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Friday, August 4, 2017

Why does the lab (LANL) exist?

Topic of discussion among group of friends last evening related to shift of focus in why the Lab exists over the last 30 years. We all started early to mid 1980's and there was clarity that the sole reason for the Lab was to serve the Nation's interests. Even allowing for the halt in UGT, it seems that the general view is that the Lab now exists for a different reason. Some feel that is is now a jobs program for the region, some that it is destined to become a manufacturing plant a la Rocky Flats, while others see it as an applied energy Lab. No matter the perspective, the common view was that the Lab leadership since Sig has consistently failed to articulate a clear reason for why we come to work each morning. More importantly, no matter what the verbal or printed words from Lab leadership, their actions are indicative of seeking what is best for the Lab, vice seeking what is best for the Nation.

With the opportunity presented for a pending new contract, and presumably 100% turnover in upper level management, is it possible to return to the clarity of motivation, and daily action, for why the Lab exists?

38 comments:

Anonymous said...

LANL exists to "follow the money"

Director Charles McMillan

Anonymous said...

"Some feel that is is now a jobs program for the region"

This. And, that is why it will continue to limp along until someone at LANL does something off-scale outrageous. Wait for it.

Anonymous said...

The failure of vision is not with the lab employees (or should not be), nor is it with the rank-and-file NNSA employees involved in overseeing the labs. The failure is in Congress and the President in not continually emphasizing the importance of our nuclear deterrent and the scientists, engineers, and yes, even policy-makers and bureaucrats, who strive daily to maintain the systems that keep us from another Pearl Harbor, or another Sudentenland that we are so ill prepared for, militarily or politically. The "nuclear deterrent" is not to deter nuclear war. It is to deter massive conventional war that would destroy most existing nations.

Anonymous said...

Not the only problem but one of the large underlying issues is that several of the upper management team are clearly more motivated to preserve the status quo than be concerned about the Nation's interests. Many staff can recall a PAD commenting to a large meeting that some programs would be pursued and others would not be pursued because doing otherwise would "be misplaced priorities." When pushed to explain this comment, it became clear that the sole motive for the decision had been how many employees could be paid for on each program, with no interest whatsoever in any concern as to what would be best for the USA.

Anonymous said...

The answer very much depends on whom you ask. If you ask today's managers, the lab exists solely for their benefit. Throughout LANL, managers are preoccupied with one overarching goal: self-preservation in light of the impeding contract change.

The worker bees are dispensable, while the mission is whatever sounds good in the current political climate. Green energy and climate change are in vogue? Why, certainly, we fashion ourselves as the Defenders of the Planet, NW and such be darned. Change of administration? What green energy? No, we would never. It was remarkable to watch our manager's rhetoric transform from liberal tree-hugging to white nationalism in a matter of two months.

Anonymous said...

Please explain, to the best of your ability, what "white nationalism" is. How is it different from "black nationalism"?

Anonymous said...

The Lab is moving toward being consolidated in some way. Right now the mission is unclear because you have production, nuclear science, nuclear engineering, and other science that should be under the office of science. Here is the breakup (only because they have sunk so much money at Los Alamos)

Production stays
Nuclear science goes to LLNL
Nuclear engineering goes to Sandia
Other science goes to Office of science.
Footprint shrinks accordingly.

It will happen after the next for profit contractor fails because it is not about the model, it is about the lack of vision and mission.

Anonymous said...

Also stayin; Blowin shit up.

Anonymous said...

Also stayin; Blowin shit up.

August 5, 2017 at 4:06 PM

Nope, to Nevada test site. So it the consensus is that it should be production. The problem is production always has screw ups it is just the nature of the business.
So we LANL is slated to become a highly troubled production facility.

Anonymous said...

...the arsenal exists...

Anonymous said...

So it the consensus is that it should be production.

August 5, 2017 at 6:04 PM

Really? Consensus among whom? You and the guy in the mirror? Who exactly participated in determining this "consensus"? In case you missed it, nuclear weapon program missions and policies are not determined by "consensus."

Anonymous said...

7:51. If you have an opinion about the topic, provide it. 6:04 provided their opinion about what the right future state of LANL is. What is yours? It keep on moving down the same path?

Anonymous said...

The other science may belong in an OS lab, but since Browne it has been such a huge part of the lab that it should prove problematic to sever it out. In the capabilities model that Wallace rammed down the last ten years, there is now justification for every pet science project in the lab. Problem is that many of them do not fit under NNSA and the feds seem to be stuck in how to cut them out.

Anonymous said...

"The other science may belong in an OS lab, but since Browne it has been such a huge part of the lab that it should prove problematic to sever it out. In the capabilities model that Wallace rammed down the last ten years, there is now justification for every pet science project in the lab. Problem is that many of them do not fit under NNSA and the feds seem to be stuck in how to cut them out.

August 6, 2017 at 10:27 AM"

There was plenty of science at LANL well before Brown, in fact I would say the highest level of of the science at LANL not directly related to weapons was really in 70s, 80s, and 90s.
After that you saw the overall decline of the lab begin in earnest. I thought the whole "capabilities" thing was to just have something so vague and unclear that there would be no way to quantify it so no one could be held accountable for the lab decline. You can always say sure measurable metrics have declined but our capabilities are good. This way managers can
always say things are going well because you no way of measuring it and when you do measure something that was in decline you can just say that is not a capability.

