Saturday, February 17, 2007
Just Say "No!" to "Frankenbomb"!
By John Arnold
Journal Staff Writer, ABQ Journal, Santa Fe Edition, Saturday, February 17, 2007
A senior Los Alamos National Laboratory weapons scientist says a program to develop a new kind of nuclear warhead will fail if the government takes a "frankenbomb" approach to its design.
Weapons designers at LANL and California's Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory are competing to design the Reliable Replacement Warhead, which would replace existing warheads in the nation's aging Cold War-era arsenal.
John Pedicini, LANL's design team leader, believes LANL won the competition based on the technical merits of its design. But Pedicini wrote on a Web log that following the technical competition, federal nuclear weapons officials asked the rival labs to come up with a "plan of cooperation," including a hybrid warhead design that would include elements from both teams' plans.
"A hybrid design by inexperienced personnel, managed by committee, is not the best approach... The best appellation I have seen for such an approach is 'frankenbomb,' '' Pedicini writes in an entry posted on the site "LANL: The Corporate Story."
Noting that he was writing as a private citizen and not as a representative of the lab, Pedicini said that he has been told by "multiple highly placed sources, with ranks into sub-cabinet level" that LANL won the technical competition.
He added that there are some features of the Livermore design that are an advance over his own team's plan, and that he would incorporate those advances, should LANL win the competition.
"If this is what is meant by hybrid, then the outcome would be good," said Pedicini, who did not return phone or e-mail messages seeking additional comment.
Weapons designers were asked to come up with plans for a replacement warhead that could be deployed without underground nuclear testing. The teams submitted their designs last year to the Nuclear Weapons Council, an inter-agency panel of Department of Energy and Pentagon officials who decided last fall that the Reliable Replacement Warhead program should move forward.
The Bush administration's budget proposal for fiscal year 2008 calls for tripling program funding to $88 million.
But the weapons council has yet to name a lead design team, fueling speculation among lab workers and observers about the competition's outcome.
"There are a lot of rumors out there, and there are a lot of people who think they know what they're talking about. As I understand it, it's a very small group of people that really do know the situation and are discussing it, and that's the Nuclear Weapons Council," said National Nuclear Security Administration spokesman Bryan Wilkes.
LANL spokesman Kevin Roark said that Pedicini's comments were not made on behalf of the lab, but he declined to comment further.
Pedicini is the second senior LANL weapons designer to speak publicly this month, without lab management's permission, about the Reliable Replacement Warhead and nuclear weapons policy.
Joe Martz, LANL's Reliable Replacement Warhead project leader, told the San Francisco Chronicle that the U.S. should consider a nuclear weapons policy that would eventually eliminate the country's nuclear arsenal.
He also believes that it's unlikely LANL will win the Reliable Replacement Warhead competition, due to security lapses highlighted during a congressional hearing last month, according to a Chronicle article published Tuesday.
In his Web log post, Pedicini calls the Jan. 30 congressional hearing "a wild card whose influence I cannot gauge."
The Reliable Replacement Warhead is a key component of NNSA's plan to consolidate and modernize the nation's nuclear weapons complex.
Supporters say the new warhead design will be easier and safer to maintain and will offer more protection against unauthorized use. It will also allow the government to dismantle old weapons and ultimately reduce the size of the stockpile, NNSA officials have said.
However, critics say that programs to maintain and extend the life of the existing nuclear weapons have been successful. Going forward with a new warhead design is unnecessary and will undermine global nonproliferation efforts, they contend.
As to whether the RRW "undermine[s] global nonproliferation efforts," that depends strongly on who runs American foreign policy, and whether or not they prefer to use diplomacy as a rational alternative to the Neoconservative pre-emptive, who-needs-allies approach.
With the RRW, pit production is not needed, all the necessary pits to support the RRW program will come from Pantex. NNSA's 5+ BILLION $$ Complex 2030 budget will no longer be needed. Hell, NNSA is no longer needed, now, much less after the RRW program gets underway.
That is, of course, if the RRW plan as proposed by LANL is approved. I'll just bet D'Agostino is furious at Martz and Pedicini, but especially at Martz for speaking to the SF Chronicle without LANL permission, and by so doing letting NNSA's dirty little secret out.
Good for Joe and John, I say. Now, if someone can just get Congress' attention to this latest bit of NNSA-sponsored corruption maybe we can eliminate a few unnecessary NNSA trough-feeders. Oh, and let's not forget Anastasio, and his part in trying to subvert the RRW's competition findings which declared the LANL design to be a clear winner. Anastasio is another trough-feeder that we could do without.
So ... just how ARE the Bechtelians going to punish these two courageous scientists, eh? (Please notice, Secretary Bodman: I said scientists. Just for the record.)
Unfortunately, it will probably be in the form of killing what was otherwise an outstanding idea and the right way for this Nation to head. In my opinion, the only hope for LANL is for NNSA to be obliterated and sweep the weapons work under DoD. I understand there are pitfalls here, but it looks much better than the present option.
Frankenmanager now has a problem. Bechtel and BWXT always pay their managers base salary and bonuses. UC does not. This means B&B only cares about Performance Based Incentives (PBI), which how NNSA wants to manage LANL. B&B write PBI such that the success of LANL will only be rewarded on the basis of safety, etc., not on the basis of science or creativity. B&B gets bonuses, and post-UC staff is trying to figure out what’s in it for them (no bonuses for a job well done since you don’t have a PBI).
