinite or infinite response? It will be interesting to see how long ittakes for the postal system to sort itself out.Just a bit of humor, we need it.On another note, I read that our trade deficit is nowca. $900B. Hmm. In 1970, we were the world's creditor by a bigmargin. We are now, by a huge margin, the world's debtor. Think aboutit -- all that debt, piling up for a generation. Now, given that wehave been playing the grasshopper to the rest of the world's ants, andwe have in just 30 years pissed away a current-account surplus thattook over a century to accumulate, why on earth did anyone in theirright mind expect a nice, easy, defined-benefits-pension life in thenext 30 years? Where was the money supposed to come from? I can'tfigure it. What we have in store for us is a future of repaying allthose loans we took out for VCRs, cell phones, and gameboys. Bummer.So, we may feel like we are put-upon in some special way with thepension, but, in fact, we're just now catching up to the rest of thecountry -- lots of people lost their nice pension, long ago.
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
By Betsy Mason
CONTRA COSTA TIMES
The University of California will partner with Bechtel National for a joint bid to manage Lawrence Livermore Laboratory if UC Regents vote to enter the competition.
In an unscripted moment at the regents meeting in Los Angeles today, regent Gerald Parsky said UC and Bechtel previously agreed that if they won the contract to manage Los Alamos National Laboratory, and the regents approved a bid for Livermore Lab, they would partner for that competition as well.
UC NAMES MILLER INTERIM DIRECTOR
X-Mailer: QUALCOMM Windows Eudora Version 18.104.22.168As interim director of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Miller will receive a salary of $369,700. (This salary is the same as his predecessor, Mike Anastasio, as well as the salary for Los Alamos National Laboratory Director Robert Kuckuck. Miller currently receives a salary of $307,000.) Miller will continue to be a member of the University of California Senior Management Group and he will participate in the Senior Management Supplemental Benefit Plan, which provides for an annual 5 percent of salary contribution to one or more of the University's retirement plans on his behalf.
Date: Wed, 15 Mar 2006 14:23:09 -0800
To: E-Line <firstname.lastname@example.org>
From: Public Affairs Office <email@example.com>
Subject: UC NAMES MILLER INTERIM DIRECTOR
MILLER WILL GIVE ALL-HANDS TALK TODAY AT 3 P.M.
The University of California today announced the appointment of George H. Miller, an employee of the University for 34 years, a nuclear weapons and national security expert, and a leader in large facilities management, as interim director of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. UC President Robert C. Dynes, acting with the approval of Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman and the UC Board of Regents, made the appointment.
Miller will hold an all-hands meeting for employees at 3 p.m. today in the Bldg. 123 auditorium. All employees are invited. The talk also will be broadcast live on Lab TV channel 2 and Webcast via the MyLLNL News page, < https://www-r.llnl.gov/servlet/page?_pageid=54,119&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL>https://www-r.llnl.gov/servlet/page?_pageid=54,119&_dad=portal&_schema=PORTAL (click on CNN Live Online or Fox Live Online under My News Links). Hearing-impaired employees may watch the presentation in Bldg. 571, room 2003, where an interpreter will be available.
Miller will take office immediately and is expected to serve through the remainder of the University's current contract to manage the Laboratory. The contract with DOE runs through Sept. 30, 2007. Miller replaces Michael Anastasio, who is now head of the Los Alamos National Security LLC, which was recently awarded the contract to manage Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Upon making the announcement, Dynes issued a letter to Laboratory employees. It can be accessed at https://www-r.llnl.gov/portal/intranet/specialannouncements/2006/03_MAR/Miller_31506.pdf
"George Miller has shown tremendous leadership and expertise in nuclear weapons design and the management of large-scale facilities," Dynes said. "As the Laboratory prepares for the forthcoming competition, George is the right person to lead this Laboratory and the dedicated men and women who serve our nation.
"Livermore Laboratory continues to be an integral part of the nation's stockpile stewardship program while also being a leader in homeland security efforts. With George at the helm, the Laboratory will continue moving forward and providing a great national service to our country."
Miller has been an associate director since 1985 and associate director at large for the Laboratory since June 2005. He joined the Laboratory in 1972 as a physicist. In 1980, he was promoted to A-Division leader and program leader for all thermonuclear design and computational physics development. In 1985, he became associate director for Nuclear Design. Miller left LLNL in 1989 to serve as the special scientific adviser on weapons activities to then Secretary of Energy Adm. James D. Watkins. He returned to the Laboratory in 1990 and went on to serve as associate director for Defense and Nuclear Technologies, associate director for National Security and associate director for National Ignition Facility programs.
"I am truly honored to lead this great Lab," Miller said. "I have known and worked with all of the Laboratory's previous directors and I have a tremendous amount of respect for their accomplishments.
"Our future is bright because of the dedicated workforce here at LLNL. I look forward to leading the Lab through the contract transition process and continuing to ensure good stewardship of the public's trust."
Throughout his tenure at LLNL, Miller has been responsible for all the major activities in the Lab's nuclear weapons program, including research, development, testing, system analysis, weapons effects, weapons engineering, stockpile surveillance and arms control. He has been a major participant in the development of DOE's Stockpile Stewardship Program. He also served as chair of the Laboratory's Council on National Security and is a member of the United States Strategic Command Strategic Advisory Group.
More on Miller will appear in Friday's Newsline. A summary of compensation-related information for LLNL Interim Director George Miller is available at < http://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/news/salaryactions.html > www.universityofcalifornia.edu/news/salaryactions.html
By Jayne Tonowski and Jim Wolford
Welcome to the first edition of the Sentinel for 2006. As we write this, events that may determine our future as employees continue to unfold in Washington DC and at Los Alamos National Laboratory. The experience of University of California (UC) employees at LANL during its transition still serves as the best indication of what’s in store for us here at LLNL. While the situation is still evolving day-by-day, we feel the need to give you our current best assessment.
[...]Full Article (pdf)
A comment by "stokebackmtn", taken from the
post, in which it was suggested that word of LANL's current environment be spread:
__________________________________________We certainly owe it to our colleagues to warn them about what we have become. Science here is done and it is our duty to let everyone know that. No other careers should be needlessly squandered. It is better for the bright young minds coming out of grad school to find environments that reward excellence rather than crush it with mind numbing bureaucracy.This old chemist is just lucky to be old enough to take my lumps and my lump sum and move on. But not before I shout it from the roof tops that this national treasure has been plundered by fools, bureaucrats, and greedy politicians.
UPTE-CWA Professional Staff E-Bulletin
Subject: UC benefits proposals would destroy our retirement plan
X-Scanned-By: MIMEDefang 2.39
UPTE-CWA Professional Staff E-Bulletin
Dear UC Professional Staff Member:
You may have heard rumors about proposed changes to our retirement and benefits plans. UC has placed faculty and staff pensions and healthcare benefits firmly in its crosshairs.
