Wednesday, January 31, 2007

 

Thrice-daily visit


Our corporate overlords have dropped by for one of their thrice-daily visits.
















Here's one of our buddies from DOE HQ. It is somehow appropriate that they don't see the big picture.

 

Loss of Mission After the Cold War Ended

From "White House, Congress feud over weapons labs: Security breaches at Los Alamos highlight a hearing by exasperated House panelists," by James Sterngold, San Francisco Chronicle Staff Writer, Wednesday, January 31, 2007:

Many experts say it is no longer clear what kind of nuclear deterrent the United States should have, if any, and thus what kind of nuclear complex is needed.

The Defense Science Board, a body of outside experts that advises the Pentagon, wrote in a report in December that throughout the Cold War there was a basic understanding within the government about the kind of nuclear stockpile the country needed to deter any attacks by the Soviet Union.

"Fifteen years after the end of the Cold War, this consensus no longer exists," the report concluded.

Paul Robinson, the retired head of the Sandia National Laboratories, another weapons facility, said that the real issue was not boxes on an organizational chart, but a sense of mission, which is now lacking because there is no agreement on the purpose and size of the nuclear stockpile.

"There is a sense of drift, and that hurts," he said.

Commented Phil Coyle, a former top weapons scientist at Livermore and the Pentagon and now a senior adviser to the Center for Defense Information: "Little wonder it's become such an ineffective complex, because of all the uncertainties over what it's doing."

 

Ugh. A Different Take On NNSA

Give NNSA *more* authority? What planet does Rep. Ellen Tauscher, D-Walnut Creek, the new chairwoman of the House Strategic Forces subcommittee come from? Really?

White House, Congress feud over weapons labs
Security breaches at Los Alamos highlight a hearing by exasperated House panelists

James Sterngold, Chronicle Staff Writer

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/01/31/MNGQCNRSRF1.DTL

 

A witicism

From the "Hearings" post, where it was noted that Mr. Whitfeld, Kentucky asked Anastasio if LANL had a whistleblower policy, and that Congress reads this blog:

-Pat, The (Whistleblowing) Dog

*****************************************


"I suppose this verifies that we now have an effective 'whistleblower' program at LANL, finally."

Too bad it took an act of Congress to get it.

 

The Hearings Recording

Those who missed the hearings can see them at

http://boss.streamos.com/wmedia/energycommerce/ec_cmte_hearings_2007/013007.oi.hrg.lanl.wvx

-Pat

 

More Screwtiny of LANL by Congress

Santa Fe New Mexican, January 30, 2007

Lawmakers: Lapses could spur lab’s end
House panel blasts ‘tedious’ Los Alamos security problems


By Jennifer Talhelm, The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Fed-up lawmakers on a House oversight committee said Tuesday that they want to strip a federal nuclear agency of its security responsibilities and threatened to shut down Los Alamos National Laboratory to correct a decade of security lapses there.

Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., said he has sat through nearly a decade of hearings in which the Energy Department and the Northern New Mexico nuclear weapons lab have promised to fix security problems. “I’ve been hearing these promises for a long time, and they’ve become somewhat tedious,” he said.

Lawmakers blistered the lab for its most recent security breach, in which a contract worker walked out with hundreds of pages of classified documents. The documents turned up during a drug raid last October involving a man who rented a room at the worker’s home.

Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, said if problems cannot be solved this time, he will ask that the Los Alamos lab, the birthplace of the atomic bomb, be shut down. “There is an absolute inability and unwillingness to address the most routine security issues at this laboratory,” Barton said.

Barton, Dingell and others on the House Energy and Commerce Committee introduced a measure Tuesday to strip the National Nuclear Security Administration of its primary security responsibilities and turn them back to the Energy Department because of concerns that NNSA has not fixed security problems at Los Alamos despite spending tens of millions of dollars on improvements. “NNSA was a management experiment gone wrong,” Barton said.

Throughout Tuesday’s four hour hearing, lawmakers repeatedly asked why the lab needs to exist and whether it simply has too much responsibility for too many secret materials.

Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., called for a comprehensive audit of all services at Los Alamos.

He wants to evaluate whether its mission is too large and whether many of the classified operations should be moved to another lab. “I will not tolerate continued security lapses and a thumbing of their noses at Congress,” he said.

A new management team was installed at Los Alamos less than a year ago, in part to reverse years of security and safety problems.

Administration officials urged lawmakers to give the new managers more time to turn things around.

Deputy Energy Secretary Clay Sell also said Los Alamos probably could not be replaced or duplicated. It is the only place where plutonium pits for weapons can be made. Virtually everything that happens at Los Alamos is secret because the lab is responsible for the bulk of the strategic nuclear weapons stock pile, he said.

Sell promised that stronger security is possible.


“It appears to me the tail’s wagging the dog,” said a skeptical Rep. Charlie Melancon, D-La. “It has been suggested that we shoot the dog,” Sell responded.

“I have to reject that suggestion in the strongest possible way. It is my view we have to have Los Alamos.”

The embarrassing October incident involving the classified documents resulted in a shake up in NNSA, which oversees the lab. Linton Brooks, already rep rimanded for an earlier incident, resigned earlier this month as head of NNSA.

Lab officials have said none of the material found during the drug raid was top secret. A lawyer for the employee, a 22-year old archivist, has said she took it home to catch up on work.

Security problems at the lab date back to the late 1990s.

They include the disappearance of two hard drives containing classified material that later were found behind a copying machine and the disappearance of two computer disks that forced a virtual shutdown of Los Alamos for months in 2004.

It later was learned those two disks never existed.

In response to the hearing, U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said LANL is invaluable to the country and deserves strong congressional support. “I am deeply concerned about the recent loss of classified information, and I expect the NNSA to fully use whatever contractual measures that are in place ... to deal with the situation,” he said.

“But to suggest we could do without the lab is irresponsible and wrong-headed.”

U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici, R N. M., the committee’s ranking Republican, echoed some of the same concerns while pointing out that officials have made recent personnel and policy changes to bolster lab security.

“Singling out LANL for security problems may generate headlines, but it is hardly the only government agency to struggle with this issue,” he said in a news release. “Massive amounts of personnel and other private data have been lost by government contractors and even agencies, such as the Veterans Administration. I am quite sure, for instance, that the security procedures at Los Alamos far exceed those here in Congress. A government wide effort to improve the way data is handled is needed.”

The New Mexican contributed to this report.

-----

ABQ Journal, Wednesday, January 31, 2007

LANL Hit Hard In Congress

By Michael Coleman, Journal Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON— Members of Congress berated Los Alamos National Laboratory on Tuesday for failing to protect America's nuclear secrets, and some suggested shutting the famous lab down.

Meanwhile, a powerful House Democrat introduced a bill to strip the National Nuclear Security Administration of its LANL oversight role.

Rep. John Dingell, a Michigan Democrat who heads the House Energy and Commerce Committee that monitors the national labs, said that giving NNSA lab oversight authority in 2000 was a mistake and his bill aims to correct it.

"The risk to security and safety is just too great for us to keep hoping that NNSA gets its act together," Dingell said. "This legislation effectively directs the Department of Energy to work aggressively and do the job that NNSA couldn't do."

Under Dingell's bill, lab oversight would revert to the Department of Energy, which he said would be more accountable than NNSA.

Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, the top Republican on the House energy panel, co-sponsored Dingell's bill Tuesday and harshly chastised LANL, where the atomic bomb was developed in the super-secret Manhattan Project during World War II, for repeated security breaches.

"If there was a way to start over, I'd say shut down the Los Alamos, fire everybody out there and build a new lab somewhere else," Barton said.

Tuesday's hearing marked the fifth time since 2003 that LANL's security lapses have come under a hot congressional glare.

The most recent congressional scrutiny came after classified materials— including electronic documents stored on a computer flash drive— were found in the home of a LANL subcontractor during an October drug investigation.

Dingell and Rep. Diana DeGette, a Colorado Democrat, both compared Tuesday's hearing to "Groundhog Day," the fictional film in which a weatherman experiences the same day over and over.

"This week is Groundhog Day, so it's appropriate we're having this hearing, but it's not funny," DeGette said, adding that recent security breaches at the northern New Mexico lab "are infuriatingly familiar."

