The National Nuclear Security Administration manages U.S. nuclear weapons programs at laboratories and other facilities. One such facility is the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. NNSA awarded a new contract to manage the Los Alamos lab in 2018, due to performance and safety issues with the prior contractor.
We compared the previous and current contracts and found that NNSA made changes to the contract to improve contractor performance and safety, among other things.
We also found that NNSA generally met requirements to report on the costs and benefits of the new contract.
Sign for Los Alamos National Laboratory with plants in front of it
What GAO Found
The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) manages U.S. nuclear weapons programs at laboratory sites and other facilities. NNSA relies heavily on contractors—primarily using management and operating (M&O) contracts—to manage and operate these sites and facilities. In October 2017, in an effort to improve contractor performance, NNSA sought a new M&O contract for the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). GAO found that NNSA sought to make changes to the LANL contract to improve contractor performance, update contract terms, and incorporate advisory panel recommendations, and the new contract contained clauses reflecting these changes. NNSA awarded Triad National Security, LLC, the contract to manage LANL in June 2018.
The National Defense Authorization Act of 2013, as amended (Act), requires that NNSA submit a cost-benefit report to congressional defense committees after awarding a new M&O contract. GAO found that NNSA's cost-benefit report to Congress on its new M&O contract for LANL addressed or partially addressed seven of the eight required reporting elements as described in the Act. Specifically, NNSA's report: (1) addressed with detail 5 reporting elements that primarily addressed cost costs and any disruptions during contract transition; (2) partially addressed 2 reporting elements on uncertainties and benefits of the new contract; and (3) did not address 1 reporting element on NNSA's process for determining which activities should be covered by the M&O contract, including whether another contract could cover some activities.
Why GAO Did This Study
The Act, as amended, includes a provision for GAO to review NNSA's report on the costs and benefits of the LANL contract. GAO examined (1) the changes NNSA sought under the new LANL contract and how those changes are reflected in the new contract, and (2) the extent to which NNSA's report addressed the required reporting elements under the Act.
To examine changes NNSA sought in the new contract, GAO compared the previous and current contracts and identified key differences. GAO analyzed acquisition documents regarding the contract competition, and interviewed NNSA officials. To examine the extent to which NNSA's cost-benefit report on the LANL contract addressed the required reporting elements, two analysts independently compared the text of the cost-benefit report against the reporting elements and categorized the reporting requirements as (1) addressed with detail; (2) addressed without detail; (3) partially addressed; or (4) not addressed.
In reviewing a cost-benefit report for an M&O contract NNSA previously awarded, GAO recommended in 2015 that NNSA enhance the clarity and completeness of information in its future reports. Although NNSA has provided clear and complete information on most of the required reporting elements, its report on the LANL contract did not provide clear and complete information on all required elements. Therefore, fully implementing the recommendation can enhance the clarity and completeness of any future reports it must complete to evaluate the costs and benefits of M&O contract competitions.