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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

LLNS fee

In my opinion the current NNSA Lab "for profit" management fee structure has caused most of the damage to LLNL. The annual management fee is taken from the overhead "tax" and was not an added amount by DOE/NNSA to the Lab's annual budget. So this is an additional $40 - $45 million less that is available for Lab activities. While UC puts its half mostly back into UCOP funded research collaborations between UC campus and LLNL, the LLNS industrial partners pocket their share of the fee and use none of it for Lab activities. 

Prior to LLNS the Lab had more overhead funding available for infrastructure projects and activities (aka GPP - General Plant Project). However since the management fee hit to the overhead, basically all direct GPP funded capital improvements have disappeared. A major reduction in the fee - which is being considered by DOE/NNSA - could free up $10 to $20 million a year for infrastructure and site improvement GPP projects depending on how much the Director's Office decided to lower the overhead rates.

50 comments:

Anonymous said...

How could the Directors office lower overhead without firing people and/or closing facilities?

Anonymous said...

Pretty obvious what is going on. Government "can't possibly be efficient" according to Republican logic, and "corporations are inherently efficient" by same logic.

Of course, none of it is true - whatever efficiency was gained by private companies managing the lab was eaten up by the management fee of LLNS.

Not to mention the fact that corporations have NO IDEA how to properly conduct science. (Whereas government agencies do.)

You tell me how a civil engineering contractor is going to "manage" research on fusion. Yeah, good luck - they aren't, and they haven't the foggiest about how to attract top talent. (Hint: it isn't by pissing off all the scientists who are actually worth their PhD with salary games and benefit cancellations.)

Anonymous said...

Pretty obvious what is going on. Government "can't possibly be efficient" according to Republican logic, and "corporations are inherently efficient" by same logic.

About 10 years ago, a research organization in Japan invited me to give a talk on an open scientific topic that had nothing to do with my Laboratory employment. The plan was for Japan to pay my travel expenses, and I would charge my time to vacation. This trip wasn't going to cost the Laboratory anything.

Can't do that. It's not that anyone at the Lab felt I shouldn't go or that the trip wouldn't be scientifically valuable, but such a travel arrangement was not considered an appropriate business practice. In the end, this free trip cost the Laboratory and government $30K (my travel costs, my time since I wasn't allowed to charge vacation, and the effort necessary to get through the bureaucratic hassles). This was when the Laboratory was managed by UC.

LLNS/LLNL is a private organization in name only. In practice, the Laboratory did not lose any of it's "governmentness" following the transition. The same government inefficiencies that existed under UC exist at the Laboratory today. Nothing has really changed. It's become worse, yes, but it hasn't changed.

This has nothing to do with the business practices of a corporation. The Laboratory is not a private organization. The Laboratory cannot even buy bottled water for employees because this is not an allowable cost based on some contract mumbo-jumbo. Private organizations don't face these issues. If they want to buy bottle water for employees, they buy bottled water for employees.

The Lab as a government organization was inefficient when it was managed by UC. The Lab as a government organization is inefficient today - probably more so, since now we have to pay more money for being inefficient in the form of a management fee.

Anonymous said...

July 4, 2014 at 1:56 PM

Good post, you are very correct in your comments. The earlier post on private companies doing research defies reality. All those drugs you get at the hospital come from private company research. Virtually none come from government research. Maybe you mean private companies can't do hugely inefficient bureaucratic research. Then I would agree. LLNL is not a private company. It is a government lab managed by a private contractor. Hardly a model of privatization. Both the U.C. model and the current one make little sense. The lab and the employees should be part of, and employed, by the feds. These hybrid setups, on net, have been bad for the lab. Please, no rants on UC benefits, I am talking about the lab itself, not your personal gain.

Anonymous said...

That makes the most sense, direct oversight by DOE (I presume NNSA won't last in current form for much longer). However it is unlikey that will save the taxpayers a dime, and might be the most expensive arrangement of all. The "consortium" LLC concept is a failure in all ways, UC is too hands-off for the modern era, perhaps another university management arrangement could work, but DOE management of its own resources that it pays for seems like the obvious solution.

Anonymous said...

"All those drugs you get at the hospital come from private company research. Virtually none come from government research. "

This is only partially true, a huge amount of the basic research into biological chemistry and biochemistry that ultimately gets used by the private drug companies came from government funding at Universities. Also I would add that most drug companies also have partnerships with universities where again much of the infrastructure, faculty, and students are at least partially funded by the government.

In any case the labs are not private companies, they are instead a hybrid beasts which manage to combine the worse aspects of both government run and privately run institutions at the same time to create unique synergy of pure dysfunction.

