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Report 1 on Tracking and Assessing Governance and Management Reform in the Nuclear Security Enterprise (2017)

Chapter: 2 Actions Under Way to Clarify Roles, Responsibilities, Authorities, and Accountability

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Suggested Citation:"2 Actions Under Way to Clarify Roles, Responsibilities, Authorities, and Accountability." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Report 1 on Tracking and Assessing Governance and Management Reform in the Nuclear Security Enterprise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24749.
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2

Actions Under Way to Clarify Roles, Responsibilities, Authorities, and Accountability

THE PROBLEM IN BRIEF

The reports by the Congressional Advisory Panel on the Governance of the Nuclear Security Enterprise (Augustine-Mies),1 the Commission to Review the Effectiveness of the National Energy Laboratories (CRENEL),2 and the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board’s Task Force on DOE National Laboratories (SEAB Task Force),3 along with many others, have emphasized the importance of defining and implementing clear roles, responsibilities, authorities, and accountability within the nuclear security enterprise. These studies found that overlapping and poorly defined functions and authorities have fostered inefficient and overly risk-averse procedures and work culture within the Department of Energy (DOE) and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). Furthermore, they found that the lack of clear allocation of responsibilities between the management and operating (M&O) contractors and their federal sponsors has contributed to the deterioration in their relationship. Establishing a clear understanding of who is responsible and accountable for actions across managerial levels and institutional boundaries is a building block for other essential reforms as well, such as tackling burdensome practices and sustaining desired organizational change.

WHAT HAVE PAST REPORTS SAID?

The Augustine-Mies report4 found that, because of the way the NNSA Act5 had been implemented, “NNSA was not provided the line-management authority necessary to integrate safety, security, and environmental concerns into the decision making for executing NNSA’s missions;” nor was

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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 Commission to Review the Effectiveness of the National Energy Laboratories (CRENEL), 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.

3 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.

4 Congressional Advisory Panel, 2014, A New Foundation.

5 The “NNSA Act” is the common term for Title XXXII of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2000, Pub. L. No. 106-65 (1999), which established the NNSA.

Suggested Citation:"2 Actions Under Way to Clarify Roles, Responsibilities, Authorities, and Accountability." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Report 1 on Tracking and Assessing Governance and Management Reform in the Nuclear Security Enterprise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24749.
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an “effective policy implementation framework established” (p. xii). The report identified several important components and consequences, including the following:

  • “DOE headquarters mission support staffs have continued to exercise oversight of NNSA—acting in parallel with the counterpart staffs in NNSA,” resulting in significant inefficiencies (p. 22).
  • “[T]he lack of understanding of responsibilities among DOE, NNSA headquarters, the field offices, and the M&Os” results in a “corrosive” structure “where many people can say no, but too few can say yes” (p. 23).
  • “A dysfunctional relationship between line managers and mission-support staffs” (p. 6) results in a “risk-averse culture in which the penalties of being responsible for a wrong (albeit well-intentioned) decision are far greater than any rewards for taking initiative” (p. 23-24).

Moreover, all three reports—Augustine-Mies, CRENEL, and SEAB Task Force—found that the lack of clarity in the respective roles, responsibilities, authorities, and accountability of M&O contractors and their federal sponsors fosters distrust and contributes to the deterioration in their relationships.

The Augustine-Mies report6 further explained, “The open communication and collaboration on program and technical matters that historically existed between the M&Os and federal officials has eroded over the past two decades to an arm’s length, customer-to-contractor and, occasionally, adversarial relationship” (p. xv). One of the factors contributing to this deterioration was “unclear accountability for risk” (p. xv), Augustine-Mies explained. “In effective organizations, the federal sponsor decides what is needed and the M&O organization decides how to meet that need,” but at NNSA “the respective roles and responsibilities of the federal sponsors and the M&Os are not consistently and clearly stated or understood” but “vary from site to site and from issue to issue” (p. 65 and 60). CRENEL and SEAB Task Force stated the problem in similar terms, and SEAB Task Force7 noted, “the greatest feeling of dissatisfaction exists in the large NNSA weapons laboratories” (p. 9).

