By PETER STOCKTON and LYDIA DENNETT
Cheating on security tests is nothing new for Wackenhut Services Inc.’s Oak Ridge unit (WSI-OR) at the Y-12 National Security Complex. In September POGO reported that, once again, Wackenhut, the security contractor at the Tennessee nuclear weapons facility, was accused of cheating on security performance tests that were administered at the complex after an 82-year-old nun and two accomplices broke in this July.
Now, the Department of Energy (DOE) Inspector General (IG) has released a report about the cheating, finding that copies of the test questions and answers “had been distributed in advance of the test to…the very people whose knowledge was to have been evaluated as part of this process.”
According to the IG report, the test was sent by encrypted email to “trusted agents” at Babcock and Wilcox Y-12, the managing and operating contractor at Y-12, for review. One of the officials sent the test to a WSI-OR manager for comment, an apparently common practice as these officials often don’t have the specific knowledge to provide informed feedback. The WSI-OR manager proceeded to send the test materials to two other Protective Force officers, none of whom were deemed trusted agents. The WSI-OR officials “treated the documents as if they were a training aid and widely distributed it to a variety of officers.” This cheating was discovered when a federal inspector found a copy of the test on the seat of a guard vehicle the day before it was to be administered.
The IG report called the failure to safeguard the test “inexplicable and inexcusable.”
The IG said “WSI-OR personnel testified uniformly that there was no intent to cheat on the [Office of Health, Safety and Security] inspection.” However, the investigators found this “questionable, especially in light of a number of actions that we identified related to the transmission, review and distribution of the test that, at best, demonstrated a lack of due care and negligence.”
The IG report also highlighted the problem of “contractor governance” and the need for more federal oversight when administering performance tests.
“In our view, Federal officials should have an active role in reviewing, commenting, and controlling testing material. The use of contractors is not an optimal situation and, if necessary because of gaps in coverage by Federal officials, should be minimized and tightly controlled,” the IG report said.
Frank Munger of the Knoxville News Sentinel highlighted the fact that this may not be an isolated incident. The senior B&W Y-12 official who first received the test and passed it on to WSI-OR officials, works at another high security site and indicated “that he had taken similar actions prior to administering tests at the other DOE site.” It is clear that more federal oversight at nuclear weapons labs is necessary to prevent these increasingly disturbing lapses in security.
Wackenhut Services Inc. fired one officer, but did not release his or her name or position in response to POGO’s inquiry. WSI-OR has been fired from Y-12 for their poor handling of the recent break in.
POGO recommends that Wackenhut be immediately debarred from receiving future federal security contracts. The risks are too great to allow this company to continually cheat and jeopardize the nuclear weapons complex.
Peter Stockton is a senior investigator at the Project On Government Oversight. Lydia Dennett is a research associate at the Project On
Government Oversight. Image from Flickr user Mr_Stein.