Sunday, February 04, 2007


If we had leadership

A comment on the
post asks the question:

Ok - let's take bets. How likely is there to be any "press conference" from the scientists, or a class action lawsuit, or any other action other than silence and grumbling to ourselves? Is it possible to take such a stance without guaranteed retribution, or at least, subtle promotion to the front of the RIF line? I know I'm not willing to martyr myself (sorry - but judging from the pervasive use of anonymous posting here, I'm not alone). Is there a route where there is protection for those who speak out, or are we just screwed if we try?

The fact that his question was asked illustrates the following about LANL: the lab's previous contractor, the University of California, provided no leadership during at least the past half decade. Any leadership that did exist at one time within LANL rose from within the ranks of the institution. Unfortunately, the last example of leadership of any consequence at LANL was Harold Agnew.

Now that our enemies have clearly declared themselves, Sam Bodman, head of DOE being but the latest, we have two choices:
  1. Continue to whine about our current state, and wait for the worst that is yet to come, or
  2. Find, promote, and support a core of scientist-lead leadership from within the ranks of LANL staff.
The resources exist within LANL to take on our enemies, DOE and NNSA in particular, and pick them apart. Pin them to the mat. They have no solid ground to stand on -- they are arguably the least efficient, most incompetent (FEMA notwithstanding) of any of the department-level government organizations. There are plenty of smart people at LANL, unlike at the home offices of our newly declared enemies. Their organizations are huge, bureaucratic, stultified. Their leadership is feeble. We could mount an offense against them that would run circles around their clumsy attempts to continue to shift all the blame for recent events upon LANL's scientists.

If we had leadership.

The next few weeks are critical. They will tell if there is enough collective spine remaining among the scientists at LANL to rise to the need of the institution. Like our most recent former director, Nanos, who purchased his golden parachute from UC by the power of the knowledge that he has of UC's dirty little secrets, LANL scientists have plenty of knowledge of the dirty little secrets of DOE, NNSA, and now LANS. We have the power to turn this current public whipping of LANL into a real fight. A dirty fight.

If we had leadership. I personally know a few LANL scientists who are now angry enough at Bodman's cowardly attempt last week to shift all of the blame for his own organization's incompetence onto 'arrogant' LANL scientists who are now prepared to come forth and publicly fight back. They are now willing to go on the record with facts and proof of decades of DOE and UC malfeasance. You will be reading about this in the press in coming days. This is a good start, but it is not enough. A few courageous leaders need a large support base of courageous staff, if the fight is to be won. The choice is yours. Remain cowards -- watch the lab shrivel. Become brave -- feel good about yourselves, and maybe even help turn LANL back into place where you like working again.


I have sent my affidavit regarding years of "employee abuses" at LANL to Congress. I hope this provides some support of the "unethical behavior" of LANL managers. I submitted my affidavit as to why employees of the Los Alamos National Laboratory are fearful of retribution and why internal mechanisms for holding abusive managers accountable have failed miserably in protecting those who dare speak out. I love my country and want to protect it! Self-preservation will get you no where.
It appears that you, and other anonymous posters, believe there are protections in place. Can we start giving details and pointers to information about these safeguards instead of simply stating their existence? That might convince people to speak out who otherwise would remain silent. I'm sorry to sound "cowardly" (amongst this crowd of brave anonymous peers, and our canine leader) but it's hard to believe that this talk of press releases and other activities to "fight back" is anything more than anonymous bravado.
5:05: I started this blog to provide staff with a communications channel that did not exist after LANL, The Real Story shut down. What have you done, except to provide an excellent example of the type of cowardice that will assuredly guarantee the complete and total demise of our lab?

Ref: 2/04/07 5:05 PM
We can provide reasonable assurance that the Laboratory’s overall mission is not compromised by irresponsible and/or self-serving leadership more intent on covering up problems than resolving them.

Conducting public hearings on the employee abuses occurring at the Los Alamos National Laboratory is, perhaps, among the greatest public service that could be provided to our Nation and this state in this institutions 60-plus year life.
I would attest to the abuses I and my colleagues in Chemistry have experienced from my line management since I arrived at the Lab. If there was a public forum, I would gladly come with my lawyer and spill all the beans with dates, e-mails, and the like. I also have data that shows how people were protected and/or promoted to keep the secrets. Let them try to fire us - talk about a retaliatory discharge lawsuit.
OK, I'll put my name forward as one who did, and will, fight FOR the Lab, against the powers that would try to malign its patriotic workers--at all levels, and even some near the top--of Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Aside from the hysteria and chaos emanating now from Washington, DC, the hard data on safety and security incidents are still available from DOE and NNSA (though the security data had to be wrested from their grip via the Freedom of Information Act by intrepid reporter Diana Heil of the Santa Fe New Mexican--hey! we DO have some allies for truth in the media, believe it or not!--and she is far from the only one of the Fourth Estate who has served the nation and the Lab with the truth, even when it may have run against the tide).

