A congressionally mandated study carried out in 2013-2014, co-chaired by Norman Augustine and Richard Mies, led to the November 2014 report A New Foundation for the Nuclear Enterprise1 (the “Augustine-Mies” report). That report, according to its preface, “summarizes the panel’s findings on the current health of the enterprise, examines the root causes of its governance challenges, and offers the panel’s recommendations to address the identified problems” (p. iii). It concludes—echoing many other examinations in recent years, including at least two reports from the National Academies2—that “the existing governance structures and many of the practices of the enterprise are inefficient and ineffective, thereby putting the entire enterprise at risk over the long term” (p. ix). It offers 19 recommendations, many with subcomponents, to put the entire nuclear security enterprise on a stronger footing.
Some of the Augustine-Mies recommendations are directed to Congress and the White House and thus may not be controlled by National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) or the Department of Energy (DOE). The remaining recommendations address challenges arising in the following areas:
- Management structure and processes;
- Decision-making practices;
- Risk management;
- Culture of performance, accountability, and credibility;
- Best practices for shaping and building the enterprise workforce;
- Cost analysis and resource management capabilities;
- Budget and accounting structure;
- Strategy and plan for meeting future needs, including deferred maintenance, infrastructure, and workforce;
- Construction project management capabilities;
- Interactions between management and operating (M&O) contractors and NNSA/DOE;
- Wasteful and ineffective transactional oversight;
- Government–federally funded research and development center relationship; and
- Collaborations and trust with NNSA customers.
Similar issues were raised in a 2015 study by the Commission to Review the Effectiveness of the National Energy Laboratories, Securing America’s Future: Realizing the Potential of the Department of
1 Congressional Advisory Panel on the Governance of the Nuclear Security Enterprise, 2014, A New Foundation for the Nuclear Enterprise: Report of the Congressional Advisory Panel on the Governance of the Nuclear Security Enterprise, http://cdn.knoxblogs.com/atomiccity/wpcontent/uploads/sites/11/2014/12/Governance.pdf?_ga=1.83182294.1320535883.1415285934.
2 National Research Council, 2012, Managing for High-Quality Science and Engineering at the NNSA National Security Laboratories, and National Research Council, 2013, The Quality of Science and Engineering at the NNSA National Security Laboratories, both from National Academies Press, Washington, D.C.
Energy’s National Laboratories3 (the “CRENEL” report, which was also requested by Congress). That report examined the full range of 17 DOE laboratories, which includes the 3 NNSA laboratories. Its 36 recommendations are grouped into 6 thematic areas: recognizing value (provide sufficient resources); rebuilding trust, particularly between DOE and its laboratories; maintaining alignment and quality; maximizing impact; managing effectiveness and efficiency; and ensuring lasting change. That panel also pointed out that more than 50 reports, dating at least to the 1990s, have raised similar concerns about management and governance problems affecting the nuclear security enterprise or DOE more broadly.
The nuclear security enterprise is large and complex. According to DOE/NNSA 2017 Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan,4 capabilities of the enterprise are distributed “at NNSA Headquarters (located in Washington, DC; Germantown, Maryland; and the Albuquerque Complex in Albuquerque, New Mexico); the NNSA field offices; four production facilities; three national security laboratories, two of which include production missions; and a national security site [and a] workforce consisting of Federal employees (more than 1,500), employees of our management and operating (M&O) partners (more than 35,000), and assigned members of the military” (p. 1-4).
