Tuesday, December 12, 2006


Follow-on LANL Blog: First Post

And now, it's over 5 months since Doug shut down The Blog, as it came to be known at Los Alamos. (Thanks for those two years, Doug; we Labbies needed the outlet, and the country needed a window into the sausage-factory workings of the military-industrial, nuclear-weapons bureaucracy.)

Many things have happened since the Shutdown of The Blog (as distinguished from Nanos' notorious Shutdown of the Lab). Mike Anastasio is the new Director (ex-UC, ex-Livermore Director). He, like Bob Kuckuck, the interim Director, seems to be nearly human, maybe even possessing something akin to a sense of humor, if not decency. It is reported that Anastasio had loud shouting matches with John Mitchell, his Deputy from Bechtel, about just who was "in charge here," vis-a-vis ASAP RIFs, as Bechtel wanted, vs. contractors being "let go," as Anastasio held out for. And Anastasio apparently "won," since Mitchell suddenly discovered he had a family one afternoon, as indicated by Anastasio's memo, followed by Mitchell's. Meantime, some 700 contractors have been "let go," so that the profit-making corporation can preserve their profits, while attempting to balance the Lab's budget on the backs of scientists. And the bureaucratic constipation has not been relieved by "privatization," or "corporatization," as some prefer to call it.

Here are the outstanding questions, and I welcome any (thoughtful, sensible, adult-like) comments, maybe even from Mike Anastasio himself:

(1) How many more RIFs or "lettings go" will be forthcoming?

(2) Is the above scenario, re Bechtel vs. ex-UC (and ex-Livermore) with regard to RIFs at all accurate? (If so, it might even give the in-the-shitter morale a bit of an upward boost.)

(3) Will LANS, LLC, seek Congressional help in mitigating their cost over-runs (consisting of their outrageous "fee," increased Gross Receipts Tax, exorbitant managerial salaries and bonuses--oh wait, those are "included" in the "fee"--and costs of making retirement for previous UC employees "substantially equivalent")? Or is next year going to be characterized by "stay the course"?

(4) Is science going to be exalted once again, or are those merely "Golden Words" from Mike Anastasio's mouth? Or, instead, will there be more emphasis on plutonium pit production and new nuke designs?

(5) Is there any evidence that for-profit privatization has improved safety? security? ... morale (-apart from the wild enthusiasm of managers who were "awarded" $100K or even $200K bonuses)?

(6) Finally, has privatization worked on any level (-akin to FEMA in New Orleans or LockMart/Grumman in unseaworthy Coast Guard boats or Halliburton/Bechtel "reconstruction" in Iraq)?

And do our colleagues at Livermore have any hopes that they might draw from the Los Alamos experience? If not, there are three women, whose power has increased dramatically since early November, whom our California friends ought to contact:

(1) Dianne Feinstein
(2) Barbara Boxer
(3) Nancy Pelosi

--Pat, The Dog

P.S. to my Livermore compatriots: Give those three ladies my best regards.

[In my original post, I inadvertantly called John Mitchell "Charlie." Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. Sorry, John. Go back to your family.]

Once upon a time, many years ago, I worked for a company that decided to stand up an new, high-tech division. They went to their low-tech divisions (those that did crass commercial stuff which paid the dividends) and told them, "We want the best two or three people out of each department to staff the new enterprise."

Well, as luck would have it, the low tech divisions indeed had people they wanted to share with their arrogant corporate brothers. They were the deadwood and the dregs -- the people who could neither be fired nor promoted. They were offered the "opportunity of a lifetime" to move over to the new high tech division and "make a name for yourself."

The people who were sharp and had a clear upward career path stayed with the low-tech divisions, and, with the pruning of the deadwood, did quite well thank you.

Which brings us to LANS. I've gotten the strong message in the past six months that LANS is the dumping ground for the deadwood from the "corporate partners." Instead of the best and the brightest, we got the top half of the bottom thirty percent.