This clearly does not make for a happy Frankenmanagement team. No bonus for Bishop and Wallace since they are old-UC (but not Livermore), but Mallory gets a big check because he made some pits (a PBI). Neu and Seestrom probably get payroll deductions because the B&B PBIs on safety were screwed up by the chemists and material scientists.
The conspiracy expressed on the blog borders on the fantastic. In reality, Frankenmanger is just incompetent. Just like Frankenstein’s monster, the creature is probably not nearly as bad as the mad scientist that constructed it.
Be careful of what you wish for. If the responsibility for nuclear weapons goes to DoD, we could well end up with a long succession of unpromotable Navy admirals like Watkins and Nanos in charge. It would be a convenient dumping ground for the politically-connected Navy losers that couldn't be promoted.
Keep your ship aright there, matey.
--Pat, the Captain's cook's Dog (the most important dog aboardships)
Oh you bet - my guess is that Chris Chandler and Phil Kruger are desperately trying to find something so that they can put Joe and John on investigatory leave or worse.
By the way, did anyone else find it curious that the Lab went outside the institution to fill Frank Dickson's spot and stepped over the top of our in-house Legal eagles Marquez, Sheila, and Chris etc.?
Yup. from wikipedia:
"A similar quote appears in Robert A. Heinlein's 1941 short story Logic of Empire ("You have attributed conditions to villainy that simply result from stupidity")."
An old saying, fixed up for us: "If brains were dynamite, NNSA wouldn't have enough to blow their nose".
NNSA can barely manage the most trivial projects, and can't even hire the people they need to do their work; how on earth can anyone think the NNSA could run a complex conspiracy? They're just not that bright.
They are more than dumb enough to flush LANL down the toilet, as they are doing, and not even care. That dumb, they certainly are.
Just remember our local NNSA guy, Ed Wilmot, who would not use email or fax; he's a shining star in Complex 2030!
Pat says: "it was NAVY leakers on the leaky ship that ran aground in the 1990's, not Wen Ho Lee".
Why can't you people get it? I've worked in a lot of secure places. I've never seen anything quite as cavalier as LANL. For WHL to be able to make those tapes on a secure machine, and reload them on an unclass machine, there had to be a hell of a lot wrong with security at LANL. End of story.
Communication is the key and there is none with LANs at the helm. Trust is earned, through a pattern of consistent behavior which is most effectively accomplished through communication. I get a strong feeling that the LANs boys think we are arrogant and incompetent because we do not unilaterally trust them. Hey guys, talk to us, tell us what you are up to, tell us the details of your plan. Then, show some integrity and do what you say. Trust will come. I would not be on this blog if there were any communication and integrity.
Back to the conspiracy. I do not think this is happening because there is an under the table hand shake with NNSA, to destroy LANL. Pretty tough message to communicate. But again, if that is the plan, say so. I suspect you will get a bunch of us leaving and that will help your budget problem.
So what is it LANs and NNSA? What is your long term vision for LANL and the weapons business?
If you are as ignorant about most things you speak of here as you are about WHL and what he stole, you shouldn't be running this blog because you don't have the committment to truth that Doug Roberts had. Virtually the entire cleared LANL population has seen the various presentations by ISEC, Cheryl Wampler, and Charlie Niel, regarding the forensics of the Lee case and the indisputable conclusions. The lack of a judicial conclusion isn't a reflection on the quality or quantity of the evidence.
Actually, 1:34 PM, it is. It is also, unfortunately, a reflection on the lack of quality with which our famed Federal Bureau of Incompetence and DOE's Notra Trulock conducted the investigation.
Had those clowns not collectively fucked up their work by the impressive Keystone Kops impression they were mastering at the time, a "guilty" judicial conclusion would have been the outcome. Instead, it was a three ring circus, which eventually let that guilty son of a bitch, Lee, completely off the hook for his blatant security violations. The fact that Lee was also, in all probability, spying for his homeland Taiwan will now never be proven.
I, Pat, the Dog, saw the whole CLASSIFIED circus put on by MANAGERS at LANL about the WHL episode; talk about a passel of butt-covering. So don't give me any bullshit about whether I've seen both sides of the issue. The best, THE VERY BEST, summary of what happened is in the book by Dan Stober and Ian Hoffman, "A Convenient Spy." You'll get the INSIDE poop about the Red Chinese double-agent and the CIA and the Navy subcontractors and LANL's discovery thereof. If you want a link to the book, just go to:
P.S. Now, Taiwan is an interesting twist. Too bad the FBI didn't have any agents who spoke Mandarin, so they could have scoped out the fact that Red Chinese mainlanders are HATED by the Taiwanese. But Notra Trulock saw slanty-eyed Red Chinese under every desk. Racist a$$holes, the whole lot, including Congressman Cox (R-CA), whose overheated desire to pin a China connection on Clinton got the whole idiotic mess rolling. [Note that WHL pled GUILTY to one count of mishandling classified. -Just for the record. Don't give me any shit about forgetting to mention that.]
You should refer to Louis Freeh's testimony before congress after the WHL trial ended, specifically, his reasons why the case was dropped. There is a reason all the details of the LANL presentations on the WHL case were SRD, and still are.
You might want to do a little research on 'Aldrich Ames'. He was with the FBI or CIA or NSA a few years ago. Convicted of selling $2.5 million of secrets to the Soviets. Prior to his apprehension he was subjected to a multiplicity of polygraphs.
-Passed them all consistently with flying colors