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entitled 'Nuclear Security: DOE Needs to Address Protective Forces' 
Personnel System Issues' which was released on January 29, 2010. 

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Report to Congressional Committees: 

United States Government Accountability Office: 

January 2010: 

Nuclear Security: 

DOE Needs to Address Protective Forces' Personnel System Issues: 


GAO Highlights: 

Highlights of GAO-10-275, a report to congressional committees. 

Why GAO Did This Study: 

The September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks raised concerns about the 
security of Department of Energy’s (DOE) sites with weapons-grade 
nuclear material, known as Category I Special Nuclear Material (SNM). 
To better protect these sites against attacks, DOE has sought to 
transform its protective forces protecting SNM into a Tactical 
Response Force (TRF) with training and capabilities similar to the 
U.S. military. DOE also has considered whether the current system of 
separate contracts for protective forces at each site provides 
sufficiently uniform, high-quality performance across its sites. 

Section 3124 of PL 110-181, the fiscal year 2008 National Defense 
Authorization Act, directed GAO to review protective forces at DOE 
sites that possess Category I SNM. Among other things, GAO (1) 
analyzed information on the management and compensation of protective 
forces, (2) examined the implementation of TRF, and (3) assessed DOE’s 
two options to more uniformly manage DOE protective forces. 

What GAO Found: 

Over 2000 contractor protective forces provide armed security for DOE 
and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) at six sites 
that have long-term missions to store and process Category I SNM. DOE 
protective forces at each of these sites are covered under separate 
contracts and collective bargaining agreements between contractors and 
protective force unions. As a result, the management and compensation—
in terms of pay and benefits—of protective forces vary. 

Sites vary in implementing important TRF requirements such as 
increasing the tactical skills of protective forces so that they can 
better “move, shoot, and communicate” as a unit. While one site has 
focused on implementing TRF requirements since 2004, other sites do 
not plan to complete TRF implementation until the end of fiscal year 
2011. In addition, broader DOE efforts to manage post-retirement and 
pension liabilities for its contractors have raised concerns about a 
negative impact on retirement eligibility and benefits for protective 
forces. Specifically, protective force contractors, unions, and DOE 
security officials are concerned that the implementation of TRF’s more 
rigorous requirements and the current protective forces’ personnel 
systems threaten the ability of protective forces—especially older 
members—to continue their careers until retirement age. 

Efforts to more uniformly manage protective forces have focused on 
either reforming the current contracting approach or creating a 
federal protective force (federalization). Either approach might 
provide for managing protective forces more uniformly and could result 
in effective security if well-managed. Although DOE rejected 
federalization as an option in 2009 because it believed that the 
transition would be costly and would yield little, if any, increase in 
security effectiveness, the department recognized that the current 
contracting approach could be improved by greater standardization and 
by addressing personnel system issues. As a result, NNSA began a 
standardization initiative to centralize procurement of equipment, 
uniforms, and weapons to achieve cost savings. Under a separate 
initiative, a DOE study group developed a number of recommendations to 
enhance protective forces’ career longevity and retirement options, 
but DOE has made limited progress to date in implementing these 

Figure: DOE Protective Force Members in Tactical Training: 

[Refer to PDF for image: photograph] 

Source: DOE. 

[End of figure] 

What GAO Recommends: 

GAO recommends that the Secretary of Energy develop plans to implement 
the DOE study group’s recommendations--and, as needed, conduct 
research--to enhance protective forces’ career longevity and 
retirement options. DOE generally agreed with the report and the 

View GAO-10-275 or key components. For more information, contact Gene 
Aloise at (202) 512-3841 or 

[End of section] 



Scope and Methodology: 


Protective Forces Are Not Uniformly Managed, Organized, Staffed, 
Trained, Equipped, or Compensated: 

Tactical Response Force Implementation Varies and Has Raised Concerns 
about the Longevity of Protective Forces Careers: 

With the Issuance of the Graded Security Protection Policy, Most Sites 
Ceased Efforts to Implement the 2005 Design Basis Threat: 

Office of Secure Transportation Federal Agents and Protective Forces 
Differ Significantly in Several Respects: 

Protective Forces and Office of Secure Transportation Federal Agents 
Do Not Routinely Use Their Federal Law Enforcement Authority to Make 

Either of the Two Principal Options DOE Has Considered Could Result in 
More Uniform Management of Protective Forces: 


Recommendation for Executive Action: 

Agency Comments: 

Appendix I: Recommendations from the Protective Force Career Options 
Initiative Study Group: 

Appendix II: Comments from the Department of Energy: 

Appendix III: GAO Contact and Staff Acknowledgments: 


Table 1: Characteristics of Sites with Enduring Category I SNM 

Table 2: Numbers and Categories of Protective Force Members, as of 
September 30, 2008: 

Table 3: Top Pay by Site, as of September 30, 2008: 

Table 4: Benefits by Site, as of September 30, 2008: 

Table 5: Required Qualifications by Protective Force Positions and 
Combatant Standards: 

Table 6: Protective Forces and Federal Agents' Pay Systems: 

Table 7: Assessment Criteria for Management Options and Associated 


Figure 1: Protective Force Equipment at One DOE Site: 

Figure 2: Protective Force Constable, SRS: 


DBT: Design Basis Threat: 

DOE: U.S. Department of Energy: 

FERS: Federal Employee Retirement System: 

FB: Federal Bureau of Investigation: 

GSP: Graded Security Protection: 

HSS: Office of Health, Safety and Security: 

INL: Idaho National Laboratory: 

LANL: Los Alamos National Laboratory: 

M&O: Management and Operations: 

NE: Office of Nuclear Energy, Science and Technology: 

NNSA: National Nuclear Security Administration: 

NTS: Nevada Test Site: 

OPM: Office of Personnel Management: 

OST: Office of Secure Transportation: 

PX: Pantex Plant: 

SNM: special nuclear material: 

SO: security officer: 

SPO: security police officer: 

SRS: Savannah River Site: 

TRF: Tactical Response Force: 

Y-12: Y-12 National Security Complex: 

[End of section] 

United States Government Accountability Office:
Washington, DC 20548: 

January 29, 2010: 

The Honorable Carl Levin:
The Honorable John McCain:
Ranking Member:
Committee on Armed Services:
United States Senate: 

The Honorable Ike Skelton:
The Honorable Howard McKeon:
Ranking Member:
Committee on Armed Services:
House of Representatives: 

Contractor guard forces, or protective forces, are a key component of 
security at Department of Energy (DOE) sites with special nuclear 
material (SNM), which the department considers its highest security 
risk. This material--including plutonium and highly enriched uranium-- 
is considered to be Category I when it is weapons grade and in 
specified forms (e.g., nuclear weapons, nuclear weapons components, 
metals, and oxides) and quantities. The risks associated with Category 
I SNM include theft and the potential for sabotage through the use of 
a radioactive dispersal device, also known as a "dirty bomb." 
Currently, DOE and its National Nuclear Security Administration 
(NNSA), a agency within DOE responsible for the safety, security, and 
reliability of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile, has six contractor-
operated sites that possess--and will possess for the foreseeable 
future--Category I SNM (sites with "enduring" missions). The six sites 
include the Los Alamos National Laboratory, in Los Alamos, New Mexico; 
the Y-12 National Security Complex (Y-12), in Oak Ridge, Tennessee; 
the Pantex Plant, near Amarillo, Texas; the Nevada Test Site, outside 
of Las Vegas, Nevada; the Savannah River Site, near Aiken, South 
Carolina; and the Idaho National Laboratory, near Idaho Falls, Idaho. 
[Footnote 1] 

In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, DOE 
embarked on a multifaceted effort to better secure its sites with 
Category I SNM against a larger and more sophisticated terrorist 
threat by changing policies, such as its Design Basis Threat (DBT)--a 
classified document that specifies the potential size and capabilities 
of adversary forces that the sites must defend against.[Footnote 2] 
Protective forces have been an important focus of DOE security 
improvements. Initially, DOE deployed a larger number of protective 
force members at its sites. More recently, DOE has sought to improve 
the effectiveness of its protective forces by deploying security 
technologies, such as sensors capable of detecting adversaries at long 
ranges, and through the use of advanced weaponry, such as belt-fed 
machine guns and grenade launchers. In addition, DOE has sought to 
enhance protective forces' tactical skills--the ability to move, 
shoot, and communicate in a combat environment--through its Tactical 
Response Force (TRF) initiative.[Footnote 3] Among other things, this 
initiative directed the development of new training curricula at DOE's 
National Training Center, revised the application of DOE's existing 
protective force categories to emphasize tactical skills, and 
instituted more rigorous weapons and physical fitness qualifications 
for many of DOE's protective forces. 

However, protective force unions have been concerned that the planned 
implementation of TRF--with its potentially more demanding 
requirements--threatens the ability of protective forces to work until 
retirement age. These concerns contributed to a 44-day protective 
force strike at the Pantex Plant in 2007. The strike raised broader 
issues in DOE and Congress about the continued suitability of DOE's 
model for managing its protective forces. Unionized protective forces 
can strike when their collective bargaining agreement ends and strikes 
may create security vulnerabilities at DOE's sites with Category I 
SNM. In addition, DOE's practice of managing its protective forces 
through separate contracts at each site could create disparities in 
protective force performance, pay, and benefits. A coalition of unions 
that represent a large number of DOE protective forces has supported 
federalizing contractor-operated protective forces to provide a 
federal personnel system that better supports a TRF through 
standardized pay and retirement benefits. The coalition noted that 
DOE's Office of Secure Transportation's (OST) federal agents, who are 
responsible for transporting Category I SNM among DOE sites and to 
military bases and who have a unique federal job classification, could 
serve as a template for federalization. In January 2009, DOE rejected 
federalization of contractor protective forces on the grounds that it 
would be costly and would likely provide little, if any, increase in 
security effectiveness. However, a DOE study group, composed of DOE 
and union representatives, recently made a number of recommendations 
that, while maintaining contractor protective forces, may better 
balance protective forces' concerns over their careers with the need 
to provide effective security and control costs. 

In this context, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal 
Year 2008 directed us to report on the management of DOE's protective 
forces at its sites with Category I SNM.[Footnote 4] As agreed with 
your offices, we (1) analyzed information on DOE's protective forces, 
including their contract and management structures, responsibilities, 
number and categories, training, pay, and benefits; (2) examined the 
implementation of TRF and any resulting issues; (3) assessed 
compliance with the 2005 DBT; (4) compared relevant characteristics of 
contractor protective forces with OST federal agents; (5) reviewed law 
enforcement duties and capabilities of protective forces and OST 
federal agents; and (6) assessed DOE's options for more uniformly 
managing protective forces. The act also required DOE to submit a 
report on the management of its protective forces 90 days after our 
report is issued. 

