Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Which lab to close?

So it looks like DOE is starting to think a little bit about which Lab to close, LNLL or LANL, in case the financial problems in the complex keep get worse. The thought seems to be, "why do we need two competing weapons labs in this day and age of very tight budgets and the end of the cold war?"

Who will win this battle if it comes down to it, LNLL vs LANL?
April 1, 2013 at 10:53 AM
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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.

50 comments:

Anonymous said...


Shut down the problem lab. Ask anyone in congress which is the problem lab. They could not even name the other 18 labs.

Anonymous said...

No lab is being considered for shutdown. This is pure ridiculous rumormongering. Try to contain your irrational panic (or enthusiasm, depending on your view of things). Downsizing may indeed come, but it will be decided by political clout and (hopefully) which capabilities need to be preserved. Lots of opportunity to cull unneeded capabilities among 16 or 18 national labs, most of which have nothing to do with national security and merely duplicate universities' capabilities.

Anonymous said...

Assuming one lab is going to be shut down, it will obviously be LLNL. First, there is no way the public will allow LANL to get shut down since it is so well revered in the public's eye for the Manhattan project and nuking the Japs. Second, CA doesn't really want LLNL and doesn't really care about the jobs. You think th SF Bay area wants a NW lab in their back yard?

That said, the chance any lab is shut down is pretty damn remote, since the Republicans are still pissed about Obama's Path to Zero, New START and his failure to boost funding the labs as promised in exchange for new START.

Anonymous said...

LANL has the facilities and. materials. LLNL has more than half the brains and the safety and security compliance record. Neither are crown jewels any longer. NNSA hurled the crown jewel before hungry swine during the abortion of private operations management.

Keep both.

Anonymous said...

Why do we have so many DOE labs? National science of obscure topics isn't as important as it once was.

Get rid of DOE and NNSA.

Anonymous said...

April 2, 2013 at 11:56 PM

Official statement from the american taliban.

Let's get back to the stone age. Who cares about science, all I want is a gun and nascar races.

What about material research at SNL?
What about the astrphysics you can do with NIF
What about nuclear physics at JLAB?

No, Not interested; We need to race to the bottom of intellectual achievements, so that we can continue to believe that the earth is 6000 years old.
Ignorance is bliss

Anonymous said...


What can be done at any the DOE labs that cannot be done elsewhere?

Anonymous said...

April 3, 2013 at 6:30 AM

Please name me an alternative neutron spallation source. Or how about a 100 GeV proton beam?
Care to give me the address of a 12GeV CW electron machine?

Once you have me that list, we can discuss then who would do the research. Until then go back to your alternate universe.

Anonymous said...

April 3, 2013 at 6:30 AM:

Are you kidding? Where else can you spend $10 billion on a $2 billion project?

In all seriousness, that is exactly the problem. What percentage of the lab does something that can't be done by either the private sector or universities? Maybe 50%?

The labs should only be doing DAHRTs, NIFs, Z-Machines, bomb design, bomb sim, bomb part fab, etc. There should be some supporting science, of truly the best minds, to support the effort.

Although, SNL would be probably half the size if it wasn't for the unstable, short term, competitive WFO (e.g. DoD, etc).

The problem is that the labs have grown so obese that they simply don't know what to do with all of the people in a contracting environment.

How many of us actually work on a core NNSA mission? 30%?

Anonymous said...

April 3, 2013 at 6:40 AM

Maybe you should get out of your NNSA world once in a while and you might notice that there are a lot of DOE labs which are not NNSA labs/ NNSA core mission.

And how are you attracting "the best minds" if you limit yourself just to the selection:
DAHRTs, NIFs, Z-Machines, bomb design, bomb sim, bomb part fab, etc.
LANL's philosophy was always to attract great people with a large variety of science, because people from different fields can contribute different aspects.

The labs are not bloated with scientists, but with managers. I don't think Hans Bethe ever had a chief of staff when he was division leader. And where did we have a PAD of capital projects or an AD of environmental programs? Not to forget that they all have to have a deputy and a chief of staff and so on.

Anonymous said...

Combine SNL and LANL into one "mega-lab" with a common, single management and shut down LLNL. They are close enough to each other (90 miles apart) that this can be done with ease.

Mission accomplished.

Anonymous said...

@6:39 am. I think CERN has you covered on a few of your points. As for spallation sources, the thought that ORNL is the only place in the world is idiotic. How about ISIS or SNIQ. Do you want the address for any of these?

The National Labs in the US serve the purpose of hosting large instruments that a University would never be able to maintain. They serve a purpose but with more 'for profit' compaines running them, they have really lost their way.

Anonymous said...

April 3, 2013 at 1:49 PM

BTW it is SINQ and not SNIQ.SINQ is at PSI, which as far as I recall is in CH.(being called idiotic, I could not resist that one)
I have never doubted that there are no other machines around, but apparently you are happy if anybody else in the world does science as long as it is not the US.

