Thursday, February 01, 2007
Now we know-- it's those damn arrogant scientists
By Jon Fox
Global Security Newswire
WASHINGTON –— U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman yesterday told Congress that endemic security problems at one of the nation’s nuclear laboratories are caused by the “arrogance” of the scientists who work there (see GSN, Jan. 31).
Waving off the suggestion that an unwieldy Energy Department bureaucracy has caused continuing security problems, Bodman called for a change in attitude among Los Alamos National Laboratory workers.
Bureaucratic issues are not “at the heart of the problem,” he told the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee. “The heart of the problem is a cultural issue at Los Alamos.”
“Many” of the problems have been addressed, but issues remain, he conceded. Changing a culture takes time, Bodman told the committee, although he did not elaborate on the steps that have been taken.
Asked by Representative David Loebsack (D-Iowa) to sum up the cultural impediment to security at the nuclear weapons facility, Bodman responded bluntly.
“Arrogance,” he said. “Arrogance of the chemists and physicists and engineers who work at Los Alamos and think they’re above it all.”
Los Alamos has been the focus of intense scrutiny after a number of security problems in recent years. Most recently, local police raiding a mobile home found hundreds of classified, weapon-related documents that a 22-year-old contract archivist had taken from the laboratory (see GSN, Nov. 6, 2006).
In other instances, two computer hard drives containing sensitive information were found behind a copying machine at the facility, and the laboratory was temporarily shut down while workers searched for two missing disks that ultimately were found never to have existed (see GSN, Mar. 4, 2005).
Lawmakers at a hearing Tuesday lambasted Los Alamos management and suggested removing security oversight from the National Nuclear Security Administration as well as simply closing the laboratory. NNSA Administrator Linton Brooks lost his job last month over the persistent security problems (see GSN, Jan. 5).
Scientists at the New Mexico facility, which conducts weapons research and produces plutonium cores of nuclear bombs, do not see security as a central part of their work or as a serious concern, Bodman said.
“It has been that way for a long time, and that in my judgment is the issue,” he said. While avoiding specifics, the secretary said laboratory management would become stricter to address the problem. The laboratory has also instituted mandatory drugs testing, a requirement that could be instituted across the U.S. nuclear complex, he said.
A report released yesterday by the Government Accountability Office stated that security lapses at Los Alamos, the Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico and the Y-12 National Security Complex in Tennessee were in part a result of administrative problems.
Pointing to the GAO report released yesterday, lawmakers questioned the effectiveness of the relationship between the Energy Department and the National Nuclear Security Administration.
Since it was created in 2000, the nuclear agency has failed to develop the degree of autonomy needed to improve security at nuclear sites and improve management, said Representative Ellen Tauscher (D-Calif.). The idea was that creating a semiautonomous agency to lead nuclear security management agency would streamline bureaucracy and simplify lines of authority and accountability.
“I needed confidence that DOE is enabling NNSA to achieve top-notch science and security rather than serving as one big, bureaucratic roadblock,” she said. “Frankly, Mr. Secretary, after reading your submitted testimony, I am losing that confidence.”
Government auditors found that until recently the National Nuclear Security Administration had no consistent leadership for its security program, and since its inception, five of its six site offices have not been staffed at needed levels.
Also, the Energy Department’s database for tracking security issues identified in assessments is incomplete. Not all security deficiencies have been entered into the database because it is “very difficult to use,” connections are slow due to the lack of high-speed encrypted modems and it often crashes.
As a result, the security administration fails to have a full understanding of problems, according to the GAO report.
“Management problems continue, in part, because NNSA and DOE have not fully agreed on how NNSA should function within the department as a separately organized agency,” auditors wrote. “This lack of agreement has resulted in organizational conflicts that have inhibited effective operations.”
Bodman agreed that the National Nuclear Security Administration has not had the effect intended by lawmakers. “It remains my belief that the creation of NNSA as a separately organized entity within the department has not yielded all the beneficial results that the legislation’s authors intended,” he said in his testimony.
Bodman criticized the redundancies created by the two linked agencies and said the structure “imposes severe limitations” on his management authority. The secretary is unable to directly control subordinate NNSA personnel, he said. The structure also prohibits DOE officials from addressing problems arising from NNSA activities, he argued.
Despite his reservations, the secretary said he was committed to the relationship between the National Nuclear Security Administration and the Energy Department. “We’ve made it work,” he said. “It’s not a big deal.”
Not too surprisingly, we LANL scientists have a reciprocal low opinion of you and your staff.
If I may observe, the vigor with which you are trying to shift the blame for the poor quality of management at LANL away from yourself is telling. I clearly recall your having given the new LANS team a resounding vote of approval last December when the contract announcement was made, so the fact that you are now rejecting the claim that LANS is to blame for current conditions at LANL is not at all surprising.
--A Lanl Scientist
"Give credit, take blame."
We see the opposite again and again among senior LANS, NNSA, and DOE management.
This is really a catch-22, isn't it? If we disagree with this statement, we're "arrogant". If we agree, we'll, "we're arrogant". Can't win this one, folks.
