Modernizing the Nuclear Security Enterprise: Observations on the National Nuclear Security Administration's Oversight of Safety, Security, and Project Management

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Testimony issued by the Government Accountability Office with an abstract that begins "The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a separately organized agency within the Department of Energy (DOE), has successfully ensured that the nuclear weapons stockpile remains safe and reliable by using state-of-the-art facilities as well as the skills of top scientists. Nevertheless, DOE’s and NNSA’s ineffective oversight of its contractors has contributed to many safety and security problems. As work carried out at NNSA’s sites involves dangerous nuclear materials such as plutonium and highly enriched uranium, stringent safety procedures and security requirements must be observed. In response to numerous ... continued below

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United States. Government Accountability Office. September 12, 2012.

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Testimony issued by the Government Accountability Office with an abstract that begins "The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a separately organized agency within the Department of Energy (DOE), has successfully ensured that the nuclear weapons stockpile remains safe and reliable by using state-of-the-art facilities as well as the skills of top scientists. Nevertheless, DOE’s and NNSA’s ineffective oversight of its contractors has contributed to many safety and security problems. As work carried out at NNSA’s sites involves dangerous nuclear materials such as plutonium and highly enriched uranium, stringent safety procedures and security requirements must be observed. In response to numerous serious safety incidents over several decades, DOE has taken steps to improve safety oversight. Recently, laboratory and other officials have raised concerns, however, that federal oversight has become excessive and overly burdensome. To address these concerns, DOE completed a safety and security reform effort to streamline or eliminate many DOE directives. However, GAO reported in April 2012 that the benefits of this reform effort are unclear because DOE did not determine if the original directives were, in fact, burdensome. In addition, the reform effort did not fully address safety concerns GAO and others identified in the areas of quality assurance, safety culture, and federal oversight. For example, the reform effort gives the NNSA site offices, rather than DOE’s Office of Independent Oversight staff, responsibility for correcting problems identified in independent assessments. Site office determinations of what issues require more formal contractor responses may be influenced by their responsibility for keeping costs under control and work on schedule. NNSA has also experienced security deficiencies, including numerous incidents involving the compromise or potential compromise of classified information that pose the most serious threat to U.S. national security. NNSA has made progress addressing these deficiencies—including the establishment of an effective headquarters security organization—but a recent and unprecedented security incident at an important NNSA site highlights the challenges the agency faces in fully implementing and sustaining safety and security improvements."

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Government Accountability Office Reports

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for the U.S. Congress investigating how the federal government spends taxpayers' money. Its goal is to increase accountability and improve the performance of the federal government. The Government Accountability Office Reports Collection consists of over 13,000 documents on a variety of topics ranging from fiscal issues to international affairs.

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  • September 12, 2012

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  • June 12, 2014, 7:50 p.m.

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United States. Government Accountability Office. Modernizing the Nuclear Security Enterprise: Observations on the National Nuclear Security Administration's Oversight of Safety, Security, and Project Management, text, September 12, 2012; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc297590/: accessed September 22, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.