Recognizing the persistence of governance and management concerns, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 (FY2016 NDAA) mandates that NNSA and DOE develop a plan for addressing the recommendations of the Augustine-Mies report and, at NNSA’s discretion, those of similar reports. That Act also calls for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (“the National Academies”) and the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA) to jointly track and assess the execution of that plan through a long-term study. The relevant provision of the Act is included in Appendix C. Accordingly, the National Academies and NAPA jointly assembled the Panel to Track and Assess Governance and Management Reform in the Nuclear Security Enterprise (“the panel”). In calling for these steps, Congress explicitly recognized the following:
(1) Correcting the longstanding problems with the governance and management of the nuclear security enterprise will require robust, personal, and long-term engagement by the President, the Secretary of Energy, the Administrator for Nuclear Security, and leaders from the appropriate congressional committees; (2) recent and past studies of the governance and management of the nuclear security enterprise have provided a list of reasonable, practical, and actionable steps that the Secretary and the Administrator should take to make the nuclear security enterprise more efficient and more effective; and (3) lasting and effective change to the nuclear security enterprise will require personal engagement by senior leaders, a clear plan, and mechanisms for ensuring follow-through and accountability.5
The overall charge for the National Academies–NAPA study is described in Box 1.1.
3 Commission to Review the Effectiveness of the National Energy Laboratories, 2015, Securing America’s Future: Realizing the Potential of the Department of Energy’s National Laboratories: Final Report of the Commission to Review the Effectiveness of the National Energy Laboratories, https://energy.gov/labcommission/downloads/final-report-commission-review-effectiveness-national-energy-laboratories.
4 Department of Energy (DOE)/National Nuclear Security Administration, 2016, Fiscal Year 2017 Stockpile Stewardship and Management Plan—Biennial Plan Summary, Report to Congress, March 2016.
5 National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016, H.R. 1735, 114th Cong. (2015-2016), Sec. 3137.
It was not possible to begin the study in the way envisioned by the FY2016 NDAA, and in the charge given to the panel, because of a delay in the release of the DOE and NNSA implementation plan for reforming the governance and management of the nuclear security enterprise. Therefore, after appropriate consultations, the panel decided to begin its study with an examination of steps taken by NNSA to address a subset of recommendations from the Augustine-Mies and CRENEL reports to (1) clarify roles, responsibilities, authorities, and accountability; (2) mitigate burdensome practices; and (3) enable change to be achieved and sustained. The panel judged the first two themes to be among the highest-priority challenges and also ones for which the nuclear security enterprise could make progress in the near term. In addition, recognizing that change management in any complex organization is a long-term process requiring focused attention, the panel also elected to examine as a third theme how large-scale change can be achieved and sustained. The panel’s goal for the first of these themes is to assess the actions that DOE and NNSA have taken or plan to take in order to ensure that the Administrator has the authorities necessary for executing nuclear enterprise missions and that other individuals at all levels understand their roles and contributions to mission execution, as recommended especially in the Augustine-Mies report. For the second theme, the panel’s goal is to determine if appropriate steps have been taken to begin mitigating burdensome management practices, which have been flagged by several reports as a persistent and fundamental problem. The goal for the third theme is to understand, document, and assess the change management philosophy, goals, methodologies, and accomplishments to date being carried out by NNSA and DOE in response to the Augustine-Mies and CRENEL report recommendations.
The panel began its focused information gathering in December 2016. This report is the first in a series of reports to be issued by the panel over 2017 to 2020. Many of the topics discussed in this report will be examined in more detail in subsequent reports.
The panel’s goal is to assess the degree to which the nuclear security enterprise successfully addresses concerns raised in the Augustine-Mies and CRENEL reports. It begins by examining NNSA’s current actions and considering whether they are reasonable and positioned to succeed, but its longer-term plan is to compare how the enterprise functions in comparison to the desired state described in those reports. In that light, the DOE implementation plan, discussed next, is just a first step.
