Sunday, December 31, 2006
Testing Positive for Chromium, Neptunium
Santa Fe New Mexican 12/31/2006, Page F02
Bingaman must bring LANL shirkers up short
Los Alamos National Laboratory was the hastily built product of wartime — and things on “the Hill” were hardly less hectic when nearly half a century of “Cold War” followed in the hot one’s wake.
This was an installation dedicated to the nuclear supremacy our nation’s leaders deemed indispensable; niceties to nature — including the humankind involved in building ever-better nuclear bombs — didn’t get the consideration that even those environmentally backward times could offer.
Today, science is aware of at least some of the damage done by the stuff strewn in the wake of weapons development. The wizards of LANL should be converting that awareness to clean-up and keep-clean projects remedying the environmental wrongs the lab has done.
So why aren’t they?
At Material Disposal Area C, a quarter of a century’s worth of radioactive and otherwise hazardous waste was poured into seven pits and more than 100 shafts before lab leaders wised up to the damage they might be doing. Now traces of the stuff are leaking out.
And at Technical Area 3, lab workers dumped anywhere fro m 50,000 to 230,000 pounds of chromium into Sandia Canyon — by the lab’s admission. But LANL bosses won’t admit that chromium showing up in drinking water wells is any but the naturally occurring kind.
At 414 parts per billion, it’s four times higher than the federal standard — and eight times the state standard.
When it’s taken in above-safe amounts, the stuff can damage the liver, the kidneys or the nervous system.
So folks are naturally nervous. The Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety would like to know at least which direction the chromium is spreading. And the group would also like to know more about a radionuclide called neptunium, which has been found in wells supplying Los Alamos and Santa Fe.
Lab spokesfolks say efforts are being made to punch “sentry wells” near the drinking water wells to keep closer watch on the chromium.
And the neptunium? It, too, is at higher-than-safe levels, the inquiring citizens contend — whatever effect it might have on the human body. No, it isn’t, says the lab.
Who ya gonna believe? Don’t answer that.
Back to all that nuclear waste: For all the lab’s claims that it’s fulfilling a legal agreement with the state on the handling of that aging refuse, New Mexico Environment Secretary Ron Curry says it still hasn’t got around to drilling four holes to pinpoint the extent of pollution in the unlined pits where it lies.
So to hold LANL to its word, Curry proposes a $1,000-a-day fine until the drilling is done — and safely.
Will that get the lab’s attention — or will the people in charge just chalk it up as a cost of doing the public’s business, with the public’s money?
The years of LANL arrogance — or maybe just blinder-wearing dedication to fending off foes real and imagined — should, by now, be far in the past. And with both New Mexico’s members in charge of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, the one that does the decisionmaking on our national laboratories, you’d think that there’d be lots of budgeting for environmental repairs and preventative measures.
For good measure, one of those senators, Pete Domenici, also serves on the appropriations committee.
And Northern New Mexico’s representative, Tom Udall, is about to join the House Appropriations Committee.
These are guys the lab must go to for the money that keeps it going.
The committee leadership is about to be handed off — from Domenici to Jeff Bingaman. Bingaman, in his gentlemanly fashion, should serve notice, as if any were needed, that the bad ol’ days of lab “attitude” are at an end. Lip-service about being good environmental citizens no longer will cut it; action — verifiable action — must be taken.
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Copyright 2006 Santa Fe New Mexican 12/31/2006
P.S. Here's the kind of quality response we can expect from the average LANL employee:
"don't know how to get this posted - does anyone know if we have the january 2 holiday declared by the president? I've tried calling the regular 667-6622 number for updates - guess what - the recording says that the Laboratory is on a regular schedule - during the shutdown!
...OK. (Eyeroll.) -Pat
Friday, December 29, 2006
Just Say "No!"
Brad Holian sent this to me to be posted on The Blog. In his e-mail, he assured me that he would be among the first signatories of the two letters he has proposed. In this case, all signatures would have to be real, with e-mail addresses attached; no Anonymous's need apply: only LANL employees who want to stop the pending nightmare of lie-detector tests and peeing in the bottle. (Some fortitude may be required.)
-Pat, the Dog
[As of 1/2/2007, we have received the expected (from Anonymous, of course): "'Suck It Up', as the saying goes, and deal with it." Pat, the Dog, askz: Before, or after peeing in the cup? Makes a big diff...]
Dear readers of "LANL: The Corporate Story":
Something needs to be done, and it needs to be done in the next couple of weeks. It may be the only thing that will stop NNSA/DOE and LANS, LLC from implementing so-called "random" drug testing and polygraphs.
Polygraphy is an insulting affront to scientists, since a committee of the National Academy of Sciences has declared that, beyond being inadmissible in court, there is no scientific basis for polygraphs. In my opinion, by agreeing to be polygraphed, one thereby seriously jeopardizes his or her claim to being a scientist, which is presumably the principal reason for employment for many scientists at Los Alamos. Like polygraphs, drug testing may also be subject to intentional abuse by managers and false-positive errors, but imposing a "random" program upon workers at Los Alamos, or any other institution that aspires to being a place of scientific research, is unnecessarily expensive and an un-American intrusion upon our Constitutional privacy--just another example of the mentality behind "warrantless wiretapping."
Besides being open to nefarious abuses (such as being imposed more often upon outspoken, troublesome workers), random drug tests are convenient tools for lazy managers. A direct supervisor who is worth his or her pay, maintains close enough contact with workers to be able to detect and stop work that is not safe or secure, should inebriation or undue influence of drugs be observed. Upon being told to stop work, the worker in question can be called into the manager's office and told to enter into medical treatment; the worker's subsequent failure to do so can then trigger more justifiably serious measures, including firing. But "random" people ought not to be subjected to the indignity of drug testing, unless there is real probable cause--but then, it's not random, is it?
I would suggest to all readers here that NNSA/DOE/LANS will pause in their zeal to impose these un-American measures, only if a significant fraction of LANL staff signs their names to letters such as the ones proposed below:
I refuse to be subjected to polygraph testing for any reason whatsoever. Polygraphs are inadmissible in a court of law and have no scientific basis.
-Brad Lee Holian (firstname.lastname@example.org)
I refuse to be subjected to drug testing, unless served with a search warrant signed by a judge in a court of appropriate jurisdiction, upon evidence having been presented that is deemed to meet the legal criteria for probable cause.
-Brad Lee Holian (email@example.com)
Imagine what an impact a sufficient number of LANL workers would have (including Lab Associates like myself, Lab Fellows, and other scientific leaders among the staff), if they were willing to sign such letters openly. It may well be our last chance.
