Friday, April 06, 2007
Somehow, I just got tuned into your new blog, mainly by clicking on your name on a comment you posted about Danny Stillman's book on China, on the new follow-on blog, "LANL: The Rest of the Story." I'm going to add you to the list of links, and suggest that people view your inner sanctum, dark and foreboding though it may be. I note that you are an 'older' LANL guy, but perhaps older is wiser. The mouth-breathers at LANL will need your refreshing perspective in the dark and gloomy days ahead. Nothing will substantially change anywhere in the country (and LANL in particular) until a new Administration is elected and has some time to sweep out the dust in the granite tombstones of democracy in DC. That's two more years, and life in those two years will grind slowly but fine, as Dickens used to say about the wheels of British justice.
Keep up the good work -- and are you, perchance, a veterinarian?
--Pat, the Dog
Thursday, April 05, 2007
We've set up a blog!
However, since you are continuing to blog at LANL: The Corporate Story would you like us to change our template and color scheme so we look different than your site? We aren't trying to steal the show, we simply thought no one else was going to do it.
-Pinky and The Brain
Dear Pinky and The Brain:
Glad to see that there's a new blog. "LANL: The Corporate Story" is only posting breaking news, like Zelicoff's piece, and is going into archive mode for history's sake (along with the original "LANL: The Real Story"), probably around Tax Day. The "rest of the story" ... is up to you!
Go for it!
--Pat, the Dog
Commentary by Alan Zelicoff: Managing the management
by Alan Zelicoff, Thursday, April 5, 2007
Zelicoff, a former senior scientist at Sandia National Laboratories, is a writer and scientific consultant residing in Albuquerque. His latest book is "Doctor, Don't Just Do Something, Stand There," scheduled for release in June by AMACOM Publishers.
Unlike Los Alamos National Laboratory -- long known for its scientific prowess and more recently for tawdry security lapses -- Sandia National Laboratories has hardly been a household word.
And, for many at Sandia and elsewhere, that was just fine. Indeed, during a visit in 2002 at the height of security scandals raging at Los Alamos, Albuquerque Rep. Heather Wilson started her address to Sandia employees with the comment: "Thank God you aren't Los Alamos."
Nervous laughter followed. But the message was clear: Sandia could continue to quietly hide in the ever darkening shadow of its sister nuclear lab, protecting $2.3 billion budget from serious congressional review.
But that cozy arrangement has just changed. A few weeks ago, a jury awarded almost $5 million to Shawn Carpenter, a computer security expert fired by Sandia in 2005 for allegedly violating lab protocols by uncovering foreign hacking into classified computers in intelligence agencies.
Instead, the jury found that Sandia management violated its own protocols for disciplinary review. Having attended the trial, perhaps the most striking evidence to me was that six layers of management were complicit. Attention to basic management principles was so lax that at the final "termination meeting" in January 2005 -- attended by three vice presidents, including Sandia's chief legal counsel - the assembled brain trust bumbled so badly that it failed to even take minutes.
Most importantly, Carpenter wasn't even given a chance to submit a written statement in his own defense.
Newfound notoriety for management malfeasance couldn't come at a worse time. In a rare moment of consensus, House Energy Committee members from both sides of the aisle have been apoplectic in their dismay over classified Los Alamos documents found in a trailer housing a methamphetamine lab, and equally apocalyptic in their prescription: a full GAO audit, and even threatening a shutdown.
Democrats, determined to pare deficits and joined by many senior Republicans, see a decade of near catastrophic management failures at each of the three main labs: billions in cost overruns at Lawrence Livermore's centerpiece NIF laser fusion project; an exodus of scientific staff from Los Alamos as voluminous as the river of lost classified materials; and now the exposure of Sandia's heretofore obscure abuse of its employees.
Thus, the debate has been rekindled, which could lead to an appropriations backlash. In a post-Cold War world, what is the value of our national laboratories?
Ask any employee what ails the labs, you'll hear "decaying mission and loss of focus." The former reflects the denuclearization of U.S. strategic thinking; the latter is a result of a bloated bureaucracy maintaining dozens of departments running projects far afield from the labs' core responsibility: maintaining the safety and reliability of the dwindling nuclear stockpile.
