Friday, January 12, 2007
Terminated for cause?
Dare we dream that the LANS contract might be terminated for cause? I don't know anybody who thinks conditions at LANL have improved since LANS took over. Quite the opposite. Unbelievably, the situation at LANL is much worse now than when UC was in charge. Overhead rates are up, thanks to a huge increase in over-paid managers, and the new $79 million per year award fee. Productivity is down, thanks to a huge increase in bureaucratic red tape. Security incidents abound. Morale is in the dumper. A $175 million budget shortfall is looming. WFO (Work For Others) money, once a respectable 23% of the total LANL budget has all but evaporated. Hundreds of contractors have been laid off. Talented staff are leaving.
But the situation might be different now that the Democrats are back in power. From: http://www.grist.org/news/muck/2006/12/01/oversight/
Dingell and other Democrats plan oversight hearings on environmental issues
That's why Dingell says he's gearing up to hold oversight hearings investigating the Bush administration's energy and environmental policies, as are his Democratic colleagues Barbara Boxer (Calif.), soon-to-be-chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and Henry Waxman (Calif.), incoming chair of the House Government Reform Committee, which conducts oversight of the U.S. EPA.
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.) recently announced that a U.S. House subcommittee plans to hold hearings “within the month” on security problems at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Hopefully the outrage which we can expect to be voiced in those hearings can be channeled towards the true cause of our current set of problems: LANS.
I'm certain that the LANS team will be chanting "Stay the course!" But perhaps there is now a growing support for trying to undo some that the damage that has been done by this disastrous decision to hand a National Laboratory over to a consortium of several of the greediest beltway bandits to ever to jump into bed together. The largest of those beltway bandits, Bechtel, is a construction company, for crying out loud. Who in their right mind would have expected them to be capable of running a national science laboratory?
The question is: who could be found that would a better job? The University of California? Hardly, it was UC's ineptness that led to the contract being put up for bid in the first place.
Democratic supports are know for accusing conservative Republicans of not seeing reality. Well, I've got some bad news to tell you. Democratic supporters at LANL are not going to like it one bit when the Democrats in Congress have their way with NNSA's labs.
Just look at the background of the people who have been the center of our problems for the last 10 years (as long as I've been here). There was arguably only one total loser from outside the Lab -- Nanos -- amid the stream of home-grown talent. The rest were long-term employees. Certainly, in my part of the lab, all the problems I see are self-inflicted wounds.
The first step is admitting you have a problem. Boy, do we have problems -- LANS, etc. But, we certainly aren't victims. People here at the lab have been responsible for some incredible screwups, without any assistance from UC.
The quality of management at LANL is poor, no argument there. But whose fault is that? I contend that the absentee landlord, UC, owns a large part of the blame for that, as well as plenty of blame for having selected Nanos without having conducted a national search for Browne's replacement.
We'll just have to wait and see whether Dingell is a typical Republican-lite Democrat.
Careful, Pat. I thought dogs were suppose to be apolitical. It looks like this particular dog is foaming at the mouth with a case of political rabies. Personally, I don't like the extremist tone of this post. I'm beginning to suspect that our 'Pat, the Dog' wouldn't mind seeing the lab 'crash-and-burn' just to make points and settle some deep political grudges.
Dingell is not a friend of LANL. He and his other Democratic buddies now holding power are probably willing to not only kick out LANS, but also close down LANL. And don't think it couldn't happen. If it did, the amount of financial and emotional destruction in Northern New Mexico would be devastating. It would be a localized Great Depression. Many lives would be destroyed. Be careful what you wish for, Pat. You may just get your wish.
And as an aside, I'm starting to suspect that our dog, Pat, may not have as much at stake, financially, with the labs destruction as other readers of this blog. N'est-il pas ainsi?
A few points on your comment about Pat, The Dog, and his politics:
1. The decision to hand LANL over to a corporation was political, don't fool yourself about that. It was not quite in the same league as the decision to hand over those no-bid Iraq contracts to Halliburton, but it is close.
2. Some (many?) of us are wondering if a LANS-led LANL is worth working at.
3. Some (many?) of us would like to see some accountability for those who were responsible for implementing this disastrous lab sell-off. The Republican Congress sure as hell wasn't going to provide that accountability. Perhaps Dingell's crowd will.
4. Given the horrible state that LANL currently finds itself in, being quiet and simply hoping that our situation will somehow miraculously improve is the coward's way out.
Sure, shutting down LANL would have a horrible economic impact. Maintaining the status quo just for the sake of a paycheck would be morally corrupt. We should feel obligated to find better solutions than either of those.
There's nothing extreme about what I said, compared to the hyperventilated view that both of you have expressed, namely, that LANL will be closed down, ever. It will always be here in some form, even if it is only a Pu factory. That "shutting down Los Alamos" canard is a duck that don't fly, a dog that don't hunt. I'm pretty sick of that kind of hyperbolic extremism, really. "Foaming at the mouth"? Holy horse apples! Wipe your mouths with your sleeves!
What goes around, however, comes around. Political and bureaucratic incompetence will be found out, in the fullness of time. It happened to the Bush crowd, the ENRON crowd, the Halliburton crowd, and the Bechtel crowd; and the LANS crowd will have to face it, too, sometime. (I realize that there is some redundancy in the last cluster, but hey: clusters happen.)
You don't have to take that paycheck. You are free to leave, remember? Perhaps you think that things will suddenly be 'righted' after Dingell blows the cover in a dramatic House hearing? It will be just like a Hollywood movie! LANS will be thrown out and the evil plans of the Neo-cons will be exposed for all to see. The sun will shine on the darkened lands of LANL once again. OK, we shall see. But come summer, if LANS is still running the show and the 'Dingell Dragnet' accomplished nothing (except to cause more inane policy additions at LANL), will the blogosphere complainers be willing to call it quits and leave at that point? If not, then how bad does it have to get before you decide to make a change for the better in your work life?
At some point you become a realist about LANL's situation. We've now had many years of heartaches at LANL. From where I stand, though, it looks to me like you either learn to cope with what life has thrown at LANL, or you decide it's best to leave. I admire Doug Roberts. Doug couldn't stand the shenanigans at LANL any longer and decided to leave. That was probably a wise decision on his part. He is a brave man, and his willingness to leave speaks volumes about his integrity. It's not worth going through life filled with anger about things you probably can't change. Anger ends up doing a great deal of damage, both emotionally and physically. I can't speak for Doug, but my guess is he came to a critical junction in his life where he clearly saw what was before him and he made a decision.
I'm sure I'll now see posts with analogies like this: "Yeah, I'll bet you would have told the American colonist to shut-up and support the British!". However, I don't support LANS. I don't like LANS or most of the people who run it. I wish LANL was being managed in a different fashion. My analysis of the situation, however, tells me that things are not likely to change regardless of what I or anyone else at LANL wishes or which political party happens to be in power. I look around at my fellow workers and see no signs that they are ready to start a peasant rebellion. They keep their heads low, keep their noses clean, complain in hushed tones, and continue taking their paychecks.
I don't feel I'm being defeatist with this analysis. I feel like I'm being a realist. By next fall, I guess we'll know whether I'm right or wrong. My head knows I'm probably right, but my heart hopes I'm wrong. Ce la vie!
--Pat, the Hopeful Realist