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From: David Farber <farber () central cis upenn edu>
Date: Thu, 2 Feb 1995 15:17:17 -0500


No. 95-5, February 2, 1995


The Secretary's Energy Advisory Board (SEAB) of the U.S. Department
of Energy has invited public comment by February 15th on the just
released Report of the Task Force on Alternatives Futures for the
Department of Energy National Laboratories.  Comments will be
considered and a revised report presented to Secretary of Energy
Hazel O'Leary at the end of February and hence to the President's
National Science and Technology Council in March.

The Task Force was established by Secretary O'Leary in February
1994 and asked to development recommendations on new missions for
the DOE National Laboratories and how the Laboratories can best be
utilized to meet future national needs.  Encompassed within the Task
Force report are the Argonne National Laboratory, Brookhaven
National Laboratory, the Idaho National Engineering Laboratory,
Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National
Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory, the National Renewable
Energy Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Pacific
Northwest Laboratory, and the Sandia National Laboratory.  Chaired
by Robert Galvin of Motorola Corporation, the Task Force is also
popularly known as the "Galvin Commission."

Among the major findings of the Task Force report:

On the Role and Importance of the Labs:  "The laboratories' research
role is a part of an essential, fundamental cornerstone for
continuing leadership by the United States....We note that many of
the least exploited investigative paths involve the need for
extraordinarily sophisticated multidisciplinary teams using
sophisticated instruments and tools.  It is that role for which the
national laboratories are uniquely qualified.  It is the case for--the
justification of--the existence of the DOE laboratories."  (p. 3).

On New Laboratory Missions:  "While the Task Force supports
innovative application of the national laboratories' core technical
competencies (for example, high performance computation, advanced
materials, energy technologies, and systems engineering) to new
problem areas, these activities should be carefully managed, are not
likely to evolve into 'new missions' per se, and should not be a license
to expand into areas of science and technology which already are
being addressed effectively or more appropriately by other
Research and Development (R&D) performers in government, academia
and the private sector."  (p. 4).

On the State of the Labs:  "The Task Force observed multiple
symptoms of institutional stress at the national laboratories,
including the following: increasing overhead cost, poor morale and
gross inefficiencies as a result of overly prescriptive
Congressional management and excessive oversight by the
Department; inordinate internal focus at every level of these
laboratories on compliance issues and questions of management
processes, which takes a major toll on research performance;
excessive scrambling by the laboratories to establish programmatic
activities in 'new mission' areas, at the expense of disciplined focus
on traditional assignments in national security, energy, waste
management and environmental quality, and fundamental science;
confusion regarding the appropriate character, scope, and scale of
laboratory collaborations with the private sector, due to a lack of
clear policy guidance from the Department; institutional
fragmentation as a direct reflection of segmented management of the
laboratories by the Department, which treats the laboratories not
as integrated institutions--let alone a system of laboratories--but
rather as a conglomerate of hundreds of individual projects, each of
which has a program manager with independent influence on elements
of the laboratories;  financial and institutional burdens on the
laboratories as the result of an apparent inability by the
Department either to downsize facilities which have excess capacity
or to terminate programs which provide neither distinctive nor
essential contributions to the national research and development
enterprise; and management systems at the laboratories that do not
exhibit best business practices, and thus compound the management
challenges of these complex institutions."  (pp. 6-7).

On the Relationship of Labs to Industry and Universities: "The Task
Force does believe that the national laboratories serve a distinct
role in conducting long-term, often high-risk R&D, frequently
through the utilization of capital intensive facilities which are
beyond the financial reach of industry and academia, and generally
through the application of multidisciplinary teams of scientists and
engineers. We believe that an appropriate division of labor among the
national laboratories, industrial research institutions, and
research universities can be established but does not sufficiently
now exist."  (p. 4).

On Laboratory Governance:  "Our study revealed a counterproductive
federal system of operation (Department, Contractor, Laboratory
and substantially driven by Congressional policies).  A far-less-
federal system must be authorized by the Congress, adopted by the
Department and implemented at the laboratories, possibly involving
contractors."  (p. 7).

"For those without lengthy associations with the Department or its
laboratories--which was the case for a majority of the Task Force
members--it is hard to reach any other conclusion other than that
the current system of governance of these laboratories is broken
and should be replaced with a bold alternative.  The Task Force seeks
not to be bold for boldness sake, but because it believes that a far
more effective system of governance is necessary."  (p. 8).

On Configuration of the Laboratories:  "The Task Force believes that
the national laboratory system is oversized for its current mission
assignments...The Task Force believes that the national laboratory
system serves many vital functions, but that the system could be
productively downsized (or 'rightsized') through the elimination of
functions and redundancies.  The Task Force further believes that
one goal of any downsizing should be enhanced focus on specific
mission assignments.  Through downsizing, there may be opportunities
in the future to convert one or more multi-program laboratories into
institutions dedicated to only one primary mission...While the Task
Force does not make any recommendations about the possible closure
of specific laboratories, we have a general view that all of the
national laboratories should be subjected to a regular process of
comparative validation against other research performers (including
against each other) to judge options for closure, consolidation, and
even expansion of programmatic activities and facilities."  (p. 10).

Secretary of Energy O'Leary issued an initial statement commending
the Task Force report, which she states "clearly and forcefully
validated the importance of the major R&D missions of the
Department and its laboratories."  She noted that "the Task Force
makes a persuasive case that the laboratories, working with the
Department, should sharpen their strategic focus on areas of
established excellence, and not venture off in search of major new
missions.  The general message is that federal institutions must
borrow a page from the private sector, where companies are
achieving major performance improvements by consolidating around
their essential strengths."

A summary of the Report's recommendations (pp. 63-66 of the report)
can be obtained by e-mail request to c.brantley () ieee org   The full
report (76 pages) can be obtained from the Department of Energy's
Public Information Office at (202) 586-4670 or from your local
Government Printing Office outlet or University Government
Documents Depository.  Although not available electronically on the
date of release, Internet users may also wish to check for the report
in DOE information on Fedworld or in the Interactive Citizen's
Handbook (http://www.whitehouse.gov) on the World Wide Web.

Public comments may be submitted until February 15, 1995, to the
attention of Dr. Michele Donovan, Secretary of the Energy Advisory
Board, U.S. Department of Energy, Room 8E-050, Washington, DC 20585.


This electronic bulletin is provided as part of an on-going effort by
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related policy issues.  Please feel free to post this message and/or
forward it to other individuals who you believe would be interested.

Chris J. Brantley
Manager, Government Activities
Institute of Electrical and Electronics
  Engineers - United States Activities
1828 L Street, N.W., Suite 1202
Washington, DC 20036-5104
Email:  c.brantley () ieee org
Phone: 202-785-0017

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