Thursday, March 08, 2007


Terry: Morale at Los Alamos is "Uneven"

[There is not just a bit of "unevenness" in morale, Terry. There's a cliff in morale between the delirious joy of the manager class with their big bonuses and the deep depression of the workers, who haven't even had a decent raise in over six years, who are dreading a RIF, and whose house values will plunge over a cliff if there is a RIF. -Pat.]

By SUE MAJOR HOLMES | Associated Press
March 8, 2007

ALBUQUERQUE (AP) - The new chief of science for Los Alamos National Laboratory says scientists there are frustrated that the lab's accomplishments have taken a back seat to its security troubles in recent years.

Terry Wallace says what Los Alamos does affects Americans every day _ from the explosive that powers air bags to shielding in cell phones to high-tech titanium-based hip replacements and technology that makes it possible for computers with one operating system to communicate with computers that use another.

Science from Los Alamos is interwoven into American life, and "I think we have to remind the country how much we do for them," said Wallace, who was appointed Tuesday as the lab's principal associate director for science, technology and engineering.

"It is pretty amazing, even after 64 years, we kind of think of Los Alamos as the Manhattan Project," the World War II program to develop an atomic bomb that also gave birth to the lab, he said.

acknowledges Los Alamos has had "very infrequent but potentially disastrous" security woes, beginning in 1999 with accusations that a scientist mishandled sensitive information to an incident last October when police found classified information during a drug raid at the home of a former employee of a lab contractor.

But, he said, Los Alamos scientists are extremely dedicated, both to their jobs and to security.

"And just a few people acting out in whatever circumstances have put the whole enterprise at risk," he said. "That's really frustrating to the people of Los Alamos.

"It's also frustrating that this seems to be the issue that everybody knows about rather than the all the accomplishments."

Scientists work at Los Alamos because they want to serve the nation, he said.

"They choose to be at Los Alamos because of what it is," Wallace said. "And so it is disheartening to them to have this part of them not recognized. ... It means that the morale at Los Alamos is uneven. People are worried."

Part of Wallace's job will be to deliver the message of what Los Alamos does.

"Even the bulk of our (nuclear) work really has spinoffs that go into everything you can imagine in your life," he said. "It's really hard to imagine your life without Los Alamos."

Wallace also would like the country to become more scientifically literate because many decisions require an understanding of science. While youngsters easily program nanopods to download tunes onto their phones, it's more difficult to develop an overall scientific literacy to understand broad discussions of such things as global warming, he said.

About 58 percent of the northern New Mexico lab's work today deals with nuclear weapons. Wallace expects that to drop to about 33 percent within five years, prompting the lab to take on other projects to keep its science capabilities honed.

His goal: to make sure Los Alamos is the first place the nation turns to for tough problems.

For example, the lab's computer modeling capabilities _ which Wallace calls second to none _ could be on-call for regional climate questions, such as what this winter's snowpack really means besides more runoff.

Some theories suggest the reflective effect of a large snowpack in the Rockies would be to delay the summer monsoons.

"If we use our modeling capability so that we can answer that question, we can learn to use our resources better," Wallace said. "Right now, what's happening is we say, 'We've got such snowpack we can water like crazy.' The answer may be actually the opposite."

The lab is working on such innovations as protocells _ what Wallace describes as subatomic materials that look very much like life, growing and dividing.

"The immediate implication is we're going to be able to produce materials that can heal damaged structures," he said. "You break or crack a bridge abutment, it senses it and it 'heals' it just like you would grow your bone. It's pretty amazing."

[Right, Terry.

Now, suppose you tell us who is willing to pay for all those wonderful simulation development projects, now that thanks to LANS' incredible bloated management bureaucracy our per-FTE cost is in excess of $400,000 per year.

Also, how about a few words on all of that Work For Others-funded science (WFO -- work done for non-DOE sponsors) that fled LANL during the famous shutdown of 2004. Those WFO sponsors never came back. Prior to Nanos' shutdown, WFO comprised approximately 23% of our then $2.2 billion budget. That was $506 million per year that is gone forever, now that WFO represents a single digit percentage point of our total, shrinking budget.

While you're at it, maybe you could say something about the entire teams of staff who used to do WFO program development who have left LANL since 2004?

Talking about what LANL used to be is only blowing smoke up your own ass. Under LANS, the lab is now just a grim DOE weapons program shop. WFO will never come back, and DOE will never send funds at LANL to do anything more interesting than pit fab science.

Your new job responsibilities are clearly to be a "Rah Rah" guy, but in all truth, you sound kind of foolish trying to make LANL sound like it is still a grand place to work to those of who know what life at LANL is really like these days.