--Brad Lee Holian
Laboratory Associate, LANL
Fellow, American Physical Society
(You may send any comments to my home e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Thursday, December 28, 2006
LANL -> LACL (stands for "Lackluster"?)
--Pat, the Dog
I would like to observe that the name "Los Alamos National Laboratory" is no longer appropriate for that facility. Something like "Los Alamos Corporate Laboratory", or, in a few years "Los Alamos Corporate Plutonium Foundry" would be more fitting. It is becoming clear that the bottom-line profiteering orientation of LANS, LLC is completely incompatible with the quality of science that one would expect from a true national lab. Not, mind you, that LANL was well known for its quality of science (or much else, comes to that) under its waning years during the dubious leadership of the University of California. "The World's Greatest Science Serving America", or whatever that pompous slogan was that former director Admiral Peter G. Nanos coined was nothing but an embarrassing joke to both the staff at LANL and to the outsiders who had to interact with them.
The fact that a former national laboratory is now being run by a corporation is bad enough. That is is being run by a corporation comprised by some of the most corrupt, greedy, and (in the case of UC) incompetent organizations in the entire country is a travesty. Let's not compound the travesty further by allowing LANS, LLC to continue to include the words "National Laboratory" in the name of the corporation they are plundering.
A former employee of Los Alamos National Laboratory.
[P.S. Some of us know people who remember the name "Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory" with considerable nostalgia and fondness. -How far we've come since those bygone days, my friends. --Pat]
Monday, December 25, 2006
Smells like Corruption to Me
--Pat, The Dog
P.S. Corporate money is not the only foul smell on The Hill; there's a dead mouse in the corner behind the couch (UC). But UC's become a tool of the Corporate state, too. Phewww!
Most people know how Halliburton/KBR (The 'K' in KSL) uses their political connections to rip-off US taxpayers. Now, Bechtel (partner in LANS) and Shaw Group Inc (the 'S' in KSL) have come under intense investigations in connected with the Katrina cleanup.
Think about it for a moment. Bechtel, KBR, and Shaw - all companies with ethical problems. And now, all three are involved in the day-to-day operations at LANL.
It appears that privatization has opened LANL's doors to the wolves.
Katrina fraud likely to balloon past $1B - Associated Press, Dec 25, 2006
WASHINGTON - Already at $1 billion, the tally for Hurricane Katrina waste will balloon next year as investigators shift their attention from fraudulent aid to the lucrative government contracts awarded with little competition.
Several of the contracts were hastily given to politically connected firms in the aftermath of the 2005 storm and were extended without warning months later. Critics say the arrangements promote waste and unfairly hurt small companies.
In January, federal investigators will release the first of several audits examining abuse in more than $12 billion in Katrina contracts. The charges range from political favoritism to limited opportunities for small and minority-owned firms, which initially got only 1.5 percent of the total work.
Currently, half of the government's contracts valued at $500,000 or greater are no-bid.
"Based on their track record, it wouldn't surprise me if we saw another billion more in waste," said Clark Kent Ervin, the
Homeland Security Department's inspector general from 2003-2004. "I don't think sufficient progress has been made."
He called it inexcusable that the Bush administration would still have so many no-bid contracts, noting that auditors and
Federal Emergency Management Agency director David Paulison himself have said they are prime areas for waste.
"It's a combination of laziness, ineptitude and it may well be nefarious," Ervin said.
Among the current investigations:
• The propriety of four no-bid contracts together worth $400 million to Shaw Group Inc., Bechtel Group Inc., CH2M Hill Companies Ltd., and Fluor Corp. that were awarded without competition.
The contracts drew immediate criticism because of the companies' extensive political and government ties, prompting a promise last year from Paulison to rebid them. Instead, FEMA rebid only a portion and then extended their contracts once, if not twice — to $3.4 billion total — so the firms could finish their remaining Katrina work.
The four companies, which have denied that connections played a factor, were among six that also won new contracts after open bidding in August. The latest contracts are worth up to $250 million each for future disaster work.
Friday, December 22, 2006
--Pat, The Dog
Anastasio's Take on the Last 6 Months
By Hildi T. Kelsey
December 22, 2006
Laboratory Director Mike Anastasio gave employees his assessment of the last six months at Los Alamos during an all-hands meeting Tuesday in the National Security Sciences Building Auditorium.
Anastasio began with a safety message. He encouraged employees to take an extra moment to look around their workspaces before they leave for the holidays.
He also discussed the budget, mentioning that the last Congress passed a continuing resolution for appropriation of the vast majority of funding for the Laboratory that will “keep us going until mid-February.” He noted that the new congressional leadership plans to pass another continuing resolution for the rest of the year.
In addition, Anastasio stated that he is “working internal budget issues and disconnects” and will know more about it in the new year. He stressed “there are no plans for a RIF [reduction in force], and no plans to have a plan for a RIF.”
He lauded Lab accomplishments, but noted some areas of frustration.
“From June 1 to now, I have mixed emotions,” he said. “I am very impressed with what we accomplished – thank you for all your hard work. I am pleased and impressed with your efforts, but at the same time I am frustrated, frustrated with what we have left to do.”
Among the Lab’s accomplishments he listed was the Los Alamos-Sandia team’s submission of the design of a reliable replacement warhead for submarine-launched ballistic missiles. He said that the Lab can expect the outcome of the competition with Lawrence Livermore for the contract to be announced early in 2007. “I think this team did a great job,” he said.
Anastasio stated that a second competition was going on as well – the competition for the country’s future direction with its nuclear deterrent. He outlined the debate about two approaches: the Cold War deterrent designed in the 1970s versus going down a different, futuristic path – “using the knowledge and capability we developed to move us toward the future, reduce number of weapons in the stockpile, and build security in a world where terrorism is a much bigger concern.” He said that the Nuclear Weapons Council decided to go down this new path.
“To me that is a great success and represents the impact this national laboratory should have,” he said.
Anastasio went on to list several other accomplishments, such as
• The second access accelerator at DARHT achieved four pulses.
• The Cibola Flight Experiment satellite is moving closer to launch.
• The National High Magnetic Field Laboratory's Pulsed Field Facility at Los Alamos achieved a 100-tesla magnetic field.
• The Lab developed advance technology with universities and industries deployed to convert biomass into bioethanol, converting ethanol from cellulose.
• Lab leadership and employees gathered continued support for science through Grand Challenges workshop.
He said he was also impressed by Laboratory Directed Research and Development efforts, the direct involvement of employees and first-line supervisors on in response to safety and security incidents over the last six months, the direct impact of deployed security offices, and the 60 percent increase in number of technology transfer agreements.