Thank you sir, may I have another...
Just another day in the DOE: blame flows down, responsibility flows up.
In contrast to the Air Traffic Controllers under Ronald Reagan, who called their bluff, fired them all, and replaced them within a couple of years, if everyone walked out of Los Alamos today, could the nuclear weapons complex survive the walkout? Ah,well ... perhaps we dare not be so bold as to test the system, since this Administration and this U.S. Congress do not appear to give a rusty fig about science or the scientists that serve the nation.
But somehow, somewhere, someone has to care: No?
-Senator Domenici, even?
-Brad Lee Holian
X-Division Laboratory Associate
And might I ask, where in the hell is our f-in fearless senior management team? Why isn't Mike & Co. standing up for us? Instead, we hear nothing. Where is our over-paid PA office reps and why are they not standing up for the LANL workers? This is bullshit. The 22 year old was not even a scientist!
Why isn't the management infrastructure held accountable? My God, John Browne was accountable for things under his watch. Pretty pathetic set of losers that we have in place with LANS and NNSA and DOE - all of whom are busy pointing fingers at one another and ultimately rolled the shit down the hill onto the "arrogant scientists". Nice going guys - you all just earned a bunch more respect and really demonstrated why you "earn" the big bucks.
I hope and pray that Congress is reading this blog and takes note of the those in charge and how they are responding to the questions regarding their incompetency. In the end, it always seems to be one (or all) of the little people's fault. Without fail ...
I only wish I actually had a say in how things are run at LANL. I get orders from my LANL managers, the NNSA and the DOE and yet I have been grouped in with a bunch of my LANL colleages as being arrogant and to blame for things bad at LANL.
Hey Sam - who hired the LANS team? Oh yeah, that would be NNSA (and you). Hmmm. Must be due to the LANL bad culture.
Hey Sam - who sets the rules and regulations that the arrogant scientists must follow? Oh darn, that would be DOE and NNSA.
I ask - why is nobody in Congress realizing what is going on here? We follow the rules that we we are given. Bottom line: The security controls are not set by the arrogant scientists. I am shocked that Bodman was allowed to pass the buck today.
Here is a thought - perhaps Congress is being clever and is simply giving Sam and pals enough rope to hang themselves. I sincerely hope that Congress comes and asks the scientists some questions to find out what is really going on at this place.
You don't understand ... it is ALWAYS easiest to blame the people who have no say, no control, and no rights. I just wonder who is the DOE going to blame if LANL gets shut down? We have already seen that Sandia has serious credit card problems and LLNL has had their share of security problems and well Hanford and Oak Ridge have had a bunch of people die and yet none of them have arrogant scientists.
Thanks Sam for really showing us your true colors.
And thanks Mike, PADs and ADs - your silence shows your true colors.
The next "All-Hands" meeting(s) should be a real show-stopper when the Q&A session(s) start...
* Why don't we have decent child care facilities at LANL?
* Can you tell me why there aren't bicycle lanes in the toll-booth maze?
ar·ro·gance: an attitude of superiority manifested in an overbearing manner or in presumptuous claims or assumptions.
U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman: see arrogance.
1: not legally qualified.
2: inadequate to or unsuitable for a particular purpose.
3 a: lacking the qualities needed for effective action. b: unable to function properly.
National Nuclear Security Administration: see incompetent.
1 a: a body of nonelective government officials. b: an administrative policy-making group.
2: government characterized by specialization of functions, adherence to fixed rules, and a hierarchy of authority.
3: a system of administration marked by officialism, red tape, and proliferation.
U.S Department of Energy: see bureaucracy 3.
1: of, relating to, or characteristic of fiction-IMAGINARY
2: conventionally or hypothetically assumed or accepted.
3: not genuinely felt .
Los Alamos National Security, LLC: see fictitious.
1: foolishly impractical especially in the pursuit of ideals; especially marked by rash lofty romantic ideas or extravagantly chivalrous action.
Laboratory Directory: see quixotic.
You should be absolutely ashamed of yourself. I cannot believe you are that naive so the only alternative is that you are an out and out liar who will sell out anyone to save yourself or your ambitions. A truly disgusting act of a so called leader.
"Great occasions do not make heroes or cowards; they simply unveil them to the eyes of men."
And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver. (Matthew 26:14-15)
A bunch of unsavory new policies will come down from NNSA and DOE directed specifically towards LANL staff. Those who don't follow these policies to the letter will be immediately fired. These new policies are being geared to smoke out the "trouble-makers" at LANL and to test the staff. It's going to make the Tiger Team visits of the early-90's look like child's play. If you had plans to get any real work done over the Spring and Summer period, purge those silly ideas from your mind. You're going to need a manager's authority just to go take a piss.
My guess is that Bodman has now decided to pull the leash very hard and morale at LANL is no longer of concern to him. That's why his talk has become so blunt in his interviews of late. This new operation is going to be laid out as a "scorched-earth" / "take-no-prisoner" plan designed to please Congress. I doubt that either Mike Anastascio or Pete Domenici will be able to stop it.