Preserving staff pensions and benefits is the top priority of University Professional and Technical Employees (UPTE-CWA). We have union contracts covering 12,000 of us and want to work with unrepresented professionals to preserve our careers at UC.
Through dialogue with UC for our represented employees we have obtained more detailed information on what UC administrators are contemplating:
q Pension Contributions: This week UC administrators will seek authority from the Regents to begin employee pension contributions. (See http://www.upte.org/benefitspetition.pdf) They have stated that they intend to require contributions for unrepresented employees on July 1, 2007. UC claims the pension fund needs a 16% of salary contribution to remain fully funded but it has not made clear how much of this they propose that employees pay.
q Retiree Health Benefits: UC administrators are quoting a financial reporting regulation to estimate a $7.6 billion liability for retiree medical costs. They have not stated if they intend to pay off this liability, reduce benefits, or pass on the cost to employees and retirees.
q Two-Tier Pension: UC is floating a “two-tier” pension plan that would exclude employees hired after July 1, 2007 from our current pension plan and put them into a reduced pension plan that would include less of a defined benefit and more of a 401k-style defined contribution plan.
q Employee Benefits Costs: UC's initial projection is that it will cut the employer contribution to our healthcare costs from 94% to 67%, increasing our average monthly premium to $337.
UC will make formal proposals about our pensions and benefits at the Regents’ meeting at UCLA on March 15-16. UPTE is committed to protecting the careers of all UC employees, whether we’re covered by a union contract or not. If you’re concerned, too, and want to learn more, please visit www.upte.org/benefitspetition.html.
Let's get together and protect our careers. After years of small pay increases, we can hardly afford cuts to our pensions. Those of us in UPTE that do not yet have a union contract want to do all we can to preserve our pension and benefits. By collaborating with those who have the added protection of a contract we will strengthen our efforts.
Sue Cross, Senior Learning Skills Counselor, UC Irvine
Cristi Hendry, Principal Analyst I, UC Riverside
Lisa Kermish, Senior Administrative Analyst, UC Berkeley
Cindy Kimmick, Programmer Analyst III, UC Los Angeles
Joan Lichterman, Principal Editor, UC Office of the President
Susan Orlofsky, Senior Editor, UC San Diego
Janet M. Peerson, Senior Statistician, UC Davis
Lynne Sheehan, Programmer Analyst III, UC Santa Cruz
John Spring, Computer Systems Engineer II, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
Elizabeth Wilks, Accountant II, UC Santa Barbara
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
HR LANS Telephone Number Correction
I got an e-mail from my contact at HR LANS and she asked if you could change the 1-800 # that is posted to It is 1-888-505-9292
. The other 1-800 # is wrong.
Post that I am talking about is this:
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
LANS response to questions attachedSubmitted by Ted:
LANS EMPLOYEE COMMUNICATION
The ISP that I use for the web server that supports this blog suddenly dropped its service to all of its customers in the Santa Fe area. Until service is restored, none of the attachments referenced here that are on that server can be viewed.
LANL workers need to take the fight further afield.
Please post this anonymously.
LANL workers need to take the fight further afield.
Take out ads in Physics Today, Nature, etc. and explain how current and former scientists are getting screwed after devoting their careers to the DOE and national security.
Warn any new graduates or working scientists interested in employment at LANL (or LLNL) that no matter what is promised, everything can change in an instant with you left holding the bag.
Better to make an industry-level salary with substantially equivalent "benefits" complete with bonuses and stock options/purchase plans than to spend your career here and get pauperized by the DOE.
LANS response to questions attached
Submitted by Ted:
LANS EMPLOYEE COMMUNICATION
Following is from Page 37 (Section F: Employee Communication) of LANSBenefitProposal03032006
.ppt on the LASO site.
Where are the LANS "HR Help Desk", "Hotline", and "Small group forums"? The Transition Q&A is implemented.
"In coordination with the LANS, LLC Benefits & Pension Communication Plan:
- The LANS Transition Q&A web site will regularly address questions submitted via a variety of mechanisms (e-mail, mail, phone calls, hotline, questions forwarded from UC LANL, etc.)
- A LANS Transition HR Help Desk will be established and maintained to address questions and concerns.
- A LANS Transition Hotline will be established and maintained to address questions and concerns.
- Small group forums (less than 30 employees per session) will be held to provide UC LANL employees who could elect to retire, the opportunity to meet with LANS transition staff (HR, management personnel) to discuss their employment questions & concerns. Meetings will be coordinated by specific Tech Area or Division locations, and dates and times for those meetings will be scheduled to minimize disruption to normal work activities. In cases where employees cannot attend their specific Tech Area or Division meeting, make-up sessions will be conducted.
The hotline is available now since folks will be receiving their offer
letters which state that it is available. It is 1-888-505-9292. We will
also advertise that on the web. You can call the hotline to schedule a
meeting with someone to discuss your concerns or decisions that must be
made. Benefits Sessions will begin March 28, 29, 30 and we will also
have Benefits Q&A sessions the first 2 weeks of April to help employees.
Below is the full list of goals for the lab's 3-5 year strategic plan. I find the following amusing: Goal B states: Design and engineer [...] nuclear weapons. Immediately following that Goal C states: Be [...] the premier laboratory for nonproliferation...
From the DOE website: http://legacystory.apps.em.doe.gov/text/close/close8.htm
The definition of nonproliferation is "efforts to prevent or slow the spread of nuclear weapons and the materials and technologies used to produce them." Now I know this can be interpreted different ways and technically it means the spread to other countries (specifically those that don't have nuclear weapons), but to me it seems borderline contradictory.
