How much the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) actually costs has always been a bit of a mystery. (We do know that its costs estimate was $700 million when the Department of Energy (DOE) sold the project to Congress in the early 1990s, yet we heard recently that its cost estimate is in the $5-6 billion range). Today, there may just be some proof that LLNL has been shuffling accounting books to intentionally mislead DOE and the public about the true costs of the mega laser.
Tri-Valley CAREs has released a press release and a DOE financial review that found that Livermore Lab's practice of assigning NIF overhead expenses to other Lab programs is “non-compliant” with Public Law 100-679 Cost Accounting Standards, a key part of the structure set up to regulate government contracts. The DOE reviewers found that these accounting techniques give “extraordinary special treatment to NIF” and are “inequitable” to other lab programs.
We hate to say "we told you so,"
warned DOE Secretary
Steven Chu that NIF
was not a good example
of “Project Management Excellence.” DOE has it turned around: they
made an award before receiving the results of a financial review.
-- Ingrid Drake