Sunday, January 21, 2007


To Shut LANL Down, or Not To Shut LANL Down

The answer may well be this one, from Anonymous.
--Pat, the sad-eyed Dog

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 than keeping that diseased workplace afloat any longer.



Ongoing P.S.: From the comments on this post so far (1/21/2007), I would have to conclude, either as a casual observer, or as I am, a person stuck in the middle of a flushing maelstrom, that LANL is seriously, seriously ... in trouble ... deep trouble, right here in River City. Never seen this kind of darkness and gloom from the average miserable staff members, even in the middle of Nanos' idiotic Shutdown. Nowhere at LANL (including the chirrupy, overpaid managers) is there a sense of a serious new mission, probably not since 1991, when the Cold War was declared "won" by Bush "One," in the name of Uncle Ron, the Gipper. Now, when the world is faced with human species-threatening global warming, the end of cheap 'n easy oil, and the threat of mass extinctions all over the beleaguered planet, LANL is rudderless and clueless, headed for extinction, thanks to the neocons running everything (into the ground) in the Executive Branch of the Federal Government. Looks like anyone left at LANL worth his or her salt (NaCl for you few remaining scientists) ought to head to Golden, Colorado, where DOE's one truly relevant lab, the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) is located. Unfortunately, just before Bush "Two" went to visit there last year, they had a big RIF, which was reversed for PR reasons. Life is gettin' jes' a little tough, folks ... everywhere.

Thanks for the support for LANL's existence. Just what we needed!

If LANL cannot change the culture of safety and security lapses, I agree that the future of the labs is indeed dark. Pete’s shut down and booting UC’s 63-year control of labs was supposed to serve as the kick in the pants LANL needed to get its act together.

However, you have a point. If LANL/LANS and the “old timers” cannot get the job done safely and securely – it may not matter the quality of the science and service done for national security.

While Pete spoke those words inappropriately, “arrogant butt-head, cowboys” seems to fit the bill for many. While an insult to cowboys and half the butt-heads, some at LANL do the “arrogant” dance very well. Many at LANL know too well, personally, the people of whom Pete spoke.

So, where does that leave us? Bechtel brought into town its own history and baggage. Some of Lockheed’s top management deeply involved questionable political activities.

Maybe Lockheed would have been the better choice? Perhaps Paul Robinson a better manager? Even they, when confronting the LANL ABCs culture, might find the going just as rough.

One more thought, if LANL were shut down, how would the “old timers” feel about cuts in their generous UC retirement? Think there would be a strong contingency in a financially strapped California to maintain those well earned benefits if LANL was in extinction mode?
I also just recently retired because of the bull-shit that has infested itself at the lab, don't see how shutting down LANL would affect our benefits, you guy's now work for LAN's, you do not contrubite to U.C. It's sad to say but what are we getting for our 2 billion dollars, hey the lab can't just stay open to pay your salary and charge the tax payers almost 400k per employee per year...sorry Charlie, but it' gonna work , no matter how loud you squeal...the lab is not going to get their shit together and has had plenty of chances, starting in 1990..things have gone down-hill fast, but man oh man what's happened in the last few years is's time to shut er down, and move on, squeal..squeal....hey not even Dominic can justify this mess..Another oldtimer..
Being another oldtime what I see is a very toxic environment that has evolved over the past 10 or 15 years. Toxic on multiple fronts: putting offices up in buildings that weren't designed to be offices, a sense of entitlement from a younger workforce in support roles (some of these are 4th generation and beyond working here), a lack of accountability (stems from a lack of mission), bullying, nepotism, etc. It just isn't a fun place to be anymore.

I think Bechtel and Co. probably put together a good proposal (obviously). They didn't think they would win. And when they did get the contract they had no implementation strategy. They have no clue what to do. We have reorganized all over. Bechtel/BWXT/WGI have been brought in from all over the world. And they are partnering all over - Pro2Serve, etc. But there is no info trickling downward. Group Leaders are floundering. Division Leaders aren't being given any direction. Even ADs aren't getting any true guidance. If the ADs aren't talking to each other then we are all going down 27 different paths.

I'm not sure Lockheed would be doing any better. Whoever runs this place has huge internal issues to take on and remedy. Bechtel has to take take of their own but they also have all the slackers and entitlee's to deal with.

