Saturday, January 27, 2007
White Knight to the Rescue: LockMart Saves LANL?
--Pat, the (hopeful?) Dog
From the latest ABQ Journal --
"Lockheed Martin received a $7.7 million bonus last year for its management of Sandia National Laboratories, on top of its $16.6 million fixed fee for running the nuclear weapons research center."
Based on the ABQ Journal tidbit, I would like to offer the following idea.
*** MEGA-LAB PROPOSAL ***
*** A SNL-LANL Merger ***
I have a radical proposition. How about turning LANL into "SNL-North", and letting SNL help run their errant sister lab up on the Hill? At least SNL has a decent track record of managing a national lab. Why not merge the two into one Mega-Lab entity? SNL is only 90 miles down the road from us, so the logistics of merging the two labs is not that far fetched. If Lockheed had won the LANL RFP, that's probably the direction in which Lockheed management would have moved (i.e, integration of the separate functions between these two labs). For those who don't know LANL's history, SNL started out as a LANL division back in the early 50's.
If nothing else, a lab merger between SNL and LANL would immediately bring about big cost savings by stripping away the duplication of support offices that currently serve both labs. If we merged, we could see significant savings from the integration effort. So far, LANS has only given empty promises on integration efforts aimed at saving money.
We might also be able to reduce some of the bloated management overhead that currently exists at LANL if NNSA followed the Mega-Lab route. Another big plus would be that staff who felt trapped up at Los Alamos might be able to more easily transfer to an office down in ABQ. Likewise, SNL staff who wanted to get out of the "big city" could transfer up to the pristine mountain air up on the Hill.
The more I think about it, the more I really like the Mega-Lab concept. Perhaps it's time for NNSA to seriously start thinking about moving in this direction. The LANL logo has already been destroyed by bad PR, so giving up this title would be a plus. The new Mega-Lab could be given a slick, new name that would satisfy both SNL and LANL.
And since many of the support functions get done via telephone and E-mail anyway, it seems to me it might be far cheaper to have some lab support functions centralized down in Albuquerque, were it could be done at much lower cost. When people are needed on-site at Los Alamos, vans could run between the two labs to transport workers on an "as needed" basis.
Making a Mega-Lab out of SNL and LANL is a much saner proposal than LANS current plan to integrate the operations of the sister UC labs of LANL and LLNL (when/if UC takes the LLNL contract). These two labs are a thousand miles apart and both suffer from the UC "virus".
I like the Mega-Lab concept. It's obvious that something needs to be done pretty quickly, and this idea has some merits. As one poster comments, however, it's so obvious an idea that NNSA would never go for it. Besides, the fellow who now runs NNSA, D'Agostino, is the same guy who single-handedly picked UC/Bechtel to run LANL. This decision came as a complete shock to just about everyone. No one expected UC would get the contract given it's poor record at LANL. This goes to show you just how bad NNSA can be at making a decision. Given this example, it's unlikely that D'Agostino would ever go for the New Mexico Mega-Lab concept, no matter how compelling the arguments in its favor.
One has to wonder if Congress thinks D'Agostino is as big a fool (or as corrupt) as those of us remaining here at LANL do. It must be patently clear to all by now how ill-advised his selection of the Bechtel-led LANS team was.
Oh, and let's not forget Sam Bodman's glowing endorsement of D'Agostino's pick last December.
How tolerent would LM be of LANL's current crop of cowardly, whiney, prima-dona staff? I would anticipate a massive "culture shift" as being necessary, were LANL fortunate enough to suddenly find itself under LM's umbrella.
But, as others have commented: this solution to the current and on-going problems at LANL simply makes too much sense. The decision makers who landed us in our current mess are still in the decision loop. Yes, I mean Bodman and D'Agostino. They are such a *huge* part of our problem, I can't imagine this proposal gaining any traction as long as they are still in position.
Contact Bingaman and Udall, and suggest that they give this idea some thought. If you feel you have some breath to waste, contact Domenici as well.
-Pat, The Dog
Bringing SNL and LANL together under one roof would also put both the "engineering" side and "design" side of nuclear weapons work under unified management for better communications and cheaper execution of tasks. Isn't this the type of "consolidation" that NNSA keeps talking about? Why not really do it in a meaningful way?
The apparatchik's first and only necessary corollary: Internal compartmentalization is always preferable to external fencing.
FYI, when you get a rental car at ABQ, you can see the Eclipse Aviation warehouse sitting above the rental car parking lot. Their factory is located out at the ABQ Double Eagle Airport north of town. More info on these revolutionary six passenger jets can be found at the Eclipse Aviation web site:
Using an "air taxi" service like this would help "glue" the two former labs together if the economics of the Mega-lab concept could support it.