By Benjamin Grove
SUN WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF
September 15, 2005
WASHINGTON -- Security is lacking at the nation's nuclear weapons
sites, including the Nevada Test Site, according to a recent report,
but government officials say many improvements already have been made
since the inspections that were the basis for the report.
The study also backs a long-considered proposal that nuclear weapons
and materials should be consolidated at fewer, better protected sites.
It identifies the isolated, under-utilized Nevada Test Site, 60 miles
northwest of Las Vegas, and Idaho National Laboratory as two logical
choices for consolidation.
The Test Site is already accepting at its high-security Device
Assembly Facility some weapons-grade nuclear materials from the
Technical Area 18 site at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New
The 121-page report was commissioned by the Energy Department,
authored by retired U.S. Navy Adm. Richard Mies. It was made public
earlier this month.
Among the report's findings was that the National Nuclear Security
Administration, the semi-autonomous agency affiliated with the Energy
Department that runs the Test Site, is plagued by cultural problems
that hamper security. The report notes that the problems include:
* The lack of team approach to security.
* An underappreciation of security, which is not fully embraced by
everyone as integral to the weapons sites' missions.
* A bias against training.
* A lack of trust in the security organization.
* An absence of accountability.
Security at the Nevada Test Site has been faulted. Security guards in
a mock attack exercise in August 2004 rated poorly. In another
instance, an Energy Department audit noted that a guard brought
unauthorized handguns to the Test Site during a 2003 training event.
The security firm Wackenhut, which provides security for a number of
nuclear plants and other facilities nationwide, has been the
contracted security firm at the Test Site since 1965. The firm is
being paid $44 million this year.
Wackenhut's current contract expires Sept. 30, and bids are under
review, including a Wackenhut bid to continue work. But it is not
known when the job award will be announced, spokesman Kevin Rohrer
NNSA officials have said the Test Site is secure and that improvements
have been made since last year.
The NNSA has already implemented 70 percent of the recommendations
from the Mies report, NNSA Administrator Linton Brooks said. He
commissioned the study in 2002.
"I believe that security oversight and execution are greatly improved
over where we were when I asked for this review," Brooks said in a
"Admiral Mies advised NNSA about his findings as the review was under
way and that has helped us get to where we are today."
Sept 16-18th, 2005
San Diego, California