Scope and Methodology: 

To obtain information on DOE's contractor protective forces, we 
visited three of the sites with enduring Category I SNM missions--
Pantex, the Savannah River Site, and Los Alamos National Laboratory--
and met with protective force contractors, federal site office 
officials, and protective force union representatives at these sites. 
We selected these sites because each represented one of the three 
different types of protective force contracts currently in place. In 
addition, we distributed a data collection instrument to protective 
force contractors and federal site office officials at each of these 
sites and at the other three sites with enduring Category I SNM 
missions--Y-12, the Nevada Test Site, and the Idaho National 
Laboratory. From this instrument, we received site information about 
the protective forces, the status of TRF and DBT implementations, 
views on DOE options for managing the protective forces, and the 
reliability of site data. We conducted interviews and reviewed 
documents with NNSA and DOE's offices of Environmental Management 
(EM); Nuclear Energy (NE); Science. We also met with several 
organizations within DOE's Office of Health, Safety and Security 
(HSS), including the Office of Policy; the Office of Independent 
Oversight, which regularly performs inspections at Category I SNM 
sites; and the National Training Center, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, 
which is responsible for developing protective force training 
curricula and certifying site protective force training instructors 
and programs. To obtain comparative information on OST and its federal 
agents, we reviewed documents and met with officials from OST 
headquarters in Albuquerque, New Mexico. All data collected to 
describe contractor protective forces and OST federal agents were 
current as of September 30, 2008. To identify and assess options for 
the more uniform protective force management through federalization, 
we met with the NNSA Service Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, 
[Footnote 5] and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) on cost and 
job classification of protective forces. We developed criteria for 
options for more uniform management by reviewing past and ongoing DOE 
protective force and federal agent studies that HSS, NNSA, and OST 
provided. We also reviewed documents and met with officials from the 
National Council of Security Police, which is a coalition of unions 
that represent many of the protective forces at DOE's Category I SNM 

We conducted our work from April 2008 to January 2010 in accordance 
with generally accepted government auditing standards, which require 
us to plan and perform the audit to obtain sufficient, appropriate 
evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our findings and 
conclusions based on our audit objectives. We believe that the 
evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings and 
conclusions based on our audit objectives. 


DOE's HSS, which is the department's central security organization, is 
responsible for developing the department's security policies and 
overseeing their implementation. Specifically, HSS's Office of Policy 
develops and promulgates orders and policies such as the DBT policy, 
as well as manuals such as Manual 470.4-3A, Contractor Protective 
Forces, which details protective force's duties and requirements. 
Other DOE organizations with diverse program missions--EM, NE, and 
NNSA--are responsible for the six DOE sites in our review with 
enduring Category I SNM missions.[Footnote 6] In accordance with DOE 
policy, EM, NE, and NNSA must ensure that each of their sites has a 
safeguards and security program with the necessary protections to 
protect security interests against malevolent acts such as theft, 
diversion, sabotage, modification, compromise, or unauthorized access 
to nuclear weapons, nuclear weapons components, special nuclear 
material, or classified information. Each of these DOE organizations 
has site offices staffed by federal employees located at or near each 
site to oversee day-to-day operations, including security. 

The management and operations (M&O) contractors that manage the six 
sites we reviewed must develop effective programs to address DOE 
security requirements. In particular, each site with Category I SNM 
must prepare a Site Safeguards and Security Plan, which is a 
classified document that identifies known vulnerabilities, risks, and 
protection strategies for the site. The site's protection measures are 
developed in response to site-specific vulnerability assessments and 
become the basis for executing and reviewing protection programs. 
Table 1 highlights some of the site differences in mission, 
topography, and size that may dictate the site-specific protection 
measures, including the protective forces' size and equipment. 

Table 1: Characteristics of Sites with Enduring Category I SNM 

Primary mission (related to SNM): 
Pantex Plant: Assembles and dismantles nuclear weapons and stores SNM 
in the form of weapons and surplus plutonium pits; 
Y-12 National Security Complex: Manufactures highly enriched uranium 
components for nuclear weapons; 
Los Alamos National Laboratory: Conducts research, design, and 
development of nuclear weapons; manufactures plutonium pits; 
Nevada Test Site: Maintains the capability to conduct underground 
nuclear testing and other Category I missions; 
Savannah River Site: Maintains Cat I/II quantities of SNM associated 
with DOE activities; 
Idaho National Laboratory: Engaged in research and development of 
nuclear reactor technologies and nuclear fuels. 

Pantex Plant: Relatively flat plateau; 
Y-12 National Security Complex: Hilly and heavily vegetated terrain; 
Los Alamos National Laboratory: Sloping plateau with canyons and mesas; 
Nevada Test Site: Dry lake beds and mountains; 
Savannah River Site: Gently rolling forested hills with a swamp and 
many streams; 
Idaho National Laboratory: Rolling arid terrain. 

Size of site area (square miles): 
Pantex Plant: 25; 
Y-12 National Security Complex: 1; 
Los Alamos National Laboratory: 36; 
Nevada Test Site: 1350; 
Savannah River Site: 310; 
Idaho National Laboratory: 890. 

Size of protected area where SNM is stored (acres): 
Pantex Plant: 389; 
Y-12 National Security Complex: 154; 
Los Alamos National Laboratory: 45; 
Nevada Test Site: 17; 
Savannah River Site: 16; 
Idaho National Laboratory: 9. 

Approximate number of site employees: 
Pantex Plant: 3,800; 
Y-12 National Security Complex: 4,440; 
Los Alamos National Laboratory: 15,000; 
Nevada Test Site: 5,500; 
Savannah River Site: 14,430; 
Idaho National Laboratory: 6,800. 

Source: DOE. 

[End of table] 

Protective forces are one of the key elements in DOE sites' layered 
"defense-in-depth" protective systems. Specific elements vary from 
site to site but almost always include, in addition to protective 

* a variety of integrated alarms and sensors capable of detecting 

* physical barriers, such as fences and anti-vehicle barriers; 

* numerous access control points, such as turnstiles, badge readers, 
vehicle inspection stations, radiation detectors, and metal detectors; 

* operational security procedures, such as the "two-person" rule--
which is designed to prevent only one person from having access to 
SNM; and: 

* hardened facilities and storage vaults to protect SNM from 
unauthorized access. 

Increasing security at DOE sites since the terrorist attacks of 
September 11, 2001, has been costly and challenging. The complexwide 
funding for protective forces and physical security systems rose 
almost 60 percent (in constant dollars) from fiscal years 2001 through 
2008, to $862 million. Protective forces--the single most costly 
element of DOE security, as well as one of the most important[Footnote 
7]--have been a major focus of DOE security efforts. The need to 
increase security at DOE sites as rapidly as possible following the 
2001 attacks meant that DOE protective forces worked large amounts of 
overtime for an extended period. DOE's Inspector General and Office of 
Independent Oversight, as well as GAO, reported on the potential for 
extended overtime to increase fatigue and reduce readiness, and 
training opportunities for protective forces.[Footnote 8] Since then, 
DOE has sought to control protective force costs by increasing the use 
of security technology and advanced weaponry and by consolidating 
material into fewer and better protected locations. 

Since September 11, 2001, DOE security policies, including the DBT, 
have been under almost constant examination and have undergone 
considerable change. For example, DOE issued new DBTs in 2003, 2004, 
and 2005, and, most recently, in November 2008. In its latest 
iteration, the DBT was renamed the Graded Security Protection (GSP) 
policy. The GSP is conceptually identical to DOE's previous DBTs. 
However, compared with the 2005 DBT, the GSP identifies a generally 
smaller and less capable terrorist adversary force for DOE sites with 
Category I SNM. 

DOE has also sought to increase the tactical effectiveness of 
protective force performance. Specifically, according to a 2004 
classified DOE review, the then-current organization and tactics of 
DOE protective forces needed improvement to deal with possible 
terrorist threats. The review found that, historically, DOE protective 
forces had been more concerned with a broad range of industrial 
security and order-keeping functions than with preparing to conduct a 
defensive battle against a paramilitary attacker, as described in 
DOE's previous DBTs and GSP. To address this situation, the review 
recommended shifting to an aggressive militarylike, small-unit, 
tactical defense posture, which included enhanced tactical training 
standards to allow protective forces to move, shoot, and communicate 
effectively as a unit in a combat environment. It also recommended 
more frequent, realistic, and rigorous force-on-force performance 
testing and training for the department's protective forces. 

On the basis of this review, DOE has sought to transform DOE's 
protective forces who safeguard special nuclear material into an 
"elite force"--a TRF--with training and capabilities similar to 
military units. To create TRFs at Category I SNM sites, in 2005 DOE's 
policy for protective forces clarified which positions required more 
demanding physical fitness and firearms qualification standards, 
increased tactical training, and reorganized protective forces into 
tactically cohesive units. 

Although DOE and NNSA considered federalizing the contractor 
protective forces to better support the TRF, the department's reviews 
of this issue predate its post September 11, 2001, concerns. Since the 
early 1990s, the department has intermittently considered 
federalization because of variety of security challenges, often 
involving actual or potential strikes by contractor protective forces: 

* A 1992 DOE review concluded there was no clear evidence that 
federalization of protective forces would significantly save costs or 
improve security. DOE reviewed the issue of federalization in response 
to a 1990 GAO report that examined a protective force strike at Los 
Alamos National Laboratory in 1989.[Footnote 9] 

* A 1997 DOE report raised concerns about the potential deterioration 
of an aging protective force's physical and combat capabilities; the 
increasing difficulties in meeting the sudden demand for additional 
personnel in the event of a strike; and cost pressures, such as more 
overtime pay after the department had downsized the protective forces. 
The report considered federalization as a solution but recommended 
other options using existing contractor protective forces. 

* A 2004 DOE study group, examining ways to strengthen DOE's security 
posture after September 11, 2001, recommended federalization to better 
support tactical forces and to promote uniform, high-quality security 
across sites, but the department did not implement the recommendation. 

* Two 2008 NNSA studies, which followed the 2007 strike at the Pantex 
Plant, compared contractor and federalized options for improving 
protective forces, but these studies did not make any firm 

* In 2009, partly in response to a union coalition calling for 
federalization, NNSA and DOE's HSS started protective force 
initiatives to address some of the goals that federalization was meant 
to accomplish, such as improving efficiency and effectiveness. 

Protective Forces Are Not Uniformly Managed, Organized, Staffed, 
Trained, Equipped, or Compensated: 

Contractor protective forces--including 2,339 unionized officers and 
their 376 nonunionized supervisors--are not uniformly managed, 
organized, staffed, trained, equipped, or compensated across the six 
DOE sites. These differences occur because protective forces operate 
under separate contracts and collective bargaining agreements at each 
site and because of DOE's long-standing contracting approach of 
defining desired outcomes instead of detailed, prescriptive guidance 
on how to achieve those outcomes.[Footnote 10] As we have previously 
reported, DOE's contract model may allow security to be closely 
tailored to site-and mission-specific needs.[Footnote 11] 

Management and Organization Vary by Contract: 

As of September 30, 2008, protective forces at the six sites we 
reviewed operated under the following three separate types of 

* Direct contract with DOE. At Y-12, Nevada Test Site (NTS), and 
Savannah River Site (SRS), NNSA and DOE contract directly with private 
firms to provide protective forces. These contracts are separate from 
NNSA's and DOE's contracts with the site M&O contractors. Protective 
force managers report to officials from federal site offices. To 
coordinate site operations and protective force operations, managers 
from the M&O contractors meet regularly to discuss issues with 
managers from the protective force and site office. 

