Sunday, January 14, 2007

 

Is there really "new" management at LANL?

I got this from an Anonymous Source, thoughtful and worth further thought, and comment. Think about this, LANL and LLNL folks: The Cold War has been over for 16 years, and it's time to move onto the 21st Century. A new model for the Labs is in order.

...Hello? Is anyone in Congress listening? Udall's staff: Are you there? Bingaman's?

--Pat

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If the switch over to LANS as the "new manager" for LANL was meant to bring in a team of new managers directed to improve the situation, I question where are those new managers? Did LANL really get new management or did the "old-boy club" just move their offices, start to wear khakis and nice shirts, and have their salaries cranked up?

When the bids were being put together for the new contract a select few LANL people worked with UC to design the LANS bid. Who were these people? Where do they sit now? RUMINT has it that Alan Bishop, ex Theoretical Division Director, and now Associate Director; Terry Wallace, ex Associate Director and now Principal Associate Director, were part of this select group, who else was in this group, and why? Should anyone of us be concerned that the "new deal plan" that was worked out, included promoting those that wrote the plan? Hmmm? I would like to learn more, actual facts, of who exactly wrote up the plan that was eventually awarded as the LANS contract? How did these "authors" of the plan become selected to do this? Are their ties back to UC, for example President Dynes, and the current lab management -- that is friends and cronies that would indicate nepotism (a common theme...).

However the current LANS management came to be, they have a tough job ahead of them. Some obvious questions they don't seem to be addressing include:

(1) "What is your business model, LANS?". The word on the street back in Washington DC for a long time now has been that there will be a significant drop in budgets for nuclear weapons physics research. You can see that coming! What other new scientific and engineering areas is LANS moving into to make up for this expected deficit?

(2) Who at LANL is in charge of the business model? Using your language, "Who owns this?" In the current funding-lord environment it seems like business as usual -- that is every person, team, group, division, directorate out for themselves, just worry about coverage. Zero coordination, zero corporate teamwork. The AD's fight between themselves, and that behavior is imitated all the way down the chain.

(3) What exactly do you mean you say "We want to do science?" For whom? What customers? Who, with funding, cares about what we are doing? Why should a funding agency pay $400K/yr/TSM compared to half of that for someone at a university or in industry? There is PLENTY of exciting science for the talent at LANL to reorient themselves at (climate change, energy sources, energy efficency, ...). If a LDRD comes across your desk, as an Associate Director, tell us how you really evaluate the proposal? Is it based on coverage, that is how many people in your line organization will be funded by this? By the way..., "Grand Challenges Should Not Be Determined by LANL." Geez!

(4) Are you willing and able to do the toughest part of being a manager? That is, often times you will have to let some of your employees go. This could be due to a number of reasons {lack of performance, etc}. Or, ..., is it easier to just "promote the problem" away from your wave function?

(5) Finally, for now, are you willing to LISTEN? Why is it now that people around LANL dont speak up? Doesn't that seem weird to you? Are you getting any feedback from below? The lab is at its worst right now and going downhill each day. Is your plan, canonical lab manager, to just lay low, collect your big paychecks until you retire at any moment you want? Sure, you must know that things are bad now, you've been here a long time. So, if you do your job as a manager, you will improve things! What does your job description, your performance objectives state, other than being safe and secure? Are there things like financial resposiblity, growth of new areas, attraction of top scientists and staff? Where are the managers at LANL who are supposed to be doing that?

If you want to be "corporate", then perhaps you demonstrate that you are of the caliber of corporate managers. Those managers have a bottom line, if they do not peform they are out the door (of course, we all have the perception of the Ken Lay's of the world in our small world LANL view). The managers of successful corporations have to make tough decisions, grow the company, keep the employees happy, move into new areas and markets to meet the changing customer demand. Are you doing that? If it is each scientists job to get their own funding, as it now seems, then why should we pay your institution more than 3 times our salary? What value added is there in that business model?

Comments:
WFO, aka real science, is dead at LANL and it's not going to come back. No sponsor is going to pay $400K per year for a TSM who is going to spend 1/3rd of the time doing training and paperwork. And, there is no way that LANS management is going to do anything to reduce the overhead rates. Furthermore, unlike the nuclear weapons work where the real cost and poor productivity are carefully hidden, WFO has real accountability.
 
