Saturday, June 24, 2006

New director aims to take LANL forward

By ANDY LENDERMAN | The New Mexican
June 24, 2006

LOS ALAMOS -- The director of Los Alamos National Laboratory says he's ready for a new era there, with enough money to pay the best scientists, a motivated workforce and a clear mission.

"The mission, in my vision of the lab, is really to be the national-security-science laboratory for the 21st century," director Mike Anastasio said in a recent interview.

Anastasio is also the president of Los Alamos National Security LLC, the private company that took over management of the lab on June 1 after bidding on a federal contract.


Full Story

Fine words, but talk is cheap. The lab's mission even before the shutdown was as stated: "to help ensure the safety and reliability of the country's nuclear weapons without nuclear testing." But here is what is different now:

1. The "work for others" component of our funding, that source of revenue for all of the non-nuclear, non-weapons research done at LANL was approximately 23 % of the lab's total 2.2 billion dollar budget on July 1, 2004. What is it now? 2%? 3%?
2. Today, LANL is run by Bechtel, BWXT, WG, and last but least, UC.
3. The stated interest of NNSA is to increase Pu pit production capabilities at Los Alamos to at least 300 pits per year. When you take this fact into account with point number two above, it does not require a Phd physicist to see that the new contract partners at LANL are positioned to turn Los Alamos into a pit production facility, at the expense of other science. DOE and NNSA have finally gotten their way: all of that nuisance "Work for Others" science has been swept away and will no longer be a distraction to what will be the true mission of LANL: Pu pit production and related science.
4. Finally, Mike fibbed just a little bit in the last paragraph of the article: morale is not "quite good" anywhere in the lab except at the uppermost levels where the (now) 40+ associate director managers reside. The levels of morale are quite lower nearly everywhere else at LANL that one cares to examine.
Right On Roderick:

Moral is just as bad as ever, they need to really get down to where the work is being done to find out. Talk to the people don't listen to the managers.
On the matter of morale, does Anistasio have the stones to do an anonymous survey of the workers on subjects such as morale? Or maybe he should just read this blog and not dismiss all negative comments as coming from the "disgruntled few?"
I don't know, Rod. Morale in my group positively soared last week when we learned that we were to be required to make PSPs for ourselves (Personal Safety Plans, for those who missed out on the big news event). Morale improved even more when we learned that we would be encouraged to take them home, share them with our families, bring them back and then tape them to the wall next to our computers. Yes. morale is positively soaring.

Those of us in my group are now quite confident that the new management has things firmly under control.

Oh, and morale is soaring.
Sadly, once this blog shuts down next week bullshit statements like Anastasio's "morale is quite good" will once again be allowed to go unchallenged. We might as well start getting used to it.
I don't believe Anastasio's words that "the morale is quite good," especially for those located in the sterile new NSSB (National Security Sciences Building), the one that looks from the outside like a cruise ship that's just gone aground into an oil storage tank, and which, on the inside, has all the ambience of a cheap, dark hotel designed in the late 80's. Now we hear that an additional office building for T-Division and others perennially short of space has been derailed. If the Post Office can do a better job than NNSA did for the NSSB, why not get some real energy-saving features designed into the building by NREL (National Renewable Energy Lab in Golden, CO--also part of the DOE complex), so that some decent working environments are provided SOMEWHERE at LANL?
good comments and YES UC is managing on paper only.... Every new manager being brought in the back door is from some other site managed by Bechtel BWXT or Washington. UC is now but a dreaded SHADOW FUNCTION.

Doris Heim (who has a bachelor's degree) has been heard to say she LOSES SLEEP over the idea that SHADOW FUNCTIONS still lurk.

GET A LIFE, BABE, or maybe even a GRADUATE DEGREE....

and MORALE SUCKS.... NO ONE I know has a good feeling about his/her future or the lab's. But maybe another busload of managers will show up this week to help with PSPs and other meaningless drivel.
"...another busload of managers..."

This may explain why the housing market in Los Alamos survives.
In a strange sort of way, it is comforting to see the new director of LANL starting off his tenure by attempting to perpetuate party-line lies, just as the former director (Nanos) did. It confirms to me that my decision to retire in July, 2004 was without a doubt the correct one. I have remained in touch with my colleagues this past year, and I know without a shadow of doubt that morale is lower now at LANL than I've ever seen it.

Mike, you began your 'leadership' at LANL by telling a whopper. The rest of you: take note.
[I don't usually do this, but there are only a few days lft before the blog shuts down so I am making an exception and posting an anonymous comment on the author's behalf. --Doug]

Mr. Anastasio I read the New Mexican this am and instead of writing to you through the New Mexican I felt it best to use LANL: The Real Story web site that will apparently end soon because it was put together by a very good scientist that you did in fact lose from LANL among others. I am sincerely glad you are optimistic and have been meeting with small groups of people and though I commend you for this good start I ask that you don't stop there. Randomize to include other than management and remove aspects of management that make it difficult for the scientists to speak freely and you will get a more accurate view on the morale at LANL. It is important to acknowledge that the average PhD physicist, engineer, and other scientist report low morale throughout the lab when able to voice their opinion anonymously.

