SPEAKERS CONTENTS INSERTS
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[H.A.S.C. No. 10721]
MANAGEMENT OF THE NATIONAL NUCLEAR SECURITY ADMINISTRATION
SPECIAL OVERSIGHT PANEL ON DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY REORGANIZATION
COMMITTEE ON ARMED SERVICES
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED SEVENTH CONGRESS
APRIL 4, 2001
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SPECIAL OVERSIGHT PANEL ON DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY REORGANIZATION
MAC THORNBERRY, Texas
FLOYD D. SPENCE, South Carolina
DUNCAN HUNTER, California
LINDSEY GRAHAM, South Carolina
JIM RYUN, Kansas
JIM GIBBONS, Nevada
HEATHER WILSON, New Mexico
KEN CALVERT, California
ELLEN O. TAUSCHER, California
JOHN SPRATT, South Carolina
GENE TAYLOR, Mississippi
CYNTHIA A. McKINNEY, Georgia
JOHN B. LARSON, Connecticut
JAMES R. LANGEVIN, Rhode Island
Pete Berry, Professional Staff Member
Dudley Tademy, Professional Staff Member
Dan Hilton, Staff Assistant
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C O N T E N T S
CHRONOLOGICAL LIST OF HEARINGS
Wednesday, April 4, 2001, Management of the National Nuclear Security Administration
Wednesday, April 4, 2001
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 4, 2001
MANAGEMENT OF THE NATIONAL NUCLEAR SECURITY ADMINISTRATION
STATEMENTS PRESENTED BY MEMBERS OF CONGRESS
Tauscher, Hon. Ellen O., a Representative from California, Ranking Member, Oversight Panel on Department of Energy
Thornberry, Hon. Mac, a Representative from Texas, Chairman, Special Oversight Panel on Department of Energy
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Gordon, Gen. John A., USSAF (Ret.), Administrator, National Nuclear Security Administration
Robinson, Robert, Managing Director, Natural Resources and Environment, General Accounting Office
Gordon, Gen. John A.
Robinson, Robert A.
DOCUMENTS SUBMITTED FOR THE RECORD:
[There were no Documents Submitted for the Record.]
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS SUBMITTED FOR THE RECORD:
[There were no Questions and Answers Submitted for the Record.]
THE IMPLEMENTATION ACTIVITIES OF THE NATIONAL NUCLEAR SECURITY ADMINISTRATION
Page 5 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCHouse of Representatives,
Committee on Armed Services,
Special Oversight Panel on Department of Energy Reorganization,
Washington, DC, Wednesday, April 4, 2001.
The panel met, pursuant to call, at 2 p.m. in room 2216, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Mac Thornberry (chairman of the panel) presiding.
OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. MAC THORNBERRY, A REPRESENTATIVE FROM TEXAS, CHAIRMAN, SPECIAL OVERSIGHT PANEL ON DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY REORGANIZATION
Mr. THORNBERRY. The hearing will come to order.
Shortly after Congress passed the Fiscal Year 2000 Defense Authorization Act, which included a reorganization of the national security elements in the Department of Energy (DOE), Chairman Spence created a special panel of the Armed Services Committee to oversee implementation of the new law. Title 32 was passed after years of reports and studies found that DOE was a dysfunctional bureaucracy incapable of reforming itself. Over the last year or so, this panel has traveled to all the major sites in the nuclear weapons complex. We have held several hearings, briefings and meetings, and issued two reports.
Chairman Stump has decided to again create this panel for the 107th Congress to continue to oversee the implementation of the reorganization within the Department of Energy, and to oversee the effectiveness of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), and to assess how well it is meeting the challenges before us.
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Most everyone would agree that NNSA has been off to a slow and disappointing start, as the reports of this panel from last year indicate. Creation of the NNSA was opposed by the prior Secretary of Energy, and a number of obstacles were put in the way of its being successful. Now we have a much more supportive Secretary and Administration, but we still have some enormous problems to face. We still have an aging stockpile. We still have a prohibition on nuclear testing. We still have a 1950s production complex which has not been maintained. We still have problems with an aging work force. We have a track record of management failures related to security and project management. We have a lack of confidence. We have concerns among those who work in the complex, and we still have resistance to change.
To be the first administrator of this new administration, an independent commission of well-respected figures was asked to make a recommendation. They did and talked General John Gordon into taking the helm of this new administration. He faces a tough time, but members of this panel and this committee are anxious to work in partnership with him as we face the challenges that are ahead.
I am certainly pleased that over the 107th Congress I will again have as my partner on this panel Mrs. Tauscher, the gentlelady from California, and before yielding to her, I also want to make a note of the absence and the severe loss that we all feel in the passing of our colleague Norm Sisisky. He played a key role in formulating the legislation that created the NNSA, and, over the panel's work over the past year or so, a key role in trying to make sure that the administration followed the law. On this panel, as well as in the committee and the Congress, we will certainly miss him.
Page 7 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. THORNBERRY. Gentlelady from California.
STATEMENT OF HON. ELLEN O. TAUSCHER, A REPRESENTATIVE FROM CALIFORNIA, RANKING MEMBER, SPECIAL OVERSIGHT PANEL ON DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY REORGANIZATION
Mrs. TAUSCHER. Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Thank you very much for your leadership and for your strong personal commitment to bipartisanship. It is truly a pleasure to work with you and your staff.
I also want to welcome our distinguished witnesses to this hearing today, and I also want to add my strong, wistful missing of Mr. Sisisky, who was not only a great colleague, but a good friend of mine, a great leader on this committee, and a great supporter of our nuclear weapons laboratories and the complex, and someone who was always there, I think, for us as a more senior member of the committee to be supportive on those issues when we were having very tough going in creating the new NNSA.
This panel has participated in what I believe to be one of the most daunting challenges associated with the nuclear weapons stockpile; that is, to provide appropriate congressional oversight to ensure that we maintain the viability of our nuclear opportunities, and that we have, frankly, state-of-the-art security for state-of-the-art secrets.
I am pleased that the panel will have the opportunity to continue efforts to assist in improving the management and maintenance of our national nuclear stockpile, but I also remain very concerned about the overall financial health of the NNSA enterprise. As I said last year in one of our panel hearings, I am concerned that our failure to sufficiently fund our laboratories and production facilities could lead us to a point where we will not be able to meet our core objectives. I worry about our ability to recruit and retain world-class science and management personnel essential to maintaining world-class capabilities and facilities, and that includes not only in the laboratories and production facilities, but at the test facilities. That also includes adequate funds for your personnel, for your headquarters, General Gordon.
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I share General Gordon's concern about the status of infrastructure. It is impossible for us to remain satisfied with DOE defense programs activities with severely deteriorating facilities and infrastructure and a management environment of bureaucratic kudzu. I am also concerned about the impact of constrained resources on the administration's ability to effectively execute the objectives of the stockpiles to which it is programmed.
Resolution of these concerns is critical if the NNSA enterprise is going to be able to meet the goals and objectives established in Title 32.
I am cautiously optimistic about what appears to be a severely constrained defense programs budget, and look forward to the challenge of fixing that budget. I hope General Gordon will be able to share with us his insights regarding the adequacy of available funds to implement the necessary reforms and achieve the goals of Title 32.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I look forward to hearing our witnesses.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Thank you.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Our first witness today is General John Gordon, Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration.
General Gordon, welcome. Your complete statement will, of course, be made a part of the record, and you may proceed at this time.
Page 9 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOCSTATEMENT OF GEN. JOHN A. GORDON, USAF (RET.), ADMINISTRATOR, NATIONAL NUCLEAR SECURITY ADMINISTRATION
General GORDON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you for the opportunity to discuss and review with the panel the status, the progress, the problems, the challenges that face the NNSA. I thank you, Mr. Chairman and Ms. Tauscher, for the great support from you and from the entire panel, the continued support for our mission, and really the continuing support for the people who do the mission each and every day in Washington, in the field, and in the Federal service and in contractual service. And so I appreciate your continuing support for those efforts.
