Tuesday, February 13, 2007


Stay The Course with LANS

Well, boys and girls, yesterday's all-hands meeting with Mike makes it clear: "Stay The Course with LANS" is what we can expect. As some of the comments on the


post have concluded, there is little hope that Congress will terminate LANS's contract for cause. Mike danced around the issue of whether or not Mitchell had been fired for security reasons when a distinguished looking gentleman from the audience gently asked him about it. This should tell us that Congress has 'factored in' the Mitchell event, and still found it desirable to let LANS run LANL.

Nor will Congress shut the place down. I believe this quote from DOE's Clay Sell explains why:

"... deputy energy secretary Clay Sell told The Associated Press that the lab most likely will continue running. Sell said it is the only facility where plutonium pits for weapons can be made and the lab is responsible for most of the strategic nuclear weapons stockpile."

LANS is perfectly willing to help DOE accomplish DOE's desired pit production mission, and Congress is perfectly happy to let them do it. According to Mike, LANS is hoping for attrition at LANL, and I am certain they will get it.

Long-time contributors to his blog, and to the previous LANL, The Real Story blog have been predicting exactly this outcome from the LANL corporatization process. It is sad to see it happening, but it is no surprise.

-Pat, The Dog

When push comes to shove "Lab leadership" is nothing more than an empty designation. These folks could care less about science, or about integrity, or about you. Back in the early 90's Sig Hecker proclaimed that the University of California would never allow the Lab to become Rocky Flats II, nor would he allow it as Lab Director. UC proclaimed as much, repeatedly, throughout the mid to late 1990s. Then the new millenium kicked in, and the DOE revolving door kicked on in high gear. The likes of Joe Salgado and Rich Marquez showed up on our doorstep and it wasn't long thereafter that the doors flung wide open to the rest of the military industrial complex. UC, true to it's self-serving nature, jumped right in the sack with the bunch. Who cares if science became the casualty. Who cares if pit production became the industry focus at Los Alamos. Those making the big bucks could care less so long as they continued making the big bucks. To maintain a facade of legitimacy the former Direct of Lawrence Livermore was put in charge of the new corporate entity that took root. He, like his predecessors, were only in it for the lucrative salary and golden parachute attached to the job. Perhaps he will be the last of the UC-appointed Directors, but in the end Los Alamos got only what UC was willing to offer--not much. UC maintained its strangle hold on its cache of national labs, and that's all that mattered. So what if in the process it sold its soul to the military industrial complex? It was a soul no longer worthy of being honored anyway. The past is the past now. The Los Alamos National Pu Pit Production facility is today. And as for the workforce at Los Alamos, the vast majority could care less. Just so long as they keep their jobs, their benefits, and don't die or get Riffed before they get their chance to milk it for all its worth, life is good. So let's just go back to sleep my fellow coworkers. Yes, time to sleep....sleep....sleep....
"The likes of Joe Salgado and Rich Marquez showed up on our doorstep..."

Nanos. You forgot Nanos.
Think of it as Intelligent Design. Or, if you prefer, think of it as Darwinism: evolution in action. Or, think of it as reaping the results of your own collective inaction, when activism might have made a difference.

Whichever works for you, it doesn't really matter. LANL is well on course to becoming the nation's next plutonium pit fabrication facility. Those who remain after all the "managed attrition" is over will work at a pit production plant run by a for-profit corporation. Deal with it.
Anon 2/13/2007 4:45 PM

And there you have it. I don't think it could be summed up much better than this. When all is said and done it's just as one of my co-workers verbally reminds me of daily.--"It is, What it is"
LANL is now a Potemkin National Laboratory, staffed with smiling peasants who will be shot if they disagree with the Tzar.

I've got to hold on for four more years, as I'm too old to find another job and too young to retire. Keep smiling - and don't get in trouble with "the man."
Regarding the line from the top level post "Mike danced around the issue of whether or not Mitchell had been fired for security reasons when a distinguished looking gentleman from the audience gently asked him about it."

I sat through the entire meeting, and I did not hear a single person ask a question about Mitchell; someone asked a general question about whether anyone had been fired, but the question was phrased such that it could have been interpreted to be about (and in fact was answered as if it were about) the Jessica Quintana fiasco.

There was no question asked about John Mitchell.

I know that we on this blog sometimes engage in "spin", or even exaggeration, but claiming someone asked about Mitchell is a bit too much of a stretch.
The question did not name Mitchell, but the question was aimed at getting Anastasio to verify or deny whether Mitchell was one of those nine or so LANL staff who have recently been fired for security reasons. Brad, I believe you are the distinguished-looking gentleman identified in the original post who asked the question. Would you please clarify this for our poor literal-minded commenter of 6:14pm who claims to have listened to the entire presentation?

Now how did all of those congressmen and women get the perception that LANL had a culture problem with arrogant scientists at it s core???

Oh, wait. There are blogs like --LANL the "real" story-- and this one, which are broadcast to the world, where most of the commentary comes from arrogant folks who proclaim that 1) all management is corrupt and incompetent, 2) they themselves are the source of all insight and truth, and 3) rules are dumb.

