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Lawmakers Seek Review of NNSA Audit Practices

Four senior lawmakers on Tuesday called for the U.S. Government Accountability Office to review National Nuclear Security Administration practices enabling private firms hired to oversee and run agency facilities to grade their own conduct in preventing mishaps (see GSN, Feb. 9).

The House Energy and Commerce Committee "has focused significant time and attention overseeing the correction of significant safety and security problems experienced in recent years at several of NNSA’s nuclear sites," panel Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Ranking Member Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) and Ranking Member Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) said in a message to the congressional auditor.

"In reports requested by this committee on safety and security problems at Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories, for example, GAO has repeatedly documented weaknesses in those sites’ performance self-assessment programs," the lawmakers said. "These GAO findings call into question the basis for [Contractor Assurance System] implementation: that contractors conduct self-assessments that provide the objective performance information on which the government should rely to make performance determinations worth hundreds of millions of dollars annually.”

An assessment slated for finalization late next year by the semiautonomous Energy Department agency "may recommend further reduction of [the NNSA] federal work force," the panel members wrote. "It is the committee’s perspective that any planned reduction in force must be supported by thorough analysis of oversight needs and capabilities to ensure that even with a smaller work force NNSA can adequately assure the performance of its contractors” (U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee release, June 26).

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