Modernizing the Nuclear Security Enterprise:
Observations on the Organization and Management of the National Nuclear Security Administration
GAO-12-867T: Published: Jun 27, 2012. Publicly Released: Jun 27, 2012.
What GAO Found
NNSA has made considerable progress resolving some of its long-standing management deficiencies, but significant improvement is still needed especially in NNSAs management of its major projects and contracts. GAO reported in June 2004 that NNSA has better delineated lines of authority and has improved communication between its headquarters and site offices. In addition, NNSAs establishment of an effective headquarters security organization has made significant progress resolving many of the security weaknesses GAO has identified. Nevertheless, NNSA continues to experience major cost and schedule overruns on its projects, such as research and production facilities and nuclear weapons refurbishments, principally because of ineffective oversight and poor contractor management. In some areas, NNSA can be viewed as a success. Importantly, NNSA has continued to ensure that the nuclear weapons stockpile remains safe and reliable in the absence of underground nuclear testing. At the same time, NNSAs struggles in defining itself as a separately organized agency within DOE, and the considerable management problems that remain have led to calls in Congress and other organizations to increase NNSAs independence from DOE. However, senior DOE and NNSA officials have committed to continuing reform, and DOEs and NNSAs efforts have led to some management improvements. As a result, GAO continues to believe, as it concluded in its January 2007 report, that drastic organizational change to increase independence is unnecessary and questions whether such change would solve the agencys remaining management problems.
Why GAO Did This Study
During the late 1990s, DOE had difficulties with a lack of clear management authority and responsibility that contributed to security problems at the nations nuclear weapons laboratories and management problems with major projects. In response, Congress created NNSA as a separately organized agency within DOE under the NNSA Act. NNSA is responsible for managing nuclear weapon- and nonproliferation-related national security activities in laboratories and other facilities, collectively known as the nuclear security enterprise. GAO continues to identify problems across the nuclear security enterprise, from projects cost and schedule overruns to inadequate oversight of safety and security at NNSAs sites. With NNSA proposing to spend tens of billions of dollars to modernize its facilities, it is important to ensure scarce resources are spent in an effective and efficient manner.
This testimony addresses (1) NNSAs early experiences organizing and operating as a separately organized agency within DOE and (2) NNSAs efforts to correct long-standing management deficiencies. It is based on prior GAO reports issued from January 1995 to March 2012.
DOE and NNSA continue to act on the numerous recommendations GAO has made to improve NNSAs management. GAO will continue to monitor DOEs and NNSAs implementation of these recommendations.
For more information, contact Gene Aloise at (202) 512-3841 or firstname.lastname@example.org.