Which is most of us, Terry.

-Pat, The Dog]

Say it like it is, Pat.

Say it like it isn't, Terry.
Right, Terry, and what about the hundreds of very good scientists who've left LANL in the last few years due to the "uneven" morale, retaliation culture, and thoroughly rotten upper management that was in place *before* LANS took over?
and as I said a while back the atmosphere at LANL is very definitely an US vs THEM thing as far as workers VS managers (who came a-running after Bechtel got the award) are concerned. The Bechtel managers have no history at the lab, yet get huge salaries, huge bonuses, etc. while the rest of us just work and worry about the future. Future? Ya right!
Morale is uneven, Terry?

Well, I suppose you could say that. The new glut of Bechtel, BWXT and UC managers with their obscenely high salaries and big fat bonuses all seem to have pretty good morale.

The rest of us don't.

I guess that qualifies as "uneven". But please, don't let the facts of the situation interfere with your cheerleading.

BTW: If I could offer a suggestion: don't take that classified laptop home -- Mikey gets kind of twitchy when his number two does that.
You know how I hate to say, "I f*cking TOLD you so!" But the random drug testing is just one more US vs THEM arrangement -- thanks to the Bush Administration's NNSA and DOE -- for the purpose of dismantling science at Los Alamos. This disaster will inevitably happen at Livermore, too. Even though LLNL "won" the RRW, they will collect the wages of privatization sin, and the corporate vultures will tear the flesh from their living corpses, too. What a catastrophe! What a loss for America!

-Brad Lee Holian

(And I'm not gloating one bit, either; it tears at me to see what's happening, believe me. Our Congressman and Senator may yet look into this mess, but they really have a whole pile of troubles on their agenda, and we may be overlooked so long that it will be too late.)
Note Terry's estimate of the cut in weapons work over the next 5 years. I haven't heard anyone in the weapons program saying this.
Same monkeys different trees. The "best and brightest" continue to reign supreme at Los Alamos and we all keep paying the price. It's hopeless. I give up. I'm moving on with my life. Mark one more die-hard off your list.

Sign me "Too young to retire, but too young to die in this shit hole"
And so what is the real purpose of this moronic drug test policy? How many of the thousands of middle-aged employees with graduate degrees do they figure are doing drugs?

Stupid LANS continues to treat the 99.9% of employees who never do anything wrong as if we are "bad children" just so they can check a box and say SEE WHAT PRECAUTIONS WE TAKE!

It's the same crappy attitude that subjects us to the worthless barrage of "safety and security" messages like the new daily LINKS (what a farce) and the "safety tips" on how to walk on snow, accompanied by clip-art cartoons.

And HOW many PhDs are there at LANL?

And this is the level of "management" we get and for HOW many times the cost of the old UC management?

DOE, NNSA, and the New Mexico representatives in Washington must all be NUTZ. WAKE THE FUCK UP, YOU MORONS.
Poster 8:55 pm, I don't think you fully understand. They (LANS) don't want you to work here any longer.

It's how LANS intends to pay for our bloated upper management and yet still manage to balance the lab's budget.

If their current morale lowering techniques don't work, I'm sure they'll come up with even more odious policies until they finally hit their desired employee count numbers.

Once you understand this basic concept, much of what is now happening at LANL begins to make sense. They truly don't care about the morale of the working staff here at LANL. They want to make our work life a living hell.
Terry has absolutely no idea how to grow LANL's WFO program. Just take a look at his Signature Facility concept. What a joke! These guys seem to think you can build some new facility, call it a Center of Excellence, and then watch the funding come rolling in even though our TSM rates are now over $400 K per year and the staff is burdened with new, inane policies and requirements.

The sad thing is that regardless of how bad Terry performs at this new task, he'll still be well rewarded by LANS.
"Just take a look at his Signature Facility concept. What a joke! These guys seem to think you can build some new facility, call it a Center of Excellence, and then watch the funding come rolling"

that's because ORNL did it, and it worked; so every manager at LANL figures they can do the same.

But you only get to do it, at one lab, in one area, once. Imitation is not usually that successful.
Morale is "uneven" at LANL? Hmm, even more uneven is the current queue to get in to the Ombuds office these days. It's worse than the lines for butter and fish in the Soviet Brezhnev years. The Ombuds folks have the their hands very full these days.
Let's see--LANS is overstaffed, there will be no layoffs this year, but we will hire a bunch of KSL people as LANS employees. Makes sense too me! Now LANS has another 70 people to layoff after June!
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