Anonymous said...

How could the Directors office lower overhead without firing people and/or closing facilities?

July 3, 2014 at 10:42 PM

How about reducing (i.e. pay cuts) salaries and bonuses of senior management? And start at the top (Goldstein / McMillan) down!

Anonymous said...

Pharmaceutical companies piggyback on NIH funded research that does the hard work of actually discovering and learning things.

Anonymous said...

No solution with a for profit company running the labs.

Anonymous said...

Well the earlier comment said private companies don't do research. Pharma is an example that proves that not true. Regardless of whether there is university research too. A black and white statement that private companies can't do research is wrong, that is the point. Now LLNS and the lab is not a "private" company. If it was totally private we probably would be a lot better off. But the weird hybrid kind of government but kind of not, kind of contractor kind of not is just bizarre. We should be part of the federal gov and block funded like any other agency. No more of this going to DC to beg for project funds, this is ridiculous. Most people in DC don't understand what we are. Those that think we are part of the Federal gov. don't understand why we are there begging for money. Those that think we are a contractor like any other don't realize we are a special kind of contractor. Either way, it is a nightmare trying to make things work like this, and clearly it is not working well.

Anonymous said...

It was an idea, and it turned out to be a failed idea. A really bad failed idea.

Time to revert to the federal science lab model with a University LLC.

That way we can significantly thin out the management and support structures, and get back to running national laboratories, not national management companies.

Anonymous said...

Bodman, Pryzbylek and D"Agostino can be pointed to as examples of well-placed fools in federal govenment mid-level bureaucracy. A real lack of NNSA competence visited on three labs and 20,000 people.

Locally at LLNL
1. 1700 very good folks laid off
2. Reduced $ for basic infrastruture keeps server bays inadequate and haphazard. Lack of backup cooling on hot days overheats server rooms, setting off fire suppression systems.
3. Reduced $ for maintenance machinists lets unmaintained pumps leak directly onto servers below.
4. Lack of training support prevents keeping engineers current.
5. Lack of conference support keeps techical folks underinformed.
6. Lack of budgets for supervision allows modest importance safety, quality control and documentation to go unwatched.
7. Lack of supervison budgets reduces quality of personal evaluation and development.
8. The enlargement of engineering divisions from 200 to 400 plus makes it less likely best safety, security and implementation are passed on to employees as more urgent matters swamp smalled division offices.

The funds provided to the private industry partners is wasted. There is not one useful thing or person that has provided for the $140M dollars paid at LLNL over 7 years.

And LLNL is the NNSA success story. LANL has entered the twilight zone under LANS.

The damage of privatization were completely described and predicted to Congress members and staff well before it happened, but Domenici, Udall, Stupak and Dingell each wanted their pound of flesh, consequences be damned.

Anonymous said...

boxer, mcinerney, miller and pelosi were mute. feinstein was for lower weapons funding.

they each applied the knife and the holder of the "crown jewels" succumbed to her injuries.

remember this in 2016.

Anonymous said...

boxer, mcinerney, miller and pelosi were mute. feinstein was for lower weapons funding.

they each applied the knife and the holder of the "crown jewels" succumbed to her injuries.

remember this in 2016.

Anonymous said...

@ July 5, 2014 at 9:00 PM

There are no pro nuke politicians. If you vote out the politicos that know you, you will lose ground. Feinstein chairs energy appropriations and intelligence committees and sits on many others.

This is a blog, so sure… complain, but don't advocate voting against CA, LLNL and your own interests. Would you rather another state had these chairs?

The path these days is about damage control and preservation of what little we still have.

Anonymous said...

Not sure why the earlier poster thinks a university LLC would allow thinning of management. We had management bloat under UC too. And a university LLC leave the lab in the limbo of kind of government kind of not which makes funding the place that much harder. The lab needs to be part of the Federal Gov. This would be best for the lab functioning. Although I acknowledge this might not be good for salaries of LLNL people (feds are paid less I think. Feds have a pension I think so younger workers could then get a pension which would be a draw for new workers, as would the renewed job security. Old timers probably wouldn't like this as they don't want to give up their financial benefits, but for younger workers it would be a draw.

Anonymous said...

It was a bad idea from the beginning. That what our corporate slaves, formerly referre to as congressmen, wanted.
7 years later, we are watching the same waste. The losers are taxpayers and employees !
Time to vote the incumbents out !!!

Anonymous said...

Management bloat will do itself in.

Excessive overhead is self limiting.

Anonymous said...

Actually Fed employees do pretty good.

Compare their percent raise to yours! What are they contributing to their pension?

They have multi part annual "pay" package. Even in a freeze, they still get something (cost of living, seniority, etc).

