The National Nuclear Security Administration spent over $11 billion in 2016 on management and operating contracts at the federal sites that maintain the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal, among other things.
We found that NNSA was unable to promptly locate key contract documents, which NNSA officials need to effectively oversee these contracts, and justify awarding millions of federal dollars.
We recommended that NNSA take steps to provide more timely and complete access to management and operating contract documents.
Photo of a hands going through hanging folders in a filing cabinet.
What GAO Found
According to the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR), agencies should ensure that contract documents are readily accessible to principal users. Documentation is also an important aspect of federal standards for internal control, which state that documentation should be readily available for examination in support of actions agencies take to achieve program objectives. Since 2011, the Office of Acquisition and Project Management (OAPM) within the Department of Energy's (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has been responsible for providing oversight and guidance for NNSA management and operating (M&O) contracts. GAO found that OAPM did not have ready access to key M&O contract documents stored at NNSA field offices. Consequently, OAPM was unable to provide GAO with contract documents requested in a timely manner. The FAR and federal standards for internal control emphasize the need for agencies to have ready access to contract documents, though OAPM lacks ready access to certain M&O contract documents, which raises concerns about OAPM's ability to effectively fulfill its management and oversight responsibilities.
GAO identified three primary reasons why OAPM could not provide the requested contract documents in a timely manner:
- OAPM does not have direct access to many of the documents requested because they are located at and maintained by NNSA's field offices. OAPM officials told GAO that contract document management has historically been decentralized to NNSA's field offices--the federal offices responsible for providing day-to-day oversight of M&O contractor activities--and that these offices have their own contract document management processes. As a result, according to OAPM officials, obtaining and providing the contract documents GAO requested--particularly documents from before 2012--required significant effort on their part.
- NNSA field offices have not consistently been using DOE's Strategic Integrated Procurement Enterprise System (STRIPES) for contract document management. STRIPES is a web-based information technology system that DOE developed to, among other things, centralize contract document management, and it includes an electronic document filing system. Moreover, in an October 2017 policy statement, DOE stated that all component agencies were required to store all contract documentation in STRIPES. However, OAPM officials told GAO that field office staff have not been using STRIPES for contract document management because, in part, OAPM has not updated its 2016 guidance that allows NNSA field offices to gradually adopt the use of STRIPES over time. Until OAPM updates its 2016 guidance to reflect DOE's policy requiring NNSA field offices to use STRIPES for contract document management, OAPM will not have reasonable assurance that it will have ready access to contract documents needed for timely oversight.
- OAPM does not have an effective process to access older, existing M&O contract documentation and has not monitored field office document management processes. STRIPES may provide better access to contract documentation going forward, but OAPM does not have plans to require field offices to upload older contract documents into STRIPES nor has it developed an effective alternative approach to accessing these documents. Moreover, OAPM has not monitored how field offices manage contract documents. According to OAPM officials, NNSA performed a procurement management review that included a review of contract files at one field office in 2015 and another in 2018, but has not finalized plans for future reviews. Under federal standards for internal control, management should establish and operate monitoring activities to monitor the internal control system and evaluate the results. Without monitoring how field offices currently manage older, existing M&O contract documents and taking steps to improve its process for accessing them, OAPM risks continuing to not have ready and timely access to existing contract documents needed for oversight.
Why GAO Did This Study
In fiscal year 2016, NNSA--a semiautonomous agency within DOE--spent more than $11 billion on M&O contracts. NNSA relies extensively on M&O contracts to manage and operate federally owned sites that perform the work necessary to fulfill DOE's diverse missions, including conducting scientific research and maintaining the nation's arsenal of nuclear weapons. This report provides information on the extent to which key NNSA M&O contract documents are readily accessible.
GAO requested for review key NNSA M&O contract documents for fiscal years 2006 through 2016. GAO also interviewed DOE and NNSA officials and reviewed applicable federal and agency contract documentation requirements.
GAO recommends that OAPM update its guidance to reflect DOE's 2017 policy requiring NNSA field offices to use STRIPES for M&O contract document management, and monitor how NNSA field offices currently manage older, existing M&O contract documents and use the results to improve access to such documents. NNSA agreed with GAO's recommendations.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|National Nuclear Security Administration||1. OAPM should update its guidance to reflect DOE's October 2017 policy requiring NNSA field offices to use STRIPES for Management and Operating contract document management. (Recommendation 1)|
|National Nuclear Security Administration||2. OAPM should monitor how field offices currently manage older, existing Management and Operating contract documents and use the results to improve its process for accessing such documents. (Recommendation 2)|