An uncountable array of new lab programs have emerged, courtesy of taxpayers -- "international programs" and "advanced concepts studies" to name but two keep questionably productive fiefdoms afloat.
To be sure, some products actually useful in daily life, such as sophisticated wind turbines and new energy-saving lights, have trickled out of the labs. But for every entrepreneurial success, there are many more that might have competed well in the marketplace but for ham-fisted management decisions leaving them to gather dust.
With a price tag of more than $1.1 billion for each lab's non-nuclear work, it's not hard to see why the carving knives are being unsheathed in Washington.
Yet the labs are an important source of cash for New Mexico. Should the gravy train stop, the entire state could suffer an economic meltdown. The predictable reaction of our congressional delegation will be to circle the wagons, but they are unlikely to prevail. In the face of repeated embarrassments at the labs, there isn't much of a circle anymore.
Instead, it may be time to think in terms of damage control and plan for a future where Sandia and Los Alamos labs are stably funded for the one mission they do well, shrinking a sprawling failed management bureaucracy and minimizing security snafus in exchange.
Additionally, the DOE must release without redaction their "performance evaluation reports" of the labs. Should managers fail again in their stewardship of once prestigious centers of excellence, annual bonuses exceeding the average New Mexico household income must be withheld.
It's the only way to clean up the mess.
E.W. Scripps Co. © 2006 The Albuquerque Tribune
Tuesday, April 03, 2007
LANL: Bingaman aims to boost lab, science funding
LOS ALAMOS -- Los Alamos National Laboratory can help solve major problems facing the country, from tracking the flow of nuclear materials to developing better energy sources to rely upon, U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman said Monday. Bingaman addressed scientists at the lab and small-business owners at Los Alamos Chamber of Commerce, and sent the message that he's working to increase federal funding for science work nationally and at the lab.
"My message was very simple," Bingaman said to a crowd of small-business owners and other community members. "We need ... in Washington to get back to a focus on the major long-term challenges that we face in this country. I think we've been diverted from those challenges in recent years, both with the war in Iraq and to some extent with the war on terror."
Bingaman said the lab has "a great deal to contribute" in determining the future of the nuclear weapons stockpile, ensuring that nuclear weapons are not used in the coming decades and "transitioning our economy both in the way that we produce and transmit and use energy, so as to deal not only with our economic security but to deal with the very real problem of greenhouse gas emissions."
Bingaman chairs the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which has great influence over national energy policy. He said the committee will address large-scale demonstrations of carbon capture and storage technologies; more promotion of biofuels like ethanol; and tax incentives for producing energy from renewable sources like the sun.
Bingaman also covered a worrisome subject in Northern New Mexico today -- the possibility of layoffs to permanent workers at the lab. Bingaman said it was somewhat surprising when he was asked about that, and he then asked Lab Director Michael Anastasio about it. "He said that he has repeated numerous times that there are no layoffs planned and there is no plan to plan for layoffs," Bingaman said.
Last year, the company that manages the lab announced 350 to 550 layoffs to contract workers. The lab's permanent work force of about 8,920 workers was not affected. Instead, lab managers have been saving money by not filling some vacancies when workers leave.
The lab's overall budget is about $2.2 billion. President Bush's proposed budget for the 2008 fiscal year would cut Los Alamos' money from the Department of Energy by about 1 percent, or $18 million, compared to the 2006 fiscal year.
Contact Andy Lenderman at 995-3827 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sunday, April 01, 2007
Oh, $#!% ... Oh, Dear ... Oh ! !
The end of the first year of the LANL Contract (held by LANS, LLC; Bechtel/UC to take on LLNL, too.)
Warning: Trains don't have seat belts ... RIFs are rumored on or about October 1st.
But stuff might be happening to LANL even earlier than June 1. Stay tuned below ...
(e.g., Teller's Posthumous Revenge: Livermore Wins RRW)
Handwriting is on the wall, and it's in English. Or, to put it another way:
What may have looked like a dog treat ... was something else.
