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For Immediate Release February 21, 2012

Los Alamos Lab Trims Workforce: “Good News,” Says Green Policy Group

Many Lab Missions Oversized, Overpriced, and Oversold, Group Claims

Contact: Greg Mello, 505-265-1200, 505-577-8563

Albuquerque – Today’s announcement that Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) seeks to trim its workforce by 400 to 800 employees this spring through a voluntary separation program (VSP) was described as “a good start” by the Albuquerque-based Los Alamos Study Group. 

As of fiscal year (FY) 2010, LANL employed some 11,782 people.  Of this number, 9,665 were employees of the LANL management and operating (M&O) contractor, Los Alamos National Security, LLC (LANS), 477 were guards, 1,126 were students, and 524 were contractors.[1]  This represents a net increase of 549 employees from FY2008.[2] 

This VSP would return LANL employment to about FY2008 levels.    

LANL management expects future budgets to be flat or lower than today’s. 

From the above it is clear that LANL’s total cost per employee, including all jobs (students, maintenance staff, guards, scientists, and contractors) is about $220,000 per year. 

We believe (based on other information) that the average LANS employee compensation (salary and benefits, including students) is about $180,000/year.  Laboratory managers are paid much more than this; the $350,000 – $400,000 range may be typical. 

Twenty-two percent of LANL employees hold doctorates; 28% have no college degree.[3] 

The following table provides some background. 

LANL costs: FY1995, FY2011, and FY2012 (in thousands of $, CPI inflator)


FY1995 (then-$)

FY1995 (2011$)

FY2011 (2011 $)


NNSA Weapons Activities





Other DOE










Work for Others





Total LANL





* Supplied by LANL today.  ** By subtraction from total LANL costs supplied today. 

Sources: DOE congressional budget requests; LANL (for 1995 total costs and WFO – a different data set than the rest); and Bureau of Labor Statistics, Consumer Price Index.

As can be seen in this table, LANL nuclear weapons costs have increased by about a factor of two in inflation-corrected dollars since 1995.  Total LANL costs have increased by about 30% over the same (FY1995-2011) period. 

These trends are graphed below in current dollars, with requested FY2013 amounts shown.

LANL costs chart

Today, LANS management states that it expects its total costs (i.e. its billings) to drop by about $350 million from FY2011 to FY2012 – about 7.3% (as shown in the blue line above) – and hopes to separate from 4% to 8% of its own employees this spring, a comparable percentage. 

LANL’s largest infrastructure project, the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Nuclear Facility (CMRR-NF), is now slated to be indefinitely deferred starting in FY2013.  The current (FY2012) appropriation for CMRR-NF is $170 million; the FY2013 appropriation previously estimated was $300 million and is now zero. 

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and Department of Defense (DoD) have concurred that all mission requirements can be met without CMRR-NF. 

LANL is one of two laboratories with the primary mission of assuring that the nuclear explosives in U.S. nuclear weapons will explode as designed (“reliably”), and not at other times (“safety”). 

Study Group Director Greg Mello: “Today’s planned workforce reduction, the result of Republican-led budget-cutting in Congress, is good news.  The post-Cold-War nuclear weapons missions at LANL have grown much too much over the past 17 years.  Not only have the missions grown, but so has the cost per scientist. 

“Available data suggests that ‘Work for Others’ billings, a measure of the willingness of outside agencies to hire LANL scientists and thus a measure of the perceived costs and benefits of doing so, have declined by about half over the past 17 years.  Much of this decline can be attributed to the added costs of privatized management (i.e. increased “fee,” management salaries, pension fund contributions, and gross receipts tax). 

“We do not think the for-profit laboratory manager – LANS – has performed well, as evidenced by the CMRR fiasco.  CMRR was promoted by LANS despite all its known problems.  About one billion dollars will have been spent on the project by the end of this fiscal year.  Most of this has been wasted, by any standard.  (Congress or the courts may pull the plug on CMRR-NF first; doing so now would save about $100 million dollars).  One must look back to the Reagan Administration for a comparable example of nuclear warhead overreach. 

“The nation would be better served by not-for-profit management – and salary caps that would make LANL dollars stretch farther, among other reforms.   We believe weapons laboratory salaries and benefits should be brought down toward federal levels, starting at the top, and LANL should become a narrowly-focused federal nuclear laboratory.  This would end the World War II “government-owned, contractor-operated” model that was set up in 1943 and continued ever since. 

“As a nation we must radically change priorities toward ambitious, effective policies and programs that address the mounting ecological, social, and economic problems we face.  LANL is not the place for that new work.”


[1] See  There is a discrepancy of 10 employees in the sum of the categories.
[2] See
[3] Ibid.

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