DOE Management:

Impediments to Environmental Restoration Management Contracting

RCED-92-244: Published: Aug 14, 1992. Publicly Released: Aug 26, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO evaluated the Department of Energy's (DOE) proposed contracting approach for cleaning up contaminated nuclear weapons sites, focusing on: (1) the goals DOE established for environmental restoration management contractors (ERMC); and (2) DOE preparations to implement pilot tests.

GAO found that: (1) DOE decided to test the ERMC concept, which it developed in response to concerns that current contractors were not sufficiently reducing cleanup costs, at two nuclear weapons sites; (2) experienced ERMC would focus solely on the environmental restoration of a site, subcontracting everything except the management and oversight of the cleanup; (3) DOE has set as goals for ERMC the hiring of more contractors with expertise in cleaning up sites under two specific environmental laws, improving management control of the environmental restoration program, reducing cleanup costs, and facilitating a more timely restoration of the sites, but DOE might not be able to achieve these goals; and (4) DOE is not prepared to implement the ERMC concept because of lack of evaluation criteria and trained staff to closely oversee the contractors.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOE has implemented various contract reform measures, such as: (1) increased use of performance measures to determine award fees; (2) introduction of incentives for cost reduction in current contracts; and (3) shift to greater use of objective, as opposed to subjective, measures to assess performance. These reforms mean that DOE will not be awarding future contracts of the type evaluated by GAO in this report. Therefore, this recommendation should be closed.

    Recommendation: To improve the implementation of the ERMC pilot test, the Secretary of Energy should direct the Assistant Secretary for Environmental Restoration and Waste Management to prepare and execute a plan for evaluating the pilot tests. The evaluation plan should establish specific objectives for the ERMC pilot test, criteria for judging its success, data that will be needed to conduct the evaluations, and time frames for conducting the evaluations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOE has increased the staff and prepared a plan for training the staff. DOE has also found a consulting firm that will train DOE personnel in invoice review. The ERMC contract structure evaluated in this report is no longer being used for new awards. DOE has taken the recommended steps to improve oversight of contractors and train staff. The initiatives are being implemented over a 2-year period.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should direct the Assistant Secretary for Environmental Restoration and Waste Management to identify the staffing and training needs for overseeing the pilot tests, and prepare and execute a plan for acquiring and training the necessary staff.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy


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