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    Subject Term: "Materials research"

    3 publications with a total of 10 open recommendations
    Director: John Neumann
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    6 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To fulfill the role assigned to it under the 1980 Act, the Secretary of Commerce should engage with industry stakeholders and continually identify and assess critical materials needs across a broad range of industrial sectors.

    Agency: Department of Commerce
    Status: Open

    Comments: In December 2016, Commerce provided information on its implementation of the recommendation from GAO-16-699. Commerce stated that it had developed an action plan consisting of the following steps: (1)consulting with relevant offices and agencies, including: OSTP, DOD, the U.S. Geological Survey, DOE, the U.S. International Trade Commission, the Bureau of Industry and Security, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; (2) determining criteria to be used when it is necessary to collect information to identify and assess critical materials needs; (3) determining appropriate steps, which might include: (a) developing a summary of information that federal agencies currently collect on the domestic and international supply of critical raw materials; (b)soliciting input from a broad range of industries through a Federal Register notice; (c)assessing aggregate information, as allowable under law, that is submitted through the Miscellaneous Tariff Bill process over the course of Q1-2 of fiscal year 2017; and (d)consulting with federal advisory groups for advice; (4) determining the audience for collected information and methodology for information dissemination; (5) determining the process for identifying further information collection needs and methodology for disseminating collected information; and (6) determining the timeline and responsibilities for information collection and distribution. In an April 2017 update, Commerce stated that it had identified points of contacts in 7 of the 8 agencies listed in its action plan and is in the process of contacting them for input. Commerce stated that it hoped to identify an appropriate contact in the 8th agency in the near future. Commerce stated that it had also drafted questions to ask the agencies in order to implement the action plan. Commerce did not provide a timeframe for when it expected to complete implementation of the action plan.
    Recommendation: To enhance the ability of the Executive Office of the President to coordinate federal agencies to carry out the national materials policy outlined in the 1980 Act, and to strengthen the federal approach to addressing critical materials supply issues through enhanced interagency collaboration, the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, working with the National Science and Technology Council's Subcommittee on Critical and Strategic Mineral Supply Chains and agency leadership, as appropriate, should agree on and clearly define the roles and responsibilities of member agencies and take steps to actively engage all relevant federal agencies in the Subcommittee's efforts.

    Agency: Executive Office of the President: Office of Science and Technology Policy
    Status: Open

    Comments: In February 2017, OSTP provided information on its efforts to implement recommendations from GAO-16-699. OSTP stated that an increasing number of agencies participate in Subcommittee discussions and activities, with the last several meetings having had strong engagement from agencies that had not previously been involved, including the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Service. OSTP indicated that when the Subcommittee's charter is considered for renewal in spring 2017, it will reach out to all federal agencies with relevant responsibilities to discuss their roles in the Subcommittee's efforts and encourage them to name a lead representative and regularly participate. However, OSTP did not provide information about any plans to more clearly define the roles and responsibilities of the Subcommittee's member agencies. OSTP stated that it prefers flexibility, as this facilitates cooperation on topics of mutual interest and better accommodates changing circumstances and areas of focus.
    Recommendation: To enhance the ability of the Executive Office of the President to coordinate federal agencies to carry out the national materials policy outlined in the 1980 Act, and to strengthen the federal approach to addressing critical materials supply issues through enhanced interagency collaboration, the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, working with the National Science and Technology Council's Subcommittee on Critical and Strategic Mineral Supply Chains and agency leadership, as appropriate, should develop joint strategies that articulate common outcomes and identify contributing agencies' efforts.

    Agency: Executive Office of the President: Office of Science and Technology Policy
    Status: Open

    Comments: In February 2017, OSTP provided information on its efforts to implement recommendations from GAO-16-699. However, the information OSTP provided did not include any details related to developing joint strategies that articulate common outcomes and identifying contributing agencies' efforts.
    Recommendation: To enhance the ability of the Executive Office of the President to coordinate federal agencies to carry out the national materials policy outlined in the 1980 Act, and to strengthen the federal approach to addressing critical materials supply issues through enhanced interagency collaboration, the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, working with the National Science and Technology Council's Subcommittee on Critical and Strategic Mineral Supply Chains and agency leadership, as appropriate, should develop a mechanism to monitor, evaluate, and periodically report on the progress of member agencies' efforts.

    Agency: Executive Office of the President: Office of Science and Technology Policy
    Status: Open

    Comments: In February 2017, OSTP provided information on its efforts to implement recommendations from GAO-16-699. However, the information OSTP provided did not include any details related to developing a mechanism to monitor, evaluate, and periodically report on the progress of member agencies' efforts.
    Recommendation: To enhance the ability of the Executive Office of the President to coordinate federal agencies to carry out the national materials policy outlined in the 1980 Act, and to broaden future applications of the early warning screening methodology, the Subcommittee should take the steps necessary to include potentially critical materials beyond minerals, such as developing a plan or strategy for prioritizing additional materials for which actions are needed to address data limitations.