Recommendations from Past Reports

To address the unclear relationships among government offices and officials within DOE and NNSA, the Augustine-Mies report8 recommend that “management processes” be established “that specify the [NNSA Administrator’s9] authorities for executing nuclear enterprise missions” (p. 31, Recommendation 4). To accomplish this, the Augustine-Mies report10 proposed several specific actions, including the following:

  • The Administrator should not be subject to “undue intervention or interference from other senior officials” in the Department (p. 31, Action Item 4.1).
  • Senior headquarters positions [at NNSA and DOE] with “line-management decision authorities” and those responsible for “mission-support functions” should be clearly designated (p. 34, Action Item 4.4), and line managers should be required to “seek the

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6 Congressional Advisory Panel, 2014, A New Foundation.

7 SEAB, 2015, Report of the Secretary of Energy Task Force.

8 Congressional Advisory Panel, 2014, A New Foundation.

9 The Augustine-Mies report recommended enactment of legislation that would, among other things, change the names of DOE and NNSA and the titles of the Energy Secretary and the Administrator, and that report used the proposed names and titles in its recommendations. Because the legislation was not enacted, this report uses the existing names and titles when describing those recommendations.

10 Congressional Advisory Panel, 2014, A New Foundation.

Suggested Citation:"2 Actions Under Way to Clarify Roles, Responsibilities, Authorities, and Accountability." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Report 1 on Tracking and Assessing Governance and Management Reform in the Nuclear Security Enterprise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24749.
×
  • support and advice of mission-support functional experts,” while remaining responsible for program-execution decisions and accepting the risk (p. 31, Action Item 4.1).

  • “The Secretary should adopt processes defining the [Administrator’s] role in ensuring applicable [DOE] processes, rules, and orders are compatible with the operating circumstances of the nuclear security enterprise” (p. 34, Action Item 4.3).
  • A “matrix management structure” should be established [at NNSA], including “structures and processes to ensure that the [Administrator] can interact with and draw upon the skills and expertise across line-management staffs and . . . mission-support elements” (pp. 32-33, Action Item 4.2).

As for the respective roles, responsibilities, authorities, and accountability of the M&O contractors and their government sponsors, all three reports recommended that they should be clarified, and the studies suggested this could be done through processes involving consultation and discussion. The CRENEL report11 stated that the goal should be to “delegate more authority and flexibility to the laboratories on how to perform their R&D, and hold them fully accountable,” and that this might be accomplished by long-term strategic planning and agreed-upon annual operating plans for each laboratory that would “serve as the foundation for an effective working relationship with appropriate roles and responsibilities” (pp. 19-20, Recommendation 2). The SEAB Task Force report12 suggested that top leadership should lead collaborative councils in clarifying roles and responsibilities and in implementation of those changes (p.10, Recommendation 1.1). The Augustine-Mies report13 recommended that DOE and NNSA should address the problem by “continu[ing] to reinvigorate the strategic dialog with the laboratory directors,” including by “[i]ntegrating planning and decision-making forums,” by improving “communication policies,” and by organizing frequent meetings and informal interactions (pp. 81-82, Recommendation 17, Action Items 17.1-17.3).

WHAT IS NNSA DOING IN RESPONSE?

To address the problems and recommendations in the Augustine-Mies, CRENEL, and SEAB Task Force reports relating to clarifying roles, responsibilities, authorities, and accountability,14 DOE and NNSA’s implementation plan15 describes a number of completed and ongoing activities, including the following:

  • DOE reported that it “is managing crosscutting functions through a new network of councils, boards, and working groups, such as the National Laboratory Directors’ Council, the National Laboratory Policy Council, and the National Laboratory Operations Board.”16 NNSA cited other DOE-level councils and advisory bodies that “are improving alignment and functional integration throughout DOE,”17 and NNSA also cited its own hierarchy of councils and other

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11 CRENEL, 2015, Securing America’s Future, Vol. 1.

12 SEAB, 2015, Report of the Secretary of Energy Task Force.

13 Congressional Advisory Panel, 2014, A New Foundation.

14 This report adds the word “accountability” into the term “roles, responsibilities, and authorities,” which is the analogous phrase that appears in the implementation plan. The panel believes that adding this word provides a more complete description of the concept. It is not implying a broadening of the issue as characterized in Augustine-Mies and other reports. In fact, responsibility and accountability should go hand in hand, and accountability should be determinable from a set of roles, responsibilities, and authorities. The panel considers responsibility and accountability to be two sides of one coin.

15 U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), 2016, Governance and Management of the Nuclear Security Enterprise: Report to Congress.