Anonymous said...

July 6, 2014 at 12:13 PM

A "University" run approach seems to work pretty well for the largest (budget wise) national lab in California - NASA's JPL. While I know its actually an GOCO FFRDC (I worked there for many years, Caltech runs it more as a separate division - the Lab Director is also a senior VP at Caltech.

For LLNL I'm more in favor of the "University LLC" model utilized by the University of Chicago to manage DOE's Argonne National Lab. They created a company to run that lab - "UChicago Argonne LLC" - as a separate entity, and ANL employees work for it not the university. This seems to be a good middle ground between direct university manage (i.e., LBNL) and industrial/university LLC (i.e., LANL and LLNL).

Unless someone has direct evidence otherwise, I've seen zero real value added in having an equal ownership industrial/university LLC running LLNL. I get why it makes sense for LANL given their large scale production activities and high risk nuclear facilities - LLNL has none of these.

So with three UC affiliated national labs - none that are identical - why not try three different management approaches that make the most sense for each;

- LBNL, managed/operated by UC.
- LLNL, managed/operated by a solely UC owned LLC (with industrial partners as subcontractors as needed).
- LANL, managed/operated by a LLC jointly owned by UC and industrial partners.

One size doesn't fit all.

Anonymous said...

I get why it makes sense for LANL given their large scale production activities and high risk nuclear facilities - LLNL has none of these.

Are you kidding?What large scale production? The only large scale productions we have here at LANL are memos, managerial BS, and oversight.

Seriously, please let us know what we are producing.

Anonymous said...

Yes, the new management fees paid to the LLC partners are expensive but they are well worth the financial burden they place on scientific projects. LLNS and LANS have done a spectacular job of bringing these labs back to life, raising morale and introducing efficiency and sound business practices that were badly needed.

Good management isn't cheap. You blog whiners need to shut-up and be glad that the new lab management team has saved your jobs by running the labs more like a well run business than a playground for scientific prima donnas. Get with the team and give 110% or leave the field.

Anonymous said...

It almost sounds like some people here have never even worked in an actual business, one that sells things and makes or loses money and cares a great deal about controlling expenses. The labs are so very far from an actual business, the comparison is apples and quasars.

Anonymous said...

10:51pm is dillusional. Corporate management has been a train wreck all around, driven by corruption. Llns has done nothing tangible to improve business practices, and has increased the cost of doing "business" at llnl. It is difficult to hire quality scientists, difficult to retain post docs, and very very difficult to compete for funding. Take a look at the LVOC if you want a good laugh.

Anonymous said...

July 8, 2014 at 10:05 PM - Yet ANOTHER demonstration that people who read this blog have ZERO sense of humor.

Keep it up, July 7, 2014 at 10:51 PM.... it's funny when they take you seriously and flame away.

Anonymous said...

If you don't keep a sense of humor while watching the train wreck happening all around, you will slowly go mad. Best to laugh about it and stay sane.

Anonymous said...

Are you kidding?What large scale production? The only large scale productions we have here at LANL are memos, managerial BS, and oversight.

Seriously, please let us know what we are producing.

July 7, 2014 at 7:50 PM

You absolutely right. LANL's PF-4 (Plutonium Facility), Weapons Engineering Tritium Facility (WETF), and the Transuranic Program all Haz Cat 2 facilities are all non-operational. That means no programmatic work is being accomplished at LANL, except artificial three-dimensional computer simulations.

Anonymous said...

LANL's PF-4 (Plutonium Facility), Weapons Engineering Tritium Facility (WETF), and the Transuranic Program all Haz Cat 2 facilities are all non-operational. That means no programmatic work is being accomplished at LANL, except artificial three-dimensional computer simulations.

July 10, 2014 at 4:00 PM

Ah, but computer simulations are so much easier and safer than those nasty ol' facilities! Give it a couple of years and we'll have no capability for doing anything real for our nuclear arsonal. How many years until some foreign nutcase thinks that they won't work, and decides to take a chance?

Anonymous said...

Poster 4:00 pm has done an excellent job with his list showing just how much damage both NNSA and LANS have done in stopping any real work from being done at LANL. It's a stealth work stoppage that puts Nanos' famous work stoppage to shame.

With almost all of the facilities halted, why not just shut the place down? Perhaps that is the plan.

Anonymous said...

Good point July 13, 2014 at 11:53 AM - I remember how outraged we all were when the "tiger teams" tied us up in knots for WEEKS, maybe MONTHS.

Times have sure changed. Now it's YEARS. That's progress, for the government anyway.

Anonymous said...