* Within the M&O contract. For two sites, Pantex Plant (PX) and Idaho 
National Laboratory (INL), the M&O contractors provide the protective 
forces. The M&O contractor directly manages the protective forces, and 
DOE's or NNSA's site office oversees the protective force operations 
as part of the overall M&O contract. 

* Subcontract to the M&O contractor: At Los Alamos National Laboratory 
(LANL), the M&O contractor subcontracts the protective force 
operations. The protective force manager reports to and is overseen by 
the M&O contractor. Since NNSA has no direct contractual relationship 
with the protective force manager, NNSA site office managers 
coordinate oversight direction through the M&O contractor. 

Protective force contractors at the six DOE sites have a management 
and support structure that includes training and physical fitness, 
human relations, legal and contract services, and procurement. Each 
protective force also has uniformed supervisors who are not part of 
the protective forces' collective bargaining agreements. The duties, 
responsibilities, and ranks of these supervisors are generally site 
specific and not detailed in DOE's protective force policies. 

Protective Forces Differ in Number and Composition: 

According to DOE's 2008 policy in Manual 470.4-3A, Contractor 
Protective Force, protective forces are composed of unarmed and armed 
positions. Security Officers (SO) are responsible for certain unarmed 
security duties, such as checking for valid security badges at 
entrances and escorting visitors. Security Police Officers (SPO), who 
are armed, are divided into three main categories: 

* SPO-I: Primary responsibility is protecting fixed posts during 

* SPO-II: Primary responsibility is mobile combat to prevent 
terrorists from reaching their target but can also be assigned to 
fixed posts. 

* SPO-III: Primary responsibilities are mobile combat and special 
response skills, such as those needed to recapture SNM (on site) and 
recover SNM (off site) if terrorists succeed in acquiring it. SPO-IIIs 
are usually organized into special response teams. 

As shown in table 2, the number of personnel and composition of 
protective forces vary considerably across sites. It should be noted 
that three sites--INL, LANL, and NTS--had few or no SPO-Is as of 
September 30, 2008. At that time, not all sites had incorporated this 
position into their collective bargaining agreements. In the interim, 
some SPO-IIs were performing the SPO-I-type duties at these sites. 
[Footnote 12] 

Table 2: Numbers and Categories of Protective Force Members, as of 
September 30, 2008: 

PX: 1; 
Y-12: 5; 
LANL: 45; 
NTS: 0; 
SRS: 33; 
INL: 26; 
Total: 110. 

PX: 285; 
Y-12: 301; 
LANL: 0; 
NTS: 7; 
SRS: 209; 
INL: 0; 
Total: 802. 

PX: 180; 
Y-12: 72; 
LANL: 189; 
NTS: 177; 
SRS: 149; 
INL: 139; 
Total: 906. 

PX: 67; 
Y-12: 89; 
LANL: 92; 
NTS: 50; 
SRS: 99; 
INL: 50; 
Total: 447. 

Other protective force positions[A]: 
PX: 0; 
Y-12: 42; 
LANL: 24; 
NTS: 0; 
SRS: 0; 
INL: 8; 
Total: 74. 

PX: 533; 
Y-12: 509; 
LANL: 350; 
NTS: 234; 
SRS: 490; 
INL: 223; 
Total: 2339. 

Source: DOE. 

[A] Protective forces may include additional unionized positions, such 
as trainers, and alarm operators. At some sites, personnel in such 
positions may be SPO qualified, and their positions are counted in the 
appropriate SPO categories. 

[End of table] 

Training and Equipment Vary: 

DOE policy mandates certain protective force training but allows sites 
some flexibility in its implementation. For example, DOE Manual 470.4- 
3A requires newly hired protective forces to complete the Basic 
Security Police Officer Training course that the sites tailor to meet 
their specific needs. The site-specific courses range in length from 9 
to 16 weeks. Other required training includes annual refresher 
training in a wide variety of topics; tactical exercises, including 
force-on-force exercises; physical fitness training; and firearms 
training. The content and frequency of this training varies by site 
and, to some extent, by type of protective forces, with SPO-IIIs 
generally receiving more training than other protective forces because 
of their special response mission. To ensure some degree of 
equivalency, DOE's National Training Center assesses sites' training 
plans and, while most sites perform their own training, the National 
Training Center certifies instructors. 

Some training requirements are driven by the type of protective force 
equipment, such as firearms and vehicles, that are used at each site. 
The primary protective force weapon at most sites is the M4 rifle, a 
weapon that is widely used in the U.S. military. Other weapons, such 
as belt-fed machine guns, are generally versions of the M240 and M249 
family, also widely used in the U.S. military. However, sites have 
variously adopted other equipment, including the following: 

* three models of handguns with two different calibers of ammunition; 

* four types of grenade launchers, although all use 40mm grenades; 

* several types of precision rifles, capable of accurate long range 
fire, in three different calibers; and: 

* several different armored vehicles, but older vehicles are being 
replaced by a single type of vehicle across the six sites. 

Figure 1: Protective Force Equipment at One DOE Site: 

[Refer to PDF for image: photograph] 

Source: DOE. 

[End of figure] 

Pay and Benefits Vary: 

Pay varies for protective forces, based on the site and the category 
of protective forces. Table 3 shows that top pay, as negotiated in 
collective bargaining agreements at each site, ranged from nearly $19 
per hour to over $26 per hour. SOs received the lowest hourly pay, and 
SPO-IIIs received the highest. Overtime pay, accrued in different ways 
at the sites, and other premium pay, such as additional pay for night 
shifts and holidays, may significantly increase protective force pay. 

Table 3: Top Pay by Site, as of September 30, 2008: 

Top hourly pay[A]: 

DOE site: SO; 
PX: $22.00; 
Y-12: $19.83; 
LANL: $22.74; 
NTS: $22.42; 
SRS: $18.81; 
INL: $20.64. 

DOE site: SPO-I; 
PX: $22.90; 
Y-12: $23.13; 
LANL: Not available[B]; 
NTS: $23.41; 
SRS: $22.69; 
INL: Not available[B]. 

DOE site: SPO-II; 
PX: $23.43; 
Y-12: $23.65; 
LANL: $25.14; 
NTS: $24.44; 
SRS: $24.84; 
INL: $22.64. 

DOE site: SPO-III; 
PX: $24.44; 
Y-12: $24.17; 
LANL: $26.11; 
NTS: $25.77; 
SRS: $25.92; 
INL: $23.64. 

DOE site: Typical shift; 
PX: 12 hours for 4 days; 
Y-12: 12 hours for 4 days; 
LANL: 8 hours for 5 days; 
NTS: 12 hours for 4 days; 
SRS: 12 hours for 4 days; 
INL: 12 hours for 4 days. 

Overtime rule for typical shift: 

After 8 hours per day: 
PX: Yes; 
Y-12: No; 
LANL: Yes; 
NTS: Yes; 
SRS: No; 
INL: No. 

After 40 hours per week: 
PX: Yes; 
Y-12: Yes; 
LANL: Yes; 
NTS: Yes; 
SRS: Yes; 
INL: Yes. 

Source: GAO analysis of collective bargaining agreements. 

[A] Cited pay is for nonspecialists within a position. Specialists, 
such as dog handlers, may be eligible for different hourly pay. 

[B] As of September 30, 2008, pay rates for SPO-Is had not been 
negotiated into the collective bargaining agreement. 

[End of table] 

Table 4 shows the types of benefits by site. While all employers 
contributed to active protective force members' medical, dental, and 
life insurance benefits, they differed in the amount of their 
contributions and in the retirement benefits they offered. In general, 
new hires were offered defined contribution plans, such as a 401(k) 
plan, that provides eventual retirement benefits that depend on the 
amount of contributions by the employer or employee, as appropriate, 
as well as the earnings and losses of the invested funds. At the time 
of our review, two sites offered new hires defined benefit plans that 
promised retirees a certain monthly payment at retirement. Two other 
sites had defined benefit plans that covered protective force members 
hired before a particular date but were not open to new hires. A 
coalition of unions has expressed its preference for defined benefit 

Table 4: Benefits by Site, as of September 30, 2008: 

DOE site: Employer contributes to medical, dental, and basic life 
PX: Yes; 
SRS: Yes; 
LANL: Yes; 
NTS: Yes; 
INL: Yes; 
Y-12: Yes. 

Retirement plan: Defined contribution; 
PX: 401(k); 
SRS: 401(k); 
LANL: Plan1: Money Purchase Plan[A]; Plan 2: 401(k); 
NTS: 401(k); 
INL: 401(k); 
Y-12: 401(k). 

Retirement plan: Employer contributes; 
PX: Yes; 
SRS: Yes; 
LANL: Plan 1: Yes; Plan 2: No; 
NTS: No; 
INL: Yes; 
Y-12: Yes. 

Retirement plan: Defined benefit open to new hires; 
PX: No; 
SRS: No; 
LANL: No; 
NTS: Yes[B]; 
INL: No; 
Y-12: Yes. 

Retirement plan: Defined benefit closed to new hires but open to hires 
before a certain date; 
PX: Yes; 
SRS: No; 
LANL: No; 
NTS: No[B]; 
INL: Yes; 
Y-12: No. 

Medical insurance for eligible retirees: Employer contributes to 
premiums for eligible retirees; 
PX: Yes; 
SRS: Yes; 
LANL: No; 
NTS: No; 
INL: Yes; 
Y-12: Yes. 

Source: GAO analysis of collective bargaining agreements. 

[A] A money purchase pension plan requires the employer to put a fixed 
annual contribution into an employee's individual account. 

[B] The NTS defined benefit plan was open to new hires in 2008 but 
closed to new hires after the 2009 collective bargaining negotiations. 

[End of table] 

Tactical Response Force Implementation Varies and Has Raised Concerns 
about the Longevity of Protective Forces Careers: 

Sites are at different stages in the implementation of TRF 
requirements. However, TRF implementation, coupled with broader DOE 
efforts to limit post-retirement and pension liabilities, has raised 
concerns with DOE security officials, protective force contractors, 
and protective force unions about the longevity of protective forces' 
careers and the adequacy of their personnel systems. 

TRF Implementation Varies: 

DOE has identified the following important TRF requirements for 
protective forces: 

* Improved tactical skills, so that protective forces "move, shoot, 
and communicate" as a unit. To better facilitate tactical training to 
meet a sophisticated terrorist attack, TRF calls for the development 
and implementation of TRF training curricula as well as the creation 
of training relief elements or shifts to allow protective forces to 
participate in unit-level training. 

* Revised application of DOE's offensive and defensive combatant 
standards for protective forces. DOE's offensive combatant standard is 
more demanding than its defensive combatant standard.[Footnote 13] 
Nevertheless, prior to TRF, SPO-IIs hired before 2000 were allowed to 
meet DOE's less demanding defensive combatant standard but could 
retain their SPO-II designation and fill some offensive combatant 
positions. TRF policy eliminated this approach, known as 
"grandfathering," and restricted protective force members who meet 
only defensive combatant standards to serve as SPO-Is. That is, SPO-
IIs that did not meet offensive combatant standards would be moved 
into SPO-I positions. 