I would like to just also take one second and echo the comments that you have both offered about our friend Mr. Sisisky. It is a great loss. He was a good friend, great leader and great American, and we will all miss him very much.
Mr. Chairman, I don't really want to make any excuses. I would tell you that this job has proven to be a little more difficult even than I anticipated when I began last summer, and that said, I can report steady but, frankly, fairly slow progress toward some of the goals we share for an efficient and effective organization who can lead the national nuclear security enterprise which has been entrusted to us.
I am not satisfied with where we are, with what we have been able to do to establish NNSA as an all up organization with its unique identity and with clear lines of authority, but we are moving forward and actually have made remarkable progress when measured against some of the barriers and some of the bureaucracy we have.
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During the past administration it was difficult to move dramatically on the organizational issues, but even so, we were able to get beyond some of the issues, such as dual-hatting, and begin to set up the framework for the organization and bring in some staff to work some of the critical issues and problems, such as counterintelligence, security and contracting. And we made some clear progress in all of those areas, but I would also tell you, Mr. Chairman, that I elected andrightly or wrongly I elected at the time to spend a huge proportion of my time on the very critical mission-related issues that confronted us when I took over, and I, therefore, had a little less time on the organization itself, and in the wake of this, of the political departures, and now the ability to spend more time has been harmful to the organizational issues.
But there is real progress to show in the mission for that decision. We have made a major impact in at least stemming the loss of morale, the reductions in morale. And I won't try to tell you that morale is back anywhere near where it should be, but my sense is that we have at least stemmed the problem and begun to show some help from many folks out there. We have made some real progress and steps in the security area that begin to stabilize that and, in fact, affect morale. We established the Hamre Commission to look at the balance, if you willI don't like to use that wordbut the relationship between science and the security we need to do. We have created a moratorium on new directives until we can make sure that the ones we have got are in the right place, and we are beginning our integrated safeguards and integrated management program to bring the concept of security back to the individual employee and individual worker.
We are making some good progress in the counterintelligence area, and we have asked the National Academy to wrestle with the polygraph question with us. And I would like to be able to come back to the Congress in the next couple of months with some suggestions on perfecting the changes to the polygraph program that still maintains the requirements and the objectives that we would all share.
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We have significantly improved the relationship with the military. The Nuclear Weapons Council has been revitalized. We have developed a set of requirements with them, and we are for the first time on an agreed schedule for stockpile life extension programs for 60 percent of the stockpile, agreed dates, agreed steps to go through. I think that is quite remarkable and quite new.
We have created a five future years defense plan with a budget designed to support a strategy that we have put out that we have developed. It is not perfect by any means, but we have developed one, and it is a good, solid first start.
We have rebaselined the National Ignitions Facility (NIF) and put it back on a clear track and a clear way ahead, and I would report that I was out there a week or two ago, and there really is a tremendous change in the attitude and the approach to that. My first visit out there, there was a great discussion about the wonderful science that could come out of these lasers, and there was little bit of hand-waving about how it was proceeding and all. We go out there today, you find that the building is done, they are beginning to install the laser parts, laser supports, inside the building, but much more importantly, the briefing now is here is what I did last week, here is what I am doing next week, here is my milestone, here is my cost, here is my earned value. So we have made some significant changes in how that is being managed and how it is going ahead.
We are beginning to attack the problem of pit certification. It is going to be the same kind of a story as NIF. It was underfunded, undercosted, underscheduled, underplanned, under a lot of other things when we began this. The only way I figured out of it is we are going to make it look a little bit like NIF for the good and the bad to put it on a project basis, with someone in charge of schedules with dates, with milestones.
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We have developed a major infrastructure initiative that can begin to attack long-ignored problems, which are now actuallyI would call them now a crisis in our facilities, and we are putting into placehave put into place new contracts at a huge number of our facilities; the contracts with two University of California laboratories, new contracts with Kansas City and Savannah River, Y12 and Pantex. And we can talk more about those if you like later on, but those are going quite well, I think.
And while I would have trouble taking a lot of personal credit for it, we continue to make progress in our work in nonproliferation, in our research and development towards the sensors for weapons of mass destruction, a full range of research across that board, our programs with Russia and elsewhere in the former Soviet Union, and indeed even in plutonium disposition.
That tour sort of brings us back to the organizational questions themselves, and I would like to report a few things about that. We have brought a significant number of new staff, and we are beginningand who are beginning to make their presence felt within the organization as well. I have two senior advisers of incredible capability both in science and in the policy areas. We have, as I mentioned, directors of counterintelligence and security, both of whom have up-and-running staffs and are making real contributions. We have a director of congressional affairs with a proven track record. I have an adviser who I think I have not introduced to you yet, who comes to us from naval reactors with a tremendous professional experience; a director of contracting with strong field experience, a senior military system.
And the one I am particularly excited about for the moment, and I think I have yet to introduce him to you, Dr. John Harvey, who is establishing a policy analysis group for us that will put us in a position to be able to play in the policy arena in a logical and dedicated way without sort of doing it out of our hip pocket or in our spare time, but a dedicated person to manage our studies, manage our reviews, interact closely with the Defense Department and the National Security Council (NSC) as we go through the reviews that are already scheduled.
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There are areas where I have not yet recruited the right permanent individuals and where we have used detailees, some from within Department of Energy, some from within the NNSA field, and some from outside, and that is the general counsel, public affairs, personnel and human resources, and budgeting and the five-year planning effort. We are recruiting and searching in each of these areas and hope to be able to make selections soon.
Most importantly, we are working with the White House to recruit and move forward on an assistant director for defense programs and nonproliferation. These are, of course, critical to the team we are trying to build to be able to move this whole effort ahead.
I report to you that I have just moved into a new office for at least my immediate office, the construction of which did not begin until late January, but we are now aggressively analyzing how we can better consolidate more of the forestall operations together as well.
In this vein, you know that I have announced plans to rely on some of the functions within the NNSA staff by creating two support units, the field operations and the management and administration group. My intent here is to build a management team of two, if you will, product division staffs, the Defense Programs (DP) and the Nuclear Nonproliferation (NN), and two support units, the field operations and the business functions, and to use that to break down the stovepipes to begin to create a culture of teamwork, cooperation and unwaivering focus on mission. And I hope to announce these several individuals who will head these new units very soon, put them to work refining the details of the organization that are all-important in the relationships. This will take at least through the summer to fully implement.
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One area of particular importance to me that we are behind on is the detailed work of how headquarters and the field interact. This has been worked hard over the past number of months by defense programs, by staff, by the field offices, without clear resolution of how best to proceed and how best to operate. I personally need to spend more time on this and am considering establishing a panel for some independent advice on this. This is going to be a tough one.
Congress has directed a report in May on the organizational issues, and it will be sharp with respect to the headquarters organization, but it will say that more needs to be done to resolve the field headquarters questions that I think we all worry about.
Perhaps the most important event to give me promise of some real progress coming across the board is the unwaivering support we are now receiving from the Secretary of Energy. He is fully committed to our mission and to the success of NNSA, and has been forward in both budgetary issues and many others with stating in many ways and many forms his highest priorities are issues such as the certification of the stockpile, and that his strongest national security emphasis is the success of NNSA. So I am very pleased and supportive of that.
Mr. Chairman, we have not been inactive, far from it. Progress is good in some areas and too slow in others. With that said, I remain convinced NNSA is the right thing to do and to solve some real problems. And the challenges ahead of us are real and they are difficult, but I think they are surmountable.
