Friday, December 15, 2006


Gloomy? Be Your Own Sunshine, Boys 'n Girls!

From Anonymous (man, there sure are a lot of Anons out there!):

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.]

It turned out that I could no longer tolerate LANL management for what they had allowed former Director Nanos to get away with. The shutdown of 2004 and the events that followed were intolerable; unforgivable, even.

I put in my papers when it became apparent that UC had no real intentions of correcting any of the problems that the Nanos episodes highlighted. I have never looked back.

I don't work at LANL now, of course, but given that UC is still an integral part of the management team I can't imagine how things will ever improve. From what I hear from former colleagues who do still work there it appears to not be a very happy place. All I can say is good luck and best wishes to those of you who are still there. Consider what the poster says; for some the best solution might be to leave LANL and go someplace else where the work environment is more rewarding.

Doug Roberts
Pat, Doug, et al.

I am glad that a new blog is up and running. Thanks, Pat - have another dog cookie.

I remain an employee of LANL/LANS and do have concerns about my future as well as the future of the lab. However, I still believe that LANL has a significant role to play and hold out hope that it will be able (be allowed) to do get on with it.

So, I haven't given up yet.

Larry J. Cox (receedingHairline)

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.
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.
Comments, anyone?

New plan complicates federal funding delays, Los Alamos Monitor, Dec 15th
I'd say Bingaman and Domenici better git crackin'! They BOTH would like to see their funding for science come to fruition, so the Republican punt has not YET led to a Democrat fumble.

Here are some excerpts from the LA Monitor article:

New Plan Complicates Federal Funding Delays
-ROGER SNODGRASS Monitor Assistant Editor

Democrats in charge of the two houses of Congress next year are talking about removing earmarks and imposing a flat funding scheme for a load of unfinished appropriations bills next year including FY07 funds for national laboratories.

Domenici said, "The Democratic proposal, if adopted, would have serious negative consequences on a large number of New Mexico projects and activities and would likely lead to delays in important initiatives and some layoffs at facilities in our state."

Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., pinned responsibility on Republicans for not passing 11 out of 13 appropriations bills last year.

"I am extremely disappointed that the outgoing majority failed to bring up most spending bills before the new fiscal year, which began more than two months ago," he said in a statement Thursday. "The failure to consider these bills puts the new Congress, which will convene next year, in a very difficult situation. I hope our state does not have to suffer for the outgoing majority's inaction."
The 11 unfinished appropriations bills were extended by continuing resolution through Feb. 15.

Domenici said he had opposed his party's decision "to punt on these funding bills last week." He continued, "But the Democratic proposal takes the Republican punt and completely fumbles it."

Domenici's initiatives for energy independence and a joint effort with Bingaman to bolster competitiveness and scientific research would also be lost under the new plan.
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