Security Issues Unresolved at DOE Sites
A new special report by the Department of Energy Office of Inspector General evaluated the implementation of security upgrades at Department of Energy (DOE) sites. The office found that DOE is behind schedule and over budget on its planned security upgrades.
The national security mission at DOE nuclear weapons production and research facilities includes the protection of nuclear weapons and radioactive materials. It is critical to national security that a robust security system exists at sites that handle these materials. DOE periodically reviews what it considers to be the most realistic threats posed to its operations. After September 11, 2001, DOE was required to review and upgrade its analysis to reflect the new threat environment and to implement permanent security upgrades. DOE set September 30, 2006 as its deadline to complete the upgrades.
The report found that DOE did not meet its deadline for September. As a result, 87% of the scheduled upgrades must be completed in one year in order for DOE sites to meet the original 2006 deadline. However, the report notes that several sites stated that the funding they requested for FY2006 will not cover the cost of these upgrades nor fully fund maintaining the security measures already in place. The sites estimate that they will need approximately $148 million to implement the security upgrades in FY 2006. However, only $122 million has been requested. The report states, "It is questionable whether the remaining upgrades can be implemented by the end of FY 2006."
The Inspector General also found that DOE had not completed comprehensive inspections of the security at all sites that have weapons grade materials in two years. Furthermore, as of June 2005, DOE had not fully evaluated the effectiveness of either planned security measures or the measures already implemented. The report found that competing priorities, insufficient access to analytic tools and time constraints are the cause for the lack of evaluation.
Without adequate security planning and budgeting, the sites increased security forces rather than implanting alternatives that would permanently enhance security. Furthermore, the delays prevented DOE from providing basic equipment to the protective forces. Basic equipment included guns, ammunition, specialized training and protective vests.
The report states that while DOE has taken steps toward improving its planning and budgeting, much more needs to be done. Incorporating long-term, permanent solutions would greatly reduce security costs. One site identified technology options that could result in a savings of $15 million per year.
DOE intends to meet the requirements established in 2003 through the continued use of interim measures. Until permanent upgrades can be made, sites have expanded their protective force capacity, changed security procedures and rescheduled operations. Some sites reported that they relied heavily on overtime and suspended or reduced training and performance testing to ensure that security personnel were available. These measures increased costs and decreased the effectiveness of security forces.
Activists question DOE ability to adequately secure weapons grade materials. Jay Coghlan, of Nuclear Watch New Mexico, said "DOE is years behind schedule in yet another thing. This time with respect to security of its own facilities. The highest priority should be protecting DOE sites from post 9-11 threats."