Tough times

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By Ralph Damiani

We are not sure if it was because almost everyone here has some kind of lab connection  or that they just didn’t want any more bad news during the holidays, but the lab’s meeting at the high school was not well attended.

The session, one of two held by Los Alamos National Laboratory to discuss its program to reduce the workforce, was part of its effort explain why it finds it necessary to reduce the workforce by up to 750 employees.This will be done by voluntary retirements, which will be followed - if not enough retire - by layoffs.Now, you may or may not agree with the lab about the  need to do this, but one thing is clear: the laboratory has more expenses today than it did two years ago - from fees to taxes - and its budget is no bigger.And like him or not, you have to commend laboratory director Michael Anastasio for being willing to stand up there with the big chance of taking some real heat.We fear that the fact that he did not - and that the crowd was small - only highlights the fear here.He did stress again and again something that needs to be stressed, that the laboratory is not going anywhere. It has an important mission and is just too important to our nation to vanish.And it will not.The question is, how to we get from here to tomorrow.In explaining the three-part process, Anastasio said that the third phase would only come into play if Congress passed a very onerous budget. They do expect the budget to be flat and he said he thinks this current job action - along with what he called serious cost-saving efforts - should be enough for now to stabilize things.We hope so. We understand this cannot be easy - no manager really likes laying off or firing staff. It is almost an admission of failure. These are human beings, with lives and families, who contribute not only to their job, but to their community.We do agree with one of the things he said, and that is that this needs to be done and done quickly. No one wants or likes this, but if you have to do it, get it done and move on.Our community is in too much turmoil right now, living with too much uncertainty. While the end of this job action will not end this - with Congressional action still and always looming - it will go a long way to that end.Only 450 people applied for separation, meaning 300 people will be let go. The longer that drags out, the worse it will be for all.The post-holiday week of Jan. 2-8 will be devoted to employee departure meetings and, presumably, getting ready for round two.We sincerely hope that that is done quickly and we can devote our time in the new year to rebuilding.