The director commended the nine scientists who were selected as American Physical Society fellows, the newest Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers fellow, and three new American Association for the Advancement of Science fellows (see story in today's Daily Newsbulletin). He also congratulated Ricardo Schwarz for being accepted into the National Academy of Engineering.
Anastasio also said he was pleased with the feedback he has been getting on the commitment of Laboratory to the community. For instance, Lab employees raised $727,00 in pledges and donations (matched by Los Alamos National Security, LLC for a total of $1.45 million) for United Way and $450,000 for the Laboratory's employees’ scholarship fund, which is managed by the Laboratory Foundation. The Laboratory also plans to contribute $550,000 to the Regional Development Corporation for economic development activities.
Although he was excited about such progress, Anastasio was also critical of unresolved problems at the Laboratory, especially in the area of security.
“Everything we do is amplified. This Lab is important to the country, and they know it,” said Anastasio. "There are some outside the Lab that question our ability to meet the high standards that they have. It is important that we think about it in this context and demonstrate to critics that we are worthy of the trust the country wants to place in us.”
Los Alamos has a special relationship with the country, said Anastasio. “One action by one person can put this institution in the public eye,” he added.
Anastasio emphasized that “we are a community and we have a shared fate. What one of us does, can impact all of the Lab.” But, he said this fact also gives us an opportunity. "If we can come together and work together, we can do great things for the country,” he said.
Specifically, he expressed concern about the “sloppy cybersecurity” still being found at the Lab, which he suggested is caused by confusion and inconsistency across the Lab. “If I want you to do better, I owe it you to be able to tell you what better is,” he said.
To that end, the Lab has developed a new cybersecurity organization that will “bring policy and implementation all together in one place.”
The new organization, he said, will consist of four elements:
• policy and planning;
• technical support (cyber specialists and the addition of a senior ISSO working at the associate director level in every directorate that has classified activities);
• a certification and accreditation organization reporting to the director; and
• a means to clarify what’s expected of employees.
In parallel, he said, Lab management is developing a long-term strategy of “where we are trying to go as an institution.”
Expanded substance abuse policy
Citing the Laboratory’s special relationship with the nation and to prove that Lab personnel are worthy of the trust this country has placed in them, Anastasio said the Lab will expand its substance abuse policy to include testing for the use of illegal drugs.
The expanded program includes
1. Pre-employment screening of all employees who will work for the Lab on a regular basis, including contractors
2. Random testing of Laboratory employees
3. Testing in response to reasonable suspicion of illegal drug use
4. Testing after serious incidents and accident.
The new policy is available at http://policy.lanl.gov/pods/home.nsf/Pages/DAPP-6WMQDL online.
Additional information on the substance abuse policy will be provided to employees following the winter break. A 30-day comment period will enable employees to provide input on the proposed new policy. Anastasio added that a comment period will be established for all significant policy changes.
“We are not yet the great national security laboratory that I want us to be. We need to work together as a community – it takes us all to make this happen. We are not there yet, but I am confident that we can be,” he said.
“Please take time off for holidays, spend it with your families, recharge your batteries and get your passion back .”
Those LANL staffers who can access
online should do so ASAP. If you don't feel a growing anger as you read it, you are either in denial, or else you are in need of adult supervision. Earlier this summer, Mike said something to the effect: "Don't look back; life at LANL will never go back to the way it was." Have a nice time this holiday season "recharging," guys and gals. And then, brace yourselves for the Brave New Future starting January 2, 2007.
No more HQ money for use in avoiding environmental compliance?
Perhaps this can be posted on its own. I've noticed that the State of New Mexico is getting bold at fining the lab for its little messes. Is this because the Lab had to stop its use of headquarters monies to finance any of its legal forays? I heard the story that the lab, in the past, would spend $100,000 of HQ money to contest a $10,000 fine that would otherwise come from the LANL budget. The worm has turned and the lab is now properly responsible for pollution, at least.
--Pat, the Dog
Wednesday, December 20, 2006
TRUST? (IS WATERBOARDING NEXT?)
"Talk of trust is great, until it becomes obvious that it runs one way. Now we'll be subject to drug testing so LANS looks like it's trying Real Hard to be safe and secure. And Mike will feel better when he knows those around him (upper management?) are clean. Maybe there's no plan to plan for a RIF because the intent is to disrespect and insult people enough that they leave, improving the bottom line without a RIF."
There's continued talk of lie-detector tests, too, but that may be restricted to those who access Top Secret Sigma 15 stuff. (They might not mind so much the unscientific aspects of polygraphy. Who knows? maybe they even get a little thrill out of the experience.)
But I have been assured that there is absolutely no evidence that LANS/NNSA/DOE will be subjecting anyone to "waterboarding." That practice is confined mostly to CIA operatives, and CIA agents are so macho, they demand to be waterboarded, drug tested, and polygraphed (with current applied at the "EXTREME MAX. - DANGER! DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME" setting). Obviously, wimpy LANL bomb guys (nerds that you can see wandering around Los Alamos townsite with adhesive-tape-repaired hornrim glasses) will not be held to such a high, rigorous standard. (Remember, too, that Mikey used to be one himself before he became Livermore Director.)
--Pat, the Dog
P.S. Just so everyone is clear on what gets posted on this new Blog: I am not an UPTE shill. Nor am I a LANS shill. Nor am I very fond of NNSA/DOE or anyone else in the present Executive Branch. Check out what corporatization has done for ... Houston (ENRON) ... Baghdad (Halliburton & Bechtel) ... New Orleans ... Los Alamos ... and what it will do for Livermore, if none of the Livermore people stand up and resist. Will they be kinda like the courageous staff at Los Alamos? I hope for better than that, as new and bitter experiences keep pouring in from hapless LANL.
I post stuff on this Blog that stays on point and doesn't approach personal libelous attack. (FYI: "United States law dictates that for something to be considered libel it must be proven that the one making the libelous charges did so with malicious intent and with full knowledge that the statements were false. Furthermore personal opinion is protected as a First Amendment right. Therefore being careful to state the facts of a personal experience in non-malicious language, followed by words like, 'therefore in my opinion...' will go a long way towards protecting yourself against charges of slander or libel." Keep that in mind as you comment, my friends, just as I do. See: http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-the-difference-between-slander-and-libel.htm)
In other words, unsubstantiated stuff that smells bad to me won't get published here. That doesn't mean for a minute that everyone who agrees with me gets posted, and everyone who disagrees doesn't get posted. To be perfectly frank with all of you, I really like a good argument, well presented. -Comprende?
Finally, like The Daily Show, we here at "LANL: The Corporate Story" are not above using sarcasm. Take care.
