Nuclear Weapons:

Improved Management Needed to Implement Stockpile Stewardship Program Effectively

GAO-01-48: Published: Dec 14, 2000. Publicly Released: Jan 4, 2001.

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The National Nuclear Security Administration's Office of Defense Programs seeks to maintain the safety and reliability of the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear testing. This report discusses the Department of Energy's (DOE) management of its National Nuclear Security Administration's Stockpile Stewardship Program, focusing on the program's plans, budgeting, organization, and life extension process. Although the Office of Defense Programs has tried to address some of the challenges facing the Stockpile Stewardship Program, more improvements are needed. The Office of Defense Programs has developed an extensive planning process to improve the management of its Stockpile Stewardship program. So far, however, the plans are missing vital information. The Office has developed a new structure for its fiscal year 2001 budget that can improve the overall management of the Stockpile Stewardship Program. Several external and internal studies have found that the Office of Defense Programs has a dysfunctional organization with unclear lines of authority that lead to a lack of accountability. Finally, one of the nine types of nuclear weapons in the current stockpile has begun the life extension process--a step that will be necessary to keep the nation's nuclear weapons safe and reliable without explosive testing.

Status Legend:

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  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: To improve the Stockpile Stewardship Program's management, the Administrator, National Nuclear Security Administration, should direct the Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs to reorganize the program so that roles and responsibilities between headquarters program offices and between headquarters and field staff are clearly defined and so that program management officials are located as close as possible to the programs they manage.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy: National Nuclear Security Administration

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: On December 17, 2002, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) issued its reorganization plan, entitled NNSA of the Future. The plan reorganized the Office of Defense Programs so that the roles and responsibilities between headquarters program offices and between headquarters and field staff are clearly defined. However, the reorganization retained program management responsibilities at the headquarters level and did not place it in the field as close as possible to the programs being carried out by NNSA's contractors. Therefore, while NNSA has complied with part of GAO's recommendation that it clarify roles and responsibilities, it has not complied with the part of GAO's recommendation to place program management officials as close as possible to the programs they manage.

    Recommendation: To improve the Stockpile Stewardship Program's management, the Administrator, National Nuclear Security Administration, should direct the Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs to ensure that the October 2000 field structure's reorganization is implemented in a way that ensures clear lines of authority between the Office of Defense Programs and its contractors and that clearly defines and establishes effective relationships between the National Nuclear Security Administration and the DOE program offices that share some of its sites.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy: National Nuclear Security Administration

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: On December 17, 2002, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) issued its reorganization plan, entitled NNSA of the Future. The plan reorganized the Office of Defense Programs (DP) so that the roles and responsibilities for giving direction to DP's contractors are clearly defined. Specifically, NNSA's Site Office Managers will now serve as the Contracting Officer for the contractor at their site. This approach will provide one focal point for administering and overseeing the performance of the contractor at each site. NNSA's reorganization also establishes clear delineation of responsibilities between NNSA and other DOE program offices that share NNSA sites.

    Recommendation: To improve the Stockpile Stewardship Program's management, the Administrator, National Nuclear Security Administration, should direct the Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs to identify the reasons for the high level of management turnover in the program and take prompt and decisive action to provide greater management consistency and stability for the program.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy: National Nuclear Security Administration

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In its original Section 236 response, NNSA indicated that it did not believe that turnover among its key executives had been abnormally high. Consequently, according to the Director, Policy and Internal Controls Management, no study was ever done on this problem. However, NNSA believes that its December 17, 2002 reorganization has ensured that the correct senior managers are now in the proper positions. Specifically, by completing its reorganization, making permanent assignments, and developing a management succession plan, NNSA believes it has a consistent and stable organization in the Office of Defense Programs.

    Recommendation: To improve the management of the stockpile life extension program, the Administrator, National Nuclear Security Administration, should direct the Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs to, for each life extension, establish a manager, who is responsible for and accountable for the entire life extension program.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy: National Nuclear Security Administration

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In GAO's 2001 report entitled "Nuclear Weapons: Improved Management Needed to Implement Stockpile Stewardship Program Effectively" (GAO-01-48), GAO recommended that the Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration should direct the Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs to, for each life extension, establish a manger, who is responsible for and accountable for the entire life extension program. In GAO's July 28, 2003 report entitled "Nuclear Weapons: Opportunities Exist to Improve the Budgeting, Cost Accounting, and Management Associated with Stockpile Life Extension Program" (GAO-03-583), GAO found that while some progress had been made, NNSA still had not clearly defined the roles and responsibilities of the life extension managers. GAO made some additional recommendations in that report to improve the situation. On December 31, 2004, the National Nuclear Security Administration's Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs issued new guidance "Defense Programs Program Management Manual" that specifically clarifies roles, responsibilities, and training regarding NNSA program managers.

    Recommendation: To improve the management of the stockpile life extension program, the Administrator, National Nuclear Security Administration, should direct the Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs to use the multisite incentive approach in future life extensions to align, to the maximum extent possible, the performance incentives of all of the participants, including the design labs and the production plants.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy: National Nuclear Security Administration

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: According to NNSA's Director of Policy and Internal Controls Management, NNSA incorporated strategies linking the performance of all sites contributing to the Stockpile Stewardship Program into new Management and Operating Contracts. In particular, new contracts for the four production plants included incentives for increased integration and a commitment to multi-site incentives.

