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Monday, January 19, 2015

Rebranding the nuclear weapons complex won't reform it


1/18/15
by Robert Alvarez
Bulletin of Atomic Scientists

http://thebulletin.org/rebranding-nuclear-weapons-complex-wont-reform-it7935


He's clearly not a fan of the Congressional Advisory Board's recommendations for fixing the NWC. 

He rightly notes the clear conflict of interest at having so many members of this board with current direct involvement in the LLCs running NNSA sites. I have a sense that this has really undercut the reception in Congress their report. Doesn't seem like anything is going to happen. 

I hope that some on this blog will post their comments - for or against - on his column. More in the public and media probably read the Bulletin than this blog, and they really need an education on what's happened to the NWC at the hands of NNSA.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

The report was DOA at Congress, due to the members of the panel. They were not vetted properly before the work started, and many should never have been considered for such a role. Some staff member on some committee somewhere in DC screwed up big time on this one.

Anonymous said...

The DNFSB should all be fired. Meanwhile nuclear weapons should not be a for-profit enterprise.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Alvarez scratches the surface, but fails to get to the bottom of it. Simply having more "oversight" from DOE is not a panacea. More inspectors and bean counters will do nothing to improve performance in key areas. "Flogging" the labs until morale and performance improve is useless and moreover counterproductive. The labs can comply with all the formal requirement, while producing nothing for $6B+/yr.

But intelligent, competent oversight would do a world of difference. This, however, would require that NNSA and DOE start to hire people who are bright, educated, and knowledgable.

What are the technical qualifications of today's overseers and managers? Can they understand what the Labs do? Have they risen through the ranks at a complex scientific and/or engineering institution? Or do they hold undergraduate degrees in English literature from the University of Alabama?

Anonymous said...

The University of Alabama is proud that it has graduates that oversee nuclear weapons laboratories.

Anonymous said...

When nuclear weapons were being designed and tested, the three weapons labs had a strong mission, and they did their jobs well. Superbly well. But with the end of design and testing, the labs lost their mission. They are organizations continually seeking new missions to maintain and grow their budgets. Nothing unusual here; most organizations behave this way. Profit-making management makes it worse, but even returning to management by nonprofits will not solve the basic problem -- that there is way too much money being spent to little purpose.

The NIF was an attempt to generate a new mission to justify the Livermore lab budget, but of course the NIF has failed, for many reasons. What is required now is a massive budget reduction, a reorganization of the two design labs, and a well-defined mission consistent with that budget. Alvarez briefly alludes to this, but with insufficient follow through. Of course it won’t happen easily; certainly not with a Democratic president. The Democrats are too weak on defense to stand up to the labs. Just as it required a Nixon to open relations with China, it will probably require a Republican president to fix the weapons labs problems. Let’s hope the next president is better than this one.

Anonymous said...

Or do they hold undergraduate degrees in English literature from the University of Alabama?

January 20, 2015 at 10:13 AM

Close. At Los Alamos, they have B.S. degrees from New Mexico Universities. James Owen, BSME, New Mexico State, Weapons Division Leader and Steve Renfro, BSME, University of New Mexico, Deputy Principal Laboratory Director for Weapons.

Anonymous said...

Close. At Los Alamos, they have B.S. degrees from New Mexico Universities. James Owen, BSME, New Mexico State, Weapons Division Leader and Steve Renfro, BSME, University of New Mexico, Deputy Principal Laboratory Director for Weapons.

January 20, 2015 at 7:26 PM

The Russians and Chinese must have a good laugh at the credentials of U.S. nuclear weapon managers.

Anonymous said...

The Russians and Chinese must have a good laugh at the credentials of U.S. nuclear weapon managers.

January 20, 2015 at 7:29 PM

Right, given the credentials of their Russians and Chinese counterparts, from Russian and Chinese universities! HaHaHaHaHa!

Anonymous said...

There is no real mission. Once you fully understand that, everything else becomes clear.

Anonymous said...

Spot on ladies and gentlemen! "Ms. Sellers holds a B.A. degree in English literature from the University of Alabama and a B.S. degree in chemical engineering from the University of New Mexico. "

Source: http://www.sandia.gov/AuditCenter/Biographies.html

Let's see what she was able to do with such credentials:

"From 1999 to 2003, Ms. Sellers was the Manager of the National Nuclear Security Administration Kansas City Site Office, overseeing a $500 million annual budget at a specialized national security operation with a contractor workforce of 3,000. "

Not bad, huh? Now, how about this one:

"Ms. Sellers completed a successful 26-year career with the U.S. Department of Energy in 2009 after her assignment as manager of DOE's Idaho Operations Office, where she had lead contract responsibility for a $1.4 billion annual budget and 7,000 employees."

That undergraduate degree in English literature from the University of Alabama must make you golden in the US nuclear weapons enterprise.

By the way, for the occasional visitor of this blog, this is the "ethics lapses" lady who most recently looted LANL by billing the time her husband spent at the Santa Fe Opera.

Anonymous said...

11:22 PM could have added that Ms. Sellers was personally recruited by Mcmillan to the LANL #2 leadership spot. Also could have added that the DoE IG report revealed that Mcmillan knew about the unethical actions and did nothing about them for years.

After all the preventable grief that he has caused them, Bechtel senior partners must be having fits that they were duped into accepting Mcmillan.

Anonymous said...

After all the preventable grief that he has caused them, Bechtel senior partners must be having fits that they were duped into accepting Mcmillan.

January 21, 2015 at 6:59 AM

None of that matters anymore. Charlie is toast, Bechtel is looking at the 90% fee reduction and planning to bail, and NNSA is planning to recompete the contract next year. But flog the dead horse if it makes you happy.

Anonymous said...

Charlie is still standing and it is now late January. No resignation letter, no signs he will soon be leaving as LANL Director.

I think Charlie will have the last laugh. He'll serve out his 5 years as Director and retire very nicely, as will all his well rewarded PADs and ADs. The staff working to get by outside of the poorly run LANS management chain, however, may not do as nearly well over the next few years.

The serious cutbacks coming from just the loss of $200 million in annual legacy clean up work that NNSA will be pulling away from LANS will also have a serious effect on LANS employment numbers and also hurt the TCP1 pension which depends upon heavily taxing LANL projects to help pay for LANS employee retirements. All that pension "backup" money that NNSA gave away to help fund the highly expensive re-start of WIPP is going to be missed someday.



Anonymous said...

"...Also could have added that the DoE IG report revealed that Mcmillan knew about the unethical actions and did nothing about them for years..."

And the NNSA LANL Field Office did what before the DOE IG stepped in? Cricket. This is pathetic "oversight" at best or unacceptable collusion.

Anonymous said...

When is Betchel going to realize they never had the intellectual capital to run LANS/LANL. It time to go guys, it's not worth the "change" as McMillan put it.

Anonymous said...

After all the preventable grief that he has caused them, Bechtel senior partners must be having fits that they were duped into accepting Mcmillan.

January 21, 2015 at 6:59 AM

None of that matters anymore. Charlie is toast, Bechtel is looking at the 90% fee reduction and planning to bail, and NNSA is planning to recompete the contract next year. But flog the dead horse if it makes you happy.

January 21, 2015 at 10:08 AM



You have not even begun to see flogging yet. Once the LLC partners turn on each other, Bechtel will throw all its energy behind going after UC. Face it, Bechtel was sold a dressed up Yugo at a Ferrari price by UC, and they can not be very happy about it.

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