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Monday, January 14, 2013

National labs compliance maze stymies foreign visitor

National labs compliance maze stymies foreign visitor
Elmar Träbert
 Ruhr University Bochum, Bochum, Germany

An item by David Kramer in the May 2012 issue of Physics Today (page 26) discusses problems between the National Nuclear Security Administration and the weapons laboratories. Compliance with federal management directives is among the central issues. I offer here a pedestrian view to some of the points raised. I am a visiting faculty member from Germany to the unclassified part of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, where I have accumulated several years of work experience over the past 15 years.
A new contractor took over the administration of Livermore a few years ago. As with any new contract, compliance is the goal, even though the value of some details turned out to be questionable. As an example, the new contract curtailed travel support for students, stranding those on assignments away from the lab. They had not been thought of beforehand, but the contract could not be violated or changed.
Also under the contract, all rehires are to be considered as new hires, with the full application of new-hire security procedures. The US State Department’s visa rules permit me only a string of short-term visas once my multiyear one expired. Thus six weeks after one appointment ended, my being employed for another six weeks required the full rehire and visa procedures. An outside company purporting to do worldwide criminal background investigations was tasked with investigating my career and talking to five personal references in the US and Germany. The process got hung up for weeks for the lack of one essential piece of verification: a confirmation of my degrees and the dates I earned them.
At least five times, the same laboratory—by different proxies—had requested that information from the same German university. In the more than 30 years since I received my PhD, the personnel at my university have probably processed some 200 000 students. Even if they were to understand the meaning of a cryptic form faxed from some US verification company, why would they send somebody to the archives to dig again for records that had been documented and shipped several times before? Imagine the labor cost! Curiously, as a cost savings the verification agents are instructed to avoid incurring long-distance telephone charges, so phone interviews with applicant references in foreign countries apparently are delegated to the local US consular staff.
Evidently, “compliance” has a very far reach and helps to significantly reduce the work efficiency even of national laboratories that are supposedly laboring in the national interest.
January 13, 2013 at 2:39 PM

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comments (made before post was posted):



1) Why on earth is NNSA allowing visitors from Germany to visit the lab? Who is paying for this the taxpayer? This is an outrage who on earth let this happen. You mean to tell me that Foreign nationals have been visiting the labs for the last 15yrs!?!?

2) The labs are no longer in the business of serving the nation. They are now in the business of making a profit for a company. It is all about the money. If it costs the taxpayers lots of money who cares as long as the profit keeps rolling in. This is the inevitable outcome of a nation in decline. One of the things that made American great for the last 100 years has been science and meritocracy. That age is over now and the rest of the world can see it.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

"1) Why on earth is NNSA allowing visitors from Germany to visit the lab? Who is paying for this the taxpayer? This is an outrage who on earth let this happen. You mean to tell me that Foreign nationals have been visiting the labs for the last 15yrs!?!? "

I am assuming this is a joke, and that everyone knows that foreign nationals have made critical contributions to the Labs mission since the very first days they were founded, going back to LANL in 1943.

Anonymous said...

Compliance has been the new mission via goal displacement for some time now. Aaron Wildavsky had some interesting things to say about goal displacement.

Anonymous said...

Compliance has been the new mission for some time now via goal displacement. Aaron Wildavsky had some interesting things to say about goal displacement.

Anonymous said...

Compliance is not the only tool used by LLNL to avoid meeting objectives and accomplishing goals. They also have groups led technically by people without the tight background or requisite accomplishments. Take for instance laser EoS and strength. Put an ivory tower open-ended-research applied researcher-modeler in charge of an experimental measurement program and there you go - you have a plausible explanation for 3 years worth of future failures. Why not put real experimentalists in charge? Because then the lab would have to find root cause for failure pointing to the platform itself. Simple scheme but bloody obvious. Front load the failures to cover for the true failures of the past 15 tears. They have no analytical talent for experimental measurement. They only reproduce data that already exist, knowing to avoid unmeasured regimes that will get them into yet another Deuterium EOS situation. Finessing laser EoS data points so that they sit on top of other previously measured US or Russian data is called "fraud." Error bars tgat are unexplainable or whose assumptions and bases are not documented is part of this fraud. The working documents and files to support this work are mostly non-exempt from FOIA requests and can be re-evaluated by academics and real experts in shock physics. The more we let this charade to on, the more FOIA accessible embarrassments will be revealed. Knowing that the lab does not look listen to anybody tell them what to do, especially by their customers, we are guaranteed to see repeats of D2 EoS. The lab's only real strategy is to pick materials so that they are shielded from scrutiny through NNSA rules. Well, they could actually build a credible EoS analytical measurement capability by poaching experts in EoS measurements. But we all hear that collective "yeah right" and see the concerted eye rolls. A team of 2 from LANL or Sandia can do the work of and outperform the entire laser EoS team at LLNL. Gotta get rid of those other two labs. They are making NIF scientists look like fools!

Anonymous said...

Why on earth is NNSA allowing visitors from Germany to visit the lab?

Ah? 'cause after the Jews, the Germans are the most accomplished scientists and technologists per capita in history? 'cause it is good to have smart friends? Like the coalition that put out the Stuxnet worm that surreptitiously destroyed 1/3 of TERC operating centrifuges with being detected?

Cause history shows that treating Germans as friends is better than spinning them up?

Duh, what a drama queen.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mrs EOS obsessed,

Blog reader do not know what you are talking about. You say, "fraud. leper, outcast, unclean." We see, "sour grapes, loser gripes".

If the assertions merit a review, it will occur.

Anonymous said...

Dear Dr. Trabbert,

As an American citizen and former LLNL employee, I want offer an apology for the ongoing unkindness that we show you, a visitor here. America does many things well, but valuing guests is not well done. It is embarrassing and yet, we do not care enough to change our behavior.

I would sign my name, but I fear retaliation.

Anonymous

Anonymous said...

I don't get why sour grapes keeps griping. LLNL's EOS work on NIF and Omega are top notch. Plus they can do macroscopic samples at far higher pressures and over much longer compression rise times than anything that Sandia and LANL could ever dream of. And Jeanloz works with the NIF guys and he's credible. So there you old bag.

Anonymous said...

The explanations for describing how future failures will be "explained" is spot on, in the exact way that others in this blog predicted that the lab will be given several years is a "pass" in the form of open ended research. Indeed LLNL EoS experimental measurement capability was weak. But it just got even worse. Looking forward to the journal article citations in future threads.

Anonymous said...

Finessing laser EoS data points so that they sit on top of previously generated US or Russian EoS data is FRAUD.

Anonymous said...

At first read I thought this was in reference to the old 1997 Deuterium EoS paper but realized and confirmed by colleagues new results in the pipeline, for data that matches up to accepted data. Looking forward to seeing the details surrounding the analysis for such a technique riddled with problems and difficulties.

Anonymous said...

"My math's better than your math.
My math's better than yours.
My math's better 'cause I eat Kennel Rations,
My math's better than yours"

True then, true now.

Anonymous said...

Finessing laser EoS data points so that they sit on top of previously generated US or Russian EoS data is FRAUD.

January 15, 2013 at 1:47 PM

Thats not fraud, thats curve-fitting.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, and at over a million dollars PER SHOT, they still refused to learn how to determine the error bars correctly. I learned how to do that in high school AP chemistry in ancient historical times.

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