It's enough to make you join the union.
Let me be the first to say that it is lovely to have such an attractive blog custodian. Doug was okay and his parrots were stunning, but Pat, you look so soft, cuddly and earnest, I can't help but think that you will be just what the LANL employees need.
These three liberal boneheads are as worthless as boobs on a bore hog. They are the reason california is how it is and nicknamed, "the land of the fruits and nuts". These three have only one interest in mind and that is. "how to shut LLNL down" completely. We can expect no help from these three of the future President of the United States, " Hillary Clinton". Sorry, but asking these three or soon to be four for help is not going to fly.
I, Pat, the Dog, may appear to be "soft, cuddly and earnest," but my motto is "Sniff the patter's hand first; it could be a manager."
New poll out by Times/Bloomberg: "By a 47 percent to 28 percent margin, Americans now think Democrats can do a better job of solving the country's problems than the president can. They also think Democrats are better able to handle Iraq, although by a narrower margin of 45 percent to 34 percent." Looks like it's time for Anonymous (7:26) to slink back to his cave.
Congratulations for starting the new blog. Gosh, I missed L-TRS! I am one who hoped things would be different. Sigh, it's gotten worse. (Can you believe it, you LANL retirees??) Oh, well, hopefully LANS will continue to pay my tuition.
Signing my real name,
Is that you, b-ohica? Post #3???
Enough with the anonymous already. It's a free country. Use your rights or lose them.

Please note: There is NO FOUO or otherwise restricted information in this post. Everything here has a URL which you can reference, save the comment on bonuses, which I have been told in person by any number of people at church, etc.

The official announcement came out recently that LANL is about $200M in the hole. This deficit was inevitable. We are now a for-profit corporation, we have pensions to pay, we have taxes to pay, and we have fees (profit) to pay. Given that UC returned most of their fee to LANL in most years, and that the UC pension was self-funding, it is safe to say that the overal burden has increased by about a factor of 100.

Our state senators and representatives are shocked!, yes, shocked!, that this deficit exists. We here are wondering where these guys were when this issue was raised, many times, by folks here at Los Alamos and other places. And of course there was legislation written; did they read it? They certainly voted for it! http://domenici.senate.gov/news/topicrecord.cfm?id=263932&code=DOELabs

There was a town meeting recently. Retirees are finding that they are unable to get their drug benefits paid. They go to get their medications and they have to pay the full amount: their account has some sort of mark that means that the health insurer will not pay. Nobody knows why. The handling of retiree health choices has been outsourced. As a result, the retirees only get a two week period instead of one month period to choose health care.
(Note: to LANS credit, this 2-week window problem was recently fixed).

More environmental woes, it appears the move to Bechtel has not suddenly made everything better: http://www.lamonitor.com/articles/2006/10/30/headline_news/news01.txt.

There are layoffs happening, supposedly up to 500 or more. But they are all contractors, and LANL declines to take the blame. The argument is that LANL just tells the contractors what they need, if the contractors lay people off, that's their business. Many find this argument less than convincing. http://www.freenewmexican.com/news/51021.html. Note that among the people laid off are those concerned with safety.

The small businesses, promised so much by LANS, are finding the promise better than reality. LANS is in a hole; the local businesses are expensive; what else can LANS do? I find it hard to blame LANS for deciding to save money. They can go to the web and purchase, and save money, but local small businesses are not that happy about it. http://www.freenewmexican.com/news/50640.html. However, LANS promises things will get better.

In many divisions, people are not getting a pay raise; they are getting a "bonus". This is a way of keeping their salary flat. Next year, they will find the same bonus, and the same salary. If they're still here ...the brain drain continues; another friend of mine announced today that he is leaving; I know several more in my small group that are on their way out.

LLNL: you folks might want to take heed of what is going on here. You ought to consider derailing this process, via your elected representatives; they now swing a great deal of weight. You might want to see if you can stop the privatization of LLNL before it follows the unpleasant path LANL is taking. Science is in enough trouble these days in the U.S.

It's nice to see the blog back. I am sorry to see anonymous comments. I don't think words like 'boneheads' advance the discussion or make us look all that intelligent. I hope the level of discourse will improve. On the other hand, I may get slammed by some 'anonymous coward' (as slashdot calls them) for making this comment.


