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V. Management of S&E at the Laboratories This chapter examines the management of S&E at the three Laboratories within the context of a generally accepted framework for managing S&E institutions.33 This Investment/Value Returned (I/V) framework, and how it facilitates high quality S&E for the present and nurtures high quality S&E for the future, is presented in Appendix 6. This framework is based in part on the following best practices, which this chapter applies for evaluating the management of S&E at the Laboratories: 1. Management must have a clear view of the goals and the value received from investing in S&E;34 2. Management must ensure proper allocation of investment35 – both fiscal and personnel – across the S&E portfolio; 3. Management must provide the S&E workforce a supportive infrastructure and processes36 aimed at maximizing the motivation for carrying out S&E and creating and delivering value; and, 4. Management must sustain and grow the S&E capabilities by implementation of assessment and closed-loop quality improvement processes37. The responsibility and accountability for assuring high-quality S&E at the Laboratories is invested in the Lab directors who, with the knowledge of the long-term needs of the core programs of the Laboratories, are expected to provide overall strategic vision for the S&E activities. The Lab directors have delegated the details of the S&E activities to subordinate levels of management,38 including: (1) the Chief Technical Officer (or the Chief Scientist); (2) Associate Lab Director(s) (ALD) and/or Principal Associate Director(s) (PAD); and (3) the Group Leaders/Division Heads who constitute the first level of management from the perspective of the individual scientists and engineers. The following summarizes what the study committee observed regarding the implementation of this framework within these Laboratory management structures. It begins with an examination of the perspectives of the scientists and engineers, and works up the management chain as described above. 33 Management, of course, must also consider factors beyond S&E, such as safe and secure operation of the laboratory. 34 What returns are desired/expected; what is the nature of these returns; how are they categorized; how do they support the NNSA mission(s); what metrics and indicators are available and used to assess value returned, either retrospective, or prospective? 35 How does management allocate investment within the S&E portfolio to maximize the value created? For S&E it is clear that an optimum allocation methodology will involve both top-down and bottom-up approaches. 36 Invest in infrastructure to support S&E, and create and use operational processes to measure performance and return on investment: a set of tools and processes to track how much and how well value is being created and delivered; metrics and indicators. 37 Continuously improve the output, to ensure that technical capabilities are sustained and grown, driving change in each step from portfolio selection to operational processes to infrastructure investment. A key element of this aspect of management is the set of processes which ensure that the highest level of talent is recruited to the institution, nurtured, developed, and retained. 38 The specific titles of individuals at these levels often vary among laboratories. 28 PREPUBLICATION COPY—SUBJECT TO FURTHER EDITORIAL CORRECTION
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Based on presentations and discussions at the study committee’s visits to the Laboratories,39 it appears that most individual scientists and engineers perceive the Lab 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 Los Alamos (which is the oldest of the three Labs). 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 closed-loop quality improvement processes suffers from bureaucratic overload. 39 See appendix 2 for lists of presenters and discussants. 29 PREPUBLICATION COPY—SUBJECT TO FURTHER EDITORIAL CORRECTION
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The Associate Lab Directors or Principal Associate Directors40 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 Contractor41 and NNSA management. Safety, security and other operational matters, and delivery of long-term expectations of the Labs, come together at the level of the Lab director. This confluence seriously impacts the amount of time available for the Lab directors and their staffs to do long-term planning. These problems appear to be tied to the breakdown of trust as discussed in previous chapters; closer scrutiny and more intense reporting are a burden. Regarding the assessment and closed-loop quality improvement process, the study committee was told about some quantitative assessment measures used to evaluate S&E, but not about any qualitative measures. While quantitative measures, such as number of publications, patents, citations, etc. can provide a short term measure of the effectiveness of S&E investments, qualitative assessment is necessary to judge the long-term value and impact of S&E, which may not become evident for many years. Finding 5-1: Directions from NNSA and Congress—in some cases—constrain the Lab directors’ ability to allocate resources appropriately for S&E. Finding 5-2: As indicated by anecdotal evidence presented in Chapter 4, the study committee did not find data indicating that the Laboratories have suffered any significant lack of young, talented scientists and engineers who want to find careers in these Laboratories. However, the study committee is not convinced that the basis for this is strong and will remain so. The Labs may be benefiting from reduced employment prospects caused by the current recession. If so, this may be a temporary situation that will change as the national economy improves and jobs are created in the private sector for these scientists and engineers. The same concerns apply to the retention of senior scientists and engineers. Improving economic conditions could increase their incentives to leave for jobs in academia or the private sector. The Labs should not be complacent about their ability to attract and retain staff. Finding 5-3: Each of the Laboratory Directors (two of whom have since retired) had a clear view of the goals for S&E needed to accomplish his job. However, the tenure of Lab directors has 40 The three labs are not organized identically at this level. 41 Under the current contracts, all three lab directors are officers of the management corporations (Sandia Corporation, LANS, and LLNS). 30 PREPUBLICATION COPY—SUBJECT TO FURTHER EDITORIAL CORRECTION
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tended to be too short to permit them to develop and implement, with their teams, long-term strategic planning of science and engineering. Unless steps are taken to promote longer tenures for Lab directors, long-term planning, implementation, mid-course correction (if necessary), and evaluation of S&E are subject to discontinuities that may reduce the quality of S&E. Recommendation 5-1: The study committee recommends that the NNSA, Congress, and top management of the Laboratories recognize that safety and security systems at the Laboratories have been strengthened to the point where they no longer need special attention. NNSA and Laboratory management should explore ways by which the administrative, safety, and security costs can be reduced, so that they not impose an excessive burden on essential S&E activities. Recommendation 5-2: The study committee recommends that NNSA reduce reporting and administrative burden on the Lab directors and purposely free directors to establish strategic S&E direction at the Laboratories. 31 PREPUBLICATION COPY—SUBJECT TO FURTHER EDITORIAL CORRECTION
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