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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Should the LANL contract be broke up into two?

Should the LANL contract be broke up into two?

LANL is such a huge site, would it make sense for DOE/NNSA to break the prime contract into separate contracts - one for basic research/science/technology work and one for pit production work - and put both out to bid for different M&O contractors to run. You could then have a purely industrial LLC (BWXT, URS, Bechtel, etc) run the few production facilities at Los Alamos, while a more academic LLC (UC and industrial partners) runs LANL. In the future might even consolidate the Los Alamos production facilities contract with the Y-12/Pantex contract. Idea imagine that the production facilities at LANL account for 1/3 or 1/4 of the current LANS contract.

This would allow a contractor to bring in a strict industrial management culture appropriate for the rigor of nuclear production activities, without having to also use this approach to manage science activities where creativity and risk taking innovation are necessary.

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

It is not the culture of the science that requires a unique approach, it is instead the culture of the scientists.

Anonymous said...

Why not break all the labs up into even more pieces! Each one focused on it's individual strengths. The NNSA can write contracts for each one of the new little pieces. The NNSA can manage all the little contractor pieces and coordinate their interactions.

That way we never wind up with the constant stream of bad press from the contractors doing work they were not prepared for.

Would that work? An even more broken up complex… I kind of doubt it for some reason.

Anonymous said...

" It is not the culture of the science that requires a unique approach, it is instead the culture of the scientists.

December 11, 2014 at 5:18 PM"

Science itself is not the problem with the labs. The real problem is the scientists and the individual culture of the scientists. The failure of the LLCs is that they somehow equated the science culture with the scientists. Universities and cultural images have shaped the behavior of individual scientists and thus the narrative for what and how a scientist should act is fine for a university or a movie but falls far short of what is the expectation of excellence and more importantly loyalty at a corporation. When the contract change happened they have cleaned out the labs and started with fresh people which are vetted against the "scientist" as an individual culture that the universities have made. This is why the LLCs have failed and why the labs will continue to fail. We have to keep the science culture but get of the scientists, it is the only way.

Anonymous said...

Breaking up LANL into more constituent components will only increase the dysfunction. The DOE experience with multiple contractors at sites has not been a good one and, to the extent one sets aside the problems caused by DOE's incompetence, LANL's primary problems are culture and fiefdoms. Less centralization makes it harder to deal with both.

What is needed is a change in the mindless bureaucrat manner in which DOE oversees LANL coupled with a real drive to break up certain historical attitudes within the lab. Neither is likely as the weapons complex is more parasite than host at this point.

Anonymous said...

The purely industrial LLCs (BWXT, URS, Bechtel, etc) are hardly paragons of excellence. But then, no one can succeed under the jumbled mess of requirements DOE has created, with vultures like the DNFSB simply reveling in the chaos to feed. So the big boys just mail it in for the money.

Anonymous said...

There are already far two many divisions and groups at LANL. Breaking things up in many pieces only increases the bureaucratic bloat as each "segment" demands their own managers, own dedicated support people, own secretaries, etc.

It's not cost effective to break things up. A better approach would be the *join* things. LANL's Sig Hecker did this back in the mid-1990s and it reduced costs after he did it. Fewer PADs, fewer divisions, fewer groups so that each segment is bigger and runs more efficiently with fewer managers and less duplication of support staff.

The ultimate *join* for New Mexico's labs would be for Sandia and Los Alamos to unite. They are only about 90 miles apart - a stone's throw away from each other - and many of the support functions are duplicated between these two labs. Make one giant mega-lab in Northern New Mexico and have them managed as a single lab entity. With a slight increase in the number of daily commuter flights between LAM and ABQ, the physical connection of face-to-face meetings between both sites could be maintained. Teleconferencing can also help.

And please, don't go into the tired, old tripe about Sandia being a dedicated "engineering lab" while Los Alamos is an ivory tower "science lab". That old dog won't hunt any longer.

We need to start thinking outside of the normal bounds if the NNSA labs are to survive and possibly even thrive once again.

Anonymous said...

Here we go again, the timeless culture argument.

The most hyped, useless, hollow statement. Never any example of that "bad" culture, but hey if I can bash science, because I hate itthat is all I need.

Anonymous said...

Here's some of what the just release Congressional Advisory committee wrote about site culture in its report "A New Foundation for the Nuclear Enterprise"...

"Chapter 4. Maximize the Contributions of the Management and Operating (M&O) Organizations to the Safe, Secure Execution of the Mission

CHALLENGES

The government needs access to and a healthy working relationship with first-class scientific, engineering, manufacturing and management expertise that in some cases is not resident within the government. In the nuclear weapons complex, this is done using a Management and Operating (M&O) contract. This may be supplemented, when appropriate, by the Federally Funded Research and Development Center (FFRDC) model ...

In effective organizations, the Federal sponsor decides what is needed and the M&O organization decides how to meet that need. Put in the simplest terms, the Federal sponsor should identify the objective to be accomplished; identify the best performer; provide adequate resources; monitor results; and hold the performer accountable. Under this construct, a competent M&O organization is relied upon to provide expertise, corporate culture, and leadership sufficient to execute the work while meeting the government’s operating standards ...

