A previously classified document, “Independent Oversight Inspection of Safeguards and Security of the Los Alamos Site Office and Los Alamos National Laboratory,” published in February 2003, has been further released after a Mandatory Declassification Review (MDR) filed by The Black Vault. The document provides an in-depth examination of the safeguards and security programs at the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) Los Alamos Site Office (LASO) and Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) conducted in late 2002.
The inspection, carried out by the Office of Independent Oversight and Performance Assurance (OA), was comprehensive and performance-oriented, covering six key areas: classified matter protection and control, personnel security, physical security systems, nuclear material control and accountability (MC&A), protective force, and protection program management.
Notably, the inspection occurred concurrently with separate investigations by the DOE Inspector General, the FBI, UC, and Congress into allegations of missing government property and misuse of laboratory credit cards. However, these investigations did not influence the OA’s inspection scope, focusing instead on the protection of special nuclear material and classified information.
A significant revelation during the inspection was related to LANL’s inventory of accountable classified matter, where a hard drive was initially unaccounted for but later resolved. This incident, among others, was thoroughly scrutinized during the inspection, underlining the depth and rigor of the OA’s evaluation process.
The document meticulously details the inspection’s findings, conclusions, and assigned ratings to various security aspects of LASO and LANL. It highlights the strengths and weaknesses of the respective programs, with an emphasis on areas requiring immediate and sustained management attention.
For instance, while many security program elements at LANL were functioning effectively, there were identified weaknesses, particularly in the MC&A program. These deficiencies included flaws in the physical inventory process and inadequate oversight by the LANL MC&A Group, necessitating immediate corrective actions.
The report also underscores the need for a fully staffed Security Management Team to provide adequate direction and oversight, a challenge exacerbated by the reengineering of NNSA and the redistribution of responsibilities from the Albuquerque Operations Office to LASO. This staffing issue poses a significant risk to the efficacy of the federal oversight of safeguards and security programs at LANL.
In conclusion, the document acknowledges the steady progress made by LANL in addressing past security deficiencies, while emphasizing the necessity for continued management support and attention to maintain and enhance the security environment. The majority of the protection program elements at LANL were found to be effectively implemented, with some sub-elements demonstrating near-flawless performance. However, the document does not shy away from highlighting areas needing urgent improvement, particularly in the MC&A program, to restore its previous high performance standards.
The ratings assigned to the various safeguard and security areas reflect a predominantly effective performance across most domains, with the notable exception of the MC&A program, which was flagged as needing improvement.
This declassified document is a testament to the intricate balance of maintaining national security while ensuring transparency and accountability in the management of critical national assets. It provides valuable insights into the complexities of security management at one of the nation’s most sensitive nuclear facilities.
Independent Oversight Inspection of Safeguards and Security of the Los Alamos Site Office and Los Alamos National Laboratory, February 2003 [98 Pages, 22MB]
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