Nuclear Science:

Information on DOE Accelerators Should Be Better Disclosed in the Budget

RCED-86-79: Published: Apr 9, 1986. Publicly Released: May 8, 1986.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reported on issues concerning: (1) the size and nature of the Department of Energy's (DOE) investment, prior to congressional approval, in new high-energy and nuclear physics accelerator facilities or major upgrades; and (2) the events and procedures leading to DOE review and approval for building a continuous electron beam accelerator facility.

GAO found that: (1) the DOE practice of incrementally funding projects and omitting project technical uncertainties in budget requests makes it difficult for Congress to assess the affordability of such projects; (2) past DOE budget requests for the upgrade of an existing accelerator or the construction of a new one were often based on incomplete information; (3) the DOE definition of a project lacks specific criteria on when a project starts and ends and what components should be included; and (4) the DOE physics program offices have defined an accelerator project as the effort during construction. GAO also found that: (1) DOE budget requests frequently do not include costs for equipment and other project-specific components that planning documents indicate are needed to make an upgrade or new facility complete and operational; (2) including these omitted costs would increase the DOE-estimated cost of the total upgrade from about $212 million to $579 million; and (3) accelerator projects which incur substantial costs were not disclosed as project-related expenses before Congress approved the construction costs. GAO estimated the cost for the projects' preconstruction at about $400 million, $352 million of which DOE did not identify in its budget request.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The previous Congress took no action on this recommendation, and there has been no indication that the current Congress plans to do otherwise.

    Matter: The House and Senate Committees on Appropriations should include a directive in the DOE appropriations legislation requiring disclosure of accelerator project information in accordance with the GAO recommendations to DOE.

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The previous Congress took no action on this recommendation and there has been no indication that the current Congress will do otherwise.

    Matter: The House and Senate Committees on Appropriations should include a directive in the DOE appropriations legislation requiring disclosure of accelerator project information in accordance with the GAO recommendations to DOE.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOE disagreed with this recommendation and stated that it believes that Congress is aware of technical uncertainties related to the projects.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should require the Office of Energy Research to report complete costs of projects along with their technical uncertainties in the budgets furnished to Congress so that the projects' need, affordability, and priority can be appropriately evaluated prior to committing resources to the projects.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOE disagreed with this recommendation and stated that it believes that Congress is aware of the costs.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should require the Office of Energy Research to clarify the definition of an accelerator project to ensure that specific identifiable upgrades or new facilities include all the necessary components to make the projects complete and operational.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOE disagreed with this recommendation and stated that it believes that Congress has access to required budgetary data.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should require the Office of Energy Research to identify and clearly disclose the preconstruction costs of major accelerator projects in the DOE annual budget submission to Congress before committing large resources to these projects. To achieve this end, the Secretary should: (1) direct the Office of Energy Research to follow applicable internal DOE regulations under which major undertakings should be identified as projects; and (2) consider requiring early identification at the time research is started or when projects reach the stage at which they are specific enough to be proposed to or recommended by applicable advisory committees.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

 

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