Members of New Mexico's congressional delegation said Tuesday that LANL is much too important to shut down, but they also expressed frustration at the continued security lapses.

Rep. Tom Udall, a New Mexico Democrat whose district includes LANL, said in an interview that he was open to the idea of stripping NNSA of its lab watchdog role.

"From the beginning, I thought the NNSA was an additional layer of bureaucracy," Udall said. "What I'm hearing from employees and managers at Los Alamos is that this is causing more problems than it's solving.

"I think the NNSA gets in the way, in many cases, of good science," Udall added.


Sen. Pete Domenici, a New Mexico Republican who pushed for the NNSA's creation, said in a statement that the agency should retain its lab oversight role. He said stripping it "would merely restore all authority to the secretary of energy, or lead to the creation of yet another layer of bureaucracy at a department already choking from that very problem."

Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., said Los Alamos is an indispensable part of America's national security.

"To suggest we could do without the lab is irresponsible and wrongheaded," Bingaman said in a statement.

The lab employs more than 12,000 full-time workers and contractors.

Some members of the committee and DOE officials suggested Tuesday that a consortium headed by the University of California, which manages LANL, could face stiff financial penalties for the continued security breaches.

Clay Sell, deputy secretary of energy and a former Domenici aide, told the subcommittee that closing Los Alamos would do more harm to national security than good. He said certain cutting-edge science, such as the construction of plutonium pits, can be done only at LANL.

"It's been suggested that we shoot the dog, and I have to reject that suggestion in the strongest possible terms," Sell said. "We need Los Alamos."

Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., retorted: "Then they owe it to the American people to guard it."

Sell pointed out that Linton Brooks was recently fired as director of the National Nuclear Security Administration partly to send a message that the DOE is serious about making the weapons complex secure.

"It is going to take time to change, but we have an outstanding new leadership team in place," Sell said.

Udall said Michael Anastasio, LANL's new director, should be given a chance to turn the allegedly relaxed lab culture around.

"Let's give them a chance to get on top of this," Udall said. "There are two sides to it here. I think people know this is a very important laboratory and they do important work. I don't think they're going to throw the baby out with the bathwater."


-----

Los Alamos Monitor, Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Congress berates LANL again

ROGER SNODGRASS, Monitor Assistant Editor

Members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee unloaded on Department of Energy officials during opening testimony on continuing security problems at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

In a bipartisan display of disapproval, the new Democratic majority and the former Republican minority members demanded explanations from the Department of Energy Inspector General, Gregory Friedman and Glenn Podansky, DOE's chief health, safety and security officer about the most recent security breach.

A highly publicized case in October 2006 involved the discovery of what the Republican members described as 1,588 pages of classified information removed from a vault by a contractor employee at LANL and later found in a mobile home in Los Alamos, during a drug-related investigation.

The information, according to the subcommittee members, included information on nuclear weapons.

Representatives searched for explanations for why Los Alamos has been a continuing topic for their investigations, since 1999, when missing hard drives and Wen Ho Lee were the subjects.

Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, the only non-governmental witness gave an explanation in the form of what she called "a joke around the complex."

Speaking in the first panel of witnesses, she said, "The Secretary of Energy tells the three national labs to jump. Sandia asks how high, Livermore makes an excuse for why it's too busy to jump, and Los Alamos asks who the Secretary of Energy is.

"Los Alamos sticks out as the bad child because of its consistent and utter disregard for federal oversight," she said.


During questioning, Deputy Energy Secretary Clay Sell, in a second panel, answered a question by Subcommittee Chair Bart Stupak, D-Mich., about the follow-up investigation and why Sell had withdrawn his task force in early January before LANL had come into compliance with his new security directives.

"We found out that we were not making progress at a sufficient pace to meet a Jan. 15 deadline," he said. He added that the team was sent out again and that he found out after Jan. 22 that the laboratory had complied with the directive.

LANL Director Michael Anastasio was scheduled to testify later this morning, along with the acting NNSA Administrator Thomas D'Agostino, and other officials.

Monday afternoon, on the eve of the hearings, Republican members of the committee introduced a bill, quickly endorsed by Chairman John Dingell, D-Mich., that would strip primary security oversight from the National Nuclear Security Administration and return the function to the Department of Energy.

-----






What ! ? "It's been suggested that we shoot the dog" ! ?
Not this damn dog, you don't ! ! !
You head on over to DOE and Congress, and shoot them damn dogs ! ! !

--Pat (!)

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

 

ELIMINATE NNSA ! !

Lawmakers weigh cutting nuclear security agency

By Jonathan Marino
jmarino@govexec.com

Lawmakers on Tuesday proposed eliminating the agency created seven years ago to oversee the country's nuclear weapons stockpile, citing continued security failures at the Los Alamos laboratory in New Mexico.

Members of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations said at a hearing that the National Nuclear Security Administration, a semi-autonomous agency within the Energy Department, has not performed adequately. They cited an October incident at Los Alamos, N.M., in which local police responding to a domestic disturbance call discovered that a laboratory employee had classified data on nuclear weapons stored on small, portable hard drives.

The incident was the latest in a string of breaches that have prompted lawmakers to reconsider NNSA. The oversight agency was created in 1999 as part of Congress' response to the mishandling of classified information - again at Los Alamos - by Wen Ho Lee.

"NNSA was a management experiment gone wrong," said ranking member Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas.

Lawmakers introduced a bill Tuesday they said will give Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman more authority over energy security. They also discussed the possibility of closing the Los Alamos laboratory entirely.

The Energy Department's inspector general testified at the hearing that mismanagement and security gaps - some of which department officials say have been repaired - caused the most recent Los Alamos incident. IG Gregory Friedman criticized management for "a lack of follow-through" on policy guidelines and a failure to conduct frequent enough oversight.

The IG said policies to improve the physical security of classified files need immediate implementation to prevent data theft. Policies for cybersecurity must be implemented universally throughout the Energy Department, he said.

Linda Wilbanks, NNSA's information chief, testified that all data ports, which are what the Los Alamos employee is believed to have used to download classified data, have been sealed.

Energy Department Deputy Secretary Clay Sell told lawmakers that, following the security breach, the department took steps to secure its data quickly. Reviews of security are ongoing, Sell said, but will be completed for Bodman in February. Subcommittee members said they will seek Bodman's testimony after the reports are finished.

©2007 by National Journal Group Inc. All rights reserved.

-----

Comments from an Anonymous Livermore person on Domenici's "brilliant idea" (NNSA):

"After 20 years at LLNL I can say with conviction that NNSA has been a complete failure and total waste of the taxpayers dollars... NNSA is directly responsible for the incompetent micro-mismanagement of both LLNL and LANL... NNSA is solely responsible the disastrous RFP that forced the creation of a for profit LLC to run LANL and bid on LLNL... NNSA demanded in the RFP that LANL employees be stripped of their UC retirement and benefits by requiring a stand alone HR program (something not required at other DOE labs - ANL, BNL, SLAC, etc or NASA's JPL or DOD's Lincoln Lab)... NNSA is responsible for the selection of the front company LANS LLC that supposedly exists with its unseen and heard from board of directors... and NNSA's bureaucracy is responsible for the convoluted requirements (business, security, ES&H) that confuse lab employees and hamstring effective operation of the labs... So yes Congress, please do the country a huge favor and eliminate NNSA before its incompetent and bungling managers do more damage to science and national security in this nation."