If Bechtel can't "fix" LANL and get a handle on everything they will lose the contract. But on their way out the door they'll raid all they can raid. People who went TCP1 will see their retirement worth pennies on the dollar.
Wow, can't belive how out of touch some people are: They (Congress will not shut down LANL) what they will do is make it a small out-post in the West that produces Pit's and supports Sandia and maybe Livermore, not much more, but ask your self, what is Congress willing to accecpt from LANL? Deadlines not met, Pit's that are not really certified, people making excuses for not completing milestones,dis-satisfied customers, and get this the most dis-satisfied work-force that is about to bail just as soon as they find another place to go. Want to take a chance on LAN's are you going to do anything? with most of your work-force gone(retired or terminated) and the remaining folks ready to jump ship...You guy's have a no win situation, but I can almost guarentee you one thing ...Your funding is in jeporady....the house of cards iis about to go, or as we used to say , It's all about "smoke and mirriors"
Accountability is not a word to describe LANL, hey as former employee, and just recently retired(very happliy) I saw just how far the lab has fell. I speak to my former co-workers who are still working, but now for LAN's, belive me there is not apositive word to be had...How could this happen to a once great Lab? I remember in the 1970's and early 80's we were proud to state we worked at LASL, we had a great sense of pride and acomplishment, we helped each other,one group to is cut your throat, my group is in compition with your group, and we will screw you if we have to...the H-R policies are not existent and the B.S. that pass for policies are not enforced, the whole place is out of control, and sorry to say this, but EVERYONE knows....from the employees who work here to the public and on to Washington, where they also are looking very hard at this place, what a shame to see this happining.
The previous comment about LANL's toxic environment is quite true, I could not have said it better myself. And while true, the primary determinant regarding whether or not to shut down the lab should be this: is there *any* work that is done at LANL that cannot be done elsewhere?

I agree with the Anonymous poster of this thread that the answer is probably "No." In spite of this, LANL's decades-long reputation for arrogance "I'm from LANL, I'm really smart" is still in evidence, in spite of the fact that is no longer justified. Except perhaps in comparison to our somewhat dim-witted customer, the DOE. In fact, LANL is in it's current state because our customer, DOE, never forced change upon LANL's contractor, UC. There have been several feeble attempts over the years, remember the "Tiger Teams"? Ultimately, though, DOE has been completely ineffectual at causing any improvements to occur at Los Alamos.

Pat, while it might cause to you to be a sad-eyed dog, the reality of the situation is that there probably is not that much worth saving at LANL any more. Many of the best scientists have already left, driven off by Nanos, UC, DOE, NNSA, and LANS. I challenge anybody to point at even a little bit of science that is still being done at LANL (and that can't be much, given the current work environment) which isn't either already being done elsewhere, or which couldn't be moved to Livermore, Sandia, or Savannah River.
Hey quit bashing a long time employee here, I am just going to do what everybody's going to do: We are going to ride this Pony to the ground..heeheheheheh ( Ride on boy's there another mile or so left in her.......
They can shut 'er down, just as soon as I find another job. I've been trying to jump this ship for about 6 months now. The lack of response from potential employers is frightening. I'm not Einstein, but I'm no dolt either. I have actually managed to generate publications while at LANL (imagine that). The reality is that many of the disciplines scientists specialize in at LANL are not in high demand on the wider marketplace. I spend most of my spare time now trying to figure out whats wrong with my C.V., and searching under every rock for anybody who needs somebody with my skills. I am starting to think the main problem is the appearance of LANL on my employment history. Or maybe I'm competing with hundreds of others trying to avoid this train wreck just like me. The situation is not encouraging for the average Joe Scientist at LANL. Why should LockMart or Raytheon hire an old LANL Ph.D. when they can get a B.S. or M.S. right out of college for a lot less? Think you're going to get hired as a professor after you've been out of academia for X years? Think again. The academic world is just as screwed up as the DOE world anyway, with publish or perish mentalities and tenure packages. This is not good. I see only a few options at this point: go back to school and learn some new skill, live in the poorhouse adjunct teaching at community colleges, or (to paraphrase Chris Farley) live in a cave in Los Alamos canyon eating a steady diet of government cheese. Note to Domenici: "Please send cheese".
Drug Testing: I was told by a"Security Type" that the rational for the latest (Mandatory Drug Testing) comes from a survey performed by DOE in Los Alamos County...some of the findings reported were: the high rate of anti-depressent usage, the number of clinical Doctor vists(a large increase from 2 years ago, the high stress levels at LANL, the on-going status of un-knowns at LAN's, the lisr goes on and on. One only need to look under the cover's of our fair town to see the result of the inherient stress'that have creeped in, some people my find it difficult to cope with the everyday stress that have bee created either rightly or wrongly by the major employer in LA,These levels of fear and unknowns are also festering themselves in the town, business community and surrounding areas. So with that type of information why does it suprise anyone that maybe "some" employees are turning to "alternative medicines" to aid in their everyday exixtence at LAN's.(doesn't say too much about the "pressure cooker atmosphere) there but....DOE needs to know that there's not an epedimic running rampant through their ranks....
Poster 1/21/2007 6:51 AM wrote: "
Maybe Lockheed would have been the better choice? Perhaps Paul Robinson a better manager? Even they, when confronting the LANL ABCs culture, might find the going just as rough."

