Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Loss of Mission After the Cold War Ended

From "White House, Congress feud over weapons labs: Security breaches at Los Alamos highlight a hearing by exasperated House panelists," by James Sterngold, San Francisco Chronicle Staff Writer, Wednesday, January 31, 2007:

Many experts say it is no longer clear what kind of nuclear deterrent the United States should have, if any, and thus what kind of nuclear complex is needed.

The Defense Science Board, a body of outside experts that advises the Pentagon, wrote in a report in December that throughout the Cold War there was a basic understanding within the government about the kind of nuclear stockpile the country needed to deter any attacks by the Soviet Union.

"Fifteen years after the end of the Cold War, this consensus no longer exists," the report concluded.

Paul Robinson, the retired head of the Sandia National Laboratories, another weapons facility, said that the real issue was not boxes on an organizational chart, but a sense of mission, which is now lacking because there is no agreement on the purpose and size of the nuclear stockpile.

"There is a sense of drift, and that hurts," he said.

Commented Phil Coyle, a former top weapons scientist at Livermore and the Pentagon and now a senior adviser to the Center for Defense Information: "Little wonder it's become such an ineffective complex, because of all the uncertainties over what it's doing."

People who work at the labs need to understand that with the Dems now in control of Congress, bi-partisan support has emerged to but the Federal budget back in "pay-go" mode. What this means is that the last 6 years of pork barrel spending have now come to an abrupt end. With "pay-go", increases in Federal spending can't be done unless cuts are made in existing programs or taxes are raised.

For this next fiscal year, Congress wants to again modify the tax code so that 19 million additional taxpayers are not thrown in to the dreaded AMT category. Doing just this one thing will cost the budget $50 billion in this next fiscal year. The Iraq War costs are also being bundled into the regular budget, rather than into some "off budget" fantasy land. Costs for the Iraq War fiasco are increasing, not decreasing. Lots of expensive tanks and guns have worn out due to overuse in Iraq and now need to be replaced. Budgeting for the Iraq War will add at least another $100 billion to be covered through cuts in discretionary programs in the FY08 budget. Finally, add in the effects of increased spending for Medicare and Social Security as more Boomer's exit the work force next year. Funding requirements for the Grey Boom will begin to drastically increase over the next 10 years and eat up a large portion of the Federal budget.

The reality is that budgets for NNSA labs are likely to be severely squeezed for a long time. The "gravy train" days are over. Regardless of what LANS or our local Congressmen may tell us, you are going to see some nasty reductions in the size of the laboratory workforce. St. Pete has been hinting about this for the last few months, but many of the staff at LANL have been snoozing and haven't yet let the facts sink in. It looks like a nasty fiscal storm is approaching. If your work depends on Federal government funding, watch out!
Organizations that are vital to the US don't get hit with the types of attacks that we are now seeing at LANL. The fact that we are now constantly under attack from Congress should be telling us something. It goes beyond just the increasing number of screw-ups that may, or may not, be happening at LANL.
I like what 11:17 said, but more importantly, I agree fullheartedly, LANL cannot stay at the same funding levels...2.2billion is about 1.2 billion in wasted tax-payer dollars, Yes it was great in past a funding source formed by Sen Peter V Domenici to support northern New Mexico, enstead of funding for self relience, he choose to funnel money to the population throught the lab..OK a few things were produced at the Lab and a few folks got off on their little sceince projects , but in the whole scheme of things LANL has become out-dated and much too costly. Hey even the employees look around and say >>>What a waste of money....It's time for the Gravy Train to stop...We all know what goes on here(or maybe doesnt) No one is going to save us, it's time salvage what we need from here and move on, just part of the cycle of life, Congress and thje DOE..
While there are indeed things that (practically speaking) only LANL can do, I have no doubt that a group of people sitting down and going through LANL's Mission Portfolio can find a whole bunch of stuff that can be done elsewhere.

Shut LANL down? Seems unlikely. Ship some stuff elsewhere? Seems very likely.
Put on a great big smile, boys and girls! Help is on the way. They could call this new idea the Super-Duper Deluxe Facility, but Signature Facility sounds so much more high brow, doesn't it? Hey, aren't LLNL's NIF and LANL's DARHT also Signature Facilities, too?