3 - 5 Year Focus
|National Security Goals | Enabling Goals |
|Science-Based Prediction (Goal A) — Create an integrating core competency for science-based prediction of complex systems linking experiment, simulation and theory. |
|Nuclear Weapons (Goal B) — Design and engineer manufacturable and certifiable replacement nuclear weapons without new nuclear testing. |
|Nonproliferation (Goal C) — Be acknowledged as the premier laboratory for nonproliferation research and development. |
|Preferred Laboratory (Goal D) — Be the preferred laboratory for providing the defense, intelligence and homeland security communities with revolutionary, success- enabling science and technology. |
|Materials Science (Goal E) — Be the best materials science and technology lab in the world in support of our mission. |
Terry Wallace, Paul Follansbee, John Sarrao
|Energy Security (Goal F) — Use LANL expertise and capability to solve national problems in energy security. |
Terry Wallace, Charryl Berger, Dana Christensen
|Office of Science (Goal G) — Be a strategic partner of the Office of Science to benefit their national missions and the science-base critical to our national security missions. |
Terry Wallace, Don Rej
Presented for your amusement
One of the more florid
submissions that we've received in some while:
_______________________________________PLEASE POST ANONYMOUSLYTypical Corporate mendacity with Nonproductive "Illuminati" (Translation Buttosculators)Wake up, sheep; while you debate the "Substantially equivalent" crap, the typical 21st-century corporate model has descended on us with more than simply a PBX-style bang. It's actually more akin to a toxic-organic spill that's coating each of us---excepting, of course, those who successfully buttosculted themselves into positions of favor. (It's got to lightning-bolt each and every one of us who's not in-denial that there was barely the faint aroma of housecleaning occurring; and that fleeting vapor diffused into subolfactory concentrations within microseconds.)I suggest that what we have to look forward to, regardless of the perfectly carried-off mendacity about preserving the traditions of great science, is an increasingly oligarchic state of affairs, with periodic RIFS of the productive and burgeoning salaries/perks for the already mitotically active ruling class. Problematically, of course, is that quality of endeavor will not be protective, by comparison to nepotisic affiliation.Don't fret, it's just the transnational corporate model. We be privatized chillums. Oh, they'll wait until Domenici's gone, but after that, who's going to stop 'em??Respectfully submitted for your cheeful consideration.
Monday, March 13, 2006
TCP2 response posted at DOE/LASO website
Doug, if you think it's sufficiently newsworthy, please post the
The DOE/LASO transition website recently (today?) posted a response
to comments on items related to LANL inactive-vested transfers to
LANS and TCP2. The changes seem quite significant. Two changes deal
with giving these employees credit for years of service at LANL with
regards to medical insurance employer payments and employer
contribution levels to the 401(k). The third change is to allow an
option to leave accumulated sick leave with UC (which could then be
applied toward UC retirement for the next 120 days). This last item
seems to remove all penalties for "double dipping" and allows people
to keep their guaranteed job with LANS (i.e., at the same salary with
no need to apply for your old position).
The letter is athttp://www.doeal.gov/LASO/ContractTransition/default.html
I have been unable to verify what I heard today about a little-known
change affecting vested UCRP members who elect to become inactive as
of June 1. Supposedly, inactive vested UCRP members may elect
employer-assisted medical benefits (a la TCP1) upon declaring
retirement even after 120 days. My understanding was that UCRP had
previously required annuity draw within 120 days or no medical
benefits. My apologies if this is not a recent fact (or not a fact
at all) but it is new to me and is an important detail. Can someone
point me to a reference if it is true?
Message from Brooks Circulated at LLNL Today
LANL Employee Transferring Flow Chart
A transfer diagram
Trouble in Paradise?
From the 3/13/2006 LANL NewsBulletin:
Director's all-hands meeting cancelled
March 13, 2006
Director Bob Kuckuck's all-hands meeting scheduled for today was cancelled and will be rescheduled. The director notified employees of the cancellation in an all-employee e-mail
Sunday, March 12, 2006
Former lab director supports nuke plan
Doug, very interesting comment from Sidney Drell at the end of this article,
since he's on LANS LLC Board of Governors running LANL.
|Bush idea to redesign such weapons brings up concerns that they may be vulnerable to defects|
|LIVERMORE — An influential Pentagon adviser on nuclear weapons threw his support last week behind Bush administration plans to redesign the entire U.S. nuclear arsenal but said the nation needs twice as many new bomb designs as insurance against any one of them failing. |
Former Lawrence Livermore lab director and Pentagon research chief Johnny Foster, now co-chair of a Defense Science Board task force on U.S. nuclear capabilities, said that even though weapons scientists have found fixes for defects in U.S. nuclear arms, he fears existing and newly designed weapons could be vulnerable to undetected and unforeseen breakdowns.
"We have discovered warheads that would fail to operate properly," Foster said at Sandia National Laboratories-California. "Wehave also realized failure modes that were overlooked" as weaponeers carried bomb designs from conception to testing to production.
NNSA's long-term Plans for the Weapons Complex
Here is an extract from a 23-page document from NNSA that is currently circulating at LANL. Funny, Linton didn't mention these planned cuts just before Christmas, in the main LANL auditorium when somebody directly asked him about possible cuts at LANL. Do you suppose this planned reduction merely slipped his mind at the time, or did we just now catch him in a fib?
DEFENSE PROGRAMS [NNSA]
FY 2008 - FY 2012 PROGRAM and RESOURCE GUIDANCE
PROGRAM GUIDANCEGeneral Guidance:
..... -- Reduce by no less than 2 per cent per year the Full-Time Equivalents (FTEs) at each of the Management and Operating (M&O) Contractors, irrespective of any increases in other sponsored work/work for others. Improve by at least two per cent per year the ratio of direct versus indirect FTEs at each M&O contractor.
Saturday, March 11, 2006
Laughing his ass off
New top-level post, from the
post: (Thanks, Travis)
_________________________________________ Management at LANL:1 Director, 1 Deputy Director, 3 PADs, 15 AD's, 57 division leaders, 57 deputy division leaders for a total of 134. Then there's LDRD, STB, Science Program Office, Tech Transfer, Lanl Institutes, Chief Information Advisor and Chief Information Officer (why do we need both?). Audits and Ethics Director, Community Program Office, Chief Prime Contract, EEO, Ombudsmen, Executive Director, Executive Office Manager, Chief Security Officer, Chief Counsel, Chief Financial Officer, National Security Officer, and Communications and Government Affairs Director for a grand total of 153 PAPER PUSHERS. And then there's the 57 chiefs of staff to help out the 57 divisions understand the rules and regulatoins. Now we're up to 210 PAPER PUSHERS.If the average salary is 150K (probably low), these 210 PAPER PUSHERS will cost the tax payers over 31 MILLION dollars annually. If the average salary is closer to 200K, the total becomes 42 MILLION dollars annually. We don't even have an idea of how many group and deputy group leaders there will be. And there has already been one post about a possible serious mistake at LANSCE. This of course comes from not asking the troops how well things are working.Harold Agnew is probably laughing his [ass] off.
Friday, March 10, 2006
This comment from the "LANS Plan 1" post is a bit harsh, yet mostly accurate, in my observation. Unfortunately, I don't believe that simply pointing out the insular, detached, self-centered, sometimes cowardly nature that a significant segment of the Los Alamos community exhibits will actually affect any changes in that society, but it probably can't hurt to continue to point these characteristics out. There are a number of good people who live in Los Alamos, but there is a larger number who have been silent these past two years, when open outrage was indicated. To that end, could you please make this comment a top-level post? I request that you entitle the post "Happy now?"