* Career longevity plans to assist with the shift to the new 
application of offensive and defensive combatant standards. TRF 
mandates that all newly hired protective forces meet DOE's more 
demanding offensive combatant standard as SPO-IIs. Protective force 
members may advance to the SPO-III level, which requires qualifying at 
a higher level of firearms proficiency. However, under TRF policy, the 
forces who cannot maintain their current standards--perhaps as their 
years of service accumulate and they age--may "fall back" by applying 
for open protective force positions with less demanding standards. For 
example, protective forces may move from meeting offensive combatant 
standards to defensive combatant standards or unarmed SO positions, 
although they may lose pay with each "fall back." 

Table 5 summarizes the physical fitness, firearms and medical 
qualifications protective forces must pass for DOE's combatant 

Table 5: Required Qualifications by Protective Force Positions and 
Combatant Standards: 

DOE combatant standard: Not applicable; 
Annual physical fitness qualification: Not applicable; 
Semiannual firearms qualifications: Not applicable; 
Medical qualifications: Numerous medical conditions may result in 
disqualification for service. 

DOE combatant standard: Defensive standard; 
Annual physical fitness qualification: Run one-half mile in 4 minutes, 
40 seconds; and prone to 40-yard dash in 8.5 seconds; 
Semiannual firearms qualifications: Proficiency on several required 
day and night courses for each weapon carried on duty; 
Medical qualifications: [Empty]. 

DOE combatant standard: Offensive standard; 
Annual physical fitness qualification: Run 1 mile in 8 minutes, 30 
seconds; and prone to 40-yard dash in 8 seconds; 
Semiannual firearms qualifications: [Empty]; 
Medical qualifications: [Empty]. 

DOE combatant standard: Offensive standard; 
Annual physical fitness qualification: [Empty]; 
Semiannual firearms qualifications: Must demonstrate higher day and 
night proficiency on duty weapons and may have to qualify on a wider 
variety of weapons; 
Medical qualifications: [Empty]. 

Sources: DOE 473.4-3A and 10 C.F.R. 1046. 

[End of table] 

One site we visited had implemented most of TRF's key elements. Since 
2005, this site has constructed new training facilities, implemented a 
training cadre that allows unit-sized tactical training, increased the 
amount of tactical training its protective forces receive, and 
integrated protective force plans with other security elements and 
response plans. 

As of September 30, 2008, three sites were still using an older job 
classification of SPO-II (that is, allowing a defensive combat 
standard, rather than the offensive combatant standard), which is not 
a TRF classification. In addition, while some sites have created 
unarmed security officer positions to provide fallback positions for 
protective forces that can no longer meet DOE's defensive combat 
standard, there are relatively few unarmed positions (110--less than 5 
percent--of the protective forces at the sites we reviewed), and some 
of these positions, according to a protective force contract official 
and a union representative, were eliminated for budgetary reasons. 

We also found that TRF training was not uniform across the six sites: 

* DOE's National Training Center piloted a more tactically oriented 
basic training course (Tactical Response Force - 1) at one site in 
2008, but according to a National Training Center official, this class 
will not replace its existing multiweek Basic Security Police Officer 
Training course for newly hired SPO-IIs until later in 2010. 

* All sites have increased the amount of tactical training for 
protective forces but have been separately developing courses and 
training facilities. 

* Some sites had purchased and deployed advanced weapons but had not 
adequately trained their protective forces to use these weapons and 
had not integrated these weapons into their response plans, according 
to DOE's Inspector General and DOE's Office of Independent Oversight. 
In 2007, DOE's Inspector General reported that one site's training 
program for the use of a weapon that was key to the site's security 
strategy did not provide protective forces with the knowledge, skills, 
and abilities to perform assigned tasks.[Footnote 14] A follow-up 
inspection in 2008 found similar problems at several other sites. 
[Footnote 15] 

* According to a NNSA official, NNSA sites did not receive dedicated 
TRF training funds until fiscal year 2009. Also, according to NNSA's 
fiscal year 2010 budget submission, NNSA does not expect its sites to 
complete TRF activities until the end of fiscal year 2011. 

TRF Implementation Has Raised Concerns: 

Since its inception in 2005, TRF has raised concerns in DOE security 
organizations, among protective force contractors, and in protective 
force unions about the ability of protective forces--especially older 
individuals serving in protective forces--to continue meeting DOE's 
weapons, physical fitness, and medical qualifications. As we reported 
in 2005,[Footnote 16] some site security officials recognized they 
will have to carefully craft transition plans for currently employed 
protective force officers who may not be able to meet the new 
standards required for an elite force, which is now known as TRF. 
Adding to these concerns are DOE's broader efforts to manage its long-
term post-retirement and pension liabilities for its contractors, 
which could have a negative impact on retirement eligibility and 
benefits for protective forces. In 2006, DOE issued its Contractor 
Pension and Medical Benefits Policy (Notice 351.1), which was designed 
to limit DOE's long-term pension and post-retirement 
liabilities.[Footnote 17] A coalition of protective force unions 
stated that this policy moved them in the opposite direction from 
their desire for early and enhanced retirement benefits. 

These concerns contributed to the 44-day protective force strike at 
the Pantex Plant in 2007. Initially the site designated all of its 
protective force positions as offensive positions, a move that could 
have disqualified a potentially sizable number of protective forces 
from duty. Under the collective bargaining agreement that was 
eventually negotiated in 2007, some protective forces are allowed to 
meet the less demanding defensive combat standards. DOE has also 
rescinded its 2006 Contractor Pension and Medical Benefits Policy. 
However, according to protective force union officials, tensions over 
TRF implementation and retirement benefits remain driving forces 
behind protective force unions' drive to federalize. 

With the Issuance of the Graded Security Protection Policy, Most Sites 
Ceased Efforts to Implement the 2005 Design Basis Threat: 

With the issuance of the new GSP policy in August 2008, most sites 
ceased 2005 DBT implementation efforts.[Footnote 18] However, unlike 
its practice with previous DBTs, DOE did not establish a deadline for 
GSP implementation. While sites study GSP requirements and develop 
implementation plans, the GSP directs that they continue to meet the 
requirements of the 2003 DBT. Under the 2003 DBT, most DOE sites are 
required to maintain denial protection strategies for Category I SNM. 
Under these strategies, DOE requires that adversaries be denied "hands-
on" access to nuclear weapons and nuclear test devices at fixed sites, 
as well as all Category I SNM in transit. For other Category I SNM at 
fixed sites, DOE requires that adversaries be prevented from having 
enough time to complete malevolent acts. If adversaries gain access to 
Category I SNM, DOE requires that protective forces engage in 
recapturing the SNM on site or recovering the material if it leaves 
the site. As required by the Fiscal Year 2006 National Defense 
Authorization Act,[Footnote 19] DOE reported to Congress in 2007 that 
all its sites could meet the 2003 DBT. 

To verify the information DOE reported, we examined whether the sites 
had approved Site Safeguards and Security Plans and whether they had 
undergone an Office of Independent Oversight Inspection to test those 
plans. We found that all sites (except for the one DOE site that had 
implemented the 2005 DBT) had approved Site Safeguards and Security 
plans for the 2003 DBT, and almost all had undergone inspections by 
the Office of Independent Oversight to test those plans. In most 
cases, protective forces performed effectively in these inspections. 
However, in a 2008 inspection, one site's protective forces received a 
"needs improvement" rating--that is, it only partially met identified 
protection needs or provided questionable assurance that identified 
protection needs were met. 

Office of Secure Transportation Federal Agents and Protective Forces 
Differ Significantly in Several Respects: 

Although they are both responsible for protecting SNM, OST federal 
agents substantially differ from site protective forces in terms of 
numbers, organization, management, pay, benefits, mission, and 

* OST forces totaled 363 as of September 30, 2008, or less than one- 
seventh the total number of protective forces members at DOE sites 
with enduring Category I missions. 

* OST forces are geographically dispersed, but unlike protective 
forces, management is centralized. OST operations are organized into 
three commands, which are collocated at two DOE sites and a Department 
of Defense military base. These commands report to a central command 
in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which is under a single organization, 
NNSA. In contrast, the protective forces at six sites have 
decentralized management and are overseen by one of three DOE 

* Federal managers directly operate the OST organization and supervise 
federal agents. 

Unlike protective forces, OST federal agents cannot collectively 
bargain and are covered by a single pay system.[Footnote 20] Effective 
in March 2008, the NNSA's Pay Band Demonstration is a pay system for 
most NNSA federal employees--including OST federal agents.[Footnote 
21] Table 6 shows the differences between the protective forces' many 
negotiated pay rates and the nonsupervisory federal agents' single pay 
band, which is linked to federal pay grades that are established 

Table 6: Protective Forces and Federal Agents' Pay Systems: 

Basis for pay provisions: 
Protective forces: Collective bargaining agreements with various 
Nonsupervisory OST federal agents: 2008 NNSA pay band demonstration. 

Range of base pay rates: 
Lowest pay rates: 
Highest pay rates: 
Nonsupervisory OST federal agents: $19.54 to 30.90/hour[A]. 

Range of base pay rates: SPO-I; 
Lowest pay rates: $15.00-22.90/hour; 
Highest pay rates: $22.69-23.41/hour; 
Nonsupervisory OST federal agents: $19.54 to 30.90/hour[A]. 

Range of base pay rates: SPO-II; 
Lowest pay rates: $15.00-22.90/hour; 
Highest pay rates: $22.64-25.14/hour; 
Nonsupervisory OST federal agents: $19.54 to 30.90/hour[A]. 

Range of base pay rates: SPO-III; 
Lowest pay rates: $17.53-25.77/hour; 
Highest pay rates: $23.64-26.11/hour; 
Nonsupervisory OST federal agents: $19.54 to 30.90/hour[A]. 

Overtime pay rate; 
Protective forces: Generally 1.5 times base rate; 
Nonsupervisory OST federal agents: 1 times base rate plus 0.5 times 
regular rate[B]. 

Sources: Collective bargaining agreements and NNSA. 

[A] These hourly rates are derived from the annual salary range (the 
pay grades of GS-8, step 1 through GS-10, step 10) for OST federal 
agents in NNSA's Pay Band 1, a range that was at $40,779 to $64,482 at 
the end of fiscal year 2008. 

[B] A regular rate is potentially greater than a base rate, because it 
is calculated on total remuneration that reflects the base rate plus 
applicable premium pays, if any, such as a night shift premium. 

[End of table] 

In addition, while OST's pay system is designed for more flexible pay, 
protective forces' pay rules generally do not provide for any 
variation in a position's pay rate after a few years of service. 
Specifically, OST agents' pay rates can vary more when they are hired 
and in later years because the NNSA pay system is designed to give OST 
managers more flexibility to offer exceptional candidates higher entry 
salaries and to provide faster or slower annual pay progression, 
depending on individual performance. In contrast, fixed pay rules 
allow a contracted SPO to start at the top pay rate or to reach or 
closely approximate it after only about 1 to 3 years of service. 
However, as table 6 shows, both protective forces and federal agents 
receive significantly higher pay for overtime hours. 