From/MS: Terry C. Wallace, PADSTE, A127

Memorandum Date: January 29, 2007
Principal Associate Director for
Science, Technology, and Engineering


As Director Anastasio described in his presentation on the future of the Laboratory, there is a strong possibility that the Laboratory may in the near future have an opportunity to attract investments of significant scale (~$1B) in new scientific facilities - which we are calling Signature Facilities. Such opportunities are rare. We will respond to this one in a vigorous and timely manner with proposals of the highest caliber. This memo addresses the initial steps in this process - the generation of a pool of thoughtful ideas for preliminary review by our scientific community. The purpose of a signature facility is to provide tools that allow the Laboratory to address the critical scientific questions relevant to current and future Laboratory missions. Some key characteristics of a Signature Facility are to:

1. Support the investigation of a broad range of scientific questions relevant to the Laboratory's core missions.

2. Deliver significant science and push the limits of science.

3. Serve as a magnet to attract students, post-docs, collaborators and visitors.

4. Be flexible enough to accommodate future scientific needs.

5. Build upon the Lab's experience in experimental science, theory and modeling.

6. Be a symbol of LANLĂ•s commitment to developing and applying the best science to our national security needs.

A Signature Facility might be a large single item, a group of smaller facilities and capabilities with a highly coordinated purpose, or another type of facility with these characteristics. The Facilities must have a significant experimental component, but at the same time, integrate theory and computation. An example of an existing successful Signature Facility at this Laboratory is the LANSCE complex. A signature facility concept that is already being seriously analyzed is one being called the Center for Predictive Design of Materials. This facility focuses on advancing our ability create functional materials by design for applications such as NW, energy, and threat reduction missions. It would bring together existing capabilities as well as adding key new capabilities in the areas of materials synthesis and materials characterization. Although we are planning to add detail to this proposal through a set of focused workshops, we also want to look more broadly for alternate concepts.

The Science Grand Challenges provide a foundation for the future of science and technology at the Laboratory. The output of the Grand Challenges Workshops is a good source of ideas for Signature Facilities that could help make the Grand Challenges a reality. At the same time, by no means do I want to exclude good ideas from other sources. Any individual or group at the Laboratory is welcome to prepare suggestions, and I would like to recommend additionally that the Grand Challenges Workshops teams form inclusive working groups to develop proposals. I would like to receive preliminary ideas for Signature Facilities by March 10 in the form of a short memo of 1 to 5 pages. These idea papers should describe a Signature Facility and an idea of its cost, how this Facility would allow the Laboratory to address important scientific questions that are likely to arise in the coming years, and how it would have the key characteristics listed above. You are encouraged to work in interdisciplinary teams to develop these ideas and to consult with David Sharp, Chief Scientist on your preliminary thoughts. You are also encouraged to join with the appropriate Grand Challenges working groups to develop and present ideas. The next steps will include a series of mini-workshops in early March, where preliminary proposals can be presented and discussed by a broad cross-section of the Laboratory scientific community. I would like the Chief Scientist and the Science Council to coordinate this effort to develop ideas for a Signature Facility, and to ask the Laboratory Leadership team, the Laboratory Fellows, Grand Challenges Topical Area Leaders, and the internal and external scientific community to provide me with quick and coherent feedback on the strengths and weaknesses of the proposals. I will then select a number of proposals to go forward to the formal proposal stage. Formal proposals will be due May 1, 2007. A final selection of proposals to be presented to potential external sponsors will be made by the senior management team.

I look forward to working with all of you to generate Signature Facility proposals of the highest caliber.

Terry Wallace
In the "carriage trade" (i.e., luxury goods), signature means you're going to be dishing out huge wads of cash for perfectly ordinary goods. You'll do it gladly because: (A) you've got huge amounts of disposable income, and (B) hey, it signature quality, so it's gotta be good!

With the average TSM now costing about $400 K per year, I would say this is definitly going to be signature quality work. Should be no problem rounding up outside sponsors to pay for it, I would think. We'll have to beat them away from our doors with a stick.
Super-size me, Terry!
At about $50 per flush, I'm fully capable of creating "Signature" quality shit.
Sign me up, Terry. Have you got a program code to hand out for this grand new effort? Nah, I didn't think so.
Yes, Terry is into luxury goods these days. He appears to be feeling very wealthy. I'm sure he stocks his fridge with only 'signature' quality cuts of meat. That's easy to do when you're earning a 'signature' level LANS executive salary.
Terry is a spineless twit. He can't make a decision and stick to it if his life depended on it. He double talks and tells people what they want to hear. Truthfully, what has he done for the organization since he was AD for SR and now is acting PADSTE? Speaking of which, whatever happened to Mikey's promise that he was going to announce the permanent PADSTE position before the end of last year? I guess he just isn't so sure about all the choices...
It looks to me like Terry must be doubling up on his Prozac pills. Careful, Terry. One pill at a time.
Seriously, like Terry is really going to push a Signature Facility. This is about as useful as the Grand Challenges workshop - still waiting,still waiting, still waiting for the final write up to come from Terry. This exercise is meant to keep the staff busy taking the bait and actually believing something of this magnatude will get funded. Lots of T&E from staff and management will be wasted in the process and in the end it will go away.
11:17 hit it right. And the word from Capitol Hill is that 2007 will be a "blood bath" at Los Alamos. Meaning: a lot of jobs are going to be eliminated. And it is just so sad to read Terry Wallace's feel-good memo as this sort of wishful thinking is never going to happen.
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