Based on presentations and discussions at the study committee’s visits to the laboratories,7 it appears that most individual scientists and engineers perceive the laboratory management as having a clear view of S&E goals, and as intending to (and succeeding in) allocating investment for providing well-planned interesting, cutting-edge, and core work. The management understands the long-term (15-20 years) prospecting phase of major research. In the area of supportive infrastructure and processes, the scientists and engineers acknowledge that S&E management has enabled a spectrum of outstanding computational and experimental facilities for performing multidisciplinary research pertinent to addressing important S&E questions. However, deterioration of facilities is an important concern, particularly at LANL (which is the oldest of the three laboratories).
In keeping with changes in federal statute, rules, and regulations, there has been an increasing burden on federal contractors and employees—including staff at all three labs—in matters of safety, security, and general administrative matters. Because this burden increases time spent on things that are not directly S&E, it has adverse effects on the quality of S&E. Some S&E staff expressed the view that their availability for creative work is further reduced by a reduction in support staff, which shifts administrative burden to S&Es. This topic was raised by the study committee at both LANL and LLNL. At LLNL, the study committee was told by several presenters that during the Reduction in Force that took place recently, support staff bore the brunt of the action, in part, to minimize the number of scientists and engineers who would be let go. At both labs, group and division leaders commented on declining numbers of support staff and the consequences for them, including increasing amount of time spent on tasks that had previously been done by support staff.
At all three labs, scientists and engineers voiced strong concerns that increasing daily administrative reporting burdens (e.g., in the purchasing of supplies, preparation of travel orders, etc.) leaves commensurately reduced time for S&E. Furthermore, what they see as an overemphasis on security and safety and associated paperwork relative to mission work adds to the administrative burden and leads to further reductions in the time available for research. Finally, the researchers perceive that the concomitant escalating cost of doing business results in less technical support and often discourages experimental activities, even though appropriate world-class experimental facilities and knowledgeable support personnel exist. However, with regard to assessment and closed-loop quality improvement processes, scientists and engineers reported feeling disconnected from a productive bottom-up communication path with senior management, and instead see the communication from their level— where the science really gets done—as consisting of paperwork-intensive milestone reporting, occasionally augmented by formal/confrontational assessment such as major reviews.
Group leaders/division heads were seen by the study committee to be striving to the utmost to allocate resources needed to perform the subscribed work, and to motivate the work goals. However, many Group Leaders/ Division Heads told the study committee that they are inundated by safety and security forms for even simple experiments. They asserted that the amount of administrative work leaves little time for brainstorming scientific ideas and planning the future. Effective implementation of closedloop quality improvement processes suffers from bureaucratic overload.
The associate laboratory directors or principal associate directors8 generally attend to the goals and the associated allocation of investment by ensuring that: (1) correct work is delivered appropriately and on schedule; (2) work can be accomplished safely, securely, and efficiently; (3) work is performed to standard and delivered on schedule; (4) that to the extent feasible the organization avoids negative press.
The laboratory director is the ultimate overseer of the goals and associated allocation of investment by being an interface between management of the M&O Contractor9 and NNSA management. Safety, security and other operational matters, and delivery of long-term expectations of the labs, come
8 The three laboratories are not organized identically at this level.
9 Under the current contracts, all three laboratory directors are officers of the management corporations (Sandia Corporation, LANS, and LLNS).