Friday, January 19, 2007


News Alert

For the 2 or 3 thousand LANL staff who still have not snapped to the fact that management has, once again, abandoned them, I direct their collective (and somewhat) dim attention to the following news item, in an attempt to alert them to that fact that LANL is in serious trouble. Again. Perhaps even, for the last time. Are you all still glad that UC "won the contract", staff?

This time Bechtel has screwed the pooch ( I *really* resent that, BTW) big time. Once Stupak and Dingell sink their teeth into former Bechtel VP Mitchell's blatant disregard for security, and the environment that allowed it to flourish, it might well be curtains for operations on "The Hill". I wish I could have met Mitchell, personally, just so that I could have calibrated my 'arrogant meter'. I mean really, after the Jessica Quintana business: to have the stupidity and, yes, arrogance to allow himself to be caught with classified material on his own personal computer.

Bechtel: nice pick, D'Agostino. I expect you are going to be in the spotlight soon as well. Nice oversight on the whole contract bid process, Bodman. You can probably count on going down too. A big round of congratulations to all involved.

-Pat, The Dog

Get the hint. They are going to shut LANL
down. Look at what they are saying.
Sandia ain't far behind. I'd bet they are going to build a whole new complex out in the Nevada desert and spin off whatever facilities they can market to industry.
Disagree about Sandia. LM has had the good sense to diversify, to the point that > 50% of Sandia's budget is WFO. LANL's short-sighted management has put all of their eggs into the nuclear weapons basket, actively driving WFO away. WFO at LANL has dropped from greater than 23% of the budget in pre-shutdown 2004, to near zero today. Plus, Sandia has a reputation of halfway decent management, which puts it leagues ahead of LANL. Combine this with the fact that Sandia has a half-way reasonable FTE cost (by government contractor standards) contrasted to LANL's bloated $400,000/FTE rate, due entirely to management ineptness and the resulting inefficiencies.

LANL's management has been an embarrassment for far too many years. Having Congress shut down LANL is a real possibility.
LANL's current embarrassment of a management team is a direct reflection on DOE and NNSA. They picked the Bechtel-led LANS consortium over the clearly superior Lochkeed-Martin team. I hope Stupak and Dingell make note of that. The performance of LANS should not be coming as a great surprise to anybody, nor should the finger pointing that is about to commence.
Every time I see Mike Anastascio up there on the stage, the thought goes through my head -- we could have had SNL's Paul Robinson heading up our lab. Paul is an excellent manager and a man with a lot of integrity. He even worked here in his early years heading up the weapons division. NNSA totally blew it on their RFP decision. It was inexcusable to let UC back into this place. Now, the staff and people of Los Alamos county will pay the price, and it's going to be enormous. It all makes me want to vomit.

I have one request of D'Agostino after the current leadership at LANS is removed. Get down on your knees and consider begging Paul Robinson to come in here as our temporary Director on an emergency basis to help sort out this mess. We're going to need some good men to help pick up the pieces at LANL. Oh, and one other itty-bitty thing. Don't allow any 'golden parachutes' for the LANS executives, ADs, PAD, PADD, ad nauseam who are about to walk the plank. None of them deserve it.
Like Stupak stated" What's so special about Los Alamos" and what can't be moved elsewhere...Powerful words from powerful people in Washington. Diversification, WFO, Basic reasearch, Pit production, listen up.....all of this can go away, don't belive it? just tune in to the hearings, and listen to the tone and the questions, from Dingell's sub-committe on Oversight and Invesigations, then honestly make up your own minds about what is going to happen here at Los Alamos, very soon. Oh one more thing....if we have one more incident or Security infraction, or if someone just farts too loud guess what......we will have to move the Train Wreck date up a bit closer to midnight,, tick tick
Stay Tuned...Tom the Truth Teller
SNL, due to it's foresight, could probably survive even if NNSA took away a large portion of their business. They run a much tighter ship, financially, and haven't experienced the huge support and management bloat that currently exists at LANL. This has allowed SNL to branch out with a diverse client base of WFO customers. Less than half of the budget at SNL is now paid for by NNSA. In contrast, at LANL, WFO is a dieing breed. LANL management decided to go the easy route to riches by depending more and more on NNSA's weapons work. NNSA could always be counted on to pay the ridiculous labor rates at LANL, or so LANL's management thought.

That's all history now. NNSA is starting to downsize the complex, and this puts LANL directly in their budgetary cross-hairs. LANS managers are desperate to create more WFO work as a means to help balance our budget crisis. Perhaps you've noticed the hordes of LANL Program Managers making frequent trips to various locations with hat-in-hand looking for more money to help feed LANL's budgetary beast.

