Federal Research:

Determination of the Best Qualified Sites for DOE's Super Collider

RCED-89-18: Published: Jan 30, 1989. Publicly Released: Jan 30, 1989.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO assessed the process for determining the best-qualified sites for the superconducting super collider (SSC), specifically the: (1) composition of the site evaluation committee; (2) committee's use of the Department of Energy's (DOE) technical evaluation and cost criteria; (3) impact of the DOE decision not to have the committee make site visits; (4) committee's analysis of the proposed sites' costs; and (5) DOE review of the committee's list of best-qualified sites.

GAO found that: (1) DOE chose the 21 committee members to ensure that it had sufficient expertise to evaluate site proposals against the site selection criteria and disqualified any person associated with a specific proposal; (2) eight members had associations with one of the proposed sites; (3) the committee members evaluated the proposals against technical and cost criteria in their order of importance; (4) site visits were impractical due to the selection schedule, the number of sites, and members' other commitments, and were unnecessary because the committee believed that all proposals were well-written and complete; (5) the committee did not use costs to discriminate between the proposed sites because proposed costs for all sites were within 3.3 percent of the average proposed cost; (6) the committee believed that the comparable costs weakened its ability to determine sites' expected costs; (7) DOE accepted the committee's list of best-qualified sites after making its own assessment; and (8) although states were generally satisfied with the invitations for site proposals, some states would have either selected alternative sites or better assessed their available resources if DOE had indicated the relative importance of the criteria.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOE stated that its May 12, 1989, letter represents its agreement to incorporate the recommendation in any future site selection process for a proposed DOE facility. DOE does not plan to take any further action at this time because it does not have current plans for selecting a DOE facility site.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should ensure, for any future site selection process similar to SSC, that potential site proposers are given the maximum information possible in the invitation about the relative importance of the selection criteria.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy


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