Broadly speaking, the greatest challenge is to bring NNSA into becoming a real organization and to move forwardat the same time we make it an organization, to continue to move forward with the mission, which cannot falter while we go off and do other things, and to address the major problems that affect our ability to do the mission, and we are actually doing this in a time of political transition where the staff is a bit short.
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So, Mr. Chairman, I think you have heard me liken this before to the concept of changing an engine on a jet while it is flying with a bit of a short-handed staff or bit of a short-handed crew, but we are taking off, and I feel pretty good about it.
The other challenges are, as you suggested, it has remained difficult to attract quality people, good people, in the NNSA. The pool is not that large, the pay is not that great, and the bureaucracy is still the bureaucracy. Even making changes within NNSA will be difficult and time-consuming, and change is hard in and of itself. And a certain amount of work to accomplish the personnel changes that I have suggested will take some time, especially without an all-up personnel system.
More specifically, the challenges within the NNSA, I would suggest, are four. It is, in fact, to implement internal realignment. I have outlined, established a real personnel human resources system; to build a quality five-year budgeting and planning system; and to square up the field headquarters relationship. These challenges, frankly, don't require much outside help, just a lot of hard work by those people who are committed to NNSA.
The program mission challenges you have already suggested in many ways are well known to us, but they are, again, security; polygraphs; recruitment and retention; dealing with the Russians and the new relationship; pressing forward on our stockpile tests to be able to continue to certify without testing to be ableto continue to be able to support the DOD to their requirements now and if they develop new requirements as a result of the defense reviews. The challenges include meeting the agreed production schedules for the Service Life Extension Program (SLEPs) that we have already signed up to with a work force and an infrastructure that has not been tested for some time. The challenge is to rebuild the right complex for the future and to do all this with a bit limited resources.
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Early on a number of Members asked what additional help I might need from the Congress to pull this off. I said I would come back after we thought about it for a while, had an opportunity to assess what we already have. Here is my current list.
I need a confirmed deputy. I feel sometimes like I am a little bit home alone. We need a minor change in reporting channels of laboratories to be consistent with the organization I am trying to move forward with. We need to perfect the polygraph program. After the strategic review is complete, I will be seeking support for additional budget. I need support for the infrastructure program. We will need some streamlining in the personnel area to apply the accepted service more broadly to the right people, mainly to apply to managerial and professional personnel.
I am going to suggest we could use some relief with the FACA Act, the Federal Advisory Committee Act, that would allow me to reach out more quickly and more easily to the technical experts to get technical advice on some of our critical systems, and perhaps as much as anything we need your continued support for our mission, for our goals and perhaps tempered with a bit of patience on the organizational issues, at least as long as you believe we are on the right track.
Mr. Chairman, some days I think I have got the best job in American public service, and some days I am not quite so convinced, but we are making progress. We are making progress on our mission; we are making progress on the organization. With the support of Secretary Abraham, I expect that progress to accelerate.
Page 17 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC I remain excited by our mission and its great importance, and we cannot be daunted by the magnitude of the problems we face, either organizationally or mission. We attack them every day one by one. I remain very impressed by so many of those of the NNSA who are committed and work so hard in often very difficult conditions in the field and facilities that we just shouldn't have people in, and yet every time I go visit them, I gain great energy from their exciement and their commitment to what we are trying to do.
Mr. Chairman, I greatly appreciate the support for our mission. It is very valuable to us. I appreciate it. The 37,000 people of NNSA need your support. So thank you.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Thank you, General.
[The prepared statement of General Gordon can be found in the Appendix on page ??.]
Mr. THORNBERRY. It seems to me that is a pretty vivid description. You are trying to change a jet engine while the plane is still flying.
I guess one concern I have got is that the organizationor the difficulty in making change makes it where you are trying to change that engine with one hand tied behind your back, and so just from the studies and the difficulty over the years of making changes, one of things that concerns me is that even with a supportive Secretary, it is going to be tough to make the changes that are needed; that the bureaucracy always reaches up and gets you back down in the muck.
Page 18 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC And it seems to me that, and I know you agree with this, whatever organizational scheme you come up with, people is still the most important thing, and so the personnel system that you develop, it is just critical to making this thing a success. And that is one of the reasons we put some excepted service positions in the original act, but it seems to me that it is critical for you to have a self-contained personnel system which you control so that you have the accountability that we expect and the legislation requires. And so tell us how far along we are towards achieving that. Are there obstacles in your way? Because it seems to me that getting the right people in place and having the accountability for those people is just as essential as anything else we are talking about.
General GORDON. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I couldn't agree more that among all the things we have to do, getting the right people in the right place, and being able to move people quickly and bring them into the system quickly, and be able to attract them into the system is absolutely vital. What we have been able to do in the time allotted is to make some progress in the excepted service area. We have been able to hire a number of people in the excepted service using the existing DOE authorities, and over the period of time we have developed a way to implement the authorities that the Title 32 has authorized us, and we have that out for what I hope is final review now and will be able to put into place.
Within the organization that I have outlined and the management and administration function of NNSA, I would like to envision what you call an all-up or full-up round personnel shop where we really have the ability to control our own destiny in those areas and be able to put the emphasis on having the right vision, everything down from what we call classification, very detailed personnel work, up to working on the very best and highest levels of human resources; how do we really do our own recruiting, and how do we help the field and the laboratories think about recruiting and makeand to enrich the programs. So we need to move crop in that area, and, again, it involves my finding the right person who is willing to come in and do it, and giving them the authority to do it, and getting the nod from the Secretary to pursue it to the full end.
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Mr. THORNBERRY. I just want to emphasize that I think that the accountability, which is so necessary, and which the legislation sought to achieve, has got to come from having that clear chain of command within the personnel system and being a system that you can control.
I would yield at this point to Ms. Tauscher.
Mrs. TAUSCHER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
General Gordon, I am so glad that we found someone with your pedigree to take this tough job. Now your job is to go out and find like-minded people with good pedigrees. You know we did ban cloning, so you have got a small problem, but I do think there are people out there that you are going to be able to attract, and I hope that we are going to be able to help you deal with some of the budgetary issues and this polygraph issue, which I am very concerned about, to make sure that we can attract people.
I have just got a couple of specific questions. The five-year budget, how is the work proceeding on that, and have you received any resistance within the administration on it?
General GORDON. What we have done is create, again not with full organizational structure I would like to be able to do yet, but what I think is a very respectable five-year plan that does have the budget quality and looks at programs, how they stretch out; figures out how to do these big science programs as we go through there, and how to begin to fold in infrastructure initiatives. And we have recreated that a bit short-handed, but something that I am actually pretty proud of, and I think the associates up at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) are a bit surprised and bit impressed that we were able to produce that.
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As you know, the President has asked for a review of the full range of defense programs. So myI suspect what will come up will be a value less than we asked for initially, but with a commitment that as the defense reviews go, and we fold into the defense programs, a resubmission for additional funds at that period of time.
I think it is not unreasonable that the administration would ask that they review their programs and how our work fits into what is, in effect, a customer with the Department of Defense, but I would make a side comment, though, that I don't think there will be huge changes in the requirements, from my perspective, based on these reviews.
Mrs. TAUSCHER. I don't want to prejudge the studies, but the complex is kind of down to ones of things as it isone place where we build things, and one place to take apart, and one place that does non-nuclear. I have two places that do design, so we get the front end of it right, but the complex is down to about half of its employment. Some facilities are down to half, some places that may have twice as much footprint as they need. We just can't figure out how to get rid of the buildings, but it still is half.
So it is not the old systems anymore. It is not the Cold War structure we already have. It is something on the order of half of what it used to be, but we are down to some sort of bare minimums and sort of the number of places. And whatever the new concepts will be of weaponsif there are new weapons or not, if there are small weapons or notthey will still have neutron-generators, they will still have all of the high explosives, they will still involve some of these metals, and there is a sort of minimum-size system that sort of works.