    Recommendation: To improve the management of the stockpile life extension program, the Administrator, National Nuclear Security Administration, should direct the Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs to develop and transmit a W87 life extension program "lessons learned" report with recommendations for additional program management changes, if needed, to all participants in ongoing and future life extension programs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy: National Nuclear Security Administration

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: According to NNSA's Director of Policy and Internal Controls Management, a "lessons learned" document with recommendations was prepared and distributed to other life extension participants in September 2001.

    Recommendation: To ensure that the Stockpile Stewardship Program has a planning process that is complete and supports the management of the nuclear weapons stockpile, the Administrator, National Nuclear Security Administration, should direct that the Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs complete, as expeditiously as possible, the process of establishing valid program requirements and update the program's plans to reflect requirement changes.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy: National Nuclear Security Administration

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: According to NNSA's Director of the Office of Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Evaluation, NNSA worked with the Department of Defense and developed a prioritized program requirements list which was presented to and approved by the Nuclear Weapons Council. These requirements have been integrated into NNSA's Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Evaluation process through the development of the 5 year Future Years Nuclear Security Program plan and the annual Selected Acquisition Reports for the four weapons systems undergoing life extension.

    Recommendation: To ensure that the Stockpile Stewardship Program has a planning process that is complete and supports the management of the nuclear weapons stockpile, the Administrator, National Nuclear Security Administration, should direct that the Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs ensure that the completed Stockpile Life Extension Program plan contains all of the information required by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2000, especially information on plant capacity and budget.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy: National Nuclear Security Administration

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: According to NNSA's Director of Policy and Internal Controls Management, NNSA developed a Stockpile Life Extension Program Plan and submitted it to Congress on February 11, 2002.

    Recommendation: To ensure that the Stockpile Stewardship Program has a planning process that is complete and supports the management of the nuclear weapons stockpile, the Administrator, National Nuclear Security Administration, should direct that the Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs ensure that the planning process is fully integrated with management controls and that the plans milestones are reflected in contractors' performance criteria and evaluations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy: National Nuclear Security Administration

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In GAO's 2001 report entitled "Nuclear Weapons: Improved Management Needed to Implement Stockpile Stewardship Program Effectively" (GAO-01-48), GAO recommended that the Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration should direct the Deputy Administrator to ensure that the Stockpile Stewardship Program has a planning process that is complete and supports the management of the nuclear weapons stockpile and should ensure that the planning process is fully integrated with management controls and that the plans milestones are reflected in contractors' performance criteria and evaluations. On December 31, 2004, the National Nuclear Security Administration's Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs issued new guidance "Defense Programs Program Management Manual" which, among other things, provided guidance for NNSA's Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Evaluation (PPBE) System. The PPBE System implements a process where planning is integrated with management controls. In addition, the Program Management Manual implements a process where planning milestones are reflected in contractors' performance criteria and evaluations.

    Recommendation: To ensure that the Stockpile Stewardship Program has a planning process that is complete and supports the management of the nuclear weapons stockpile, the Administrator, National Nuclear Security Administration, should direct that the Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs ensure that the planning process is fully integrated with management controls and that the process is coordinated with the budget planning and formulation process.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy: National Nuclear Security Administration

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: According to NNSA's Director of Policy and Internal Controls Management and NNSA's Director, Office of Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Evaluation, NNSA is in the process of developing a DOD-like Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Evaluation (PPBE)process which, when completed, would address this recommendation. While many portions of the system have been developed and implemented, full system implementation was not expected until fiscal year 2005. According to officials in the Office of Planning, Budgeting and Evaluation under the Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs, the PPBE process is now complete. This was confirmed in discussions with officials from the DOE Inspector General's office, who reviewed the PPBE program last year.

    Recommendation: To improve the management and oversight of the Stockpile Stewardship Program, the Administrator, National Nuclear Security Administration, should direct the Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs to develop a method to relate its new program activity structure to DOE's cost accounting considerations so that fixed and variable costs of the program's activities can be determined and made available when the program makes its annual budget submission.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy: National Nuclear Security Administration

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: According to NNSA's Director of Policy and Internal Controls Management, NNSA informally briefed Congressional staff on the nature and distinction of fixed and variable costs in the weapons activities program, and the availability of data in the current financial systems. According to NNSA, there were no Congressional staff requests for supplementary cost element information on the NNSA budget request.

    Recommendation: To ensure that the Stockpile Stewardship Program has a planning process that is complete and supports the management of the nuclear weapons stockpile, the Administrator, National Nuclear Security Administration, should direct that the Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs ensure that the planning process is fully integrated with management controls and that an overall planning mechanism is developed that links individual plans with other plans across both the science and production segments of the Stockpile Stewardship Program.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy: National Nuclear Security Administration

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: According to NNSA's Director of Policy and Internal Controls Management and NNSA's Director, Office of Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Evaluation, NNSA is in the process of developing a DOD-like Planning, Programming, Budgeting, and Evaluation (PPBE) process which, when completed, would address this recommendation. While many portions of the system have been developed and implemented, full system implementation was not expected until fiscal year 2005. According to officials in the Office of Planning, Budgeting and Evaluation under the Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs, the PPBE process is now complete. This was confirmed in discussions with officials from the DOE Inspector General's office, who reviewed the PPBE program last year. In addition, the process has resulted in an integrated plan for the science and production activities of the Assistant Deputy Administrator for Research Development and Simulation and the Assistant Deputy Administrator for Military Application and Stockpile Operations.

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