And the data is incontrovertible: Los Alamos is populated by patriotic scientists, staff, technicians, secretaries, and even a FEW managers (you know who you are, and you CAN come forward to the Lab's defense). A positive culture of safety and security exists, in SPITE of a very small number of slip-ups--NOT ONE OF WHICH RESULTED IN ANY LOSS OF SECRETS FROM LANL--and they have all been self-reported, apart from the recent discovery of archival secrets (that's right: ancient secrets, not the latest stuff) by the Los Alamos Police Department during a domestic-disturbance incident in Los Alamos last fall. The story of LANL's culture of protecting secrets and working safely, amidst the dangerous tasks it performs daily and admirably for the nation's benefit, can be proudly and calmly presented to the nation, and I am confident that this will be done in the next couple of weeks.

My own case is one that should encourage all of you out there to be forthcoming. Yes, I am a semi-retired physicist at the Lab, but I STILL WORK THERE. And my view is that I wouldn't want to work at any place that couldn't stand my continuing to be there telling the truth. I will sign my name to this post, just as I have to opinion columns in peer-reviewed journals or local newspapers, and I will answer any phone call from any reporter, whether at my home phone or at the Lab. I owe the truth about issues that affect our nation's security and the Lab I work at to further that security, and I owe that truth to all of my fellow citizens, including any and all members of the free press. It is my FIrst Amendment right as a loyal American, and as such, it is my duty to do so.

If anyone in the Congress, DOE, NNSA, LANS, or LANL wishes to take issue with this, then they can explain to the same reporters just why I should have remained silent.

-Brad Lee Holian
I can personally guarantee that if the LANL scientists hold a public forum to collect data and have a lawyer (or two) present to take note of those who attend, that ANY retaliation that would be taken against ANY of the participants would constitute an immediate lawsuit against LANS and others.
I have a question - why don't our Lab Fellows take the charge and serve as the leadership for the lab scientists? They are the few that have been hand-picked by the Director to serve as the voice for the lab scientists. Now is your chance - those who have been hand-picked by the top levels of the Lab's management to please stand up and take on this role now as representatives for all of us who will stand up and speak of the abuses and corruption we know that goes on at this Lab.
Yes. I was wondering if we haven't just found a more meaningful mission for the lab fellows than membership in a self congratulation society.
Honestly, when was the last time the Lab Fellows ever stood up for anyone aside from Al Sattelberger (who was made one himself on the request of our Lab Fellows and was made a Senior Lab Fellow no less). Now he gets RTR funds for his "distinction" and meanwhile works as "The AD for Science" at Argonne. He gets money from LANL that he gives to his pals at LANL to fund a postdoc and concurrently undermines LANL by actively trying to steal away talent away from LANL. He is basically just trying to build another LANL Chemistry Division at ANL. What I can't figure is just how stupid the LANL top guns are to fund this. I guess I just answered my question. Nevermind...
6:25 makes a point. Knowing a few of the fellows as I do (yes, I do get around, for a dog) I find myself wondering if the "fellows" have the chops for any mission more noble than preserving status quo in their very own little self admiration society.

Producing white papers extolling the virtues of "Measures of Excellence", absolutely. Engaging in a real battle for the survival of the lab, probably not.
"Metrics for Scientific Excellence", Pat. The paper can be seen here:

If this is an example of what the LANL fellows are capable of producing, I suggest that we look elsewhere for help saving the lab.
Not all LANL fellows are spineless wimps. Charles Mader railed against NANOS, got his Q jerked, and has never been back, as far as I know.
I agree that it is time that the scientists at Los Alamos speak up.

I felt very angry at the comments made by Bodman. Not only are these
statements completely incorrect and ineffective at addressing actual problems
at the lab, but they are also very insulting to the workforce. In general
people will now see Bodman as utterly incompetent or corrupt. Any leader that
has completely breached and hence lost the trust of the people cannot be an
effective leader. An ineffective leader cannot enact changes by definition.
If he really wanted to enact actual positive changes at LANL, the comments
made by Bodman were not only not helpful, but instead represent a huge step
backward. It is also telling that Bodman talks about "culture" which implies
a universal behavior pattern in an organization, yet in a portion of the
written testimony by Director Anastasio he states "As a result LANL becomes a
less cohesive laboratory and more a set of independent organizations, each
with its own manner of operations and expectations." Clearly these two
characterizations of LANL are contradictory.

