Nuclear Security: DOE Must Address Significant Issues to Meet the Requirements of the New Design Basis Threat Page: 2 of 20
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Accountability- Integrity- Reliability
Highlights of GAO-04-773T, a testimony to
the Subcommittee on Oversight and
Investigations, Committee on Energy and
Commerce, House of Representatives
Why GAO Did This Study
A successful terrorist attack on
Department of Energy (DOE) sites
containing nuclear weapons or the
material used in nuclear weapons
could have devastating
consequences for the site and its
Because of these risks, DOE needs
an effective safeguards and
security program. A key
component of an effective program
is the design basis threat (DBT), a
classified document that identifies,
among other things, the potential
size and capabilities of terrorist
forces. The terrorist attacks of
September 11, 2001, rendered the
then-current DBT obsolete,
resulting in DOE issuing a new
version in May 2003.
GAO (1) identified why DOE took
almost 2 years to develop a new
DBT, (2) analyzed the higher threat
in the new DBT, and (3) identified
remaining issues that need to be
resolved in order for DOE to meet
the threat contained in the new
DOE Must Address Significant Issues to
Meet the Requirements of the New Design
What GAO Found
DOE took a series of actions in response to the terrorist attacks of
September 11, 2001. While each of these has been important, in and of
themselves, they are not sufficient to ensure that all of DOE's sites are
adequately prepared to defend themselves against the higher terrorist threat
present in the post September 11, 2001 world. Specifically, GAO found:
* DOE took almost 2 years to develop a new DBT because of (1) delays in
developing an intelligence community assessment-known as the
Postulated Threat-of the terrorist threat to nuclear weapon facilities,
(2) DOE's lengthy comment and review process for developing policy,
and (3) sharp debates within DOE and other government organizations
over the size and capabilities of future terrorist threats and the
availability of resources to meet these threats.
* While the May 2003 DBT identifies a larger terrorist threat than did the
previous DBT, the threat identified in the new DBT, in most cases, is less
than the threat identified in the intelligence community's Postulated
Threat, on which the DBT has been traditionally based. The new DBT
identifies new possible terrorist acts such as radiological, chemical, or
biological sabotage. However, the criteria that DOE has selected for
determining when facilities may need to be protected against these
forms of sabotage may not be sufficient. For example, for chemical
sabotage, the 2003 DBT requires sites to protect to "industry standards;"
however, such standards currently do not exist. In response to these
concerns, DOE has recently agreed to reexamine some of the key
aspects and assumptions of the May 2003 DBT.
* DOE has been slow to resolve a number of significant issues, such as
issuing additional DBT implementation guidance, developing DBT
implementation plans, and developing budgets to support these plans,
that may affect the ability of its sites to fully meet the threat contained in
the new DBT in a timely fashion. Consequently, DOE's deadline to meet
the requirements of the new DBT by the end of fiscal year 2006 is
probably not realistic for some sites.
To view the full product, including the scope
and methodology, click on the link above.
For more information, contact Robin M.
Nazzaro at (202) 512-3841 or
United States General Accounting Office
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United States. General Accounting Office. Nuclear Security: DOE Must Address Significant Issues to Meet the Requirements of the New Design Basis Threat, text, May 11, 2004; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc293919/m1/2/: accessed January 16, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.