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Project on Government Oversight




Statement of POGO on DOE's Nuclear Security Announcement

May 7, 2004 


Today, Department of Energy Secretary Abraham announced improvements to security at the nation's nuclear weapons complex, many following the recommendations that POGO has been urging since its 2001 report "U.S. Nuclear Weapons Complex: Security at Risk." In making the announcement, Secretary Abraham called for "a change in our management culture" to "accept, analyze and respond to criticisms and concerns from outside the Department as well as from employees...without fear of retribution." He particularly criticized the "reflexive dismissal of all ideas or suggestions" from those outside DOE including POGO, saying "This is not how a first class organization behaves."

Danielle Brian, Executive Director of POGO, lauded the announcement saying: "Today Secretary Abraham has articulated the most important priorities for addressing homeland security vulnerabilities posed by the nation's nuclear weapons complex. The agency and its contractors, however, have a long history of stonewalling security reforms. We look forward to ensuring the Department implements Abraham's initiatives."

Among the most significant changes that POGO has recommended:

  • CONSOLIDATION OF NUCLEAR MATERIALS. Plutonium and/or highly enriched uranium will be consolidated from Los Alamos National Laboratory, Sandia Pulse Reactor Facility in New Mexico, and the Y-12 National Security Complex in Tennessee. The Department will also consider removing special nuclear materials from Lawrence Livermore, a facility which POGO believes has serious vulnerabilities and poses a more devastating risk to the heavily-populated San Francisco Bay Area. His announcement is significant in the face of recent plans by Livermore to double the capacity of the facility to store plutonium.

  • DESIGN BASIS THREAT. POGO was the first to report that DOE's Design Basis Threat fell far short of national intelligence recommendations for what government facilities should protect against. Security Abraham has instructed the Department to examine whether the DBT should be more vigorous.

  • CYBER-SECURITY. DOE will move to a media-less environment as POGO had recommended, making it impossible for anyone in the complex to walk out the door with a diskette of downloaded classified information without proper security procedures.

  • DOWN-BLENDING OF 100 TONS OF TERRORIST-ATTRACTIVE HIGHLY ENRICHED URANIUM. Secretary Abraham has shown extraordinary leadership in proposing a study to assess the down-blending of large quantities of highly enriched uranium, as much as 100 tons, which would be most attractive to a terrorist intent upon building an Improvised Nuclear Device. This is the first time the Administration has recommended down-blending of U.S. nuclear materials, although it has made efforts to immobilize similar materials worldwide. POGO's 2001 report identified the need to dispose of the large quantities of nuclear materials which are no longer used yet make the nation's homeland security more vulnerable.

  • BETTER TRAINING AND TREATMENT OF THE GUARD FORCE. In the age of outsourcing, the DOE is considering federalizing part or all of its guard force. POGO has brought forward a steady stream of whistleblowers and disclosures concerning the poor working conditions and training of the guard force.


Founded in 1981, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) is a nonpartisan independent watchdog that champions good government reforms. POGO's investigations into corruption, misconduct, and conflicts of interest achieve a more effective, accountable, open, and ethical federal government.

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