Thursday, December 13, 2007
Lab's Management Gets Mixed Grade
By Raam Wong
Journal Staff Writer
An "official use only" document prepared within Los Alamos National Laboratory gives the lab's new corporate management a mixed grade on matters of safety and security.
There have been 13 highest-level security breaches since June 2006, when the lab came under the management of the contractor Los Alamos National Security, according to the document, a slide presentation given to lab managers in September on security and safety trends.
"These incidents cause doubt of our ability to protect national secrets, potentially cost millions in fines, and bring in additional external oversight," one of the slides says.
At the same time, the number of employee injuries and missed work days have fallen significantly, under LANS, a partnership among Bechtel, the University of California and others, the slides say.
The document, marked "dissemination prohibited," was obtained by the Project on Government Oversight and released Wednesday.
The Washington, D.C.-based group said in a statement: "The impact of poor work force management and the government turning oversight of safety and security to the contractor leads inexorably to personnel upheaval, congressional oversight and, most importantly, national security breaches that affect the entire nation."
IMI-1 incidents are defined as "any security incident that can be expected to cause serious damage to national security or (Department of Energy) interests."
Lab spokesman Kevin Roark said that, statistically speaking, the number of IMI-1 incidents since LANS took over is flat, if not decreasing.
Roark said the lab takes the incidents seriously and follows up with comprehensive inquiries and new procedures and polices when warranted.
Roark said in the last year the lab has significantly cut back and consolidated its holdings of classified items, thereby reducing the risk of a security breach.
A few high-profile security incidents have occurred on the partnership's watch. In January, members of the lab's corporate management team e-mailed classified nuclear weapons information, requiring security officials to track down and recover the laptop computers used to send the e-mails.
And last year, a contract worker named Jessica Quintana took home hundreds of pages of classified documents.
Of the 13 incidents mentioned in the slide presentation, all of them involved the lack of protection and/or the release of classified information, according to the slides. And two of the incidents involved visiting guests sponsored by active lab employees.
One of the slides entitled "security improvement" showed photos of a lab security guard demonstrating proper traffic hand signals.
Referring to the slide, POGO Executive Director Danielle Brian said: "Can you believe one of new security measures touted in the presentation was the use of stop-and-go hand signals for guards posted at vehicle entrances? It hurts too much to laugh."