Thursday, March 29, 2007
Audit questions job shifts at labs
Livermore has largest share of dubious costs
By Ian Hoffman, STAFF WRITER, Inside Bay Area, 03/29/2007
A scientist from Lawrence Livermore Lab went to work in a French research facility, as a U.S. liaison. That was back in 1998, yet the scientist is still collecting salary and "dislocation allowances" of about $300,000 a year for housing, furniture rental, private school for his daughter and, in the past, foreign language lessons for his wife. So far the total bill is more than $2.7 million, according to an audit released Wednesday by the Energy Department's inspector general.
Winning an off-site assignment from the nation's nuclear weapons labs can be a career plum, a brief but valuable chance to work inside the Pentagon, the Department of Homeland Security or the CIA.
But one of the secrets inside the labs is that reassignments elsewhere also can offer a handy way of finessing senior management problems, such as an incompetent manager or one angered at being passed over for a promotion.
Either way, the practice of reassignments is largely unregulated inside the Department of Energy, and while auditors found it hasn't resulted in dubious or wasteful spending at basic science labs such as Lawrence Berkeley Lab, they found millions of dollars in questionable expenses for reassignments from the nation's three nuclear weapons labs.
Overall, in 2004 and 2005 the inspector general found $11.3 million in weapons lab reassignments that "were either too long, resulted in excess costs, or were not appropriately cost-shared with host entities."
At Los Alamos Lab in New Mexico, the University of California in years past has provided lab-salaried scientists as staff to Sen. Pete Domenici, the top Republican on a key appropriations committee holding purse strings on nuclear weapons work. More recently, the university has resolved problems with unpopular lab managers by finding them jobs at the Defense Department while still paying them Los Alamos salaries and entitlement to UC's richly funded pension plan.
That was the case with retired Vice Adm. G. Pete Nanos, who left Los Alamos after a tumultuous period as director in which he derided staff as "buttheads." The university secured a job for Nanos planning strategy for scientific research at the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and paid him a Los Alamos salary of $289,000. When an internal audit questioned the payment, the university itself took over Nanos' salary, now at $235,000.
"He has knowledge of Los Alamos and knowledge of (the Defense Department) and he's been able to apply that at DTRA," university spokesman Chris Harrington said. "Being able at times to present the perspective of the laboratory, having a liaison at times, is valuable for the laboratory."
Of the three bomb labs, Livermore Lab had the largest share of questionable expenses noted by the inspector general more than $5 million for 2004 and 2005.
Auditors found the lab's payment of 100 percent of the $3.7 million costs for four employee reassignments "especially troubling" because the reasons for the assignments were not documented and because lab officials acknowledged other agencies were getting some benefit and should have been charged.
"We use these because we really feel there are benefits to the laboratory and the agency that the employee is being transferred to," lab spokeswoman Lynda Seaver said. "We agree we can improve our documentation."
Auditors also found that in several cases Livermore employees were kept on assignment for the more than the maximum of four years and that the lab had no plans on file to take the employees back.
In one case auditors found a Livermore scientist took a six-month assignment and still hasn't come back after 15 years and $1.2 million in lab expenses.
It's all good.
People talk about getting rid of poor performers in the rank-and-file, keeping these people at the DL-, AD-, and PAD-level on org support or OH does more to damage LANS' credibility than they can imagine. I used to think they were just clueless, but now I've come to the conclusion they're clueless and don't care they're clueless.
Just being here and watching this thing play out is being part of LANL history though.
I know one guy that went to DC for three months to help out. He came back and found his office, job position, in fact everything, gone. He had to scramble to find a new job here at LANL, just for trying to be a good guy for 3 months.
You can always find an example of abuse of anything, including these temporary assignments. But, far more often, it is the assignees themselves who get screwed. In almost all cases I have seen, they lose a good deal of money.
Don't worry, though, look to Congress to ensure that nobody will ever be reassigned again for any reason, after this article; or to ensure that they will go broke doing so.
Collective guilt, that's the principle at work here.
Let's talk details.
Tony Stanford - could run FWO so they split FWO into Waste and Facilities and put him in charge of the Waste piece. New org and he becomes a senior advisor to McQuinn.
Bev Ramsey brought in by Tony Stanford as DDL. Didn't work out. After LANS she becomes DL of Emergency Response. Can't make it there. They make her a senior committee advisor to McQuinn. They move Stanford over to ER as the DL.
Bob Grace. Made acting deputy of ESA for facilities. Created a 160 person empire. LANS comes in. He becomes deputy FOD to Mason. Mason starts cutting and moves Grace over with Crawford in the MST FOD. After they move Sharp-Geiger over to ????. Then they start cutting the 160 person empire down to the 40 necessary to do work.
Strevell couldn't do PM, but he ends up a senior advisor. Mangeng manages to find her self back as an AD. Barb Stine-ends up as an deputy AD again.
Mary Hockady was removed as DX Div Leader, but she ends up as a Deputy AD.
Today Steve Yarbro was removed as PMT Division Leader. What do they do.. make him a senior advisor to McQuinn.
It's same old shit. Same monkeys different trees. These same losers just keep moving around spreading their poison. Can't make it here but keep my salary when they move me over there.
On and on and on.
He is removing 60 TLs from their positions and advertising for their positions. They will take qualified applicants through role playing exercices run by Pantex. Finalists who make it through that will then get an interview. Pantex says that when they did this only 50% of their experienced TLs passed the role playing exercise.
This is the world to come boys and girls.
Gee - what a novel idea.
Never understood why we had deputies in so many positions to start with.
"Mallory announced that Team Leaders would not be line management in his directorate."
Well, hate to break it to you, but Team Leaders have never been line management at LANL. Supervisors, yes, line management, no. Look it up.
that is life at lanl.
Sounds like LANS is getting the other non-LANS DLs' minds right.
No doubt another positive delta in the indirect budget in any case.