Theodore's World: U.S. Keeps Eye On Sensitive Projects At Bell Labs

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November 20, 2006

U.S. Keeps Eye On Sensitive Projects At Bell Labs

U.S. keeping an eye on sensitive projects at Bell Labs ~ French Takeover

Star-Ledger Staff
Although a French company soon will own the famed Bell Labs, the U.S. will exercise "unprecedented" control over sensitive government projects at the New Jersey facility, U.S. Rep. Rob Andrews (D-1st Dist.) said yesterday.

"The U.S. government will be able to veto any people who have direct control over Bell Labs, and can veto the removal of any persons who have control over Bell Labs," said Andrews, who serves on the House Armed Services Committee and was briefed last week on the pending takeover of Lucent Technologies by Alcatel of France.

Bell Labs, birthplace of the transistor, was inherited from AT&T by Lucent a decade ago. The labs are centered in Murray Hill.

President Bush approved the merger of Lucent and Alcatel on Friday, based on a review by a multiagency federal panel called the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.

His approval hinges on both companies following through on "two robust and far-reaching agreements designed to ensure the protection of our national security," according to a statement from the White House. One of those agreements involves oversight of Bell Labs by three former top defense and intelligence officials.

Andrews said Bell Labs is involved with just about "anything that touches on imperatives for the country's security." But he called the merger of the two telecom companies vital for their economic health, "good for the country, and good for New Jersey."
"The U.S. government will have more control over the flow of information in and out of this entity than it has over the flow of information into other so-called American entities," Andrews said. "I think this is an unprecedented level of control, where the U.S. government will have an ongoing window into the management of Bell Labs."

Inder Singh, an analyst for Prudential Equity and a former Lucent executive, said it should not be hard for Bell Labs to segregate sensitive projects behind a "firewall."

"It won't be very different from what Bell Labs has done, historically," Singh said.

Lucent and Alcatel are aiming to close their deal on Nov. 30. The combined company, Alcatel Lucent, will be the largest supplier of equipment for mobile phone networks. It will be based in Paris, and employ 88,000 people at first. About 9,000 job cuts are expected later.

"We've gotten all the regulatory approvals we need and are just finalizing the last steps," said Lucent spokeswoman Joan Campion.

Wild Thing's comment......

Just another consolidation of critical infrastructure within the grasp of foreigners.

I think this is insane! Bell Labs is responsible for a HUGE number of America's technology innovations since 1920 (this is only a fraction of the things Bell Labs has invented or first-developed):

* Fax (1920)
* Movies with synchronized sound (1926)
* Television (first transmission, 1927)
* Radio astronomy (1931)
* Speech synthesizer (1937)
* Calculators (1940 and later)
* Photovoltaic (PV) cell (1940s)
* Scrambler for speech (1943)
* Transistor (1947)
* Teleprinter (1949)
* Microwave research (1950s)
* TransAtlantic cable (1956)
* Electronic music (1957)
* LED (1962)
* CO2 Laser (1964)
* Charge-coupled device (1969)
* UNIX (1970)
* C language (1970)
* Fibre optics (1976)
* 32-bit CPU (1980)
* Cellular phone (1980)
* Breakup of AT&T (1984)
* Wireless networking (1990)
* 56k modem (1991)
* Electron lithography (1996)
* Voice over IP (1998)
* Plastic transistors (2000)

We're selling this??? What are we, crazy? Sadly, I think so...

Posted by Wild Thing at November 20, 2006 12:55 AM


More scary is the government is going to have authority over who they hire. So in other words if the committee overseeing Bell Labs don't like the politics of a new PHD, he won't get the job. Regardless of qualifications.

Guys who get PHDs are not your everyday run of the mill engineer, they are off in left field, they motor on a different plane than the rest of us. Their thought process is in the abstract, everyday concepts of getting up and going to work and a set routine is foreign to them they don't understand it and they consider it tedium.

These are the people who have worked for Bell Labs, these are the people we need at Bell labs, not ones chosen by some party in power. They didn't invent the transistor because we needed it they already had the Vacuum Tube, they did it because there had to be a better way. One of the reason for ' the better way' was the first computer these 'nerds' built, they made it form Vacuum Tubes they needed to calculate trajectories for Artillery, the one they built took up a whole laborotory sized room, where today a laptop would do the same job much faster, the heat generated by this monstrousity could have heated the whole building. This was part and parcel why the idea of the transistor came into being. There had to be a better way.

Every time the government gets involved with private industry they screw it up. To have the French involved just adds insult to injury. They couldn't get anything right if it killed them. Even Madamme Curie was Polish.

But to have the democrats oversee this they should rename it to the Chappiquidack Research, it will revert all the advances, back to 1969 and everything else will be underwater.

Posted by: Mark at November 20, 2006 09:16 AM

Thanks Mark for your input.