 

Joe Barton's Bio

Bush Donor Profile

Joe L. Barton
Occupation: Representative
Employer: U.S. Congress
Home: Ennis, TX
Representative Joe Barton started his career as an aide to Reagan Energy Secretary James Edwards, a pioneer of natural gas price deregulation. Barton parlayed this post into a brief consulting job with ARCO before his 1984 election as one of Congress’ most conservative members. Barton has crusaded against things that politicians arguably cannot control: homosexuality, abortion and drugs. Conversely, he has fought efforts to control guns and tobacco. Critics say tobacco influence explains the jihad that Barton’s subcommittee waged against the Food and Drug Administration. Barton is an even greater champion of the energy industry, which regularly tops off his political war chests. Barton stuck provisions in the 2003 energy bill to give the Dallas-Fort Worth region more time to flunk clean-air standards. The bill failed because of another Barton-championed provision to shield the petrochemical industry from liability for the carcinogenic gasoline additive MTBE. While Barton opposes most foreign aid, he was a top cheerleader for the defunct $11 billion physics super collider boondoggle that Congress started to build in his old district (see George Bayoud, Fred Bucy and Bill Ceverha). Right or wrong, this self-described “cranky contrarian” has been known to stand alone. He was the sole committee member to request the resignation of International Olympic Committee head Juan Antonio Samaranch and to oppose immunity for junk-bond felons Michael Milken and Ivan Boesky. More recently, Rep. Barton played a role in a corporate scandal. Troubled Westar Energy got Barton to insert special provisions into 2002 energy legislation to let Westar split off its regulated utility from its heavily indebted other businesses--a split that would facilitate saddling ratepayers with $1 billion Westar’s non-utility debts. Company documents suggest that four GOP members of Congress whose support Westar solicited, including Reps. Barton and Tom DeLay (see Randy DeLay), directed Westar to channel $56,500 into GOP campaign coffers. The Senate dropped this sweetheart provision after learning that a federal grand jury was probing Westar fraud allegations. “To be told there’s some quid pro quo,” Barton said, “that’s just stupid.” Barton met with Pioneer Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick in February 2003 to discuss redistricting Texas’ Congressional districts—a top priority of Tom DeLay. When powerful House Energy and Commerce Chair Billy Tauzin announced his retirement in early 2004, Barton assumed that helm.

Profile last updated Feb 18, 2004

 

And Now, For Something Completely Different ...

They are holding other hearings in DC that may be more relevant to science and its potential contributions to the nation, than the "Oversight" Committee grandstanding about LANL "security lapses." Let's let reality intrude on our local angst. Read on, and think about how LANL, SNL, and LLNL might do something more relevant to mankind's future. (As goes man, so goes dog ...)

--Pat

-----



Waxman: White House misled public on global warming

By Johanna Neuman And Richard Simon, Staff Writer, Los Angeles Times
1:20 PM PST, January 30, 2007

WASHINGTON -- The new Democratic chairman of a House panel charged today that the Bush administration tried to mislead the public about climate change "by injecting doubt into the science of global warming and minimizing the potential dangers."

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Los Angeles), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said at the start of a hearing on global warming that he and the committee's ranking Republican, Rep. Tom Davis of Virginia, had repeatedly asked the White House last year for documents to show that senior officials were suppressing scientific reports within the administration about the severity of the problem.

The congressmen were trying to investigate an allegation that Phil Cooney, chairman of the Council on Environmental Quality and a former lobbyist for the American petroleum industry, was quashing scientific reports that offered views on global warming that differed from those of the White House.

"The committee isn't trying to obtain state secrets or documents that could affect our immediate national security," Waxman said today. "We are simply seeking answers to whether the White House's political staff is inappropriately censoring impartial government scientists."

In testimony before the committee, the Union of Concerned Scientists, an independent advocacy group, found in a survey of government scientists that 150 of them had experienced political interference over the past five years.

"Our investigations found high-quality science struggling to get out," said the group's senior scientist Francesca Grifo. "Nearly half of all respondents perceived or personally experienced pressure to eliminate the words 'climate change,' 'global warming' or other similar terms from a variety of communications," Grifo said.

Rick Piltz, a former U.S. government scientist, who said he resigned in 2005 after pressure to soften his words on global warming, wrote in prepared testimony that Cooney personally cast doubt on the consequences of climate change.

On the other side of Capitol Hill, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) chaired a hearing at which several presidential candidates — Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), Barak Obama (D-Ill.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) embraced new measures on global warming. Afterward, she hailed the "consensus" that Congress act soon.

johanna.neuman@latimes.com

richard.simon@latimes.com

 

Groundhog day

From: http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/01/30/politics/main2415055.shtml

Lawmakers Slam Los Alamos Security
Both Democrats And Republicans Assail Nuclear Lab Managers, Energy Dept. Supervisors

WASHINGTON, Jan. 30, 2007
(CBS/Getty)

A Quote

"If we have to shut down the Laboratory, then so be it. But we ought to be able to get security right at Los Alamos."

Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas

WHAT DO YOU THINK?




(CBS) By CBS News Capitol Hill correspondent Sharyl Attkisson

At a congressional hearing today, both Democrats and Republicans assailed Los Alamos National Laboratory managers and their Department of Energy supervisors for what they view as the same old security problems. This, despite the fact that Los Alamos, the nation's premiere nuclear weapons center, has been under new management for seven months.

House members of the Energy and Commerce committee, charged with oversight of Los Alamos, today threatened everything from yanking the Lab's security responsibilities to shutting it down entirely.

"There is an absolute inability and unwillingness to address the most routine security issues at this Laboratory," said Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas. "If we have to shut down the Laboratory, then so be it. But we ought to be able to get security right at Los Alamos."

Management and security scandals have plagued the Lab for years. Most recently, as reported exclusively by CBS News, a 22-year old former Lab employee named Jessica Quintana walked out unchallenged with hundreds of pages of classified documents. Police found them by accident during a drug raid on the trailer home of her roommate. The FBI's criminal investigation of the case is ongoing.

"Why she hasn't been arrested yet is a mystery to us," an insider tells CBS News.

Sources also tell CBS News that Quintana had access to sensitive secrets including underground nuclear weapons test data and the code that keeps nuclear weapons locked in case they are stolen. In one of several interviews with the FBI, Quintana told officials that security at the Lab was so lax, she was never checked when entering or leaving, and it was easy for her to walk out with hundreds of pages in her backpack, as well as several portable computer storage devices.

The Laboratory and Department of Energy have repeatedly promised Congress big changes. The biggest one was supposed to happen when the federal government put the contract to manage the Lab up for bid for the first time in history. The University of California had held the contract since the Lab's beginnings in 1943. Last June, a new consortium of four organizations took control. But the new faces turned out to look a lot like the old ones, with the University of California retaining a large portion of the contract. That, suggested members of Congress today, may be the problem.

In response, the Lab's director, Michael Anastasio, took responsibility for the most recent security breach and tried to assure fed-up members of Congress that everything is under control.

"We took immediate action when we learned of the breach," Anastasio said, but "there will not be a silver bullet solution because there are none."
Los Alamos National Laboratory employs more than 9,000 people and has an annual budget of $2.2 billion. Taxpayers have financed tens of millions of dollars in security upgrades at the Lab in recent years amidst various scandals.

A recent Inspector General's report said that Lab security remains inadequate despite all the expense.

Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., likened the pattern of security breaches followed by Lab promises to tighten security to "groundhog day." Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich, said "it's dejavu all over again."

 

Fallout From the Hearings

It's started already. Bingaman and Wilson reacting to the subcommittee's threats to shut down LANL. I wonder what was discussed in the closed-door executive meeting?

-Pat
_________________________________________________________________

http://www.kobtv.com/index.cfm?viewer=storyviewer&id=30072&cat=HOME

Lawmakers threaten to shut down lab over security lapses



Last Update: 01/30/2007 1:41:03 PM
By: Reed Upton
Video

Two New Mexico lawmakers are coming to the defense of Los Alamos National Laboratory after members of a house committee made threats to shut down the lab Monday.

Fed-up lawmakers on a US House oversight committee said Tuesday they want to strip the National Nuclear Security Administration of its security responsibilities.

And they threatened to shut down Los Alamos National Laboratory to correct a decade of security lapses there.

The lawmakers blistered the lab for its most recent security breach in which a contract worker walked out with hundreds of pages of classified documents.

The material later was discovered during a drug raid at her home.

Other security breaches have involved misplaced disk drives, hacked computers and stolen security badges.

Democratic New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman said that he also is “deeply concerned about the recent loss of classified information,” but added, “to suggest we could do without the lab is irresponsible and wrongheaded.”

Congresswoman Heather Wilson says she doesn’t think the lab will be closed but added that she understands the frustration of some lawmakers after years of promises and hearings.

“I think a lot of it is rhetoric, but it does reflect people’s frustration here in Washington,” said the Albuquerque Republican.

Democratic Congressman John Dingell of Michigan says he’s sat through nearly a decade of hearings in which the Energy Department and the lab have promised to fix the problems.

Republican Congressman Joe Barton of Texas says that if problems cannot be solved this time, he’ll ask that the lab be shut down.