And here is a comment from "Anonymous":
"Pat, the Dog": Let's see, "Pat" is curiously ambiguous; it could be a verb or a noun. But the comma following it makes it clear that "Pat" is a noun. On the other hand, the gender is ambiguous: Is "Pat" masculine? Femine? Or neutered?
-Just Out of Curiosity
Dear "Just Out of Curiosity":
"Just out," as in "fresh out"? Or just "out of it"? This is the kind of inciteful post that is the high "water" mark in postings we have come to expect on this Blog. Keep it up, guys. We can take it in stride.
--Pat, the [curious, unambiguous] Dog
Merry Xmas (from Mikey)
From/MS: Michael R. Anastasio, A100
Phone/Fax: 7-5101/Fax 7-2997
Date: December 19, 2006
SUBJECT: Holiday Message
As the Laboratory's winter break approaches, I want to thank all
of you for your dedication and hard work during the past year and
wish you and your loved ones an enjoyable holiday season.
This year marked a major milestone for the Laboratory, with the
first change in the management and operating contractor since its
inception. Your participation in this transition is greatly
appreciated, and your continued commitment to the success of the
Laboratory and its mission is critical to our success.
The holidays are traditionally a time to celebrate and reconnect
with family and friends, and I strongly encourage you to take
this time to do just that. Relax, be safe, and return in January
refreshed and ready to take on the many challenges that lay
before us. I am excited about what lies ahead for the Laboratory
and strongly believe that the best is yet to come.
Again, I offer my best wishes for an enjoyable holiday season and
an inspiring New Year.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
Excerpt: Continuing Resolution, a Saga
Lawmakers left town without funding many federal agencies, projects
By Jonathan Weisman and Lori Montgomery
The Washington Post
Updated: 10:15 p.m. PT Dec 16, 2006
The Republican-controlled Congress's decision to adjourn a week ago before completing many of the spending bills that finance the federal government will reverberate in ways large and small, such as understaffed U.S. attorney's offices, delayed renovations at the University of Bridgeport in Connecticut and a scuttled global nuclear energy exchange.
Republican leaders left behind just enough spending authority to keep the government operating through mid-February, less than halfway through the 2007 fiscal year that began Oct. 1. Democrats have signaled that when they take control of Congress in January they will extend that funding authority for the remainder of the year based largely on the previous year's spending levels, which will result in many cuts in programs.
Earmarks on the chopping block
The Democrats also will do something that is certain to anger many lawmakers but cheer critics of excessive government spending: They will wipe out thousands of lawmakers' pet projects, or earmarks, that have been a source of great controversy on Capitol Hill. In the past, lawmakers have peppered individual spending bills with earmarks benefiting special interests. But the funding resolution the Democrats intend to pass in lieu of spending bills will be devoid of earmarks.
The collapse of the budget process was a long time coming, with roots stretching back to the Republican revolution of 1994. But this year, the system finally buckled under the weight of the president's austere spending recommendations, a difficult election year and the Republican leadership's efforts to placate both its most ardent conservatives and its endangered moderates.
Inaction may cause more D.C. gridlock
Congress was able to pass only two of its 11 annual spending bills, those that fund defense and homeland security. Republicans punted spending measures for virtually every one of the government's domestic programs to the Democrats who assume control Jan. 4. Then last week, Democrats announced they would punt, too. A joint House-Senate resolution -- rather than carefully tailored spending bills -- will keep the government open through the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30, largely at last year's levels.
Layoffs on the horizon
The Department of Energy is looking at a 20 percent cut in its administrative budget and could be forced to lay off many of the 960 people who help manage the department -- secretarial aides, lawyers and human resources staffers, said Craig Stevens, a department spokesman.
New presidential initiatives for 2007, such as the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership, FutureGen, a clean coal initiative, and a health-care information technology program, are not likely to be funded, agency officials say.
What is certain is that thousands of earmarks will get nothing, at least until October, when fiscal 2008 begins.
Lawmakers fight to keep pet projects
Budget hawks who have been crusading against such home-district projects hailed the Democrats' decision as an unexpected stroke of political bravery. Bush praised the move yesterday in his weekly radio address.
But the lawmakers who worked to get those projects into the now-dashed spending bills were left quietly fuming. Obey said Friday that he has fielded "a steady stream of calls from people in high dudgeon."
It has been nearly 20 years since congressional failures left the government to be financed under spending guidelines and formulas rather than line-by-line policymaking. But to federal budget experts, this year's breakdown was hardly surprising. Not since 1994, the last year of Democratic control, has Congress actually passed all of its spending bills. Republican leaders almost ensured logjams by populating the House Budget Committee with conservative spending hawks whose views on the size of government were fundamentally different from many of the appropriators who would have to flesh out the committee's budget blueprints. Ultimately, compromises in those conservative principles have been laid at the feet of the Clinton White House, the demands of the post-Sept. 11 government, or a Democratic-controlled Senate, said Scott Lilly, a former Democratic staff director of the House Appropriations Committee.
"The breakdown of regular order this cycle -- indeed the failure to get our bills done -- should be squarely placed at the feet of the departing Senate majority leader," said outgoing House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.).
Staff writers Christopher Lee, Dan Eggen, Steve Mufson and Amy Goldstein contributed to this report.
© 2006 The Washington Post Company
© 2006 MSNBC.com
Monday, December 18, 2006
Monday, December 18, 2006
Fear is the real killer
A comment made by new KSL president David E. Whitaker shows that he does not understand what people are feeling - and fearing.
When he said, "We are not obliged to publicly disclose anything," he shows such a lack of understanding that it is amazing that he could hold such an important job.
Yes, he is technically right; KSL is a private company and they are under no obligation to share anything with anybody.
But that is the same kind of arrogance that brought Enron down, as well as many other companies throughout history. When those who work for you really don't matter, then you are in trouble.
How can those at the lab not be concerned with this? How can they not know the fear that is gripping people here who are wondering whom the ax will fall on next?
When people are living - or working - in fear they are not at their best. And right now there is a lot of fear, and few reassurances being given.
Of course, Whitaker said he has been through similar experiences as an employee and knows what the KSL people are going through. He said he loves his employees and won't discuss any particulars out of respect for them.
That is double-speak. The questions he was asked were not ones that would endanger a company; they were basic: How many employees do you have? How many have been let go? How many more do you expect to layoff?
But his response was only this is none of our business. And while he may be technically correct, he is also wrong - as are those at the lab who allow this. What happens at Los Alamos National Laboratory affects each and every one of us - whether we work directly, indirectly or not for them at all.
Those in authority there should not be allowed to say it is none of our business. Sen. Domenici and Rep. Udall should be at the front of this demanding answers and working to lessen the fear that is running around here.
