Report: Security in nuclear-weapons facilities lacking

Coupled with its release, David C. Trimble, GAO’s director of Natural Resources and Environment, testified before the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations about the ongoing troubles of the agencies.

“DOE’s and NNSA’s work with nuclear materials such as plutonium and highly enriched uranium, nuclear weapons and their components, and large amounts of classified data require extremely high security,” Trimble told lawmakers.

However, he continued, the agencies have had “a long history of poor security performance across the nuclear security enterprise… as well as ongoing struggles to sustain security improvements, including information security.”

The report and Trimble’s testimony stem from investigations following the intrusion of three people into a government lab next to a nuclear weapons facility last year.

While changes have been made to security – including upgrading alarm systems, beefing up armed guards and other safeguards – the “safety culture” inside these federal departments are still lacking, and in some ways worse than they were before.

In 2012, a GAO study reported that the Energy Department’s safety reforms did not “fully address continuing safety concerns… in the areas of quality assurance, safety culture, and federal oversight and, in fact, may have actually weakened independent oversight.”

The DOE and the NNSA, the new report said, are continuing to implement the GAO’s recommendations and congressional oversight body pledged to keep watch of their actions.