Anonymous said...

What decline? The per capita budget is at an all-time high.

Anonymous said...



What decline? The per capita budget is at an all-time high.

August 6, 2017 at 1:40 PM


Money is not the proper metric, it is the quality of the work that is being done, the quality of the workforce and so on. W

Anonymous said...

The per capita budget is at an all-time high.

August 6, 2017 at 1:40 PM


So you are saying that the cost to perform experiments at LANL is the highest of any location on the planet. Not something to brag about, if you understand.

Anonymous said...



The fraction of Phds in the LANL workforce is now at an all time low, yet the budget is at an all time high. The number of managers is also at an all time high. Perhaps LANS is not using the money very wisely but you milage may very.

Anonymous said...

LANL has become Livermore which frankly never had a good reason to exist.

Anonymous said...

As long as the world has nuclear weapons they will need to be understood.

Anonymous said...

They are understood pretty well now. Nukes were mostly designed and built using slide rules, paper, and pencils, so the argument that we need cutting-edge 21st-century science to maintain our nuclear deterrent rings a bit hollow.

The bigger problems are political and cultural. Can anyone imaging the barrage of lawsuits and random activist judge rulings that would follow any serious discussion of a resumption of testing? It will never happen, certainly not on US soil.

Anonymous said...

August 6, 2017 at 9:42 PM

What's your point? You want to work in a homogeneous environment where everyone else is just like you and all have a PhD?

Anonymous said...

What's your point? You want to work in a homogeneous environment where everyone else is just like you and all have a PhD?

August 8, 2017 at 10:36 AM

I think the point is that LANL has less and less people that do actual work and more and more people doing bureaucracy. Not exactly the best use of money or resources.

Anonymous said...

August 8, 2017 at 10:36 AM

Are you serious? Having a problem with PhD's? Brain envy?

There are better and cheaper ways way to support non-PhD people than a science lab. This has nothing to do with homogeneous work environment but all with the mission of the lab. If you want to fund a National Management Lab or a National Support Staff Lab, we will indeed not need many scientists; but for the kind of work we are doing at LANL you need PhDs. However we can only dream of the ratio of 60% researchers - 40% support staff as they have at BNL. We are much more like the former Soviet Union, where we have 1 worker and three minders.

Anonymous said...

60% researchers - 40% support staff as they have at BNL.

At LANL it is like 25% researches for 75% support staff. There was a plot on the blog where shooing that large change in this ratio a couple of years after LANS took over.

The other thing that happened after LANS came in is the attitude change in which overheard supported people started to look down on non-support people. This attitude needs to change with contract change.

Anonymous said...

Embracing diversity is one of the strategic goals that Charlie presented to the lab. Diversity is important in all aspects of the work environment and all staff need to attend the required sensitivity training classes. The focus of having staff with different backgrounds and different education work together is one of the reasons that Charlie won his personal diversity award a few years ago.

So, we will continue to have more diverse work environments as long as Charlie is running the lab. That means fewer PhD's and more non PhD's.

Anonymous said...

Diversity is mandatory in all things except diversity of opinion, which is forbidden.

Anonymous said...

6:26, did you even read your post before you submitted it? Aren't you ashamed of your piss-poor writing? Are you going to do something to improve yourself?

Anonymous said...

The illiterate people with access to computers are destroying our society.

Anonymous said...

Everybody at LANL asks that about Livermore. Just look at the stockpile and remember that LANL had to give the W80 to Livermore to become the design agency because Livermore needed the work.

Anonymous said...

Well. This was a good discussion until the last three or four posts.

LANL needs a mission. Are we a science lab (PhDs, etc.) or a production facility ("support" staff)?

That is the root problem. No Clear Mission.

Anonymous said...

If you work in the core NW program at LANL, you have one view of the "mission" of the Laboratory. If you work on a WFO program, you have quite another. Miles's Law: Where you stand depends on where you sit. This is not going to change as long as NNSA continues to tolerate WFO at their facilities. They are masters of cognitive dissonance.

Anonymous said...

If you work in the core NW program at LANL, you have one view of the "mission" of the Laboratory. If you work on a WFO program, you have quite another. Miles's Law: Where you stand depends on where you sit. This is not going to change as long as NNSA continues to tolerate WFO at their facilities. They are masters of cognitive dissonance.

August 11, 2017 at 10:09 AM


Sounds find in principle however during the 60 years which included the cold war
we had WFO, science, weapons, and engineering. Why is it a problem now? Perhaps it has to do more with the dysfunction of DOE and NNSA rather than the labs themselves. The NNSA may see the labs is just a way to keep a large bureaucracy going so cognitive dissonance is a good thing.

Anonymous said...

Neither LLNL nor SNL have these issues so it must be a LANL unique problem.

Anonymous said...

August 11, 2017 at 10:26 AM

Blame DOE and NNSA. Standard UC/LANS tactic.

Anonymous said...

August 10, 2017 at 9:21 PM stated: "That is the root problem. No Clear Mission." August 11, 2017 at 10:09 AM was simply stating one of the reasons for the feeling of "no clear mission." In 10 words or less, tell me the "clear mission" of SNL and/or LLNL that all employees agree on.

Anonymous said...

SNL doesn't have serious problems? I disagree with the premise.

Anonymous said...

Yep. Tables and slide rules weilded by the SMARTEST people of their time....on both sides of the Atlantic. That and $2T...point made.

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