As noted in a number of external studies over two decades—more than 50 by one count—the nuclear security enterprise has long been criticized for its management. For example, the congressionally mandated report A New Foundation for the Nuclear Enterprise (the “Augustine-Mies” report), released in November 2014, concluded, “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) is undertaking 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 by congressional direction in 2016 to monitor progress by carrying out the charge described in Box ES.1.
The past year brought important changes to NNSA and the nuclear security enterprise. The 2018 release of the Nuclear Posture Review provided a renewed clarity of purpose, and ambitious goals and timelines, which in turn led to an increase in overall funding. A new Administrator was sworn in late in February 2018, as was a new Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs (NA-10) more recently. The Administrator has taken a number of steps that appear to have placed NNSA on a promising path toward remedying the governance and management problems that have been flagged by so many reports. She has pushed energetically for partnership and mission focus throughout the enterprise, modeling healthy
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/wp-content/uploads/sites/11/2014/12/Governance.pdf?_ga=1.83182294.1320535883.1415285934, p. ix.
relationships between the government and its management and operating partners, which in turn may be reducing some transactional oversight. She has worked toward healthier relationships with the Department of Defense (DoD) and with the rest of the Department of Energy. In accordance with the panel’s 2018 recommendation for better strategic planning, she is working to improve practices in that area. It now appears that the building blocks for essential change are slowly coming together.
However, the panel remains concerned with the lack of urgency, metrics, and institutionalization; progress is heavily dependent on the individuals involved. NNSA leadership has yet to put in place the institutional structures needed for further progress and to sustain success, starting with documentation and directives. Some of this is in preparation but not available for the panel’s examination. NNSA has yet to identify the metrics that will be needed to monitor and drive progress over time.
The management and governance reforms needed in NNSA constitute a culture change, and culture change requires consistent, sustained leadership in order to take root and to last. An appointed focal point for change management other than the Administrator is essential for NNSA.
The panel makes the following recommendations in this report:
Recommendation 1. DoD and NNSA leadership should continue to promote transparent exchange of information about program plans and operations and to encourage teamwork at all levels, and they should institutionalize the current practices that are contributing to a healthy relationship.
Recommendation 2. NNSA should quickly designate a senior executive as the accountable change management leader for the next few years. The change leader should drive management and governance reform with urgency and a cadence focused on mission success. The time, resources, and authority needed to fulfill that responsibility should be provided and not be underestimated.
In addition to these new recommendations, the panel’s recommendations in its first two reports are still relevant and timely. The change management leader should revisit those recommendations and the panel’s other guidance as a foundation for action.