Wednesday, January 03, 2007


Problem with New Drug Testing Policy

Charles Reichhardt, LANL theoretician, writes the following cogent letter on the drug-testing program that LANS, LLC proposes to inaugurate at Los Alamos. Reichhardt observes that "Although a smart person on drugs may do dumb things, a dumb person not on drugs will also do dumb things, and the latter will not be identified by random drug testing." (Emphasis mine.)



The problem with the new drug testing policy is that it does nothing to address the real problem. The incident that triggered this testing proposal was that a 20 year old woman without a college degree brought classified material home and forgot about it. The documents were found during a meth raid. The woman did not use drugs and would have passed random drug screening. Thus, the new policy would have done nothing to prevent the incident from happening. The real issue in this case is why a high level clearance was given to such a person.

The proposed random drug testing sends a clear message to LANL employees that management does not respond properly to address actual problems. Such actions demoralize the staff since new policies of management seem to be knee-jerk reactions that are ill thought out. It is important to remember that we have only finite security resources at the lab, so random drug testing will divert valuable money and resources to something that will not fix the original problem. In fact, an argument could be made that the original problem will now be worse. Perhaps security personnel will have less time to screen new hires in the first place, causing a larger number of low-quality people to be hired. These people will go on to make more mistakes by pure ineptness, worsening the original problem. Although a smart person on drugs may do dumb things, a dumb person not on drugs will also do dumb things, and the latter will not be identified by random drug testing.

It would make more sense to invest laboratory resources in insuring that high quality people are hired in the first place. This would be far more effective in preventing future incidents than a random drug testing program. The argument has repeatedly been made that we have to show Congress that we are doing something to address the previous incident. I believe that what
Congress in fact wants to be shown is that we are doing something to actually address problems, not something that can make the problems worse. Congressional representatives are intelligent; they will see right through this drug testing stunt and realize that Los Alamos is not actually addressing the real problems. I really do not think that Congress is our enemy; if we explain to them what happened and how we are fixing it, then I think they will listen.

Almost every staff member I have talked with thinks that this new drug testing policy will not solve the real problem and sees it as a mark of incompetent management. Staff members will have faith in management again when it is clear that management does their job and enacts decisions that fix problems and improve the institution. If management acts irrationally or incompetently, it creates cynicism, distrust and fear among the staff. This only leads to further mistakes, mishaps and reduced productivity. Things will only start to improve when management starts to make rational decisions or takes actions that will fix real problems.

Charles Reichhardt
Staff Member, Theory Division
Former Feynman Distinguished Fellow

P.S. I think his confidence in Congress is shared by few of the older, more cynical staff members at Los Alamos, but one should always "look on the bright side of life," right? -Pat

A conversation, in confidence, with someone who was in a position to know, is that the woman in question was a bit dim and may have qualified for "Special Ed. in high school."

Don't that make you feel better? We've got the best and the brightest right here....
And she was in T-Division?
No she was not in T-Division.
"Congressional representatives are intelligent; they will see right through this drug testing stunt and realize that Los Alamos is not actually addressing the real problems. I really do not think that Congress is our enemy; if we explain to them what happened and how we are fixing it, then I think they will listen." ( Charles Reichhardt )


Charles, you imply that smart people don't make dumb mistakes, but do you seriously believe the above statement? If so, you are extremely naive. IMHO, drug testing is *exactly* want Congress now wants to see at LANL. I'm afraid your comments may demonstrate that there is weak correlation between high intelligence and common sense. Please don't take that as a personal attack, but I just couldn't let your above statement go uncontested.

Also, you need to get your facts straight. I've read the actual police reports on this incident (they were posted by POGO). Three pipes with resin were found in the trailer. Justin Stone admitted two of the pipes belong to him. The police called Jessica up on her cell phone and asked her who owned the third pipe. She said it was hers! Now, I don't want a druggie to get off easy, but I think this is yet further proof that this girl was a few cards short of a full deck. And, yes, she probably was a drug user.