While the panel was examining the three themes listed above, DOE released the implementation plan, Governance and Management of the Nuclear Security Enterprise: Report to Congress,6 that was called for in the FY2016 NDAA. The plan aims to address recommendations—except those requiring legislation—from the Augustine-Mies and CRENEL reports. DOE also decided to address recommendations from a June 2015 report of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board’s Task Force on DOE National Laboratories (the “SEAB Task Force” report).7 That report examined the operations of all 17 DOE national laboratories (including the 3 NNSA laboratories) and evaluated their effectiveness. Its executive summary captures the primary focus as follows:
The [report] stresses the overriding importance of two actions: clarifying the authorities and responsibilities of the entities involved in laboratory management and adopting a disciplined process for implementing change. The TF report further proposes targeted “experiments” in three areas: (1) the management and operation (M&O) contracting system that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) uses to run the laboratory system; (2) technology transfer as a means for creating value for the private sector; and (3) Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD).8
Although the SEAB Task Force report is not called out in the NDAA language behind this study, its recommendations are included in the DOE implementation plan and hence are examined as part of this report.
The first two themes for this report—clarifying roles, responsibilities, authorities, and accountability, and mitigating burdensome practices—are prominent in the DOE implementation plan, and the panel’s information gathering explored the relevant actions included in that plan. The panel’s third theme, on steps to achieve and sustain change, is not explicitly addressed by that implementation plan, but it is implicit.
Because this report is just the first in a series, it should be read as a preliminary assessment of actions taken or under way in the nuclear security enterprise in response to the challenges identified by the Augustine-Mies, CRENEL, and SEAB Task Force reports. Addressing those challenges requires change at many levels: to processes, relationships, embedded assumptions, and cultures. This report describes many of the steps taken to date, but the panel’s limited fact-finding has not yet permitted an in-depth examination of the implication of NNSA’s actions at the laboratory and plant level. Given the status of its work, the panel has provided only a few top-level findings and recommendations that merit early attention in shaping NNSA’s reform efforts. The three themes covered by this report will be revisited over the course of this lengthy study, and they will also be augmented to eventually cover the full set of recommendations from the Augustine-Mies and CRENEL reports and all the actions reflected in the DOE implementation plan.
To prepare this report, the panel studied the Augustine-Mies, CRENEL, and SEAB Task Force reports as well as the DOE and/or NNSA responses to them.9 It received an overview of the entire nuclear
6 DOE, 2016, Governance and Management of the Nuclear Security Enterprise: Report to Congress.
7 Secretary of Energy Advisory Board (SEAB) National Laboratory Task Force, 2015, Report of the Secretary of Energy Task Force on DOE National Laboratories, https://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2015/06/f23/SEAB%20Lab%20Task%20Force%20Interim%20Report%20Final_0.pdf.
8 SEAB, 2015, Report of the Secretary of Energy Task Force on DOE National Laboratories, p.1.
9 DOE, 2016, Departmental Response to the Final Report of the Commission to Review the Effectiveness of the National Energy Laboratories: Report to Congress, https://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2016/02/f29/CRENEL%20Response%20-%20FINAL%20COMBINED_0.pdf;
security enterprise from the head of the NNSA Office of Policy and briefings on the Augustine-Mies and CRENEL reports from their co-chairs. The panel’s information-gathering activities are listed in Appendix B. Information gathering featured in-depth discussions with key personnel in senior decision-making positions at DOE/NNSA headquarters, senior personnel from the NNSA laboratories and their field offices, and other officials and experts. Because the panel’s focus shifted mid-way through its work on this report—initially preparing to assess the DOE implementation plan and, in early December 2016, changing course to examine the three themes identified above—its investigation of those three themes was limited.
The panel was briefed on the 2016 examination by a SEAB working group that looked at steps taken to improve governance and management and also on follow-up work by the CRENEL co-chairs. It had access to all publicly available management directives and other documented actions issued or taken by the Secretary of Energy or the NNSA Administrator that are responsive to the recommendations of the Augustine-Mies, CRENEL, and SEAB Task Force reports.
SEAB, 2015, “SEAB comments on the Report of the Congressional Advisory Panel on the Governance of the Nuclear Security Enterprise,” https://energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2015/02/f19/FINAL_SEAB%20Letter_Augustine-Mies%20Report_1.pdf.