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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

DOE Pushes for Cost-Saving Moves at National Labs

Energy Department IG Pushes for Cost-Saving Moves at National Labs

Global Security Newswire
March 28, 2013

The Energy Department's top auditor this month said the Obama administration should look to shrink, close or take other steps to reduce costs at the 16 DOE national laboratories, the Center for Public Integrity reported on Wednesday.

No particular facility became a target for potential shutdown in the advice issued by DOE Inspector General Gregory Friedman. The national laboratories include the country's three nuclear-weapon research sites: the Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories in New Mexico and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.

The 16 facilities together cost $10 billion each year and employ 110,000 people, Friedman told the House Science Oversight Subcommittee as it mulled federal funding reductions mandated by the 2011 Budget Control Act. “The operative question going forward from our perspective may well be, what can the department afford in this environment?” he asked.

Friedman initially pushed for cost-cutting steps at the national laboratories in 2011.

“Our recommendation has not been adopted, and I must say that there are a number of members of Congress who have said it was dead on arrival,” he told lawmakers. “We thought it was the right thing to do and the time has come for a re-evaluation, but it has not (been) received with a great deal of acceptance.”

Friedman also suggested cutting certain managerial positions at the National Nuclear Security Administration, the semi-independent DOE branch responsible for oversight of the U.S. nuclear weapons complex.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

The NNSA nuclear weapons complex will continue to shrink over the next few years and shed more jobs. That should be pretty obvious by now.

We a have "Goal Zero" head of DoD in Hagel and a White House that has little interest in nuclear weapons and is following a policy of unilateral disarmament. In tandem with this, the federal debt is going to be be slashed due to sequestration and other future cutbacks in defense related spending.


Anonymous said...

Taking a look at this bar graph I’m begin to wonder what we would have to cut to bring the national debt to zero dollars in ten years. If you look at the chaos $88B is bringing to this nation just imagine what would happen if they cut everything they can to actually make progress. It's almost as if they should shut down all national labs for the next twenty-five years or so and maybe they’s make a dent.

http://www.downsizinggovernment.org/sequestration-cuts-perspective

Anonymous said...

Yeah, a long, chronic, life-threatening illness demands a serious, possibly life-threatening cure. Get ready.

Anonymous said...

Serious cost savings would need to address the top heavy management to worker ratio as well as
accompanying pay ratios across the complex.

How do you start the blog (or any) discussion on the subject without being a baiter or hater?

Can the issue even be addressed in the real world, since its the managers that make the changes (and they won't eliminate themselves)?

Anonymous said...

Cut magnagement on overhead... It is the answer

Anonymous said...

Do the math. Nowhere near enough money there.

Anonymous said...

You'll never find all the cost savings in one spot.

It's a good place to start (bring management ratios & salaries in line with industry standards).

Anonymous said...

The two labs are already right-sized having suffered through massive staff reductions (perhaps 20%) since 2008.

Competition is essential to long-term viability of both to keep mission-focus and strong effort through pride and fear of failure. (witness this blog)

Look elsewhere in DOE science for duplication in less important programs unless you want to further cripple this most important national mission.

Neither the xenophobes in Pyongyang nor the zealots of Tehran have our children's safety and security in mind.

When we call on our nuclear forces to retaliate, the damn things better work properly.

Anonymous said...

Yep. This ain't library science. Things go wrong, even in seemingly well understood technologies applied by well-credentialed folks.

For recent unclassified examples of unexpected failures, Li batteries in 787s and large diameter bolt failures on the Bay Bridge seismic retrofit.

Since the unexpected happens regularly, In nuclear matters, where our future hangs in the balance, both competitively hewn A-teams are needed, not one ossified, brain dead bureaucracy.

Anonymous said...

Good point, and you might add the unexpected underperformance of NIF as another example of why this stuff is neither easy nor predictable.


Expecting future surprises and failures often over the next century, we must conclude that weapons technology must have the best possible assets.

Anonymous said...

The ratio of scientists to managers+support workers at the labs is out of whack. Almost all of the outside reports on the NNSA labs over the last decade have identified this glaring problem.

While the size of the research staff has gone down by about 20% over the last few years, the number of managers+support workers is the same or has actually increased! The lab Directors are always talking about cutting the overhead but they never do it. It's just talk. The skewed ratio between researchers vs. management+support causes the labor cost of scientific projects at the labs to increase to ridiculous levels. In many cases, a researcher must secure over $500,000 per year in funding to cover the heavily burdened labor rates charged for just one FTE (full time equivalent) by the NNSA labs. Project funding doesn't last long at these extreme rates.

When funding runs out, management gets rid of researchers due to their lack of funding and this skewed ratio continues to deteriorate. They rarely reduce corresponding levels for managers or support. This causes project labor rates to move to even more ridiculous levels, thus killing off more projects thus pushing out more researchers and causing the ratio to deteriorate even further, etc. I believe it's called a "Death Spiral".

Anonymous said...

Parney needs to answer for this ..... You can cut managers .... Their employment is at will just do it and leave a legacy you can be proud of

Anonymous said...

Despite all the difficulties at the labs, I'm very impressed that Parney canned Tomas. He has a few more to get rid of. Just give him more time. It takes alot of legwork from Legal and HR to take those kinds of actions.

Anonymous said...

Tomas became a liability to the LLC's profit and continued ability to maintain their contract.

There are entire categories of managers that could be removed, without work flow consequence.

It doesn't seem to take any legwork from HR to toss the workers out.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
Tomas became a liability to the LLC's profit and continued ability to maintain their contract.

There are entire categories of managers that could be removed, without work flow consequence.

It doesn't seem to take any legwork from HR to toss the workers out.

April 7, 2013 at 10:01 AM

Others are more of a liability...look closer

Anonymous said...

It's hard to beat Tomas in terms of his outrageous behavior. The SC conference said it all. The others still at the lab are saints and choir boys compared to Tomas.

Anonymous said...

Everyone seems to agree that this "Tomas" is a corrupt, despicable jerk. So why is he always referred to by his first name like a close friend? I find it just a little creepy.

Anonymous said...

Everyone seems to agree that this "Tomas" is a corrupt, despicable jerk. So why is he always referred to by his first name like a close friend? I find it just a little creepy.

April 9, 2013 at 8:37 AM

Funny ....He did not act alone....

Anonymous said...

Tomas is great guy, he signed off on so many foreign travel for many many scientists at the lab. You should all be ashamed of yourselves for kicking him when he has been knocked down and dragged through the mud. And we wouldn't have had the NIF LIFE concept if Tomas wasn't around to invent it. What else is the lab missing because of his absence?

Anonymous said...

Pregnancies of subordinates/postdocs.
Extravagant conference travel amenities for those within his entourage, all on the taxpayer's dime.
Supercomputing conference entertainment

The list goes on and on for what the lab is missing out on due to his absence. How much is the loading rate for senior management? 4x salary? I guess there is a cost saving to the lab atleast.

Anonymous said...

Back to the topic, Cost saving moves at the National Labs

It's time for senior management to get rid of the excessive layers of middle management.

Workers are paid very little compared to these middle managers.

Their ranks could be thinned, and the amount of money generated by their removal would be significant. It would have zero impact on actual work.

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