Saturday, February 03, 2007


It's Been a Tough Week

Santa Fe New Mexican, February 3, 2007
Lab workers react after a tough week

Eric Fairfield gets calls from people who want to leave town. David Carroll is tired of a few people making all of Los Alamos National Laboratory look bad. And Brad Lee Holian says morale has never been worse.

These current or former lab scientists had a lot to say at the end of a rough week for the lab, capped by Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman's comment that "arrogance" among lab scientists contributes to security problems there.

Bodman's comments, made to a House subcommittee, prompted an unusually strong reaction from lab scientists and many anonymous comments at an employee Web log called "LANL -- The Corporate Story."

"It's really interesting that all of the screw-ups are our fault and that (the Department of Energy) and (National Nuclear Security Administration) don't have any culpability in it," said Carroll, a scientist with 38 years at Los Alamos.

He said nearly all the people at the lab take security responsibility seriously but don't get credit for it. "And something goes wrong that's caused by one or two people. ... That gets smeared over all of us," he said.

The FBI has investigated how classified documents ended up last fall at the home of a former lab contract worker. No one has been charged with a crime, but 24 people at the lab have been disciplined.

Former scientist Eric Fairfield is now a financial consultant who advises people on money and how to get a new job. "I get a lot of calls saying, 'Get me the hell out of here,' " he said. But Fairfield said the lab can be run well in the presence of headstrong scientists.

Holian said people "are absolutely incredulous" that they would be hearing the same kind of talk years after former director Pete Nanos shut the lab down to review safety and security procedures.

"It's never been worse," Holian said of worker morale. "And that includes Nanos' shutdown. It's a real low." He also said people are "appalled" that no one seems to be defending the lab.

Director Michael Anastasio was unavailable for comment Friday. In any case, spokesman Jeff Berger said, Anastasio prefers to speak to employees before speaking publicly about the events of this week.

Anastasio's written testimony to Congress this week said there's more to last fall's security incident.

"This incident exposed a problem not only involving employees' attention and attitude but also the laboratory's reliance on a very complex and confusing set of cyber-security policies and procedures that made it difficult for the employees to make good, immediate judgment calls," Anastasio said.

On Friday, U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., disagreed with Bodman's comments. U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., said he would speak to Bodman about the matter Wednesday and that he has encouraged scientists "to recognize their own personal responsibilities" regarding security.

U.S. Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M., believes "security issues should be addressed, but they should not be placed at the doorstep of the scientists themselves," according to spokeswoman Marissa Padilla.

----- And there's more bad news from the Santa Fe New Mexican -----

Report: LANL could make do with much less
Andy Lenderman | The New Mexican, February 3, 2007

Fewer workers and buildings could be in store for Los Alamos National Laboratory's future, a new report shows.

The nation's nuclear-weapons complex, which includes the lab, could have 25 to 33 percent fewer workers by 2030, according to a new report released Friday by the National Nuclear Security Administration.

The lab also could have 40 percent fewer buildings, as outlined in a report to Congress about Complex 2030, which is the agency's vision for the complex. However, it's likely that Congress will have a role in shaping that vision, and some have questioned the program it's based on, called the reliable replacement warhead.

The specific work force at Los Alamos was not addressed in the new report. But it's clear that the agency seeks a smaller, more efficient and less costly nuclear-weapons complex by replacing Cold War weapons and buildings through the reliable replacement warhead program.

Much of the report is old news, save some details. But it comes at a time when many in Congress are questioning the lab's role and at least some scientists report low morale.

The lab has also experienced a budget shortfall this year and underwent layoffs of contract workers last year.

Eight facilities across the country, with roughly 27,000 contract workers, make up the nuclear-weapons complex.

The report also said the agency is considering a center to consolidate weapons and plutonium work.

The government also is considering Los Alamos and four other sites to house a consolidated center for its work with plutonium, the radioactive material that makes up a pit, or trigger, for a nuclear weapon.

U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., said Los Alamos is not well-suited for permanent plutonium production and storage. "I look forward to the hearings on this report in the Senate Armed Services Committee," he said in a statement.

U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., is concerned about the potential job cuts associated with the Complex 2030 plan, a spokesman said Friday.

"It has been clear, however, for some time that NNSA budgets are expected to start going down," Domenici spokesman Chris Gallegos said via e-mail. "It will be important that the focus is on generating savings from such things as eliminating the unnecessary storage of plutonium and highly enriched uranium, on which hundreds of millions are spent now to secure. That funding could better be invested in training, technology and scientific expertise so the labs are ready to meet changing national security challenges."

this interesting comment appeared in funny, it is the only one so far which deals with the science at the lab, and not just management. if you're going to post it at the blog, please do not post my "initials".

quoted from:

Science is a human activity

Posted Friday 2nd February 2007 23:21 GMT

and when managed by people who refuse to use best scientific principles, it gets ugly. In the late 70s, management shifted to a business model. In the mid-80s, Congress manipulated funding and "security" to be short-sighted and ignore the actual cultural principles of human activity (long-term research was subject to annual funding; creativity was to be directed by senior management for Congressional fads; helicopter traps were set up which clearly showcased the nuclear materials sites from the anonymous background, even from 30 miles away; focus on terrorists attacking official buildings, when the only high school or grocery store would terrify better, etc.)

