More Insecurity At Lawrence Livermore Lab
The Government Accountability Office is taking aim at continuing problems with security at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, a significant proportion of which is provided by contractors.
The place has been bedeviled by questions about breaches in recent years, some of them really over the top.
One year ago, a government commando team intent on testing the facility's defense quickly overcame security forces. Here's what Time magazine had to say at the time:
"The exercise highlighted a number of serious security shortcomings at Livermore, sources say, including the failure of a hydraulic system essential to operating an extremely lethal Gatling gun that protects the facility. Experts contacted by TIME -- including congressional staff from both parties informed of the episode, and experts personally familiar with safeguards at Livermore -- all said that the test amounts to an embarrassment to those responsible for securing the nation's nuclear facilities, and that it required immediate steps to correct what some called the most dangerous security weaknesses ever found at the lab."
Since then, the lab has promised an array of initiatives to fix the problems. But there are not enough measures in place to ensure those efforts are successful, according to a Government Accountability Office review.
"DOE's Office of Independent Oversight found numerous and wide-ranging security deficiencies with LLNL's safeguards and security program. DOE gave the laboratory the lowest possible rating in two security areas: protective force performance and classified matter protection and control. The Office of Independent Oversight also reported that LLNL's physical security systems, such as alarms and sensors, and its security program planning and assurance activities needed improvement."
"Weaknesses in LLNL's self-assessment program and LSO's oversight contributed to security deficiencies at the laboratory. LLNL's security self-assessment program and LSO's annual security survey failed to identify numerous security deficiencies before DOE's Office of Independent Oversight conducted its inspection.
"According to one DOE official, both programs were "broken" and missed even the "low-hanging fruit" of compliance-oriented deficiencies. More specifically, LLNL's self-assessment program should have identified the magnitude of technical problems with a key weapon system used at the laboratory. Furthermore, LSO's September 2007 security survey gave LLNL 100-percent satisfactory ratings in its security performance--differing markedly from the security performance DOE observed during its inspection a short time later. To address these issues, LSO is implementing a new program to better train security officials to perform security assessments and recognize deficiencies; however, according to LSO officials, LSO does not have a specific budget to implement this new security training program."
Defenders of the lab complained that the test attack was not realistic and that the Time story was exaggerated. Fair enough. The GAO review appears to be telling us that in any case there's more work to be done on this very important security matter.
By Robert O'Harrow |
April 15, 2009; 3:45 PM ET
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