For the curious, here's one personal measure of the bloat that has formed at LANL over the last 10 years. Over this period of time, my salary has grown by approximately 30%. Part of this was due to inflation, part of it was simply making more money. During this same period of time, my FTE costs have soared by 100%! Think about this for a moment -- 30% vs. 100%. I do the same type of work I did 10 years ago, but in 2007, it now costs double what it did in 1997. My salary, however, is only 30% greater. If you want to zero in on one of the prime factors destroying LANL, this is a critical component.

There are very few sponsors outside of NNSA who are willing to fund scientific staff to the tune of $400K per year. At a rate of $280K to $300K, maybe, but not at a rate of $400K. Unless LANL moves quickly to bring down these rates to saner levels, there will be little chance to grow our way out of the current budgetary fiasco. Even the hope that, somehow, a "Plutonium Factory" will help save us is misguided. Congress is willing to fund this work at a much smaller level than NNSA initially anticipated.

We need to drop our FTE costs in rapid fashion by about 25%. To do this will mean dropping both support and management overhead positions by a likewise amount. It will also require the lab to take a close look at the scientific staff and begin unloading those scientist who aren't helping to carrying the weight.

This is stiff medicine to take, and I doubt LANL management is willing to take this course of action. Instead, we'll simply wait a bit longer and hope that someone (St. Pete?) saves us from this mess, but I don't see any calvary come over the Hill to rescue us this time. LANL's current method of containing costs seems to be headed toward squeezing pennies out of staff members who travel on lab business and disallowing donuts at meetings. That's not going to cut it. This patient needs a dose of strong medicine if he is going to survive, and he needs it now.
There is hope.

Mother earth understands, loves, and forgives all.
Mama Mia a say's: The Money Pit, or Pit money, something like a that, kinda reminds me of the ol 60' era song "There's a Hole in Daddy's Arm, Where all the Money Goes".....Put on your ceramic armor flack jackets, cause there's a gonna be a lotta gun-fire, from a Dingells committe, for now the sub-committe is a gearnin up to go rat-tat-tat, with a heavy a gun's, so if you a smart as you a say you are, you a better a hide under the bed,cause you dont a wanna get caught in the cross-a-fire.....Let's a see a what is a left in the ol has a been town of Los Alamos, atfer they a finish with us....The hearings will not be the end sir only the beganning....they are seriuos about cutting funds to this place....Mamma Mia what a we a gonna do, bambino?
Hey LANL guy's ever wondered how much tax payer money is required to keep you guy's pay check coming in every couple of weeks? How about "on average" for staff, close to 400K, per person per year....thats with your overhead, and benifits.....think about that for a moment..It's not your fault that you cost so much, it's your management's unwise choices through-out the years that have over-burdened the system......It's almost like of National deficit, totally out of control....Your past managers did not understand business, and your present managers don't really care, about the former LANL, they are in this for the money, they saw the kind of money to be made here,,,,,it's a gamblers dream, plus the cones won't say a thing, just a passive bunch of whimps, what could a shred bunch of seasoned cororate types want more, easy pickings.
After a reading the comments in your blog, I gotta admit, I should a start a store in your a town and a sell a lot of a "balls" cause no a seems to a have any...The Itilano,from a Roma......
What perks are the non-Livermore bunch (Terry Wallace, Susan Seestrom, Mary Neu, and Alan Bishop, ec.) currently getting and what are their golden parachutes once things crater?
I’d strongly encourage all current LANL employees with information and opinions on LANS and NNSA mismanagement of LANL to contact (call, email, write, fax) Congressman Bart Stupak and the committee… his DC office number is (202) 225-4735… the Fax is (202) 225-4744…

Call the committee’s office at (202) 225-2927 or email them via the “Who We Are” tab on their website at
Poster at 1/19/2007 9:54 PM hit the nail on the head. The FTE costs have skyrocketed since the LANS management team (ADs and higher) have taken over. If congress does not want to pay $400K per FTE then why not hold the LANS management team accountable and make them DO SOMETHING to justify the big expenses (including their mega salaries).
Dear Anonymous "1/20/2007 7:22 AM":
What, exactly, do you suggest we say to Ol' Buddy Bart? If by phone or by snail-mail or e-mail, he won't be able to see that our hats are in our hands, will he? The list of mismanaged items is so long, I doubt he will stay awake through it. Will Ol' Buddy Bart be open to shedding the Pu Pit Mfg stuff, do you think, just so science can be put back into some semblance of good repair at LANL? And will some kind of de-privatization even remotely be considered?
I bet B Stupak is getting swapped with mail electronic and other-wise, with all the dis-satisfied people at LAN's they know that this is a very unhappy unproductive and headed in the wrong direction place, I would suggest that they include some of the employee's comments during the hearings, I don't know if this place can be fixed or if salvaging what they need and start a new is in order but at your voice will be heard...
I am retired LANL, and still work for UC on special issues. First time visit to this blog ** wow. I guess the posters don't know that Stupak has one agenda, and that is too shut down NNSA labs. Look at the text of the various hearings over the years; he wants no foreign nationals at "weapons" labs, has asked that "weapons" lab not be eligible for DOE office of Science money. Why would anyone think Stupak is going to "save" Los Alamos from privatization and return to the glory days of the past?