-A long-time Los Alamos resident.
[Comment made by "DOEGuy"]After rereading the top four posts on this blog, it became obvious to me that you LANL scientist types are even thicker than I had thought, and I already thought you all were pretty obtuse. I don't know what it is going to take before you finally "get it", but if you can pull yourselves out of your little self-centered cocoons for just a moment, you will see that your world has changed. Some of you are just now slowly, dimly, beginning to realize that Los Alamos National Laboratory as you once knew it is gone forever.For the longest time most of you were saying "I want UC to win the contract because I want to retain my benefits." Fools.Well, now you have your wish. UC "won the contract". Happy now? Enjoy your future. I hope you like plutonium manufacturing work, because that is what we, in partnership with NNSA, Bechtel, and BWXT have in mind for you.
Letters from Dynes
What the ….?
Submitted by Anonymous:
What the ….?
Analysis of quotes taken from “Response to Comments” link at http://www.doeal.gov/laso/ContractTransition/default.html)
Items 1 and 3-6 all cite legal constraints to justify why each of the concerns raised by a large number of employees as being unfavorable to employees cannot be rectified. These arguments do not address the lack of “substantially equivalent in the aggregate” -- it just excuses the short fall because of legal constraints.
Item 2 says that the legal constraints of ERISA would require a greater lump sum payout under TCP1 than UCRP – i.e. favorable to employees – so LANS can NOT do that – because of legal constraints.
The only logical coherence I see in all of this is the tendency to consistently “disadvantage the employees”.
Item 1: Concern About Extra Risk of LANS vs. UCRP: “The new contractor, LANS, is a Limited Liability Corporation subject to all of the laws and regulations under ERISA and other laws that may not apply to the UC pension benefit plans.”
Item 2: Lump Sum Distribution: “Inclusion of this feature would provide a benefit significantly greater for ‘Transferring Employees’ under the new contract than that available to them under the UCRP simply by virtue of the change to a private sector plan subject to ERISA.”
Item 3: Domestic Partner Survivor Benefits: “Under ERISA, the definition of a spouse does not include a domestic partner so that the LANS plan cannot provide the same survivor benefit to a domestic partner; i.e., a qualified joint and survivor annuity.”
Item 4: Employees Not Currently Covered Under Social Security: “Since LANS is a Limited Liability Corporation, LANS employees will be required by federal law to participate in Social Security and hence pay Social Security taxes effective June 1, 2006.”
Item 5: Treatment of Spousal Continuance Option: “This 25% survivor continuance benefit is not permissible under a private sector defined benefit pension plan subject to ERISA.”
Item 6: Differences in Pre-tax Deferral Limits: “In addition, providing an additional contribution only to employees who contribute up to the IRS maximum for 401(k) plans would likely violate IRS rules that prohibit discrimination in favor of highly compensated employees.”
Submitted by Anonymous:
[Update: the chart can be found here
Just curious, does anyone have a copy of the "LANS Proposed
Org Structure" that was presented by Anastasio yesterday?
I am unable to access it from my home computer.
The Govt. Will Keep Our Pensions Safe...
Colleen M. Kelley , president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said last month that federal employees should not have their pension accounts "used as a rainy day fund. . . . No private-sector employer would ever be allowed to do this."
[Yup. OK. Pigs...wings...fly... -Ed.]
Retirement Fund Tapped to Avoid National Debt Limit
By Stephen Barr
Wednesday, March 8, 2006; Page D04 (Washington Post)
The Treasury Department has started drawing from the civil service pension fund to avoid hitting the $8.2 trillion national debt limit. The move to tap the pension fund follows last month's decision to suspend investments in a retirement savings plan held by government employees.
LANS Plan 1
Please post anonymously-
Has anyone noticed that the LANS Plan 1 is to be a member of the PBGC? It
clearly states so. If the real intention is to keep the plan funded, even
by raiding the operating budget, then there is absolutely no reason to be a
member of the PBGC. Something is just not right. I really belive that the
intent is to give us pennies on the dollar in the future, much like the
airline pilots. I believe we will see our pensions screwed with long before
a penny of operating budget is diverted. This fact alone is pushing me
towards inactive status with a cash out. When this same concern was voiced
to the transition site, it was ignored. No answer provided. Remember- the
DOE said they could divert operating funds to the pension. They never said
they would actually do it. Unless we got it in writing, its pension plan
transfer beware. Could this also be why Plan 2 does not credit my service
towards the access only health plan? To push me in the wrong direction. I
really have tried to remain objective in this whole matter-but something is
just not right.
Thursday, March 09, 2006
Rich people. Or, I think I'm beginning to see a pattern here.
______________________________Doug,I saw a TV news report on the world's billionaires. They focused on afew; Gates, Trump, etc. What's interesting is others on this list.When they showed Donald Trump at #276 (or thereabouts) right below "theDonald"'s name was someone named "Bechtel". Can we assume this is theperson who owns Bechtel Corp.?
If you think this is worth posting to the blog go ahead.
[And sure enough, from http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2005/03/11/FORBES.TMPTop 20 Bay Area billionaires
Here's a list of the top 20 Bay Area billionaires and where they place on Forbes' worldwide list
Name Rank Net worth Source
Larry Ellison 9 $18.4 billion Oracle
Sergey Brin 55 7.2 billion Google
Larry Page 55 7.2 billion Google
Gordon Moore 122 4.3 billion Intel
Charles Johnson 164 3.3 billion Franklin Resources
Charles Schwab 170 3.2 billion Charles Schwab Corp.
David Filo 188 3.1 billion Yahoo
Steve Jobs 194 3 billion Apple Computer
George Lucas 194 3 billion Lucasfilm Ltd.
Eric Schmidt 210 2.8 billion Google
Jerry Yang 228 2.6 billion Yahoo
Riley Bechtel 258 2.4 billion Bechtel Group Inc.
The damage Nanos did to LANL [...] rivals the damage done by a genuine Los Alamos spy, Klaus Fuchs
So as to not let this important and accurate observation get lost in the noise, I am promoting this comment to a top-level post. From the
_____________________________________"Scooter" Libby set out to nail Joseph Wilson by exposing Wilson's wife as a CIA agent, thereby punishing Wilson for revealing that the nuclear-weapons angle for invading Iraq was bogus.Ex-Director Nanos set out to nail Todd Kauppila and John Horne for discovering that the so-called "missing" CREM had never, in fact, been created, thus demonstrating to all the world that Nanos' shutdown of the Lab was completely indefensible.As to Wen Ho Lee, his motives will never be known for certain, but he is in a class by himself, since he was found guilty in a court of law, and considered by the judge in the case to have been punished sufficiently by nine months in solitary confinement. Libby will have his day in court after the 2006 Congressional election; Nanos will likely never see the inside of a court of law. This in spite of the fact that the damage Nanos did to LANL far exceeded that caused by Lee; in fact, it rivals the damage done by a genuine Los Alamos spy, Klaus Fuchs. And now, the act of privatization of Los Alamos Lab is nearly complete.
