Operations, Environment, Safety, and Health

Restructuring the Work Force
ES&H Oversight Reduction and Multiple Standards
Business Management Oversight Pilot
Improving ORNL’s Cost Efficiencies
ORNL Creates New Division

The day-to-day operation of ORNL is generally the responsibility of ORNL’s Operations, Environment, Safety, and Health Directorate. We perform the necessary maintenance of infrastructure; provide health services, including physical examinations; assist line organizations in compliance with federal and state regulations in such areas as radiological protection, environmental protection, and industrial safety; and provide emergency planning and response. In addition, we provide financial and budget services for all operational and research areas at ORNL.

In 1996 as in other years, we found several opportunities for saving money, making our operations more efficient, and doing business in more innovative ways.

Restructuring the Work Force

During 1996 ORNL continued to reduce employment levels in response to declining budgets and changing program emphasis. Two reduction-in-force (RIF) programs were requested of DOE and approved. The first in March, to accommodate mid-year funding adjustments, included a voluntary reduction-in-force (VRIF) program. Twenty employees were terminated, including five voluntary reductions. The second program was approved for September in anticipation of a fiscal year (FY) 1997 budget decrease. This reduction included an enhanced VRIF program with 150% normal severance pay; 66 employees were terminated, including 49 volunteers. In November, DOE’s Oak Ridge Operations (ORO) announced FY 1997 work force restructuring for about 1680 positions in the Oak Ridge area, including 230 at ORNL.

In 1996, ORNL cut its payroll in response
to tighter budgets and program changes.
Some services were transferred from
Energy Systems to ORNL.

In January 1996, Lockheed Martin Energy Research Corporation was formed to manage and operate ORNL. Many services have been and continue to be purchased from Lockheed Martin Energy Systems, Inc. Some services, however, were transferred from Energy Systems to ORNL. Initial transfers included 88 employees to the Office of Public Affairs, the Human Resources Division, the Office of Technology Transfer, and the Legal Department. The transition continued, and on January 1, 1997, 326 positions were transferred to provide needed support and service in waste management, information management and technology, human resources, property and materials, and engineering.

ES&H Oversight Reduction and Multiple Standards

During the years following the technical safety appraisals and the Tiger Team reviews in the late 1980s and early 1990s, it became obvious that DOE national laboratories faced reduced productivity and rising costs that stemmed from excessive DOE oversight and the labs’ compliance with multiple government standards. In 1995, for example, some ORNL facilities were audited more than five times, resulting in excessive costs and lost productivity. These same facilities were subject to DOE orders and requirements that added significant costs—but no value—to their operations.

Questions were raised. Was so much oversight of the labs by DOE really needed to ensure their safe and efficient operation? Which standards were really necessary? Which actions were sufficient to meet the intent of environmental, safety, and health (ES&H) regulations?

ORNL is taking part in a DOE pilot program
to conduct business operations economically
using best management practices to
achieve continuous improvement.

These issues were identified by a number of review committees, and resolving the problems became critical to the Lab’s survival. By boldly embarking on two programs simultaneously, ORNL took the lead throughout the DOE complex.

In a January 1995 meeting, the national laboratory directors pressed then Energy Secretary Hazel O’Leary for relief from excessive oversight. In April 1995, ORNL, working in partnership with DOE-ORO and DOE’s Office of Energy Research, proposed a pilot program to reduce ES&H oversight. The pilot program, which ran throughout FY 1996, was based on enhanced self-assessment by ORNL, meaningful performance measures that were mutually agreed upon with DOE, and a focused appraisal of short duration. What was the outcome? ORNL maintained quality ES&H programs, while DOE significantly reduced ES&H oversight. Thus, the pilot program was the model for the current way of doing business at ORNL. In fact, the pilot was so successful that DOE’s ES&H oversight policy is being rewritten to incorporate the principles of operation tested at ORNL.

