Priorities and principles

By Bill Murphy

Photography By Randy Montoya

Friday, May 12, 2017

Labs Director Steve Younger’s first all-hands charts course for future

Deputy Labs Director Dave Douglass outlines five immediate initiatives

See also: Sandia's new Associate Labs Directors and Senior Directors

Sandia Labs Director Steve Younger, at right, is joined on stage in the Steve Schiff Auditorium by Deputy Labs Director Dave Douglass (closest to Steve), and eight Associate Labs Directors during a May 1 all-hands meeting. California Div. 8000 ALD Dori Ellis joined the session via a video link from Livermore. (Photo by Randy Montoya)

“You are the superheroes of technology,” Labs Director Steve Younger told an audience of Sandians during his first all hands meeting on May 1 at the Steve Schiff Auditorium and live-streamed to conference rooms and desktops across all the Labs’ sites.

There are industry giants — household names — that do impressive things in the technical arena, Steve said, but as Sandians “you defend the planet and make it possible for millions, if not billions, of people to live safe and productive lives. There is nothing more important than that. There is no more rewarding job than that. So you truly are superheroes of technology.” He noted that it takes all Sandians, in both the technical and support organizations, to maintain the nuclear deterrent and do the other vital work of the Laboratories.

Steve said he feels organizational mission and vision statements are too long and are generally forgettable. Instead, he said, “I’m a big believer in purpose statements and the purpose that I wrote for Sandia is, ‘Sandia develops advanced technologies to ensure global peace.’”

Jeff Harrell, the manager of the NNSA Sandia Field Office, opened the all-hands by noting that National Technology and Engineering Solutions of Sandia — NTESS — was selected to assume the M&O contract to manage Sandia “because NTESS presented the best value to the government and the highest technical rating.”

In his remarks, Steve laid out his priorities for the Laboratories in the operational and programmatic areas.

The top programmatic priority, he said, is: “Delivering outstanding engineering, science, and technology to all of our customers in the most efficient manner possible. And, that’s it; There’s no No. 2.”

In the operational arena, Steve listed several priorities:

  • Safety and security
  • Collaboration
  • Quality
  • Efficiency

Safety, security are personal

After describing the priorities in general terms, Steve said, “Now I want to come back to safety and security. Safety is personal. Your family depends on you. So I’m a big believer in Integrated Safety Management. I use it in my garage as I’m climbing up a ladder. I always think, ‘How could the ladder fall? Should I have [my wife] Mary come out and hold the ladder for me? What other things can I do?’ Safety is personal, so when you think about doing something, think about your family, think about your significant other, think about your good friend, because they’re depending on you to be there.”

Security is also personal, Steve said. To make his point, he asked the audience how many knew someone who either is, will be, or was a member of the Armed Forces. Almost everyone in the auditorium indicated they knew someone with a military connection.

“Sandia technologies protect these people,” Steve said. “A knowledge of Sandia technologies could put these people at risk. It’s a very serious issue. So before you press send on an email that might be questionable, before you leave your office with a safe unlocked, before you start a meeting with classified materials, remember the people you know in uniform because they are relying on you to keep materials secret that need to be kept secret. For them it’s a matter of life and death.”

Steve outlined several guiding principles that will prevail during his tenure at the Labs.

  • Decisions will be made at the lowest appropriate level of the organization;
  • We will be data driven;
  • We will take a proactive approach to sustaining a diverse and inclusive laboratory culture;
  • We are one laboratory with one Labs-wide Laboratory Operating System.

Deputy Labs Director Dave Douglass, right, speaks during a news conference on May 1, the day NTESS assumed management of Sandia. At left, Labs Director Steve Younger, who fielded several questions from the local media, looks on.

Moving with urgency

Deputy Labs Director Dave Douglass took the podium to discuss several measures that will be implemented immediately. During the course of the transition period and in meetings with Sandians, he said, “It became clear to us that there were several things that we believe are vital that we start today . . . and move with urgency to act upon. These are not items that we are going to take a year to study and three years to implement.”

He listed five immediate initiatives.

  • Review and restructure the Environment, Safety, & Health function across the Laboratories;
  • Accelerate efforts to streamline and simplify policies and procedures;
  • Implement a consistent Program Management approach across the Laboratories;
  • Undertake a comprehensive review of the “rates and cost pool approach;” and,
  • Implement Honeywell’s Performance Management processes.

“That’s what we’re going to start today,” Dave said. “Like I say, we are going to move with urgency. I would expect you will begin to hear us providing greater information on what this really means within a month and if we don’t do that, you ought to start asking us, ‘Where’s the beef?’ We owe that to you.”