But fear, lack of knowledge and rumors are all we have as concerns about escalating job cuts run rampant.
We understand the need to make a profit, to live within one's means and to make the bottom line. But we also understand that people who work for KSL, the lab and others, deserve better than to live in the fear they are in now.
NOW READ THIS! MESSAGE TO LIVERMORE WORKERS:
We all get screwed while the white collar workers are laughing all the way to the bank. Now tell me how they are better that the CEO of ENRON?
From: "SPSE" Subject: If Mike Can Do It, Why Can't We?
Date: Mon, 18 Dec 2006 14:17:30 -0800
If Mike Can Do It, Why Can't We?
To many of us, collective bargaining is an abstract and alien concept. To make it more concrete, why not ask what you could get from the power to bargain? The answer begins with a true story.
As most of us know, in exchange for his role in winning the contact to run Los Alamos, former LLNL Director Michael Anastasio got an offer from LANS to be the first LANL Director under the new contract. However, fewer of us know that as part of his total compensation Mike was promised in writing that he will get an annuity on retiring that will compensate him for the difference between what he would have earned under UCRP and what he gets under the LANS market-driven retirement plan. That's right, when Mike leaves his Director job, he's guaranteed the equivalent of his UCRP pension, not TCP1, TCP2, or some other McPension based on a half-hearted stab at "substantially equivalent". The deal was made not because Mike is bright, or a talented scientist, but because his high profile gave him the wherewithal to ask for it. A similar deal was offered to two of his lesser-known deputies, Charlie McMillan and Bret Knapp.
How did this come about? The truth is, Mike and his inner circle weren't born on a tenure track. They're all former LLNL employees who got recognition while standing on our backs. None of them would have risen past the rank of staff member were it not for the cooperation, the talent, and the toil of their co-workers, and, by extension, every one of us who show up every morning to do our jobs. The nuclear weapon design and stockpile stewardship that these men take credit for wouldn't have happened without the infrastructure to support them. It took computers, Site 300, machine shops, and the superblock. It took the people who keep the electricity and Ethernet packets flowing, and the toilets flushing. It took nuclear chemists, and numerical mathematicians, and mechanical designers. It took groundspeople and custodians making the Lab a fit place to invite Presidents, Members of Congress, and Secretaries of Energy. Do you think they all came to work saying "I wonder what can I do today to glorify the Director and his friends?" No. The excellence of LLNL comes from each of us deciding to be the best we can be at what we do.
Mike gets a pension equivalent to his UC pension, but the employees at Los Alamos don't. Why is that? The answer at the end of the day is that Mike had the power to bargain. Many of us reject this notion. We like to believe that we've had decent salaries, benefits, and employment rights all these years because we deserve them. But the Los Alamos of today gives the lie to this way of thinking. Our counterparts there had what they had because they were public sector employees of UC just like us. Now they're LANS employees and they've lost valuable aspects of their jobs. In a fair and just world, LANS would have recognized its entire staff for their dedication and good ideas. They would have given them the same guaranteed pension they gave Mike. But the world of business doesn't operate that way. To quote a popular advertising slogan, in the private sector, "you don't get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate."
As hard as it is to face, the days of getting a fair shake without negotiating for it are over, and without collective bargaining status, we won't get the right to negotiate. We've worked hard at this Laboratory, some of us for decades. Many of us have done it believing that we'd offset the risk of pursuing the unique specialties of LLNL-how many places can you get a job as a plutonium metallurgist?-by getting a fair degree of job security in return. But it turns out we were wrong. The fact is, unless we do something about it, not only our pensions, but our public-sector job rights are going to be casualties of the transition.
Getting the right to bargain starts with signing the authorization petition at the end of this message. Remember, if you want a seat at the table, the only way to get it is through collective bargaining. Are we saying that if you sign a card you'll stand a good chance of continuing your UC pension? Not at all. We're saying that if you and enough of your co-workers sign cards we'll get the supermajority of employees we need to summon the new employer to the table. We'll have the chance to negotiate the terms and conditions of our employment-including aspects of compensation like retirement and benefits. It will be a long and difficult path, but we won't even get to start it without you taking this first step with us. Don't pass up this chance.
If you've not already done so, please consider signing the authorization petition for collective bargaining.
[Visit our web site at spse.org]
Society of Professionals, Scientists & Engineers
Local 11 University Professional and Technical Employees, CWA Local 9119
P.O. Box 1066, Livermore, CA 94551
(925) 449-4846 voice
(925) 449-4851 fax
Office Hours: Mon. - Fri. 8am to Noon
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
My Livermore compatriots:
LANL staff have failed in droves to sign up for UPTE.
Look where it got them.
--Pat, the Dog
Saturday, December 16, 2006
The Corporatized Lab - Life on the 'Bleeding' Edge
Well, after a year now of corporate management - yes, I know, it's only been a half year of official LANS-LLC ownership, but remember that The Transition to Bechtel began a year ago - has the myriad of problems been magically wiped away? Let's see what today's stories in the local newspapers have to say about:
ABQ Journal, Santa Fe Edition
Saturday, December 16, 2006
De-Icer Suspected in Fatal Wreck
By Mark Oswald
Of The Journal
A Los Alamos woman was killed Friday on N.M. 502 the highway between Pojoaque and Los Alamos when her car apparently slid on a liquid de-icer that had been applied to the road by a state Department of Transportation crew.
"The roadway was slick because of the de-icer," Santa Fe County Sheriff Greg Solano said.
Solano said there were three wrecks on the same part of the highway before the crash that killed Patricia Ann Vigil-Booth, 53.
About 4:45 p.m., her BMW, which was heading toward Los Alamos, slid into a car that had been disabled in one of the previous wrecks as it was being attached to a tow truck. She died at the scene, near a service station at the start of the climb toward Los Alamos, the sheriff said.
Solano said the de-icer had been sprayed on the road in anticipation of a storm. Salt and sand had also been applied to the pavement, the sheriff said.
The weather forecast for the Los Alamos area called for partly cloudy conditions Friday night. Rain, or snow at high elevations, could arrive tonight.
Solano said deputies believe the de-icer caused all four wrecks. "It all seems related," he said.
"I'm saying that whatever they sprayed caused the slippage," Solano said.
Calls to state Transportation Secretary Rhonda Faught and a Transportation Department spokesman seeking comment on the crash and more information on the de-icer used on the road were not returned Friday night. Solano said there was no ice or snow on the road where Friday's wrecks took place.
Solano said it was his understanding that, at some point in the afternoon, an e-mail notice was sent to employees of Los Alamos National Laboratory to warn them that the de-icer had been applied "and that the road could be slippery."
