The panel notes with approval that longstanding governance and management issues in the nuclear security enterprise have received focused attention over the past 1 to 2 years. The direct involvement of the Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary and National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Administrator has been very valuable and necessary for this endeavor, and the establishment of an NNSA Office of Policy to serve as a nexus for change efforts is an important element. It is critical that this momentum be sustained, but that may be challenging given the ongoing change in top leadership and future uncertainty regarding funding and priorities. And a very large open question is whether these first changes are having the desired effect. This first report can assess only the very beginning of what may be a long trajectory, and the panel will revisit the topics herein in future reports.
For the convenience of the reader, the report’s findings and recommendations are repeated below.
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.
Finding 3.1. The mix of burdensome practices affecting the nuclear security enterprise is not characterized precisely enough to lead to targeted interventions for all of them. It would be helpful to know, for example, what fraction of oversight activities are within NNSA’s control, which burdensome practices are contributing the most to “burden” and why, which are associated with overlapping responsibilities, and so on. Such understanding is necessary before rational
rebalancing is possible. The panel is not suggesting that a complete inventory of regular or ad hoc audits, investigations, and requests for data needs to be compiled.
Recommendation 3.1. The NNSA Administrator should develop and promulgate criteria to help the nuclear security enterprise understand when a process is adding burden that is not commensurate with its value and establish feedback loops so that burdensome practices are recognized. The nuclear security enterprise can then more rationally determine which practices to re-engineer through working groups that bring together the affected parties. In the long term, NNSA should strive to move away from a subjective debate over “burdensome practices” and seek to adopt a more systematic approach for defining oversight requirements.
Finding 4.1. NNSA has not defined what success looks like as it works toward implementing the recommendations from previous reports, and it lacks qualitative or quantitative metrics to identify and measure change.
Finding 4.2. The change management process in place within NNSA is promising—it has addressed many foundational elements, such as obtaining top-level direction and involving participants from across the subcultures of the nuclear security enterprise. But the first steps of change are not yet fully embedded.
Recommendation 4.1. The NNSA Administrator should define an effective mission-focused operating model as the vision for implementing the changes called for in reports of the Congressional Advisory Panel on the Governance of the Nuclear Security Enterprise and the Commission to Review the Effectiveness of the National Energy Laboratories and elsewhere. NNSA should continue to embrace the concept that change is an iterative process, requiring the sustained attention of leadership and the institution of a mature change management process. NNSA and the management and operating contractors should identify meaningful metrics that can be used to facilitate the identification, measurement, and tracking of change. Results from early change successes should become the foundation for subsequent, iterative actions that support the enterprise in achieving its important mission.
The focus for the panel’s next semi-annual report, Report 2, is being developed in coordination with Congress and NNSA.
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