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Structure, not scientists to blame for Los Alamos failings
Date:11/1/2011

London, UK (November 1st, 2011) Policy decisions and poor management have substantially undermined the US Los Alamos National Laboratoryand, consequently, national security, according to an article available today in the current issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, published by SAGE. The article calls into question media and government stereotypes that have blamed Los Alamos's scientists for the decline.

According to George Mason University professor of anthropology and sociology Hugh Gusterson, who has studied America's nuclear weapons scientists since the 1980s, morale at Los Alamos is the worst it has ever been in the lab's seven-decade history. Its ability to function as an institution and to superintend the nuclear stockpile has been substantially eroded, he writes. Driven by a mistaken belief that Los Alamos's organizational culture is characterized by arrogance and carelessness, congressmen and government officials are to blame for framing Los Alamos as an institution in need of reform and for implementing deleterious management practices, which have reduced effectiveness, Gusterson writes.

Gusterson is an expert on nuclear culture, international security, and the anthropology of science. His article, "The assault on Los Alamos National Laboratory: A drama in three acts," highlights the decline of Los Alamos, the famous nuclear laboratory originally established by J. Robert Oppenheimer in the high desert of New Mexico during World War II.

The first phase began with a media circus when Chinese-American scientist Wen Ho Lee's downloaded secret computer codes in 1999. Lee was arrested and charged on 59 counts of mishandling national security information, 58 of which were dropped.

The media reinforced the perception that Lee's behavior was symptomatic of a culture of laxness at Los Alamos. Security was tightened, yet additional disks were misplaced. FBI agents descended on Los Alamos, administering polygraphs to
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Contact: Jayne Fairley
jayne.fairley@sagepub.co.uk
44-207-324-8719
SAGE Publications
Source:Eurekalert

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