Kevin Roark, a spokesman for the lab, noted that the new management team has only been in place for six months and has begun instituting new security procedures.

“This is a new team, under a new contract, and over time it will build trust through good performance,” said Roark.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


 

The Hearings

Anybody who thinks the hearings are "just for show" should tune in immediately. This is hardball. Options being discussed include shutting LANL down, withholding LANS's fee, and moving big chunks of LANL to Sandia.

http://energycommerce.house.gov/index.shtml

-Pat

UPDATE: 10:43 CST -- The Honorable Mr. Burgess, Texas, just quoted a comment from this blog. The comment was from a blog reader who was pleading that LANL not be shut down. In referring to this blog, he called it a "popular LANL blog". So, I guess that settles the issue of whether or not this blog is read by people who have influence over LANL.

UPDATE: 11:37AM CST -- Mr. Barton, Texas: 70% of LANS's $73.x M award fee is at risk, 30% is fixed. Barton and the IG are discussing how much of a fine could be levied against LANS. Later comments by D'Agostino clarified that the entire award fee is at risk, should sufficient cause be determined.

UPDATE: 11:47AM CST -- Mr. Burgess and the IG were discussing the fact that there is currently an FBI investigation ongoing, and that additional security infractions may be revealed as a result. (Mitchell???)

UPDATE: 11:58AM CST -- A number of the panel and witnesses were discussing the the bid process that led to LANS winning the contract, and (circumspect) questions were raised whether the selection hadn't led to the wrong contractor being selected to run LANL. I suspect that this topic will come up in the closed session which will follow.

UPDATE: 12:25PM CST -- Mr. Whitfield, Kentucky, is grilling Mr. Sell, Deputy Secy, DOE, on the specifics of the bid process that D'Agostino's led which resulted in LANS winning the contract. Boy, does Sell sound uncomfortable and nervous. His little voice is quivering.

UPDATE: 12:52PM CST -- D'Agostino is threatening to spank LANS with penalties of up to $70 million, or to even cause them to forfeit their entire fee.

UPDATE: 12:54PM CST -- Ugh. NNSA CIO Linda Wilbanks is blathering buzzwords about computer security. Bottom line of her opening statement -- "It wasn't my fault LANL screwed up!"

UPDATE: 1:03PM CST -- Anastasio is on. Unlike Wilbanks, he is taking responsibiliy for the CREM de Meth case.

BIG UPDATE!!! 1:28PM CST -- Mr. Burgess just flat out asked D'Agostino if it would be contractually possible to terminate the LANS contract immediately, for cause. D'Agostino said "Yes, but (mumbling under his breath) it would be a bad idea because I picked LANS." Ok, D'Agostino didn't actually say that bit about him having picked LANS, but you could see him thinking it.

UPDATE: 1:43PM CST -- Mr. Whitfeld, Kentucky asked Anastasio if LANL had a whistleblower policy, and then in the very next sentence mentioned that John Mitchell had violated his contract by leaving LANL before his contractual term was up. And then the conversation moved on. I believe the stage is being set to have some more discussion about Mitchell, perhaps in the closed session. This may be another big update.

1:54PM CST, the committee broke to go into executive (closed) session. Could be a bloodbath.

Final Observations: 2:19 and 2:54pm CST -- Someone in the House is again looking at the blog:
I suppose this verifies that we now have an effective "whistleblower" program at LANL, finally.






Oh, the Senate too, BTW.




 

Floating around the Merry Roundhouse ...

SENATE JOINT RESOLUTION
48th LEGISLATURE – STATE OF NEW MEXICO – FIRST SESSION, 2007

DISCUSSION DRAFT

A JOINT RESOLUTION TO PROHIBIT ANY NEW NUCLEAR WEAPON PRODUCTION FACILITITIES IN NEW MEXICO

PRESENTED BY…


Whereas New Mexico is named as a possible site for the proposed development of a new and consolidated manufacturing facility that the National Nuclear Security Administration is calling Complex 2030, where the intent is to develop and manufacture new nuclear weapons,
And Whereas this proposed facility violates the intent and Article VI of the Non-Proliferation Treaty signed and ratified by the US and entered into force in 1970 which states: "Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament",
And Whereas Article VI of the U.S Constitution states that “all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land”,
And Whereas the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice has decided unanimously that each State is obliged to bring to a close negotiations and begin the process of complete disarmament,
And Whereas the production of new nuclear bomb pits violates Article 6 of the US Constitution, the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty and the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice,
And Whereas the Department of Energy argues that nuclear deterrence is a necessary policy for the U.S in order to ensure the peace. However, since World War II, the US has been involved in at least eighteen wars, including in Korea, Guatemala, Cuba, Indonesia, Congo, Peru, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Lebanon, Grenada, Libya, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Panama, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Iraq,
And Whereas the citizens of New Mexico affirm a desire to create a world where true peace prevails
And Whereas the continuation of the do as I say, not as I do foreign policy undermines U.S and global security,
And Whereas if the Department of Energy were to: (1) insist upon the massive cleanup of the contaminated areas; (2) support research in the remediation of radioactive wastes; (3) find the means to make reparations to those communities whose soil, air and water have been contaminated; (4) dismantle the stockpile without replacing the warheads; (5) present a clear plan for consolidating and maintaining the security of the extremely toxic and dangerous nuclear weapons materials in the inventory into perpetuity; (6) invest in the development of renewable energy technologies and other endeavors that affirm life, New Mexico would take the lead in creating a more secure State, America and World,

Now therefore;
The New Mexico House and Senate resolve that the Department of Energy at Los Alamos National Laboratory, under management of Los Alamos National Security, Bechtel and the Regents of the University of California, cannot legally produce or manufacture plutonium pits. Furthermore, any plan or construction or operation of any buildings designed with that purpose in mind will not be permitted.

 

Congress scrutinizing LANL security

Video and audio links to the hearings are available here:

http://energycommerce.house.gov/index.shtml

*****************************************************

Santa Fe New Mexican
Congress scrutinizing LANL security

By JENNIFER TALHELM | Associated Press
January 30, 2007

WASHINGTON (AP) - Fed-up lawmakers will call Tuesday for a comprehensive
audit of Los Alamos National Laboratory in hopes of discovering why security
breaches continue even after tens of millions of dollars have been spent on
improvements.

Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., said he wants to evaluate whether the footprint
and mission of Los Alamos are too large and whether many of its classified
operations should be moved to another lab.

"I will not tolerate continued security lapses and a thumbing of their noses
at Congress," Stupak said in comments prepared for testimony at a Tuesday
hearing about security at the lab.

Stupak chairs a House oversight panel, which will grill Los Alamos officials
Tuesday about why a worker recently was able to walk out of the lab with
classified weapons-related documents.

The October incident was the latest security breach in a long line of
problems at the northern New Mexico nuclear-weapons research lab, the
birthplace of the atomic bomb.

A new management team was installed at the lab less than a year ago in part
to reverse years of security and safety problems.

But in October, hundreds of pages of classified lab documents were found
during a drug raid at the home of a former lab subcontractor's employee.

The embarrassing incident resulted in a shake-up in the agency that oversees
the lab. Linton Brooks, who already had been reprimanded for an earlier
incident, resigned earlier this month as head of the National Nuclear
Security Administration.

Lab officials have said none of the material found during the October drug
raid was top secret. A lawyer for the employee, a 22-year-old archivist,
said she had taken it home to catch up on work.

But lawmakers and watchdog groups have raised numerous questions since,
including why the employee was able to take classified documents home when
her security clearance required that she be supervised at all times.

Lawmakers also want to know what has happened to repeated efforts to make
the lab disk-less so classified material could no longer be lost or stolen.

The rash of security problems at the lab dates back to the late 1990s. It
includes the disappearance of two hard drives containing classified material
that later were found behind a copying machine and the disappearance of two
computer disks that forced a virtual shutdown of Los Alamos. It later was
learned the two disks never existed.

"A substantial amount of money was being spent on preventing the lab
employees from being able to take information away," said Rep. Tom Udall,
D-N.M., whose district includes Los Alamos. "How much of that has been
spent? Why wasn't this expenditure of money able to prevent this from
happening if they have this new system in place?"

