Survey reveals a not-so-happy NNSA Production Office

A 2014 survey of federal workers revealed a lot of unhappiness at the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Production Office, which oversees operations at the Y-12 and Pantex nuclear weapons plants. In fact, based on results of the government survey, the NPO may have been the most negative unit within the entire U.S. Department of

The “3rd level subagency report” obtained recently provides a breakdown of responses from Department of Energy employees as a whole; those employees who come under the Under Secretary for Nuclear Security; federal employees at all NNSA field locations; and those who work at the NNSA Production Office.

Based on the report, the NPO appeared to have the most negative response to about half of the 80-plus questions — including those dealing with attitudes toward management and workplace conditions.

The NNSA Production Office management has reportedly taken steps to further understand the results of the survey and to address concerns.

pantex1In a Dec. 5 message to NPO employees, newly named Deputy Manager Teresa Robbins released the results of the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey “for review and reflection.”

Robbins noted, “I’m not positive  when the survey was taken but I believe it probably reflects a more pessimistic time when we were not allowed to hire, travel, or participate in training due to our very limited program direction funding.  However, we are going to own the results as stated in the survey.”

The NNSA official asked employees to participate in employee-led teams that were based on actions taken in 2013 by the executive leadership team to address survey results. She said she was soliciting volunteers to identify near-term and long-term “actions for sustaining areas of strength and improving areas of weaknesses.” She said the executive leadership team “takes the results of this survey very seriously.”

Robbins said, “We need your participation, insight and recommendations to make NPO the employer of choice.”

Asked for further comment on the negative results, the NPO released this statement from Robbins:

“The survey results reflect the growing pains of establishing a new and unique organization with a diverse and challenging mission across a geographically separated organization. Since the survey was taken in June 2014, we have filled three key management positions with permanent selections to address one of the key employee concerns. Our goal is to address the survey results and to ultimately make NPO one of the best places to work in the NNSA complex. This will be accomplished through an employee led effort in the federal workforce at Pantex and Y-12.”

The NNSA Production Office was established in 2012 in anticipation of the transition to a new combined contract for managing Y-12 in Oak Ridge and Pantex in Amarillo, Texas. As it turned out, the federal oversight office preceded the contract transition by a couple of years. Consolidated Nuclear Security took over responsibility for managing the two plants on July 1, 2014.

Here are some examples of the NPO’s responses on the government survey:

— Asked to respond to the statement, “In my organization, senior leaders generate high levels of motivation and commitment in the workforce,” 63.7 percent of the NPO gave a negative responses (compared to 42.9 percent for DOE as a whole and 46.6 percent for all NNSA field locations). Only 10.7 percent of those NPO employees responding to the survey gave that a positive (compared to 32.4 percent at DOE as a whole and 27 percent at all NNSA field locations).

— Asked to respond to , “Considering everything, how satisfied are you with your organization?” 45.2 percent of the NPO employees responded negatively. That compared to 26.5 percent at DOE as a whole and 29.6 percent for employees at all NNSA field locations.

— Asked to respond to, “My training needs are assessed,” about 41 percent of NPO employees were negative, compared to 30 percent of DOE employees and 29 percent of those working at NNSA site locations as a whole.

— Asked to respond to, “My work unit is able to recruit people with the right skills,” 72.8 percent of NPO employees were negative, and that compared to 38.6 percent of DOE employees responding to the survey and 66.6 percent of NNSA field sites as a whole.

According to the report, 66 employees at the NNSA Production Office participated in the survey. NNSA spokesman Steven Wyatt said the current workforce at NPO is 115.

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About Frank Munger

Senior Writer Frank Munger covers the Dept. of Energy's Oak Ridge facilities and many related topics — nuclear weapons, nuclear waste and other things nuclear, environmental cleanup and science of all sorts. Atomic City Underground is, first and foremost, a news blog, but there's room for analysis, opinion and random thoughts that have no place else to go.