March 8, 2002

A-List sets Laboratory's priorities for 2002

A List

Shortly after I became Director, I introduced the idea of the Lab A-List. The purpose was to identify 10 objectives for each year that would define the most important institutional goals for me and the other senior managers. To make the list an item had to a) be important for a significant fraction of the Laboratory; b) have major deliverables during the year; and c) require my personal attention and have buy-in from the senior managers as a group. I also encouraged the other senior managers to utilize a similar A-List concept for their organizations.

I have personally found the list extremely useful over the years as a mechanism for setting my own priorities. If the Laboratory achieves the majority of the items on the list, we are essentially guaranteed a successful year. Failure to meet some of the central tenets will almost certainly mean significant problems in one or more areas.

Since this may be the last year such a list formally exists (my successor may well choose a different method to achieve the same purpose), I will go through this year’s list in some detail in this column. I hope this may give you some insight into why the individual items are important as well as why other items didn’t make the list.

The first objective deals with our role in the national stockpile stewardship program, and something similar to this has appeared in nearly every A-List. The special feature of this year’s goal is the existence of a five-year budget and plan — i.e., what we do this year on developing the details of the plan can have a major impact on our work for the next half-decade.

The NIF item is obvious — we simply have to meet both the program and project deliverables from now until NIF is fully operating to restore the Lab’s reputation in taking on major projects and to ensure a long, productive life for the facility.

The counter-terrorism goal is equally compelling. We have done outstanding work since the tragic events of September 11, but the organization of future efforts and our role in them will largely be established by the end of this year. This is already a major priority for the country and for us.

The survey item is also obvious: Nearly all of our planned human resource actions are embodied in its recommendations.
Operationally, we need to continue to have a site that is safe and secure, and to demonstrate that fact by passing all outside reviews. This is particularly important post-September 11 where the concerns and attention to those issues are heightened.

Next, we are nearing the end of our first two years of the new 5-year UC contract. We must continue to meet all Appendix O deliverables, and both UC and NNSA also expect real progress on integrating both our business and programmatic areas.
The seventh item is focused on areas outside direct NNSA sponsorship, in both programs and basic science and technology. Because of the many "crises" of the last several years, these areas need special attention to restore the mechanisms needed for their internal health, and for outside support where appropriate.

Supercomputing has been near the top of the Lab’s A-List since our beginning and we have the complex task this year of bidding and awarding the contract for the computer that will replace ASCI White. Concurrently, we need to strengthen our computational science even further to enable us to exploit the new machine as an essential part of our national leadership role in supercomputing.
Once the new Director takes office, he or she will quickly be compelled to articulate the general directions for the Laboratory. Whether this involves formal strategic planning as the first step will be up to the Director, but some statements along those lines are almost inevitable.

Finally, it is our 50th anniversary year and we should all use this occasion to learn from the past and think about the future.
So, there you have it, this year’s A-List. It’s difficult to argue with the first six items or the last two, but there was considerable competition for the 7th and 8th items. For example, business operations have been excellent for some time and maintaining that is a perennial objective, but there’s no special institutional effort associated with that at the moment. And, selecting new ADs for Chemistry and Materials Science and Biology and Biotechnology Research is clearly very important, but I believe it fits within "normal activities" this year. So like all lists, there is some debate, but a clear set of imperatives for the vast majority of items. I hope and expect we will focus our attention appropriately and be as successful this year as we have been in the recent past.