Udall is not on the subcommittee holding the hearing, but he will attend to
make sure key questions are asked and answered, he said.

"This is a situation that demands continuous improvement," Udall said. "Are
they making continuous improvement or are they constantly in trouble on
these types of issues?"

Lab spokesman Kevin Roark said Los Alamos officials are "eager to explain
all the lab has done in response to this latest incident and to outline for
the panel his plan for the future."

"We realize that the questions are serious and that the solutions are
difficult," Roark said.

But officials at the Project on Government Oversight, a private watchdog
group, predict the problems will continue unless the government puts more
emphasis on safety and security in the lab's management contract and
financially penalizes the lab for failing to improve security.

The group also encouraged lawmakers to audit the lab's work to see whether
it reflects Congress' priorities.

"For decades, Los Alamos has operated as a sacred cow with no serious
oversight," POGO's executive director, Danielle Brian, said in testimony
prepared for the hearing. "I hope this is the beginning of a new era."

Monday, January 29, 2007

 

Screwtinizing Los Alamos

Here it is, folks: The quintessential reason for LANL's troubles ever since the Republicans wanted to hand over taxpayer money to a defense contractor to run LANL about 12 years ago, and how they finally managed to accomplish it in the last 6 years. Note the lazy media's use of the standard sound bite: "the birthplace of the atomic bomb". Note the reference to "fed-up lawmakers". Note that the panel wants "to know why a Los Alamos National Laboratory worker recently was able to walk out of the lab with classified weapons-related documents", but that they don't mention anything about whether it was an overworked underling or an over-confident (i.e., "arrogant butthead cowboy") upper manager. Note the "long line of [security] problems". Note how "eager" the "Lab spokesman" is "to explain all the lab has done in response to the latest incident and to outline plans for the future".

What a pile of dog crap.

(And I know one when I smell one.)

--Pat, the disgusted Dog


-----

Congress scrutinizing Los Alamos lab security

Last Update: 01/29/2007 5:19:05 PM By: Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) - Members of a House oversight panel want to know why a Los Alamos National Laboratory worker recently was able to walk out of the lab with classified weapons-related documents.

The October incident was the latest security breach in a long line of problems at the northern New Mexico nuclear-weapons research lab, the birthplace of the atomic bomb.

Fed-up lawmakers are expected to call for a comprehensive audit of the lab tomorrow in hopes of discovering why problems continue even after tens of millions of dollars have been spent to improve security there.

Lab spokesman Kevin Roark says Los Alamos officials are eager to explain all the lab has done in response to the latest incident and to outline plans for the future.



(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

 

A general apathy, perhaps brought on by overstimulation

I received this from an Anonymous reader.

-Pat, the Apathetic Dog

*********************************

Pat, the Dog,

At least you're a realist, like most people that I work with every day.

I think most will hang on until they can't take it anymore, for whatever reason. I see a general apathy, perhaps brought on by overstimulation. LANL appears much like someone who no longer responds to stimuli.

I hear comments like:

A: More funds coming.
B: That's good, need to keep the place going.

C: There's 9705 FTE's at LANL: 3593 are TSM/PD; 801 Mgt; 434 Students; 421 Contractors; 2521 Support; and 1935 Techs. Do you think there's an OH problem?
D: No. Don't worry about it, Pete will get us more money.
C: Sen Domenici isn't the head of the committee anymore.
D: Ok, then Jeff will get us more money. He'll say it's for the scientists and engineers. Stop worrying, you act like it's your money. LANL has always had a large OH and no one cares.

E: Think there'll be a RIF?
F1: Director said no RIF. I've got the emails from Beason and Wallace saying the same thing.
F2: Probably, just let me know when. Figure I'll need to look for a new job since I'm not in a protected class.

G: Number 2 guy at LANL left.
H: BFD. That means what to me?

I: Congressional hearings tomorrow about security.
J: Remember listening to Nanos talking about M for Moron as part of LANL CREM security?

K: Worried about drug testing?
L: I only do legal drugs and I've got a prescription.

M: You don't laugh and smile much anymore.
N: Really? Hadn't noticed.

O: Where do you think LANL is going?
P: Does it matter as long as we keep getting funding?

Q: Do you feel stressed?
R: Not really. I've always realized it's just a job. Besides, other than my job, I have no vested interest. I have no stake in any bonus.

S: Remember when our DDL in ESA had everyone print out "ESA is a Great Place to Work" on their computer and post it in their office to boost morale?
T: Still have it.

 

In the interests of full disclosure

An Anoymous reader just sent this in.

-Pat

***************************************

I just used the "Contact Us" link from this page,

http://energycommerce.house.gov/cmte_mtgs/110-oi_hrg.013007.LANL.shtml

to send the following:
__________________________________________

Gentlemen:

If I may suggest, in the interests of full disclosure regarding problems at Los Alamos National Laboratories you might want to browse the following blog: LANL, The Corporate Story, http://lanl-the-corporate-story.blogspot.com/ for topics to question Dr. Anastasio about tomorrow. A recommended list of issues which LANL staff may not have brought to your attention, but which require addressing includes
  1. Was former Associate Director John Mitchell's sudden recent departure related to any personal security infractions?
  2. Has LANS accurately been accounting the number of reportable accidents at LANL? And finally,
  3. Should your subcommittee not be considering a recommendation for terminating the LANS contract for cause in favor of a management arrangement for LANL that is described here: http://lanl-the-corporate-story.blogspot.com/2007/01/white-knight-to-rescue-lockmart-saves.html
Thank you for your consideration,

XXXX,
LANL, Retired

 

"Special" Security Rules for Managers

From the LA Times:

"The revelations thus far in [Scooter] Libby's trial suggest that, though U.S. officials — especially within the Bush administration — have publicly insisted that secrecy is crucial in national security matters, there is a backstage world inside the government where even the most basic rules for protecting sensitive information may be ignored."

Does that kind of official sloppiness extend all the way out here from Washington, DC, to the upper reaches of LANL?

(That was a rhetorical question for the benefit of certain Congressional inquirers; no answer necessary.)

--Pat, the Dog

 

"Looking forward to the opportunity"

Anastasio to testify

ROGER SNODGRASS, Los Alamos Monitor, Assistant Editor

A spokesman for Los Alamos National Laboratory confirmed that Director Michael Anastasio would appear before the Oversight and Investigation Subcommittee in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.
"Director Anastasio has been asked to come to Washington to testify before the house subcommittee," said spokesman Kevin Roark. "He is very much looking forward to the opportunity to outline all the things we have done in the aftermath of the Oct.17 cybersecurity incident."

Classified materials were found in a mobile home by Los Alamos police investigating a drug case at that time, reviving national concerns about security performance at the laboratory.
In the aftermath, the official in charge of the national nuclear program, Ambassador Linton Brooks, was asked to step down and the National Nuclear Security Administration's local manager was transferred.

NNSA's new acting administrator Thomas D'Agostino came to Los Alamos early last week. According to Jan Chavez-Wilcynski, the deputy manager of the local office, he came to talk to the employees to let them know he was here and probably would continue in an acting role for the two years until the next presidential election.
Wilcynski said he reassured the local staff that the agency's priorities were still the same and that there would be continuity.

He also spoke at an all-hands meeting at the laboratory, which was closed to the press.
D'Agostino is on the extensive list of witnesses for Tuesday's hearing, which does not explicitly include Anastasio.

Also appearing, according to the subcommittee's witness list are the Department of Energy's Inspector General Gregory H. Friedman; the Chief Health, Safety and Security Officer Glenn Podonsky; Deputy Energy Secretary Clay Sell; and the chief information officers of both NNSA and DOE, among others

Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, is the only non-governmental witness on the subcommittee's list.

An executive session is scheduled to follow the public testimony.

-----

[I'd like to be a fly on the ... wall during the "executive session." --Pat]

Sunday, January 28, 2007

 

The first question out of the mouths of the Congressional committee

The words suggested below will not be the words we hear. The whole shebang really is all for show. Stupak et. al. will give Anastasio a good public whipping, get some camera time and a sound bite or two, and then they'll send Mikey scampering back to LANL with an admonishment to "do better". That's what's really going to happen.

Bottom line: expect no change. That's how it works around here.