He said he didn't know if the warning was sent before or after the wrecks.
LANL spokesman James Rickman said Friday night that, at about 3 p.m. or 4 p.m., an all-employee e-mail was sent by the lab's public affairs office warning LANL workers to use extreme caution driving home because of the de-icer. Rickman didn't know the source of the information for the e-mail or whether the Transportation Department had asked that the warning be issued.
"I've never heard of a liquid de-icer like this," Solano said. "I don't know if this is something new." He said a Transportation Department safety officer sent to the scene gave a deputy the name of the de-icer chemical, but Solano didn't have the name Friday night.
He said the sheriff's department contacted the Transportation Department after the fatal crash and crews started cleanup work because of the slipperiness of the road.
A tow-truck operator from Mino's Towing of Pojoaque who was under a car attaching chains when it was T-boned by Vigil-Booth's BMW suffered facial injuries that were not life threatening, Solano said. The injured man's name was not available Friday night.
Solano said that State Police and the Bureau of Indian Affairs handled two of the other wrecks.
A State Police spokesman said Friday night that the de-icer was a contributing factor in the accident the agency investigated.
In Brief, by The Santa Fe New Mexican
December 16, 2006
Possible Plutonium Incident at LANL
A worker at Los Alamos National Laboratory might have inhaled plutonium after a recent incident at Technical Area 55, where plutonium work is done.
A spring-loaded sample holder shot a small piece of plutonium metal that hit a worker's protective clothing before falling on the floor on Nov. 21, according to a memo from the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board.
An alarm sounded, and the three workers left the room. One had a positive reading from a nasal smear, which indicates "a potential uptake" of the radioactive substance, according to the memo.
Los Alamos Monitor
Saturday, December 16, 2006
LANL auditing KSL actions
CAROL A. CLARK Monitor Senior Reporter
The Ethics and Audits Division at Los Alamos National Laboratory is auditing their largest subcontractor - KSL Services.
According to information obtained by the Monitor, the Ethics and Audits Division was notified of possible collusion between immediate past president Mike Bagale and ScottMadden Inc., a management consulting firm brought into KSL during the last 18 months by Bagale.
LANL spokesman Kevin Roark confirmed this morning that the lab is looking into procedures at KSL.
"Whenever the lab receives a complaint about any of its contracts, it's our obligation to diligently look into those concerns. However, that does not mean we'll find anything," Roark said. "We are conducting a review of KSL procedures. That review is still ongoing and even when it's done, it may be inappropriate to talk about its results and it is certainly not appropriate to talk about it while it's ongoing."
Current KSL president David E. Whitaker said in an interview Monday that Bagale met a ScottMadden consultant while working at a nuclear power plant in Canada and the two stayed in touch. Bagale invited him and apparently four to five other ScottMadden consultants, including Whitaker, to do consulting for KSL.
Whitaker said he was a ScottMadden consultant for 13 years before resigning on Aug. 31. He became Bagale's deputy general manager at that time. Bagale resigned from KSL on Friday and Whitaker became president and general manager. Whittaker is the third president at KSL in about the last 13 months.
"As far as we're concerned," Roark said, "this is unconnected to the recent departure of KSL president and general manager Mike Bagale."
Auditor Brenda Fresquez of the Ethics and Audits Division is said to be conducting the audit.
ScottMadden, according to their website, specializes in the energy industry providing shared services and outsourcing. The company was founded some 20 years ago and has offices in Raleigh and Atlanta.
KSL was awarded the laboratory's Support Services Contract in February 2003. They are undergoing a re-organization and have been laying off some of their 1,320 employees recently.
As for SECURITY, well, today brings no more news about the "CREM de meth" incident of a couple of months ago, so we'll leave that one alone for now (except to state the obvious: that it was a REAL security infraction, not one simply manufactured for political purposes).
BOTTOM (Corporate) LINE:
Looks like corporatization hasn't done its highly advertized magic...at least not yet. Safety, security, business accountability - not to mention science and morale - appear to those of us in the trenches to be trampled into the mud at our feet. When a Director comes from sunny Northern California and is the first LANL Director to live "off the Hill," and doesn't know about "snow days," he might be excused for not dealing well with his first snow storm. But to call for de-icer in advance of a storm, just so that the workers on the corporate assembly line can keep producing widgets (or "gadgets," as they were called 63 years ago) for their full 8- (or 9-) hour shift, rather than monitoring weather conditions as they develop, well ... sorry, but that doesn't look good. I wonder if Senators Domenici and Bingaman and Congressman Udall still think that corporatization of LANL is such a hot idea, in retrospect.
Livermore people: Are you watching? Do you want the "inevitable" corporatization to steamroll you? (Senators Feinstein and Boxer and Congresswoman Pelosi: Do you REALLY want this to happen to LLNL?)
--Pat, the Dog
Friday, December 15, 2006
LANL = Titanic ?
No. 2 Official At Los Alamos Resigns
CBS News: National Lab's Deputy Director Quits Amid Security Scandal
(CBS News) WASHINGTON A top official with Los Alamos National Laboratory is quitting in the wake of the latest security scandal, CBS News has confirmed.
The resignation of John Mitchell, who had been Deputy Director at the Laboratory for less than a year, was quietly announced on internal Lab e-mails last week, the same day the CBS Early Show aired an exclusive report about how easy it was for a young lab worker to walk out with classified documents.
Los Alamos spokesman Kevin Roark said, however, that "John Mitchell's retirement has absolutely no connection to any security issues at the Laboratory."
In announcing his resignation, Mitchell told co-workers he wanted to concentrate on the next phase of his life. Watchdogs in Congress have been outraged at the continuing series of security breaches and management problems at Los Alamos, despite promises that things would be fixed.
Twenty-two-year-old Jessica Quintana, a former weapons data archivist at Los Alamos, has been under FBI investigation since October when police found the documents by accident in her trailer home while conducting a drug raid on her roommate. Authorities also found several portable storage devices called "thumb drives" containing classified documents.
Sources say Quintana had a top secret security clearance that allowed her access to such sensitive information as how to deactivate the locks on nuclear weapons. She was tasked with archiving data from decades of U.S. underground nuclear weapons tests. Quintana walked out of the lab unchecked last August with the documents and thumb drives in her backpack.
Today, Representative Ed Markey of the House Energy and Commerce Committee told CBS News: "No matter how many times you rearrange, re-design, retire or replace the deck chairs, Los Alamos is still the Titanic. Superficial attempts to demonstrate that there is any accountability at the lab will yield no useful results until the systemic and long-standing security failures associated with both management and lab culture are fixed."
