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Hamre Commission Takes Hard Look at Security Mismanagement at Weapons Labs

By Desirée Scorcia

The Commission on Science and Security, charged with studying security in DOE weapons laboratories, has released a report identifying problems with the labs' current security structure. John Hamre, former Deputy Secretary of Defense and President and CEO of the Center of Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), chaired the commission, which was established in October 2000 by then Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson.

The weapons labs are managed independently of DOE's Office of Science, which funds physics research at universities and other national labs. The report, issued last spring, says "DOE's policies and practices risk undermining its security and compromising its science and technology programs." It cites "management dysfunction" and "woefully inadequate" investments in security and counterintelligence technology, among other problems.

"It is critical to understand that excellence in science and sound security are not mutually exclusive objectives," Hamre said in a press release. "The laboratories in the Department of Energy are national treasures, but they are obviously targets of foreign espionage and need to be better secured against that threat. They are also at risk because of inappropriate and ineffective security solutions from the past that are now undermining the creative environment we need in these institutions to meet our national objectives."

One major problem identified in the report is that the DOE's "continuing management dysfunction impairs its ability to carry out its science and security missions." As a consequence, security policy lacks clarity, consistency, and strategic planning.

To solve this problem, the commission recommends that the DOE clarify the security responsibilities of each employee, trim excess management, and establish a security budget that is controlled by laboratory directors.

Collaboration between the science and security communities is also "badly damaged," the commission found. These communities also disagree about which research requires protection and how best to provide it. To rectify this situation, the commission recommends integrating science and security by making the laboratory director both chief scientist and security director of his lab.

The report went on to recommend tailoring security to the risks unique to each research project, investing in new, hi-tech security measures such as biometric identification systems to replace the current, paper-based system, and increasing cyber security in all of the labs.

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Editor: Alan Chodos
Associate Editor: Jennifer Ouellette