WASHINGTON, D.C. – Emphasizing that EM is capable of “big things,” Assistant Secretary Anne White laid out her vision and priorities for the environmental cleanup program in two public appearances last week.
White pledged to bring more rigor to the EM program, and stated that she aims to reinstill a completion mentality focused on getting complex jobs done through new mindsets in contracting and procurement, and regulatory reform.
“Collectively, we have to think bigger and smarter about how to get to completion,” she said, crediting that attitude to successes EM enjoyed in accomplishing cleanup at the Rocky Flats and Fernald sites, and in the successful demolition of the massive K-25 Building at Oak Ridge.
“There is lots of work to do, but this is a program that can be successful,” she said.
White made remarks last Wednesday to the annual meeting of the Energy Facility Contractors Group (EFCOG). Several hours later, she delivered the message to an audience of the House Nuclear Cleanup Caucus event that included several members of Congress who represent cleanup sites.
White said EM is reviving the concept of “end state contracting” in major contracts and procurements coming up in upcoming months. These contracts will help shape EM over the next 10 years or so.
"We’re going to create a situation where there is a very defined work scope that has specific end states that lead to limiting liabilities to get them off the books,” she said. “The concept is that it will deliver real results that are measurable and reduce risk. That gets successes rolling a little more quickly in a more defined way. It creates some enthusiasm for the program, for the mission.”
Addressing contractors, White said, “We’re absolutely partners. We have to be partners. We have to work together between headquarters, field sites, and the contractors to effectively deliver this program, and that needs to be a well-functioning machine.”
White emphasized the importance of holding contractors accountable.
“But when they are performing and doing the work properly and safely, we need to have contracting structures that incent that in a very strong way. We need you guys to bring your ‘A-Team,’ and your “A-Game.’”
Beyond contracting reform, White said EM was engaged in an administration-wide effort at regulatory reform.
“I know people always say we need to do regulatory reform, but this administration certainly has demonstrated they are working to be fairly aggressive in that area, so EM is very engaged in that process,” White said. “The next part of it always is making sure that the implementation is driven down into the field in a way that is meaningful, provides cost savings and effectiveness.”
White addressed the EFCOG annual meeting at DOE headquarters. At the caucus event held on Capitol Hill, she took part in a discussion with EFCOG chairman Billy Morrison. She was also welcomed by Rep. Chuck Fleishmann of Tennessee, caucus chairman, and by co-chair Rep. Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico.
White said her vision of success for EM is one in which many can share credit.
“It has to be not my success. It has to be our success,” she said. “It has to be the program’s success. For me, I would like to see the program in such a stable mode that we have all worked together to create a path forward.”
White, who was sworn in to her post on March 29, said she was surprised — and concerned — that the government’s environmental liabilities are the third largest behind only the federal debt and entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security, and that the environmental liabilities associated with the EM program are a major part of that.
“It’s a substantial liability. It’s growing, not getting smaller,” White said at the caucus event. She said her focus is on “getting an understanding of what’s driving that, getting it under control and getting the systems, the contracting and all the things that are needed to really start making some meaningful reduction against that liability.”
She added, “We need to capture the moment, move forward, and start to reduce these liabilities.”