A number of external studies over two decades have identified serious concerns about the operations of the nuclear security enterprise. For example, the congressionally mandated report A New Foundation for the Nuclear Enterprise (the “Augustine-Mies” report), released in November 2014, concluded that “the existing governance structures and many of the practices of the [nuclear security] enterprise are inefficient and ineffective, thereby putting the entire enterprise at risk over the long term.”1
The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has embarked on a number of activities to address concerns raised by the Augustine-Mies report and others like it. The Panel to Track and Assess Governance and Management Reform in the Nuclear Security Enterprise was established in 2016 to monitor progress by carrying out the charge described in Box S.1.
While the panel sees promise in several of the activities it reviewed, it strongly concludes that those activities are not rooted in an adequate foundation of strategic thinking. With the release of the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review and the appointment of a new NNSA Administrator, NNSA is faced with an excellent opportunity—and challenge—to move from a tactical to a strategic approach for executing the critical mission of the enterprise. This report calls for NNSA to create two plans expeditiously: (1) an integrated strategic plan for the entire nuclear security enterprise, focused on mission execution, and (2) a more complete and better-grounded plan to guide the ongoing program of governance and management reform. The emphasis in both cases must be on creating a strategic vision that is clearly connected to mission. This is not a call to develop new processes and reports per se, which should follow only once clear and well-rationalized direction has been set.
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, p. ix.
Recommendation 2.1. In response to the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review and other policy statements, the new NNSA Administrator should urgently and personally lead the development of a mission-focused enterprise strategic plan that defines where the nuclear security enterprise needs to be in 10 years and what will be needed to get there.
One of the goals of the strategy should be to ensure that the strategies of the various organizations in the enterprise are integrated and aligned. The strategy should focus on mission-related issues but should also address management issues such as those raised in the Augustine-Mies report. The Administrator should “own” the resulting strategy and take responsibility for promoting it throughout the enterprise by articulating what it means for each organization and encouraging discussions that lead to a shared vision and culture.
Ongoing governance and management improvements should continue while the enterprise strategic plan is being developed. The panel found, however, that the current implementation plan that is meant to steer governance and management reform is inadequate for that task:
Finding 3.1. The panel considers the December 2016 DOE-NNSA report to Congress, Governance and Management of the Nuclear Security Enterprise, to be inadequate in several dimensions. Rather than following a careful process of specifying goals and then articulating a plan to achieve them, NNSA has laid out actions it would take without linking them clearly to desired outcomes or explaining why the actions were selected. It does not consider how the various activities will interact to effect the needed changes nor does it convey how the activities will impact mission success. Of equal concern, it gives little indication of how change will be measured—there are no baselines—or how one would know that success has been attained. Furthermore, there is no plan for communicating and socializing the overall goals and progress throughout the enterprise. Such communication is necessary in order to promulgate changes, embed responsibilities for carrying out steps in the plan, and prepare for necessary adjustments to the culture across the enterprise.
An adequate plan to steer governance and management reform should include the following elements:
- A well-articulated statement of the intended concept of operations and goals (e.g., mission focus, simplicity, and clarity, as well as alignment of resources, organizations, and incentives) and what the intended result will be;
- A plan for how to achieve the goals and intended results;
- Active commitment to the goals and vision by senior-most leadership (at both NNSA and DOE);
- A plan for how to accomplish the change, including centralized leadership and decentralized implementation;
- Active involvement and engagement of personnel across the enterprise in planning and achieving the change;
- Regularly scheduled reviews of progress against predetermined measures of effectiveness—with a visible cadence and a sense of urgency—that are conveyed across the enterprise and course corrections to be made as needed to accomplish the pre-set goals; and
- A plan for communication and reinforcement of the desired attributes of the change through training, leadership activities, performance reviews, and ongoing continuous improvement programs.
Recommendation 3.1. NNSA should expeditiously create an implementation plan to enable achievement of the governance and management changes driven by NNSA’s enterprise-wide
strategic goals. This new implementation plan should link proposed actions explicitly to specific goals, including a timeline associated with each action, specification of who is responsible for which parts of the execution and who is accountable for the outcome, and measures to be used to gauge progress and impact.
This implementation plan and the activities described in it will combine to create a path toward major change.
Of the many actions under way to improve governance and management, the new process to improve site governance appears quite promising:
Finding 3.2. Although measures of effectiveness have not yet been established to assess the benefits of the site-governance and management peer review process, the panel believes it represents a useful and promising approach that is already contributing to improved communication, better-defined roles and responsibilities at individual sites, and cross-enterprise learning.
Recommendation 3.2. The NNSA Administrator should ensure that measures of effectiveness are defined and tracked, and then use the site governance and management peer review process across NNSA as a mechanism for communicating and reinforcing shared values/behaviors, strengthening processes and relationships at each site, and improving the usefulness of the sites’ contractor assurance systems.
However, overall the efforts to reform governance and management are greatly hampered by a lack of data and other objective evidence:
Finding 3.3. NNSA lacks systematic data collection—tailored to inform well-specified questions in order to assess the scope and severity of its governance and management challenges and the effectiveness of its improvement efforts.
The panel makes one specific recommendation regarding data collection, both because knowledge of workforce attitudes is fundamental and because relevant survey information may already exist:
Recommendation 3.3. As a first step toward meeting the need for objective evidence and data, NNSA should begin surveying the entire workforce of the nuclear security enterprise (possibly by leveraging existing surveys) so as to gain understanding of attitudes and engagement throughout the enterprise and insight about specific worker concerns.
These recommendations should be acted on quickly and aggressively.