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From the Director

(Photo - Persis Drell)This week, the laboratory is focused on the layoffs that are being announced. We received final approvals from Stanford University and the Department of Energy to proceed late on Tuesday afternoon. Within 30 minutes, word went to all of the laboratory staff with a schedule by directorate and department as to when individuals would be notified. I have been impressed and deeply moved by the stoic and professional attitude of the lab staff during this horrible period of uncertainty since the layoffs were announced on January 7. I am relieved to bring the uncertainty to an end.

Other events seem to pale in comparison to the immediate actions we are taking this week. And yet, this week has also marked the very important announcement of the DOE Office of Science performance assessment of SLAC based on the criteria established in our FY07 Performance Evaluation and Measurement Plan (PEMP). The SLAC grades are posted, along with the grades for the other Office of Science laboratories, on the DOE website. The full PEMP report has been issued to the laboratory and soon will be posted where staff can access it. These grades evaluate the laboratory in FY07 (the period of Oct 1, 2006 through Sept. 30, 2007).

The overall grades for SLAC are B+ for Science and Technology performance and B- for Management and Operations performance. These grades are very similar to the grades we received for FY06. I have three important messages for the laboratory with respect to the PEMP process and our evaluation.

(1) Perhaps the most important message is that this laboratory is changing. The FY07 PEMP measured where we were in FY07 and this laboratory has been making change at a very rapid pace since then. I am very confident that we are moving forward with an improvement agenda that will show real progress in this next year. This was very nicely captured in the message that our site office manager, Paul Golan, delivered to lab management in his transmittal letter. He wrote: "The vision and momentum that the laboratory exhibited as well as the aggressive actions that the Laboratory took at the end of this performance period, following through in FY08, are extremely encouraging. The Department of Energy is confident that SLAC is on the right track, is taking appropriate actions to reposition the laboratory for its future missions, and is a laboratory with a very bright future." We could not ask for a stronger vote of confidence that we are heading in the right direction with our improvement initiatives and while we all know that we have a long way to go in order to accomplish our goals, the first small baby steps we have taken are tremendously encouraging.

(2) The next important message is that when the laboratory management did our own self assessment in advance of the assessments provided by the site office and DOE, we gave ourselves a B- in the Management and Operations area and a B+ in Science and Technology. The first step to being able to improve the laboratory functionality is to have a realistic, hard nosed assessment of where we are and what we need to improve on. I want for us to be our own harshest critics. The staff did an excellent job of the self assessment and our agreement with the site office and DOE—an agreement not just at the highest summary level but agreement in the individual metrics in most areas—is a good indication of the honesty and integrity of our self evaluation.

(3) Finally, both we and the DOE are committed to using the PEMP process as a tool to help move the laboratory forward. Part of the SLAC Improvement Initiative (SII), working with the site office, will be to optimize the PEMP metrics to maximize their effectiveness in helping us to assess the effectiveness of the management and operations of the critical functions of the lab.

I encourage you all to read the PEMP report. I look forward to this time next year when I believe we will be able to see real improvements in our performance and see those improvements reflected in the performance assessments we receive at that time.

Persis Drell, SLAC Today, February 8, 2008