Regardless of which option is selected, continuing attention must be paid to ensuring that the transportation program develops and maintains an integrated systems focus. The program is complex from both physical and institutional perspectives: it will involve the movement of large quantities of hazardous materials from multiple locations over long distances for sustained periods of time. It will also involve major construction, equipment acquisition, and training. It must coordinate its activities with a large number of constituencies: Congress; spent fuel owners; state, tribal, and local governments; and other nongovernmental organizations. The successful operation of various components and functions of the transportation system is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for overall system effectiveness. The interconnections among the components must also be explicitly thought through and managed. An integrated systems approach is a proven technique for achieving this goal.
The committee did not review the current OCRWM transportation program to determine if it has an integrated systems focus. The committee did see evidence of integrated systems thinking in one presentation it received from transportation program staff (Lanthrum, 2004). However, the committee also saw clear evidence that the current organizational structure for the transportation program is impeding such an integrated approach because, as noted previously, the program does not have the autonomy and funding necessary to execute its mission.
The industry has developed best practices that could be applied to this program (Meredith et al., 1985; Blanchard and Fabrycky, 2005). One element of such best practices is the development of a continuing review and correction process to ensure that a systems focus is maintained from program conception through operations. The committee strongly encourages the program to seek expert advice (e.g., using consultants and expert advisory groups) to learn about and incorporate best industry practices for designing and operating this transportation system using an integrated systems approach. This encouragement is in addition to the recommendations in Section 3.4 for an expert committee to advise transportation implementers on social risk.
Finally, the committee’s comments in this section should not be interpreted to reflect on the quality of the federal staff in OCRWM’s Office of National Transportation. The committee has had the opportunity to interact with several of these staff during the course of this study and judges that they are capable and dedicated individuals. However, they are working within a difficult organizational structure and in a political environment that could make success close to impossible.