This continued in the 90s with the "Tiger Team" pouncing on incompetence-- it's easier to find if everyone is derided as incompetent. The underlying value system and social structure was disrupted. The resulting "organizational culture change" was effective, as you note.

Don Kerr and Sig Hecker were the first to capitulate and their arrogance about what is legitimate science continues.

There is a century-old proven science of human activity (non-linear dynamic systems). It's ironic and disheartening that a science laboratory construes science so narrowly that it would not follow its own principles of scientific inquiry to identify how it operates as an institution and what effect the unthinking changes from University management, Congress, and the Executive Branch would have on national security and international scientific resource. The human waste, environmental waste, dollar waste is enormous.
"Director Michael Anastasio was unavailable for comment Friday. In any case, spokesman Jeff Berger said, Anastasio prefers to speak to employees before speaking publicly about the events of this week."

Oh give me break - he has had ALL week to say something to us. What a lame excuse. We have heard NOTHING, NADA. What is Mike waiting for - the stars to come into alignment?

However, I think the silence speaks louder than any words. He did not defend the Lab and passed the buck like everyone else.
Someone said he is tired of a "few" employee's bashing lANL, LANL needs a bashing, it's a Gravy Train...and you sir have been laying face down in this train too long, LAN's needs to be put on a strict diet and be accountable to the tax-payers and the sponsors....Remember there are 3 three roads off this hill.....
So where's our Public Affairs Office....No spin? Something very sinister is taking place behind the vast wall's of Upper Management, Anyone care to guess what will be next...Think that the "Security Scandel" is over? Not quite yet... more suprises to come....Watch for FBI report...
Since the panel from NNSA and LANS seemed incapable of adequately addressing the Congressional Hearing in regards to the positive work done at Los Alamos, let's do a little review, shall we?

If a flu or H5N1 pandemic hits the US, don't call on LANL to run the big simulations that help map out it's probable course.


If a suspicious Anthrax case develops and genetic matching is needed to study where the Anthrax may have come from, don't call on LANL for the necessary bioscience work.


If a terrorist state plans on building a nuke, and the US needs satellite detector expertise to help monitor any possible ground testing, don't call on LANL to develop the satellite sensors.


If terrorists threaten our US cities with a small nuke and the US needs sophisticated detectors to help find it before detonation, don't call on LANL to help design these vital detectors.


If a nuke is found and someone like the NEST team is required to help analyze the device so it can be safely de-activated, don't call on LANL to help supplied the expertise.


If a nuke actually goes off and the US needs to have some analysis done to figure out who actually supplied the nuke so we can respond, don't call on LANL to do the post-analysis.


I could go on and on, but this is enough for now. We do far more than just build weapon pits at this facility. Go ahead and abuse our scientists and shut this place down. We don't care any longer, Congressman Stupak. But you should.
I disagree with the tone of the above post most vociferously:
99.99% of the staff scientists, engineers, technicians, secretaries, and maintenance people DO CARE about the welfare of this country, Congressman Stupak, even if you and Dingell and Barton and Bodman and many of the corporate managers here DON'T CARE about Los Alamos Lab.

--Pat, the Patriotic Dog
Pat, the "We Don't Care" phrase was sarcasm. Of course we do care about these things at LANL. I just wish Congress would understand a little bit more about the importance of this lab to the country's national security. And the listing only covered some of the various things LANL handles. Not everything LANL does can be discussed in the open.
The "DON'T CARE" poster is flat wrong. If we did not care, we would not be here.

I view attitudes like this as sabotage.

Please use one of the roads, ASAP.
We are now hearing about messages being passed down by LANS to the lower level managers and security personnel, to the effect of: "if there are any security screw-ups cause by people you deal with, your fired". LANL is also going to be re-audited, yet again, by outside "Tiger Team" type groups. Given this, what else awaits LANL in the near future?

Dingell, Stupak and Barton mentioned a new bill they put forth that strips all safety and security duties away from LANL and NNSA. It would give this responsiblility to some outside entity, but it's not yet clear to me who this entity will be. Even if this responsibility is given back to DOE, we could expect that DOE will contract out the work.

I suspect this new bill will pass, but what will it mean to LANL? It may mean that getting real work done at LANL is going to be darn near impossible. This new entity won't care about what their new security and safety policies cost the lab. They won't care about how they affect any on-going work. Our costs, which are already astronomical, are likely to go even higher. And it's possible that costs to run this new outfit might be taken directly from LANL's operating budget.