Interesting question on the incumbent personal (Bishop, et al.). Look at the regent's minutes. Unlike the livermore personnel, they have no special perks - no retirement options other than staying in TCP-1, no bonuses. etc. These are required by law to be posted if they come from UC.

More WFO? Would not that be nice! Of course, the reason LANL did not follow SNL is that NNSA dictated the amount of WFO allowed at LANL. It is THEIR lab, and right or wrong (wrong mostly), they set rules about what is allowed or not.

Good luck -- and anyone that thinks Oversight hearing are going to make LANL better is an idiot.
Well Pat, I guess if the committee only hears from this stellar list…

Mike Anastasio as Lab Director.
Mike Anastasio as LANS, LLC President.
D'Agostino as head of NNSA.
Glenn as LANL Site Office manager.
Greg Friedman the DOE Inspector General.
A bean counter from GAO.
Danielle Brian from POGO.

whatever the committee decides will be in the best interest of LANL’s employees…

And unlike past hearings, I doubt anyone from UCOP (Dynes, Foley) or Bechtel will join Mike in front of the committee to hold his hand and get their respective organization’s name dragged in the muck …
The Lab is a spoiled brat that Senator Domenici nurtured by sparing the rod way too often. He used his control over the DOE purse to enable whistlebower and other types of employee abuse to run rampant at Los basically kill the effectiveness of any meaningful oversight and accountability at Los Alamos. This notion that the auditor is the enemy is what brought us to where we're at. Our penchant for punishing those who bringing to surface problems at Los Alamos, making them cannon fodder for those managers who have no reservations about killing the messenger for fear of he/she drawing attention to management's own incompetence, is what brought us to where we are today. All this happened not just under UC's absentee-manager style of so-called oversight, but because of it, and because the DOE never had the testicular means of standing up to St. Pete and his constant interference when it came to shielding the Lab from any semblance of meaningful accountability, much less criticism. This is my view of the reality that is the Los Alamos National Laboratory. This, from a 29-year Lab employee that is still employed at Los Alamos, but who for years now has been made to sit idle, day after day, sometimes for months on in without even an assignment...literally without a damn thing to do because I made the mistake of doing my job and reporting problems I encountered during the course my doing my job. But instead of fixing weaknesses before they become scandals, it was always easier at Los Alamos to kill the messenger. Until now that is. Those decades of zero accountability nurtured an arrogance that became ingrained in the culture of the institution, and it has finally caught up to us. Indeed we have met the enemy, and the enemy is ourselves. No "they" are not to blame...not them, not somebody else. Only we, ourselves, are to blame. Sad but true.
In the 1980s I worked in C. Paul Robison's organization when he was the Principal Deputy Director. My group leader told me that Paul would allow just one screw-up; one more and you were history. He would have made a great director!
It's probably a very good to to be middle of the road. Do your job. Don't criticize. Don't make waves. Don't be a shining star. Don't be a laggard. Be in the middle. Don't draw attention to yourself on either end. Those are going to be the survivors out of all this.
People need to read the article in Friday's Los Alamos Monitor very carefully.

I'm sure the people working at Rocky Flats thought "we're too important to be shut down" right before they were shut down. There is a pattern to how these things play out in the weapons complex. We're following a familiar path, and I would currently put the odds of LANL being phased-out at about 50/50. They may leave the pit facility running for a while longer on life-support, but that will be about it.

Yes, I know it will result in the financial destruction of Los Alamos county and the people who live around here. No, that won't stop DOE/NNSA nor Congress from perusing this path. We are on the brink of the unthinkable, and we've lost all our friends in high places. The workers at LANL need to start pondering what they're going to do when the gates at LANL are shut. By next fall, that may well be the case. There won't be a RIF, nor plans for a RIF. They'll just close the place down.

On the bright side, at least will have a new strip mall at the entrance to town. That should provide plenty of minimum wage jobs for laid-off workers. And with the tax base provided by LANL's GRT blown to bits, the remaining folks who live in Los Alamos will get to enjoy the task of paying off the huge bond debts that helped build this nifty, new stip mall.
In the 1980s I worked in C. Paul Robison's organization when he was the Principal Deputy Director. My group leader told me that Paul would allow just one screw-up; one more and you were history. He would have made a great director!"

