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

weapons scientists, commandeering their offices, and dragging some from their beds at night for interrogations. The National Nuclear Security Administration was created to superintend weapons labs and General Eugene Habiger was put in charge of security at Los Alamos and the nation's other weapons lab, Lawrence Livermore.

The 2003 appointment of Pete Nanos as director of Los Alamos marked the next phase of decline. After more disks apparently went missing and a student was hit in the eye by a laser beam, Nanos called for swift and extreme action. Calling lab employees "cowboys and buttheads" who thought they were above the rulesand describing "a culture of arrogance" and "suicidal denial" at a news conference he suspended lab operations for up to seven months, forcing employees to retrain and reflect on security practices.

The shutdown cost $370 million. Both Nanos and his actions were deeply unpopular with lab staff. Nanos abruptly resigned in 2005. It turned out the disks had not gone missing, but had in fact never existed. It was an inventory management error. Extreme and destructive acts of cultural reengineering had cost the Los Alamos National Laboratory and, presumably, national security dearly.

Next, instead of renewing the University of California's management contract, the federal government put the contract out to bid. Los Alamos National Security (LANS), a consortium headed by the Bechtel Corporation with the University of California as a junior partner, won the contract in 2005. A year later, it also won the contract to run the lab at Livermore.

To boost profits, Bechtel increased the management fee tenfold, rewarding its senior LANS officials. The budget was static but costs increased, resulting in heavy job losses at the Livermore Laboratory. New managers did not establish the same rapport with scientists as previous managers who had risen through the ranks. Peer reviewed publication output by scientists dropped sharply.
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Contact: Jayne Fairley
jayne.fairley@sagepub.co.uk
44-207-324-8719
SAGE Publications
Source:Eurekalert

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