Insufficient Influence of the M&O Parent Organizations’ Cultures

The premise of the operating model outlined at the beginning of this chapter is that the government would engage excellent parent organizations to instill strong cultures, operating practices, and systems in the weapons complex operating facilities. Overall, the record has been mixed. There have been important successes and recent progress. The obvious example is at the Kansas City Plant, where the parent Honeywell Corporation has thoroughly driven its highly regarded business systems and culture into that plant’s operations...

RECOMMENDATIONS

An effective, trusting, and collaborative government relationship with M&Os is vital for accomplishing the nuclear security mission. DOE&NS must establish a relationship that attracts world-class parents for the M&O organizations, and takes advantage of their ability to recruit and retain talent, instill a strong management culture, and contribute proven business systems, processes, and practices. The significant erosion of this relationship and an inability of the M&Os to adequately apply their knowledge and best practices due to onerous oversight and increasingly tactical contractual constraints has resulted in at least an arm’s length - and at worst, an adversarial - relationship.

Recommendation 15.

The Secretary and Director should reinforce the M&O parent organizations’ obligations to contribute to enterprise management improvement initiatives

The panel finds a wide range of M&O contributions at the sites. What is clear from the most successful examples is that a strong infusion of a successful parent organization’s corporate culture, business systems, and talent are essential for effective operations at the site. This requires a personal commitment by the firm’s top executives."

Anonymous said...

We need to start thinking outside of the normal bounds if the NNSA labs are to survive and possibly even thrive once again.

December 11, 2014 at 10:10 PM

As if "we" are going to have any say or input into what actually happens.

Anonymous said...

"We need to start thinking outside of the normal bounds if the NNSA labs are to survive and possibly even thrive once again.

December 11, 2014 at 10:10 PM"

If an LLC cannot even save the lab I see no hope. Somehow Sandia works but this is because it is more of an engineering lab with a different culture. The "science" labs are the ones that have a serious issue. One problem after another. I think it is time to shut them down, they simply are beyond saving.

Anonymous said...

There are culture issues at the Lab. I don't have my head in the sand about that. But as a number of these comments note, no attempt to address those issues will ultimately prove successful so long as the DOE regulatory structure remains dysfunctional and lacking in any real experience with the activities it ostensibly oversees.

You'd think after years of producing reports about culture here there and everywhere, and how an ever changing array of corporate contractors, each with supposed expertise, have invariably failed to produce to DOE's expectations, the government might tumble to the fact that maybe, just maybe, it's not all those contractors' fault.

Maybe the elephant in the living room, namely DOE, should honestly look in the mirror for once.

Anonymous said...

In my experience at LANL, there is a culture problem. There is an innate, very aggressive hostility toward regulatory compliance if it requires the Lab to do anything it historically hasn't. That's true even if at this point compliance is easier than continuing to ram one's head against the wall.

It's much worse than I've seen at commercial chemical operations where it's actually their money on the line. There's an isolation to the place that, coupled with a historic sense of privilege, simply impairs common sense at times.

None of which is to say that DOE isn't at fault as well. The site/field office has historically been so ego driven, short sighted and incompetent that it reinforces LANL's worst tendencies. I've met many Lab managers whose attitude is "why bother to straighten up and fly right? Nothing we can possibly do will make any difference with DOE."

Anonymous said...

Compliance is critical to nuclear operations and the overall work LANL does to maintaing its share of the stockpile. Problem is LANL has fought it every step of the way. LANL management has never got in formation and continues to reward managers who buck the system. Once you align rewards with the behavior you want you will see change. Thus far, that has not happened.

Anonymous said...

The most significant issue now for LANS is that they have five (i.e. all) nuclear facilities in pause or not operational. Weapons Engineering Tritium Facility (WETF), TA-55 Plutonium Facility (PF-4), Waste Characterization Compaction Reduction Facility (WCCRF), Radioassay and Nondestructive Testing (RANT), and Area G which is the primary site for disposing of low-level waste (LLW) and storing transuranic (TRU) waste and mixed low-level waste (MLLW).

This is a disservice to the Nation and is compromising National Security. LANS needs to be tossed immediately.

Anonymous said...

The nuclear weapons complex is completely broken.

How could breaking it even more help our country?

Anonymous said...

There is an innate, very aggressive hostility toward regulatory compliance if it requires the Lab to do anything it historically hasn't.

December 12, 2014 at 12:24 PM

Again, like the arguments about culture a lofty statement about compliance. What does it mean : compliance? First you have to define what you have to comply with.

When I look at the rules and regulations constantly coming out of DOE/NNSA it is no wonder that the lab is fighting some of these rules. And they have to in order to get anything done. We have a completely dysfunctional DOE/NNSA administration, whose sole aim is not to get into the headlines.

Take for an example the travel rules for conferences and workshops. Instituted after some idiots at a different department abused the system, there was no indication that DOE funded people abused the system. But low and behold we now spend a lot of money to prevent a problem, which actually does not exist.
However, if you have a DOE grant at a University, that rule does not apply to you.