    Agency: Executive Office of the President: Office of Science and Technology Policy
    Status: Open

    Comments: In February 2017, OSTP provided information on its efforts to implement recommendations from GAO-16-699. OSTP stated that current efforts to update the early warning screening methodology have refined, and in some cases augmented, the materials being screened based on available, regularly collected data. The Subcommittee will continue to consider incorporation of additional materials. OSTP further stated that, with respect to data availability limitations, the report's suggestion that the Subcommittee "better work with member agencies to address existing data limitations" is sometimes not actionable because private entities and foreign governments may be unwilling or unable to provide (or even collect) such data. OSTP stated that the Subcommittee will, however, continue to explore approaches to improve data availability and granularity, such as through proposals for revisions to the Harmonized Tariff Schedule or to the North American Industry Classification System or other such systems.
    Recommendation: To enhance the ability of the Executive Office of the President to coordinate federal agencies to carry out the national materials policy outlined in the 1980 Act, and to enhance the federal government's ability to facilitate domestic production of critical materials, the Subcommittee should examine approaches other countries or regions are taking to see if there are any lessons learned that can be applied to the United States.

    Agency: Executive Office of the President: Office of Science and Technology Policy
    Status: Open

    Comments: In February 2017, OSTP provided information on its efforts to implement recommendations from GAO-16-699. OSTP stated that it concurs with the recommendation that the Subcommittee should examine approaches other countries or regions are taking to see if there are any lessons learned that can be applied to the United States. OSTP stated that the Subcommittee is sharing and discussing information on production in other regions, including a U.S.-led project (and other projects with U.S. involvement or support) under the Mining Task Force of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation. OSTP stated that in the future, the Subcommittee expects to review experiences in other countries/regions to glean lessons learned. OSTP did not provide a time frame in reach it would review experiences in other countries/regions.
    Director: Mak, Marie A
    Phone: (202) 512-4841

    1 open recommendations
    Recommendation: In order for NASA to fully implement the NASA Authorization Act of 2008 and for CASIS to fulfill its responsibility as outlined in the cooperative agreement, the NASA Administrator should direct the Associate Administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate to fully staff the ISS National Laboratory Advisory Committee.

    Agency: National Aeronautics and Space Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: NASA does not plan to staff the International Space Station National Laboratory Advisory Committee (INLAC) at this time. Officials stated that they continue to believe that the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS) Board of Directors meets the intent of the INLAC charter by providing oversight of CASIS implementation of utilization of the ISS as a national laboratory. NASA remains concerned about staffing another oversight group that may create conflicts with the existing CASIS Board of Directors. NASA is also exploring with CASIS opportunities to open portions of board meetings to the general public and interested parties in order to foster additional transparency and a broad and free exchange of ideas. In response to this recommendation, the Associate Administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate indicated that NASA was seeking relief from the statutory requirement to staff the INLAC.
    Director: Trimble, David
    Phone: (202) 512-3000

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To improve the management of the stockpile life extension program, the Administrator of NNSA should direct the Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs to develop a realistic schedule for the W76 warhead and future life extension programs that allows NNSA to (1) address technical challenges while meeting all military requirements and (2) build in time for unexpected technical challenges that may delay the program.

    Agency: Department of Energy: National Nuclear Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: In past and ongoing work, GAO has identified areas where NNSA's modernization plans may not align with planned funding requests over the Future Years Nuclear Security Plan (FYNSP) and post-FYNSP periods. Based on the FY 2014 Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan (SSMP), (GAO-14-45) NNSA plans to work on five LEPs or major alterations through 2038. The FY 2014 SSMP states that the LEP workload represents a resource and production throughput challenge that requires improvements in LEP planning and execution. GAO's analysis indicates there is limited contingency time built into the LEP schedules, all of which are technically ambitious. Any delays in schedules could lead to an increase in program costs or a reduction in the number built for any of the LEPs, both of which have occurred in prior and ongoing LEPs. While NNSA has acknowledged issues and identified some steps to improve the LEP process, this recommendation will remain open and unimplemented until NNSA demonstrates successful LEP and refurbishment execution. We recently reconfirmed this finding in GAO-17-341 where we found the following: In some cases, NNSA's fiscal year 2017 nuclear security budget materials do not align with the agency's modernization plans, both within the 5-year Future-Years Nuclear Security Program (FYNSP)for fiscal years 2017 through 2021 and beyond, raising concerns about the affordability of NNSA's planned portfolio of modernization programs.
    Recommendation: To improve the management of the stockpile life extension program, the Administrator of NNSA should direct the Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs to ensure that the program managers responsible for overseeing the construction of new facilities directly related to future life extension programs coordinate with the program managers of such future programs to avoid the types of delays and problems faced with the construction and operation of the Fogbank manufacturing facility for the W76 program.

    Agency: Department of Energy: National Nuclear Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: A number of Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plans (SSMP) states that the life extension program (LEP) workload represents a resource and production throughput challenge that requires improvements in LEP planning and execution. The officials elaborated that the main area that will be strained is pit production. The alternate plutonium strategy needs to be resourced fully to support the W78/88-1 LEP. Additionally, the officials said that the UPF transition needs to go as planned or there will be challenges in completing all of the planned LEPs. As such, this recommendation will remain open.
    Recommendation: To improve the management of the stockpile life extension program, the Administrator of NNSA should direct the Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs to ensure that program managers for the construction of new facilities for future life extensions base their schedule for the construction and start-up of a facility on the life extension program managers' needs identified in their risk mitigation strategies.

    Agency: Department of Energy: National Nuclear Security Administration
    Status: Open

    Comments: NNSA has generally improved its management of construction projects, to include requirements setting, Analysis of Alternatives, independent cost estimates, etc. However, it is too soon to tell if these positive developments will help-or hinder-LEPs that are underway or are being conducted. Key uranium activities, to include construction and operating funds will not be complete until 2025; key plutonium activities are underway as well, but will not be complete until the late 2020s. As a result, this recommendation will need to remain open.