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A successful terrorist attack on a Department of Energy (DOE) site containing nuclear weapons material could have devastating effects for the site and nearby communities. DOE's Office of the Under Secretary for Energy, Science and Environment (ESE), which is responsible for DOE operations in areas such as energy research, manages five sites that contain weapons-grade nuclear material. A heavily armed security force equipped with such items as automatic weapons protects ESE sites. GAO was asked to examine (1) the extent to which ESE protective forces are meeting DOE's existing readiness requirements and (2) the actions DOE and ESE will need to take to successfully defend against the larger, revised terrorist threat identified in the October 2004 design basis threat (DBT) by DOE's implementation deadline of October 2008.

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