After an embarrassing breach of security at the Y-12 National Security Complex in July, the Project On Government Oversight has learned that the Department of Energy’s Office of Independent Oversight Program (IO) will conduct a full review of security at Y-12 before the end of this month, including a performance test of the guard force, which means force-on-force exercises.
The IO team arrived today at Y-12, and POGO is concerned that there is pressure on IO to dumb-down the performance tests by DOE Program Offices and the Office of the Secretary. IO might be capable, but under the circumstances, DOE should consider using the Defense Department’s Grizzly Hitch as the adversaries. They are a unit of the Army Special Forces out of Fort Bragg that have been used in the past to test DOE guard forces. In fact, because they are independent of DOE, they would provide a true assessment of Y-12’s security operations.
POGO has also learned that IO teams will conduct additional performance tests (including force-on-force drills) at each of the CAT 1 sites—sites with bomb-grade uranium and plutonium—including Savannah River, Oak Ridge National Lab, Idaho National Lab, Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos, and Pantex. Those tests are scheduled for the next twelve months, but POGO believes they should be conducted in the next six months or less.
Additionally, a DoD security team will conduct force-on-force security tests in September at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
These security tests are needed, but DOE and DoD must ensure that they present genuine conditions and that security forces aren’t practicing based on a scripted plan. If an 82-year-old nun was able to breach Y-12 and wander around, we need to reconsider our approach to protecting the nuclear arsenal.
Peter Stockton is a senior investigator at the Project On Government Oversight. Image from U.S. Army.