The GAO’s report of the testimony before the HASC’s Subcommittee on Strategic Forces for Modernizing the Nuclear Security Enterprise: Observations on the Organization and Management of the NNSA was released yesterday. The GAO found that while the NNSA has made considerable progress in regards to long-standing deficiencies, significant improvements are still needed, especially in the management of major projects and contracts.
The GAO specifically called out the agency’s continuing cost and scheduling overruns of its projects such as research and production facilities and nuclear weapon refurbishments. The report noted that these were primarily a function of ineffective oversight and poor contractor management.
The report cites the $300 million cost increase and 2-year delay in the W87 warhead refurbishment and the $70 million cost increase and 1-year delay of the W76 warhead refurbishment. The GAO also discussed the cost overruns of the Uranium Processing Facility at the Y-12 National Security Complex that increased sevenfold and is now expected to cost between $4.2 and $6.5 billion as well as the sixfold increase of the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement Facility now expected to cost between $3.7 and $5.8 billion.
However, despite the management issues, the GAO confirms the success of the NNSA has had in ensuring the safety and reliability of the nuclear weapon stockpile in the absence of nuclear weapon testing. Furthermore, despite the urgings of some members of Congress, the GAO stated that they continue to believe that drastic organizational changes to increase the independence of the agency from the DOE are unnecessary.