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 U.S. Office of Special Counsel
 1730 M Street, N.W., Suite 218
 Washington, D.C. 20036-4505

OSC: Questions Remain on Energy Department
Response to Nuclear Facilities Security Deficiencies

CONTACT: LOREN SMITH, 202-254-3714, lsmith@osc.gov
      WASHINGTON—The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) today transmitted a letter to the President detailing findings regarding allegations of a violation of law, rule or regulation, and a substantial and specific danger to public safety at the nation’s class “A” nuclear research facilities and laboratories managed by the Department of Energy (DOE). DOE’s class “A” facilities are charged with, among other things, research, disassembly of nuclear weapons stockpiles, storage of nuclear components and raw materials including Special Nuclear Material used for nuclear weapons, and the replacement and refurbishment of nuclear weapons components used by the U.S. military.

      The whistleblower, Mr. Richard Levernier, a DOE Program Specialist, alleged violations of law, rule or regulation and serious deficiencies in DOE’s Safeguards and Securities Program. He alleged that due to the deficiencies in that program, DOE’s class “A” nuclear research facilities and laboratories were vulnerable to terrorist attack, theft, and sabotage. Mr. Levernier’s allegations fall into four categories: 1) the alleged failure of DOE class “A” nuclear facilities to employ explosives detection equipment as required by DOE Order; 2) alleged deficiencies in DOE’s force-on-force performance tests at its nuclear facilities; 3) alleged deficiencies in DOE’s Safeguards and Security process; 4) alleged security risks at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Mr. Levernier was particularly concerned with the serious consequences which could result from a terrorist attack, including sabotage or theft of Special Nuclear Material and the creation of an explosive device used to destroy a facility or against other targets in the U.S.

      The Secretary of Energy tasked officials of the National Nuclear Security Administration with investigating the allegations and writing the report. Although the agency acknowledged that some of what Mr. Levernier described was accurate, the report did not substantiate the allegations. DOE concluded that Mr. Levernier’s information was outdated and that he was not aware of the specifics of the agency’s present security programs. The agency maintained that it was adequately carrying out its protective function.

      Mr. Levernier provided comprehensive comments on the report which include additional reports written by the General Accounting Office, DOE’s Office of Inspector General and a recent independent review conducted by retired Navy Admiral Richard Mies. These reports identify serious problems and continuing concerns with DOE’s management and how the agency operates its security program.

      After review of the information, the Special Counsel concluded that he was unable to determine whether or not the agency’s findings were reasonable. The agency’s responses, when viewed against the widespread criticism, do not seem to provide a complete and accurate picture of DOE’s security program. Given the continuing, longstanding concerns with DOE’s ability to accomplish its mission, continued oversight of and inquiry into DOE’s security program is needed to ensure that these critically important materials and facilities are not subject to theft or sabotage.

      Special Counsel Scott J. Bloch said, “This case underscores the significance of issues that whistleblowers raise. There are abiding concerns about whether we are doing enough to safeguard nuclear stockpiles and facilities. The additional information presented by Mr. Levernier casts doubt upon the agency’s confident expression of its readiness to defend the nuclear research facilities and nuclear assets within its custody. Mr. Levernier and others raise issues important to our national security, and more can be done to assure the public about these safety issues.”



The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) is an independent investigative and prosecutorial agency and operates as a secure channel for disclosures of whistleblower complaints. Its primary mission is to safeguard the merit system in federal employment by protecting federal employees and applicants from prohibited personnel practices, especially retaliation for whistleblowing. OSC also has jurisdiction over the Hatch Act and the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). For more information please visit our web site at www.osc.gov or call 1 (800) 872-9855.