The congressionally mandated report A New Foundation for the Nuclear Enterprise (the “Augustine-Mies” report), released in November 2014,1 identified five “systemic problems in both management practices and culture that exist across the nuclear enterprise”2:
- A lack of sustained national leadership focus and priority;
- Overlapping Department of Energy (DOE) and National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) headquarters staffs and blurred ownership and accountability for the nuclear enterprise missions;
- Lack of proven management practices, including a dysfunctional relationship between line managers and mission-support staffs;
- Dysfunctional relationships between the government and its management and operating (M&O) site operators, which has encouraged burdensome transactional oversight rather than management focus on mission execution; and
- Insufficient collaboration between DOE/NNSA and Department of Defense (DoD) weapons customers, resulting in misunderstanding, distrust, and frustration.
These serious concerns relate to five dimensions of governance and management that are important to any complex enterprise: (1) clear direction (from Congress and the Administration, in this case), (2) a well-functioning governance structure, (3) good management practices, (4) efficient and effective leveraging of the various entities within the enterprise, and (5) strong relationships with customers (primarily the DoD, in this case). Because all five of these dimensions contribute to the health of an enterprise, the panel put greater focus in 2018 on evaluating the nuclear security enterprise3 against these five topics.4
The panel believes that the first and fifth of these concerns have lessened, although continued vigilance is warranted to ensure that these aspects—national leadership and relationships with the primary “customer”—remain healthy. The release of the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), and subsequent planning, has given the nuclear security enterprise a strong mandate and clearer high-level guidance. However, the current circumstances could easily change under a different political climate, and new
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.
2 Ibid., p. x.
3 The “nuclear security enterprise” consists of NNSA, which is the government agency in charge, and laboratories, plants, and sites that are owned by the government but operated under contract to the NNSA by nongovernmental management and operating corporations.
circumstances could easily return the nuclear security enterprise to a situation where its mission-focus is hampered by the inattention of national leadership.
As is detailed later in this report, the panel engaged in discussions with a range of senior DoD staff to assess the health of the NNSA–DoD relationship, and it believes the relationship is currently functioning well. Certainly, it has improved since the time of the Augustine-Mies study. The panel notes that major disagreements, missed deliverables, funding tensions, or external stressors have not tested this relationship recently.
In response to the second concern, the Augustine-Mies report recommended a number of governance changes to ensure adequate authority and accountability for the NNSA Administrator while strengthening the DOE Secretary’s commitment to and ownership of the nuclear security mission. Some of these changes would require congressional action that has not been pursued. Therefore, the panel has continued to look into non-statutory aspects of the governance structure—roles, responsibilities, authorities, and accountability—including how they are apportioned between NNSA and DOE.
The NNSA Administrator, also a DOE Under Secretary, has told the panel that she intends to use that “dual-hatted” nature of her position to improve NNSA–DOE relations.5 In the past year, the panel took a first step in exploring those relations by examining two management processes in which both NNSA and DOE have some degree of involvement: the assignment of budget and accounting codes, and the process used to approve annual compensation-increase plans submitted by NNSA’s M&O contractors. The latter process was identified in an earlier report6 as being unduly complicated. Among the insights gained through its examination of these two areas, the panel found no indication that they were affected by problems in the relationship or the complementarity between NNSA and DOE. Details of the examination appear in Chapter 2 of this report.
The third and fourth concerns in the aforementioned list pertain to relationships and trust, and the adjective used in the Augustine-Mies report—“dysfunctional”—is quite strong. Therefore, the panel will continue to devote attention to these multifaceted matters, which strongly influence day-to-day operations across the complex.
However, the enterprise may not meet its ambitious NPR goals if it continues to run its business in the same way it has in the past, a point that some NNSA executives have stressed to the panel. It needs to be more efficient and to work more effectively toward continuous improvement. Both of those challenges call urgently for improvements to governance and management. The enterprise needs a well thought out plan to orchestrate all its work, and it needs a mission-focused model (as recommended in the panel’s 2017 report7) to implement governance and management reforms. This mission-focused model would make clear what reforms are necessary, why they are needed (i.e., how the particular reforms support mission accomplishments), how to execute them, and how to know when they have been successful.
5 However, the panel recognizes the importance of direct interactions with DOE leadership. Its attempts to arrange a meeting with the Secretary of Energy or a second meeting with the Deputy Secretary have so far not been successful.
6 Secretary of Energy Advisory Board (SEAB) National Laboratory Task Force, 2015, Report of the Secretary of Energy Task Force on DOE National Laboratories, https://www.energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2015/06/f23/SEAB%20Lab%20Task%20Force%20Interim%20Report%20Final_0.pdf, Recommendation 2.2.1, p. 22.
7 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and the National Academy of Public Administration, 2017, Report 1 on Tracking and Assessing Governance and Management Reform in the Nuclear Security Enterprise, Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press.
This vision was stressed in the panel’s 2018 report8 as being much more effective than tackling issues and tasks tactically and opportunistically. In response to that need, the panel has been told that NNSA is creating three interrelated strategic documents—a strategic vision, an integrated strategic roadmap for the nuclear security enterprise, and a governance and management framework—as the foundation for a subsequent set of tactical plans. The panel looks forward to seeing these strategic documents.
The facts that support the impressions presented in this introduction, and a summary of the panel’s information gathering during the past year, are in Chapter 2. Chapter 3 evaluates that information and develops judgments regarding the ongoing reform of governance and management in the enterprise.
8 National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine and the National Academy of Public Administration, 2018, Report 2 on Tracking and Assessing Governance and Management Reform in the Nuclear Security Enterprise, Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press.