Monday, March 26, 2007
Letter to Pat from John Pedicini
From my reputation, you probably know that you and I are on opposite ends of the political spectrum, yet we share many of the same goals. I, for one, appreciate the effort that you have put into the blog, even though I do not agree with some of your posts. This is exactly what freedom of speech is about. I was sorry to see the announcement of the closing on April 1, but can understand your reasons. Again my thanks for your efforts. If my request to hold the blog open until at least September would make a difference, please consider this a request. You may quote the request with my name attached. By that time, we should know whether the decision to remain at LANL should be on the grounds of personal issues or the chance to make a difference for the nation. You may quote this paragraph in its entirety and attribute it to me.
John M. Pedicini
The closing date of April 1st is firm, but there are others who have signaled the desire to carry on. Doug and I will discuss -- offline, for the first time, probably by land line, maybe even over a beer (he'll probably be surprised to learn my identity) -- just how to do this in the smoothest way possible, with candidates who come forward with a credible level of commitment. As to the two future posts you mention, "on the goings on in RRW and my future plans," I can guarantee you that they will appear, either on this very blog before April 1st, or on whatever follow-on that materializes after April 1st. That will be part of the "commitment" bargain with the new blogmeister.
As to our political differences, I doubt they are as far apart as you claim. A dedication to the long-term survival of the finest characteristics of humanity is the essence of conservatism, and I am that kind of conservative. So are you. Living well and letting others do so, as long as they don't impinge upon my living well, is the essence of liberalism (or at least libertarianism, if you prefer that word), and I am that kind of liberal (or libertarian). So, I believe, are you.
Thanks to you for your contributions to the nation's security and to the people at LANL through the medium of this blog.
--Pat, the Dog
P.S. As a scientist, as well as a conservationist, let me add one more comment on the definition of "conservative": When Thomas Jefferson wrote the words in the Declaration of Independence over 230 years ago, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness", no one, not even a scientifically educated man like Jefferson, had an inkling of the subsequent discovery of the laws of natural selection, general relativity, or quantum mechanics. He and the intellectuals of his Enlightened day had only the barest notions about the vastness of the beautiful, terrifying, and strange Cosmos we find ourselves in, nor of the even stranger tiny quantum universe of atoms, nor of the complex richness of the chemistry inside a living cell -- a universe in itself. So it is no wonder that when Jefferson spoke of "Life," it was human life that he had in mind. But now we know that "life" on our Blue Planet Earth is a complex, interconnected web of plants, animals, and bacteria, from which the lives of human beings cannot be separated, and which we may be seriously perturbing by our human activities. Life is a rare thing in our Universe -- our Blue Planet is a lonely speck, and we may never, as a species make contact with any other life forms -- and that makes the preservation of life on our planet a moral imperative. Science has brought our understanding of life to an unprecedented height, and at the same time, brought all life, including us, closer to extinction, especially with the invention of nuclear weapons. Oppenheimer's last unfinished hope was that nuclear weapons would never, ever be used again on the face of this planet. The RRW, properly realized, could facilitate the elimination of nuclear weapons, and this, along with the struggle to contain the lethality of human-caused global warming, constitute the moral imperative of saving all life on this Earth. Those who dedicate their lives to saving the biosphere are, in my mind, the Ultimate Conservatives.
The staff at LANL have demonstrated pretty clearly that they have gone into hiding. Under LANS, there will not be any whistle-blowing or fact disclosures as there was with the original LANL, The Real Story blog.
Remember the episode a year and 1/2 ago where a LANL employee tracked Americium-241 all around the town and a few neighboring states? Remember how UC covered the episode up for more than a week until somebody sent a tip in to the LTRS blog? Remember how UC took a huge, well-deserved beating in the national press for weeks thereafter for the attempted cover-up?
Where are the LANL employees today who are willing to expose the dirty dealings of LANS?
Answer, there aren't any, they've all given up. Why should somebody else stick their neck out to run a blog for staff who are too cowardly to use it?
Time to give it up. DOE got what they wanted -- they've whipped the LANL puppy until it's in exactly the state they have long wanted it to be -- a cowering, beaten dog. One who will pee on demand.