"But to have the democrats oversee this they should rename it to the Chappiquidack Research, it will revert all the advances, back to 1969 and everything else will be underwater."

Good way to put it.

Posted by: Wild Thing at November 20, 2006 12:11 PM

Scary! Bush seems to think the economy takes precedence over all else, hence his support of cheap labor via illegal immigration. Bush 41 gave us the "New World Order" which I think was a term for one worldism. We learn that our ports are under foreign management, now our technology labs are to be foreign owned. We are giving away the farm and the country. Actually, I almost trust the French more than the Democrats.

I was angry enough when the Clinton bunch opened up our tech labs and military bases to visits by Chinese generals and other Third World America bashers. Now, selling our tech infrastructure to the world. Could any of that French money actually be filtered funds from another land, say Iran, Russia or China??

Posted by: TomR at November 20, 2006 12:12 PM

Wild Thing and others: With all due respect, I don't think this is as bit a deal as it's being made out to be. I have some personal knowledge of this; I worked at Bell Labs in the late '80s. I can tell you this: At one time, Bell Labs was one of the world's premiere research facilities. I'm not quite sure where that changed, if it was a casualty of the AT&T breakup or what. But I can tell you that by 1988, its star had tarnished significantly. What I experienced was:

* A cadre of backbiting, empire-building supervisors and managers who were bringing in employees that they had no job assignments for, just to fatten their org charts.
* A rampant PC culture with an out-of-control AA program.
* A devil-may-care attitude towards product development. Yes, there were lots of hard-working, talented, and dedicated engineers and technicians. But the management attutide seemed to be that they didn't care if any product ever got out the door or not; that was someone else's problem.
* Ph. D.'s were being kept on staff mainly for the prestige of having them. They gave them lab space and toys to play with, but they were carefully segregated from product develpment.
* A cavilier attitude towards employees. To anyone who ever had any kind of problem with how things were going, the response always was, "You can be replaced, you know."

In part becaose of these factors, the Labs isn't nearly what it once was in terms of engineering or scientific achievement (or the value of its stock). On top of that, although I didn't know it back then, Lucent's accounting was an absolute disaster. The books are utterly undecipherable, and I think that's why they couldn't find an American buyer: Because of Sarbenes-Oxley, Lucent's financial statments are regarded as a ticket to jail, and no one wants to get anywhere near them. I think that's why they wound up going to a French buyer: Alcatel, as a quasi-government French company, doesn't have to worry about legal liability for what's in (or missing from) Lucent's books.

Mark, I have not heard what you wrote about the Labs' hiring. I would assume that they can hire anyone they want for their military projects, as long as those people are U.S. citizens and are eligible for the appropriate security clearances. That's no different from any other defense research company or facility.

Posted by: Cousin Dave at November 20, 2006 01:03 PM


I don't know about you dave but whenever the government gets involved with any industry they tend to make adjustments and decisions according to the pervailing political winds.

I was involved in a Laser project about 25 years ago and the damn thing cost 3 times what it was worth because it was a government project. The bean counters were insistant on overcharging because of the red-tape and cost overruns, involved in solving simple problems when it came to dealing with the government. These accountants were talking to themselves after the thing was finally finished.

The point was that with the dems in charge now and Bell Labs being under the auspices of the Government and the President signing off on it you can bet, your last peso, that the hiring practices will be in concurrance with government policy on hiring practices.

It also has to do with the 'Bush Doctrine', of globalism, and the open borders and amnesty for all illegals coming into the country. The bottom line is the North American Country envisioned by Bush, Canada the United States and Mexico, to be one big nation. To eventually have the same currency and same language, but more practical would be a multi-lingual society, which would completely dissolve the sovereignty of the United States.

Posted by: Mark at November 20, 2006 03:05 PM

Dave, thanks for sharing. I don't agree though about it not being a big deal.

Most of my life I worked in the entertainment industry so up until my husband and I moved to Florida I had no idea how it would be to actually work for a company. Movie studio's, acting, modeling is another world and bad enough as it is with all the liberals one has to deal with.

When we moved here to Florida, I worked for 3 years for a company that had exactly all the things you listed going on and it wasn't even a lab. Since I stopped working for them I have heard of other companies that are the same way. I hated it and that is why I stopped working for that company and am working my own business.

What I do know about government being involved in anything,such as schools, businesses etc., is that their involvment is a very bad thing. It still has the list you mentioned, but it has even worse things added to it. Much more control then a private business.

One the gazillion things I despise about the Clinton's is how they gave so much away to China. I will never forgive them for what they did nor forget.

What Tom wrote and Mark wrote is so true. Government involvment is horrible and the more this happens the worse things will get. It weakens our country in so many ways.

Posted by: Wild Thing at November 20, 2006 07:12 PM