Of course, the biggest elephant in the room on this whole Meth Trailer fiasco is how a young, inexperienced girl got a Sigma 15! I couldn't get a Sigma 15 even if I showed my boss I could walk on water. Anastascio mentioned that he has fired a bunch of people of late. I'm guessing one of them may have been the LANL staff member who signed off on this idiotic Sigma 15 decision for a young, inexperienced sub-contractor. It was inexcusable and is truly frightening to contemplate.
The good news, such as it is, is that the DOT drug test thresholds have been very well validated, both medically and legally, over the past 15 years. This is one place where LANS picked the right benchmark.

There is a "vanishingly small" chance that a false positive on an initial screen will be confirmed by two confirmatory tests on a split specimen. The questions I have on the new policy have to do with legal chain of custody and having the test performed by a NIDA (National Institute of Drug Abuse []) certified toxicology lab. I believe SED lab in Albuquerque is/was NIDA certified.
Charles, lets count the number of smart people who have done major screw ups at LANL. Ted Wilson, the Rosenberg’s, and Wen Ho Lee. Ted Wilson was a very educated individual who gave the secret of implosion to the Russians. LANL is lucky that to date that there has not been a serious RIF. If I were in charge, I would start with you.

Throughout the Defense industry, there have been many people who have done stupid things. Recently a bright Lockheed engineer sold stealth secrets. Let us not forget Sandy Berger. Now let me school you on some people who do not have degrees and have changed the world. Bill Gates yes that taxpayer owned LANL computer you are provided its operating systems (like or it not was created by a person without a degree). Apple Computer Steve Jobs (that very same computer you probably check your stock portfolio on company time each day. Jobs did not have his degree for a very long time. Every drive across the Brooklyn Bridge, yes that was the mastermind of a non-degreed engineer. Fly in a Gulf Stream jet the owner was an airplane mechanic.

I will assume you have a PhD in theoretical physics because you are an idiot. You remind me of a baby boomer who dodged the Vietnam draft most likely went to Harvard or Yale (Thanks to Mommy and Daddy to scared to dodge bullets) I bet you still contemplate weather electrons flow or vibrate. Just remember all of those 18-year-old kids that did their service in World War II without degrees allow us today to be a free society and speak our opinion about each other. More of them would have died if it was not for the bomb created by LANL but you were not one of the bright individuals on that project.

LANL has become no more than welfare for the educated. Let us talk education, your LANL founders Robert Oppenmier, Albert Einstein and many others were not even educated in this country nor from this country, but saw the United States as a beacon of hope free from arrogant people like the one you have become. Remember Hitler he wanted a master educated certain gene type individual, you sound like the same sort of individual.

Here is the real story the Nation has realized that we can destroy the world several times over and over. Thanks to smart people at LANL and LLNL. Times have changed and you had better change with them. Politicians see that the National Labs can be downsized to save the taxpayers money. Yes, Baby Boomer Theoretical Physicist someone is going to need to pay your Medicare and Social Security and with 75 million baby boomers getting ready, to retire well lets see you have a PhD do the math it is a bunch of money each month. I never quite understood the mentality of individuals who think that because they have a PhD the world revolves around them. Wake-up the United States Space program put a man on the moon without a single PhD scientist in the mix. Do not take my word look it up Charles. Charles you are not alone with having the same arrogant attitudes it permeates the halls at LLNL and LANL. Funny thing look for a job. Who needs a Theoretical Physicists outside of a National Lab not many places?

LANL is and will always be a great Scientific Laboratory. However, you need to loose the arrogance. Many smart people take drug tests as part of their jobs each and every day. Come on do you want to get on an airplane with a pilot loaded or drive down the highway with a high truck driver. Not me! I agree with Brad polygraphs have no scientific basis, but chemical tests are reliable. Pee in the cup Theoretical Physicists or find another place to work.

Just another dumb technician.
Another dumb tech, eh? ... Well, I know a lot--A LOT--of techs who can write and think better than Anonymous 1:13 PM. Yet there is a thread that needs to be followed here, namely, the thread of cultural (job-oriented) arrogance. A PhD doesn't guarantee brilliance, but it isn't awarded in a lottery, either.

Looking over the history of Los Alamos and Livermore, I would say that very little could have been accomplished in the Manhattan Project if Oppenheimer (BTW, spell-checkers or Wikipedia might help you, Anon 1:13; also, Einstein never even visited Los Alamos in his entire life) had been drug-tested and removed from his post as Lab Director, because he was found out to be an alcoholic (both he and his wife were, and we won't even talk about the personal demons of the subsequent Directors at both LANL and LLNL).

