DOD's Risk Assessment and Safeguards Management of Chemical and Biological Warfare Research and Development Facilities

T-PEMD-88-10: Published: Jul 27, 1988. Publicly Released: Jul 27, 1988.

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GAO discussed the Department of Defense's (DOD) risk assessment and safeguards management of its chemical and biological warfare research and development contractor facilities, focusing on: (1) risk assessment factors, standards, and methodology; (2) whether DOD adequately documented its assessments; and (3) the technical quality of the assessments and the extent to which they conformed to generally accepted scientific standards and practices. In its analysis of DOD chemical contractor facilities, GAO found that DOD: (1) developed and implemented a reasonably systematic and comprehensive approach for evaluating and managing risks, including contract bid reviews, formal requirements for safety, security, and emergency preparedness, and preaward and postaward inspections; and (2) conducted maximum credible event analyses, which provided a useful tool for estimating the effectiveness of existing safeguards against selected accidents or incidents. GAO believes that DOD should address other possible situations that could result in hazardous events at chemical contractor facilities. In its analysis of DOD biological contractor facilities, GAO found that: (1) DOD had not developed its own safeguard requirements or conducted regular, formal contractor facility evaluations; (2) DOD indirectly reviewed safeguards through an existing system that the biomedical and microbiological research establishment developed and that research investigators and institutions individually implemented; and (3) the lack of a formal DOD risk assessment and safeguards management process made it difficult to determine whether safeguards were proper and effective. GAO believes that DOD should take a more active role in developing and establishing a systematic and centralized safeguard evaluation process, which would provide useful information to address concerns about risks.

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