So maybe it is youse guys that are smearing the good name of LANL and putting all of us hardworking, compliant, responsible folks in the congressional sights.

Well you are hurting a bunch of really good people and damaging a critical national resource.

I doubt that you can see yourself in this, so I am wasting my time, but if you have a glimmer of self awareness or humility, please stop what you are doing.

Your colleague
Well, let's talk about this.

The original blog was started after an arrogant Naval Officer prick shut the entire laboratory down over a false perception: that two classified disks had gone missing. Turns out, the disks never even existed, but Admiral Butthead shut the place down anyhow, doing immeasurable damage to LANL.

That blog helped bring the issue to light, and, by the way, helped run off Admiral Butthead.

The current blog, likewise, is doing a pretty decent job of cutting through the official LANS management bullshit, a service which most of us greatly appreciate.

Youse, I suspect, are not my colleague, nor do you speak for the majority of LANL staff. Youse, on the other hand, are most likely one of the new management crop who is quickly destroying what little is left of LANL.
Dear Pat:

I don't mind doing a bit of obvious clarification. Here's my aging memory's reconstruction of the question to Mike (in the past, people have accused me of being too subtle, or even obscure, but I don't believe I was at all in this case, at least if you listened carefully to my question):

"First of all, I would like to make it clear that "pride" in the institution of this Laboratory is NOT AT ALL to be confused with "arrogance." (I repeated myself, since Mike had not caught the distinction.) "And I hope that you had the opportunity to make that clear to the Congressmen behind closed doors, both last month and anytime in the future.

"You [Mike] said that you wished you could have had the opportunity to fire the young woman contractor [Jessica Quintana] yourself. Have you had the opportunity to fire any manager for violations of security procedures?"

I didn't want to pose this question to the Director in a confrontational way, but rather in a way that let him do the talking, and he did. Eventually, after dismissing the Quintana case from consideration (no managers were fired over that), he got around to saying that he had had the opportunity during his 7-month tenure to fire 9 people, some of whom, he said, were fired for security violations.

When asking a question of the Director, I never feel as though I should put myself into the role of a bulldog reporter in a one-on-one interview, Blitzer vs. Cheney, for example. It's up to the Director to take the opportunity to make a clear and forthright answer to a polite question, if that's what he wants to do.


P.S. Please remove any mention of my name on the banner of this new blog. Even though I believe it serves the true interests of the workers at Los Alamos National Laboratory, and I laud your commentary most of the time, it has confused a lot of people to see my name at the top (and Doug's, too, I suppose, but you can talk to him directly). I will confess that when this blog was set up by you, using Doug's server as a home base, you asked Doug for a picture of an appropriate dog being "patted," since you couldn't find a good one on Google images. So I sent Doug a picture of my dog, Nellie (whose nickname is "Li'l Nell," coincidentally the nickname of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory). Please feel free to continue to use Nellie's picture; she's really a nice little dog, who fetches our SF New Mexican every morning. But take my name off the banner, please. Thanks.
Why Director Anastasio should directly address whether Deputy Director Mitchell left under the duress of being investigated by the FBI for mishandling classified data:

1) The perception of a lax security environment at LANL exists.

2) Some, including Secretary Bodman, believe that security at LANL is less than adequate owing to the "arrogant culture" of LANL scientists.

3) John Mitchell, a long-term Bechtel employee, isn't a product of the LANL culture.

4) LANS, including Bechtel, was brought in to improve the security culture at LANL.

5) If John Mitchell carelessly put classified information onto his unclassified laptop, he either didn't understand the most basic security requirements or he elected to ignore requirements. In either case, this speaks poorly of Bechtel's security culture.

6) The truth will eventually be revealed. If Director Anastasio has been part of a cover-up to protect John Mitchell and hence protect the reputation of LANS, Director Anastasio will be revealed to be unfit to lead LANL to an improved security environment. Any further delays will require Director Anastasio's resignation. If both the Director and Deputy Director resign, LANS cannot continue.

It is therefore of the utmost importance for Director Anastasio to immediately address this issue.
I still get the feeling that there are LANL employees and also LANS employees and that we have little in common. I'm sick of Anastasio and Bodman and Barton and his ilk continually yammering at the thousands of LANL employees who do nothing wrong day in and day out. DAY IN AND DAY OUT....

Yet we keep getting talked at as if each and every one of us is to blame for something. Stuff happens. People make mistakes. Some people are are just plain stupid. Stuff happens at Livermore and Sandia. Stuff happens at FBI, DOE, NNSA, etc.

Yet we coontinue to be singled out. Isn't the political hatchet job done yet?

Anastasio mentioned the HPI program, highly touted at LANL. One of the key elements of HPI is that we should NOT create a "blame culture." If something happens, FIX IT, LEARN FROM IT, and MOVE ON. Yet management sputters and spits and points fingers at others.

And the thousands of workers who do nothing wrong DAY IN AND DAY OUT have to listen to this demoralizing crap from LANS management that has done NOTHING to improve ANYTHING at LANL.

LANS is already a failure. Whatever Mitchell's story is, we'll never know because LANS failed to deal with it. LANS can't even get org charts posted on the LANL home page after 9 months because it still doesn't know what it's doing.