As the ES&H pilot was progressing, ORNL also addressed the issue of multiple standards. DOE has a “requirements process,” a system of orders and directives that begins in DOE Headquarters and flows to DOE-ORO and other operations offices. ORNL operations are directed by DOE through written information in the form of orders, manuals, and guidance documents. The problem was that the regulations in these documents duplicated provisions of “external requirements”—laws, regulations, and enforceable requirements from non-DOE regulators with authority at ORNL (e.g., the state of Tennessee and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). Sometimes the DOE requirements were even in conflict with external regulations and subject to varying interpretations throughout the DOE complex.

ORNL Director Alvin Trivelpiece and Jim Hall, manager of DOE’s Oak Ridge Operations, sign documents showing approval of the Necessary and Sufficient Standards for ORNL. Looking on is Martha Krebs, director of DOE’s Office of Energy Research. Photograph by Curtis Boles.

ORNL, in concert with DOE, launched the “necessary and sufficient” process to determine the standards appropriate for the research and support activities at ORNL. ORNL research and operations staff, supported by ES&H staff, developed a set of standards that are in keeping with the standards that industry and academia would be expected to meet in conducting similar work. Incorporating external standards wherever possible, this new set of standards, approved and in our contract with DOE, allows us to work to accepted and understood requirements. By modifying our ES&H procedures and practices to reflect the requirements of the approved standards, ORNL will be a safer place to work, and, because of reductions in ES&H costs, we will be able to compete more effectively for government research funds.

Business Management Oversight Pilot

On March 30, 1995, Under Secretary of Energy Charles Curtis issued a memorandum describing DOE’s Business Management Oversight Pilot (BMOP) program. This pilot was successfully implemented at ORNL and Lockheed Martin Energy Systems. The overall pilot process received Vice President Al Gore’s Hammer Award for Quality in 1996.

ORNL has been a leader in addressing the
issue of too much DOE oversight, which
has resulted in excessive costs
and lost productivity.

The BMOP reflected a growing partnership between DOE and its management and operations contractors, encouraging and rewarding performance and continuous improvement. BMOP facilitated a paradigm shift from compliance-based to performance-based, or outcome-oriented, oversight. The pilot also contributed to improved communications between ORNL managers and their DOE counterparts through cooperative efforts such as the development of mutually agreed-on performance objectives and measures.

To implement the BMOP, we defined the requirements and shared information. A comprehensive BMOP self-assessment was also developed and submitted to DOE-ORO. The BMOP performance objectives and measures and the annual self-assessment reports were combined with operational awareness to provide DOE-ORO reasonable assurance that business operations at ORNL were being conducted in a cost-effective manner using best management practices and were conducive to achieving continuous improvement.

We found that the BMOP had many benefits. It received an overall positive acceptance by DOE-ORO and ORNL management. It strengthened communications and fostered a more effective working partnership between DOE and ORNL management teams. It established a clearer focus on required outcomes and results, enabling management to change its focus from compliance-based to performance-based improvements. BMOP reduced performance appraisal and review efforts, leading to significant cost savings in the past year. It recognized value added when the self-assessment process is based on prenegotiated performance objectives and measures. It established databases that will allow baselining and trend analysis to support productivity improvements and benchmarking (the baselines being established will help to identify conditions, based on facts and data, with the potential for subsequent cost and productivity improvements). BMOP identified the need for continued efforts to train personnel in performance-based management processes and to communicate information about performance-based management systems. It focused greater management attention on performance results and cost effectiveness, helping to foster a change from rigid rules to guiding principles and from audit compliance to the evaluation of management controls.

On May 15, 1996, based on the success of the BMOP and upon recommendation of the BMOP Steering Committee, the Deputy Secretary of Energy signed a memorandum institutionalizing the performance-based oversight process. The BMOP is now referred to as the Business Management Review (BMR) process. The 1997 BMR assessment covers budget and cost management, financial management, human resources, industrial partnerships, information resource management, maintenance and operations, procurement, project management, property and materials management, real estate, and transportation management.

