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Review of Doe’s Nuclear Energy Research and Development Program
For years, GAO has reported on DOE’s inadequate management and oversight of its contracts and projects and on its failure to hold contractors accountable for results. The poor performance of DOE’s contractors has led to schedule delays and cost increases for many of the department’s major projects. Such problems led us to designate DOE’s contract management—defined broadly to include both contract administration and project management—as a high-risk area for fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement in 1990…. Ultimately, in January of this year, we concluded that despite DOE’s efforts to address contract and project management weaknesses, performance problems continued to occur on DOE’s major projects, and DOE contract management remained at high risk for fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement.
Congress has taken note of this in reviewing the FY 2008 budget.
The presentations to the committee by NE were also disappointing in how they reflected on NE management capability. The briefing points on GNEP were all pluses and no minuses, and the DOE managers were defensive about any possible deficiencies in their arguments and planning. Perhaps it is natural that they underplayed the technological uncertainties and difficulties, but they also showed a lack of the intellectual flexibility and depth that managers need to address a complicated new subject. Nor did cost enter importantly into their thinking. We had a similar impression of the Idaho National Laboratory presentations and reports.
We also doubt that the DOE laboratories are able to develop technology to full scale in a form that is attractive to the commercial world. The problem is that the laboratory R&D environment is not sufficiently cost-conscious. The laboratories have a lot of strengths, but developing commercial technology is not one of them.