Steve concluded his remarks by thanking Sandians for all they have done for the nation. “And now,” he said, “let us go forward to continue a proud tradition of ‘exceptional service in the national interest.’”

Sandia's new Associate Labs Directors and Senior Directors

To open the May 1 all-hands meeting, Labs Director Steve Younger introduced Deputy Labs Director Dave Douglass and other members of the new Sandia senior leadership team, the Associate Laboratories Directors and Senior Directors who will leads the Labs’ mission and support activities into the future. Here are a few of the comments they made to augment the information published in their official bios.

  • Dave Douglass said that when the offer came to become part of the NTESS team he had been happily retired and enjoying his grandchildren for several years. He said he had worked with Sandians and known the Labs and been impressed by its work for 35 years. When the offer came to become part of the Sandia team, he said “It was a chance I couldn’t refuse.”
  • Susan Seestrom, ALD & Chief Research Officer, Advanced Science and Technology Div. 1000, said, “I am honored to be here as part of the leadership of this extraordinary laboratory. . . I am especially delighted by the interactions I’ve had with the staff, how open and sharing they have been and how proud they are of our laboratory . . . One of my great passions is education and I am eager to be part of the scene of improving education in Albuquerque.”
  • Steve Girrens, ALD & Chief Engineer for Nuclear Weapons, Nuclear Deterrence Div. 2000, held up his new Sandia business card, noting, “I moved to New Mexico in 1979, so I am a New Mexican now . . . but now, what’s even neater is I’m a Sandian.”
  • John Clymo, ALD & Chief Security Officer, Infrastructure Operations Div. 4000, said he was happy to move back to New Mexico “after an absence of 30 years.” John noted that he is a gold card member of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, adding “I have performed many times at Tingley Coliseum at the Indian National Finals — my mother is Native American. And I am so happy to be here.”
  • Mike Burns, ALD, National Security Programs Div. 5000, introduced himself as “a second generation national laboratories guy” whose father was a weapons engineer at Los Alamos National Laboratory. He recalled that the first time he visited Kirtland Air Force Base was in 1968, when his father came down to KAFB for a meeting and his mother, who was driving, almost ran over a military police officer. “I will try to do a much better job driving around Kirtland.”
  • Doug Bruder, ALD, Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Div. 6000, said, “I was born and raised in Michigan, went to school at the University of Michigan, and thought it was a big move for me to go out East — I lived in Virginia for about 35 years. And now I’ve got to learn to be a Southwesterner and a Sandian, so any help you can provide me I would appreciate that.”
  • Dori Ellis, ALD, Sandia California Div. 8000, said “It’s thrilling to be back at Sandia. I retired after 33 years in 2011. I failed retirement. I spent some time across the street at Lawrence Livermore and some time at the University of California getting to know Los Alamos and Lawrence Berkeley, and I can absolutely tell you: There is no place like this laboratory.”
  • Mark Sellers, ALD, Mission Assurance Div. 9000, said, “I am passionate about our missions here and about my organization’s role in supporting and enabling those missions to occur in an efficient manner. In my experience, the best way to achieve efficiencies is to anticipate and prevent problems before they occur, put the work in now to prevent the additional work, cost, and heartache later.”
  • Scott Aeilts, ALD, Mission Services Div.10000, noted that having spent most of his career in a company that produced weapon systems and ammunition, “I understand clearly what it means to have weapon-quality products, mil-spec standards.” By that measure, he said, Sandia represents “the pinnacle of national defense. . . . I look forward to this journey and can’t wait to join you in the legacy you have created and what we can do in the next 10 years.
  • John Myers, Senior Director, Human Resources & Communications Div. 3000, said, “Wow. It’s a delight to be here. The past four months have been crazy busy and I never thought we’d get here, but here we are. After 20 years at Honeywell in the commercial side, to come here in the M&O environment and learn all the acronyms that I’ve been learning over the past several months, I’m delighted to be here finally on this first day.”
  • William Elias, Senior Director, Legal Div. 11000 and Sandia General Counsel, previously served as General Counsel for the Charles Stark Draper Laboratory in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for 11 years and spent seven years at Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois. “I’m originally from New England,” Will said, “and I seem to be getting farther and farther away, but I decided to stop dancing around the edges of the weapons systems and go right to the heart of the whole national security complex, and that’s where we are now. . . . One thing that I would emphasize: I do have an ambition for all legal departments that I lead and that is, we are lawyers whose clients are relieved when we walk in the room.”

Outgoing Labs Director Jill Hruby symbolically passes the torch to incomings Labs Director Steve Younger, marking the beginning of a new era for Sandia. As of May 1, National Technology and Engineering Solutions of Sandia, LLC, assumed the DOE/NNSA contract to manage the Laboratories, marking the end of the Lockheed Martin era, which began in 1993.