16 Ibid., p. iii.

17 Ibid., p. 4.

Suggested Citation:"2 Actions Under Way to Clarify Roles, Responsibilities, Authorities, and Accountability." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Report 1 on Tracking and Assessing Governance and Management Reform in the Nuclear Security Enterprise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24749.
×
  • advisory bodies by which NNSA conducts integrated decision-making analysis, such as the NNSA Council and the Management Council.18

  • NNSA has designated each of its components as a program, support function, or field office and has clarified the functions of each: “NNSA’s line managers have responsibility to meet assigned program objectives safely and securely as well as in a legally and fiscally responsible manner.” By comparison, mission support functional organizations “participate in policy, direction, prioritization, and funding activities in support of the nuclear security mission.”19
  • The NNSA field office managers (FOMs), who now report directly to the Administrator, are designated as line managers: “In accordance with headquarters program direction, FOMs are responsible for on-site federal oversight and administration of the M&O contract.”20
  • NNSA is updating its mission and function statements and has recently issued a new Management System Description21 (MSD) that delineates functions, responsibilities, and authorities of various NNSA components. The MSD also describes NNSA’s governance model, which is “implemented collaboratively by federal and contractor organizations in pursuit of shared mission objectives,” is “defined by documented organizational roles, responsibilities, and work processes,” and “is implemented through a hierarchical and disciplined structure of councils, boards, and committees.”22
  • NNSA also is establishing an updated site governance model “composed of three interactive and complementary systems which involve the following: (1) the M&O site, lab, or plant partner operating the site; (2) the M&O site, lab, or plant partner’s corporate parent(s); and (3) the federal NNSA team, to include program, functional, and field office personnel. The level of federal involvement will be driven by the degree and impact of issues that an M&O partner is having relative to executing the mission, the magnitude of risks, site hazards, and work complexity.”23

WHAT HAS THE PANEL OBSERVED?

In examining these issues, the panel conducted a series of interviews with high-level officials at DOE and NNSA, from both headquarters and field offices, and with three of NNSA’s M&O contractors. In addition, the panel met with lead authors of the Augustine-Mies and CRENEL studies and examined documents issued by DOE and NNSA, as well as recent assessments by the CRENEL co-chairs. (See Chapter 1 for a description of the study approach and Appendix B for a list of people with whom the panel met.)

Over the past several years, key initiatives have been taken in response to recurring recommendations made by dozens of studies since the 1990s—including the Augustine-Mies, CRENEL, and SEAB Task Force studies—regarding governance and management of DOE and NNSA. A central theme in those studies’ recommendations is the need to clarify, rationalize, and implement the many roles, responsibilities, and authorities embodied in DOE (including DOE headquarters) and NNSA, as well as the respective roles, responsibilities, authorities, and accountability of the government and of the associated contractor-operated sites and laboratories. The unparalleled risks and consequences of the

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18 Ibid., pp. 4-5.

19 Ibid., pp. 5-6.

20 Ibid., p. 6.

21 National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), 2017, “Appendix 4: Management System Description,” in Quality Management System, NNSA Policy Letter, NAP-26B, https://nnsa.energy.gov/sites/default/files/nnsa/multiplefiles/nap-26b_final_1-10-17.pdf.

22 NNSA, 2017, Quality Management System, p. AP4-5.

23 DOE, 2016, Governance and Management, p. 12.

Suggested Citation:"2 Actions Under Way to Clarify Roles, Responsibilities, Authorities, and Accountability." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Report 1 on Tracking and Assessing Governance and Management Reform in the Nuclear Security Enterprise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24749.
×

operations within this enterprise require clarity on, and buy-in to, the roles, responsibilities, and authorities of all elements.

Both DOE and NNSA have substantial activities under way to address the range of recommendations in the Augustine-Mies, CRENEL, and SEAB Task Force studies. DOE and NNSA have compiled crosscutting lists of their responses in several memos and policy statements, as noted earlier. Recognizing that essentially all important activities in the nuclear security enterprise involve, and indeed rely upon, the participation of people from many different segments, DOE and NNSA have focused on fostering communications and building trust, partnerships, and collaboration through the establishment of councils, boards, and working groups. The policies and directives issued by DOE and NNSA established broad principles for clarification and improvement in governance of laboratories and other sites. DOE and NNSA have also undertaken other actions to improve and clarify the roles, responsibilities, authorities, and accountability.