Has the actual, final contract between LANS and NNSA ever been published for public scrutiny?

Can Greg Mello file an FOIA claim and get it published?
 
The poster has presented us with a well-considered piece, in which he asks a number of good questions about several puzzling aspects of LANL and the new contract. I would like to suggest that when the observations of a situation don't make sense, then perhaps the working premise is flawed.

To illustrate, consider the following premise as an explanation of why the LANL contract was put out for bid. Instead of accepting that the bid process was initiated to provide an environment for making improvements to the flawed operational environment at LANL, consider that the contract for LANL was put up for bid to provide the opportunity for a corporate raid. A hostile takeover. As I am sure you know, the objective of a hostile takeover is to allow the new owner of the purchased entity to dismantle its new purchase and sell it off piecemeal for immediate profit. Its like selling a stolen automobile. You can sell the parts off separately for a much greater profit than if you try to sell the stolen vehicle intact. A few core assets might be retained, if they show potential for producing profit themselves. The objective is to maximize short-term gain, as compared to nurturing the long-term growth and health of the entity.

If you accept this premise, then most of what has been observed at LANL begins to make sense. The short-term, low profit-margin assets at LANL are quickly being sold off. These assets, of course, are the WFO components of LANL's infrastructure, to include the scientists and support staff who worked in those areas. The "science", if you prefer. The remaining assets that will be retained are the plutonium fabrication operations, which have the potential for returning (near) short-term profits for the holding corporation.

The one observation that puzzled the poster which is not explained by this new working premise is:

"Why is it now that people around LANL dont speak up? Doesn't that seem weird to you?"

This behavior can also be explained by using a different premise. Instead of assuming that the majority of LANL staff have the institution's best interests at heart, if you work from the premise that the majority of staff are primarily focused on their own best interests, then I believe the observed behavior LANL staff makes perfect sense.
 
On #1 - "What is the business model?" It's clear to me that there really is none. Lots of talk about "Let's do Grand Challenge science", cheerleading for people to "Go out and find new funding", but little in the way of actual funds to support any of this work. And with TSM's running a cost close to $400K, finding funding outside of NNSA is becoming almost hopeless. The lab is extremely cash-strapped right now, and will be more so in FY 08 and FY 09. In reality, the real business model probably looks forward a few years out when our corporate 'partners' will be able to make a tidy sum off new production facilities.

On #2 - "Who is in charge of the business model?" No one, because no one will be held accountable if it fails. Terry and Alan will make out just fine regardless of the black hole into which the lab falls. So will most of the other upper-level 'Program Managers'.

On #3 - "What to you mean by 'We want to do science? For whom?'" They haven't a clue. It's not easy going out as an individual staff member looking for someone to support you to the tune of $400K per year. I've been at LANL for many years and never had a single LANL 'Program Manager' bring a dime of funding into my office. They have no concept of how hard it is for the individual staff member struggling to survive with funding. And a large and growing number TSM are quickly joining the ranks of the 'unfunded' at LANL. There is a mis-guided idea running around LANL that somehow 'TR will save us'. From what I've seen, Doug Beason and his boys have been hording most of the TR funds in their own little world. They see the storm clouds forming and want 'their people' to be able to take cover when the storm hits in FY 08.

On #4 - "Are you willing to fire workers?". No. They'll push the decision down to the lowest levels of LANL (GL or maybe even Team Leaders) when the funding situation in FY 08 finally forces the issue.

On #5 - "Are you willing to listen. Why don't the staff speak up?" They will go through the motions of listening. The staff, much like upper management, are looking out for their own future. That's why they keep silent. Also, realize that most of the staff at LANL these days are either in support or management positions. In support, they are making much more than they could outside of LANL and don't want to spoil a very good thing. In management, they have increased their salaries, thanks to LANS, and will have fantastic job protection when the layoffs hit in FY 08. In this situation, why would either of these two groups want to rock the boat?
 
The scenario, as I see it, will be no RIFs or layoffs. LANS will still try to appear as a "good ole boy and we are here to help you. What they will do is outsource like crazy. They won't have to RIF but whoever gets a subcontract will do the dirty work.
Who: Desktop computer support, Travel, Parts of HR, Network Support, Training, Security, Engineering Design, Parts of PM, Parts of ESH. LANS could easily get down to <7000 or 6000 through outsourcing. If you have support skill better polish up the resume and learn how the real world works.