Page 21 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC General GORDON. What we hope to be able to build and what I plan to be able to build is to take the existing system we have and, with the infrastructure, create an agile and flexible system, but with a known capacity to be able to handle a certain number of weaponsand these weapons can be the ones that we have now scheduled for service life extension programsor if there are requirements for different approaches, to be able to handle a capacity within that complex.
So I have kind of gotten off track here in what your question was, but to come back, we will see a certain demand, if there are any requirements for weapons, that comes out of the defense review, but my anticipation is, the signal we have back from the administration is that that review will decide whether they can support a more full-some budget.
Mrs. TAUSCHER. I am wondering, General Gordon, if your optimism carries over to the nuclear nonproliferation area and our relationship with Russia, specifically the programs like Institute for Plasma Physics (IPP), Integral System Test (IST) and Nuclear Cities Initiative (NCI), and the review that has now been called for those programs. Those programs, as you know, have, disturbingly, been targets over the last few years that I have been here especially in the conference and I think that there are many worthwhile things that we are doing. I certainly believe in engagement of Russia and taking down the materials.
So I am worried about the NN programs and the Materials, Protection, Control & Accountability (MPC&A) programs and whether they are going to get the same kind of fair share or fair shake in the review process or whether this is just an opportunity to continue to criticize them. It looks like their budgets have already been cut.
Page 22 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Do you think that we are going to be able to restore some of that and rehab some of those programs?
General GORDON. As you know, I am kind of a little bit limited on what we can talk about the budget until it comes out next week or so. With respect to the review of the nonproliferation programs themselves, I was at least one of some who suggested to the NSC that they undertake the review of the programs so that we could be certain, in fact, that the programs are properly aligned with national priorities. And again I would say, it is entirely appropriate that the administration would take a look at where we have been, where we are going and how this fits into the overall strategies; and there have been concerns expressed that the goal is to cut the programs further.
The only thing I can report to you, Mrs. Tauscher, is that at the first meeting of the first review yesterday, the chairman of the review made it very clear to the people in the room that that was not their goal. Their goal was to do a straight-up review of the quality of these programs, and then see how that fits into their Russian and nonproliferation programs.
Mrs. TAUSCHER. Mr. Chairman, if I can ask two quick questions.
General Gordon, can you just tell us what the status of the NIF certification package is, and can you then just run us through what the certification will be like this year for the stockpile for the President, I mean, exactly how that review is going to take place? Considering the fact we are under review for virtually everything, how are we going to actually certify stockpile?
Page 23 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC General GORDON. Maybe I will do the second one first, if you like, because we are actually making pretty good progress in that area.
I would tell you, one of the exciting things about watching this all work is stockpile stewardship is working. That is not say, again, in any way to diminish the problems as we try to move ahead with our tools. We like to talk about people, places and tools. We struggle with making sure we can keep the right people, we struggle with keeping the focus on the tools that allow us to do that, and we struggle, obviously, with the facilities. But stockpile stewardship is working.
We know what needs to be fixed in the stockpile now, and it is the stuff we have picked out that does not require testing. It requires refurbishment and it requires going back to the laboratories and back to the plants to correct, sometimes, birth defects, sometimes, aging defects, but we are finding these because of stockpile stewardship. And we continue to make good progress in both the big tools and the little tools from the underground experiments that are done with plutonium equations in the State of Nevada to development of new machines for that, up through radiography, up through the biggest program we have got in NIF and Advanced Strategic Computing Initiative (ASCI); and there is steady progress being made in each and every one of those areas.
We will continue through the enhanced surveillance to find more concerns with aging weapons; but they are concerns with aging weapons, and at this time, the certification that would require testing in my judgment is not in front of us, this year at least. So I am pretty comfortable and pretty confident that goes as long as we are able to maintain the funding and the press to move forward on those programs.
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With respect to the NIF certification, we would expect to be able to submit that very quickly, and I expect to be able to certify the individual steps that were in the legislation that involved, are we going to the full beam, does it continue to meet its project milestones and the full range. I expect to be able to do that and to be able to get it up in a very short period of time.
Mrs. TAUSCHER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you, General Gordon.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Mr. Spratt.
Mr. SPRATT. First of all, General Gordon, let me say we are glad you are there, and even more, we are pleased to hear you say that most of the time you feel like you have got one of the best jobs in government. We needed someone with that kind of spleen to take over this flagging aspect of the Energy Department.
General GORDON. Mr. Spratt, I expect a couple of mornings a week I come in, some of my staff are not so sure of that. We try to portray that attitude by the time the day is over anyway.
Mr. SPRATT. You want to put that caveat out there before I get too emphatic. Just a few random questions because most of mine have been answered.
Page 25 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Polygraphs, are they proving to be a noticeable deterrent to recruiting or to retention?
General GORDON. I don't havewe don't have good statistics on that to give you a good metric, but the ''hall talk''I am searching for a word, and that is not itbut the feeling that we have is that it is there. It is a significant issue.
It is certainly a significant issue with morale. It is hard to measure whether it is an issue with respect to recruitment. It is hard to get that kind of a number, that recruitment is hard across the board in part because we are in competition and in part because of our pay scales and through a whole host of reasons; and with the existing workforce, we have yet to convince them of the validity of it as a screening tool. And, again, that is what the National Academy is producing.
So I believe that Imy personal belief would be that we need to maintain a program that we can do and maintain a valid program that really goes and works in the areas where we need to protect the most classified information on a restricted basis.
And what my intent would bewe are trying to work within the NNSA and within DOE right now to develop a proposal that would suggest that a restructuring of the program would, in fact, focus it down to make sure we are really testing where we need to test and not just sort of casting broadly and bringing people in. And the advisers we have on that, from the laboratories and others, would suggest that they think that the people will readily understand if we restrict it to the really tough, the most highly classified information, the biggest compendium of the data.
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So, yes, it is affecting us. I can't give you a number. I want to come up and suggest, as soon as we can get our act together on that, a perfectingperfection to the program.
Mr. SPRATT. And turning to the National Academy of Science (NAS), are you asking them to help you develop or perfect processes to review what could be false positives, cases where people have
General GORDON. It is best to look at the whole thing. The biggest question we are really asking them to do is, do we have the scientific basis to make this a survey tool, a screening tool. There is little doubt in my mind that a polygraph is a great tool for a very specific question. An open issue is the extent to which it is good as a screening tool; that is kind of the main focus.
But you are exactly right on the other question of false positive, what happens with a false positive; and there was a report in the newspaper two or three weeks ago of an FBI agent who had reported a period of time he had to work through a false positive. That took him a couple ofI have forgotten whether it was months or yearsbut that one story in the Washington and New York papers has a resonance in the California labs and in the New Mexico labs of tremendous proportion; and the Hanssen case, where it turns out that certain people were not taking polygraphs, has a tremendous resonance and undercuts our credibility with our own employees in terms of trying to maintain a credible program.
Mr. SPRATT. What about the foreign visitors program? Have you made an assessment of it? Are there any restrictions on it now, that you are maintaining?
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General GORDON. We have made the program better. We have got some more ways to go. Again, the Hamre Commission has come and helped us out on this one a little bit. They have told me, you thought you fixed the foreign visitors program, but you really didn't because the individual organizations in the field are still implementing it in different waysnot just NNSA labs, but some of the other DOE labs as well.
So we scheduled an implementation conference at Argonne, where all the labs will go; and we are going to knock this down once and forever and get everybody on the same standard and same policy.
We find a fascinating thing that happens in this business is that headquarters makes policy which actually seems reasonable and actually may be reasonable, and for some reason we have created an environment that by the time it gets down in the field, augmented, safe-sided and adjusted by so many people, you can hardly recognize it anymore.
