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OVERALL CONCLUSIONS

The DOE Office of Environmental Remediation program faces many serious technical challenges. Progress in meeting these challenges has been slow, and the committee shares the frustration of the public and the Congress about the lack of progress.

The committee has sought to identify the cause of the problems demonstrated by these case studies, taking into account many other situations that individual committee members were familiar with and brought to the committee’s attention. The committee believes that while DOE/EM-40 faces many serious technical challenges, it also has an enormous pool of highly talented, dedicated, and experienced people working to meet these challenges. It is known that many of these people share the sense of frustration felt by the committee and the public.

The committee has concluded that a fundamental obstacle to progress is not technical, but organizational. Again and again the efforts of fine people to overcome difficult scientific and engineering challenges have been stymied by the organizational structure in which they work. This problem manifests itself in many different ways, but the committee observes a common pattern:

What happens is driven too often by the internal needs of the organizations charged with the remediation work rather than by the overall goal of environmental remediation.

It must be emphasized that external forces have contributed to this problem. The influence of politics, particularly in the budget process, cannot be underestimated. It should also be acknowledged that many aspects of the “culture” of DOE, including the balkanization of programs and the aversion to decision-making, are in part responses to the pressures of doing science and engineering in a political fish bowl. A full solution to the problem as described requires change not only by DOE, but also by Congress, involved states, and the public.

Solving this problem is in large part a matter of technical management, not of science and engineering per se. Scientists and engineers undoubtedly have much to contribute to the solution, but the magnitude of both the environmental problems and the projected remediation costs makes it a matter of concern to every citizen.

The committee notes that the situation it has described has much in common with the problems of the DOE National Laboratories as described by the 1995 report of the Galvin Commission, and it encourages a fundamental rethinking of the DOE Environmental Remediation structure in the spirit of the commission’s work. The committee feels, however, that detailed recommendations for better management are beyond the scope of its charge.



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OCR for page 19
Barriers to Science: Technical Management of the Department of Energy Environmental Remediation Program OVERALL CONCLUSIONS The DOE Office of Environmental Remediation program faces many serious technical challenges. Progress in meeting these challenges has been slow, and the committee shares the frustration of the public and the Congress about the lack of progress. The committee has sought to identify the cause of the problems demonstrated by these case studies, taking into account many other situations that individual committee members were familiar with and brought to the committee’s attention. The committee believes that while DOE/EM-40 faces many serious technical challenges, it also has an enormous pool of highly talented, dedicated, and experienced people working to meet these challenges. It is known that many of these people share the sense of frustration felt by the committee and the public. The committee has concluded that a fundamental obstacle to progress is not technical, but organizational. Again and again the efforts of fine people to overcome difficult scientific and engineering challenges have been stymied by the organizational structure in which they work. This problem manifests itself in many different ways, but the committee observes a common pattern: What happens is driven too often by the internal needs of the organizations charged with the remediation work rather than by the overall goal of environmental remediation. It must be emphasized that external forces have contributed to this problem. The influence of politics, particularly in the budget process, cannot be underestimated. It should also be acknowledged that many aspects of the “culture” of DOE, including the balkanization of programs and the aversion to decision-making, are in part responses to the pressures of doing science and engineering in a political fish bowl. A full solution to the problem as described requires change not only by DOE, but also by Congress, involved states, and the public. Solving this problem is in large part a matter of technical management, not of science and engineering per se. Scientists and engineers undoubtedly have much to contribute to the solution, but the magnitude of both the environmental problems and the projected remediation costs makes it a matter of concern to every citizen. The committee notes that the situation it has described has much in common with the problems of the DOE National Laboratories as described by the 1995 report of the Galvin Commission, and it encourages a fundamental rethinking of the DOE Environmental Remediation structure in the spirit of the commission’s work. The committee feels, however, that detailed recommendations for better management are beyond the scope of its charge.

OCR for page 19
Barriers to Science: Technical Management of the Department of Energy Environmental Remediation Program This page in the original is blank.