Bechtel has probably another 500 people they would like to get here. Plus bringing over 200 or so KSL folks. They gotta get rid of 1500 plus another 700 or so. Plus scare the bejesus out of some old timers who are hanging in there and they will leave. But that will be through the retirement rework.

They will totally rework retirement. All the TCP1r's - you will start paying high monthly's to the plan. The multiplier will drastically change. Instead of 75% at 58.5 with 30 years or so you'll see it go to work until 65 and get 60% (or less). So stick around too long and your TCP1 will be pennies on the dollar. TCP2r's - only 500 or so of those, but the extra 5.5% over the 6% matching for over 20 years will probably change. Old timers cost them money.

Holidays will get reduced. Vacation/Sick will go to personal time off. The shutdown at Christmas will go away. All that costs money. LANS was surprised at how much snow removal costs. If this last snow would have happened at any other time than the Christmas shutdown it would have cost them $5M per day. Any snow days we get is because LANLS management doesn't want their new little sports cars all dirty'd up. And/or they don't have a clue how to maneuver them on ice with snow.

Science - The philosophy is that LANS came here to establish some control and formality based on them getting their fee through the PBIs - that means Conduct of Engineering, ConOps, Conduct of Maintenance, and Conduct of Training. It will take a few years to get that under control. Science, little by little, will go away. If you want to do science then you will need to go to a University or to LBL or to LLNL (they will be the science and Green lab). LANL will be Pits, HE testing, Weapons Physics, ??

I think they will work to make it seamless across the labs. No extra perks at LANL that you would get at Pantex or SNL or SRS. NNSA doesn't want ship jumping. You better have your ducks in a row and a plan come 1 June 2007 because the 1 year of touchy feely will be over and it will be time to get down to business.

BOHICA will be a way of life. Get your knee pads and get the grease.
 
dThe only problem I see with the "build pits for a profit" theory is that LANL couldn't build a decent pit if Mike Mallory's bonus depended on it.

(Oh wait, it does!)
 
1/14/2007 3:42 PM is right, for the most part. However, I disagree with the assessment of "LANL will be Pits, HE testing, Weapons Physics, ?? " HE testing is WAY too expensive, and weapon physics is expensive and irrelevant to pit production.
 
We already know about "the big bonus pirks" the LLNL boys are getting for their troubles, anyone know what Terry, Alan, Susan, and Mary (the LANL management carry-overs) are getting for all of their hard work?
 
An earlier poster asked, "Has the actual, final contract between LANS and NNSA ever been published for public scrutiny?"

No, despite numerous promises by Mike, Terry and others in public discussions with the LANL work force before June 1, 2006, the final contract has not been published and details have never been discussed.
 
Why is LANS hiding the contract they agreed to at this late point in time? What are they afraid of? What major 'competitive advantage' was it that piece of paper that allowed them to waltz away with the RFP bid, even though NNSA claims the bidding scores were very, very close? I think the working stiffs at LANL are due some answers on this issue.
 
The "new management" has no intention of listening to the workers. My AD has "10 minute session with Susan" and she hears the complaints, agrees there is a problem, and then does nothing. 'Nuff said.
 
I strongly urge current LANL employees to contact (call, email, write, fax) Congressman Bart Stupak, who is the new chairman of the Oversight and Investigation subcommittee of the House’s Energy and Commerce Committee… from the January 19, 2007 Detroit Free Press…

“WASHINGTON -- From protecting nuclear secrets to exposing Medicare fraud, U.S. Rep. Bart Stupak said Thursday he's planning a full menu of investigations in a new, high-profile role on Capitol Hill… Stupak is chairman of the Oversight and Investigation subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. That committee, run by U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., has the authority to write legislation on everything from global warming to Internet services… Stupak said his first priority is a hearing on management of the government's Los Alamos, N.M., nuclear research labs, which have suffered a series of security problems…”

His DC office numbers are (202) 225 4735… Fax -(202) 225 4744… the committee’s office number is (202) 225-2927 or go to their website to email them…
 
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