-Pat, the Realist Dog

*************************************

Submitted by Anonymous:

The first question out of the mouths of the Congressional committee should be directed to D'Agostino, and be worded as follows:

"Mr. D'Agostino, you don't really plan on giving the LLNL contract to UC/Bechtel, yet again, do you? If so, we'll be meeting with you again, you can rest assured, shortly after the contract is awarded. And take note. It will be a most unpleasant meeting."


To any House members who may scout out this blog -- yes, there are lots of whiners and complainers on this blog. It is also a precious source of information about what is taking place inside the labs that you won't get from any other source.

Use some judicious filtering and take note of what you see. Many of us are like you. We do not like UC running our labs. We are greatly upset that UC got the LANL contract. We see a NNSA that is badly broken. We want our management to improve. We want to work in a place that is not dysfunctional. It's not working out well at LANL. Please help us, and don't hurt the hard working staff who are hoping for a better lab. We are not all cowboys and butt-heads, and most of us deeply love this country and love doing science that helps strengthen our national security. Don't give up on us just yet. Please be careful with your words. Direct them at those who are truly at fault, and avoid belittling comments directed against the whole workforce and against the vital work that we do to help this country.

And one more thing. Yes, you do need a Los Alamos -- a well functioning Los Alamos.

 

"Management" History at Los Alamos

Dirty little secret (some history for you youngsters): All those 63 years that UC "ran" LANL (mainly the retirement system and benefits), the real bosses were: Senator Clinton P. Anderson, Senator Joe Montoya, Congressman Manuel Lujan, and for the last 34 of those years, Senator Pete Domenici. Micromanagement on a day-to-day level was carried out by the successors to the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), namely, ERDA (Energy Research and Development Administration), DOE (Department of "Energy"), and Domenici's biggest blunder, NNSA (National Nuclear "Security" Administration), which managed to compound the incompetence of DOE (stupidity emanating from headquarters in Washington, DC, multiplied by even greater bungling and fumbling at the Albuquerque office) with a local office of their very own in Los Alamos.

Now, with Bechtel in charge, things are much, much better. And much more efficient, too. We hear that safety, security, and business practices are running much more smoothly: Incidents have been reduced a mandated 30%, so as to fulfill the RFP and maintain the $79M/year management fee for the Limited Liability Corporation. (However, there have been unsubstantiated rumors to the effect that upper management has interfered with reporting procedures. We will keep you, Dear Readers, informed of any new developments we hear about prior to the upcoming Congressional Hearings.)

--Pat, the ever-watchful Dog

Saturday, January 27, 2007

 

White Knight to the Rescue: LockMart Saves LANL?

Anonymous posted the following, but notice, Dear Readers (and Congresspersons) that LockMart runs Sandia for $16.6M vs. Bechtel's $79M--a factor of nearly five (for a sister National Lab that is almost as big as LANL). AND, they do it relatively successfully. Think about it! It's sounding too good to be true ... Who would have thought? Sandia National Laboratory at Los Alamos (SNLLA) ...

--Pat, the (hopeful?) Dog

-----

From the latest ABQ Journal --

----------
"Lockheed Martin received a $7.7 million bonus last year for its management of Sandia National Laboratories, on top of its $16.6 million fixed fee for running the nuclear weapons research center."
----------

Based on the ABQ Journal tidbit, I would like to offer the following idea.

*** MEGA-LAB PROPOSAL ***
*** A SNL-LANL Merger ***

I have a radical proposition. How about turning LANL into "SNL-North", and letting SNL help run their errant sister lab up on the Hill? At least SNL has a decent track record of managing a national lab. Why not merge the two into one Mega-Lab entity? SNL is only 90 miles down the road from us, so the logistics of merging the two labs is not that far fetched. If Lockheed had won the LANL RFP, that's probably the direction in which Lockheed management would have moved (i.e, integration of the separate functions between these two labs). For those who don't know LANL's history, SNL started out as a LANL division back in the early 50's.

If nothing else, a lab merger between SNL and LANL would immediately bring about big cost savings by stripping away the duplication of support offices that currently serve both labs. If we merged, we could see significant savings from the integration effort. So far, LANS has only given empty promises on integration efforts aimed at saving money.

We might also be able to reduce some of the bloated management overhead that currently exists at LANL if NNSA followed the Mega-Lab route. Another big plus would be that staff who felt trapped up at Los Alamos might be able to more easily transfer to an office down in ABQ. Likewise, SNL staff who wanted to get out of the "big city" could transfer up to the pristine mountain air up on the Hill.

The more I think about it, the more I really like the Mega-Lab concept. Perhaps it's time for NNSA to seriously start thinking about moving in this direction. The LANL logo has already been destroyed by bad PR, so giving up this title would be a plus. The new Mega-Lab could be given a slick, new name that would satisfy both SNL and LANL.

 

Continuing Security Concerns at LANL

LANL: Congress set to probe lab's security failings

Andy Lenderman | The New Mexican
January 27, 2007

The name says it all: "Continuing Security Concerns at Los Alamos National Laboratory."

That's what Congress is calling its hearing scheduled for Tuesday to dig into security matters at the lab.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee's subcommittee on oversight and investigations is planning to call lab director Michael Anastasio and officials of the National Nuclear Security Administration among its witnesses.

"The director is very much looking forward to cooperating fully with the subcommittee and is eager to explain all that we've done in response to this incident," lab spokesman Kevin Roark said Friday, referring to the October discovery of classified information at the home of a former contract employee. No one has been charged with a crime in the case, but the FBI has investigated it.

The lab became involved in a major national story in 1999 over the FBI's investigation of Wen Ho Lee, a scientist who pleaded guilty to one count of mishandling classified information. Other security-related problems also arose in subsequent years, which congressional sources said was a factor in the government's decision to open up the lab's operating contract to a competitive bidding process.

Now the lab is operated by Los Alamos National Security LLC, which includes Bechtel National and the University of California as partners.

U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman this year fired NNSA's head, and security problems at the Northern New Mexico lab were listed among reasons for the dismissal.

None of New Mexico's three House members sits on the subcommittee, which is chaired by Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich.

"There is no denying that Los Alamos has had some serious problems with its security regimen," U.S. Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., said in a statement. "I hope the House oversight hearings will be focused on solutions and not grandstanding."

Contact Andy Lenderman at 995-3827 or alenderman@sfnewmexican.com.

Friday, January 26, 2007

 

Big Guns Are Aimed at LANS, LANL

Here it is: Linton Brooks fired for trying to cover up cyber-hacking of personnel data for more than 1500 employees; hundreds of documents missing from LANL, leading to the FBI investigation of a young woman who was fired from her contractor position for bringing work home under extreme duress from her bosses; no mention of a high LANL official taking classified documents home on his laptop, but the story will not die. Click on the title to see the letter, dated last week, from Congressmen Dingell, Barton, Stupak, Whitfield, and Hastert to David M. Walker, Comptroller General of the GAO, requesting a report on cybersecurity (or lack thereof) at LANL.

The hearing, starring those Congressmen, along with our own Tom Udall in attendance (but not on the subcommittee itself), will be held on Tuesday, January 30, 2007, in the U.S. House of Representatives, with Michael Anastasio (Director of LANL and President of LANS, LLC) sweating away under the klieg lights. Tune in on CSPAN (10:00am EST).

-----

[OK, OK. Now it's time for some REALITY, after all the blathering being posted in these last 18 hours. I got this e-mail message from Brad Holian, which I will share with all of you. --Pat]

I hope you Congressmen are really watching this blog, because here are the facts: Los Alamos National Laboratory was put on the auction block for privatization almost four years ago for no objective reason, though the hyped-up "excuse" for doing so was the claim of ongoing incidents of massive waste, fraud, abuse, unsafe working conditions, and national-security secrets leaking out of the place like a sewer with the valve rusted open. Safety and security at LANL is, indeed, not perfect, nor are its business practices foolproof, but its record for the past 10 years is statistically equivalent to that of the Sandia and Livermore national labs, and maybe just a little bit better (gasp!). I believe that Bechtel came in here at the invitation of the Republican Administration (namely, DOE and its misbegotten ugly stepsister, NNSA) and Congressional Republicans, and they (Bechtel) believed all the negative propaganda about LANL. They really thought they could promise significant reductions in security, safety, and business incidents, and thereby be welcomed with open arms as "liberators" (who could also, by the way, scoop up a big management fee, and pass out big bonuses to their upper brass), only to find to their great dismay that "stuff happens," and it kept on happening right under their noses. In other words, they found out that no truly significant reduction in incidents is possible without lying about them and covering them up. If this is--as it is commonly perceived by the public, thanks to the lazy news media--a "cultural problem" endemic to "arrogant butthead cowboy" scientists, then shutting down Los Alamos, while leaving Sandia and Livermore up and running with their virtually identical culture, makes no sense whatsoever. So, then the question for Congress is: "Now what? Do we subject Livermore to the same privatization nightmare?" (And the real question lingering is: Does science done at national labs even matter to the nation?)