Finally, theoretical physicists like Reichhardt probably can't even drive stick-shift cars, much less an 18-wheeler; the two tasks and the relative safety factors are oceans apart, my tech friend. As for giving "thanks" to "smart people at LANL and LLNL" for giving us the wherewithal for "destroying the world several times over," well, don't you think that might be a bit of a rhetorical 'stretch'?
Dear 1:13pm

You have missed my point. By no means do I wish to imply that somehow a person cannot do a good job without a degree. In fact, I believe that in the end the only thing that counts in this life is what you actually do, not where you come from, what your background is, or whether you have a fancy degree. All individuals have different potentials, circumstances, and abilities, and if we make the best of what we have and what
we do than we are truly successful. I would remind you of the parable of the talents.

Now keeping that in mind, my point was that some rational basis must be used when hiring people who work directly with classified material. Some reasonable assurances must be available to show that these are the best people for the job. It seems that drug testing would have done nothing to prevent the incident that occurred. Also, in regards to the high level spies you have mentioned, drug testing would not have stopped them either.
You apparently condemn Wen Ho Lee of being a spy when in fact he was never convicted as such.

By the way, I am far worse than a Boomer. I am a member of Generation X.

Also, just a little tidbit: I know something about what it means to be turned down by places that pay minimum wage just because you do not have a high school degree. In the broader scheme of things, Mr. Technician, you have an excellent job, and you should be happy and proud to have it. I also have a job that I am happy and proud to have.

Charles Reichhardt
Look at where the majority of the support staff come from as well as some managers that were support staff and where made managers. While there are "exceptions" the majority have received well paid support jobs that they are totally unqualified to perform. You cannot teach someone common sense and other life experiences that add value to ones job. Most of these people are totally clueless and should NOT hold positions that require the utmost honesty, professionalism and a excellent work ethic. They grew up in the area and have never left. The only reason they got the jobs in the first place is by overstating there qualifications and by having other family members and friends hiring them. They obtain security clearances because they vouch for each other. I would estimate that LANS LLC could get rid of at least 30% of the work force and be more efficient as long as they eliminate the right people. But we all know that is not going to happen because there are too many politicians ready to cry foul. In my view its even going to get worse. LANL will be no better than working for the State of New Mexico government where quantity of people in the workforce is more important than having quality employees. Its already happening people. Be ready for your pay to start lagging behind. 2% raises this past year when industry, government and even UC was handing out 4-6% increases. Next year (2007) pay increases in industry are expected to be in the 10% range across the board. I predict that if LANS employees receive 3% we will be lucky. Its a sad state of affairs when you cannot once and for all get rid of the dead wood, the clueless and workers that just are plain stupid.
"It seems that drug testing would have done nothing to prevent the incident that occurred." ( Charles Reichhardt 5:08PM )


Charles, you seem determined to ignore my initial pointer on Jessica's drug use, so I've decided to carefully spoon feed the information to you.

Los Alamos Police Report (Posted by POGO):

On Page 9 of this Police Report, we find:

"During the course of the search we found numerous glass pipes with burnt marijuana residue. Two of these pipes were found in the immediate area where Justine Stone had been. I spoke with Stone who said that the pipes did not belong to him. I then spoke with the owner of the residence, Jessica Quintana, who said that most of the pipes belonged to Stone but that she was the owner of at least one of the glass pipes." (Los Alamos Police)


Could it be any clearer? Jessica was a drug user. She owned a glass pipe that apparently contained drug residue. She admitted to this ownership. Based on this, I can conclude that testing of LANL workers (including our sub-contractors) would have made a difference in this case. If Jessica had been tested and came up positive, she would not have kept her clearance nor her Sigma 15, and this terrible incident might never have happened.
Charles, you are missing the point completely. The cost of the new drug testing will not come out of the existing security budget. It will either come out of the extra 1% that Mike is collecting on G&A, or it will be a recharge to your project budget. Either way, you'll be paying extra for the priviledge of peeing in a cup.
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