All the LANS managers can do is point their fingers and yap away while their cover their own fat asses. LANS is not LANL, nor is it an advocate for LANL. LANS managers are here to collect their pay checks.
Well guys maybe someone should scoop this opportunity up since there isn;t going to be much al LANL except that Pit Facility. This was a letter to the editor opposing the facility at site 300 for good reasons

Laboratory proposal potentially deadly

Comment on this story

Last Updated: February 14, 2007, 05:00:33 AM PST

The controversy over a "level four lab" to be built on a section of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory needs to be fully researched before a decision is made. The University of California at Berkeley, which operates the lab, is using our agriculture as one of its priority themes, claiming the lab as a "protective measure" concerning farming areas in the surrounding communities.

What isn't being fully acknowledged is how level four labs contain the most deadly viruses, such as Ebola, that can spread within 24 hours and kill thousands of people. I recommend that those living in Tracy and other nearby communities read "The Hot Zone" by Richard Preston about level four labs in United States and abroad. It explains the threats they pose to communities. Preston's book is absolutely frightening; reading it will educate all people involved with Lawrence Livermore and UC's proposal.


A question, possibly naive. (Shall I put on the flame proof suit?) Is it possible that Mitchell did in fact retire prematurely, and get out of his contract, for valid family reasons? I can imagine many realistic scenarios where one would be able to justify such a departure, yet not want to go public with the reason. The most apparent is a terminal health problem of ones self or spouse. Or a situation where one would require time to take care of a child in a crisis situation. I can imagine cases where I would try my damndest to get out of a contract to deal with, say, a nasty case of cancer, or a wife who was dying.

Bottom line - Occam's razor seems to lead me to a less spectacular, but more plausible situation -- the man may have had an exceptional life event occur, leading to justification to both leave the lab, AND not explain his personal life to the whole of the lab.

Sure - maybe you all are right about what happened, but come on. How can the lynch-mob mentality that periodically surfaces here give any real credence to the content of this blog? This blog is here to push back against the senseless and baseless abuses of the lab staff by managers. How does rumor mongering and smearing of people with no basis in fact make us any better than "them"? I was hoping this would become a clearinghouse for information we wouldn't find elsewhere.

On the topic of frustrations, where are those press releases we were promised that were going to help erase the stain on our TSM names? I keep coming back here looking for something that moves in a positive direction, and leave disappointed. (yes, I know -- "go away traitor. don't read the blog if you don't like it.")
"Go away, traitor"?
"Don't read the blog if you don't like it"?
Good heavens, even I, Pat the Dog, don't like it sometimes! All views, intelligently presented, are welcome. Sometimes even the not-so-intelligent ones are aired, just so we can see how wide the spectrum is.
I'm afraid that what we're seeing is the increasing alienation (and hostility) between the people who get the work done (LANL employees) and the managers (LANS).

Most of the "workers" are proud to be LANL employees, and they see the Bechtal carpetbaggers and deadwood (LANS) as interlopers and the root cause of our financial difficulties and layoffs.

We are quickly degenerating into the same hostile and disfunctional employee-management relationship that ocurred at Rocky Flats. It's bad for security, it's bad for safety, and it's terrible for morale.
You see, 11:25 PM, the thing is that LANL management has a long proven history of, how shall I say this without sounding too extreme:


Nanos lied regarding his justification for shutting LANL down in 2004. UC lied when they helped cover up Nanos' lie.

UC is in integral part of LANS. I don't believe a single thing LANS tells me, and I particularly do not believe their bullshit explanation as to why that abrasive, arrogant son of a bitch Mitchell suddenly left LANL.

You, of course, are welcome to believe whatever you want.
In response to 11:25 pm, if John Mitchell was clean, Anastasio could easily dispel the rumor by issuing the statement "No senior LANS manager is under investigation by the FBI for mishandling classified material". Simple. Quick. Painless.

Why hasn't he? Either he doesn't want to set the precedent of having to respond to anonymous allegations, or John Mitchell IS being investigated.
I agree with 4:55 AM. But over the years LANL management has been stupefied into NEVER taking common-sense action in responding to damaging reports, rumors, events. So then the story "breaks" in the media and LANL looks like it's hiding something. It's not the fault of Public Affairs because their hands are usually tied by management. But to not even ACKNOWLEDGE a nasty rumor like the one about Mitchell ensures that every assumes it's true.

Most meetings I attend now start out with "rumor management" and I have mentioned that in the void of information from LANL management, rumors will rush in. It's common sense and especially true at LANL since the Nanos Standdown.

A simple statement dispells the Mitchell ruumor without giving away investigation details or invading privacy issues.

But I stand by by earlier statement about the LANS employees vs. the LANL employees.

And how come all those managers came in from outside without there EVER having been job ads posted? We are NOT one big family, happy or otherwise.
2/16 8:28 am:

"All those managers" did not "come in" without job ads. All the policies that required job ads "went out" when UC was replaced. Get used to the fact that UC does not run this Lab and UC policies are by and large null and void as of 6/1/2006. You are now a corporate employee. No "academic freedoms" apply. Amazing how many still don't get it.
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