Concerning benefits, OST federal agents generally receive those that 
are broadly available to other federal employees, such as through the 
Federal Employee Health Benefit program and the Federal Employee 
Retirement System (FERS), which has a defined benefit component and a 
defined contribution component. In contrast, at each site, protective 
force unions negotiate for benefits such as medical insurance and 
retirement plans, and new hires in protective forces generally do not 
receive defined benefits for retirement. In addition, in 1998, 
Congress made OST federal agents eligible to retire earlier (at age 50 
after 20 years of service) with a higher monthly retirement annuity 
(defined benefit) than is typical for other federal employees. 
[Footnote 22] This early retirement provision contrasts with the 
provisions for the two defined benefit plans open to new protective 
force hires as of September 2008, which provides for retirement with 
more years served or at older ages. 

OST federal agents' mobile mission also differs significantly from 
that of protective forces that guard fixed sites. OST agents operate 
convoys of special tractor trailers and special escort vehicles to 
transport Category I SNM. These agents travel on U.S. highways that 
cross multiple federal, state, tribal, and local law enforcement 
jurisdictions. They also travel as many as 15 days each month. Agents 
may also provide security for weapons components that are flown on 
OST's small fleet of aircraft. In contrast to the public setting of 
agents' work, protective forces that guard Category I SNM at fixed 
sites typically have elaborate physical defenses and tightly 
restricted and monitored public access. 

Finally, the training for OST federal agents and protective forces 
differs. Although both OST and protective force contractors must 
comply with DOE orders and regulations when developing and executing 
training, OST agents undergo longer, more frequent, and more diverse 
training than do most protective forces. For example, newly hired OST 
trainees undergo longer basic training, lasting 21 weeks at OST's 
academy in Fort Chaffee, Arkansas. To operate OST's fleet of vehicles, 
federal agents must also complete the requirements for a commercial 
driver's license. In addition, all agents must meet DOE's offensive 
combatant standard throughout their careers. Overall, OST officials 
estimate that OST federal agents spend about a third of their time in 
training, which, according to an NNSA official, is much more frequent 
than most contractor protective forces. Much of the training is 
tactically oriented, and OST convoy elements are organized into 
tactical units. 

Protective Forces and Office of Secure Transportation Federal Agents 
Do Not Routinely Use Their Federal Law Enforcement Authority to Make 

In the performance of their official duties, both protective forces 
and OST federal agents have limited arrest authority for a variety of 
misdemeanors and felonies,[Footnote 23] though neither routinely 
exercises this arrest authority. Both protective forces and OST 
federal agents are also authorized to use deadly force to protect SNM 
and may pursue intruders in order to prevent their escape and to 
arrest those they suspect have committed certain misdemeanors or 
felonies or have obtained unauthorized control of SNM. DOE's Federal 
Protective Force manual (DOE M 470.4-8) and DOE's Contractor 
Protective Force manual (DOE 470.4-3A) set guidelines and direct DOE 
sites to develop policies for using deadly force and for fresh 
pursuit, which involves pursuing suspected criminals who flee across 
jurisdictional boundaries, such as leaving the property of a DOE site. 
These actions include developing memorandums of understanding that 
establish, among other things, fresh pursuit guidelines with other law 
enforcement agencies. 

DOE protective forces and OST federal agents have limited authority to 
make arrests for specific misdemeanors and felonies, such as 
trespassing on, or the theft or destruction of, federal property. 
Other offenses against government property subject to arrest include 
sabotage, civil disorder, conspiracy, and the communication of or 
tampering with restricted data. For the covered misdemeanors and 
felonies, protective forces and OST federal agents have authority to 
arrest if they observe the offenses while they are performing their 
official duties; for the covered felonies, they may also make arrests 
if they have reasonable grounds to believe that the person has 
committed a felony. If other federal law enforcement agencies, such as 
the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), are involved in the 
apprehension of suspected criminals, even on DOE property, protective 
forces and OST federal agents must relinquish arresting authority to 
the other federal agencies. While both protective forces and OST 
federal agents receive initial and annual refresher training in law 
enforcement authorities and duties, we found that protective forces at 
the six sites last made an unassisted arrest using their federal 
authority more than 25 years ago. The protective forces at Pantex 
arrested nine individuals, six in 1981 and three in 1983, for 
trespassing on site property. In both instances, the offenders were 
convicted and sentenced to a federal detention facility. 

According to OST officials, federal agents do not routinely make 
arrests because they have not encountered individuals attempting to 
steal SNM from their shipments, which is the focus of their legal 
concerns. Protective forces do not routinely use their federal 
authority to make arrests for several reasons, in addition to limited 
authority. First, one contractor site official told us, federal 
courts, which have jurisdiction for all arrests made by protective 
forces using their federal authority, are reluctant to pursue what may 
be considered minor cases associated with a DOE site. Instead, this 
official said, the site had more success prosecuting crimes in state 
and local courts. In these cases, arrests are made by local and state 
law enforcement agencies. Second, DOE security officials told us that 
sites may be concerned about the legal liability of using contractor 
employees to make arrests and potential lawsuits that could ensue. 
[Footnote 24] Finally, both DOE and site contractor officials told us 
that routine law enforcement duties may distract protective forces 
from performing their primary duty to protect Category I SNM. 

Rather than make arrests when witnessing possible crimes, protective 
forces may gather basic facts, secure the crime scene, and notify 
management, which decides whether to refer the matter to local law 
enforcement agencies, DOE's Inspector General, the U.S. Marshall, or 
the FBI for arresting and transporting suspects. However, we could not 
determine how often the forces take these actions because sites do not 
typically document detainments or have facilities in which to hold 
such detainees. 

While protective forces and OST federal agents seldom use their 
federal arrest authority, protective forces have used other legal 
authorities to make arrests. For example, specially designated 
protective force officers at the Savannah River Site (SRS), are 
authorized under South Carolina law to make arrests and investigate 
crimes.[Footnote 25] The SRS protective force includes 26 Special 
State Constables (about 5 percent of SRS's total protective force) who 
have state law enforcement jurisdiction on the 310-square-mile SRS 
complex, which spans three counties and includes public highways. 
These officers wear special uniforms and drive specially marked 
vehicles. In addition, they must complete and maintain state law 
enforcement qualification requirements, in order to retain their state 
law enforcement authority. This additional authority, according to SRS 
officials, allows the remaining protective force personnel to focus on 
the other aspects of the site's national security mission. 

Figure 2: Protective Force Constable, SRS: 

[Refer to PDF for image: photograph] 

Source: DOE. 

[End of figure] 

Either of the Two Principal Options DOE Has Considered Could Result in 
More Uniform Management of Protective Forces: 

To manage its protective forces more effectively and uniformly, DOE 
has considered two principal options--improving elements of the 
existing contractor system or creating a federal protective force. We 
identified five major criteria that DOE, protective force contractors, 
and union officials have used to assess the advantages and 
disadvantages of these options. Overall, in comparing these criteria 
against the two principal options, we found that neither contractor 
nor federal forces seem overwhelmingly superior, but each has 
offsetting advantages and disadvantages. Either option could result in 
effective and more uniform security if well-managed. However, we 
identified transitional problems with converting the current 
protective force to a federalized force. Furthermore, while DOE has 
sought to improve protective force management by reforming protective 
forces, this effort is still at an early stage and budgetary 
limitations may constrain some changes. 

Both a Contractor Force and a Federalized Force Present Advantages and 

Table 7 summarizes the five criteria that DOE, protective force 
contractors, and union officials have used to discuss whether to 
improve the existing contractor system or federalize protective 
forces, as well as associated issues or concerns. 

Table 7: Assessment Criteria for Management Options and Associated 

Criteria: A personnel system that supports force resizing and ensures 
high-quality protective force members; 
Issues associated with stakeholders' views on how the options align 
with the criteria: 
* Several contractors and DOE managers believe the current contractor 
system provides more flexibility than a federal system to hire and 
fire quickly to meet changing DOE personnel needs and to handle poor 
* A union coalition advocates federalization to get early and enhanced 
retirement benefits, which are available for law enforcement officers 
and some other federal positions, to ensure a young and vigorous 

Criteria: Greater standardization of protective forces across sites to 
more consistently support high performance and ready transfer of 
personnel between sites; 
Issues associated with stakeholders' views on how the options align 
with the criteria: 
* Protective forces perform inconsistently across sites, in part 
because DOE culture and policy give each site leeway to manage itself, 
which can result in differences, such as various interpretations of 
DOE orders; 
* Protective forces are also trained and equipped differently, making 
it difficult to provide reinforcements from other sites for strikes or 
other emergencies; 
* A 2004 DOE work group concluded federalization might drive 
standardization across the DOE complex, which would benefit from more 
uniform training and application of policies and from more uniform and 
efficient procurement of, among other things, equipment and services. 

Criteria: Better DOE management and oversight to ensure effective 
Issues associated with stakeholders' views on how the options align 
with the criteria: 
* Federalization could enhance DOE's direct control and awareness of 
protective force operations; 
* Some DOE officials are concerned that more centralized federal 
control might slow and impede protective forces' support of the site 
contractors' operations and federalization could confuse the roles, 
responsibilities, and interfaces between contractor personnel in other 
types of security positions and federal protective force personnel. 

Criteria: Prevention or better management of protective force strikes; 
Issues associated with stakeholders' views on how the options align 
with the criteria: 
* Contractor protective forces can legally strike when their 
collective bargaining agreements expire, creating a potential lapse in 
security. Security operations during a strike must be managed through 
temporary replacement protective forces; 
* According to OPM, a federalized protective force could not legally 

Criteria: Containment costs within expected budgets; 
Issues associated with stakeholders' views on how the options align 
with the criteria: 
* Protective forces are the most expensive component of security 
costs, which have increased dramatically since September 11, 2001; 
* DOE officials are concerned that future security budgets will be 
relatively flat and may not support changes that require significant 
new expenditures, which federalization may involve. 

Source: GAO analysis of information from federal, contractor, and 
union sources. 

[End of table] 

Evaluating the two principal options against these criteria, we found 
that, for several reasons, either contractor or federal forces could 
result in effective and more uniform security if the forces are well- 
managed. First, both options--maintaining the current security force 
structure or federalizing the security force--have offsetting 
advantages and disadvantages, with neither option emerging as clearly 
superior. For example, one relative advantage of a contractor force is 
the perceived greater flexibility for hiring, disciplining, or 
terminating an employee; one relative disadvantage of a contractor 
force is that it can strike. In contrast, federalization could better 
allow protective forces to advance or laterally transfer to other DOE 
sites to meet protective force members' needs or DOE's need to resize 
particular forces. 

Second, key disadvantages, such as potential strikes, do not preclude 
effective operations if the security force is well-managed. According 
to one protective force manager, a well-managed protective force is 
less likely to strike. In addition, a 2009 memo signed by the NNSA 
administrator stated that NNSA had demonstrated that it can 
effectively manage strikes through the use of replacement protective 
forces. With respect to federal protective forces, a 2004 department 
work group on protective force issues observed that even federal 
operations like OST had experienced difficult labor-management 
relations that had to be carefully managed in order to ensure 
effective performance. 

Third, as can be seen in the following examples, distinctions between 
the two options, each of which could have many permutations, can be 
overstated by comparing worse-and best-case scenarios, when similar 
conditions might be realized under either option. 

* While federalization might improve effectiveness and efficiency by 
driving standardization, NNSA recently announced initiatives to 
increase standardization among contract protective forces to achieve 
some of the same benefits, including cost savings. 

* Federalization could potentially provide early and enhanced 
retirement benefits, which could help to ensure a young and vigorous 
workforce. However, such benefits might also be provided to contractor 
protective forces. 

* Although more centralized federal control might impede both 
protective forces' support of a site's operations and the coordination 
between contractors and federal managers, this concern presumes a 
scenario in which the department would choose a highly centralized 
organization, whereas it might delegate responsibility for day-to-day 
operations to its site managers. 

* Either option could be implemented with more or less costly 
features. For example, adding the early and enhanced retirement 
benefits would increase costs for either contractor or federal 
protective forces. 

Reliably estimating the costs of protective force options proved 
difficult and precluded our detailed reporting on it for two broad 
reasons. First, since contractor and federal forces could each have 
many possible permutations, choosing any particular option to assess 
would be arbitrary. For example, a 2008 NNSA-sponsored study 
identified wide-ranging federalization options, such as federalizing 
all or some SPO positions at some or all facilities or reorganizing 
them under an existing or a new agency. Second, DOE will have to 
decide on the hypothetical options' key cost factors before it can 
reasonably compare costs.[Footnote 26] For example, when asked about 
some key cost factors for federalization, an NNSA Service Center 
official said that a detailed workforce analysis would be needed to 
decide whether DOE would either continue to use the same number of 
SPOs with high amounts of scheduled overtime or hire a larger number 
of SPOs who would work fewer overtime hours. Also, the official said 
that until management directs a particular work schedule for 
federalized protective forces, there is no definitive answer to the 
applicable overtime rules, such as whether overtime begins after 8 
hours in a day. The amount of overtime and the factors affecting it 
are crucial to a sound cost estimate because overtime pay can now 
account for up to about 50 percent of pay for worked hours. 

Transition to a Federalized Security Workforce Creates Difficult 
Issues Either under Current Laws or with Special Provisions for 
Enhanced Retirement Benefits: 

If protective forces were to be federalized under existing law, the 
current forces might face a loss of pay or even their jobs. OPM told 
us that legislation would be required to provide these federalized 
protective forces with early and enhanced retirement benefits. 
However, provisions associated with these benefits could create hiring 
and retirement difficulties for current older members of the 
protective forces. 

Federalization under Existing Laws May Not be Palatable to Current 
Protective Force Members and Their Unions: 

According to officials at OPM and NNSA's Service Center, if contractor 
SPOs were federalized under existing law, they would likely be placed 
into the security guard (GS-0085) federal job series. Although a 
coalition of unions has sought federalization to allow members to have 
early and enhanced retirement benefits, which allows employees in 
certain federal jobs to retire at age 50 with 20 years of service, 
security guards under the GS-0085 job series are not eligible for 
these benefits. Under the applicable rules for federal security 
guards, transitioning protective forces would not become eligible to 
retire with immediate federal annuities until at least age 55, and 
only after accruing sufficient years of federal service. For example, 
transitioning protective forces could begin receiving a federal 
annuity at age 62 with 5 years of service or, with reduced benefits, 
at age 55 to 57 (depending on birth year) with 10 years of service. 
[Footnote 27] 

In addition, transitioning force members may receive lower pay as 
federal employees, according to our analysis of two tentative federal 
pay levels for protective force positions at SPO levels of I, II, and 
III.[Footnote 28] As of September 30, 2008, contractors are generally 
paid higher top rates than the top rates for the applicable federal 
General Schedule (GS) pay grades.[Footnote 29] Only SPO-III positions 
at three sites and SPO-II positions at one site could have their top 
rates potentially matched by 2008 federal rates, but only under 
certain assumptions.[Footnote 30] Also, to reach federal pay rates 
that better approximate the contractor rates, transitioning contractor 
protective forces might have to wait many years. While most collective 
bargaining agreements allow protective forces to reach a position's 
top pay rate after 3 years or fewer, federal guards could take much 
longer because the 10 steps within a GS pay grade have progressively 
longer periods of service between incremental increases. This step 
progression means reaching the top of a pay grade (step 10) could take 
up to 18 years. 

Finally, if protective forces are federalized, OPM officials told us 
that current members would not be guaranteed a federal job. According 
to those officials, current members would have to compete for the new 
federal positions, and thus they risk not being hired. Nonveteran 
members are particularly at risk because competition for federal 
security guard positions is restricted to those with veterans' 
preference, if they are available. According to NNSA Service Center 
officials, veterans groups would likely oppose any waiver to this 
hiring preference. Thus, if the protective forces were to be 
federalized, the department might lose some of the currently trained 
and experienced personnel. 

Legislation Could Provide Federalized Forces with Early and Enhanced 
Retirement Benefits, but Providing These Benefits Could Pose Problems 
for Current Force Members: 

According to OPM officials, legislation would be required to provide 
federal protective forces with early and enhanced retirement because 
their positions do not fit the current definition of law enforcement 
officers that would trigger such a benefit.[Footnote 31] For the same 
reason, DOE had to pursue legislation to extend early and enhanced 
retirement for OST federal agents in 1998. OPM had determined that OST 
federal agents did not meet the definition for law enforcement officer 
that would have made them eligible for early and enhanced retirement 
benefits. Consequently, at DOE urging, Congress enacted legislation to 
give OST federal agents the special 20-year retirement provisions. 
[Footnote 32] 

Although a coalition of unions has supported federalization to get 
early and enhanced retirement benefits, provisions associated with 
these benefits could create hiring and retirement difficulties for 
older force members. Older members might not be rehired because 
agencies are typically authorized to set a maximum age, often age 37, 
for entry into federal positions with early retirement. In addition, 
even if there were a waiver from the maximum age of hire, older 
protective forces members could not retire at age 50 because they 
would have had to work 20 years to meet the federal service 
requirement for "early" retirement benefits. These forces could retire 
earlier if they were granted credit for their prior years of service 
under DOE and NNSA contracts. However, OPM officials told us OPM would 
strongly oppose federal retirement benefits being granted for previous 
years of contractor service (retroactive benefits). According to these 
officials, these retroactive benefits would be without precedent and 
would violate the basic concept that service credit for retirement 
benefits is only available for eligible employment at the time it was 
performed. Moreover, retroactive benefits would create an unfunded 
liability for federal retirement funds. When the law changed to allow 
OST federal agents early retirement, these agents were already federal 
employees, and they received retroactive enhanced credit for service; 
DOE paid the extra liability (approximately $18 million over 4 years). 

DOE Seeks to Address Protective Forces Issues by Reforming Contractor 
Forces, but Some Changes May Be Constrained by Budgetary Limitations, 
and Progress Has Been Limited to Date: 

In a joint January 2009 memorandum, the NNSA Administrator and DOE's 
Chief Health Safety and Security (HSS) Officer rejected the 
federalization of protective forces as an option and supported the 
continued use of contracted protective forces--but with improvements. 
They concluded that, among other things, the transition to a federal 
force would be costly and would be likely to provide little, if any, 
increase in security effectiveness. However, these officials 
recognized that the current contractor system could be improved by 
addressing some of the issues that federalization might have resolved. 
In particular, they announced the pursuit of an initiative to better 
standardize protective forces' training and equipment. According to 
these officials, more standardization serves to increase effectiveness 
and cost efficiency as well as to better facilitate responses to 
potential work stoppages. In addition, in March 2009, the Chief HSS 
Officer commissioned a study group, which included DOE officials and 
protective force union representatives and had input from protective 
force contractors, to recommend ways to overcome the personnel system 
problems that might prevent protective force members from working to a 
normal retirement age, such as 60 to 65, and building reasonable 
retirement benefits. 

Both of these initiatives might benefit the department and its 
programs. For example, the initiative to standardize protective forces 
has started focusing on the inefficiencies arising from having each 
contractor separately choose and procure security equipment and 
support services; one identified inefficiency is that smaller separate 
orders hinder contractors from negotiating better prices. In NNSA's 
fiscal year 2010 budget request, NNSA predicted that standardizing 
procurement and security equipment, such as vehicles, weapons, and 
ammunition, could save NNSA, cumulatively, 20 percent of its costs for 
such equipment by 2013. With respect to the career and retirement 
initiative, the DOE study group reported, among other potential 
benefits, that improving career incentives for individuals to enter a 
protective force career and then remain in the DOE security community 
for a lifetime of service could help the department minimize the 
significant costs associated with hiring, vetting, and training 
protective force members. 

NNSA has established a Security Commodity Team--composed of security 
and procurement professionals from NNSA, some DOE sites, and other DOE 
organizations--to focus first on procuring ammunition and identifying 
and testing other security equipment that can be used across sites. 
According to NNSA officials, NNSA established a common mechanism in 
December 2009 for sites to procure ammunition. Another effort will 
seek greater standardization of protective force operations across 
sites, in part by HHS or NNSA clarifying protective force policies 
when sites do not have the same understanding of these policies or 
implement them in different ways. To move toward more standardized 
operations and a more centrally managed protective force program, NNSA 
started a broad security review to identify possible improvements. As 
one result of this security review, according to NNSA officials in 
January 2010, NNSA has developed a draft standard for protective force 
operations, which is intended to clarify both policy expectations and 
a consistent security approach that is both effective and efficient. 

For the personnel system initiative to enhance career longevity and 
retirement options, in June 2009, a DOE-chartered study group made 29 
recommendations that were generally designed to enable members to 
reach a normal retirement age within the protective force, take 
another job within DOE, or transition to a non-DOE career. The study 
group identified 14 of its 29 career and retirement recommendations as 
involving low-or no-cost actions that could conceivably be implemented 
quickly. For example, some recommendations seek to ensure that 
protective force members are prepared for job requirements through 
expanding fitness and wellness programs and reviewing the 
appropriateness of training. Other recommendations call for reviews to 
find ways to maximize the number of armed and unarmed positions that 
SPOs can fill when they can no longer meet their current combatant 
requirements. Other recommendations focus on providing training and 
planning assistance for retirement and job transitions. (All 29 
recommendations are described in appendix I.) 

The study group recognized that some of its personnel system 
recommendations may be difficult to implement largely because of 
budget constraints. The study group had worked with the assumption 
that DOE security budgets will remain essentially flat for the 
foreseeable future, and may actually decline in real dollars. 
Nevertheless, it identified 15 of its 29 career and retirement 
recommendations as challenging because they involve additional program 
costs, some of which are likely to be substantial, and may require 
changes to management structures and contracts.[Footnote 33] For 
example, to provide some income security when protective officer 
members must take a lower-paying position because of illness, injury, 
or age, one recommendation would include provisions in collective 
bargaining agreements to at least temporarily prevent or reduce drops 
in pay. Among the more challenging recommendations is a call to 
enhance retirement plans and to make them more equivalent and portable 
across sites--the types of changes that a coalition of unions had 
hoped federalization might provide. 