Your scientists report that low morale is multifactorial i.e. your $2.2 billion dollar budget is just about entirely for stewardship and production now with little budgeted for their research and I am sure if you will listen they will fill you in on all the other issues of importance when asked, but what is very disturbing to me as a physician in the community is that since the take over of LANL by Bechtel, management of the scientists is as "at will employees" meaning that they can be let go with no cause or procedure afforded other federal employees causing them extreme stress on the job. Mr. Anastasio without changing the “at will employee” status of your scientists and creating an avenue for their input into lab management you will have great difficultly in having your scientists/your greatest resource upon which the LANL runs tell you how they truly feel and what they think for fear of being let go. Unfortunately there is a much history to over come secondary to the retaliation, which occurred with frequency when Director Nanos ran LANL before you as in the case of Todd Kauppila who although he had hearings, the hearings did not protect him because management had no checks and balances and still has no checks and balances.

Mr. Anastasio I too am an optimist and I believe you can make the difference and become a great leader if you can create a win win situation. This will not be easy with the current business mindset of corporate America introduced by Bectel, which focuses on the "bottom line" with a "production management style" where the means to the end becomes blurred. Mr. Anastasio, make your mark in the history of LANL by creating an environment for the "best scientists" you say you have the money for. Utilize them and value them by allowing them to express their full potential through the stewardship and production needed while supporting their ongoing scientific research and input for management of LANL. Your support can be evidenced both by better funding of their research and a change in the management style that includes employee input that can effect change when necessary.

The best work environment is arrived at by continuous input from all levels. This can be accomplished by task forces put together from all levels of industry to identify problems, implement change and re-evaluate the change in a never ending cycle that continues to identify, implement and re-evaluate...this management style is backed up by extensive research done by the Center for Disease Control, Division of Occupational Health to lower job stress in the work place. Mr. Anastasio you cannot facilitate the mission of LANL or your vision for LANL being the “national-security-science laboratory for the 21st century" without input from your scientists at all levels of management in a work environment that yields their best effort.
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
This all sounds good but the “at will employee status" needs to stay. That is evident by examining the large number of bodies that basically do not perform at the 100% level on a daily basis but would prefer to believe that they are professors and lollygag around doing nothing. I see this first hand every day at work where Phd's spend hours upon hours and days upon days playing games, yet their boss refuses to fire them because they are a protected species by HR and it would take to much effort and documentation to can their asses. From my point of view I can see where the project could have saved at lease $600K that could have been used to reward those in the group that actually do work. But no, they would prefer to reward the very same people that should have been canned and then give 1/10 of 1% raises to the rest. Sorry but the "at will" status needs to stay for this very reason.
Has anybody asked Anastasio how he expects those sponsors that we lost during the standdown to come back to our new, much more epensive oraganization?

Or maybe there will be some creative accounting to artificially reduce the overhead rates. How about charging the managers directly to the project? Of course, that won't do anything to reduce the cost of the work by management will be able to claim an achievement.
There is no way to creatively account for
the LANL management BLOAT. Has anyone figured out why LANL needs program managers and capability leaders? And are the cabability leaders paid excessively like the director, etc? And are the jobs advertised or handpicked?
b-ohica you are apparently not very analytical...the problems at LANL are systems problems which management is a part of and management of employees with fear using the "at will employment clause" though more stick than carrot, most importantly this tact tells you nothing. Punitive means are poor at achieving results and do not analyse to problem. Also documenting poor work production could be due to many confounding factors and is no way necessarily a reflection of the employee. Examples of confounding factors are: lab shut downs, poor safety plans, poor ideas to increase safety, poor planning, poor funding, colleagues that have been unfairly treated/fired/or injured, unfair change, change, poor management, environment of fear and the list goes on and on...

Sorry b-ohica, the research described above your post does bear out that change in management to involve employees helps solve systems problems and brings about an environment that increases employee production and an environment of fear in counter productive to such measures. If you are a lab employee, it sounds like you need credit for the good work you do, however, if you are a manager think about why things are the way they are, read, analyse and consult outside specialists about this problem, but definately expand your horizon.
WFOs? Multi-disciplinary science? I don't think so. You people will be making pits and working on the fascinating science of nuclear weapons boosting. It was exciting back in the mid-50's; it can be exciting once again! Is this too difficult for everyone to understand? What more do you need to know? If you don't like it, then start polishing up your resumes. LANS has no need for pansy-assed dead weights that can't help fulfill the new mission. Sorry if that upsets some folks, but that is the way it is going to be from now on.

You might also want to remember that your job security now hangs by a very thin thread. LANS can fire you at any time and for any reason and we're just itching to make some examples to prove that point. Care to make our day?

We'll also be needing more managers. Many, many more managers. Just don't look for these new positions to be advertised to the staff. We'll want to hand out these high paying perk positions to our special friends and buddies.

So suck it up or get out. You have been warned. Now, leave this blog and get back to work! And remember, we're watching every place you surf at work very, very closely.

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