Get ready for the "Half-Million Dollar Man". Once this new security and safety outfit comes into LANL and starts throwing out new policies, I expect we might soon find that the average cost of the a LANL FTE rises to over $500 K per year. Don't expect to see anything close to $500 K of work out of the TSMs that may have to shoulder this new financial burden.
Instead of


maybe it should read

The System at LANL is flawed. Especially the HRP program. Obviously, scrutinizing scientists and workers about how often they go to a Casino, or if they are late on their bills has laughably little to do with National Security. I'll bet Wen Ho never hit the Blackjack table at Camel Rock, and was a Tee-totaler. No 6 pack a week of Coronas for Herr Lee.
To the poster of 12:09 PM,

"I suspect this new bill will pass, but what will it mean to LANL? It may mean that getting real work done at LANL is going to be darn near impossible."

Are you getting much real work done now?

"This new entity won't care about what their new security and safety policies cost the lab. They won't care about how they affect any on-going work. Our costs, which are already astronomical, are likely to go even higher."

When you consider the overall costs that we all absorb when there is an accident or a loss of data, don't you think that cost will go down?

"And it's possible that costs to run this new outfit might be taken directly from LANL's operating budget."

Why should LANL receive funds for performing safety and security functions if they no longer will be performing these functions?
Mr Stupak...

Along with national security concerns, lets not forget the yearly certification of the US nuclear weapons stockpile, pit certification and surveillance, etc.
Hey Pat, it was sarcasm: please read your own defination....posted on another page......If we as employee's didn't care we would not take time out of our busy schedules to sumbit postings on the blog....But only during our coffe break....and only anonymously.. Thats the LAN's way!
I think that Mikey should address the work-force, we are under fire from Congress, the DOE, NNSA, and just about everyone else. The Director should a the least come out and show US his support...but we hear nothing....Maybe he's not on our side?
HRP aint so bad. I hear its been weeding out a few druggies at the lab lately.
So Stupak and Barton say to close down LANL and fire everyone. Bodman blames the scientists for all of LANL's problems. It is
clear that the scientists are not to blame so in effect this whole thing is a way to disgrace the workforce.

Is it really a good idea to disgrace the workforce and than fire all of them? It has been understood that a large number of
scientist forgo the possibility of academic positions by working on national security research which cannot be published. In academics it is your publication record that determines if one gets hired. So if we just throw thousands of scientits out on the streets where are they going to go? In many cases these people have spent years learning how to do very specialized work that is only done at a few places.

The people at the other labs are observing what is happening at LANL and know they are next. The message will also be clear to young people, "do not go into science" your own country will publicy disgace you and throw you away.

And what message is this sending to the rest of the world? LANL is the largest physical sciences laboratory in the United States. On just the basic science side of things, which is only a small part of Los Alamos, LANL publishes more papers than LLNL and Sandia combined. I am certian, but I belive LANL is the third ranked institution in the United
States in terms of scientifc output. We are saying to the world that we are destroying our own scientific infrastructure. We are also saying to the world that we are destroying our own national security infrastucture.
To 2/03/2007 10:40 PM:

Yeah, sends a very nice message through and through. I used to work evenings and weekends without fail and I know of many others in my organization that used to do the same. Not so much anymore.
I recently attended HRP Supervisors training and according to the instructor, on average since 2005, >20 HRP personnel, per year, have screened positive during the random drug testing. Not only from illegal drugs like cocaine but presecription narcotic meds of the codeine variety. Please note, if this many people are getting dinged with the KNOWLEDGE they will be tested, I wonder how many personnel will be weeded out (no pun intended) from the new lab-wide drug testing policy.
7:52, currently I spend my evenings and weekends on futile attempts to keep up with the evolving interpretations of cybersecurity requirements. (Why, oh why, is there a 6' limit on fiber optic cable length from the POB to the device? And why didn't this rule exist before we spent all that money installing POBs? Can anyone at other DOE sites tell me if this is a locally imposed rule?) I am at the point where I would gladly turn over this responsibility, even if it cost me a bit more in my FTE rate.
Anonymous asks:
Pat -
Have you sniffed out a link to a verbatim transcript of last week's Bodman Congressional travesty - oops, I meant testimony? Or has anybody else?
Answer: No, the only thing that exists from this House Armed Services Committee is Bodman's written (submitted) testimony, not any response to questions. At least as far as I (the ever-watchful dog) know.
And now they've started firing the limited-term employees (there are 540)and the reorgs continue 8 months after the transition to no purpose whatsoever. Change, change, change and all for no results.

No RIF but the limited-terms, contractors, and students will just disappear (about 1,000 people) while useless groups like IRM-CAS (the old IM) are allowed to go a million dollars (or two) in the hole while they sit there and do NOTHING.

So they rush a bunch of useless biographical info to Doris Heim to SAVE IRM-CAS the same week they start firing deployed employees.

But one IRM-CAS team leader still sends out an email gushing about the group's 1,000 years of collective experience! Doris will be so impressed especially set against the millions of dollars in the hole.

Best business practice apparently is to fire deployed personnel while the the managers sit on their asses and look out the windows and watch the hole their in get bigger and bigger.

So Doris Heim can now market IRM-CAS's 1,000 years of experience to a lab that doesn't want to use that group or have any money to spend anyway.

The RIF has started........
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