Anyway, we think we have made good progress in the foreign visitors. We understand what we are trying to do, and it is not at all clear that we have gotten that down to the working level in every case; and I still have horror stories about people doing unclassified, unrelated things that have to go through six weeks of checking. So we are hammering on that. We are not quite done with it.
Mr. SPRATT. What about Mixed Oxide (MOX) fuel; is that in your purview?
Page 28 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC General GORDON. The MOX fuel for plutonium disposition as related to the Russian program is in my purview, yes, sir.
Mr. SPRATT. Where do we stand with the Russians with respect to implementing sort of a reciprocal MOX fuel program?
General GORDON. They are waiting. They are watching. They are watching what we are doing. They want to use MOX. That is part of their proposal. They would love to use MOX. But for the transition programs, they are waiting to see whether we are able to generate enough international funding to play that out.
And this will probably be the most interesting of the nonproliferation reviews that I just mentioned, at the White House now. It is a challenging conceptual program.
The intent of the programthere are actually two intents of the program. One, the key intent of the program is to figure out how to get rid of some Russian plutonium. To that we tagthis is reciprocal; well, let us get rid of some of ours, too, including some material that goes into South Carolina. And trying to run those programs in parallel and trying to run themwith what are proving to be very expensive, is just a challenge.
I am concerned. I think the program is a great idea and I would like to go down that road. My concerns are, would we be able to sustain it once we start it, and that is what we need to sort out.
Page 29 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. SPRATT. Just back of the envelope, a rough number, if we undertook to fund the Russians' costs for a MOX fuel program, what is the likely cost of helping them build the facilities to convert the fuel?
General GORDON. Let me see if Ken Baker can help me out with that answer.
Mr. BAKER. It is aroundwe think much cheaper than what we will pay, 600 million or so.
Mr. SPRATT. Six hundred million?
Mr. BAKER. Maybe a little higher than that. That is about what the figure is. Much cheaper than what we are building, of course.
Mr. SPRATT. What about highly enriched uranium (HEU) and the current problems of the U.S. Enrichment Corporation, do you give any consideration to having an alternative or a different way of acquiring Russian HEU and bringing it here?
General GORDON. I am going to be a little bit bureaucratic on that one, sir, and tell you that my responsibility on that end is the Russian side of that, where our job is to make sure that the material that comes up and is available, that we have access to understand that it actually came out of HEU and was blended down from HEU and not made from new production material that would get into dumping or one of those other issues.
Page 30 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC But with respectthat is kind of where I turn it over to the rest of the Department. I would be glad to take the answer back and give you the Department's considered answer.
Mr. SPRATT. Well, I thought with respect to nonproliferation, these two nuclear materials are absolutely essential to any country that wants to build a nuclear weapon, and the sooner we can remove excess stocks, I think the more secure we can feel about the possibility of their spreading to the wrong hands.
General GORDON. Absolutely, Mr. Spratt. We reached an agreement, I believe for something like 500 metric tons of this material. The amount of materials that have been blended and brought into this country for processing is something on the order of 110 or 111 metric tons. So we have done more than 20 percent of the program. It provides a cash inflow into Russia which probably helps in some areasprobably not as important this year as it was last yearbut I certainly agree that highly enriched uranium, weapons grade plutonium, in Russia that is not well stored, well contained, well guarded is a tremendous national security problem on the order of magnitude of what we face with other weapons.
Mr. SPRATT. If you could get an answer for the record about HEU and any potential change or alternatives that are being developed I would like to see it.
General GORDON. I will do it.
Mr. SPRATT. Thank you very much for your testimony, but above all, for your service in this position.
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General GORDON. Thank you, sir.
Mr. THORNBERRY. General Gordon, let me ask about a few things. You mentioned in your testimony that dual-hatting is a thing of the past. Does that mean that you have your own legal adviser or your own counsel in NNSA?
General GORDON. Mr. Chairman, I have an acting general counsel who comes from DOE, but he is legally and completely detailed to me, so he reports to me. I have nearly completed the search for a permanent general counsel and hope to be able to make an offer and an announcement within weeks or less.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Great.
Ms. Tauscher was asking you about your five-year budget plan. I think one of the things that we will be interested in at the appropriate time this year is your assessment of the real costs to run the programs, to take care of the infrastructure, even if it is not what comes out the other end of OMB; because I think a lot of us are concerned that there are some serious trade-offs, some costs to deferring things, and we want to be in on helping make that decision.
And I am really just kind of giving you a heads-up. I know we can't talk, or you can't talk a lot about the budget at this stage. We will be able to talk a lot more in a week or so, but I think one of things we will be interested in is how well you are able to plan for the future.
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We talk about the enormous infrastructure needs throughout the complex, how they have been deferred, and we are going to have to have a plan to systematically remedy those defects. If that cost is not what comes out the other end of the administration's budget, then we need to have a feel for what that means, what is being traded off.
General GORDON. In addition to the funds that are requiredas I think you started to touch upon, Mr. Chairmanwe also need stability in the program. That is the importance of a five-year plan. It is important that the plan is funded at the right level, that we can start down that road and know where we are going to go with our individual projects, and phase them in so we don't have huge spikes in the budget.
But once we start down this road of AFIDA, we need to put some rigor into it ourselves and stick with it and not keep adding things, in and out, either from here or, frankly, from the Congress.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Absolutely. We need to work with you.
General GORDON. And if I could just make one other commercial at this moment, then. We have got an awfully bright, aggressive naval officer, who is actually inside defense programs (DP), that has been developing the infrastructure plan for us; and he has formed a group. He has experience in this area; he has run programs before.
When y'all run out of something else to do, if you want to have a briefing on how we are attacking the infrastructure from Captain Scott, you will be quite impressed with the work he has done to date.
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Mr. THORNBERRY. I think that is a subject we will want to pursue in the future, because it is so serious.
Let me just follow up on the other two elements in your jurisdiction. We haven't talked at all about naval reactors. Is everything working fine there?
General GORDON. I think right now the last thing naval reactors needs any real help from is from the rest of the NNSA. Admiral Bowman is doing great. The programs are running great, and we try to go to school on them when we can.
Mr. THORNBERRY. I agree.
On the nonproliferation side, Ms. Tauscher asked you about the larger reviews that are occurring in the administration. So far, are you conducting a review of the management of the programs, or is that something to come later, once they sort of sort through where they want the overall program direction to go? Because there have been a number of reports in the media and elsewhere that these are very important, very significant, programs; but maybe we are not making the best use of the money that we are putting into them.
General GORDON. There are a number of reports that say we ought to put a lot of money into it, from other folks. What we are doing is going through it, day by day, and working with the NSC to develop the reports.
What I would ask, though, is that the new NN, when that person is named, would take that on as an immediate and high priority to make sure that individual is content with the breadth and the depth of the programs.
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Mr. THORNBERRY. On looking at your new restructuring at headquarters, you mentioned, with a couple of other associate administrators, as I understand your proposal, the various facilities will report to the associate administrator for facilities and operation; and I just wonder, can you describe for me kind of how it will work with, say, a laboratory director on programmatic issues? If he reports to this facilities guy on programmatic issues or on security issues, how does that chain of command then work as we are making decisions?
General GORDON. What I am trying to do, Mr. Chairman, is basically line up the structure that is already out in the field with the structure we want to put in place. And when I suggested there would be one perfecting line where the lab directors report, I would like to have that stricken. So that is to the effect, they would report officially to me as the administrator for the lab directors, and then that would put them in much better alignment within the labs themselves.
For example, there is an associate director for weapons that would spend the majority of the time working with the defense programs. There is an administrator there. There is an associate director for nonproliferation at these laboratories who would be better aligned with the NN programs here. I would envisage that the field office managers would report administratively and day-to-day to the field operations branch of this area. But indeed, for program issues, there has to be a chain of command that comes out of the program side that works into that system for the actual product.
