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Highlights

The September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks raised concerns about the security of Department of Energy's (DOE) sites with weapons-grade nuclear material, known as Category I Special Nuclear Material (SNM). To better protect these sites against attacks, DOE has sought to transform its protective forces protecting SNM into a Tactical Response Force (TRF) with training and capabilities similar to the U.S. military. DOE also has considered whether the current system of separate contracts for protective forces at each site provides sufficiently uniform, high-quality performance across its sites. Section 3124 of PL 110-181, the fiscal year 2008 National Defense Authorization Act, directed GAO to review protective forces at DOE sites that possess Category I SNM. Among other things, GAO (1) analyzed information on the management and compensation of protective forces, (2) examined the implementation of TRF, and (3) assessed DOE's two options to more uniformly manage DOE protective forces.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Energy 1. To better align protective force personnel policies and systems with DOE's security requirements for Category I SNM sites, the Secretary of Energy should promptly develop implementation plans and, where needed, undertake additional research for the DOE study group's 2009 recommendations to improve career longevity and retirement options for protective force personnel. Specifically, for actions such as reviewing the appropriateness of training that the study group identified as low or no cost, unless DOE can state compelling reasons for reconsideration, it should develop and execute implementation plans.
Closed - Implemented
In response to our report and direction from Congress, in January 2011, DOE and NNSA released its Report to Congress entitled, Implementation Plan for the 29 Recommendations of the Protective Force Career Options Study Group. This plan outlined low and no-cost actions to improve protective force career longevity and retirement. The plan also indentified the study potential actions involving substantial costs or contractual or organization changes. DOE and NNSA have, and continue to take, significant actions for improving protective force career longevity and retirement. In terms of low- or no-cost initiatives, DOE promulgated in September 2013 a revised rule for Medical, Physical Readiness, Training, and Access Authorization Standards for Protective Force Personnel (10 CFR Part 1046). The rule removed barriers (medical, physical readiness, training) to maintaining the desired experience levels of protective forces while maintaining established qualification standards. The rule became final in March 2014. In other actions, DOE included PF-related jobs in the Department's existing centralized job availability database and also clarified issues related to DOE's Human Reliability Program (10 CFR 712) which some protective forces believed was being used in a retaliatory fashion. DOE is currently formally revising this Program to reflect these changes. Likewise, DOE is also evaluating protective forces use of arrest authority and is considering revisions to the relevant federal rule, 10 CFR 1047.
Department of Energy 2. To better align protective force personnel policies and systems with DOE's security requirements for Category I SNM sites, the Secretary of Energy should promptly develop implementation plans and, where needed, undertake additional research for the DOE study group's 2009 recommendations to improve career longevity and retirement options for protective force personnel. Specifically, for actions that may involve substantial costs or contractual and organizational changes, such as enhancing the uniformity and portability of retirement benefits, DOE should plan and perform research to identify the most beneficial and financially feasible options.
Closed - Implemented
In response to our report and direction from Congress, in January 2011, DOE and NNSA released its Report to Congress entitled, Implementation Plan for the 29 Recommendations of the Protective Force Career Options Study Group. This plan outlined low and no-cost actions to improve protective force career longevity and retirement. The plan also indentified the study potential actions involving substantial costs or contractual or organization changes. DOE and NNSA have, and continue to take, significant actions for improving protective force career longevity and retirement. In terms of changes that could involve substantial costs or other significant changes, DOE, consistent with their plan and our recommendation, has studied several issues. For example, in October 2011, NNSA completed its Contractor Protective Forces Career Option Study. This actuarial study examined the relative costs and related implementation issues associated with eight different potential retirement models, ranging from limited scope adaptations of existing retirement plans to dramatic restructuring of the entire approach to the contractor PF retirement system. In addition, DOE reviewed retirement programs offered by its contractors and DOE's National Training Center produced a retirement DVD. According to the Department, DOE and NNSA also continue to make efforts to standardize protective force equipment, badges and uniforms. Originally viewed as a way to promote efficiency and costs savings, the Department also views this as a way to promote greater professionalism in the protective force community.

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