CERN actually has not covered me, the US has given up on High Energy when they shut down the SSC project. The only thing which the US is still doing, which is also be done at CERN is RHIC and it's heavy ion program.

JLAB is an electron machine, which does not have an equivalent in the world.

What my point really is that if we want to have first class science here in the US, we absolutely need the national labs. It is not the fault of the labs that they are poorly managed, it is the republicans who are responsible for this, when they privatized the labs. JLAB was doing perfectly fine when it was run just by SURA alone.

And here at LANL we certainly can see every day that today's management is even more inept than what people claimed about UC.

Anonymous said...

Would be nice to have metrics for all the labs like management to scientist/technician ratios, or total management comp expense to total scientist comp expense ratios for all labs. I assume that DoE has all of this information already. But it probably doesn't look good from a PR perspective when all labs have ratios greater than 1.

Anonymous said...

More that 80% of the active stockpile is of LANL design. LANL has had to give LLNL weapon systems that they designed to keep LLNL from going stale. The decision is obvious and long over due, the enterprise started at LANL and it should continue at LANL. LLNL should become an energy lab or close.

Anonymous said...

And here at LANL we certainly can see every day that today's management is even more inept than what people claimed about UC.

April 3, 2013 at 2:49 PM

UC was never seen as "inept" until the security debacles of the late 90's. Watanabe, Wen Ho Lee, etc. It wasn't so much that UC was deficient, it was that within the labs (LANL and LLNL both) security was never seen as important enough to merit professional-level management. Ex-military people and ex-cops ruled the security universe. Really bad choice by lab management, and cluelessness on the part of UC, but then UC prided itself on staying out of every-day lab management, which was good as long as it lasted.

Anonymous said...

why not get SNL out of the DOE? The SNL aspects of the nuclear weapons programs could be transferred to both LLNL and LANL and then SNL could keep their WFO and not do any DOE work. They are so proud that more than 50% of their budget is WFO - let's see if they can survive without DOE work.

Anonymous said...

Yes. The above is a great idea. Give Sandia work to LLNL, let LLNL and LANL, and use that money to pay for shortfalls in NIF or a new modern pit facility or whatnot, and let the other deliverables just languish as they cannot be bothered with. In fact, you can't just stop there. NNSA needs to be taken over by LLNL and LANL. After all, isn't NNSA just brimming with nefarious and scheming Sandians?

Anonymous said...

Were it me, I would take a three-pronged approach to improving efficiency in government, it has worked in my private affairs.

1. An small across the board cut of total compensation for all government employees (1% -3%).
2. An elimination of the lowest value government programs as the result of a review of value and cost (duplication, base closures, changed focus, outdated, less-competitive, less-important).
3. A cut-back of the remaining valued programs of a few percent, to stiffen the backbones of the survivors, with direction to concentrate on the most important short-term objectives, balancing the longer-term and the less important short-term.


Stick with it, until it is habit. Working through government programs this way, including science programs is a straightforward and progressive use of elected officials tenure.

Should be able to get 3% -5% pretty easily this way (ignoring the passionate screams of those with slightly slashed oxes)

Anonymous said...

".. this can be done with ease.."

ignorance is bliss, now back to the video games

Anonymous said...

oxen

Anonymous said...

security was never seen as important enough to merit professional-level management...

nonsensical.

April 4, 2013 at 7:40 AM

Of course it was (and still is) nonsensical to hire ex-cops and ex-military to run security. But it is still being done. Hire high-level intel and counter-intel people from federal agencies to run security. Stop worrying about cell phones and cameras and truck bombs and focus on the real threats to national security.

Anonymous said...

Get rid of both Physics labs. Shut down LLNL and turn LANL into a production agency then transfer the Nuclear DA missions to SNL. Amend the AEA along the way and stick NNSA in the DoD. This model works well enough for the MOD and AWE. Maybe during the Cold War our current arrangement had value, but so much redundancy is wasteful now.

Anonymous said...

This model works well enough for the MOD and AWE.


Sure and then find a benevolent rich cousin to do your heavy lifting.

Great model

Anonymous said...

Isn't Great Britain a US protectorate like Guam, Ireland and Wake and the other island nations that can't protect themselves? Didn't Tony Blair say he voted for President Clinton?

Anonymous said...

Isn't Great Britain a US protectorate like Guam...

April 4, 2013 at 4:39 PM

Treaties (like NATO) are a little different, but no less binding than Guam, the Northern Marianas, and Puerto Rico.

Anonymous said...

Lab closure? - Just more political rhetoric. If you old timers remember, the Lab has been on the base closure list since the 80's....folks in the know back then did not propogate this fact - didn't want to scare the troops...and of course, the internet was not around back then = Gore was to busy inventing the VHS system to be bothered...

