Tuesday, January 02, 2007
The Looming Damage to Science by the Corporate State
Sadly, successive years of increasingly inept management at LANL have taken their toll. Many of the better scientists have already left, thanks to the unbearable incompetence of the University of California, the former contractor of LANL. Incompetence which culminated last year when DOE put the contract for the laboratory up for bid after 63 contiguous years of UC "stewardship".
Now, a construction company is in charge. As of July 1, 2005, Bechtel and friends are firmly in control of LANL. Bechtel, BWXT, The Washington Group, and yes, The University of California are now all doing business together under the umbrella of a newly formed LLC named "LANS". Bechtel is a construction company. Within LANS, Bechtel is in charge. LANS is guaranteed a fat plum of an award fee, $79 million, every year for running LANL. LANS also has a new agenda for LANL that has very little to do with "World Class Science". That self-proclaimed sobriquet was pompously trumpeted by former LANL director Peter G. Nanos in the final days of his reign of terror as the last official UC-employed director of the place. The new agenda: LANS has indicated to the lab's customer, DOE, that they are in full support of DOE's plans to create a plutonium pit production facility at LANL. Plutonium foundry operations and pit production are to become the number one priority at LANL. "World Class Science" will be a distant number 2, or number 3 priority, coming in far behind pit production and blindly following all of DOE's incomprehensible rules and regulations.
But the world outside of Los Alamos has very little sympathy with LANL staff and their deteriorating work environment. Why should it? LANL staff have (accurately) portrayed themselves over the years as elitist, over-privileged, highly paid, detached, self-centered iconoclasts. Prima donas. Drug tests? It's about time. Polygraph tests? Tough shit. Find a job elsewhere if you think all of this is beneath you.
Bechtel (yes, I know: LANS, but we all know that Bechtel is in the driver's seat) agrees. The budget shortfall for the current fiscal year is very real. The more people that leave of their own volition, the less bad press Bechtel (and friends) will have to take when it comes time to RIF.
The damage that has been done at LANL over the years, both by arrogant, incompetent management, and by arrogant, detached, elitist scientists alike probably cannot be undone. The work environment at Los Alamos will not get any better than it currently is. It will get worse. Those who choose to, and who are allowed to remain on staff at LANL will have to reconcile themselves to the fact that a profit-driven corporation does not have the employee's best interests at heart. Deal with it, or leave.
P.S. Anonymous sez: "Deal with it, or leave."
Fight back, you *bleeping* cowards! Don't let this guy and The Corporation talk to you like that! Show some goddamn SPINE! Bite 'em in the corporate leg!
--Pat, the not-so-nice-anymore Dog (Grrrrr!!!)
I *could* use a little help here, ya know.
--Pat, the Dog
I thought the previous LANL blog clearly demonstrated that there were only a handful of people at Los Alamos who had the courage to stand up for their convictions. The rest just cowered in anonymity. I imagine many of the worthwhile people have already left, or are planning to do so. What remains a year from now will truly be the dregs.
OAK RIDGE - The government paid BWXT $33.6 million for managing the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant in 2006, even after the contractor was penalized for problems with a new uranium storage center.
The fee was $4.3 million more than the contractor earned for 2005.
BWXT, a partnership of BWX Technologies and Bechtel National, operates the plant for the National Nuclear Security Administration under a performance-based contract.