By CBS News Capitol Hill correspondent Sharyl Attkisson
(© MMVI, CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.)
[And Mitchell = Leonardo di Caprio ? --Pat, the (puzzled) Dog]
As 'llc01' puts it:
Indeed LANL is spiraling down. I know of several outstanding scientists who have left, or are leaving LANL. Previous administrations would investigate each such case, and try to offer an incentive (usually salary) to keep these people. But not LANS - attrition improves the bottom line! What they don't realize is that these are the scientists that make LANL the Mecca that attracts more junior talented employees who become the future generation doing the best science.
And lets lay the blame squarely on LANS for doubling to tripling the number of upper level management, at a cost between $35M and $40M for them and their staff.This is equivalent to funding for about 100 scientists. This is beyond contract fees, gross receipts tax, etc., and was needless.
California truck "spotted" by alert NM (non-DWI) driver:
Is it a UC truck driven by UC Prez. Bob Dynes or a Bechtel truck driven by LANL Dir. Anastasio?
We here at "LANL: The Corporate Story" are fair and balanced, so you sniff it out and decide.
Alternatives to LANL
There are other national labs that have a significant role to play. Some LANL staff have left for LBL (and retrained their UC pension and UC employee rights!). Others have moved to more stable labs like ORNL and SNL. SNL is looking particular good these days, as less than half of the lab is dependent on NNSA funding. SNL has leverage and project diversity that is obviously lacking at LANL, where a short-sighted focus on nuclear weapons work is now causing major funding problems. Even little ol' INEL seems to be a rising star these days.
You don't have to stay at LANL to make a difference in the world of science. There are plenty of other good national labs. The days of beating the chest and claiming "LANL's the Greatest!" are past. From what I've witnessed, LANL is rapidly failing apart at the seams. It's getting harder and harder to avoid the distractions and get science done for most of the staff.
Given this situation, making the jump to another national lab seems like a rational choice, and it's a decision that more and more of the "best and the brightest" at LANL are starting to make. What makes this decision even easier to accept is realizing that LANS actively *wants* staff to leave. After all, they've already told the workforce they need at least 400 people to get out during FY '07. In FY '08, they'll undoubtedly need even more staff to leave.
In the end, I suspect LANL will have lots of managers and support workers, but a much reduced work force of scientists. If you're one of the few top weapons designers, it will be just dandy. However, for most of the other LANL scientists, there will be far better places to do your work.
Up the Chain It Goes...
Here is an excerpt of something I sent up the LANL management chain recently. Surprisingly, I noticed some immediate (positive) response in an all-managers meeting the very next day. However, I have not seen any follow-through.
At LANL, the events of the last few years, and the events unfolding today, have led to seriously damaged trust: between the workforce and management; between the Lab and its stakeholders (NNSA, the Congress, the public, the media).
The current climate of distrust leads to an assumption of secret agendas, cover ups & ill will, when in reality these are likely not to be the case.
Since the majority of LANL staff is already wary about giving trust to “untried” or unfamiliar managers, and perhaps even less so to “carry overs,” it becomes imperative that the LANL management team to demonstrate trustworthiness and thereby earn the trust.
Things for us all to keep in mind:
1) Be bold, but also be open.
a) Mistakes will occur; admit them and if necessary correct them and apologize to those wronged (if any).
b) Have a reason for action and be prepared to share it.
2) Ask for trust; but be prepared to trust back.
a) Repeat often that you trust and rely upon your subordinates and colleagues.
3) “Walk the talk”
a) Behave ethically and how you want other to behave.
b) The rules apply to managers first, not just “too”.
c) Expect ethical and civil behavior and behave that way yourself.
4) “Talk the walk”
a) Say what you want and expect, clearly and concisely.
b) Measure progress by establishing objectives and goals.
Some LANL-Management Specific Recommendations
1) Expect that some of your decisions will turn out to have been less than ideal
a) Correct them promptly and make sure that the reasons for corrections are know to the extent allowed
b) Corrections may include replacing people, additional training, revised policy, coalescing or splitting of organizational units
2) Learn from the Past
a) Science and National Security are the primary reasons (missions) this lab exists
b) This means that the portions of the lab that do science and NS missions are the fundamental elements
c) All other elements of the lab organization are here to serve and support these fundamental elements
3) Deal with Internal Conflict
a) When conflicts arise between lab units, keep in mind the fundamental missions.
b) If conflicts arise between mission and support/service functions, err on the side of accomplishing the missions rather than compliance. This is known as Taking Risk.
Gloomy? Be Your Own Sunshine, Boys 'n Girls!
Times are bad at the lab, and by most accounts, it appears they are going to get worse. The future holds out growing fears of layoffs, decreasing benefits, and little or no pay increases. Morale is at low levels I never thought possible. Stress is rampant. The Los Alamos Monitor even ran a story a couple of weeks ago about how the low morale and stress of LANL staff are having a negative effect on kids in the local schools. This week the paper added a "Mental Health" insert which councils people on ways to counter the growing stress in the community.
Don't let the gloomy situation at LANL destroy your life. It's too high a price to pay and LANL doesn't deserve that type of devotion.
For a significant portion of the staff it's now time to look deep inside and ask a tough question: Is it really worth it to work here any longer? For many, the answer is definitely no. If so, then use the time you have remaining at LANL to begin searching for something much better. LANL is not the center of the universe. Most of those who have left seem to look back with great relief that they finally got out. Neither DOE, nor NNSA, nor LANS deserves another minute of your limited time. The only happy faces I've seen of late are of staff who are walking out the front door, never to return. Everyone deserve a bit of happiness. Go get yours.
[Getting your comment moved to a top post is my job, and new topics can be added to the First Post (last one on the page), since that was the original call for discussion. Anonymous e-mails to Pat, the Dog, can be accomplished by posting a comment with a header in all caps, like: "FOR YOUR EYES ONLY, PAT." I'm here for you, gang. -Pat, the Dog.]
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
APS News: LANS takeover of LANL
By Ernie Tretkoff
Several months after new management took over at Los Alamos National Laboratory, the lab continues to struggle with security and budget problems and low employee morale.
Until last year, the lab had been managed by the University of California. Following a series of security and safety problems that led to a total shutdown of the lab, the Department of Energy put the management contract out to bid. Last December the DOE selected Los Alamos National Security (LANS) as the new contractor. LANS, a collaboration of the University of California, Bechtel National, BWX Technologies, and Washington Group International, beat out the University of Texas/Lockheed Martin collaboration for the contract. The new management took over in June.
The new director, nuclear physicist Michael Anastasio, came to LANL from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where he had been the director since 2002.
