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Nuclear security: Mission failure

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Contact Colin McNickle (412-320-7836 or

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Sunday, July 6, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) has mismanaged its mission to secure U.S. nuclear stockpiles and classified research sites so badly that renaming it the National Nuclear Insecurity Administration hardly would be an exaggeration.

A new Government Accountability Office report traces the agency's woes to its 2009 attempt “to reform its security measures in a bid to cut costs of about $53 million,” according to The Washington Free Beacon. Allowing independent security contractors “greater authority,” the agency actually “increased security risks and reduced security performance,” the GAO says.

Cuts in “critical protective force posts and patrols” likely contributed to “three trespassers (gaining) access to the protected area directly adjacent to one of the nation's most critically important nuclear weapon-related facilities” in Tennessee in 2012. And since then, NNSA officials admit, its security policy has been “chaotic” and “dysfunctional,” with false starts toward developing a clear security plan and implementation strategy, procedures varying among facilities, inspections being scaled back and reliance on contractors increasing.

The premise that no savings can justify inadequate U.S. nuclear-weapons security should have been self-evident to the NNSA but apparently wasn't. Thus, all necessary steps now must be taken to reverse the agency's bungling — so that America won't shoot itself in the foot this way again.

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