Those who choose to stay at today's LANL deserve whatever shabby treatment they will get from LANS, DOE, NNSA, Congress, and our distinguished elected representatives. I certainly would not run a blog to help them, they aren't even willing to help themselves.
Also, please tell us how LANL has again "been caught in the act" via the existence of this blog.
From where I sit, it appears as if the new LANL management LLC has gotten its way in every instance:
1. Drug testing
2. Employee at-will status
3. Driving off Work For Others programs
4. Tripling the number of upper-level high-paid managers
5. Increasing the average FTE cost for a staff member to more than $400,000
6. Destroying morale
7. Handing the RRW competition to LLNL.
8. Under-funding TCP1
To me it looks like LANL staff have meekly accepted each and every one of LANS' recent accomplishments, and because of LANL staff's non-participation here, the blog no longer serves a purpose.
I guess you didn't like that answer. Maybe you'll like this one.
I'm not posting details because they are quite damaging. I'm fixing this within the system. No, not within LANL. I gave up on that long ago.
If I knew who you were there is a chance I would call you on the phone to discuss the matter, but you've chosen to remain anonymous.
Sooner or later someone will leak this. Unless it happens in the next few days I guess you'll read about it on someone else's blog.
There is blatant abuse of long-time LANL employees who try to do the right thing, by newly-imported former "parent company" managers who "have a better idea." All the punitive attitudes, lousy people skills, and corporate-speak midsets of the clueless "parent companies" are being imposed by fiat here. They really obviouly had no clue what they were taking on. UC is a distant, untrusted partner, and the rest don't "get" research. Someone in an earlier post said "adapt or die." Well, LANL will die, and the country will be the worse for that loss of scientific integrity and openness.
So sad. After 30 years I am pulling the plug, after only one year of seeing how long I could take it. I'd like to think I could step up and fight this travesty, for the sake of my country, but no, I'm done.
Wrong, apparently, 7:33 PM. The specter of "at-will" employment seems to have sapped any resolve of those remaining.
I've had enough independent opinions to believe the LANS cost/staffing structure is likely unsustainable in its current state. Predictions are that costs will increase next FY without substantive change. Substantive change being more than a shell game.
Debating whether to retool or try to find another engineering job. I have little doubt many of the engineers and scientists at LANL will have a difficult time finding an equivalent job if they need or want to. Some fields will be easier to find a job in than others.
I am 3/27 7:36 pm
You said "The specter of "at-will" employment seems to have sapped any resolve of those remaining."
While you might be correct, I haven't seen any widespread comments regarding the "at will" issue, and my personal decisions have nothing to do with that issue. I think instead that there are many employees who are putting in long hours, making their best efforts, and giving their all to LANL, in return for a lack of appreciation, a complete "shrug of the shoulders" from the new management, and an undeserved sense of "you could be next" based on the flimsiest of security or safety questions. These don't have anything to do with "at will" employment. I would like to believe (and do) that no one could question my programmatic or technical contributions, but that "wild card" aspect of being a manager no longer fits my desired career path. So, as I said, I'm gone.
The middle managers have all caved and simply do what they're told. Why shouldn't they? Their kids are in school here, college is coming, and just how do you find another middle management position elsewhere? If they get laid off, where do they go? They're definitely keeping their heads low.
Safety and security offices do not support programs. They do not tell you how to do your job safely or securely anymore, while achieving your project goals. Instead their goal now is to simply stop your work, and their managers love them for that.
The project leaders I know are furious at the lack of leadership, lack of support, and the growing costs. During the entire contract evaluation period and transition, our previous senior management knew they were lame ducks and quit pursuing any program development out of Washington. Add that on top of the terrible damage Nanos did in 2004 to the WFO project leaders and customers.
Our business model is completely wrecked, at a time when Congress is cutting costs everywhere. Lay-offs have to be coming.
So, in this environment, I'm supposed to stick my neck out? Get real. I'm working on my own exit strategy. There are political forces at play here way out of my league, for reasons I cannot comprehend.
Wednesday morning; 5:10 a.m.--I checked the POGO web page this morning. POGO has posted another bad report about LANL's lack of cybersecurity that you might be interested in posting to LANL: The Corporate Story.
"Lost our HEERA protection" and gained equivalent rights under NLRA, just like other employees of private companies in the U.S. HEERA was a band-aid for state employees. You've got the rights, it's up to you to decide whether to use them.