The real goal that I am trying to do in here is to break down some of the stovepipe culture we have had and put together a management council, if you will, of four folks and their deputies, which is the NN, the DP, the field ops and the business functions that come out of that, that they work together to integrate the programs and work the problems out across the board.
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Mr. THORNBERRY. You mentioned in your testimony, dealing with the headquarters field office relationship; the GAO testimony to follow you notes that that relationship was last officially defined in 1968. It seems to me that it isyou mentioned, one of your tougher tasks. It seems to me also to be a task that it is time to take a look at. Where are we?
General GORDON. Well, as I suggested, there has been an attack on that problem over the last several months from working, bringing together the field, bringing together the DP, bringing together staff across the board. To some extent, they remain at loggerheads and that requires we get much more deeply involved in it; and I suggested that I am seriously considering forming a small independent panel to help me work through that issue.
It is very emotional and the opinions, the perspectives, are diametrically opposed on how best to manage that. It is on our plate. It is very important. It needs to get squared away. I put it on top of the list. But at the same time, it has been jelling since 1968. I want to do it right.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Can you give us, just brieflyone of your goals early on was to have a better relationship with the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy on these issues. How is that relationship working right now?
General GORDON. I think it is working really considerably better than it was. As I suggested and mentioned, the Nuclear Weapons Council has become extremely active and really back into play. We meetwith the exception during the transition month, we meet every month without fail to an agreed agenda, a work-hard agenda; and it is through that structure where we haveand I guess the measure of success is, we have agreed with them on putting four weapons systems, 60 percent of stockpile, through a SLEP program on a date certain with specific work against it.
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And we have an open dialogue on those issues. I am pretty happy with where that is. I believe that the Defense Department would say the same thing, although you probably should ask them directly.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Okay.
Mrs. TAUSCHER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I just want to clarify my position on the whole NN situation and the review. And, you know, the new Baker-Cutler reportor Cutler-Bakerwhichever one you put, I think from my point of view my concerns are, I have been watching these programs. I have been to Russia twice; I think there are many things we can do to improve the programs, the efficiency, the opportunities for reform in Russia. You know, I think we are doing very good work there, but I think there is a lot we can do to improve those programs.
What is concerning to me is that the administration simultaneously submitted a budget that dramatically cut them, and then said that they wanted to review them. And these are problem children; they have been subject, in the conference, to dramatic cuts. Last year, we gyrated about $45 million on these programs and, frankly, a couple of them look like they are slotted for a bullet in the forehead. So what I want to be very clear about is that I believe that we need to spend a lot of money in these programs, but at the same time, I am all for a review to make sure that the money is going in the right places and that we are getting the right return on the investment of the American taxpayers' money.
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But I think that it is a mistake, especially since we know we have colleagues that are not for these programs, that there is a signal out there that there is a kind of bait-and-switch going on; and I think we have to be very vigilant, those of us that believe these are important programs if the administration believes these are important programs and if they believe what Cutler and Howard Baker said is true, that we have got to be very careful about how we move forward on this, so that we are not sending mixed signals to the very people that are looking for a reason to continue to cut these programs.
General GORDON. Yes, ma'am.
Mr. THORNBERRY. A point well taken. Are you satisfied that, at least as far as the technical assistance, you have input into this review process?
General GORDON. Yes, sir. On the NN programsand it is not just NN programs, it is the defense side of nonproliferation as well. It is not just focusing on the NNSA programs. We participate fully in all the discussions, including the reviews to the DOD programs, and we are the ones that make the presentations. Ken Baker is here with me, went to the one yesterday. And you are going to go to all of them?
Mr. BAKER. Yes.
General GORDON. We are fully represented at all of them.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Great.
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Well, if there is nothing else, thank you, General Gordon. We have a vote, but we will excuse you at this time. And I think we will actually have two votes in fairly close proximity to one another, and we will be back for our second witness after this series of votes.
But thank you for your testimony. We will stand in recess.
Mr. THORNBERRY. I now call to the witness table Mr. Robert Robinson, Managing Director, Natural Resources and Environment, with the U.S. General Accounting Office.
Mr. Robinson, I apologize for the delay. Sometimes we get into these situations where we get some votes strung together. Thank you with your patience. As with General Gordon, your statement will be made a part of the record, and you may proceed.
STATEMENT OF ROBERT ROBINSON, MANAGING DIRECTOR, NATURAL RESOURCES AND ENVIRONMENT, GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE
Mr. ROBINSON. Mr. Chairman, with your permission, I would like to bring James Noel to the table. James has a long history of doing work in this area and was the principal author of our stockpile stewardship report of December last year.
Page 39 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. Chairman, in the interest of time, I won't rehash all the historic DOE management problems that led Congress to create NNSA in the first place. Instead, what I want to focus on is how NNSA is doing since its creation in resolving these long-standing problems, and in doing so, I would like to look at the question from three angles: its efforts to establish a more functional and accountable organizational structure; its progress in improving its planning programming and budgeting; and its actions to implement the personnel authority provided to enhance the agency's ability to recruit and retain skilled employees.
Overall, we believe NNSA has set upon a course that has real potential to improve the odds of more effective defense-related program management in the future. In each of the three management areas I just laid out, NNSA has taken actions and announced plans to create practices we and others have discussed for years. As always, however, implementation is the key, and in each area there is an enormous amount of work that needs to be done before victory can be declared and we realize the outcome we all hope for. And, as I am sure General Gordon would agree, it is the details that can kill you.
Moreover, given the long history of substantive inaction in addressing these issues and, frankly, the deeply embedded commitment to the old ways in many quarters, it is important that NNSA quickly make some tangible progress in finalizing and implementing its plans to help build a momentum for change.
It is also important to recognize that the implementation effort will need to be sustained over a considerable period of time for the Title 32 reforms to bear ultimate fruit.
Page 40 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Let me go through the management improvement areas one by one. With respect to creating a better organized agency, NNSA has made some important headway by eliminating dual-hatting. This step has substantially enhanced the Agency's prospects for exercising the fresher, more independent management approach envisioned by the act. In addition, the Administrator's proposed headquarters office restructuring holds significant promise for reducing fragmentation and allowing for more integrated decision making across the Agency. In particular, the management council component of the reorganized structure seems like an excellent mechanism for orchestrating unified approaches to program management and decision-making.
While praising this solid start, it is important to recognize there is a lot of heavy lifting ahead. Importantly, NNSA needs to flesh out its proposed structure with many more details on the specific roles and responsibilities of each new headquarters office. Similarly, it needs to clarify the relationship between headquarters and its field structure, particularly in the area of overseeing NNSA's contractors. Likewise, the uncertain relationship between the Administrator and the Secretary on making personnel appointments needs to be resolved.
With respect to its planning, programming and budgeting activities, the Administrator has rejected DOE's old processes and approaches and moved to establish a more integrated and multiyear focus through implementation of Planning, Programming, and Budgeting System (PPBS). This system has, of course, been in use in DOD for over 40 years, and while certainly not a panacea, if properly implemented, PPBS offers the potential to improve NNSA's capacity for making cost-effectiveness comparisons and developing detailed program and budget plans such as the future years nuclear security plan required by Title 32.
In December 2000, the Administrator said that he wanted to have a PPBS in place for the 2003 budget cycle. However, since neither the supporting management information systems, financial systems nor knowledgeable personnel needed to implement PPBS are close to being in place, this is probably not a realistic target. As such, it seems highly probable that NNSA will have to rely on mainly existing systems and structures to prepare the 2003 budget and associated future years plan.