You all might want to check this out. In particular, the "Response to Comments" section might be interesting:http://www.doeal.gov/LASO/ContractTransition/default.html
Does #3 pertain to the Kauppila situation?
Please post anonymously: Does #3 pertain to the Kauppila situation?
To/MS: All Employees
From/MS: Robert W. Kuckuck, A100
Phone/Fax: 7-5101/Fax 7-2997
Date: March 7, 2006
Subject: All-Hands Meeting on Monday, March 13, 2006
I will be holding an All-Hands meeting on Monday, March 13 at
1:15 p.m. in the Main Auditorium. Specific topics will include
(1) initiation of a child-care program; (2) safety, and bringing to
closure several safety incidents since my becoming Laboratory
Director in May 2005, and what positive lessons have we learned
from these incidents; and (3) treating employees who are involved
in safety or security incidents with respect, fairness, and as valued
colleagues. I also will pass along any additional information I might
have concerning the LANS transition.
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
UCOP speaks to rehired retirees
As UPTE President I have been trying to acquire as much information on questions that are relevant to all LANL employees.
Please see the following response to my questions as provided by Mr. Semple from UCOP.
The response smells of Discrimination towards older employees and what I would call "Blackmail". Specifically see second paragraph to answer number one.
-Manny Trujillo, President of UPTE
From: Robert Semple
Your questions regarding the process by which LANL employees elect inactive membership in UCRP and the process when they decide to retire have been forwarded to me for response. Please see my responses below:
What action will HR require of individuals looking at Inactive Vested status?
LANL employees who are eligible for and wish to elect inactive participation in UCRP should indicate as such on the UC Decision Form that will be included in the LANS Offer Letter packet, which will be distributed in mid-March 2006. The UC Decision Form should be returned to LANS no later than May 15, 2006; LANL employees who are vested in UCRP and do not submit their completed UC Decision Form to LANS by May 15, 2006 will automatically be considered inactive members of UCRP and their sick leave will be transferred to LANS (assuming they accept a job with LANS).
In accordance with UC provisions, LANL employees who are considered to be rehired retirees, meaning that they previously retired and received monthly income from UCRP but elected to temporarily suspend their UCRP benefits upon reemployment with LANL, must return to retiree status immediately upon subsequent separation from UC employment. It will not be possible for rehired retirees to request a Lump Sum Cashout or to elect inactive membership and defer payment of their monthly UCRP benefits. Since the transition to LANS will result in a separation from UC employment, rehired retirees should contact the LANL Benefits Office at 505-667-1806 as soon as possible to begin the process of re-retiring. They will need to make decisions concerning tax withholding, discuss applicable payment options for their monthly income and distribution options for their Capital Accumulation Payment (CAP) balance, if any. UC HR/Benefits will soon be sending explanatory letters to individuals at LANL that have been identified as rehired retirees.
Who will need to be contacted at such time Vested Inactive employees elect to retire, will it be UC or LANS?
Since inactive vested employees are eligible to retire under UCRP, they should contact the Customer Service Unit at UCOP (800-888-8267) to inquire about the process when they are ready to retire. However, if inactive vested LANL employees retire within 120 days of separating from UC employment (i.e., by September 28, 2006) and are eligible for retiree health, they should also contact LANS, since it will administer the retiree medical plans for UCRP following the LANL transition. The employees should also contact LANS to determine if they are eligible for separate retirement benefits under a LANS retirement plan.
[This does NOT apply, as I read it, to people who are now REGULAR employees of UC (who have NOT YET EVER IN THEIR LIFE retired from UC/LANL), and who wish now to go on inactive status with UCRP, give up their accumulated sick leave time, and then get automatically rehired by LANS in June. After June, they can retire from UCRP, and begin double-dipping, with no penalty. Please correct me, if I got this back-to-front, or even sideways. -Editor.]
ROGER SNODGRASS, firstname.lastname@example.org, Monitor Assistant Editor
Plutonium pit production will default to Los Alamos National Laboratory over the next several years, even if Congress can agree to fund a long-term alternative for making nuclear triggers.
"In the meantime," National Nuclear Security Administrator Linton Brooks said, "we plan to increase the Los Alamos National Laboratory pit manufacturing capacity to 30-40 pits per year by the end of FY 2012 in order to support the Reliable Replacement Warhead."
Brooks spoke to the Senate Armed Forces Subcommittee on Strategic Forces Tuesday. He advanced the related concepts of a "responsive infrastucture" that could more quickly respond to emerging needs, and what he called the "enabler," the Reliable Replacement Warhead proposed to solve a number of design and production issues of existing nuclear weapons.
"Unanticipated events could include complete failure of a deployed warhead type or the need to respond to new and emerging geopolitical threats," he said in his prepared remarks.
Three months to go
This is a friendly reminder that in a little over three months from now this blog will be shutting down. On July 1 we will no longer accept post submissions for LANL, The Real Story
. Comments to existing posts will be turned off. The blog will remain on line for some undetermined period of time, but only for reference purposes. If there is a replacement discussion forum or forums in place at the time, I will provide links to redirect people to them. There have already been several self-proclaimed successor blogs that people have set up; you all need to decide if any of them will provide a satisfactory replacement, if in fact a replacement is desired.
[Editor's note: This article is being somewhat reluctantly posted, by request. I agreed to post it because it does address a topical issue regarding LANL, that issue being how LANL management has treated (and in some cases continues to treat) its staff.
Written by Bruce Daniels - ABQnewsSeeker Wednesday, 08 March 2006 LANL scientist was fired on this day seven years ago.
The Taiwanese-American scientist was accused of leaking nuclear secrets to China in a story that appeared March 8, 1999, in The New York Times, and although those dark allegations were later dropped, Wen Ho Lee was later accused of improper handling of restricted data.
After his arrest in December 1999, Lee was held without bail in solitary confinement for 278 days until his release on Sept. 13, 2000, after he pleaded guilty to one count of improperly downloading restricted data.
Government prosecutors dropped the remaining 58 counts of illegally downloading classified data, leading to a sharp and unprecedented rebuke of government prosecutors by U.S. District Judge James A. Parker and an apology to Lee.
There's a roundup of the whole affair in the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, including a link to an Albuquerque Journal article about suggestions that current Gov. Bill Richardson, who was then Energy Secretary in the Clinton administration, was the source of the leak to The New York Times on that day seven years ago.