Hey pat, is there an email for you?
Just the other day I was talking with a recent LANL retiree about the LANL Blog and how it was needed now more than ever. What a timely development!

The effect that the transition is having on LANL staff and scientists is difficult....and it is having the same effect on the town. Things are seriously out of balance in Los Alamos. I question if it can ever make up ground lost commercially, since surrounding towns continue to develop and grow while Los Alamos stagnates.
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?

Not much.
We need to organzie a UNION now - Yes we have UPTWE - what have they done the last 5 years??? Look at this years health care cost increses and the lack of any real pay increase. Organize now to save our butts down the road.
Im so very happy to have an oulet to view my concerns as an employee who give a crap of whats going on up here(Lans) Thank You?

Now...as far as morale.. thats a no brainer, morale is at its worse and getting worse everyday. Incompetent managers are running this place into the ground. employees are worried about whats at stake for them and their familys. The cost of living to pay ratio is hitting an all time low.

Discrimination is running rampant. The mucks are not showing any care. Safety and securty is also falling.

What can we do... demand answers! Dont let management escape meetings without honest answers, Rif every dam deputy group leader on the hill.. we do not need them they are wasted space and cost. Demand that managers get in tune with their employees.

We cannot continue to sit by and watch as management screws us all over. We need true and honest leadership!

Name withheld because of FEAR!! nothing has changed, Wake up!
Thank you for resurrecting a place to voice thoughts, opinions, etc. after the LANS conversion. The Lab News Bulletin seems to only be a forum for complaining about crazy drivers and awful traffic flow, especially in inclement weather. I thought there was more to life (and the Lab) than that.

Thanks again for confirming my suspicions. You are the BEST, Pat!!!!
I think corporate America had a lot to do with moving the LANL contract from UC to corporate America. The bidders were government contractors who funded LANL's detractors' political campaigns. These detrators then made political hay of any slip made at LANL. We all noticed how much bigger a deal it was for if a safety incident occurred at LANL than if it appeared at a non-government run National Laboratory.
Let's face it, privatizing everything in sight, was part of the Bush agenda. Once he won the 2004 election, LANL's fate was sealed.
No, UC wasn't a great manager, but it did provide lots better benefits than LANS. Employees don't have to be ashamed to ask for good benefits. They should be proud.
Watch out who you call boneheads sir, these liberal ladies already have some power over your life and so does Hillary Clinton. And at the rate the male politicians are going, there will be more each election.
Women are waking up to the fact that they are underpaid, under promoted, and verbally by such characters as you. As a result they are taking their destinies in their own hands, getting elected to public office, and speaking out about their treatment.
It is no accident that women have won lawsuits against LANL for pay discrimination and mistreatment. We are mad as hell and we aren't going to take it anymore.
Pat, growl at that jerk.
Good on ya, Pat! I hold out some considerable hope that 'Pat' is not necessarily a typical 'Labbie' (guy, nerd with adhesive-tape repair on black hornrim glasses), but perhaps a radical feminist. Watch out, guys!
You’d think that a place that bills itself as home for a bunch of brainy people would come up with a better idea than getting rid of 700 people or whatever! Come on, get real! (Oh, well, contractors (and includes UC) often aren’t very insightful.) Of course, anyone who reads the local newspapers knows that LANL faces a budget shortfall! But instead of axing a bunch of working stiffs why not have an ACROSS-THE-BOARD salary reduction, PROPORTIONAL according to gross pay (with those paid less being impacted the least). An overall reduction of around 17% should about do it! Certainly, an area that has the highest per capita income in the entire USofA can afford this!
"ACROSS-THE-BOARD salary reduction, PROPORTIONAL according to gross pay (with those paid less being impacted the least). An overall reduction of around 17% should about do it! Certainly, an area that has the highest per capita income in the entire USofA can afford this!