We are perfectly setup now for rapid lay-offs and dismantling by our very own and very willing team of upper managers, jumping to every command from NNSA.
The critical date to me would seem to be closer to September, when the disaster of the FY07 budgets comes into full bloom, as well as the impending FY08 shortfalls, as we try to go into the new fiscal year.
So is June 1 a real train-wreck date? Is it just numerology and folklore at work?
By Stephen Barr
Wednesday, March 28, 2007; Page D04
In a notice that could have been written by a struggling corporation, the Energy Department yesterday lamented soaring pension and health-care costs and asked for recommendations on how to meet its financial challenge.
Costs and liabilities for pension and health-care benefits for contract employees are projected to grow at a rate "that significantly exceeds likely increases in the department's budget," the Energy Department reported in a Federal Register notice.
Bush to Seek 3 Percent Raise For Civil Service and Military
President Bush will propose a 3 percent pay raise for federal employees and military personnel in his fiscal 2008 budget, scheduled for release on Feb. 5, according to a senior administration official.
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The department's past, current and future debt for the benefits is estimated to be $15.8 billion, according to Energy's Web site.
The "growing challenge" is how to balance the costs of department programs, such as nuclear weapons research and scientific discovery, against the needs of contractors who offer benefits designed to attract highly qualified workers, the notice said.
The department moved last year to change pension and medical benefits for future contract workers, but pension experts and several members of Congress protested the policy. Opponents said the government should not be in the business of telling employers what types of benefits they may and may not offer.
Energy Secretary Samuel W. Bodman suspended the policy, which would have directed the contractors to offer "market-based" benefits to their new hires.
Yesterday's notice, signed by Ingrid A.C.Kolb, the department's director of management, said Energy spent $1.07 billion in fiscal 2006 to reimburse 46 contractors for their employee pension and medical benefits. The reimbursement represented a 226 percent increase since fiscal 2000, the notice said.
The reimbursement covered benefits for about 100,000 contract workers and 100,000 retirees, dependents and beneficiaries, the department said. The benefit programs included 45 defined-benefit pension plans, 37 defined contribution plans, 23 life insurance plans, and about 260 medical benefit plans.
The department, which had a $23.6 billion budget in fiscal 2006, relies on the 46 contractors to manage and operate nuclear weapons plants, science labs and other facilities. Under the contracts, the companies may pass to the government the costs of pension, health, vacation and other employee benefits.
The tradition of covering pension and medical expenses began in the 1940s, when the government needed to attract scientists to work on secret projects in remote locations, and continued through the Cold War. Only now has the government started to worry about unfunded retirement and health-care liabilities.
On average, the department said in the notice, pension benefits received by contract employees are higher than those provided federal and private-sector workers. Energy contract employees also pay less, on average, for their health-care benefits, compared with federal and private-sector workers, the department said.
Energy officials said they are seeking comments and recommendations from the public and interested parties on how to address the increasing benefit costs of the contract workforce. Comments may be sent by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline is May 11.
According to the UCRP calculations posted last week, what UCRP transferred to LANS for TCP1 may already be at least $120M underfunded, as of last June 1. At 15% of $600M payroll in that plan (average cost per year to keep a DBP funded, including UCRP in the very near future), I wonder if LANS found another $90M to put into TCP1 this year. If not, we're already down ~$200M in TCP1.
While DOE laments the growing pension problem across all of its contractor labs, the article also notes:
"On average, the department said in the notice, pension benefits received by contract employees are higher than those provided federal and private-sector workers."
So we're overpaid, with too great of benefits, and an underfunded pension plan. Just how swift will DOE be to ensure that our plan is funded correctly. They did not give us extra budget for the Fee, nor extra money for the Gross Receipts Tax, so I doubt we will see new money for the pension underfunding.
So another budget shortfall looming, and/or a good likelihood of simply freezing our TCP1 to bring us more in line with the rest of the complex and reduce the escalating pension costs.
Of course, a good lay-off ("RIF" is such a weasel word, kinda like the other euphemism "furlough") will also fix the future liability problem. So just why isn't NNSA and LANS addressing the pension underfunding, while proclaiming no RIF?