The panel focused particularly on four principal ways in which DOE and NNSA have sought to clarify roles, responsibilities, authorities, and accountability:

  • Functional integration and corporate decision-making through crosscutting boards, councils, and working groups.
  • Individuals with whom the panel has spoken credit the networks of crosscutting boards, councils, and working groups with improving the sense of partnering across the nuclear security enterprise. Officials from government mentioned the value of these crosscutting boards in fostering dialog across the entire enterprise, developing policy, sharing deviations from policy and possible remedies, and sharing best practices and lessons learned. Senior officials from the laboratories reported that they found the collaborative councils and boards valuable because these forums provide direct, two-way communications with the Secretary and the Administrator, which is valuable both for addressing specific issues and for building trust. Although these additional boards, councils, and working groups might appear to add to bureaucracy in the nuclear security enterprise, the panel has not heard concerns along that line. It has not yet had the opportunity to examine specific instances of the work of such multilateral bodies, so it cannot offer an independent assessment of the net value of forming them.

  • “Process enabling” the NNSA to ensure that DOE rules and guidance are consistent with the nuclear security missions.
  • The panel heard about processes and role clarifications that are intended to enable NNSA and its laboratories, as well as other offices with DOE program responsibilities, to engage more effectively in the development of Department-wide rules and directives. For example, DOE has established a process in which all the Under Secretaries, including the NNSA Administrator, are placed on a team to consider each proposed rule change. This enables consideration of perspectives that may go beyond those of the functional office proposing the rule. Also, based on the clarification throughout DOE between those offices with line-management authority and the functional support offices, the latter are now required to send policy guidance for the laboratories through program line-management offices, thereby enabling offices closer to the laboratories and with better understanding of their challenges to weigh in.

  • Clarification of the mission-support function of the DOE Office of Enterprise Assessment.
  • The Secretary restructured the DOE Office of Enterprise Assessment to clarify its role as more supportive of the mission than it used to be. Several interviewees, including laboratory officials, reported that the Office of Enterprise Assessment now functions in a more mission-focused manner, better coordinating with the laboratories on the timing and subject matter of assessments and trying to give helpful advice, rather than focusing on merely trying to catch violations. (The role of the Office of Enterprise Assessment and other offices responsible for investigation and audit will be further discussed in Chapter 3.)

Suggested Citation:"2 Actions Under Way to Clarify Roles, Responsibilities, Authorities, and Accountability." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Report 1 on Tracking and Assessing Governance and Management Reform in the Nuclear Security Enterprise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24749.
×
  • Clarification of the respective roles, responsibilities, authorities, and accountability of the laboratories and the NNSA.
  • The panel devoted particular attention to DOE’s and NNSA’s efforts to clarify the critically important respective roles and responsibilities of the M&O contractors and those government officials with responsibilities for the site. DOE policy 112.1, approved November 23, 2016, and NNSA supplemental directive 226.1B, approved August 12, 2016, laid out the respective roles and responsibilities of NNSA and its M&O contractors in broad terms. That DOE policy identifies the following responsibilities:

— NNSA serves as steward of its three laboratories, has enterprise-wide responsibility to maintain the laboratories’ enduring vitality, and is “accountable for mission success.”24

— The laboratories’ M&O contractors are “responsible for meeting the mission” and for “integrating programmatic efforts with safety, security, and quality requirements.” The contractors’ responsibility also includes to “balance,” “[i]n collaboration” with the field office and other federal oversight, the programmatic and project “execution against risks or concerns associated with operations and crosscutting mission functions.”25

A principal recommendation of the Augustine-Mies study26 was that DOE and NNSA should designate which offices and officials have line-management authority and which have support functions, and to clarify that line officials are empowered to make decisions, whereas support offices give information and advice to line managers. Designating FOMs as line managers to whom NNSA support staffs must provide information and advice, but not direction, appears intended to follow this recommendation. However, the functions of the FOMs relative to the functions of the program managers and M&O managers may still need additional clarification.

The NNSA supplemental directive,27 entitled “NNSA Site Governance,” defines the responsibilities of various NNSA components and officials with regard to oversight of NNSA’s laboratories, plants, and sites, and also describes the site governance model within which NNSA and its M&O contractors are expected to operate. Under the directive, functional support staffs at DOE and NNSA headquarters and site offices provide information, advice, and mission support, but it is the line managers who, within the scope of their specified responsibilities, are responsible for taking account of the information and advice and making decisions. Interaction between NNSA and the laboratory directors is to be primarily through the FOMs, who are line managers responsible for making decisions and accepting risk with respect to a number of specific responsibilities assigned to them, including oversight of contracting officers (COs).28

The panel was told that describing the FOMs as managers of the COs is intended to end the earlier uncertainty over which site official had the authority to tell the M&O contractors what to do. Moreover, it was explained to the panel that the goal is to move away from the past tendency for site officials to direct the M&O contractors on a day-to-day basis.

