Department of Energy:

Key Factors Underlying Security Problems at DOE Facilities

T-RCED-99-159: Published: Apr 20, 1999. Publicly Released: Apr 20, 1999.

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Victor S. Rezendes
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed its past work involving security at Department of Energy's (DOE) facilities.

GAO noted that: (1) GAO's work has identified security-related problems with controlling foreign visitors, protecting classified and sensitive information, maintaining physical security over facilities and property, ensuring the trustworthiness of employees, and accounting for nuclear materials; (2) these problems include: (a) ineffective controls over foreign visitors to DOE's most sensitive facilities; (b) weaknesses in efforts to control and protect classified and sensitive information; (c) lax physical security controls, such as security personnel and fences, to protect facilities and property; (d) ineffective management of personnel security clearance programs; and (e) weaknesses in DOE's ability to track and control nuclear materials; (3) the recent revelations about espionage bring to light how ingrained security problems are at DOE; (4) although each individual security problem is a concern, when these problems are looked at collectively over time, a more serious situation becomes apparent; (5) while a number of investigations are under way to determine the status of these security problems, GAO has found that DOE has often agreed to take corrective action but the implementation has not been successful and the problems reoccur; (6) there are two overall systemic causes for this situation; (7) DOE managers and contractors have shown a lack of attention and priority to security matters; (8) there is a serious lack of accountability at DOE; (9) efforts to address security problems have languished for years without resolution or repercussions to those organizations responsible; (10) security in today's environment is even more challenging, given the greater openness that now exists at DOE's facilities and the international cooperation associated with some of DOE's research; (11) even when more stringent security measures were in place than there are today, problems have arisen and secrets can be, and were, lost; and (12) consequently, continual vigilance, as well as more sophisticated security strategies, will be needed to meet the threats that exist today.

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