Indeed, much of the LANL ABCs culture comes from the incompetent LANL managers that got promoted when Bechtel took over. I thought there was going to be a new beginning and yet many of the people who were the problem got kept in management positions or worse got promoted. As a result, nothing has changed. Now we have ADs who have their husbands in their directorate and beat up on group leaders that call them on nepotism. Furthermore, these ADs promote their own research program and hire their friends from the UK (despite the hiring restrictions) and force division leaders to hire their former postdocs all in effort to keep their own research programs afloat using our overhead dollars. Nice. How come this kind of behavior is allowed?

It is this kind of behavior that has gotten LANL into the situation it is in - lack of accountability and the easy way is to just blame the workers. If anyone calls this AD on her behavior, this AD attacks and makes life difficult for the individual.
Don't you just love it when cranky ol' Grand Dad gets angry and feels it's his God-given right to piss all over the young'ins after he's made it to safety?

I say, go ahead Grand Dad and close down LANL. But let's not stop there, Pops. Next we'll need to take away your rich LANL retiree medical benefits. They come out of the current LANL operating budget, or didn't you know that, you senile old man? I'm tired of bringing in funds to cover the payments for your sick ass. Then, transfer the UCRP directly over to DOE so that DOE can more closely manage its pension "promises" (not!). Finally, it's time to cut ol' Grand Dad's rich Social Security and Medicare benefits by 50%. According to the Fed, they're driving this country into bankruptcy. You're too expensive, Grand Dad, and the young folks just can't afford the payroll taxes to keep carrying your ass any longer.

You can wipe that drool off your face now, ol' man. Did you enjoy your oatmeal?
"You can wipe that drool off your face now, ol' man. Did you enjoy your oatmeal?"

Well, sonny, this is one ol' grad dad who could happily kick your young ass 'til its up around your ears. It would no doubt be a significant improvement to your face.

Oh, and by the way, my benefits come out of the UC retirement fund to which I contributed for decades. You, on the other hand, have probably contributed nothing.

Now go away and eat your pablum.
Question: Didn't the Old-timers cause much of the current situation LANL finds itself in? I can't count the number of times I have Old-timers say that "back in the old days we could get away with such and such ... now there is just too much oversight." C'mon, it is not just the younger crowd who has created the current LANL state. If you want LANL closed down, fine. Just don't go and blame it on everyone else. I think there is a lot of blame to go around, but projecting it onto others is not going to solve anything.
" Question: Didn't the Old-timers cause much of the current situation LANL finds itself in?"

As has been repeatedly pointed out on this blog, as well as its predecessor, "LANL, The Real Story", the staff of LANL, old and young alike bear the lion's share of the blame for allowing LANL to fall into its current state.

When problems arose (like Nanos, and the dozens of other completely inept managers that rose like turds to the top of the LANL toilet bowl), did anybody stand up to them?

With but a few notable exceptions, no.
In response to 1/21/2007 7:04 PM, you are correct about not many standing up. Those few who did had their careers ruined and those who punished the "trouble-makers" got promoted when the dust settled. Until those managers who punish people who "stand up" get punished themselves for retaliatory behavior, nothing is going to change. So, why doesn't anyone ever speak up in All-Hands meetings?
"So, why doesn't anyone ever speak up in All-Hands meetings?"

Because most LANL staff are cowards.

There used to be three people who could be counted on to ask hard questions during "all-hands" meetings: Roberts, Holian, and Foy. Roberts left the lab in 2005. Holian and Foy can still be counted on. The rest of the staff are, well, cowards.
Speaking of nepotism, did you know that despite all the new and important policies that LANS has been announcing, they don't have one for dealing with nepotism. That is probably because the ADs for ADEPS and ADCLES have their spouses in their directorates and don't want to deal with the obvious problem. However, there are groups at the Lab that have had to get nepotism issues reviewed simply because two spouses work in the same group. Different policies, I guess. What to do, what to do....
"Those few who did had their careers ruined..."

Not true, nobody 'ruined' my career for speaking out. Quite the opposite. Fact is, with the high visibility provided by the large readship that LTRS enjoyed, they didn't dare.

