Department of Energy:

Clearer Missions and Better Management Are Needed at the National Laboratories

T-RCED-98-25: Published: Oct 9, 1997. Publicly Released: Oct 9, 1997.

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GAO discussed the changing missions of the Department of Energy's (DOE) national laboratories and their management.

GAO noted that: (1) despite a consensus on the need to sharpen the laboratories' focus and improve DOE's management of them, achieving these goals has been elusive; (2) DOE manages the national laboratories program by program, not laboratory by laboratory or as a coordinated research system with diverse objectives; (3) major new efforts in such areas as stockpile stewardship and major research projects--projects that heavily involve laboratories--will require significant improvements in how DOE and the laboratories are managed; (4) past frustration over the laboratories' loss of mission focus and management weaknesses has led some experts to suggest alternatives, such as privatizing them or developing quasi-governmental entities to oversee their missions and activities; (5) while the lack of consensus on what the laboratories should do has made fundamental changes hard to achieve, some changes are occurring in laboratory management; (6) nevertheless, the challenges facing DOE in important areas, such as managing the stockpile stewardship program, raise concerns about how effectively DOE can manage these new initiatives given its past weaknesses in project management; and (7) the Government Performance and Results Act offers a framework to achieve fundamental change.

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