Bill targets DOE nuclear lab security

A bill introduced Wednesday would increase inspections of information security

systems at the Energy Department's nuclear weapons laboratories across the

country.

"For too long, security has been dangerously flawed at DOE and its laboratories,"

said Rep. Tom Bliley (R-Va.), chairman of the House Commerce Committee.

Bliley, who introduced the bill, complained that DOE's inspections of its

sites had fallen off dramatically in the past few years. He said that problems

were overlooked by inspectors or not adequately corrected by plant officials.

For example, Los Alamos National Laboratory was inspected in 1994, and although

DOE found problems, the department's inspection team did not return to the

site until 1997 to make sure the flaws had been fixed.

Los Alamos also received "excellent" and "marginal" ratings in security

from two oversight officials in the same year, Bliley said.

"It is clear that DOE needs consistent, vigorous, independent and high-level

oversight of its sites' security operations to ensure that they do not repeat

the seemingly endless pattern of short-lived reforms and temporary fixes,"

Bliley said.

The bill would create an Office of Independent Security Oversight within

DOE to inspect the department's major nuclear weapons sites once every 18

months to make sure its physical plant and information security systems

are up-to-date and operating properly.

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