In a recent security incident, classified data were found in the home of a former subcontractor during a drug raid by local police. In addition to drug paraphernalia, police found computer memory sticks containing classified documents from the lab, as well as hard copies of classified documents. The documents had apparently been taken from the lab by a woman who had worked as an archivist transferring paper documents to electronic form and indexing them. Lab officials have declined to comment on the details of the ongoing investigation in this incident.
In an interview with APS News shortly before this incident occurred, Anastasio said that he felt the lab was moving in the right direction. “We’re very pleased with how things are moving forward,” he said. “We’ve made some significant strides in safety and security.” Anastasio said that his message to employees on safety and security has been to emphasize personal responsibility. He said he believes this approach has been successful. “If you look at our statistics, albeit for four months, the trends are all very positive,” he said.
After the drug raid, Anastasio said in a statement, “this is a serious matter, and we are taking immediate steps to address it.”
Susan Seestrom, Associate Director for Experimental Physics at LANL, said that security had been given increased emphasis under the new management. Many small improvements have been made, some of which started before the new management took over, she said. For instance, the lab has been working to get rid of removable media such as thumb drives, she said. “We’re trying to put in things that lessen potential for human error. We’ve seen a downturn in the most serious security incidents,” she told APS News shortly after this recent incident. Seestrom is chair of the APS Division of Nuclear Physics.
However, not all employees have noticed significant change. Brad Holian, a physicist who retired from the lab, but still works there part-time, said he hadn’t noticed any major changes in the approach to security under the new management, but he did believe Anastasio would handle the incident better than previous management. “Anastasio seems to be a more reasonable and calm individual,” said Holian. He points out that Los Alamos’ record of safety and security has been similar to that of Lawrence Livermore and Sandia National Labs, but that Los Alamos has received much more publicity.
Although security has been the dominant issue in recent weeks, the new management has faced several other problems as well.
Employee morale had been low leading up to the change in management, due in part to uncertainty about practical matters such as employee benefits, as well as concern over whether the new management would be supportive of science.
Anastasio said that it will take time for the new management to earn the employees’ confidence, but that said he believes morale has been improving as some of the concerns over practical matters have died down. “I believe communication is really key for the employees. When there’s a lack of information, that generates a lot of anxiety,” he added.
Seestrom also saw some improvement in employee morale, though she admitted it was spotty. “Where people are really making progress in their technical work, their morale is pretty good. I see a lot of energy in the scientific workplace,” said Seestrom.
Holian was less upbeat. “I would say that there’s still a sense of demoralization and uncertainty on the part of the staff,” he said. Holian has spoken up before against some management decisions and some decisions imposed by Congress and the DOE, but says he is not critical of the lab’s scientific staff.
Another physicist who has worked at Los Alamos for many years, who spoke with APS News on the condition of anonymity, said he hadn’t noticed any significant change under the new management. “The one thing I have seen is that there are more managers. The research environment is about the same,” he said. Bureaucratic hassles, including large amounts of paperwork and time-consuming but irrelevant training, continue to make it difficult to do research, he said.
Several other scientists contacted by APS News either did not return requests for comment or declined to comment on the record.
Another issue the new management has had to deal with is new expenses. While Congress is expected to keep the budget for LANL approximately flat, new expenses including taxes, management fees, salary increases, and retirement benefits have led to a budget shortfall of about $175 million.
Anastasio said he will deal with the issue through efficiencies, and by reducing the contract workforce. Fees for the lab’s customers will not increase, and there will be no cuts among the regular laboratory staff, though some projects might have to be scaled back, he said. Seestrom said she believed the budget crunch would force the lab to be more efficient.
High overhead costs had already been making it difficult for scientists to obtain outside funding for their research, said the scientist who requested anonymity. “My hopes when the new management came in were high. I thought they would lower overhead and make us more efficient. Unfortunately I haven’t seen any evidence of that to date.” Some scientists at the lab have worried that the new management company might not be as supportive of science as they would like, or that Congress or the DOE would push the lab towards more weapons manufacturing at the expense of basic research.
Both Anastasio and Seestrom emphasized that the management supports science. “I see really strong support from management for science in the lab,” Seestrom said.
Some employees are uncertain. “They say golden words. Anastasio honestly hopes to promote science,” said Holian. However, Holian and other scientists worry that with the current budget situation and a lack of support for science in Congress, the lab management may not be able to promote science.
Seestrom says that the weapons program helps generates good science. “There’s a very strong manufacturing component to what we’re doing at the lab,” she said. “That enterprise supports a lot of basic materials science for our laboratory. We develop new processes for them, and so that keeps us being at the forefront of that part of materials science.”
Anastasio believes that in the future the lab will continue its mission, which includes not just nuclear weapons, but national security in a broader sense. “I see the laboratory to be a great national security science laboratory. That’s my vision. Clearly it encompasses our traditional core mission which is sustaining the US nuclear deterrent. But it also means missions we have in nonproliferation and countering terrorism,” he said. “In the future, I think it will mean national security in the sense of economic security, and the interrelationship with energy and the environment and the economic health of the country.”
Recruiting scientists to the lab has always been difficult, in part because of its isolated location. “This important mission, as well as the great scientific staff and facilities, can help attract the best scientists to work at the lab,” says Anastasio. “We can work on national scale issues that can affect the whole country. So having a really important mission and challenge to work on is a strong attractor.”
The physicist who preferred not to be named also said that a dedication to the lab’s mission attracted scientists to the lab. “People I work with have a strong commitment to doing work that matters to the country. They believe in what we’re doing and why we’re here,” he said. However, he added, “If I were a young person I would not seriously consider coming here. It’s a different place than it was a decade ago.”
Holian said that despite problems, there are still pockets of quality at the lab. “People do carry on good work in spite of the trouble,” he said.
©1995 - 2006, AMERICAN PHYSICAL SOCIETY
In the sweepstakes for number of quotes, it looks like Holian and the "anonymous" physicist (or the one who "preferred not to be named") lose out to LANS's Anastasio and Seestrom. In the dog world, however, last one to lift his leg wins...
--Pat, The Dog
Lab unveils new Employee Concerns Program
By Krista D. Wilde
December 13, 2006
Evil Corporate America
--Pat, The Dog
Well, Pat. You make it sound like what has happened at Los Alamos was purely the fault of evil Corporate America. The reality, of course, is that LANL got into it's current state primarily because of the people who managed and worked at the lab these past 63 years. Sure, DOE is incompetent. Sure, UC was incompetent. Sure, Nanos was an asshole. Sure, LANS appears to be even worse than its predecessor contractor (and that is saying quite a bit). But what did the rank and file ever do about the problems at LANL but whine about their benefits?