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Thursday, January 17, 2013

DOE's 'rather awkward situation'
Frank Munger
January 15, 2013

The U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration did a bunch of stuff in response to the July 28 break-in at the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant. Among the changes was the security contracting arrangement. Initially following the security breach by Plowshares protesters, the security contractor (WSI-Oak Ridge) was subordinated to subcontractor status under the managing contractor B&W Y-12. Later, WSI's contract was terminated, and the security work at Y-12 was folded into the M&O contract.

The latter strategy, incorporating security into the management contract, was kept the same when the NNSA revised its plans for the combined Y-12/Pantex contract and last week awarded the new contract to Consolidated Nuclear Security -- a team headed by Bechtel National and Lockheed Martin.

This situation was referenced in Norm Augustine's Dec. 6 letter to Energy Secretary Steven Chu. The letter was made public this week by the Project On Government Oversight.

In that letter, Augustine ranked in priority the potential ways for revising the management structure, giving top priority to federalizing the guard force although indicating other models could work as well (including the existing arrangement if certain conditions are addressed).

Augustine, the former CEO of Lockheed Martin, added this note in addressing the overall security situation in the nuclear weapons complex:

"The DOE is currently in the rather awkward situation of having (appropriately) abandoned as unworkable the Separate Operations and Physical Security model at Y-12, yet continuing to preserve that same model at the Savannah River Site (SRS) -- with exactly the same security contractor!"

He added: "In discussions with the leadership of SRS it was clear that they are uniformly confident of the suitability and effectiveness of the existing situation. Based upon a one-day visit I would be hesitant to question that judgment since, as repeatedly observed herein, given capable people almost any model can be made to work. However, I would strongly emphasize that some models are markedly more vulnerable to problems than others. It is my view that the Separate Operating and Physical Security structure is such a model."

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