Richardson acknowledged in his autobiography ("Between Worlds: The Making of an American Life" released last fall) that Lee was "badly treated."
The story has sunk below the headlines and the national consciousness, but it continues to burn up the electrons in the Blogosphere. There's a heated discussion on the LANL blog -- LANL: The Real Story -- that suggests some real disagreement about the case. And maybe some uncomfortable moments ahead if a certain New Mexico governor decides to seek national office.
Remember - we were the first!
Please post anonymously. I am still active employee and my group leader reads BLOG often. Thanks.
Recently employees of Fermilab were addressed by their lab director in a public comment, of being "cowboys", in reference to their safety culture or lack thereof. Their director is a respected physicist, not a retired rear admiral from the Navy. They were not "buttheads", however. Evidently, name-calling is getting around. His comment was ostricised by others in management, and he supposedly regretted the comment - having said it after getting excessive oversight (heat?) from DOE over issues. Whether he apologized for it is unknown. I shared our corporate story on being not only "cowboys" but "butthead cowboys" with a FNAL manager, with a big smile. Is it possible that having this label is becoming a cult status among national labs? Remember - we were the first! Be proud of that. Wear your hats with pride.
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
Sounds like they have a "cultural" problem over at ANL
Doug, just read this DOE press release...
March 7, 2006
DOE Cites University of Chicago for Nuclear Safety Violations
WASHINGTON , DC – The Department of Energy (DOE) today issued a Preliminary
Notice of Violation (PNOV) to the University of Chicago (University), the
Management and Operating contractor for DOE’s Argonne National Laboratory
(ANL), for nuclear safety violations identified through several safety
reviews and inspections conducted by DOE.
A series of reviews and inspections, the most recent of which occurred in
2005, identified breakdowns in the contractor’s quality improvement,
radiation protection, work process, and independent and management
assessment programs. Prior to 2005, senior contractor management at ANL
failed to adequately comply with DOE’s nuclear safety regulations that
govern these programs. DOE’s investigation of the safety review findings
found that these issues have existed for a number of years, and the
University’s efforts to correct these problems were largely ineffective.
The identified deficiencies have not caused significant radiation exposures
or other nuclear safety incidents. However, DOE noted in a letter to the
ANL that it was simply fortuitous that no harm had occurred to ANL staff,
given the breadth and duration of the identified violations.
Last year, the University appointed a new management team at ANL and has
given the new lab director the resources and support necessary to upgrade
the nuclear safety program. The new director has already begun to take
corrective actions and initiated others to address other problems, including
the implementation of a new safety program infrastructure.
The PNOV includes a proposed civil penalty of $550,000 for the identified
violations. This penalty, however, is waived by statute for the University.
DOE indicated in its letter to the director of ANL that while the
enforcement action would normally have been much more severe given the
number and duration of the violations, enforcement discretion was being
exercised in recognition of the significant corrective actions already taken
by the director and the new management team.
The Price-Anderson Amendments Act of 1988 authorizes DOE to undertake
regulatory actions against contractors for violations of its nuclear safety
requirements. The enforcement program encourages DOE contractors to
identify and correct nuclear safety deficiencies at an early stage before
they contribute to or result in more serious events.
Additional details on this and other enforcement actions are available at:http://www.eh.doe.gov/enforce/
From the 3/7/2006 LANL NewsBulletin:
How to reduce stress in the workplace
Determine daily priorities and work through these one at a time recognizing that attempting tasks in a haphazard manner is inefficient and stressful.
Sunday, March 05, 2006
Comment from an earlier post
I believe "good2go" has hit the nail on the head with this observation.
____________________________________________________ The TCP2 benefits package is only one part of the equation tothe future of scientific work at LANL.My guess is, DOE wants the LANL scientific staff to stay around just a little bit longer, but the real future for LANL has already beenplanned. It mostly involves production work. Once LANS takes over,our overhead rates and "stealth" taxes may become so high that only nuclear production work can be economically justified. Watch closely how LANS handles their new costs. It could become your guidepost as to the future of science at LANL. A LANL scientist making around $120 K per year currently costs aproject close to $370 K per year when burden rates and project taxes are added. If you see LANS dump increasing costs onto the heads of each FTE and on to projects (which seem highly likely), then the future at LANL will become more insecure. Project funds can only be stretched so far, no matter how important the scientific work. We should know the status of future FTE costs and project taxationsin short order. Even if you don't work to secure your own funding at LANL, higher FTE costs and bigger project taxations will effect your future job security. You might want to pay attention to this.
Submitted by "The Rat Patrol"
Contractors will be let go?
Doug or Brad, please post this anonymously.
I don't know if this is new information for you but I have been told that as of May 31st all contractors will be let go and none will be renewed. If you have any information to corroborate this it might be useful information for contract employees.
Saturday, March 04, 2006
Comment of the week
Comment by "badbard1" from the
_________________________________ It ain't gonna be the same no more.Sig was one of us. He was an accomplished scientist and knew what it took to do the work. And, he was in the same pension plan as us. Thus, he shared our fate. I can say the same about John Browne. Both of these guys "served" as Director for the mutual benefit of the DOE and the employees. They are thoroughly good people. Yes, both made a few decisions that were not optimal, but I don't think that anything that they did was not well-intentioned.Anastasio and his cronies are nothing more than overseers. They lack the experience and dedication necessary to run this place othen than into the ground.Sign me "going to retire."
By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 4, 2006; Page A02
The Bush administration is developing plans to design and deploy refurbished or replacement warheads for the nuclear stockpile, and by 2030 to modernize the production complex so that, if required, it could produce new generations of weapons with different or modified capabilities.
Referring to goals established two years ago, Ambassador Linton F. Brooks, administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), told the House Armed Services subcommittee on strategic forces Wednesday that "we will revitalize our weapons design community to meet the challenge of being able to adapt an existing weapon within 18 months, and design, develop and begin production of a new design within three to four years of a decision to enter engineering development."
A small facility at the Los Alamos National Laboratory has been established to build pits, but its capacity will be 30 to 40 pits a year beginning in 2012, which Brooks described as "insufficient to meet our assessed long-term pit production needs" created by the RRW warheads.
Friday, March 03, 2006
New LANL Logo
Submitted by Anonymous.
[Addendum: Another anonymous contributor
has suggested this
as an appropriate sound
byte to accompany the logo.]
By ANDY LENDERMAN | The New Mexican
March 3, 2006
A geologist says Los Alamos National Laboratory needs to spend $5 to $10 million to replace wells that monitor pollution and hire an independent company to come up with a new plan to watch for contamination.
But the lab already is addressing the problem internally, a spokeswoman countered.
