Thursday, February 01, 2007


What we can expect

The question of whether or not any more security infractions (Mitchell?) will be revealed by the ongoing FBI investigation into recent security failures at LANL is interesting, but not central to learning what the eventual outcome will be for LANL.

Almost regardless of what happens from this point on, LANL is the loser. Science at LANL will never be the same. The attack on science at LANL that was begun by George Nanos in 2004 has turned into a complete rout. Science is the loser, and bloated, inept corporate structure is the winner.

The only remaining question is: will it be a slow lingering death for LANL's current contractor, or will there be a brutal Saddam Hussein-style execution of LANS at the abrupt end, like there was for its predecessor?

Here is what we can expect to be in store for LANL, now that the hearings are over:
  1. In the coming weeks the slow, dawning realization will gradually come to even the most obtuse, oblivious LANL staff that a fairy tail ending is not in the script.
  2. Months will drag by without resolution. RIFS will occur during those months. LANS, however, will remain. The FBI report will not be released. There will be a total news blackout regarding any possible outcome from the hearings.
  3. An official Public Affairs stonewall campaign will be in full force. No real news will be released by LANL PA, only PR fluff.
  4. Finally, seven months or so down the road the FBI will release their report, perhaps towards the end of August. If the report reveals that no substantive additional security episodes occurred at LANL other than the CREM de Meth fiasco, then the worst that LANS can expect is a slight-to-moderate reduction of their award fee.
  5. On the other hand, if Mitchell is named as having committed the security infraction that recent rumors have hinted at, the recourse against LANS will be more severe. Their contract will be terminated earlier than the 7 year term. Three or four years early, perhaps.
  6. Attrition will have taken its toll by this point. There truly will not be much science at LANL left to save by this point. Staff and programmatic dollars will have migrated to Sandia, Livermore, and other science centers.
  7. Ultimately, those who wished to reduce LANL's role to that of plutonium pit manufacture will have won, no matter what the interim path was that we took to get there.
  8. The politicians will declare success.
Are you all still glad that "UC won the contract"?

--Pat, The Realist

Pat, you obviously haven't read tonight's Los Alamos Monitor. According to St. Pete, he has now saved us, and there will be no layoffs in FY07. Of course, FY08 is a completely different matter.


Budget Favors Labs - Los Alamos Monitor - Jan 31, 2007

Domenici says no need for employee layoffs

ROGER SNODGRASS Monitor Assistant Editor

At-risk projects at Los Alamos National Laboratory, like the Chemical and Metallurgy Research Replacement facility and the environmental cleanup program mandated by the state are expected to survive in the new federal appropriations bill.

An omnibus, long-term continuing resolution scheduled for a vote today will "suitably treat" New Mexico's national laboratories, Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., reported Tuesday.

There will be no need for layoffs this year, according to commitments from the National Nuclear Security Administration, he said.
Could a solution to our externally perceived security problems and real cost problems be to have two SEPARATELY managed laboratories here in Los Alamos. I know it sounds crazy, but, just hold on a second. One laboratory could be exclusively for highly classified weapons and national security work. It could have all the procedures, random drug testing, shutdowns, congressional scrutiny, and high overhead costs deemed necessary for such an institution. It would be a leaner, meaner, streamlined organization specifically for highly classified work (and pit manufacturing). Heck, every backpack, briefcase, and pair of baggy cargo pants could be searched entering and exiting the complex. This laboratory could be managed by LANS, Bechtel, or whomever, but overseen by an organization with more perceived accountability like the DOD (if that so pleased D.C.). The other laboratory could be dedicated to energy, environment, life sciences, and other non-classified (or at most UCNI and OUO) work, and, perhaps have reasonable overhead rates to re-attract some of our missing work for others. This laboratory would not be subject to the (necessarily) onerous working environment of the classified lab (and no ridiculous everyone is guilty until proven innocent random drug testing) and would have a more open academic environment appealing to those of us not really interested in classified work (including those yet to consider working here). It could be managed by a consortium of universities like UC, UNM, NMSU, and anyone else wanting a piece (Colorado?, Texas?) and could be happily overseen by the DOE. Both labs have sort of coexisted ever since the end of the cold war and the intentional diversification of science that followed in the 1990s, this would just make it official. It might even be advantageous for Los Alamos and Northern New Mexico to not have all our eggs in one basket up here. If one of the labs were to, say, shut down for some reason there would still be something left to build on.

I suspect increasing funding opportunities for energy and environmental programs in the future (what with that pesky global warming and all) and wouldn’t mind seeing some of that work come our way. I’m concerned that if we tighten down too much across the entire institution, subject everyone to random drug testing, and just plain cost too much we will have trouble attracting such unclassified work and the people that want to work on it.

Before I bail for a job at a more desirable working environment (for my more easy going unclassified tastes) I just thought I throw this wild idea out there. I’ll check back in a day or two and see how badly I’ve been beat up.

p.s. the matrix has us
Take a chill pill, Pat. Everything you know is wrong. By this time next year, LANL will be flush with funding after we discover a new process for turning sh*t into signature grade shinola. LANL will market this new discovery, share the profits with the workers, and all of us will retire early and with fabulous wealth. Mikey will implement new policies that are adored by the workforce and which cut all further safety and security infractions down to the 8-sigma level. And Jesus will finally return with loud claps of thunder and the arrival of the 4 deadly horsemen of the Apocalypse. Relax, Pat. It's gonna be just grand!
And as for Livermore? Is there anything like a growing revolt? Do you see the hand that is writing upon the wall, in plain English, "There but for the grace of Almighty God go we"?
You have a point, 1/31/2007 9:22 PM. Now if you'll pardon me for just a minute, I need to scratch off the numbers on my $20 million lottery ticket.