Although the comments by Stupak, Barton and the other committee members were
harsh it should be said that many of the questions that they asked should have
been answered more clearly by the NNSA members. Presumably the NNSA is aware
of the details of our security and safety record, how many publications are
produced by LANL, and the numerous unique capabilities of the lab. They should
also be aware that LANL is the largest science laboratory in the country. In
addition to the physical sciences and computer sciences I would add that there
is also a significant biological component to the lab such as the HIV data
base, genome project and epidemic studies.

What NNSA needs is to be staffed by some people with real scientific
credentials, perhaps some people who have worked at the labs before.
Additionally they should appoint some people with real managerial or
business backgrounds - some people that know the basics like doing
your homework before you go to a meeting, so you can actually answer

Scientific research is done in three ways in the United States, by industry,
government research labs, and universities. In general each of these avenues
have adapted to specific kinds of capabilities and there is also considerable
interactions between these groups to maximize resources for specific goals.
Do the members of NNSA and Congress realize how much damage it will do to the
scientific research base and capabilities of the United States to tear down
our largest government research laboratory? There is also a possible domino
effect that could spread beyond LANL in that politicians will begin
to see science and other labs as not being of value and easy targets.

As for the basic question of whether we "need Los Alamos," the answer is no,
we do not need Los Alamos, if you believe that anything that makes you
stronger is something you do not need. Does the Unites States need
to be a great nation?

Charles Reichhardt
Theoretical Division
T-13 Complex Systems
Speaking of leaders (but somewhat off topic for this thread). How many of us have shared the experience lately of people being attached, by managers (not people involved in the projects), to projects that they have no history on for the sole reason that they have no funding? This is a gross waste of resources, and a horrible example of incompetent management. How can one push science ahead if projects have to deal with unfunded incompetence being attached to them for reasons that boil down to the LANL equivalent of PhD welfare? There are, unfortunately, large numbers of people who persist at the lab, claiming to be scientists, who care for nothing more than guaranteeing a paycheck for the next year or two until they hit the right age to retire. They only care about survival, and their work output is minimal and insignificant, yet they cost $350k+ per FTE. These people, and the managers who empower them, are a disease hurting the goal of saving the lab from itself. You are right to point out the extensive and severe damage that external forces such as the DOE and NNSA are doing to us, but don't forget the cancer that eats us away from within -- the 'close to retirement' parasite.
Ref: 2/05/2007 1:05 AM
It's called the "Good Old Boy Network." Family, friend, college buddy...this has been going on far to long. Shameless as they are they are also our managers. When did "best qualified" or "ethical behavior" stop being important in this institution? Quite sometime ago.
Pack your bags Pat, I'm sending this link to my cousin who is the editor of a major city's newspaper back east. Maybe this will get attention!I'm a contractor and terrified of the "next bullet", but my country and this Lab's survival is most important to me, now.
A lesson that DOE, NNSA, UC, LANS, and LANL has never learned:
"You may command obedience, but you must earn respect." Respect flows from the bottom up, as does its opposite, contempt.

LANS employees fear retaliation because their Q clearance (which is a condition of their employment) may be cancelled on a whim by any one of dozens of people. All that has to be whispered is “This person is unreliable” and s/he will be out of a job. There’s no review, no appeal, and no recourse. You’re gone!

A lot of what you see on this blog is driven by fear – which leads to loathing of the source of the fear. Most of us can’t stand up to the powers-that-be because we can’t afford this “employment at whim” business.
Anonymous said...
Ref: 2/05/2007 6:21 AM "It's called the "Good Old Boy Network." Family, friend, college buddy...this has been going on far to long. Shameless as they are they are also our managers."

Yeah, that is the way Chemistry Division has been run since Al Sattelberger had the job. Then they passed over the most qualified person for the job (happened to be a woman) for one of Al's (and Terry's) buddies, Vahid Majidi. Then Vahid got canned and they once again passed over the most qualified person for the job (happened to be a woman) for one of Al's buddies, Gene Peterson, who is "just acting." Yeah right, he'll get the job. Hmmm. See a pattern here?
Indeed, why is Susan Seestrom an AD, and Carol Burns is not?
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