The NNSA supplemental directive29 also describes the NNSA Site Governance System. Both NNSA and the M&O contractor are expected to have “[e]xperienced, competent . . . line managers” for the site. The working relationship among NNSA, its headquarters and field office, and the contractor management is intended to be a “trusting, transparent strategic partnership . . . which benefits from the constructive dynamic tension inherent in the contractual relationship,” and the directive notes that this

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24 DOE, 2016, DOE Roles and Responsibilities—National Laboratories, DOE P 112.1, para. 2, https://www.directives.doe.gov/directives-documents/100-series/0112-1-apolicy.

25 DOE, 2016, DOE Roles and Responsibilities, para. 6.

26 Congressional Advisory Panel, 2014, A New Foundation.

27 NNSA, 2016, NNSA Site Governance, NNSA SD 226.2B, para. 7.e, https://nnsa.energy.gov/sites/default/files/nnsa/inlinefiles/SD%20226.1B%20final%208-12-16.pdf.

28 Ibid.

29 Ibid.

Suggested Citation:"2 Actions Under Way to Clarify Roles, Responsibilities, Authorities, and Accountability." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Report 1 on Tracking and Assessing Governance and Management Reform in the Nuclear Security Enterprise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24749.
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constructive dynamic tension involves economic aspects of the contract by which the government provides incentives to the contractor. The site governance model also includes a “strategic partnership between the NNSA leadership and the site contractor parent(s), to the extent permitted by contract.”30

It is understood that some high-risk decisions require federal sign-off, but, except in the case of those decisions, the goal of the DOE order and the NNSA directive is for the laboratory directors to work collaboratively with the FOMs, with the involvement of other federal oversight officials as appropriate, to reach agreement. In addition, NNSA leadership told the panel that their long-term goal is to empower the M&O contractors with as much authority and responsibility as possible. Certain well-defined “inherently federal” approvals are specified in each contract, and NNSA’s goal is to see how many can be eliminated or transferred to M&O responsibility. A similar goal is to reduce the number of specific demands sent to the contractor. Progress in these directions will require the alignment of the expectations of various federal organizations and of the expectations federal and M&O organizations have with respect to commonly understood mission objectives.

Officials of both the laboratories and NNSA told the panel that some of these reforms seem to already be producing some improvement. The unequivocal directive that COs report to FOMs has reportedly led to greater coordination, clarifying both roles and communication. Several individuals also told the panel that the emphasis on working in partnership, together with the Administrator’s emphasis (in NNSA’s published Strategic Vision31) on “Mission first, people always,” has helped create a more collaborative approach and improved relationships between the FOMs and the laboratory directors. They also noted that that the DOE and NNSA documentation seems to have usefully clarified that support offices are meant to play supporting roles.

However, although the panel spoke with only a small number of laboratory officials, most of them still raised significant concerns with the continued ambiguity in the documentation establishing roles, responsibilities, authorities, and accountability. They also told the panel that they believe the documentation is deficient in that it elaborates extensively on the roles, responsibilities, authorities, and accountability of various federal officials but says little about the roles of the laboratory officials, who must run the laboratories every day and are responsible for accomplishing the mission. Laboratory officials also told the panel that they found it confusing that the FOMs are described in the documentation as line managers who make decisions and accept risk, because the laboratory directors consider themselves to be the ultimate acceptors of integrated risk and to be ultimately responsible for mission delivery. Therefore, the role of the FOMs, as described in the DOE and NNSA documentation, is confusing, at least to laboratory leaders. The panel is concerned that the central question of who will really be held accountable is not clear. When a safety or security problem happens, who will testify before Congress?

Laboratory officials also noted that, even if roles and responsibilities are clarified on paper, changes in behavior depend on the individuals involved, so seeing the results of clarification will probably take a long time. In addition, a federal official at NNSA headquarters stated that, although he has heard fewer complaints than in the past, adequate clarification of the roles, responsibilities, authorities, and accountability at the sites still appears to be a work in progress. In its future information gathering, the panel will seek specific examples of problematic ambiguities with respect to roles, responsibilities, and authorities, and evaluate whether any such instances stem from inadequate documentation or from the way documentation is interpreted.

