Lab forms cost-cutting task force

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LANL: Top managers anticipate budget squeeze

Last week, lab director Charlie McMillan established the Los Alamos National Laboratory Integrated Stewardship Council, which would help make financial decisions in order to achieve $200 million in savings across the lab.

In a memo obtained by the Los Alamos Monitor, Rich Marquez, who reports to McMillan as part of the senior management team at the lab, wrote that “Organizations have been asked to execute only those employment and procurement actions that are essential.  In addition, they have been asked to implement a 20 percent cost savings (from FY11 levels) in foreign and domestic travel and in M&S expenditures.

“In overseeing efforts to achieve these goals, the LISC will balance the need to perform mission deliverables with the need to cut costs.”

Marquez leads the LISC, which includes Terry Wallace of Global Security (PADGS), Bret Knapp of Weapons Programs (PADWP), Carl Beard of Operations and Business (PADOPS), Alan Bishop of Science, Technology, and Engineering (PADSTE), and Paul Henry of Capital Projects (PADCAP).

The LISC was scheduled to meet Tuesday, but met Wednesday because of the winter storm that swept through Los Alamos.

Lab spokesman Fred DeSousa said no decisions have been made yet regarding employment issues and staffing levels.

DeSousa was asked the following questions:
• Are there talks at all about a possible hiring freeze?
• Is the committee thinking about not replacing people when they leave?
• And have there been any talks about layoffs?
• While on the hiring front, is the lab going to hire the same number of students as it usually does?

“When decisions are made, we’ll communicate with our employees first and then will be happy to send you something,” DeSousa said in an email.

The memo, meanwhile, outlined the process that LISC will use to facilitate its decisions.
• All current postings will be re-validated for need
• Current postings will be evaluated based on essential need and cost impact.  Efforts to meet staffing needs utilizing existing laboratory resources should be explored before requesting a posting and/or hire.  This includes evaluating the viability of personnel currently on transition labor.
• The Director’s Office has distributed a spreadsheet of all current LANL postings to the PADs and asked them to review their organization’s postings to determine which are critical and essential, and which postings can be cancelled.
• A consolidated student hiring plan for each AD will be reviewed at the LISC meeting scheduled for January 12, 2012. A student hiring plan template will be provided soon.
The memo also talked about LISC’s policies concerning procurement approvals and requisitions over $100,000.

“Making these kinds of reductions is difficult, however working together to implement them collectively and collegially will better position the laboratory for the fiscal challenges we will likely face in FY13,” Marquez wrote in the memo.

It’s almost as if the lab managers knew what was coming from Congress.

On Thursday afternoon, the U.S. Senate passed the Defense Authorization Bill, which cut funding for lab cleanup to $189 million and allocated $200 million for Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Facility design. And on Saturday, the Senate gave final approval to the major spending bill that funds the labs and various important New Mexico water projects.

“It’s a two-step process,” said Jude McCartin of Senator Jeff Bingaman’s office. “They first have to pass the authorization bill and then comes the spending bill.”

Highlights of the spending bill for the lab that passed Saturday:
• $318 million for operations that support Readiness in Technical Base and Facilities
• $9.88 million for the new TRU waste facility
• $10 million for the TA-55 Reinvestment project to ensure the safety of existing facilities
• $200 million for the CMRR
• $188 million for environmental cleanup

Sandia National Laboratories and Los Alamos National Laboratory will share the funding increase in the following two key areas. There was $1.9 billion earmarked for Directed Stockpile Work, about half of which is for Sandia and LANL. And there was $2 billion for Readiness in Technical Base and Facilities, an increase of $200 million over FY 2011. In addition, NNSA’s budget grew by five percent to $11 billion.