Analyses of the Strategic Petroleum Reserve Drawdown Plan and the Strategic Petroleum Reserve Drawdown and Distribution Report

RCED-83-85: Published: Jan 3, 1983. Publicly Released: Jan 3, 1983.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO analyzed the strategic petroleum reserve (SPR) drawdown plan and the SPR drawdown and distribution report.

GAO reported that neither the SPR plan nor the SPR report provides much specific information about the conditions in which SPR oil could be used in an emergency or information on the amount, rate, and timing of its use. Regarding the SPR plan, the administration explicitly opposed providing specific details on SPR drawdown because it could constrain the President's flexibility in dealing with an emergency. The plan does not discuss many important details, particularly about the circumstances that would lead to an SPR drawdown. The plan also contains several SPR use objectives and policy considerations; however, it does not describe a clear connection between them and decisions on when and how to use the SPR. The lack of detail in the SPR plan would not be such a problem had more information been contained in the SPR report. However, the SPR report contained substantially less information than expected. GAO found the administration's arguments against comprehensive planning unconvincing; flexibility could be preserved by detailing options for SPR use, and the need to keep certain information secret could be addressed by developing effective plans but not releasing sensitive materials to the public. Even though important benefits can be derived from advance SPR use planning, GAO saw little evidence that drawdown policy options are being developed. GAO believes that development of alternative SPR use-scenarios linked to response options should take place as soon as possible.

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