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In its formal response to our recent report on the stockpile stewardship program delivered us to yesterday afternoon, NNSA has revised its goal to have PPBS fully operational for the 2004 budget cycle, and we believe this new goal is much more realistic.
Finally, on the hiring and personnel management front, to date, NNSA has not used the personnel authority provided to it in the act. Its limited hiring has been done under preexisting DOE authorities. NNSA has recently drafted a proposal to begin using the accepted service authority that Title 32 provides. For the 300 positions specified in Title 32, this proposal includes features such as pay-for-performance and pay banding. It also seeks senior-level hiring authority independent from DOE.
There are several challenges, as you mentioned earlier, to implementing this proposal. By establishing one personnel system for 300 of its employees and another for the other 1,700 employees, we see a real potential for work force tension and potential morale problems. Also, the proposal may be opposed by labor unions. If such opposition materializes, addressing the concerns could lengthen the time it takes to get the proposed system in place.
To close, Mr. Chairman, in the past few months NNSA seems to have turned itself in the right direction. But to paraphrase Robert Frost, we have miles to go before we can rest. It will take diligent and sustained efforts by NNSA and continued oversight by the Congress to achieve the results envisioned in Title 32. For our part, we would be pleased to offer our assistance to the Congress and to this committee in conducting the long-term monitoring that would seem necessary.
Page 42 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Thank you. This concludes my remarks, and James and I would love to entertain any questions you might have.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Robinson can be found in the Appendix on page ??.]
Mr. THORNBERRY. Thank you. I appreciate it.
You know, this talk about real potential and significant promise from GAO is pretty high praise. Y'all don't usually get carried away with yourselves.
Mr. ROBINSON. Mr. Chairman, that is about as good as it gets.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Talk to me a little more about the personnel issue, because I think it is so critical. Do you have or does GAO have a position on the way they ought to proceed?
You mentioned they have not made use of the 300 Excepted Service positions that we put into the law originally. I see a note in your testimony that there is some analysis that shows maybe they need 800 positions, maybe they need them all. How do you think we ought to proceed?
Mr. ROBINSON. It is so early. Until you have a lot more of the organizational structure in place and fleshed out in real detail, it is hard to speak too hypothetically on this subject.
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One option that has sort of been laid out in our C model, where almost all the employees are excepted service. In our GAO situation, in fact, we are, for all practical purposes, excepted service and we may have pay banding and pay performance for all of our employees. And it is a real hard thing to get started, but it would be especially hard if the 10 people to the left of you were operating under one system and the 10 people to the right were operating under another system. That just seems like a prescription for real trouble.
But, again, it is hard to answer too definitively until you have a lot more of the flesh on the bones than exists right now.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Have y'all looked at the concerns that were expressed by the Chiles Commission about the larger-term personnel issues that face the DOE complexnumber of people leaving, the age of folks, the technical expertise, you know, the difficulty in finding people that want to even go into nuclear physics and whether and how best to approach that concern at labs and plants.
Mr. ROBINSON. Well, yes, sir. Certainly the same problems that frankly exist in government agency-wideincluding GAO, I might addapplies probably in spades here, given the special nature of the employees that are needed and the special demands on them to interact with some of the most highly skilled and highly intelligent people on the planet in trying to manage contracts with those folks.
So whatever problems that exist government-wide are magnified here.
Page 44 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC James, I don't know, have we looked more specifically at the Chiles report?
Mr. NOEL. We did. When we did our work, looking at the overall management of the stockpile stewardship program, we did review the Chiles Commission findings and also did some work looking at what the various labs and plants were doing to address that; and we found that most of them tended to have some plan of how they were going to proceed, an idea of who we need to replace, and how are we going to get these people and where are we most vulnerable; but a lot of times, the funding wasn't there.
Just like on the infrastructure side, we are very focused on emission, we have got to get these things and we are not really taking the time to look at the long term, both for the buildings, as well as for the people.
Mr. ROBINSON. We would agree, though, that without proper personnel, almost nothing you do structurally, or systems or anything else, ends up making the difference. It is, as is almost always the case, in the people.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Good point.
Mrs. TAUSCHER. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you, gentlemen. When we were struggling to put the legislation together to create the NNSA, I think we were pretty sanguine about the fact that perfect legislation is elusive; and perhaps even if it was perfect at the time, time does crazy things to you, and it may not be perfect in the next month or the next year. And so I think we understood and we left the trapdoor open for General Gordon to come back to us and discuss with us any curing or any amendments or any new pieces that we might have to put in the defense bill, either this year, next year or going forward.
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Do you have any sense of opportunities for us to do that, or a necessity for us to do that; and is it your general, overall impression that full and effective implementation of the law can be carried out under the structure that we put forth? And, once again, do you think there is anything we need to do to make it more efficient?
Mr. ROBINSON. I think basically this structure seems appropriate. Obviously, there is always going to be tweaking that can be done over time on the margins. In this case, it seems like the structure is basically sound. It is very gratifying to hear a program administrator like General Gordon bring to the dance the kind of spirit and energy and commitment that he brought to the table.
James, do you have some specifics you would like to offer?
Mr. NOEL. I was just going to say two things.
One, at the panel's request, we have been lookingin some ongoing work, looking at the procurement and the personnel areas, as well as the organization and the planning, programming and budgeting. I think we have identified a couple of things that haven't been exactly fleshed out and that we are ready to recommend, but potentially a procurement or personnel area where some legislative change might fine tune, to go with what Bob is sayingnot wholesale change, but to get a little closer to perhaps what the Congress had on its mind.
Mr. ROBINSON. And I think that what is really important is that everybody keeps everybody's feet to the fireperiodic oversight; make sure progress, real progress, is being made; you know, looking past the veneer that oftentimes can be put on, veneer and spin.
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It doesn't seem to be likely in this case, but certainly during my 28 years of looking at Federal programs, there is a lot of spin and veneer that oftentimes has to be probed, scratched beyond the surface a little bit. So I think that isbeyond certain minor little tweaks, that is certainly the most important strategy that needs to be at work here, I think.
Mrs. TAUSCHER. If you could let us know what your tweaks might be, I am sure that Mr. Thornberry and I and others would be interested in entertaining that.
Mrs. TAUSCHER. You know, we struggledthe whole issue of security was kind of a double-edged sword for us. There were obviously a lot of problems; security problems came to light over the last 2 years at the weapons labs specifically, and we actually leveraged the press and the outreach about that to kind of move ourselves into a position to create the NNSA. But there was a lot of controversy, if you remember, last year about exactly where the firewalls were and where the relationships were about security, the security czar between the Department, the Secretariat and the NNSA, who actually had their hands on the security people.
From my point of view, and I think I can speak for Mr. Thornberry, it was always about accountability and responsibility, as opposed to who actually controlled the job or got the budget. Have you looked at that? Have we improved the situation? Is there more we can dothe polygraph issue aside, which is a thorny issue as far as I am concernedabout a lot of other things?
Page 47 PREV PAGE TOP OF DOC Mr. ROBINSON. Ms. Tauscher, for this panel, we are currently reviewing NNSA's implementation of improved security procedures, and frankly, in a couple of weeks, I think we will be able to come up here and walk you through.
Mrs. TAUSCHER. So that is the timetable, in a few weeks?
Mr. ROBINSON. In a few weeks I think we will be able to give you a detailed briefing on where we see things standing for the moment on that front.
Mrs. TAUSCHER. Great. Thank you.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Let me ask you to comment briefly.
You testified that you thought the suggestions that he has on adding the associate administrators in the headquarters office has significant promise. Tell us what you think the advantages are going to be once that is implemented.
Mr. ROBINSON. Well, A, it brings order out of some fragmentation. It has the mission people essentially focusing on mission, and the mission support people focusing on mission support, without the kind of multi-level ''spaghetti'' chart kind of relationships between all the players. In concept, that seems to make a lot of sense to us.