[Notice: On midnight, April Fools' Day (how appropos!), all further comments will be disabled. All LANL employees will thence be on their own, as if anyone anywhere cared or noticed. Intestinal or testicular fortitude on the part of LANL staff has been notably lacking, and the results of corporatization have therefore been foreordained. Reporters and Congressional (and DOE/NNSA) staffs may still see some more random postings, but there will be no more random comments from the sheeple at LANL. Forewarned is forearmed. The cyber gold mine will be closed. At ease, men. Smoke 'em if you got 'em. When they give the order, pee in the cup. Sleep. Obey.]
(To enlarge image, click on it. AIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEeeeeee .... !!!)
Goodbye, and good luck.
--Pat, the Dog.
P.S. If I've offended you by this rather mild account of Corporatized Los Alamos National Lab, I'm not in the least sorry.
A New Blog for LANL? -Probably Not.
LANL staff sitting 'mesmerized by Mikey' (Director Anastasio) at generic All-Hands-Meeting. (Note the love in their zombie eyes, the cheery looks on their pasty faces, the deep-throated roar of approval, in unison ...)
Will there be a new blog for LANL after this present one goes dark on April Fools' Day?
It's really up to you.
Just a couple of weeks after I started "LANL: The Corporate Story," with Doug's generous help, blogspot.com retooled itself with a new, more user-friendly version. It's really quite easy now to become a new blogmeister, from startup to up-and-running. Of course, there is some learning that will occur as you go, but you don't have to be a computer genius, and I surely am not. (I've even learned more about html as I went along, thanks to Google.) The blogspot.com utility allows for easy uploads of pictures now, so that after the first week or so, when that new capability became available, I no longer had to rely on Doug's server for that.
Doug has graciously allowed the "Contact Pat" link to my anonymous e-mail (email@example.com) to continue for the time being. As a result, I can post a new link to YOUR new follow-on blog right here on this old blog: all you have to do is e-mail me; I'll check out your home page; if it looks good, I'll post the link; and then, if you have any questions about operational subtleties, e-mail me and I'll try to guide you through the problems as best I can. If I can't figure it out, I'll pass the question on to Doug; if he can't figure it out, well, maybe you're hosed. Usually, the defaults and simple stuff are good enough -- for government work, anyway.
Yes, beginning Sunday morning, no more comments will be allowed -- no sense in anyone wading through a bunch of ridiculous April Fools' jokes. There has been talk in the hallways and some comments here on the blog about the desire to keep a LANL blog going: for example, to see who gets the Livermore contract and to announce the new slate of RIFs sometime around October 1st. However, your present blogmeister will not be doing much after Sunday, as I contemplate a welcome rest from the world of blogging. (It isn't really all that bad, but it's time for a new perspective from someone else out there. I confess that I am burned out from watching LANL crumble under the weight of NNSA's and Congress's incompetence -- and often outright hostility -- not to mention the greed and the level of sabotage by LANS upper management.)
My suggestion is that a couple of you get together and do like Doug and Brad did on the previous blog, "LANL: The Real Story." It would have been good to have someone to spell me when I was out of town, or when I just couldn't get to the computer to browse the web, though it is easy to remotely log in from my laptop or my Blackberry when on travel.
So, as I said before, go for it. It's really up to you, my good friends.
P.S. Now, here's an example of the art of blogmeistership: This was sent to me today at firstname.lastname@example.org:
I would like to submit a few paragraphs on "retribution" a few years ago, as well as now, if you show me how to do it ANONYMOUSLY.
So, as you can see, all mention of the sender's name can be kept in confidence, and an honest blogmeister like yours, truly, will do just that. For even greater anonymity, set up another account with your internet provider, using a pseudonym -- such as, for example, PatTheDog@internetprovider.com.
I occasionally read your blog, time permitting. I've noticed an apparent decline in the general morale at LANL, at least as indicated by those who post to your blog. It occurred to me that it might be heartening for staff to learn that there is life after LANL, if that is the desired choice. As an example, you can access a press release on some of my current work, being conducted at my new place of employment, by clicking on the title of this post or the link below:
The work is fun stuff, with the added bonus that it is being conducted in an environment that is far less dysfunctional than what existed at LANL in 2005 when I left. I can only imagine what conditions are like there now.
Feel free to post this to your blog, if you feel it appropriate. Also, thanks for all the work you have put in to the LTCS blog. Sorry to see you shutting it down, but I completely understand your reasons for wanting to do so.