Poster 9:13 pm, no one wants to beat you up. Thanks for throwing out something constructive. It's not a new idea, but there is no harm in airing it out again.

Could it ever happen? In my opinion, no. For it to become reality it would have to be embraced by both LANS and NNSA, and I don't think either of those two entities wants to move LANL in this direction. The reason for this has to do with power and control issues. Sorry to sound pessimistic, but I've been here a long while and that's just how I see it.

Good luck on your new job if you do decide to head out for greener pastures.
Dear "matrix" and "Son of Oppy":

The two-lab idea was floated just after the Cold War ended in the early nineties. One "green" lab for science and one "black" lab for all the other stuff. The idea had some merit; one could, in those days, imagine a research campus of the University of California (complete with "campus-like atmosphere") outside the fence, alongside an independent multi-fenced "lab" (with a prison-like atmosphere) for all the classified weapons work. I posed the idea to the then T-Division Leader (we had "leaders" of divisions back then), and being a true particle physicist, he smiled wryly and said, "The first one outside the fence will wither for lack of funding, and we'll have only the weapons lab left. I wouldn't even want to suggest the idea to anyone in Washington; they'd laugh me out of the room." That was the end of that discussion, held on the steps of the T-Division Building. Little did he know then how badly things would turn out just a few years later.

-Brad Lee Holian
Oh, Brad! Your little story really bummed me out. BTW, come to think of it, DOE already has a campus-like 'open' laboratory. It's called LBL, I believe. And during their re-compete last year, UC was chosen to directly run this lab (no cheesy LLC), and all the LBL staff got to remain UC employees and stay under the rock-solid UCRP pension. Sweet!
See, Pat. Everything turned out just fine. And to think, you were worried.
St. Pete came through for us, once again. He always does. Now go back to work, everyone. It's all been taken care of. Daddy's got us covered on his credit card.


House Approves Huge Spending Bill (AP News - Feb 1, 2007)

WASHINGTON - A must-pass bill covering about one-sixth of the federal budget swept through the House on Wednesday.

...The 286-140 vote — with 57 Republicans voting in favor — was a pleasant surprise for Democrats who expected far less GOP support. The $463.5 billion spending bill had much to please the rank and file, including Republican moderates, even though it contained no pet projects for their districts.

...Republicans also said the measure was not entirely free of parochial "earmarks," saying powerful senators such as Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, and Pete Domenici, R-N.M., received special treatment for home-state projects.

...Republicans contended some money came from phantom savings from highway spending.

In a striking exchange, GOP Rep. David Hobson of Ohio said Democrats bowed to powerful Republicans needed to pass the bill in the Senate.

Hobson said the House wanted to cut $495 million from nuclear weapons accounts, but settled for just $95 million out of deference to Domenici and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., whose states are home to numerous Energy Department facilities.
It's obvious that the road has been laid out for us, it's just a matter of time, but it's becoming very clear that both the mission and the funding will change...As for Peter V Domenici, (read the small print) NNSA has assured him that they will fund us to a level where no layoff's may be required...wanna bet your job on NNSA?....
LANL's most pressing project should be the development of a means to keep St. Pete on permanent life support after he kicks the bucket so that we'll always have our man in the Senate. Just because a Senator is in a coma is no reason for him to be removed from a powerful position. When needed, a special liquid can be introduced into Pete's IV which causes him to spurt out: "Mo' money for LANL, Mo' money for LANL", and then like magic, new funding will appear from Congress. I say we all get to work on this project right away!

Bioscience, are you guys in on the development of this special IV fluid? X Division, can you guys develop a small radioactive pellet to help power Pete's new artificial heart for the next 500 years? Material science people, can you guys come up with some elastic artificial skin to cover the areas of Pete that eventually begin to rot away? Computer science guys, can you come up with a neural network that passes for a plausible copy of Pete's voice?

Hey, Terry! We've got your Signature Facility project right here, and I bet we can even get Pete to fund it while he's still alive!
If were kicking around novel ideas, here's one I'd hope congress might consider.

Approve the RRW and "building down" of the nuclear arsenal, including a long term commitment to fund this process. Next, NNSA awards the overall responsibility for design and management of the RRW (1 and 2) program to LANL. NNSA transfers responsibility for scientific stewardship of "all" current nuclear weapons - deployed and reserve - to LLNL.

This gives LANL a clear mission and provides for "peer" review capability to continue to exist at LLNL.
It's a little too early to be celebrating....The 07 Fiscal Year ends in Sept....that gives us 8 months to find a place to go.....
I just finished listening to the hearings, and I believe your assessment is correct, Pat. Barton, Stupak, Burgess, Whitfield, and the rest of the committee were clearly enjoying the opportunity to throw their weight around, but as with the other 11 hearings that have been held on LANL, it was all for show.

It is unfortunate that the hearings might have provided a ray of hope that LANS would have its contract terminated for cause, thereby opening the possibility for improving the situation at LANL. It is just not going to happen.
Don't know about you guys, but I don't know too many LANL TSMs that work on the CMRR facility or the environmental cleanup project. Maybe these projects will fund contractors?
"Don't know about you guys, but I don't know too many LANL TSMs that work on the CMRR facility or the environmental cleanup project. Maybe these projects will fund contractors?"

There are quite a number of expensive TSM and ASM overhead folks in Project Management, Facilities and Business Operations that live off those projects and more. Support folks will always do well at LANL.
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