At the moment, we are in the calm right before the storm, but the storm will arrive very shortly. And know this -- Bodman, et al, don't really care at this point whether the staff at LANL leaves or stays. He's ready to do whatever he feels it takes to fix what he perceives to be deeply rooted problems in the culture of the LANL workforce.
I hope I'm wrong about all this, but we'll know soon enough.
It's the pathetic grasping at straws for a loser of a manager to blame systemic failures in their business on something as nebulous as culture.
There is precious little defense against a motivated trusted insider, which is what we had here.
There is even less defense against incompetent political appointees who seek at every opportunity to deny reality, pass the buck, and pander to their masters.
This is the same idiot who growled that LANL was NOT struggling under the financial weight of the new contract at his last talk on the hill.
So, tell me again why DID Lockheed-Martin lose the bid again?
Why DID L-M's storage unit containing their losing bid material burn up in an arson fire not long after the bid was awarded to LANS?
If they lost, why would their material have any value to anyone that would call for its criminal destruction?
Sam should look in a mirror when he says the words 'incompetent' and 'arrogant.'
And while I'm on the subject, why is JQ not in jail? She stole, and admits to stealing, classified documents from her job.
She admits to committing a crime, has ruined lives, and done at least as much as Wen-Ho Lee was convicted of, and yet continues to be the only one to not receive any punitive actions.
Where is the US Attorney on this? What does it take to get arrested for stealing classified documents?
No one who is familiar with the ancient archival stuff she had in her pitiful single-wide would even equate it with the stuff Wen Ho Lee took out from behind the fence, and he, too, was told that he was at the top of a RIF list. What are the chances, do you think, that out of 10,000 LANS employees, probably half of whom have Q-clearances, there will be someone who cracks, thinking in their fevered minds that their job is at risk, and that the secrets they can get their hands on will be bargaining chips for saving their job?
The atmosphere of intimidation has now escalated to an all-time high, even higher than under Nanos and his foolish shutdown. And now, it comes from the top of the nuclear weapons complex.
Thanks for nothing, Sam.
It's interesting to note that WHL and Jessica were both afraid of being laid off. This fear is not in any way a justification for their stupid actions. It is, however, a point which DOE/NNSA/LANS/Congress should carefully note.
It's not unusual to see a correlation between job insecurity and stupid actions done to "protect" one's livelihood. That's just human nature at work.
That was the most well-reasoned and sensible explanation (and warning) that I've read on this suject. Well-thought, and thank you for providing a dispassionate assessment that rings as true as any we've heard.
The classified matter was not a puppy that followed her home. It was not her property and she did not have permission to take it, and her training clearly told her how it must be handled.
She stole it, intended to steal it, concealed stealing it and admits stealing it.
That's criminal intent.
Making apologies for this fool is outrageous, and demonstrates no knowledge of the underlying facts.
People in the public school system will tell you (off the record, of course) that Jessica Quintana is mildly retarded. She's not capable of operating at normal mental capacity. Given a simple job (operate this scanner, and you'd better get it done in time!), it is conceivable that she really did feel pressure to take her work home.
Demanding full responsibility from someone who is fundamentally unable to understand the responsibility for her actions is foolish. The fact that she is an Hispanic Female from The Valley means that she was also probably hired as an EEOC/AA statistic.
Her simple-mindedness is probably why she hasn't been charged. She didn't have criminal intent and is too dumb to realize the full impact of her actions.
Why did she get a Q clearance? Well, she's a Valley Girl (two EEOC points) and probably doesn't have any prior police records. All the neighbors think "She's a nice girl, but a little simple," and that's no disqualification for a clearance.
If stupidity where a disqualification for a security clearance, we could point out Hazel O'Leary, Bodman, Nanos, Berger, Deutch, and Bodman.
Well, once again where are our wonderful top level leaders? They are telling us nothing. We have been responding and gluing all of our USB ports and we really don't even know the story.
Now the top level folks are not giving us any information about the events of this week. Anyone notice how many hits the blog has had this week? 45% is from government. Most likely LANL - why? Well, this is the only place to find out what is going on - we certainly can't rely on our "Leaders and Managers" to do so ... and that is not being arrogant, just the facts.
You are disgusting to even put this on the blog! Rumor does not authorize you to discredit someone and/or does being a TSM, white male, scientist, etc. give you that right!
I am also from the Espanola Valley, hispanic woman, and very much educated. Further more, to say the least, I am NOT a EEO/AA statistic. I am a proud American you SOB!
The REAL STUPIDITY is caused by arrogance and greed -- AT THE TOP! The real "arrogant butthead cowboys" are at the level above group leader, in general: going all the way up the food chain of command, with increasing intensity, up to DOE HQ and beyond to Cheney and Bush, who set the tone and serve as the horrible counter-examples for this quagmire of corporatization. Don't trash the women of the Valley before you confront the true evil of the white male bosses.
--Pat, the Dog
So now DOE is handing out Q clearances to meet some sort of diversity quota??? You've got to be kidding me! Pretty lame comment.