Friday, December 22, 2006
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.
While there may be illegal drug use at LANL, the biggest worry for most of the staff will be "false positives". During the DOE-mandated lie-detector tests, receiving a "false positive" didn't result in immediate action. Here, the reaction will be instantaneous. Therefore, you should be concerned about using some LEGAL substances (i.e., prescriptions, health supplements, etc.) that might trigger a "false positive" reaction and, thus, cost you your job. Also, once you've been labeled by LANS as a "drug user" (fairly, or not) it will be extremely difficult to find another job. The stakes are very high with this one.
On the plus side, this policy may be effective at rooting out some illegal drug usage at LANL. On the negative side, it will completely destroy the lives of any LANL workers who are unfortunate enough to receive a "false positive" reading.
If you are concerned about a "false positive" reading, you may want to check out the info at the site below:
Here are some things which this site mentions:
Be aware that certain foods and over-the-counter medications can cause you to test "positive" for various kinds of drugs.
- Poppy seeds, for example, can show up on a drug test as morphine.
- Cold remedies that contain codeine can also cause a positive result for morphine.
- Valium reportedly can produce erroneous indications of PCP (Phencyclidine), and other cold remedies can apparently produce false reports of methamphetamine usage.
- Dextromethorphan can produce a falsely positive qualitative urine opiate screening.
- Ibuprofen, contained in Advil, Nuprin, and Mortin, can make a positive result for marijauna.
- Zoloft is reported to cause false positives in urine screens, although for what specific substance isn't clear.
- Some additional over the counter medicines that may cause various kinds of drug test interactions include Alka-Seltzer plus, Allerest, Bronkaid, Contac, Donnagel, Sinuntab, and Sudafed.
While the LANS policy states that your sample can be retested by an additional lab to validate the accuracy, you won't be given the chance to give a second urine sample. From the info above, it would appear that people taking cold remedies and stress or depression medications are most at risk of a "false positive" reading. If anyone has better data on the subject of "false positives", please inform the rest of us.
Let's all hope that only illegal drug users get affected by this new testing policy. We are going to have a 30 day comment period before it starts. One possible modification might be to request that a second urine sample be allowed (say, within a few days after the first) to help reduce any chance of a "false positive" fiasco. It's my understanding that many illegal drugs tend to stick around in the body for some period of time.
could send a copy to him/her so that it can get posted to the blog.
Every single day !
-An anonymous staff member who loves to vote Republican in the privacy of the voting booth
"Ibuprofen, contained in Advil, Nuprin, and Mortin, can make a positive result for marijauna,"
"Some additional over the counter medicines that may cause various kinds of drug test interactions include Alka-Seltzer plus, Allerest, Bronkaid, Contac, Donnagel, Sinuntab, and Sudafed,"
I begin to sit up and take notice.
How many non-drug-addicts among you have old-guy knees and allergies to 90% of the plants in New Mexico? I have hiked all over Northern New Mexico, up and down the hills so much that my knees actually make noise, and I've had allergies for 32 of the last 34 years I've lived in Northern New Mexico, not unlike most of my non-Bechtel colleagues who've been here for more than two years. It looks like I am a "walking," "free-breathing" candidate for a false-positive drug test.
Dear Mike (Anastasio): What am I to do? Can you give me a little advice here?
--Your pal, Brad
Look, it is in LANS best interest to avoid RIFs by (1) lowering morale so that we just up and quit; (2) demote and humiliate us by bringing in their own Bechtel staff as line managers; and (3) terminate us for "cause" - so a false positive allows them to RIF us without it being a RIF. At a United Health Care open enrollment meeting (back a couple of years), the topic was the high copay for several name brand medications. We were advised that antidepressants, blood pressure and cholesterol drugs were the top three prescribed drugs for a high percentage of LANL staff. If that was a couple of years ago, I can only imagine that the current higher usage of these legal medications - with a real potential of false positives. Who said that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself?