Nuclear Nonproliferation:

The Administration's 2015 Plan and 2017 Update for Nuclear Proliferation Verification and Monitoring Generally Did Not Address Reporting Requirements

GAO-18-505R: Published: Jun 18, 2018. Publicly Released: Jun 18, 2018.

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Contact:

David C. Trimble
(202) 512-3841
trimbled@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

Federal law directed the administration to submit and update an interagency plan to Congress for verifying and monitoring the proliferation of nuclear weapons and materials.

We looked at the plan and update to determine if they met reporting requirements. We found that the documents—which were two and four pages long, respectively—did not address several requirements and lacked key details. They did not include:

An interagency plan for verification and monitoring.

A specific plan for building cooperation to improve inspections and monitoring.

A research and development program to improve monitoring.

Research at Los Alamos National Laboratory on neutron technology that could improve monitoring of nuclear materials

Photo of ultra-high intensity laser beam.

Photo of ultra-high intensity laser beam.

Additional Materials:

Contact:

David C. Trimble
(202) 512-3841
trimbled@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

What GAO Found

In the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2015, Congress included a provision directing the President to submit to certain congressional committees an interagency plan for verification and monitoring of the potential proliferation of nuclear weapons, components of such weapons, and fissile material. The NDAA provision specified four reporting requirements:
  1. 1. An interagency plan and road map for verification and monitoring, with respect to policy, operations, and research, development, testing, and evaluation, including identifying requirements (e.g., funding) for such verification and monitoring and identifying and integrating roles, responsibilities, and planning for such verification and monitoring;
  1. 2. An engagement plan for building cooperation and transparency to improve inspections and monitoring; 
  1. 3. A research and development (R&D) program to improve monitoring, detection, and in-field inspection and analysis capabilities, including persistent surveillance, remote monitoring, and rapid analysis of large data sets, including open-source data; and coordinate technical and operational requirements early in the process.
  1. 4. Engagement of relevant departments and agencies of the federal government and the military departments (including the Open Source Center and the United States Atomic Energy Detection System), national laboratories, industry, and academia.
The administration submitted a classified plan to the congressional committees in October 2015. The fiscal year 2017 NDAA directed the President to provide certain congressional committees with an update to the October 2015 plan but did not specify any new reporting requirements. This classified update was submitted to the congressional committees in May 2017.
 
GAO found that the 2015 plan and the 2017 update generally did not address the four reporting requirements. Specifically, GAO found:
 
  • neither the 2015 plan nor the 2017 update addressed the reporting requirement on an interagency plan and roadmap for verification and monitoring;

  • neither the 2015 plan nor the 2017 update addressed the reporting requirement on a specific engagement plan for improving inspections and monitoring;

  • neither the 2015 plan nor the 2017 update addressed the reporting requirement on an R&D program to improve monitoring, detection, and inspection and analysis capabilities and to coordinate technical and operational requirements; and

  • the 2015 plan and the 2017 update both addressed the reporting requirement on engagement of relevant departments and agencies, but neither the plan nor the update provided details.

Why GAO Did This Study 

The conference report accompanying the fiscal year 2018 NDAA includes a provision for GAO to review and submit an assessment of the October 2015 plan and the May 2017 update. This report assesses the extent to which the 2015 plan and the 2017 update addressed the reporting requirements. GAO assessed the content of the 2015 plan and the 2017 update against the reporting requirements and rated the extent to which each document addressed those requirements in one of three ways: (1) addressed the reporting element with detail; (2) addressed the reporting element but without detail; or (3) did not address the required reporting element. To assess the level of detail, GAO considered key factors identified in its previous work on national strategies, federal planning, and interagency collaboration, such as the extent to which the plan or update provided information regarding specific goals or objectives; strategies to achieve those goals or objectives and how these strategies would be implemented; which agency or agencies would implement the strategies; and other measurable data, such as timelines and the resources required. GAO also interviewed officials at the Department of State and the National Nuclear Security Administration who were involved in the development of the 2015 plan and the 2017 update or who reviewed those documents. This report is a public version of a classified report that GAO issued in March 2018.

What GAO Recommends

GAO is not making any recommendations.

For more information, contact David Trimble at (202) 512-3841 or trimbled@gao.gov.

 

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