--Brad Lee Holian

 

More Mitchell Observations

This was sent in by an Anonymous reader.

-Pat

********************************************

I keep seeing this discussion on John Mitchell and the issue that he might just have decided that after 5 months he wanted to “spend time with his family”. And you know what, maybe that is true, but something else I know to be true is that all key personnel from both teams were required to sign a commitment letter on their resumes . See below.

If the ____________ is awarded the contract associated with RFP No. DE-RP52-05NA25396, I, the undersigned, hereby agree to accept full-time employment in the above stated position at an agreed upon salary and benefit package, relocate to the work area vicinity, as applicable, and remain in this position for a period of two years.

In addition, it would be reasonable to assume that John Mitchell’s family and their needs existed prior to his signing the above commitment.

An analysis based on available empirical data would lead a rational person to conclude one or all of the following, none of them meritorious:

It may be that there are some potential catastrophic family issues that require his full time attention and that he has no wish to share that with the world. In which case we should respect his privacy, but I would think that given the current circumstances of the Laboratory, there should be a better explanation from the leadership team than “the dog ate my commitment letter”. If this an accountability issue, you would think that an appropriate response would be full disclosure. But maybe what we get is the Jack Nicholson line “You can’t handle the truth” which is of course just as staggeringly arrogant as it sounds.



 

Look who's reading the blog

Click the image for larger version.


 

Inject Some Sense into LANL Mission?

OUR VIEW
Santa Fe New Mexican Editorial, Friday, January 26, 2007

Jeff, Pete, push back that Doomsday Clock

For Northern New Mexicans, whose cheek-by jowl existence with the nuclear-bomb business has an economic upside as well as a moral and environmental downside, there was irony in recent news:

* The Doomsday Clock, a grimly gimmicky, if well meant, artifact of the Nuclear Age, was set forward two minutes by the board of directors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists at the University of Chicago.

The clock was thought up in 1947, and was originally set for seven minutes to midnight — midnight being when our planet is engulfed in nuclear holocaust. Later, the clock came to reflect other ways humanity might destroy itself, including the many forms of environmental suicide.

The minute hand has gone back and forth 18 times, according to the scientists’ views of the prospects for atomic attacks by one nation or another.

This month, the organization declared that it’s five minutes to midnight — the most perilous period since the United States dropped two atomic bombs on Japan.

Citing concerns over a “second nuclear age” involving lunatic regimes in Iran and North Korea, and poorly secured nuclear materials in Russia, not to mention the threat of terrorism and too-little, too-late responses to climate change, the scientists warn that our little globe is in deep doo-doo.

And while nuclear-weapons advocates can point to the other perils, their handiwork remains at the top of the list.

* Yet here’s the Bush administration carefully hyping the need for a new bomb: a Reliable Replacement Warhead so we won’t have so many of those old ones around as backup blasters in case the first ones we fire are duds.

America isn’t hearing a whole lot about this latest round of busy-work for our national labs, says The New York Times — but it’s making our European allies nervous, and as a result it’s not helping our arguments against nuclear-weapons development by Iraq and North Korea.

As the Times tells it, the latest multibillion-dollar project is being advanced in the wake of Republican rejection of then-defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s “bunker buster” bomb.

So, went the pitch for relia-bomb, we’ve got all these “pits” — the plutonium triggers being put together at Los Alamos National Laboratory — lying around getting old. That’s not a big deal, said a group of scientific advisers late last year; those pits are good for another 50 years.

Wella-wella, what about all the other stuff that goes into those thousands of weapons of annihilation we’ve been stockpiling since the days of the Red Menace?

Betcha they’re in danger of dilapidation. We’ve just gotta have a whole new generation of nuclear sabers to rattle at real or imagined enemies ...

Meanwhile, meaningful talks about arms reduction go off the global table.

This is the situation inherited by Jeff Bingaman, once again chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee — the one that oversees our national laboratories.

His fellow New Mexicans should urge Bingaman to begin wringing more sense out of LANL’s mission. The brainpower up on “the Hill” is enormous — but too much of it is misguided. Those scientists and engineers should be playing a lead role in reducing our nation’s — and, eventually, the world’s — dependence on fossil fuels.

Bingaman, and fellow New Mexican Pete Domenici, the energy committee’s ranking Republican, are in excellent position to launch a Manhattan Project for alternative energy.

Science for non-bellicosity might be a foreign concept to some of LANL’s vested interests — but when our nation already is capable of wiping out life as we know it, its military mission should yield to its potential for civilian betterment.

Let our state’s senators take a lead in pushing back the big hand on the Doomsday Clock.

-----

P.S. (by Pat): Harper's Index reports that the US Government spent $7.8B (adjusted for inflation) in 1979 on energy research and development, but only $1.5B in 2006--a factor of five less. Had we been spending at that earlier rate, we would have spent by now about 1/3rd the amount we've poured into the rathole of Iraq. Bottom line: Time for a new mission for LANL ... and regime change for the country.

 

Anastasio on the Stand

Will there be questions about drugs and lies (-about "other security lapses")? Does Dingell read this blog?
Stay tuned.
--Pat, the Dog

------


ABQ Journal, Santa Fe Edition
Friday, January 26, 2007

LANL Director to Testify In D.C.

By John Arnold
Journal Staff Writer

Los Alamos National Laboratory director Michael Anastasio is among the witnesses who will testify next week before a congressional subcommittee investigating security problems at LANL.

The House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations has scheduled a hearing for 10 a.m. Tuesday in Washington, D.C.

A committee spokesman said Thursday that the witness list has not been finalized, but LANL spokesman Kevin Roark confirmed that Anastasio has been asked to testify.

"We're looking forward to cooperating fully, and (Anastasio) is eager to explain what we've done to manage cyber security risks since October," Roark said.

The congressional scrutiny comes after classified materials— including electronic documents stored on a computer flash drive— were found in the home of a LANL subcontractor during a drug investigation in October.

The U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Inspector General subsequently determined that important security controls weren't working properly when former archivist Jessica Quintana removed the materials from the lab.

Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell, D-Mich., said earlier this month that the breach "raises great concern over other possible security lapses."

U.S. Rep. Tom Udall, D-N.M., whose district includes Los Alamos, does not sit on the Energy and Commerce Committee. But Udall spokeswoman Marissa Padilla said Thursday that he plans to attend the hearing and will likely have an opportunity to question witnesses.

"There have been many problems with security at LANL over the past years, and it's something that Congress should examine," Padilla said. "(Udall) would just like to get some answers and work toward a solution to the problems that they've had."

Authorities have remained tight-lipped about the nature of the classified documents found in Quintana's home, though LANL officials have said that most— but not all— were classified at low levels and were 20 to 30 years old.

Quintana, who has not been charged with a crime, claimed she took the documents home to catch up on work and did not intend to distribute them to a third party.

Knowingly removing and retaining classified material without authorization is a misdemeanor that carries a maximum sentence of a year in prison and up to a $100,000 fine.

Quintana's attorney Stephen Aarons said Thursday his client will not testify at Tuesday's congressional hearing because she's at the center of an ongoing criminal investigation.

However, Quintana could appear in future congressional proceedings once the outcome of the criminal investigation has been determined, according to Aarons.

"There were negotiations about (testifying Tuesday), but because there's an ongoing criminal prosecution, or pre-prosecution situation, they're not going to mess with her Fifth Amendment rights until we figure out what's going to happen with her," Aarons said.

Quintana has met with FBI investigators and federal prosecutors several times, and the investigation is winding down, according to Aarons.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

 

Does your e-mail to us get read? You betcher sweet a$$!