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30 Ibid., pp. AT2.1-AT2.2.

31 DOE/NNSA, 2015, “Enterprise Strategic Vision,” August, https://nnsa.energy.gov/sites/default/files/nnsa/inlinefiles/Final_Strategic_Vision_2015_9-3_screen%20quality.pdf.

Suggested Citation:"2 Actions Under Way to Clarify Roles, Responsibilities, Authorities, and Accountability." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Report 1 on Tracking and Assessing Governance and Management Reform in the Nuclear Security Enterprise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24749.
×

NEXT STEPS

Based on interviews with selected officials from throughout the nuclear security enterprise, as well as review of recent assessments by the co-chairs of the CRENEL report, the panel believes that many of DOE’s and NNSA’s initiatives to clarify roles, responsibilities, authorities, and accountability are appropriate, and the panel has heard reports that some progress may already have been made. However, it appears that progress is neither uniform nor complete, requiring further efforts. The panel is concerned that there remains ambiguity, uncertainty, dissatisfaction, and potential for misunderstanding. Some of the problem reflects the fact that the day-to-day definition of roles and responsibilities still remains largely in the hands of the individuals involved at a site. This situation allows for continuing disagreement over respective government and contractor roles, responsibilities, authorities, and accountability under various circumstances. There still is not a shared view, between government officials and those at the laboratories, on the implications of some of the provisions and terminology in the applicable documentation.

In any event, everyone should understand that the laboratories, sites, and plants have essential roles and responsibilities in executing the NNSA’s missions safely and securely. It will remain a fundamental problem for the enterprise if the roles, responsibilities, authorities, and accountability of all parties are not adequately described and addressed in DOE’s and NNSA’s documentation. In fact, for the purpose of clarifying roles, responsibilities, authorities, and accountability—a task that is foundational to addressing other governance and management challenges—the panel believes greater urgency should be demonstrated. For example, although the need for clarification was identified in 2014 or earlier, a new governance construct was not released until 2016, after which a working group was established to resolve implementation details, which is ongoing. Working out the details of implementation will be a lengthy process, requiring resolution of differing interpretations of roles and responsibilities (which may reflect deeply embedded assumptions), and then converging on a common understanding of how day-to-day practices should be adjusted.

Going forward, the new Secretary and other top leadership at DOE and NNSA have the opportunity to further and even accelerate these much-needed reforms. The panel’s impression is that all elements of the nuclear security enterprise are positively inclined and even enthusiastic about the increased emphasis on, and the initial steps taken toward, more effective partnering and better communication, both within DOE and NNSA and between NNSA and its customers and external collaborators. The panel recognizes that improvement may not be quickly achieved. Nevertheless, with committed and sustained leadership, substantial progress should be possible over the next few years.

The panel also recognizes that, while the statement of a vision for clarifying roles, responsibilities, and authorities may be relatively straightforward, the alignment of behaviors across the nuclear security enterprise is a highly complex undertaking, involving other aspects of organizational transformation such as strategic planning, the reform of M&O contract structures and incentives, and improvement in workplace culture. A useful next step might be for NNSA to issue a simple and clear “commander’s intent”32 that provides the guideposts for addressing the details of reform and shaping behaviors across the enterprise. In future reports, the panel will consider the proposal that a commander’s intent be issued, and it will further explore this topic of clarifying roles, responsibilities, authorities, and accountability.

To monitor progress, DOE and NNSA should address the following three high-level questions:

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32 “Commander’s intent” is a term, derived from military planning, referring to a clear and concise description by the head of an organization that lays out the desired end-state to be achieved from an operation. The purpose is to enable personnel to adapt the plan to achieve the desired objectives in a dynamic environment. See, for example, Chad Storlie, 2010, “Manage Uncertainty with Commander’s Intent,” Harvard Business Review, November 3, https://hbr.org/2010/11/dont-play-golf-in-a-football-g.

Suggested Citation:"2 Actions Under Way to Clarify Roles, Responsibilities, Authorities, and Accountability." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Report 1 on Tracking and Assessing Governance and Management Reform in the Nuclear Security Enterprise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24749.
×
  1. How can “success” in clarifying roles, responsibilities, and authorities be defined?
  2. How is it determined whether the initiatives taken are appropriate and well-targeted to address the problems for which they are intended? Who makes this determination?
  3. How is it known whether these steps are effective? How much improvement is being achieved?

FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATION

Based on its discussions and deliberations leading up to this report, the panel offers two findings and a recommendation:

Finding 2.1. Many of the reform efforts called for in the Augustine-Mies report and elsewhere (e.g., reductions in the burden associated with necessary oversight) are contingent on having clarity as to roles, responsibilities, authorities, and accountability. The communications and relationships between NNSA’s M&O contractors and the agency appear to have improved in recent years, thanks in part to the creation of several crosscutting boards and advisory groups. However, there remains considerable ambiguity in roles, responsibilities, authorities, and accountability.

Finding 2.2. DOE and NNSA have issued several new documents and have undertaken other activities to address the recommendations for clarifying roles, responsibilities, authorities, and accountability, both among the officials and offices within DOE and NNSA and between the M&O contractors and their government sponsors. But the panel’s information gathering to date is not yet sufficient to fairly assess the current articulation and implementation of roles, responsibilities, authorities, and accountability (although laboratory staff expressed concerns to the panel) or to ascertain whether the current articulation and implementation are yielding the intended results.

Recommendation 2.1. The NNSA Administrator should demonstrate urgency in efforts to clarify roles, responsibilities, authorities, and accountability, with particular emphasis on clarifying interactions and relationships between NNSA’s management and operating contractors and their government sponsors. Future documents need to resolve ambiguity in several of the earlier policy documents.

Suggested Citation:"2 Actions Under Way to Clarify Roles, Responsibilities, Authorities, and Accountability." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Report 1 on Tracking and Assessing Governance and Management Reform in the Nuclear Security Enterprise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24749.
×
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Suggested Citation:"2 Actions Under Way to Clarify Roles, Responsibilities, Authorities, and Accountability." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Report 1 on Tracking and Assessing Governance and Management Reform in the Nuclear Security Enterprise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24749.
×
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Suggested Citation:"2 Actions Under Way to Clarify Roles, Responsibilities, Authorities, and Accountability." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Report 1 on Tracking and Assessing Governance and Management Reform in the Nuclear Security Enterprise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24749.
×
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Suggested Citation:"2 Actions Under Way to Clarify Roles, Responsibilities, Authorities, and Accountability." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Report 1 on Tracking and Assessing Governance and Management Reform in the Nuclear Security Enterprise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24749.
×
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Suggested Citation:"2 Actions Under Way to Clarify Roles, Responsibilities, Authorities, and Accountability." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Report 1 on Tracking and Assessing Governance and Management Reform in the Nuclear Security Enterprise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24749.
×
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Suggested Citation:"2 Actions Under Way to Clarify Roles, Responsibilities, Authorities, and Accountability." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Report 1 on Tracking and Assessing Governance and Management Reform in the Nuclear Security Enterprise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24749.
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Suggested Citation:"2 Actions Under Way to Clarify Roles, Responsibilities, Authorities, and Accountability." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Report 1 on Tracking and Assessing Governance and Management Reform in the Nuclear Security Enterprise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24749.
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Page 16
Suggested Citation:"2 Actions Under Way to Clarify Roles, Responsibilities, Authorities, and Accountability." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Report 1 on Tracking and Assessing Governance and Management Reform in the Nuclear Security Enterprise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24749.
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Page 17
Suggested Citation:"2 Actions Under Way to Clarify Roles, Responsibilities, Authorities, and Accountability." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2017. Report 1 on Tracking and Assessing Governance and Management Reform in the Nuclear Security Enterprise. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/24749.
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Page 18
Next: 3 Actions Under Way to Mitigate Burdensome Practices »
Report 1 on Tracking and Assessing Governance and Management Reform in the Nuclear Security Enterprise Get This Book
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A congressionally mandated study carried out in 2013-2014 led to the November 2014 report A New Foundation for the Nuclear Enterprise. That report 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. It concludes 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. It offers recommendations to put the entire nuclear security enterprise on a stronger footing.

Recognizing the persistence of governance and management concerns, this report serves as an initial assessment of the implementation plan developed by the National Nuclear Security Administration and the Department Of Energy for addressing the recommendations from A New Foundation for the Nuclear Enterprise. There will be seven semi-annual interim reports to evaluate progress in implementing the plan. A final report will be issued at the end of the study to document the overall progress in executing the implementation plan, assess the effectiveness of the reform efforts under that plan, and recommend whether further action is needed.

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