Progress on the 29 recommendations has been limited to date. When 
senior department officials were briefed on the personnel system 
recommendations in late June 2009, they took them under consideration 
for further action but immediately approved one recommendation--to 
extend the life of the study group by forming a standing committee. 
They directed the standing committee to develop implementation 
strategies for actions that can be done in the near term and, for 
recommendations requiring further analysis, additional funding, or 
other significant actions, to serve as an advisory panel for senior 
department officials. According to a DOE official in early December 
2009, NNSA and DOE were in varying stages of reviews to advance the 
other 28 recommendations. Later that month, NNSA achieved aspects of 
one recommendation about standardization, in part by formally 
standardizing protective force uniforms, as well as the uniforms' 
cloth shields. In the Conference Report for the fiscal year 2010 
National Defense Authorization Act,[Footnote 34] the conferees 
directed the Secretary of Energy and the Administrator of the National 
Nuclear Security Administration to develop a comprehensive DOE-wide 
plan to identify and implement the recommendations of the study group. 


Protective forces are a key component of DOE's efforts to secure its 
Category I SNM, particularly after the September 11, 2001, terrorism 
attacks. Since the attacks, DOE has made multiple changes to its 
security policies, including more rigorous requirements for its 
protective forces. However, in making these changes, DOE and its 
protective force contractors through their collective bargaining 
agreements have not successfully aligned protective force personnel 
systems--which affect career longevity, job transitions, and 
retirement--with the increased physical and other demands of a more 
paramilitary operation. Without better alignment, in our opinion, 
there is greater potential for a strike at a site, and potential risk 
to site security, when protective forces' collective bargaining 
agreements expire. In the event of a strike at one site, the 
differences in protective forces' training and equipment make it 
difficult to readily provide reinforcements from other sites. Even if 
strikes are avoided, the effectiveness of protective forces may be 
reduced if tensions exist between labor and management. The potential 
for a strike and for declines in protective forces' performance have 
elevated the importance of finding the most effective approach to 
maintaining protective force readiness, including an approach that 
better aligns personnel systems and protective force requirements. At 
the same time, DOE must consider its options for managing protective 
forces in a period of budgetary constraints. 

With these considerations in mind, DOE and NNSA, to their credit, have 
recognized that the decentralized management of protective forces 
creates some inefficiencies and that some systemic career and 
longevity issues are not being resolved through actions at individual 
sites. NNSA's recent standardization initiatives and the 29 
recommendations made by a DOE study group in June 2009 offer a step 
forward. The responsibility lies with DOE, working with protective 
force unions and contractors, to further develop and implement these 
initiatives and recommendations. However, if DOE decides not to take 
meaningful actions or if its actions will not achieve the intended 
goals, an examination of other options, including the federalization 
of protective forces, may be merited. 

Recommendation for Executive Action: 

To better align protective force personnel policies and systems with 
DOE's security requirements for Category I SNM sites, we recommend 
that the Secretary of Energy promptly develop implementation plans 
and, where needed, undertake additional research for the DOE study 
group's 2009 recommendations to improve career longevity and 
retirement options for protective force personnel. Specifically, we 
recommend the Secretary take the following two actions: 

* For actions such as reviewing the appropriateness of training that 
the study group identified as low or no cost, unless DOE can state 
compelling reasons for reconsideration, it should develop and execute 
implementation plans. 

* For actions that may involve substantial costs or contractual and 
organizational changes, such as enhancing the uniformity and 
portability of retirement benefits, DOE should plan and perform 
research to identify the most beneficial and financially feasible 

Agency Comments: 

We provided DOE with a draft of this report for its review and 
comment. In its written comments for the department, NNSA generally 
agreed with the report and the recommendations. However, NNSA stated 
that the report does not sufficiently credit the department for its 
significant efforts taken to address protective force issues. We added 
some information to the report about the status of the department's 
efforts that NNSA provided separately from its comment letter. 
Nevertheless, we continue to view DOE's progress on its study group's 
29 recommendations as generally limited to date. The complete text of 
NNSA's comments are presented in appendix II. NNSA also provided 
technical clarifications, which we incorporated into the report as 

OPM also received a draft of this report for review and comment. It 
chose not to provide formal comments because it said our report fairly 
and accurately represented the facts and policy issues that OPM 
provided to us. 

We are sending copies of this report to congressional committees with 
responsibilities for energy issues; the Secretary of Energy; and the 
Director, Office of Management and Budget. This report is also 
available at no charge on GAO's Web site at [hyperlink,]. 

If you or your staffs have any questions regarding this report, please 
contact me at (202) 512-3841 or Contact points for 
our Offices of Congressional Relations and Public Affairs may be found 
on the last page of this report. Key contributors are listed in 
appendix III. 

Signed by: 

Gene Aloise: 
Director, Natural Resources and Environment: 

[End of section] 

Appendix I: Recommendations from the Protective Force Career Options 
Initiative Study Group: 

In March 2009, the Department of Energy's (DOE) Chief Health, Safety 
and Security (HSS) Officer commissioned a study to examine "realistic 
and reasonable options for improving the career opportunities and 
retirement prospects of protective force (PF) members while 
maintaining, within current and anticipated budgetary constraints, a 
robust and effective security posture." Under the leadership of HSS 
and with input from protective force contractors, a study group was 
formed consisting of senior leaders of the National Council of 
Security Police and senior technical staff from the National Nuclear 
Security Administration, the Office of Environmental Management, the 
Office of Nuclear Energy, and the Office of Fossil Energy. 

The study group's report, Enhanced Career Longevity and Retirement 
Options for DOE Protective Force Personnel, released on June 30, 2009, 
included 29 recommendations to overcome the problems that prevent 
protective force members from working to a normal retirement age and 
building reasonable retirement benefits. Summaries of these 
recommendations follow. 

Study Groups Recommendations: 

The study group thought the following 14 recommendations were 
achievable mostly within existing management structures and 
anticipated budgetary constraints. 

1. PF deployment strategies should be re-examined to ensure that 
appropriate Security Police Officers' (SPO) skill sets and response 
capabilities (e.g., offensive or defensive capabilities) are matched 
to current response plan requirements in a manner that maximizes 
reliance on defensive combatants. The intent is to maximize the number 
of defensive positions that could be filled by personnel who can no 
longer meet the higher offensive combatant requirements. 

2. Anticipated requirements for security escorts and other security- 
related unarmed positions (including current outsourcing practices) 
should be reviewed and procedures implemented to maximize work 
opportunities for unarmed PF members (Security Officers). The intent 
of this recommendation and the next is to provide positions to be 
filled by PF members who can no longer meet either the offensive or 
the defensive combatant standards. 

3. Unarmed PF-related work should be identified as part of the career 
path for PF members. 

4. Measures should be adopted to minimize the impact of current 
physical fitness standards upon career longevity, and these standards 
should be reviewed against current job requirements. 

5. Revisions to current medical requirements should be developed to 
ensure that existing medical conditions do not represent (given the 
current state of the medical arts) unreasonable barriers to career 

6. So long as the department expects PF personnel to meet explicit 
medical and fitness standards, it should provide reasonable means to 
prepare for testing and evaluation. 

7. Existing "fitness/wellness" programs should be expanded to help 
SPOs maintain and prolong their ability to meet physical fitness 
requirements and to achieve medical cost savings that result from 
maintaining a well-managed program. According to the study group, this 
recommendation is not cost-neutral. 

8. Retirement/transition planning should be integrated into PF 

9. The capabilities of the National Training Center should be used to 
facilitate career progression and job transition training. 

10. PF organizations should be encouraged to appoint "Career 
Development/Transition" officers to assist personnel in career path 
and transition planning. 

11. The Human Reliability Program (HRP) monitors employees to ensure 
they have no emotional, mental, or physical conditions that impede 
them from reliably conducting their work. Under this program, if a 
reasonable belief or credible evidence indicates that employees are 
not reliable, they should be immediately removed from their duties as 
an interim precautionary measure. The study group recommended taking 
strong actions to correct HRP administrative errors and to rigorously 
enforce existing prohibitions against using HRP in a punitive manner. 
This recommendation and the next arise from a concern that some 
protective force members may be punished without the opportunity for 
timely recourse. 

12. Contractor policies and actions that lead to placing PF members in 
nonpaid status without appropriate review or recourse should be 
closely monitored (and, where necessary, corrected). 

13. DOE M 470.4-3A, Contractor Protective Force, should be reviewed to 
ensure that requirements are supportable by appropriate training. 

14. To encourage future communication on the issues considered in this 
study, the life of the present study group should be extended as a 
standing committee, and union participation in the DOE HSS Protective 
Force Policy Panel should be ensured. 

The study group thought the following 15 recommendations would require 
currently unbudgeted resources or changes to existing contracts. 

15. Existing defined contribution plans should be reviewed in order to 
identify methods to improve benefits, to ensure greater comparability 
of benefits from one site to the next, and to develop methods to 
improve portability of benefits. This recommendation, and those 
through number 19, involve changes to retirement plans that could 
enhance benefits and allow protective force personnel to transfer 
benefits more easily when moving to other sites. 

16. Consistency in retirement criteria should be established across 
the DOE complex (e.g., a point system incorporating age and years of 
service or something similar). 

17. The potential for incorporating a uniform cost-of-living allowance 
into defined benefit retirement programs based on government indexes 
should be examined. 

18. Portability of service credit between PF and other DOE contractors 
should be explored. This could be directed in requests for proposals 
for new PF contracts. 

19. Potential actions should be explored to create a reasonable 
disability retirement bridge for PF personnel when alternate job 
placement is unsuccessful. 

20. Job performance requirements (such as firearms proficiency) should 
be supported by training sufficient to enable PF members to have 
confidence in meeting those requirements. 

21. A retraining fund should be created to assist personnel with job 
transitions and second careers. 

22. A centralized job registry should be established to facilitate 
identification of job opportunities across the complex. 

23. Consideration should be given to sponsoring a student loan program 
to assist PF members in developing second careers. 

24. The department, as a matter of policy and line management 
procedure, should establish the position that SPOs be considered for 
job placement within each respective site's organizational structure 
before a contractor considers hiring personnel from outside of the 

25. "Save pay" provisions should be included in collective bargaining 
agreements to cover specified periods when a PF member must be 
classified to a lower-paying position because of illness, injury, or 

26. DOE should explore the potential for facilitating partnerships 
among the various contractor organizations in order to broaden 
employment opportunities for aging or injured personnel and to 
encourage PF personnel seeking alternative career paths to actively 
compete for those opportunities. 

27. Where possible, the department should review its separate PF prime 
contracts and convert them to "total" security and emergency 
management contracts. The intent of this recommendation is to permit 
protective force personnel to better compete for emergency management 
positions when they lack the ability or desire to continue with their 
security positions. 

28. PF arming and arrest authority should be reviewed with the 
objective of enhancing the capabilities of SPOs. The intent of this 
recommendation is to, among other things, ease SPOs' post-retirement 
path into law enforcement positions. 