From a Livermore person (verbatim, as received from the Contact link on the upper left side of the blog page):

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My Hopes

As a long time lab employee it's my hopes that neither the University of California nor Bechtel gets the contract at LLNL. Having seen how things are being handles at LANL I would think that NNSA and DOE would assure that LLNL is to be managed by an entirely different entity that has proven itself in the aircraft industry by turning out a profitable product through system efficiency and managers that are in fact people and production managers, not dysfunctional physicists deemed capably by virtue of their Phd credential. If NNSA and DOE are truly interested in streamlining LLNL please select someone that has a history of success and that are known to be able to handle the task. It is obvious that the UC and Bechtel are not the correct choice. They are archaic and world class academician's, not effective and efficient entrepreneurs. It is time for a change.
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Followed by:

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Do you ever reply to people who write you and ask to have stuff posted or is this just a fake address for people to vent to?

Thanks
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As you can see, we keep our eyes and ears (and nose) alert to anything that comes our way. If it's just "venting," we let you do that in the privacy of your own dog bed. But we DO NOT reply by e-mail, due to the need to protect privacy in the present overly corporatized environment. Nice try, though. You're not the first.

--Pat

 

Substance Abuse Fact Sheet and Policy

Mikey and his boys recognize that there is a teensy morale problem at LANL these days. This and this should help. It is beginning to appear as if management trusts us every bit as much as we trust them.

Have a nice day.

-Pat, The Dog

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

 

Just taking a crap on the toilet costs about $50 per flush

A nugget of truth buried deep among the comments on an old post:

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[...] I would guess that around 65% of LANL workers are now living off the various tax rates, overhead charges, LDRD, worker displacement funds, etc. The solution is easy, though. We'll just have to tack on a higher tax rate to all incoming funds. That's been the trend for several years now. It's been LANL management's quick and easy solution. Of course, it also ends up eating the seed corn, but what does management care? Right now, I suspect LANL management is trying desperately to hide the true scope of our poor financial situation.

Too many people want to go for a free ride on the LANL wagon and very few are willing to help pull it by bringing in new funding. I sometimes wonder -- exactly where do many of the people at LANL think the money for their salaries comes from? Do they think the US Government Men-in-Black come by and just dump the cash into LANL's lap. Maybe the NNSA Fairy puts the money under our pillows at night?

With our ultra-high FTE costs, it quickly become an almost hopeless tasks to bring in any new funding. Many TSMs who use to bring in funds are now without funding and are despondent over this situation. In most cases, these are people who don't like being a burden on their fellow staff members. But, with our ultra-high FTE costs, new policy burdens, and lack of meaningful support for the "support" side, these formerly productive TSMs will have only a slight chance of finding any new funding sources. They'll also be the first people to go when the RIF finally hits.

Soon enough, the LANL wagon will slowly grind to a halt. When it does, you can expect many of those who have been riding comfortable in the back of the wagon for a very long time to get mad as hell and demand that something be done about it. Perhaps the only solution at this time is to open the tailgate and begin to lighten the load. The first ones out the tailgate should probably come from the ranks of upper management and their bloated support staffs. Of course, that will never happen. If someone has a better solution, please let us all know about it. I getting mighty embarrassed asking sponsors to fork over $400 K per year to pay for my time. At that rate, just taking a crap on the toilet costs about $50 per flush.

 

Lawmakers seek probe of Energy cyber-security programs

From National Journal's Technology Daily

The leaders the House Energy and Commerce Committee and two of its subcommittees are asking the Government Accountability Office for an investigation into the cyber-security programs at the Energy Department.

The letter from full committee Chairman John Dingell, D-Mich., ranking Republican Joe Barton of Texas and three subcommittee leaders notes that cyber-security weakness at Energy could allow "individuals or groups backed by nation-states" to access classified information.


The department issued a report with new cyber-security rules after a 2005 attack removed detailed personnel information on 1,500 employees of the National Nuclear Security Administration. In an incident last year, hundreds of classified documents from the Los Alamos National Laboratory were found in a worker's home during a drug raid.


The lawmakers note that a year later, "it's unclear whether [the department's] revitalization program is working." They want a GAO report on the security of Energy networks and the success of security improvements.

[This document is located at http://www.govexec.com/dailyfed/0107/012307tdpm1.htm]

©2007 by National Journal Group Inc. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

 

Mitchell, Again

Recent posts have collected yet more comments and questions regarding Deputy Director John Mitchell's sudden, bizarre departure from LANL last month. One comment suggested that W. Scott Gibbs was the "high-placed" LANL manager who reported (to NNSA?) that Mitchell had placed classified material on his home computer. The comment also implied that LANS management and NNSA, at a minimum, were fully aware of the security infraction, but were actively attempting to cover it up.

Another comment suggested that if, in fact, these organizations (DOE included?) were participating in a cover-up, wouldn't the FBI be fairly interested in learning about it? If the rumored events did in fact take place, why is it that nobody seems to care? One would expect the FBI to be particularly interested in a high level cover up involving national security matters. What will it take to unearth the truth on this one?

-Pat, The Puzzled Dog

 

RRW: Can't Close Livermore; Can't Help Los Alamos

New nuke plans are up in the air
A joint effort by two nuclear labs to design the new warhead has yet to advance.

By Ralph Vartabedian, Times Staff Writer
January 23, 2007

An effort to design the nation's first new nuclear bomb in two decades has run into delays, as top experts question whether a bureaucratic compromise could hamper the new weapon's effectiveness.

The Bush administration was expected to select a winning design from two proposals in late November, but officials put off a decision and began considering whether competing teams at two national laboratories could collaborate in a joint effort.

Since then, senior officials of the labs in New Mexico and California have met but not reached an agreement, according to lab officials and a senior official at the U.S. Strategic Command, the defense agency that operates the nation's strategic forces.



Over the last year, Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos national labs have developed designs for the new bomb, known as the reliable replacement warhead. As its name implies, the weapon is supposed to be so reliable that it will not require any underground testing.

A winner was to have been chosen by defense and energy officials in the Nuclear Weapons Council, but by November the selection process had grown complicated and conflicted. The Strategic Command official said defense officials had judged both designs as meeting military requirements.

But as Energy Department officials examined the two proposals, they grew increasingly concerned about the political effect of a decision.

Both labs, Los Alamos in New Mexico and Livermore in Northern California, have always had strong backing by their states' delegations in Congress. What's more, the power shift in Congress put Bay Area Democrats in the leadership on nuclear weapons issues in January.

Livermore had submitted a conservative design that the council judged highly attractive. It was based on an 1980s-era warhead that was tested but then removed from further development. But the new warhead is intended for Navy missiles, and Livermore has not worked with the Navy.

The Los Alamos design also had proponents. But if the award went to New Mexico, Livermore would be left with little on its plate. The Energy Department might have difficulty justifying the expense of two major nuclear laboratories.

To solve those political and organizational problems, the Energy Department, through its National Nuclear Security Administration, sought to explore whether the labs could produce a joint design, Strategic Command officials said.

A letter to the directors of Los Alamos and Livermore asked them to explore a collaborative approach.

No formal decision has been made, however.

"It is still in the works," said Sidney Drell, a Stanford University scientist who has long advised the Energy Department on weapons issues. "People haven't converged on anything."

Meanwhile, other outside advisors, including a scientific board known as the JASON group that consists of top academics from across the nation, are worried about a joint design. The group met earlier this month in La Jolla, but decided it did not have enough technical information to endorse a collaborative approach, according to a member of the group.

Scientists are concerned that a design that mixes and matches pieces of different weapons will undermine the confidence of national leaders in the reliability of the weapon.

"I have heard concerns in the technical community that this is risky, but others say it will work," the Strategic Command official said. "It is a mixed opinion."

 

Request for Report on D'Agostino's Talk

All,

There as been a request for people who attended D'Agostino's presentation to send a report in to the blog of what was (or was not) said.

-Pat

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Can't wait to hear, since many of us are retired and won't be in attendance at today's meeting, would someone, please give us breif overview of the "talk" (please post) so we can compare it to the Monitor's version.....(this is always intreasting [sic]....the "spin" from the Public Affairs office, The Local Newspaper, and the real thing)
Thanks, -Anon

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