The fact also is that I didn't give them the chance: I left LANL six months after starting that blog.
Well, Douglas, here is a data point: I have a colleague who was targeted by her line management and had her career ruined because she dared to speak up against the management inconsistencies and issues in C-Division. This person's career was destroyed and the former managers were either put on change of station, promoted, or were returned to research with very high salary increases. Not everyone ends up with a good outcome. Perhaps that is why people do not speak up at all-hands meetings...
Good outcomes don't just happen, you have to work, and sometimes fight to make things come out right. If you engage management expecting to become a victim, you will become a victim. If you choose not to engage management for fear of becoming a victim, you are still a victim.

Are many of you saying that the current problems are just and extension of the same old problems that had been generating for years - long before LANS came on the scene?

Secondly, I too have heard of very highly paid managers, given very high bonuses, bringing on board family and friends, and serious security lapses from very high up on the food chain. Many of us worry about our jobs and what will happen to us on June 1, 2007 (if not before).

Third, in the meantime, I am doing what I can to stay positive and do the job right. I still get excited about working for LANL and not ready to join the others abandoning ship.
"Are many of you saying that the current problems are just and extension of the same old problems that had been generating for years - long before LANS came on the scene?"

Jesus, you must be new around here. Of course we are saying that the problems you see today at LANL have been around for years. The only successes that LANS has had to date is to have made them worse. LANS has been quite efficient at making things worse.
Well if you think it is going to get better you should leave your comments at:

Most of you blamed Bush for where you are now so lets see if your next choice can do any better. I seriously doubt it and I would expect both labs to see a greater reductions in force.

Then comes her second term, where it will just be a repeat of the previous CLINTON.

Regardless, she is waiting to hear from you at

Get with the program...
"Then comes her second term, where it will just be a repeat of the previous CLINTON."

Groan. Hillary's going to find someone to give her a blow job? Shudder.
Don't you just love these neocons and their toady apologists? They're the very best at diverting attention from their own fuckups! It's never about them or the awful messes they've made; it's always about Bill (and now Hillary) Clinton. Past or future, never the present. Pay no attention to that man (CheneyBush/CEO/Admiral/...) there behind the curtain!
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
The problem is that neither LANL, LANS management and the DOE/NNSA has any vision for the future of this institution.

We should look at our problems and figure out how to make this a better place. Why does a staff member cost $400K? For that amount we get support systems that do not work (and continue to tolerate it), LDRD research that serves no one except the chosen few (and represents 9% of the FTE costs before gross receipts taxes and other taxes), 4 people to an office designed for 1 person (and more to come given the huge award fee that LANS will try to earn in reducing the office space by 2 million square feet), overpaid managers supported by G&A and "new lower division rates" (I wish that I could get $200K to be a senior advisor and do nothing), overworked (and underappreciated) group leaders trying to get the job done...the list goes on and on.

Perhaps a RIF is necessary to get rid of the dead weight. Unfortunately we would not get that right because the management burocracy involving 30+ AD's and hundreds of useless groups will still be here, serving their self interests as opposed to the mission we have been assigned by the taxpayers. Perhaps the vision should be to stop doing the science that can be performed BETTER and CHEAPER elsewhere.

It is time to challange our management to earn what overpriced salaries they currently are paid. We should hold them accountable and require them to give us the tools to do our job, and we should expect nothing less than what is right and correct (no cutting corners), and stop the whinning,
The RIF started last fall by getting rid of hundred of contractors (long screwed by the UC system into positions of co-employment, which no one ever did anything about), students, and limited-term UC/LANS employees. Not to mention the KSL/PTLA cuts. Meanwhile stories of big bonuses for "managers" continue. But there's NO MONEY! What a laugh.

Why hasn't Congress or the media REALLY looked into the rigged Nanos Stand Down, based on nothing and costing hundreds of millions of dollars? Why? Because it was all part of the plan to privatize LANL. Nanos did his hatchet job and moved on to his cushy DC job (while still on the UC payroll). WHERE IN HELL IS THE MEDIA ATTENTION?

Lots of media attention for the recent classified stuff in the trailer, but a nice cover up for the manager with classified material at home. Of course he was Bechtel so that doesn't count.

The hatchet job continues as the SAME handful of congressional member scream and yell about basically nothing. But you never hear them say boo about equivalent problems at Livermore or Sandia. Hmmmm. I wonder why....

So Bush and his "bag men" succeeded in privatizing LANL at a HUGE cost to taxpayers (not even including the Stand Down costs)with a smoke screen of trumped up "incidents."

The media is (are?) the biggest DUPE in the country. Cowboys and buttheads aside, Bushes, the GOP Congress, DOE and the lax media have created the illusion via lies, set ups, and inaccurate headlines.
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