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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the changing missions for the Department of Energy's (DOE) national laboratories, focusing on: (1) DOE difficulties in managing and evaluating its laboratories; (2) DOE challenges in providing assistance to industry; and (3) alternative methods for managing DOE laboratories. GAO noted that: (1) DOE national laboratories should be able to contribute to important national priorities outside of their traditional missions; (2) the laboratories' missions need to be clarified to include changing national defense needs, the linkage between energy and environmental research, and technical support for commercial technology; (3) DOE needs a more strategic management approach to evaluate its laboratories; (4) DOE business practices and environmental, health, and safety oversight are inadequate; (5) DOE has created new oversight offices for its laboratories, but this causes overlap in guidance and reviews and is not cost-effective; (6) DOE laboratories face special challenges in their commercial technology missions including defining objectives, clarifying the laboratories' role in working with industry, and establishing realistic expectations and measurements of success; and (7) suggested laboratory management alternatives include converting some laboratories into independent entities, transferring some laboratories to the universities that manage them, transferring some laboratories to other agencies, and giving one laboratory a leadership role in a mission or area of technology.

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