February 2000

Transition: UT-Battelle team praises LMER’s preparations

Transition team leaders for UT-Battelle have arrived at ORNL to begin those activities. It’s a task fraught with i’s to dot and t’s to cross. UT-Battelle team members say, however, that they are finding a house left well in order by their Lockheed Martin Energy Research Corporation predecessors.

The transition activities began January 18. The handover is still set for April 1. Between now and then, says Guy Cunningham, who is leading the UT-Battelle transition team, scores of people will be working to effect a smooth changing of the guard. How apparent those activities will be to staff members will depend largely on where they sit.

"In transition, you have to focus on the details and know what you are inheriting. It's a lot like getting married"
“Transition activities won’t be very visible to people at the research bench or in the field,” Cunningham says. “It might be more apparent to people down in the management ranks, especially from the science and ES&H standpoints, because we’re going to be meeting with them and learning more about the Lab.

“The incoming key personnel—the leaders of the science and functional organizations—will all be working in parallel to get a better feel of the Lab. We actually got a pretty good feel of it during the proposal process.

“We are going to try to get out and about,” Cunningham says. “We want to be accessible.”

In a January 18 letter to division, office and program directors, Deputy Director Richard Genung noted that staff members may be called upon to interface with members of the transition team, and he encouraged “utmost support.”

The 40 to 50 UT-Battelle and LMER transition folk are housed in the east end of Quonset-hut-styled Building 2001, which UT-Battelle President Bill Madia has dubbed “the Winter Palace.” One of the first transition activities was the distribution of a flyer to all employees that includes photos and small write-ups on top managers. Information on the transition will be available on the new contractor’s Web site, www.ut-battelle.com, as well as through the existing employee communications vehicles at ORNL, including ORNL Today and ORNL Reporter.

Cunningham, who has served as general counsel at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, is a veteran of the transition at Brookhaven National Laboratory two years ago. He acknowledges that the BNL transition had some major differences.

“There were overriding preexisting conditions at BNL—the tritium issue—that we were guided to address in the transition process. Here, in the absence of such issues, we’re guided to wait until after the transition to deal with other issues.”

Tom Etheridge, the ORNL transition manager, and DOE’s Martha Kass are working with Cunningham to ensure a smooth process. A smooth process, Etheridge points out, also means a less costly process for all parties involved.

“It’s similar to moving out of an apartment,” says Etheridge, the LMER point person. “You want to leave things in good shape.”

It’s a pretty complex house. The transition team will be working to make sure as few as possible details get overlooked when the name on the letterhead changes.

“For instance,” says Cunningham, “Subcontracts must be changed from LMER to UT-Battelle. However, most of them stipulate that if the contractor changes, the subcontract automatically changes over to the new contractor, which is handled by a letter to the subcontractors.”

Other details can be more elusive.

“Some simple things are easy to miss, like having a formal agreement that UT-Battelle can open ordinary business-related mail that comes in addressed to LMER after the transition is over.”

A sampling of other details includes changing the registration of vehicles that transfer materials over roads; changing tax agreements with about 18 states; modifying cooperative research and development agreements, as well as patent applications and environmental permits; and addressing legal and financial third-party agreements among LMER, DOE and UT-Battelle.

“It’s a lot like getting married,” Cunning- ham says. “If the wife is changing her name, it means making the change to a lot of different things. In transition, you have to focus on those details and know what you are inheriting.”

DOE’s role in the transition is to verify that, first, LMER has done enough to be relieved of its role and, second, that UT-Battelle has done enough to assume responsibility.

Cunningham, who’ll pack up and go back to Battelle headquarters in Columbus on April 1, gives the LMER team high praise for leaving the house in order.

“I’d like to express, and Bill Madia has made this point also, that we’re extremely impressed with the detail of preparation that the LMER people have made. We came in thinking we would have to do a lot of things and arrived to find that LMER had already taken care of them. It has streamlined things tremendously.”

Etheridge reacts to the praise humbly: “It’s part of our contract.”—B.C