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Highlights

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) manages and secures the nation's nuclear weapons stockpile, with annual appropriations of about $6.4 billion. NNSA oversees eight contractor-operated sites that execute its programs. Two programs make up almost one-third of this budget: Readiness in Technical Base and Facilities (RTBF) Operations of Facilities, which operates and maintains weapons facilities and infrastructure, and Stockpile Services, which provides research and development (R&D) and production capabilities. Consistent with cost accounting standards, each site has established practices to account for these activities. The Administration has recently committed to stockpile reductions. GAO was asked to determine the extent to which NNSA's budget justifications for (1) RTBF Operations of Facilities and (2) Stockpile Services are based on the total costs of providing these capabilities. GAO was also asked to discuss the implications, if any, of a smaller stockpile on these costs. To carry out its work, GAO analyzed NNSA's and its contractors' data using a data collection instrument; reviewed policies, plans, and budgets; and interviewed officials.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
National Nuclear Security Administration 1. To allow Congress to better oversee management of the nuclear security enterprise and to improve NNSA's management information with respect to the base capabilities necessary to ensure nuclear weapons are safe, secure, and reliable, the Administrator of NNSA should develop guidance for management and operating (M&O) contractors for the consistent collection of information on the total costs to operate and maintain weapons activities facilities and infrastructure.
Closed - Implemented
NNSA has developed its Integrated Facilities and Infrastructure (IFI) Budget Crosscut tool to collect consistent information from M&O contractors about the total costs to operate and maintain weapons activities facilities and infrastructure. The tool, which must be completed annually, has embedded guidance to M&O contractors for determining whether a cost should be included in the tool, and the tool covers both direct and indirect infrastructure costs. The utilization of this tool and its associated guidance meets the intent of GAO's recommendation to NNSA. We support NNSA's plans to further develop this tool by integrating it with other systems that support future years' program and budget planning to better ensure that future years' budget submissions are informed by prior years' actual costs.
National Nuclear Security Administration 2. To allow Congress to better oversee management of the nuclear security enterprise and to improve NNSA's management information with respect to the base capabilities necessary to ensure nuclear weapons are safe, secure, and reliable, the Administrator of NNSA should require M&O contractors to report to NNSA annually on the total costs to operate and maintain weapons activities facilities and infrastructure at their sites.
Closed - Implemented
NNSA has developed its Integrated Facilities and Infrastructure (IFI) Budget Crosscut tool to collect consistent information from M&O contractors about the total costs to operate and maintain weapons activities facilities and infrastructure. The tool, which must be completed annually, has embedded guidance to M&O contractors for determining whether a cost should be included in the tool, and the tool covers both direct and indirect infrastructure costs. While GAO has not validated the data in the IFI, the development of this tool and its associated guidance meets the intent of GAO's recommendation to NNSA. We support NNSA's plans to further develop this tool by integrating it with other systems that support future years' program and budget planning to better ensure that future years' budget submissions are informed by prior years' actual costs.
National Nuclear Security Administration 3. To allow Congress to better oversee management of the nuclear security enterprise and to improve NNSA's management information with respect to the base capabilities necessary to ensure nuclear weapons are safe, secure, and reliable, the Administrator of NNSA should evaluate the total costs of operating and maintaining existing weapons activities facilities and infrastructure as part of program planning processes and budget formulation, especially in relation to recapitalization and modernization of the nuclear security enterprise.
Closed - Implemented
In March and April 2014, senior NNSA officials issued guidance with respect to the process for programming and planning the agency's fiscal year 2016 budget submission. This guidance includes instructions for developing (1) a requirements based budget estimate consistent with the level of funding needed to successfully operate and maintain infrastructure in the long term, and (2) a budget estimate at a target level that is affordable in the context of the overall weapons program. The difference between these two estimates represents the "requirements over target," and allows NNSA to evaluate whether its planned budget request will support base capabilities and accept risk as necessary if it does not. This action meets the intent of GAO's recommendation. Further, in response to congressional direction, NNSA established a separate budgetary control for infrastructure recapitalization, and the process for planning and programming this recapitalization budget is following the fiscal year 2016 guidance.
National Nuclear Security Administration 4. To allow Congress to better oversee management of the nuclear security enterprise and to improve NNSA's management information with respect to the base capabilities necessary to ensure nuclear weapons are safe, secure, and reliable, the Administrator of NNSA should, once the Stockpile Services work breakdown structure reflects a product or capability basis, use this work breakdown structure to develop product/capability cost estimates that adequately justify the congressional budget request for Stockpile Services.
Closed - Not Implemented
We closed this recommendation as not implemented in March 2021 because it has been overtaken by other events and we have additional work that will continue to monitor NNSA's progress in developing cost estimates for products and capabilities supporting the nuclear weapons stockpile. NNSA restructured its fiscal year 2021 budget structure so that the work previously included under Stockpile Services budget line is now included in Production Modernization and the Stockpile Research, Technology, and Engineering budget lines. NNSA's fiscal year 2021 budget justification stated that this restructuring was intended to better align its budget structure with legacy and future weapons activities efforts; strategic materials production facilities and capabilities modernization efforts; and research, technology, and engineering efforts. NNSA has also significantly improved its work breakdown structure for its Weapons Activities programs, which reflects this product or capability basis to a much greater extent than it did previously. In addition, we have work that will continue monitoring NNSA's development of cost estimates for its weapons stockpile products and capabilities to inform future years' budget requests and justifications. Specifically, the Senate report accompanying the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 includes a provision for us to review NNSA's implementation of common financial reporting. As part of this work that will continue into 2022, we are assessing NNSA's progress toward implementing common financial reporting and assessing whether NNSA has identified and reported costs for its programs of record and base capabilities.
National Nuclear Security Administration 5. In light of significant proposed increases to NNSA's nuclear weapons program budget in fiscal year 2011 and beyond, the Administrator of NNSA should include in future years' congressional budget justifications (a) detailed justifications for how these proposed funding increases will affect program execution and (b) information about how the funding increases affected programs.
Closed - Implemented
NNSA has improved its congressional budget justifications to include specific identification of the amount by which the budget request has increased or decreased in comparison to the prior year (either requested or enacted depending on the timing of appropriations) by program. For each proposed increase or decrease identified, NNSA includes information in the budget justification to explain the general reason(s) for the change with respect to program scope. In addition, NNSA has begun to include, by program, descriptions of key achievements during the prior fiscal year, particularly in areas where funding was increased. These actions meet the intent of GAO's recommendation.

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