Project on Government Oversight | January 7, 2010

If your kid accidentally blew apart a building, would you give them less supervision? This hands-off approach is exactly what the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) is doing by giving the contractors who manage the nation’s eight nuclear weapons sites (Los Alamos National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Nevada Test Site, Sandia National Laboratory, Savannah River Site, Pantex, Y-12, and the Kansas City Plant) a six-month break from many regularly scheduled oversight reviews.

On December 18, 2009–two days after researchers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) accidentally blew apart a building, causing an initial estimate of $3 million in damage–NNSA Administrator Tom D’Agostino signed a directive “placing a six-month moratorium on NNSA-initiated functional assessments, reviews, evaluations and inspections.” Project on Government Oversight (POGO) saw this directive coming, as DOE and NNSA have initiated reforms to put contractors in charge of their own oversight, “Reforming the Nuclear Security Enterprise.” POGO is not convinced that this moratorium is so temporary, and is interested to know what NNSA is going to do with all of the federal full time employees at the site offices and headquarters it no longer needs as a result of this directive.

Getting a hiatus from regular reviews are many of the areas that have had recent serious problems—security, nuclear safety, cyber security, Material Control and Accountability (MC&A), contractor assurance systems that relate to contract oversight, property accountability, and nuclear weapons quality… continue