Sunday, February 04, 2007
If we had leadership
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:
- Continue to whine about our current state, and wait for the worst that is yet to come, or
- Find, promote, and support a core of scientist-lead leadership from within the ranks of LANL staff.
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.
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.
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
Producing white papers extolling the virtues of "Measures of Excellence", absolutely. Engaging in a real battle for the survival of the lab, probably not.
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.
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?
T-13 Complex Systems
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.
"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.
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?