DOE and their little cousin, the NNSA blew any opportunity LANL had to have Robinson as director. Paul has moved on, I just hope Bodman and D'Agostino are happy with whom they picked, because nobody else is.
Believe it or not, a number of us LANL old-timers are beginning to wonder if perhaps it isn't just time to shut the place down. Too many years of inept management and an inept customer have kind of robbed the place of any good reason to still exist.

I left in the middle of the Nanos bullshit 2 1/2 years ago, after more than 20 years there. Now, after a fresh exposure to the outside world, I've come to recognize that there is *nothing* that is currently being done at LANL that isn't, or can't be done elsewhere. Better. Cheaper. And with a much healthier work environment.

If the outcome of the Stupak and Dingell committees is a recommendation to shut the place down, I'd be behind it. The local economic hardship that will result is sad, but healthier in the long run that keeping that diseased workplace afloat any longer.
10:12 AM wrote "...Of course, the reason LANL did not follow SNL is that NNSA dictated the amount of WFO allowed at LANL. It is THEIR lab..."

I naively thought LANL belonged to the American people (especially the taxpayers), and it was their democratically chosen representatives in Congress that controlled the mission of the labs not the political hacks appointed by whoever happens to be living in the White House… the national labs existed long before DOE and NNSA, not that we’ll ever get back to the wild and free days of AEC oversight, but one can dream... by the way, could you imagine what would have happened if DOE and NNSA with their dozens of security, ES&H, HR, property, and business practice related Orders and the thousands of pages of "guidance" requirements explaining how contractors are to meet these Orders, not to mention a never ending parade of audits/assessment by DOE/NNSA, had existed during the Manhattan Project days....
Hold on a minute. LANL can be a real money maker for the government. All they have to do is charge a toll at those new booths they put up.
What I find frightening about Mike is how he is now pitching the idea that LANL must have a big, new experimental physics project (ala NIF) if LANL is going to survive. It's as if these guys only know one script. They think they can just keep doing the same ol' dance over, and over, and over again. NIF, DARHT, ASCI Q-Machine. Promise the moon and deliver much less. The managers of these big boondoggles always seem to make out well while the Directors protect them by handing out the same tired excuses of "give us a couple hundred million more and we'll get 'er all fixed up". And woe to any lab scientist who dares to question the scientific integrity of these mega-cash boondoggles. Doing that is the best way I know of to short-circuit your lab career.

How many managers at LANL used DARHT as their stepping stone to a higher position? How many used NIF in the same fashion out at LLNL? Or how about LANL's $300 million ASCI Q-Machine boat anchor. You know, the machine that disgruntled staff taped "salvage" signs to when a defunct Compaq made their initial deliveries. A machine whose large Alpha-chip CPUs frequently suffer from comic-ray "resets" that are frequently encountered at high altitude locations like Los Alamos.

And how, for the love of God, do these managers keep making their promises to the public with a straight face and a smile? It's beyond me.
1/20/2007 9:15 PM said "The managers of these big boondoggles always seem to make out well while the Directors protect them by handing out the same tired excuses of "give us a couple hundred million more and we'll get 'er all fixed up".

Instead of getting their huge bonuses after the first 6 months of success in "holding things together" for LANS, I think their should be some accountability for the AD's and higher.
A LANL RIF is going to be a real problem because of their employee demographics. The TSMs (scientists and engineers) and managers are primarily highly-educated white men except for a few token AA/EEOC women who have used their connections to get promoted.

The techs and clerks are primarily Hispanic, and, in the case of the clerks, female. Any RIF to reduce the bloated overhead rate will have a disproportionate impact on the minority population, triggering a massive class action lawsuit.

We know that the executive deadwood from Bechtel Nevada will not be riffed, so that leaves only the white men in the middle to get the axe.

Get a move-on white boy! We don't need your kind here anymore.!
LANL TSMs make, on average, about 150% what a TEC makes and 300% what many SSMs make. When you lay off a TSM, you get the same financial benefit you might achieve by laying off 2 or 3 lower paid workers, yet only have only one angry employee complaining to his Congressman. It's also thought by many that the TSMs can more readily find employment after being laid off by LANL. After all, they practice "The World's Greatest Science"!

Both the demographics and politics of the situation lean heavily toward a layoff of TSMs. That shouldn't surprise anyone. After the initial purge of TSMs, you can expect management to follow on with a second token purge of some TECs and SSMs, just to be "fair". That's how it played out in '94 and how it will also play out this time.

BTW, if you are a laid-off TSM living on the Hill with an expensive mortgage, beware. You are about to be financially wiped-out. Your primary asset will be severly devalued and you'll be lucky to find any buyers. I saw many people financially destroyed by the RIF of '94. It was painful to watch.
Are you sure you mean SSMs and not AS and OS/GS for your 300% figure?
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