Workshop set for NNSA labs to develop new framework for resolving diversity issues

July 27, 2001

Workshop set for NNSA labs to develop new framework for resolving diversity issues

Gen. John Gordon, head of the National Nuclear Security Administration, has tasked the three NNSA laboratories — LLNL, Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories — with developing an enhanced framework for resolving workforce diversity issues within the NNSA labs. The framework will first address issues specific to the Asian Pacific Islander American (APIA) community.

In response to this directive, the Labs are developing an APIA Diversity Issues Workshop, to be held Aug. 24 in Albuquerque, N.M.

The Department of Energy has been especially sensitive in recent years to the racial profiling concerns of Asian Pacific Islander Americans in the wake of the Wen Ho Lee case. DOE undertook a number of efforts to address the issues resulting from this matter, including establishing a Task Force Against Racial Profiling, holding a complex-wide Diversity Stand-Down, and the appointment of Jeremy Wu as the department ombuds.

The upcoming workshop will inaugurate a new protocol involving senior management for developing solutions to systemic workforce diversity issues and concerns. Although the focus of this initial session is on APIA issues, the methodology employed will be intended as a regular means of addressing other diversity issues.

“The next steps in this process will be to systematically address the issues of other groups in a similar manner,” said Tommy Smith, LLNL director of Affirmative Action and Diversity Programs. “This NNSA activity will allow us to bring those issues to top management, while at the same time developing a methodology for handling these types of problems. Whatever methodologies we develop here will be equally applicable to the issues and concerns of other groups.”

The primary goals of the inaugural workshop are to:

• Initiate the use of this type of meeting with senior laboratory management as a means of addressing issues of this type and magnitude;
• Select and prioritize issues for the development of local and complex-wide solutions as appropriate;

• Review actions and progress to date, identify and share successful practices so they can be replicated, identify unsuccessful practices so they can be avoided, celebrate victories; and

• Motivate leaders to commit to further action as necessary to resolve remaining outstanding issues.

The planning committee for this event consists of APIA employees, diversity managers and senior management representatives from each lab. In addition, key NNSA administrators will participate.

The workshop will be a daylong event, including an address by Nelson Dong of the Committee of 100, a Chinese American professional organization.
Candid, in-depth discussions led by APIA employees defining issues and concerns common to the NNSA laboratory complex will also be featured.
However, the aim of the entire event is to identify solutions that can be uniformly supported and committed to by Gen. Gordon and the laboratory directors.

The workshop will be followed by a similar session focused on developing specific implementation measures in the near future. Evaluation and monitoring of the progress and results of the workshop are expected to be incorporated as a standing agenda item in NNSA lab deputy directors meetings.

It is hoped that the meeting will help bring into focus the remaining issues affecting the APIA community, which surfaced in the wake of the firing of Los Alamos scientist Wen Ho Lee. Lee’s firing and subsequent arrest triggered concern within much of the APIA community about racial profiling.

In particular, many expressed concerns that Asians were subject to unwarranted doubt and judgment of their loyalty as Americans based solely on their ethnicity. The Laboratory, along with the entire DOE complex, undertook many efforts to address these concerns in the months following Lee’s firing and arrest. These efforts have met with varying degrees of success, but some concerns still remain.

Many feel that the Lee case helped to highlight issues and attitudes about APIAs that were already prevalent, but hidden in society. The Committee of 100 recently commissioned a survey on attitudes toward Asian Americans. The results of the survey showed some rather alarming data, including the fact that 32 percent of participants think that Chinese Americans are more loyal to China than to the United States.

Lab Director Bruce Tarter, in responding to the survey data, said, “I hope it is absolutely clear to all of our employees that we do not feel that the results of the Committee of 100 survey accurately reflect the sentiments of Lab employees. The Laboratory has devoted a considerable amount of time and effort to diversity training and other awareness-building activities. We are working to achieve a workplace characterized by respect, inclusion and acceptance, and I am confident that Laboratory employees strongly support these efforts.”

In keeping with Gen. Gordon’s overarching vision of having the NNSA function as a cohesive unit, the methodology and protocol pioneered by this meeting is expected to be systematically applied to other diversity issues within the NNSA laboratory complex.