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Look For More Heads to Roll at Los Alamos Labs

I’ve run a few businesses in my career up to this point. Granted, they are pretty small potatoes compared to the estimated $2 billion a year contract to be had for running Los Alamos National Labs (LANL) for the Energy Department, but still, I have got a pretty good grasp on what constitutes a sound business decision. For example, it would be a lousy idea to counter employee theft with a solution that costs a 110 times more than the theft itself. This is precisely why I’m still trying to make sense of this:

LOS ALAMOS, N.M. (AP) Los Alamos National Laboratory will be able to track its purchases better with its new off-the-shelf computer software package. The 160-million-dollar system is being rolled out during the next two years.

First things first, what kind of store lines it’s shelves with $160 million dollar software packages? I’m guessing not Best Buy. This seems a little steep to me for an “off-the-shelf computer software package.” Heck, it seems steep for a one-of-a-kind-design package. Let me repeat, we are talking about $160,000,000 to track purchases.

Now, I’m just a small business owner, not a procurement expert, so I figured maybe I should do a little comparison shopping. After all, it could be that I’m just out of touch with current software prices. First, I found Palmas, but they only go up to $100,000 for a”full-featured e-procurement system.” Obviously not in the same league as LANL’s suppliers.

To prevent accusations of being a one source wonder, I decided to search for additional vendors, and that’s when I came across Elance. This company was able to fill the needs of Motorola’s 20,000 purchasing employees (Los Alamos Labs has a total of 7,000 employees) for a three year contract costing between $3 million and $5 million a year.

I was about to continue my search, when a thought occurred to me. We’re talking about one the greatest brain trusts in the world. You can’t turn around in Los Alamos without bumping into a PhD. What are these guys doing buying off-the shelf software anyway? Run a $1 million contest, and I’ll bet a couple of LANL employees on sabbatical could kick out an amazing program in a couple of weekends. You think I am exaggerating. Folks with this kind of intellect and know-how build rockets to launch into space for a measly $10 million prize. Well, if Representative James Greenwood was “astonished” before, I can only imagine how he is going to feel once he hears about this $160 million dollar use of taxpayer money.

Now, will someone please tell me where to go to collect my $930,000, or maybe I should forego the pocket change, and throw my hat in the ring for that open contract.