The BMR process is recognized as an evolving process that should complement ongoing communication efforts and aid in establishing a participative relationship with our main customer, DOE. Performance-based oversight offers tremendous potential for improved cost-effectiveness and efficiencies. The success of the pilot encourages ORNL to continue striving for improvements and refinements of the BMR process.

Improving ORNL’s Cost Efficiencies

ORNL is committed to devoting more resources to research and development and to making operations more efficient. During 1996, 41 specific new actions were taken to reduce and avoid costs, resulting in a savings of nearly $14 million. Projects from previous years that had cost impacts for 1996 totaled nearly $7 million, bringing the total savings to $20.8 million.

How have we reduced our costs? Organizational streamlining and restructuring reduced overhead. ORNL’s Engineering Technology Division effectively consolidated several functions over the past two years to realize significant annual cost savings. The division experienced a net reduction of 28 full-time employees. Several overhead organizations reduced costs by consolidating their operations. The organizations include the Office of Safety and Health Protection, the Office of Radiation Protection, and the Office of Environmental Compliance and Documentation.

Significant costs were avoided in other ways. For example, we recycle lead from our legacy lead supplies. Instead of purchasing an expensive recoil separator for accelerator physics experiments at our Holifield Radioactive Ion Beam Facility, we acquired the Daresbury Recoil Separator at no cost from a United Kingdom laboratory; all we had to pay was the cost of shipping and installing the device.

We continue to seek ways to reduce and avoid costs.

ORNL Creates New Division

Where at ORNL can you get library services; access to our local data networks from your office and home or while on travel; help creating a Web page; integrated publishing, illustrating, and digital imaging support for technical papers, marketing materials, or proposal generation; or technical support for a UNIX workstation? The answer is ORNL’s new Computing, Information, and Networking Division (CIND).

This new division supports the ORNL research mission in the areas of scientific and business computing, information management, and data networking. In these areas, division staff offer cost-effective services and consulting, provide leadership and strategic planning, and assist in attracting funds to the Laboratory.

Richard Hicks is the director of the new Computing, Information, and Networking Division.

CIND, whose director is Richard Hicks, was created October 1, 1996, by incorporating functions previously performed by the former ORNL Office of Computing and Network Management and two central organizations of Lockheed Martin Energy Systems—Information Management Services and Information Technology Services.

CIND also has the unique role of providing user advocacy and Laboratory-wide coordination for computing issues. In this role, the staff seeks customer feedback through the leadership of several ORNL-wide user committees: Scientific Computing User Advisory Committee (John Cobb); Administrative Computing Steering Committee (Russ Overbey); and Network Forum (Bill Wing). This advocacy role has been expanded to the information management arena with the appointment of Bob Conrad as advocate for the library and information area.

The division has the following groups, which provide these services.

The Business Applications group provides overall coordination of business computing at ORNL and helps obtain computer programming solutions.

The Information Integration group helps ensure that information systems being developed communicate well with one another, provides WebWorks to assist with Web-related projects, and offers desktop software solutions.

Networking groups manage, maintain, and improve the underlying data networks and software necessary for efficient network operations, maintain public local area networks and ORNL connections to the Internet. The Network Computing group manages system software on the primary ORNL internal and external Web servers, provides Web application software development services, and provides technical support for electronic mail applications. The Workstation Support group provides system administration and technical support for workstations and maintains workstation-related software and documentation.

In the Information Management Section, Graphic Services enhances scientific and technical communication through the design and production of illustrations, presentations, posters and displays, brochures, multimedia, and Internet graphics. Publishing Services provides personalized technical publishing services, including writing and editing, publishing project management, proposal development, word processing and desktop publishing, Internet publishing, and CD-ROM publishing. ORNL Libraries provide information support to ORNL staff through library collections, a large electronic network of databases, and Web interfaces allowing researchers to access information from their desktops. Records Management manages all Laboratory records and ensures ORNL compliance with document control regulations. The Technical Information Office serves as the control point for releasing scientific and technical information and maintains the Comprehensive Publications Registry.

A more complete and current list of CIND services can be found on their internal Web page: http://www-internal.ornl.gov/cind.

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