The U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) must address various management challenges, including aligning budgets with plans to modernize its nuclear weapons systems, according to a recent report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO).
GAO said its report was based on 13 different reports issues from
May 2015 to May 2017, each of which sought to examine challenges related to the affordability of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the challenges facing the department’s nonproliferation programs, and the challenges in addressing the DoE’s environmental liabilities.
In an April 2017 report, GAO found that management challenges were related to a misalignment between NNSA’s modernization plans and the estimated budgetary resources needed to carry out those plans. For instance, the report found that the NNSA’s estimates for modernization funding did, at times, exceeded budgetary projects included in the President’s short-term and long-term budgetary requests.
A similar situation was seen in nuclear weapons refurbishment initiatives, which GAO said would increase further strain on future modernization budgets.
In regards to the agency’s environmental liabilities, GAO found that the DoE was responsible for more than 80 percent, or around $372 billion, of the government’s estimated $450 billion environmental liability. However, that figure did not represent all of the department’s cleanup responsibilities.
GAO also found DoE is facing problems with its nonproliferation programs, citing a June 2016 report which found that the NNSA’s Nuclear Smuggling Detection and Deterrence program had developed program plans, but the agency could not measure programs because not every goal was measurable and performance measures were not aligned with its goals.
While GAO made no new recommendations with its new report, the office said it has considered asking Congress to take action to ensure that the DoE implements GAO’s past recommendations.