Abraham asks NNSA to overhaul lab security

In the wake of numerous investigations into security lapses at Energy Department nuclear laboratories, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham has directed the agency in charge of the labs to overhaul its security procedures.

Abraham's order followed yesterday's release of a General Accounting Office report criticizing the National Nuclear Security Administration's management of physical security at three labs and four other Energy sites.

Although NNSA was created three years ago'in response to security problems at Los Alamos National Laboratory'the agency is still defining clear roles and responsibilities for safeguarding the security of the weapons labs and managing its contractors, GAO officials wrote in the report.

Over the past six months, new Los Alamos security lapses, including missing notebook and desktop computers, have come to light, resulting in Energy's decision to put the lab's management contract out to bid for the first time in 60 years [see story at www.gcn.com/22_11/tech-report/22073-1.html]. Sandia National Laboratory and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory have also experienced physical security problems, such as a recent case of missing keys at Livermore.

'The Department of Energy views security as the critical responsibility of the national laboratories, and we treat any lapse or failure as significant,' Abraham said in a statement.

On June 16, the Energy inspector general's office released a report auditing the management of so-called sensitive property, defined as 'equipment susceptible to misappropriation for personal use or readily convertible to cash''a category including PCs and personal digital assistants.

Officials of three Energy-funded sites were able to locate almost all the sensitive items that the IG's office sampled, but only through an effort that 'exceeded normal expectations,' IG Gregory H. Friedman wrote. The office found 43 computers without U.S. government property stickers, and stolen equipment was not always reported to the National Crimes Information Center.

The IG's report covered Livermore, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, all in California. Berkeley and the accelerator lab are not under NNSA's purview.

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