Nuclear Security:

Security Issues At DOE and Its Newly Created National Nuclear Security Administration

T-RCED-00-123: Published: Mar 14, 2000. Publicly Released: Mar 14, 2000.

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James E. Wells, Jr
(202) 512-6877


Office of Public Affairs
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed its recent reports concerning the Department of Energy's (DOE) and the National Nuclear Security Administration's (NNSA) security programs to protect against theft, sabotage, espionage, terrorism, and other risks to national security at its facilities, focusing on: (1) oversight of safeguards and security programs at DOE; and (2) security issues with NNSA.

GAO noted that: (1) sound management and independent oversight of security at DOE's nuclear facilities is critical to ensure that security problems are identified, raised to the attention of the highest levels in DOE, and corrected; (2) DOE has recently made a number of improvements to its security oversight; (3) however, GAO's February report to Congress discussed several areas where security oversight could be further strengthened; (4) in particular: (a) DOE needs a comprehensive tracking system for safeguards and security findings at its nuclear facilities; (b) all security findings or problems identified need to be fully analyzed and appropriately closed; and (c) safeguards and security ratings should be consistent among the various security organizations within DOE; (5) in addition, as security responsibilities shift, it is not clear how DOE's oversight at nuclear facilities will relate to the newly created NNSA; (6) specifically: (a) while NNSA was to be distinct from DOE, the security office within NNSA may have duplicative and overlapping functions with DOE's security office; and (b) significant questions remain about how the DOE security oversight organization will oversee NNSA operations; (7) GAO recognizes that NNSA's creation, as outlined by DOE's Implementation Plan for NNSA, is an evolving process; (8) however, GAO believes the best time to address past problems is when the organization and systems are being laid out for the first time, before commitment to old ways harden; (9) timely implementation of GAO's prior recommendations for improving security at DOE and clarifying the role of DOE security organizations, such as NNSA, will be important; (10) changing the culture may be more difficult; (11) for newly created NNSA to be effective, it must break out of the culture and mindset that permeates DOE; and (12) otherwise, security problems inherent in DOE may continue in NNSA.

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