29. Where possible, equipment, including uniforms, weapons, and 
badges, should be standardized throughout the department. According to 
the study group, more standardized uniforms might improve protective 
forces' morale and could offer some offsetting cost savings for the 

[End of section] 

Appendix II: Comments from the Department of Energy: 

Department of Energy: 
National Nuclear Security Administration: 
Washington, DC 20585: 

January 22, 2010: 

Mr. Gene Aloise: 
Natural Resources and Environment: 
Government Accountability Office: 
Washington, D.C. 20548: 

Dear Mr. Aloise: 

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) appreciates the 
opportunity to review the Government Accountability Office's (GAO) 
draft report, Nuclear Security: DOE Needs to Address Protective 
Forces' Personnel Issues, GA0-10-275. I understand that this review 
was performed due to a congressional mandate that directed GAO to 
review protective forces at the Department of Energy (DOE) sites that 
possess Category I Special Nuclear Materials (SNM). Specifically, GAO 
(1) analyzed information on the management and compensation of 
protective forces, (2) examined the implementation of Tactical 
Response Force (TRF), and (3) assessed DOE's two options to more 
uniformly manage DOE protective forces. 

NNSA generally agrees with the report and the recommendations. The GAO 
auditors provided a fairly accurate picture of the protective force 
situation and practices. Additionally, the report reflects the aligned 
but separate interests of DOE and the unions. We believe that the 
report does not give full credit to the Department for significant 
efforts taken to address protective force issues, and we have noted 
some inaccuracies within the report. Enclosed are technical comments 
that, if accepted, would address these concerns. 

If you have any questions regarding this response, please contact 
JoAnne Parker, Acting Director, Policy and Internal Controls 
Management, at 202-586-1913. 


Signed by: 

Michael C. Kane: 
Associate Administrator for Management and Administration; 


cc: Brad Peterson: 

[End of section] 

Appendix III: GAO Contact and Staff Acknowledgments: 

GAO Contact: 

Gene Aloise, (202) 512-3841 or 

Staff Acknowledgments: 

In addition to the contact named above, Jonathan Gill, Assistant 
Director; John Cooney; Don Cowan; Cindy Gilbert; Terry Hanford; 
Mehrzad Nadji; Cheryl Peterson; and Carol Herrnstadt Shulman made key 
contributions to this report. Other contributors include Carol 
Kolarik, Peter Ruedel, and Robert Sanchez. 

[End of section] 


[1] We excluded three other DOE Category I SNM sites from this review 
because they are likely to downsize or downgrade their protective 
forces in the near future. These sites include the Office of 
Environmental Management's Hanford Site, near Richland, Washington, 
which recently transferred its highest value Category I SNM off site 
but will maintain lower value Category I SNM for the foreseeable 
future; NNSA's Lawrence Livermore's National Laboratory, in Livermore, 
California, which plans to transfer its Category I SNM off site by the 
end of fiscal year 2012; and the Office of Science's Oak Ridge 
National Laboratory, in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, which plans to dispose 
of its Category I SNM by the end of fiscal year 2015. 

[2] In 2008, DOE changed the name of its DBT (DOE Order 470.3A) to the 
Graded Security Protection policy (DOE 470.3B). 

[3] DOE announced this initiative, originally known as "Elite Force" 
initiative in 2004, and began to formalize it into policy through the 
issuance of DOE Manual 470.4-3, Protective Force, in 2005. DOE revised 
this policy in 2006 with DOE Manual 470.4-3 Change 1, Protective 
Force. In 2008, DOE further revised this policy, which is now 
contained in DOE Manual 470.4-3A, Contractor Protective Force. 

[4] Pub. L. No. 110-181 § 3124 (2008). 

[5] NNSA's Service Center provides business, technical, financial, 
legal, human resources, and management support to NNSA site 

[6] NNSA is primarily responsible for ensuring the continued safety 
and reliability of nuclear weapons; EM is responsible for cleaning up 
former nuclear weapons sites; and NE is primarily responsible for 
nuclear energy research. 

[7] According to DOE's fiscal year 2010 budget request, protective 
forces accounted for slightly more than 50 percent of its field-site 
security funding in fiscal year 2008. 

[8] DOE Office of Inspector General, Audit Report: Management of the 
Department's Protective Forces, DOE/IG-0602, (Washington, D.C.: June 
3, 2003); DOE Office of Security and Safety Performance Assurance (now 
known as the Office of Health, Safety and Security), Department of 
Energy Protective Force Management and Capabilities (a classified 
report), (Washington, D.C.: June 28, 2004); and GAO, Nuclear Security: 
DOE Needs to Resolve Significant Issues Before It Fully Meets the New 
Design Basis Threat. [hyperlink,] (Washington, D.C.: Apr. 27, 

[9] GAO, Nuclear Safety: Potential Security Weaknesses at Los Alamos 
and Other DOE Facilities, [hyperlink,] (Washington, D.C.: Oct. 
11, l990). 

[10] DOE Order 251.1C, Departmental Directives Program specifies that 
DOE directives should focus on results by specifying the goals and 
requirements that must be met and to the extent possible, refraining 
from mandating how to fulfill the goals and requirements. 

[11] Our recent review showed that DOE's policy for nuclear weapons 
security provides local officials greater flexibility than the 
Department of Defense's policy for determining how to best meet 
security standards and has a greater emphasis on cost-benefit analysis 
as a part of the decision-making process. See GAO, Homeland Defense: 
Greater Focus on Analysis of Alternatives and Threats Needed to 
Improve DOD's Strategic Nuclear Weapons Security, [hyperlink,] (Washington, D.C.: Sept. 18, 

[12] According to NNSA security officials, by September 30, 2009, LANL 
had converted all of its SPO-II positions to SPO-I positions, and NTS 
had converted almost half of its SPO-II positions to SPO-I positions. 

[13] DOE's combatant standards are defined by physical fitness, 
firearms, and medical qualifications. 

[14] DOE Office of Inspector General, Protective Force MK-19 Grenade 
Launcher Use at the National Nuclear Security Administration's Pantex 
Facility, DOE/IG-0770 (Washington, D.C., July 2007). 

[15] DOE Office of Inspector General, 40 MM Grenade Launcher 
Qualification Requirements at Department of Energy Sites, DOE/IG-0806 
(Washington, D.C., November 2008). 

[16] GAO, Nuclear Security: DOE's Office of the Under Secretary for 
Energy, Science, and Environment Needs to Take Prompt, Coordinated 
Action to Meet the New Design Basis Threat, [hyperlink,] (Washington, D.C., July 15, 

[17] GAO, Department of Energy: Information on Its Management of Costs 
and Liabilities for Contractors' Pension and Postretirement Benefit 
Plans, [hyperlink,] 
(Washington, D.C.: June 19, 2008). 

[18] One DOE site completed 2005 DBT implementation efforts on 
schedule and approved a Site Safeguards and Security Plan for the 2005 

[19] Pub. L. No. 109-163 § 3113 (2006). 

[20] 5 U.S.C. § 7103(b). Exec. Order No. 12171, 44 FR 66565, (1979), 
recently amended by Exec. Order No. 13480, 73 Fed. Reg. 73991 (2008), 
provides that NNSA's federal workers cannot be represented by unions. 

[21] The NNSA Pay Band Demonstration establishes a pay framework by 
creating a career path and pay bands for OST federal agent positions 
as well as the rules for pay for performance. In addition, the pay 
system for OST federal agents must conform to other relevant legal and 
regulatory requirements and agency rules and procedures covering, for 
example, premium pay for overtime, holiday worked, Sunday worked and 
night work. In contrast, aspects of such premium pay could be 
variously negotiated for contractor protective forces. 

[22] Pub. L. No. 105-261 § 3154 (1998). 

[23] Atomic Energy Act of 1954 § 161.k (codified at 42 U.S.C. § 
2201(k)). Defense Programs: Limited Arrest Authority and Use of Force 
by Protective Force Officers, 10 C.F.R. § 1047. 

[24] A DOE Inspector General report found this to be the case at a DOE 
site not covered in our review. See DOE, Inspection Report: Protective 
Force Response to a Security Incident at Sandia National Laboratory, 
California, DOE/IG-0658 (August 2004). 

[25] This authority is contained in S. Carolina Code § 23-7-10 through 

[26] In terms of retirement benefits, for example, the features and 
costs are not clear for hypothetical contractor options, for which any 
variety of retirement plans could potentially apply. In contrast, the 
likely features and costs are fairly clear for hypothetical federal 
forces because they would likely be placed under existing retirement 
plans. According to OPM estimates for fiscal year 2008, for instance, 
annuities under the Federal Employee Retirement System for regular or 
early and enhanced retirement cost the government an average of 11.2 
percent or 24.9 percent of basic pay, respectively. 

[27] Although transitioning members would still be required to work 
beyond age 50, they could also work for even more federal service 
years, retiring with an immediate annuity at age 60 with 20 years of 
service or at age 55 to 57 (depending on birth year) with 30 years of 
service. These retirement eligibility provisions are for FERS, which 
is the federal plan open to new hires. 

[28] We separately asked OPM and the NNSA Service Center to 
tentatively classify SPOs at levels I, II, and III for the applicable 
federal pay grades using the contractor job descriptions for SPOs. The 
NNSA service center classified SPO levels I, II, and III at GS pay 
grades of 5, 6, and 7, respectively. OPM classified each SPO level at 
one higher grade level. For a more definitive classification of 
federal pay, more information on the positions at each site may be 

[29] According to a 2008 NNSA-sponsored study, the current contractor 
pay rates might be matched by federal pay under the flexibility 
allowed by NNSA's new pay demonstration that established pay bands 
that may cover more than one GS grade. Indeed, our analysis confirmed 
that the likely pay band--spanning the pay range of GS grades 5 
through 8 and applicable to all SPO levels--will generally accommodate 
the top contractor pay rates at NNSA sites, particularly because it 
allows higher pay rates for SPO I and II positions than is likely 
through the regular GS pay grades. Nevertheless, transitioning SPOs 
may still fail to match their contractor pay rates for two reasons. 
First, according to the NNSA service center, if DOE hires all forces 
under the regular General Schedule for pay, no forces will then fall 
under the NNSA pay banding. Alternatively, if the protective forces 
were organized under separate DOE organizations, at most only those 
protective forces employed by NNSA would be paid under its pay 
banding. Second, to match the contractor rates, new hires must be paid 
at the top end of the pay band. However, according to the NNSA Service 
Center, it would be unusual to hire employees at rates close to the 
top of a pay band, since a pay band is intended to allow for annual 
pay-for-performance raises. 

[30] According to NNSA Service Center officials, DOE has flexibility 
to hire at above step 1 of the GS grade when a candidate demonstrates 
superior qualifications. However, DOE might not use this hiring 
authority to put new hires at the top end of a GS pay grade because 
its use must be consistent with, among other things, merit system 
principles and budgetary considerations. 

[31] According to a 2004 OPM report, the retirement definition for a 
law enforcement officer has a more restrictive meaning than the common 
understanding of law enforcement. The main element of the definition 
is that the employee's duties must be primarily the investigation, 
apprehension, or detention of individuals suspected or convicted of 
offenses against the criminal laws of the United States. This 
definition generally excludes federal guards and even uniformed police 
officers from being eligible for law enforcement officer retirement 
because they prevent or detect violations instead of investigating 

[32] Pub. L. No. 105-261 § 3154 (1998). 

[33] According to officials in DOE's Office of General Counsel, one 
issue for changing benefits is that the department does not set 
protective forces' benefits because their members are not department 
employees. Instead, protective forces and their various employing 
contractors would have to negotiate changed benefits into the 
collective bargaining agreements. 

[34] H.R. Conf. Rep. No. 111-288 (2009). 

[End of section] 

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