Ah, but computer simulations are so much easier and safer than those nasty ol' facilities! Give it a couple of years and we'll have no capability for doing anything real for our nuclear arsonal. July 12, 2014 at 9:55 AM

What's happening is, real work is moving to Nevada/NNSS/NStech, and the labs will keep the computer simulations. This even makes some sense.

Anonymous said...

" It almost sounds like some people here have never even worked in an actual business, one that sells things and makes or loses money and cares a great deal about controlling expenses. The labs are so very far from an actual business, the comparison is apples and quasars.

July 8, 2014 at 7:29 AM"

I would add that I have survived and thrived in the real world, something few at the labs could do. This of course is one of the reasons I am so angry at the fact that the labs do not and can not recognize by true abilities. I could leave any day I want and go to Google or Microsoft and make twice the money. Keep that in mind when you fools make fun of me or say I am a poor employee. I will stay of course but I know the truth.

Anonymous said...

July 17, 2014 at 7:01 AM - So seriously, why are you still here? This is not a snide remark, it's an honest question. If you know your value, have made it in the "outside world", are unhappy that the Lab is not recognizing your value (and probably not compensating you appropriately?), and you could make 2x as much elsewhere.....what is holding you here?

You sound like somebody who should be voting with your feet! Both for your good, and for the good of folks who, for one reason or another, can't leave.

Anonymous said...

Anyone who can leave, should, because from the outside you will finally understand just how dysfunctional LLNL has become, and what a wreched place it is to work.

Anonymous said...

If one is critical or has concerns with LLNS there are two particular responses that compound the problem. Either the person is immediately labeled as a "poor performer", the discredit the source approach, or when that strategy doesn't fit, the person is advised to leave LLNS. Therefore the grand solution offered here is to strip LLNS of its talent and engine for future innovation and funding, rather than acknowledging issues and making course corrections? This is the logic of a "setting sun" organization.

Anonymous said...

A course correction requires the Director to be decisive and make significant and visionary changes to the lab. That would include firing or sidelining many managers, and reorganizing the whole place. He has not shown any willingness or ability to do this. Albright certainly didn't do it either, and Miller before him was actually responsible for most of the problems. So, it is a setting-sun organization.

Anonymous said...

Sadly, if it is not evaluated in the set of NNSA contractor performance metrics, management bloat or the increased cost of doing business due to excessive overhead matters not to the contractor. Inefficiency of this type is not on the annual review radar, and thus requires thinking outside the box leadership.

Anonymous said...

"...That would include firing or sidelining many managers, and reorganizing the whole place..."

In this scenario a significant portion of our LLNS managers would become EIT/EBAs. Since we are all "at will" employees, former managers unable to find SKA fit programatic assignments would ultimately face lay offs due to current "skills mix" need. I don't think this would ever happen at LLNS. Too many fruitful alliances here.

Anonymous said...

We still haven't heard from July 17, 2014 at 7:01 AM. I am very curious to understand why a person in his/her situation remains at LLNL. This has been a recurrent issue on this blog, and we never seem to get info from the person experiencing the issue first-hand.

What is the logic you use to remain in a job which appears to have nothing but negatives for you?

Anonymous said...

July 17, 2014 at 7:01 AM never said his job was "nothing but negatives". This is your conjecture which is OK, but lets not attempt to discredit his observations. All jobs have challenges and it doesn't mean one must therefore "vote with their feet" right?

Anonymous said...

"...What is the logic you use to remain in a job which appears to have nothing but negatives for you?..."

What motivates you to make global statements like "a recurrent issue on this blog"? Are you new to the lab or new to the workforce in general? Do you have a PR or legal function at LLNS?

Many of our employees have decades of valuable knowledge. Experienced managers in successful leadership positions do not undermine employee opinions or advise them to leave when they disagree with them. To do so as has been said, are the actions of a "setting sun" organization. Think about it.

Anonymous said...

To July 21, 2014 at 10:23 AM - The poster rattled off a list of bad things about his job, citing nothing positive. And the bad things were BIG things, not just minor annoyances. I asked the question precisely to see what kinds of positives may also be present under those circumstances.

To July 21, 2014 at 11:16 AM: I can read this blog, so I can see what issues are recurrent. I am not new to the workforce, nor do I have a PR or legal function. I am, in fact, one of those with decades of valuable knowledge, and an experienced manager in many successful leadership positions. So what's your point?

I disagree with your assertion that it's bad to encourage some employees to look elsewhere. How can you be so callous as to want the original poster to continue under the circumstances he cited? That's just mean-spirited, and bad management.

I have never known a single person who regretted looking elsewhere for a job when (s)he was unhappy. The person invariably either found a nice new job, or found out that what they already had was pretty good and became more happy with it.

