There are ingrained issues at the labs. A new management company can't come in a get rid of existing dysfunctional subcontractors. Their employees often have bad attitudes and live in an entitlement culture. The DOE needs to let new companies displace the existing ones completely and just hire the existing people that want to get jobs done.
With that said, their are sections of the labs that do great work and have talented people. Those are usually in the smaller, more focused programs.
Wow, sounds like the voice of experience from an actual current or past LANL employee. I spent 20 years at LANL. During the last 15 years there my group brought in all of our own funding from external, non-DOE sources for non-weapons work. We had to fight LANL management and the DOE to do this, because they resented us doing work for others.
We brought in work from other agencies in spite of the fact that due to LANL's exorbitant overhead costs the annual FTE rate (the amount of money we we had to charge outside agencies for one year of a staff person's time) was more than $500,000.
These days, due to Bechtel/UC's top-heavy management structure, and the general inefficiency with which they run the place, the overhead rates are even higher than they were when I left the lab in 2005. Current FTE rates for staff at LANL now exceeds $600,000 per year.
The question is: why would anybody want to spend that much money to do scientific research when it could be done elsewhere much more cost effectively?