Energy's IG pans notebook PC lapses at Los Alamos

In another blow to Los Alamos National Laboratory's management, the Energy Department's inspector general has found inadequate controls over the weapons lab's classified and unclassified notebook PCs.

Approximately 70 percent of the 1,093 new computers purchased during fiscal 2001 and 2002 did not have property numbers and bar coded tags as required by the lab's own regulations, inspector general Gregory H. Friedman wrote in his most recent report on the embattled New Mexico laboratory. The 762 computers were supposed to'but did not'have property numbers in the lab's purchase card database.

Personal computers are considered sensitive items and must be tracked through the lab's Property Inventory System. Last December an external review team found that the lab's purchase card program failed to properly account for such sensitive controlled property as computers.

'LANL could not accurately account for its single-user, stand-alone classified laptop computers,' the report stated. Four notebook systems being used for classified work were not on the Office of Cyber Security's list of classified computers, and two of the four did not have the needed accreditation for classified use. The report listed several other discrepancies in the inventory of classified computers.

The report also faulted Los Alamos for writing off so-called unlocated computers without a formal inquiry. During fiscal 2001 and 2002, 22 notebook computers that cost the lab $80,778 were designated unlocated.

Los Alamos prohibited employees from buying controlled items on lab purchase cards as of Aug. 26, 2002, but cardholders did buy 22 notebook and desktop PCs after that date, according to Friedman's report.

Although the report made no mention of compromised secrets as a result of the computer security lapses, Friedman nevertheless referred his findings to counterintelligence officials at Energy and the semiautonomous National Nuclear Security Administration. The inspector general's office is also preparing a broader assessment of laboratory controls over desktop and notebook PCs.

Anthony R. Lane, an associate administrator with the NNSA, issued a statement that the agency 'will factor the corrective actions associated with the draft report's recommendations into the ongoing efforts' to improve Los Alamos management.

The notebook PC report is the sixth report on Los Alamos that the inspector general has released in the last four months. It comes as Energy considers whether to recompete the lab's management contract, which the University of California has held for 60 years.

A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee will hold a hearing on the university's contract Thursday.

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