Now there is a real problem solver. Pay cuts in a time when gas is $3.00 a gallon, interest rates are going up, cars cost more thnn 1/2 a years pay and homes prices are so high that the likelihood of paying it off in your lifetime is about nil. Oh yeah, I think that a cure-all for the new corporation. We'll sir, stand by because your dream is about to come true. You may not get a pay cut, but you surely will not be getting any pay raises for the next tens years. LANS is always open to good suggestions and I am sure they are on line reading this. Enjoy the way of the new world.
Just thought you all might like to see the deeper Bechtel link to LANL (or LANS-LLC or LLNS-LLC, for you Livermore guys and gals). Here it is; read it and weep:

Pat: It looks like Bechtel has had some considerable experience in managing large government stuff (if not science). For example, their website, which you reference, says:

"Bechtel brings world-class business and financial management to the team. The company has had extensive experience at large government facilities, including Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, the Idaho National Laboratory, and the Nevada Test Site."

However, Oak Ridge is now run by UT Battelle, Idaho Natl. Lab. is run by Battelle Energy Alliance, and the NTS is run by (guess who?) DOE/NNSA! Bechtel is out of the game in all three, but back in the game at LANL, and soon to be at LLNL! What a comeback outfit!!!
It's evident that the new contract for LLNL, "is what it is" and that there is nothing anyone at LLNL is going to do about it, even with all the hoopla from the so called powerless union. I believe the best that an LLNL employee can count on is being employed through 2007 and for most of the population, until Oct 1st, 2008. By that date the new LLC will have assessed their needs by reviewing everyone's evaluations, determined their operating budget, and will have made a decision of who is to stay and who is to go based on their "needs". So by Christmas of 2008 I would expect to see an enormous amount of pink slips handed out just before the holidays. This is a common practice in the real world.

So you're now asking yourself, don't they care. The answer is yes, but not about you. You are employed on a contract basis to do a job for a base pay. When the funds have been depleted not only will the project go away, but so will you and I don't mean onto an EBA list. You will be out the gate until such time you apply for employment once again, maybe doing something entirely different at a new pay scale. Get use to it. It's exactly the way most private companies work and I will tell you from experience, that one particular program at LLNL has worked that way since its conception; and they make it very clear at the job interview.

So with that said, most of you are going to have to come to realize that the days of having a secure pension or a secure job for 30-40 years, "is over", for good. Why is this so hard to come to terms with?
Some questions.
1. What measures were put in place to assure the viability of the TCP1 plan against raids, poor returns etc, so that those who chose to transfer into it were confident the promised payouts would be fulfilled? Is it still fully funded under the ERISA rules?
2. Did the technical staff recieve a raise package in October? If so what was the package size?
3. What strategies has LANS LLC employed to reduce costs other than contractor layoffs? (Lower LDRD, less travel, defered procurements, etc.
4. Has the changeover given most employees a new sense of urgency and ownership of security and safety processes and practices or is it business as usual?
5. How is staff retention and hiring going?
More questions about the transition

1. The UC pension plan will begin retaining the required employee pension contribution (the former DCP contribution)again in July 2007 to resume funding the defined benefit plan again after a many year hiatus. Will LANS LLC require this increase in employee contribution as well for members of TCP1?
2. The employee contribution to the UC medical insurance rose substantially again this year, did LANS LLC increase the employee contribution as well to remain substantially equivalent?
3. When you transitioned to the new employer you faced a complex set of choices regarding benefits. Are some choices obviously superior to others? What are the lessons learned?
4. Have the increased costs of operation been realized in your WFO work? If so, how are sponsors reacting? (Maybe the answer to this doesn't belong on a public blog.)

Thanks again. Nice to have the blog up again.
Quoting Paul Krugman:

Bechtel, the giant engineering company, is leaving Iraq. Its mission ­ to rebuild
power, water and sewage plants ­ wasn't accomplished: Baghdad received less than
six hours a day of electricity last month, and much of Iraq's population lives
with untreated sewage and without clean water. But Bechtel, having received $2.3
billion of taxpayers' money and having lost the lives of 52 employees, has come to
the end of its last government contract.

As Bechtel goes, so goes the whole reconstruction effort.


And as Bechtel at LANL goes...?
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.)
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