Think about it yourself.

Anonymous said...

To randomly speak of external job opportunities is one thing. To immediately suggest this option as the sole solution to voiced workplace concerns might be interpreted as callous or suggests there are never solutions to employee workplace concerns. This may not be the best strategy. If one person raises a concern, perhaps hundreds have the same point of view.

As a manager would you respond to an employee in a group meeting by saying leave LLNS if you have concerns? I don't think so.

The best way to minimize LLNS blog negatively is to demonstrate LLNS is a workplace open to employee opinion and concerns free of employer intimidation and reprisal. Note the word demonstrate not simply state.

Anonymous said...

"... I am, in fact, one of those with decades of valuable knowledge, and an experienced manager in many successful leadership positions..."

And you think employees with children, grandchildren, friends, family, mortgages (some underwater), spouses working in the area, etc. with value to LLNL missions, should simply pick up and leave as a solution to a solvable LLNS problem without FIRST attempting to resolve it? How do you define "experienced manager"?

Ideally management candidates are expected to have people skills and an understanding for others to solve employee concerns in the workplace setting while keeping workplace stress to a minimum.

Management candidates are not encouraged to escalate and polarize their staff by suggesting a member(s) leave the lab in response or as a solution to "dissenting opinions". Is this the LLNS doctrine?

The fire everyone who doesn't agree with me or strongly encourage them to leave management approach to a problem would not go over well in an interview for a management position with unknown interviewers to the candidate.

The "my way or the highway" culture at LLNS is getting progressively worse.

Anonymous said...

I know it's a big mistake to try to have any source of nuanced discussion on this blog, but what the heck.

I think it is important for people to have a balanced perspective, which is why I asked the question "why are you still here?" (And recall that it was a question, not an instruction to leave.) The answer to that question is that there is set of positives that keep you here, which could include any of things cited above, plus: interesting work, interesting colleagues, good benefits, nice office, good weather, the comfort of inertia, whatever. Putting the complaint into more perspective would facilitate a more rational conversation about the things that need to be fixed, and their significance. To simply rail about how nobody CAN ever appreciate you, and you could make so much more money elsewhere doesn't contribute at all to solving whatever the issues might be. And the poster made no mention at all of trying to fix the problems.

Each of us always has the option of finding different employment. Trying to do so has benefits for us as individuals: either we find and accept a better position, or we find that the position we have has some positives that perhaps we did not appreciate. It also benefits everybody else: it improves the attitude of a co-worker, or it sends a message that LLNL is having trouble retaining that kind of employee. It is helpful and kind to remind people that they have choices, when they are feeling trapped, as the poster seemed to feel.

I am not recommending that managers should suggest in group meetings that somebody should look for a new job because of "dissenting opinions" (how do you people come up with this stuff?). And I am not endorsing any sort of "my way or the highway" culture.

Anonymous said...

"...Putting the complaint into more perspective would facilitate a more rational conversation about the things that need to be fixed, and their significance. To simply rail about how nobody CAN ever appreciate you, and you could make so much more money elsewhere doesn't contribute at all to solving whatever the issues might be. And the poster made no mention at all of trying to fix the problems..."

All logical points with a systematic pathway to solutions. Well said.

However, it might be problematic for this or other employees to provide specific details without mapping himself to the workplace and coworkers involved. Your process is valid, but the consequences must be carefully considered against the probability of a positive benefit or outcome.

This becomes a quandary for employees with concerns that know of coworkers who have voiced their own concerns only to find themselves irreversibly cross-threaded with their LLNS managers.

This does not diminish the value of your suggestions. I'm just saying there is another dimension of consideration here.

Anonymous said...

In approximate order, I have yet to leave because ...

1) Increasing future payout of TCP-1 pension
2) High salary - I could never make this much money at a real organization if I accomplished so little
3) Hassle factor of moving / starting over
4) Casual atmosphere (jeans, shorts, sandals)

I have been headhunted several times in the last 10 years, along with two formal job offers.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget the 2-hour lunch breaks to run, walk, bike, pump iron, or loaf.

Anonymous said...

Things to think about,
1) TCP1 could tank, too, and you can make a lot of money in 401Ks and stock options.
2) You can pull a much higher salary, in all areas save perhaps administrative/secretarial, outside. But you do have to work for it and accomplish great things; invigorating.
3) Yes, starting over is stressful but invigorating too. And you probably don't have to move, though you may have to commute farther.
4) Shorts and sandals, and two-hour lunches, doesn't cut it anywhere else, true, depends how important that is.

Anonymous said...

Has DOE heard back from LLNS or LANS on the public service low fee model?

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