Anonymous said...

AWE has some of the most stupid and oblivious knucklehead PhDs running some (not all) parts of their nuclear enterprise. Center of excellence they are not.

Anonymous said...

Keep in mind this is not the golden age of NEP development. We have a handful of UGTed options. SNL is very capable of treating NEPs as a subsystem

Anonymous said...

In considering which lab to close, it is helpful to consider their capabilities. Sandia has no competitors in its weaponization mission so it will never close as long as the US needs a nuclear deterrent. Livermore has the disadvantage that it is completely outclassed by Los Alamos in secondary design and modeling as seen during RRW. It is not even doing as well as LANL in understanding why NIF is falling short of its ignition goal. In the past Livermore had an advantage over LANL in primary modeling. However the V&V L1 milestone last fall showed that there is no difference in the quality of primary modeling between the design labs. In addition, LANL is consistently better in global security and nuclear forensics when the design labs are compared in blind test problems. These comparisons leave Livermore in a very weak position in case one design lab needs to be closed.

Anonymous said...

April 5, 2013 at 6:34 PM

Good synopsis, you are obviously well-connected to the issues. Your post validates and confirms everything I know from my own experience.

Anonymous said...

Let Livermore absorb SNL/CA and offer some competition in the non-nuclear weaponization.

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't it be interesting if someone on this blog would propose something that might actually happen? Like something that DOE/NNSA might actually consider as a proposal and that Congress might actually bring to a vote? Like reality instead of fantasy? Maybe you want to disqualify yourselves from actually having a say in your future. Why not present some actual compelling data for a change? Jeez, for a bunch of scientists, you are really clueless about reality. Keep it up.

Anonymous said...

Close my old lavatory. I'll use the clean one on the next floor.

Anonymous said...

Yeah stop suggesting nonsense ideas like treating employees (and non-NIF employees) with fairness, or shutting down entire labs.

Now HERE is a legit idea... Have LLNL be the final decider of what EoS/Strength shots get performed every year(and also determine the budget allocations) on all high pressure compression facilities complex wide, including LANL, LLE, Sandia, etc. etc. etc. Past lab successes justify it. Plus, you all know you would love to worship at the feet of gods.

Anonymous said...

Plus, you all know you would love to worship at the feet of gods.

April 12, 2013 at 11:16 AM

Nah, too smelly, given what they spend all their time shoveling.

Anonymous said...


Dude, ok we get it...you sucked so bad that they fired you from the EOS team. We have no idea what the EOS team is but after hearing you rant all this time it is clear that you where part of it and got fired. Too bad for you is EOS good or EOS bad...who knows but whatever it was you where not good at it. Every organization seems to have one of the TFUs that blames the whole world for their own faults. LANL had them with guys like Chris Mechels, and I guess LLNL has them as well. It is always the same, sad, pathetic, and boring.

Anonymous said...

April 12, 2013 at 5:40 PM

Huh? What are you on about?? The previous poster makes a joke, and you go on a rant. Who the hell are you talking to? A little sensitive are we? Jeez.

Anonymous said...

To provide balance, I'll say that the theoretical EoS work at the three labs are very good, with a number of individuals who are clearly technical leaders making valuable contributions to EoS of actinides and other important materials. We could name names if needed.

Coming back to experimental EoS measurements, and specifically to LLNL, there is something seriously wrong with the management and capability investment there. This weakness of measurement capability at the lab, left unmitigated, is simply going to invite more people to constantly point out problems as they arise due to this lab weakness.

As another poster alluded to, this topic will be a constant source of new threads going forward.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't it actually a LLNL idea to consolidate authority regarding EoS measurements? I heard something about it through the backchannels. Funny that it was mentioned because it would sound outlandish if there was no basis for it.

Anonymous said...

My suspicion was that lab management was throwing EoS under the bus using this as a forum so that they can eventually pursue an all-ignition experimental portfolio unburdened by stockpile stewardship needs.

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty sure we hit a nerve with this one: April 12, 2013 at 5:40 PM

Anonymous said...

Funny that it was mentioned because it would sound outlandish if there was no basis for it.

April 13, 2013 at 3:47 PM

It is "outlandish" (what a quaint word), plus it is absurd, independent of the "basis for it."

Anonymous said...

You guys are retards.

Anonymous said...

You guys make me smile.

Anonymous said...

You guys are retards and it makes me smile. :)

Anonymous said...

"You guys are retards and it makes me smile. :)

April 14, 2013 at 8:38 AM"

It takes a retard to know a retard. ;)

Anonymous said...


When fighting retards one must take not to become a retard.

Anonymous said...

Yes it takes a retard to know a retard.... Ok point well taken, but I'm still smiling and guys are still retards. When fighting retards just be the retard with a bigger stick. >:-)

Anonymous said...

Good riddance to this thread.

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