Skip to Main Content
Project on Government Oversight




Security Guards Asleep at Sandia Poisonous Culture at Nuclear Labs puts National Security at Risk

March 25, 2003 


Major security failures in the form of sleeping guards, stolen computers and more are being reported at the federal government's leading center for security engineering.

Last week, Sandia National Laboratories admitted "serious concerns about the management of the lab's security force." Like the recent Los Alamos National Laboratories scandals, the emerging Sandia situation involves whistleblower retaliation and management coverups, according to POGO's sources.

"The incidents investigated range from a dozen security police officers observed eating, watching TV, and sleeping on duty, to theft of government-owned computer parts and software, to disappearance and reappearance of a set of keys to Sandia buildings," said the Sandia National Laboratories statement.

A press conference held last week announced two investigations into the incidents -- one by the Department of Energy and one by Sandia itself. Unfortunately, both investigations were internal and unlikely to provide a thorough picture of the situation.

"If the guards are sleeping, how can Sandia assure the American people that they can prevent terrorists from creating and detonating an Improvised Nuclear Device? Let's not forget this site is in the middle of Albuquerque," said POGO investigator Peter Stockton, a former special advisor to Energy Secretary Bill Richardson on security.

The erupting situation at Sandia appears to mirror recent scandals at Los Alamos National Laboratories and Nevada Test Site involving theft and security breaches. (See POGO's Alert Fire Sale at Nevada Test Site and POGO's Los Alamos investigations page.)

The problems at Sandia are also not unlike those that POGO reported on in its 2002 investigation into security at the Department of Energy's nuclear weapons complex. According to that report:

  • nuclear weapons facilities fail to protect against mock terrorist attacks more than 50% of the time - although the exact figure is classified;

  • DOE employees and others who have raised security concerns have largely been ignored and subjected to retaliation over many years; and

  • DOE has thwarted reform efforts time and time again. According to a review by Senator Warren Rudman: "the Department's ingrained behavior and values have caused it to continue to falter and fail."


Sandia statement:

POGO's report - U.S. Nuclear Weapons Complex: Security at Risk

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.

# # #