But I would come back to the theme of our statement, that things are so new and just boxes on pieces of paper; that is about all we have right now. We don't have a lot of the meat to understand exactly how things are going to work, and a more definitive answer, frankly, awaits, I think, a little bit more meat on those bones, which General Gordon certainly committed to putting on those bones relatively quickly. After that, I think a lot more definitive answer can be given.
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Mr. THORNBERRY. One of the major themes of your testimony that you submitted was this headquarters field office structure, and I quoted you that we haven't really got thathad that nailed down since 1968.
Do y'all have specific recommendations on what he ought to do?
Mr. ROBINSON. Well, I guess on this front we have mostly concentrated on problem identification, which is, for us, the easy part.
Mr. THORNBERRY. For all of us it is the easier part.
Mr. ROBINSON. Clearly, action has to be taken to establish real accountability. I mean, this shirking of responsibility, the whole atmosphere in our culture of ability to avoid responsibility and accountability has to be cleared up.
Also, it has to be cleared up as to who exactly speaks tospeaks with authority on this. I mean, if you are getting directions from three or four different people, it puts the contractor in a very easy position, this doesn't translate very well to the record, but to be able to point in different directions and play one side off against the other. So those kind of relationships have to be cleaned up.
I mean, General Gordon characterized it very correctly. This is hard stuff. They are trying to correct a culture or change a culture that is 30-plus years old; it is not going to come easy. But certainly I think it is pretty clear those are the kinds of objectives and certainly minimum requirements that have to be in place before we can feel reasonably certain that we have made real headway on that front.
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James, did you have other things to offer?
Mr. NOEL. I was just going to suggest that in the testimony we tried to lay out what we call some principles, things that came from the 120-day study of the Chiles Commission and others thatI think when the General comes forward with his particulars, that is what the panel and we will certainly be trying to measure against. And in that case, I mean, we are looking for some direct lines, not the ''spaghetti'' that Bob was talking about.
We think that the people that oversee and direct the program need to be as close to the action as possible out at the contractors, working near them; and that basically it should be very clear who gives direction and who doesn't give direction so that you don't get thehard to characterize, finger-pointing and, you know, the contractor sometimes that gives them an opportunity, as well as some lack of clarity, to say, gee, nobody really told me what to do, or I maybe I can shop for the answer that I want.
Mr. THORNBERRY. It also puts a contractor, a lot of times, in a bad position. I mean, he has an opportunity, I realize, to point the finger in different directions; but the other side of it is, the contractor gets conflicting directions from more than one placeand that was more often the case than not before we started on thisand so he was in trouble whichever way that he or she decided.
Mr. ROBINSON. And as you mentioned earlier, ultimately accountability is sacrificed.
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Mr. THORNBERRY. Exactly. Not only is accountability sacrificed by the contractor, but any superiors. You can't go up the line anywhere and find somebody, and that is part of what got us into this business to begin with.
You heard General Gordon testify in fairly positive terms that they are getting their arms around the big projects, NIF and pit production. Have y'all looked at that and do you have comments to add?
Mr. ROBINSON. Well, we certainly have written extensively on the problems at NIF and have an ongoing updating project under way that hasn't quite reached the point where we have anything definitive to say. But the project is under way. Other projects have gotten somewhat less attention, but have been included as part of other reports.
James did you have
Mr. NOEL. And I thinkon the NIF side, I think we feel like, you know, that certainly the management of the project has improved.
We stillthis echoes what we had in our report last fallbelieve that there needs to be rigorous, independent oversight of that project. The panel that the Department put together for this, one of the things that the General is going to certify to you is that they looked to alternatives. That was one of their big recommendations, that there should be independent oversight just to maintain credibility so that people feel like, yes, we are on the right path, we are going in the right direction. And we have done some work on TA-55, but not in the recent past. Might be something worth looking at.
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Mr. THORNBERRY. It is something you may want to think about.
Let me also give you an opportunity to comment. He was also very positive on the stockpile stewardship, that they have an agreed schedule, as I took notes, to deal with 60 percent of the stockpile with firm metrics along the way to make sure that things progress. You wrote extensively in a report last December. Tell us where you think we are with stockpile stewardship.
Mr. ROBINSON. I had a private conversation with General Gordon just before we came on, commending him for the extraordinarily constructive and gracious response to the recommendations in our report. They have taken them to heart.
I think he said in his letter to us that he is putting our report at the centerpiece of hisat the center of his efforts to clean up and streamline and improve the management of that critical program, and it seems to us like againon this front as wellthe horse has left the barn and headed in the right direction. I mean, I think we feel reasonably comfortable that help is on the way on that front and that things are going to get better.
Mr. NOEL. Yeah. I might add they have established these, what they would call FPU, or first production unit, dates for the W76 and the W80 and the B61, and now the heavy lifting really comes to meet those dates. And I think the panel is very well aware of all the budgetary pressures being put on the Department and on NNSA. This is really where we are going to find out how well they can hold up tohold to those dates and to keep those projects moving forward.
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Mr. THORNBERRY. How well prepared are they on the scheduling side of that?
In other words, if you are going to run any weapons system through the complex, there are lots of pieces that have to be scheduled to come together at just the right time. It is an enormous task, and one of the things that often falls by the wayside, you get a delay here and it has domino-effect repercussions. How well prepared are they for the scheduling challenge?
Mr. NOEL. They have got some very elaborate schedules that they have established, some very sophisticated matrixes and planning schedules. It is going to be really tight, because particularly at the production plants, the outputs of these different systems have to interweave. There is the W87 that is going on now that has to come down, the B61 has to fit in and the 76 has to come after that; and if there are any hiccups, then you are really going to have a lot of problems.
And some of the scientists that I have talked to have said they know there is a lot of focus on the big facilities like NIF or Duel Axis Radiographic Hydrodynamic Test (DARHT), but there is a host of little facilities, like a laboratory test bed or a rocket sled, that has to function because it has to be used to certify a particular piece; and if those things get out of whack, again because of budgetary tightness, then the whole domino effect sort of happens and the thing kind of comes unglued.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Let me ask you finally, as we go over the next year, what are the things you think this panel ought to look for as far as the stockpile stewardship piece that we are talking about now? What should we be especially careful about watching?
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Mr. NOEL. I guess from my perspective, one, to make sure that the funds are there for what they call the directed stockpile work (DSW), to have that part stay on schedule.
Also, that in the so-called campaign, the science aspect, where that money is going is again directed towards the stockpile work and not towards sort of maybe more-nice-to-have or longer-run-type things.
And then, finally, that some of the bigger construction line items, again that support this and also support the improvements at the plants, happen, because you really need all three of those pieces to keep this program moving forward.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Thank you.
I think we have exhausted all the questions. Thank you. I very much appreciate the constructive role the GAO has played throughout this process in helping to monitor and offering suggestions. We are going to continue to count on y'all to play that role in the future, and we appreciate your assistance to helping us do our job.
Mr. ROBINSON. Mr. Chairman, we are often accused of coming into the battlefield after it is over and bayoneting the wounded. In this particular case, we are trying to be as constructive, as you said, as possible and offer up some real practical recommendations; and I feel really good that the relationship not only between the committee and our staff here is quite good, but the relationship between our staff and General Gordon and his staff seems to be quite favorable.
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So this is a welcome change fromI come to the world from reviewing agricultural programs and public land management policy, and this is a welcome relief from the atmosphere that is present in those areas.
Mr. THORNBERRY. Well, I think it is constructive any way you want to look at it, and the truth is, it is going to have to be constructive if we, the country, is going to have a chance to meet the challenges that are ahead of us.
So I appreciate very much y'all's testimony, and if there is nothing further, this hearing will be adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 4:15 p.m., the subcommittee was adjourned.]