DOE contract management, security targeted

Security and counterintelligence issues aren't the only problems the Energy Department must remedy, according to the General Accounting Office's Performance and Accountability Series report released Jan. 17.

GAO also found weaknesses in DOE's project, contract and financial management capabilities.

"In the past, the DOE has responded to [security] recommendations, but hasn't always followed through to implement those changes in the long term," said Gary Jones, director of natural resources and the environment at GAO.

Jones said the department has given its overall security issues a much greater priority since some well-documented lapses, but real improvements are going to require a "major culture change...and sustained management attention to make sure these things work."

The department's contract management abilities were first deemed high-risk in 1990, and "[we] continue to believe that contract management—contract administration and project management—is at high risk for fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement," according to the report.

"Effective contract management is vital for DOE because the department relies heavily on contractors to achieve its national security, research and environmental cleanup missions," the report said.

GAO recommended that DOE arrange an outside technical review of some of its major projects, but did acknowledge that the department's move to performance-based contracts is a step in the right direction.

In regard to financial management, DOE's Office of Inspector General found weaknesses in the financial management systems for the Western Area Power Administration in a February 2000 audit, and the problems still existed in November when the next audit was conducted.

The OIG recommended that Energy's chief financial officer "develop procedures for verifying data about the facilities," and the department's management agreed to implement those initiatives.

"Among the [information security] fixes put in place are a new/revised set of DOE procedures addressing password management and network security improvements and many other cybersecurity areas," said Howard Landon, chief information officer at the DOE.

Landon also said the department has received some direct funding from Congress that has been targeted for security enhancements throughout DOE.

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