There are countless other examples like this.

Not even across the complex do they have the same rules. You can get water from a water cooler in some labs, while in others this is deemed unallowable costs.






Anonymous said...

In my experience, LANL's response to regulatory compliance is often self destructive. It's not driven by rational calculation trying to limit costs or get things done. It's driven by an emotional "you're not the boss of me" arrogance that spins up on a hair trigger. Again, it's much worse here than I've seen in other organizations grappling with the same type of issues.

I've seen the exact same pattern play out multiple times. A requirement comes up and LANL will do unbelievable contortions to arrive at an obviously doomed path of defiance that costs more than simply doing the requirement full up would have. Inevitably an oversight beating occurs, as anyone rationally evaluating the situation would have predicted. So then LANL does the contortions again to arrive at another doomed path of defiance. More oversight beatings result. This cycle can repeat multiple times. The net result is LANL spending five times the cost and effort of original, full up implementation while doing needless damage to the lab's reputation with their customer, however stupid that customer may be. It's like watching some stupid teenager hopped up on hormones who thinks he's the center of the universe.

Nobody likes regulation. All regulations irk and irritate. All regulations waste at least some money. But the productive response is to objectively assess costs and benefits while building a useful relationship with your customer, however irritating, as part of an actual mitigation strategy. Too often, LANL just throws tantrums.

Anonymous said...

December 13, 2014 at 3:39 PM

In my experience LANL bends over backward to accommodate DOE regulations and than amplifies them. I am not sure where you get your "experience" but it sounds like pure BS. I am not sure what your agenda is but you seem to be utterly lacking in knowledge of LANL and DOE.

Sorry to call you out but you make it kind of easy. In any case LANS the LLC has not been in compliance, has not followed DOE rules, and has been an abysmal failure. Try harder next time you shill.

Anonymous said...

LANS was and continues to be an utter disaster.

Anonymous said...

December 13, 2014 at 3:39 PM

So what you are saying is that LLCs should run the labs since they can out an end to the bad "lab culture". Well sorry there never was a lab culture and the LLCs never cared one bit about doing what is right. All they care about is how much money they can loot. They never cared about compliance, rules, work, the mission, or the nation. Is this the side that you really want to be on? There is a culture to LLNs and LANs and that is culture of pure corruption.

Anonymous said...

"In my experience LANL bends over backward to accommodate DOE regulations and than amplifies them. I am not sure where you get your "experience" but it sounds like pure BS. I am not sure what your agenda is but you seem to be utterly lacking in knowledge of LANL and DOE.

Sorry to call you out but you make it kind of easy. In any case LANS the LLC has not been in compliance, has not followed DOE rules, and has been an abysmal failure. Try harder next time you shill."

I don't have an agenda. I'm just someone with a pretty significant experience base on the subject in question. And you didn't call em out. You just spewed.

Anonymous said...

"I don't have an agenda. I'm just someone with a pretty significant experience base on the subject in question. And you didn't call em out. You just spewed.

December 13, 2014 at 10:17 PM"

Sorry but I am calling BS on you. You are essentially using the "cultural problem" argument. It is cheap shot that has been shown to be total nonsense. The only people I have heard that use this are greedy scum that are trying cover their own incompetence or trying to get as much loot as they can out of the place. It is time for you to come clean and tell us which one you are. Also you claim that you are "someone with significant experience in the subject" is BS as well. Again every time I have personally heard someone claim this they where simply full of it.

Anonymous said...

The idea of taking LANL production facilities and placing them under a separate contract outside of UC is not new, and was suggested at least 3 years ago informally to both UC and Bechtel. Made sense to them, and makes sense now.

Anonymous said...

"The most significant issue now for LANS is that they have five (i.e. all) nuclear facilities in pause or not operational. Weapons Engineering Tritium Facility (WETF), TA-55 Plutonium Facility (PF-4), Waste Characterization Compaction Reduction Facility (WCCRF), Radioassay and Nondestructive Testing (RANT), and Area G which is the primary site for disposing of low-level waste (LLW) and storing transuranic (TRU) waste and mixed low-level waste (MLLW)." - 4:12 PM


Best post on this topic! The evidence is in and the results are clear. LANS must go, the sooner the better. They are a great disservice to this nation, a corrupt sinkhole that burns money at greater and greater rates and yet ends up shutting down more and more of LANL's productive nuclear activities.

Charlie McMillan should resign tomorrow in shame, if he still has any left.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

The idea of taking LANL production facilities and placing them under a separate contract outside of UC is not new, and was suggested at least 3 years ago informally to both UC and Bechtel. Made sense to them, and makes sense now.

December 14, 2014 at 8:32 PM

Of course it made sense! Three years ago even a blind man could see that Charlie was heading full speed down a path that would result in loss of the M&O contract. Neither of the major partners in the current operation wanted to see total loss, and so ideas were floated in an attempt to salvage what was possible before the inevitable end crash.

Anonymous said...

There was talk at LLNL a year or two before the transition to LLNS to keep the Science and Engineering employees under UC, and contract out Security, HR, Plant, Etc.

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