Bob Gilkeson, who made a presentation to Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety on Thursday, said 14 of the lab's 33 wells can't properly detect pollution because they were installed improperly and had drilling additives like bentonite clay, which can conceal contamination, he said.
"The specter of problems with this work over the last 10 years is very large," Gilkeson said.
Gilkeson said he first consulted the lab on its well-monitoring program in 1997 and has worked on the groundwater-contamination issue for 10 years.
Thursday, March 02, 2006
Linton Brooks: "We are on the verge of an exciting time."
Linton Brooks: "We are on the verge of an exciting time."
The widely acclaimed public affairs program "Democracy Now" has lead story
today on Linton Brooks, new nuclear policy and more. Greg Mello from LASG is
interviewed. You can read, listen or view the story fromwww.democracynow.org
Second story may also be of interest: Nurse from Albuquerque Veterans
Administration hospital is being investigated by FBI for 'sedition' after
writing letter to editor critical of Bush regime.
Democracy Now is ten years old and rapidly expanding. It is now broadcast by
over 400 radio and tv stations plus both satellite tv networks.
- Rick Sterling
The attached documents were submitted to the NNSA comments site
Consequently, a Personal Retirement Profile cannot be worked up for you.
Doug or Brad,
I received the following email from LANL-HR that may be worth posting.
You requested to attend a March 2, 2006 Group PRP [Personal Retirement Planning] session. Unfortunately, you do not meet the eligibility for retirement as you are not age 50. Consequently, a Personal Retirement Profile cannot be worked up for you.
I have cancelled your reservation for the March 2, 2006 session.
HR-SC Service Center Group
I replied as follows:
On my submission, I put in the intent to retire as of my 50th birthday, which is within 120 days of the contract transition date of June 1. How does this make me ineligible?
Are you saying that I can get no counseling with respect to UCRP retirement before I turn 50? That is absurd.
Makes you feel loved, eh?
PS: I caution you that the message also came with this disclosure:
This email, together with any attachments, is intended only for the use of the individual or entity addressed and may contain information that is confidential and prohibited from disclosure. If you are not the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any dissemination, or copying of this message, or any attachment, is strictly prohibited. If you have received this message in error, please notify the original sender immediately by telephone or by return email and delete this message along with any attachments, from your computer.
MARCH 8 marks the 50th anniversary of the arrival of a small contingent of engineers and support personnel in Livermore, mostly from Sandia Corp.'s laboratory in Albuquerque, N.M.
The two dozen staffers were first housed in the pink barracks across East Avenue at what was then known as the University of California Radiation Laboratory (now Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory) so they could provide increasing support for the design and testing of the new nuclear weapons being developed by the UC lab since 1952.
County Reassured On LANL
Incoming Director Addresses Officials
BY JOHN ARNOLD Journal Staff Writer
LOS ALAMOS — Incoming Los Alamos National Laboratory director Michael Anastasio formally introduced himself to the Los Alamos County Council this week, promising to be “open and engaged” with the community that sits next to the sprawling 40-square-mile lab complex.
Anastasio vowed cooperation on economic development initiatives and other community issues, as his company — a team of academic and industrial partners known as Los Alamos National Security LLC — prepares to take over lab operations June 1.
Anastasio called the lab’s integration with the community “a big theme” in his team’s proposal to win the LANL contract.
“Success of the laboratory depends on the success of the community,” he told the council at a meeting here Tuesday. “The success of the community depends on the success of the laboratory.”
Wednesday, March 01, 2006
Retiree group on UCRP-LANL
Laboratory Retiree Group Considers Legal Options Presented by the Proposed separation of LANL Retirees into a Separate UCRP Pension Plan.
The Board of Directors of the Laboratory Retiree Group, Inc. (LRG) met on 7 February , 2006 to consider its legal options relevant to the proposed split of the LANL Retirees from the UCRP. The Board accepted the recommendations of the Legal Committee and authorized the Committee to retain legal counsel. This meeting was followed by a regular, monthly board meeting on 15 Feb, 2006. At the regular meeting the findings of the Legal Committee were discussed.
The LRG was formed in 1994 after the VERIP III retirement at LANL. The LRG is incorporated as a non profit corporation registered in the State of New Mexico. It has 501(c)(4) status with the IRS. Regulations governing such an organization prevent the organization form lobbying activities but do allow such an organization to take legal actions on behalf of its members. The original By Laws of the LRG stated that the regular members would be comprised of LANL Retirees of the University of California.
For many years the LRG operated under a memo of understanding (MOU) with the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Under this MOU the members of the LRG would provide services to LANL on a volunteer basis and in turn LANL would provide access to internal mailings within the laboratory, minimal office space and recognition as a sanctioned organization. The members of the LRG have provided services to LANL including aiding with meetings on Health Issues and Education, serving as trained mediators and communications between the laboratory and the retirees. After a long struggle with the IRS it was decided that the LRG could maintain a database of technical expertise that could be used in times of National Emergency. The members have served on various boards and working groups within LANL and in local communities. One committee that I sat on studied the benefits of interactions of LANL with LANL Retirees.
The LRG has also reached out to local communities in various ways. One of the most visible activities has been centered around Computer Literacy. Members have taught training courses at UNMLA in subjects of particular interest to retirees. Members have conducted computer training, on a volunteer basis, for Los Alamos and Rio Arriba Counties. Above all, the members are proud of the service that they provided during their years at LANL and desire to support the two institutions that they have been associated with during their professional careers. The two organizations are LANL and the University of California.
During the tenure of the previous LANL Director most of the sanctioned organizations were disenfranchised. This action was taken against the LRG despite a record of supporting Laboratory efforts. Despite the objections of a few LANL managers the report produced by the Committee found that there were considerable benefits to the Laboratory (and thus to the Nation) to be gained by a cooperative interaction with LANL Retirees.
Recent Actions by the UC
The loss of sanctioning by LANL and subsequent actions by LANL and UC have continued to erode the trust in LANL and UC on the part of both the retirees and employees. The retirees had been assured that the Benefits received from the UC would be substantially equivalent after the new contract was in effect. The retirees believe that the intent was to preserve their defined pension benefits as they have been defined by the contracts between the retirees and the UC. The action by the Office of the President of the UC requesting that the Regents of the University separate the LANL retirees from the full UCRP system places the LANL Retirees in a marginally untenable situation. Some of the problems that the retirees see:
1. The request to the regents was made in a very suspicious manner. The agenda item 5c for action by the Regents was not fully posted until the vacation weekend before the last Regents meeting. I contacted the two Emeriti professors of the UC who are the interface between the Council of University of California Retiree Associations (CUCRA) and the Council of University of California Emeriti Associations (CUCEA). These gentlemen share duties as ex-officio members of the Regents and they were not aware of the proposal. They in turn contacted two of the Regents who were also unaware of the proposal. The Regents did vote to separate the LANL retirees from the full UCRP on a conditional basis. My CUCEA contacts have since been in contact with members of the Academic Senates of the various Campuses. Their contacts within the Academic Senates were not aware of the proposal and were not at all pleased by the proposals and the way in which the proposal was submitted to the Regents.
