Classified drawings of U.S. nuclear weapons have been poorly secured, according to a report by the Energy Department's Inspector General, Secrecy News reported.
Labs operated by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) have been lax in archiving blueprints used in the manufacture of nuclear weapons. Data and drawings have not been maintained in a dependable manner, the report said.
Inspector General Gregory Friedman wrote, "Over the decades of nuclear weapons development, neither NNSA nor its sites treated the maintenance of original nuclear weapons… information as a priority." The report noted that "not having complete and accurate [weapon production] information can have significant effects on surveillance and safety, and can lead to time-consuming and expensive recovery efforts."
Among other lapses, the investigators found that officials at the Pantex Plant in Amarillo, Texas, were "surprised at the difficulty in finding as-built product definitions for the nuclear weapons."
At the Los Alamos facility in New Mexico, computer systems "allowed changes to classified nuclear weapons drawings without using an approved change notice. This practice could permit unauthorized changes to weapons drawings."
And at the Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico, officials could not locate 44 percent the neutron generator components blueprints for their facility.
The report stated that National Nuclear Security Administration "officials were unable to explain why [undocumented] changes were made, but told us that they 'assumed' the changes were needed."
Meanwhile, according to Norman Augustine, co-chair of the Congressional Advisory Panel on the Governance of the Nuclear Security Enterprise, the National Nuclear Security Administration "has lost credibility and the trust of the national leadership and customers in [the Department of Defense] that it can deliver needed weapons and critical nuclear facilities on schedule and on budget." Augustine testified
before the House Armed Services Committee on March 26.
"NNSA is on a trajectory towards crisis," he said. http://www.fas.org/sgp/othergov/doe/cap-interim.pdf. The semi-autonomous agency had not lived up to expectations. "The current DOE-NNSA structure has not established the effective operational system that Congress intended. This needs to be fixed as a matter of priority, and these fixes will not be simple or quick."
Augustine said that while the country's nuclear deterrent remained secure, there was a sense of "complacency" about the its nuclear mission since the end of the Cold War.
The IG recommended that NNSA store original weapons blueprints electronically, tighten security on its repository of blueprints, and make certain that any modifications are fully documented.
Department of Energy officials agreed with the recommendations and said they had taken steps to rectify the deficiencies, the report concluded.
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