Nuke Lab Pays Money For Nothing

Deesh Narang, employee at Los Alamos nuclear weapons lab, thinks he's overpaid CBS

Every day when Deesh Narang goes to work at Los Alamos Nuclear Weapons Laboratory he looks for a way to justify his six-figure government salary.

"I've done everything that I could do to be a useful, productive person at the lab," says Narang.

But as CBS News Correspondent Sharyl Attkisson reports, he's not.

It all started when Narang, a nuclear compliance expert, was recommended for a promotion but got passed over. When he questioned it, he says his bosses turned a deaf ear, so he sued. Ever since, Narang claims the lab has waged a campaign to ruin him, spending taxpayer dollars like monopoly money to do it.

As his lawsuit progressed, the lab kept him "unassigned" - a common temporary status. But for Narang, "unassigned" lasted seven years.

He's applied for 55 jobs at the lab over the last five years.

So far nobody has called him once.

Ironically, when the case was finally tried, the jury said the lab had the right to deny his promotion. What got the lab in trouble was the vindictive retaliation Narang suffered for speaking out. The jury made the lab pay.

The total settlement was $575,000 in taxpayer money. When you add the $844,000 the lab spent on attorneys, U.S. taxpayers shelled out $1.4 million.

It just seems hard to imagine they're putting so much effort and money and resources into making sure Narang has nothing to do.

He says they've succeeded.

Critics say the lab has a bad habit of retaliating against employees and whistleblowers. They say money's no object since taxpayers cover the lab's bills. So some in Congress are pushing for a law to stop taxpayer dollars from being used to fight people like Narang.

Los Alamos officials say they spent all that taxpayer money because if they don't fight claims they think are frivolous, it'll open the floodgates to more. The lab also insists Narang has been assigned "meaningful" work, adding that retaliation against him was isolated not institutional. They have a "sincere desire to assure Narang is treated fairly."

Narang says to this day, he's still little more than a clerk.

So why doesn't he just quit?

"The cause is bigger than me," he says. "I want to make a change at the lab."

Something he considers the most meaningful work he's had in seven years.
  • Jaime Holguin

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