To those of the Retirees who have lost trust in both LANL and the UC, these actions by the UC did very little to enhance the remaining trust. Our first fear is that the proposal is an initial attempt to Balkanize the UCRP by dividing UCRP into campus specific plans. Once the LANL - UCRP is separated it would be small enough that the UCRP - LANL might be divested by the UC into a new Pension plan that has no financial backing. Such a small plan (if a $5 Billion pot is small) would be more vulnerable to raids by individuals and entities. The argument might be made that since it is an out of state organization it should no longer be managed by the UC.
2. A standalone LANL - UCRP would be born in a under funded state. The UC has submitted actuarial data that show that a separate LANL - UCRP plan would be born in an under funded state. There have been verbal statements that DOE/NNSA plan to ensure that the LANL portions of the UCRP retirement plan would be kept whole. It is the opinion of the LRG that there have been no written, legal commitments to do so. Moreover, it is the opinion of the LRG that such a commitment has not been mandated by Congress. Without a perpetual Congressional commitment the LANL - UCRP pension plan will be left in a tenuous state even if there is a short term commitment to make certain that the plan is left in a whole condition at the closure of the NNSA - UC contract.
3. The Defined Benefit Pension Plan currently provided by the UC is guaranteed by an employment contract between the employees and retirees with the UC. It is our understanding that employment contracts are recognized in the State of California as a legal entity and that the State of New Mexico does not recognize these contracts. The present employees and retirees under the LANL - UC contract have such contracts with the UC and do not have a contractual relationship with the NNSA. Various statements by the NNSA have indicated that the NNSA will maintain the Pension plans for present employees and retirees. Thus far there are indications that future employees will have less well defined pension plan.
The review of the legal position of the LRG is ongoing.
In addition, the Board of Directors of the LRG is amending the Corporate by-laws to accept LANL employees that are eligible for retirement under the UCRP to join the LRG as Associate Members. The Associate members would have all of the rights and privileges of regular members with the exception that the Associate members could not vote at regular membership meetings and could not hold office in the corporation. Dues of $12.00 per year would be assessed from Associate members. Membership application forms are available on the LRG web site http:/www.LRGLA.org .
The LRG is allowed to conduct one fund raising event per year as a non profit corporation. Our event for this year is a fund raising effort to support the Legal actions of the corporation. Please send donations to the “Pension Defense Fund” to P.O. Box 546 Los Alamos, NM 87544. It would be helpful if you note “Pension Defense Fund” on the comment line of your check.
Charles R. Mansfield
P.O. Box 546
Los Alamos, NM 87544
No new start at Los Alamos
Nature 439, 1 (5 January 2006) | doi:10.1038/439001a
Excerpt: "By seeking to blame the university for the lab's
difficulties, some in Washington have sought to deflect attention from
their own culpability."
A fresh contract for the management of the New Mexico nuclear-weapons
laboratory offers it little prospect of a happy and prosperous new
Just before Christmas, an epic struggle for management control of the
United States' most venerable nuclear-weapons laboratory came to a
close. The result, rather to the surprise of many observers, was that
the University of California will retain the management contract to
run the Los Alamos laboratory (see US weapons lab makes a fresh
start), in partnership with the engineering group Bechtel and two
other private corporations.
This means that control of the New Mexico laboratory will edge towards
the private sector. But the more radical option of passing it on to
fresh management under a rival consortium led by the University of
Texas has been rejected. Once, this news would have led to
celebrations among the 8,000 or so University of California staff at
Los Alamos. But their mood is instead forlorn. Staff pensions and
other benefits are not guaranteed under the new arrangement, and
recent actions by the University of California have eroded goodwill.
The process by which the Department of Energy awarded the contract has
been murky, even by the usual standards of such exercises. Few believe
that the department's grey-suited administrators really made an
independent choice. Rather, the process was characterized by delays
and heavyweight political lobbying from Senator Pete Domenici
(Republican, New Mexico), among others. That's par for the course, as
the 'management crisis' at Los Alamos has always been more about
Washington politics than about actual administrative issues at the
Ever since Wen Ho Lee was accused of espionage at the lab in 1999 (he
was later acquitted of major charges and convicted of minor regulatory
infringements), a group in Congress led by Joe Barton (Republican,
Texas) has relentlessly sought to impugn the laboratory's staff and
its management by the University of California. The campaign echoes
previous efforts to bring Los Alamos scientists under tighter
administrative, and perhaps military, control. Its proponents have
overplayed security issues at the laboratory and implied that senior
scientists there cannot be trusted, either in administration or
security. They have issued a stream of overblown rhetoric, leading to
the brief and unfortunate appointment of Pete Nanos, a former naval
officer, to run the laboratory, as well as to last year's tendering
The University of California has been contracted to run the laboratory
since 1943, and it traditionally did so for a nominal fee, kept its
hands off day-to- day management, and offered scientists and engineers
there the opportunities that came with affiliation to one of the
world's best public university systems.
By seeking to blame the university for the lab's difficulties, some in
Washington have sought to deflect attention from their own
culpability, which is considerable. In reality, the laboratory is
controlled not by its contractor, but by the byzantine Department of
Energy and its overseers in several congressional committees. Because
these committees are happy to make rules but are incapable of
constraining expenditure, the nuclear-weapons labs have lately been
given more money and much more oversight and regulation. As a result,
they became steadily less efficient and productive.
The University of California and its partners, meanwhile, must pick up
the pieces at Los Alamos and start afresh. Their appointment of
Michael Anastasio, director of the rival Lawrence Livermore
laboratory, to run Los Alamos has not exactly thrilled the existing
staff there, given the historical rivalry between the two
institutions. And staff briefings just before Christmas shed little
light on what the new management team is actually going to do.
Los Alamos retains expertise in areas such as physics, materials,
computer science, neutron scattering and mathematics. The key to its
continued relevance is close liaison between its researchers in these
fields and the academic community outside. But given the constraints
under which they must operate, the new contractors will be
hard-pressed to make the laboratory thrive.
Council updated on LANS
DARRYL NEWMAN, email@example.com, Monitor Staff Writer
Michael Anastasio, the director of Los Alamos National Laboratory come June 1, stressed integration initiatives in the region and within the county as he addressed the council Tuesday night, setting the tone for intergovernmental relationships in the near future.
Anastasio spoke on behalf of Los Alamos National Security - the team of four entities that won the contract to manage LANL.