August 31, 2023

The National Nuclear Security Administration’s Universal Change Control Process in Relation to the Stockpile Surveillance Program

Surveillance testing is the process whereby individual weapons undergo inspections, including inspections and tests of components and materials, to determine whether performance expectations are met and to acquire a deeper understanding of material degradation mechanisms.

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) uses a Universal Change Control Process to initiate, communicate, evaluate, control, and document changes in surveillance testing requirements.  We conducted this audit to determine if NNSA’s Universal Change Control Process captures negative impacts to surveillance testing scope, cost, or schedule.

We determined there were weaknesses in NNSA’s Universal Change Control Process, which limited NNSA’s access to and use of data regarding impacts to surveillance testing cost, scope, or schedule.  While NNSA defined a process for change control of its surveillance activities, we identified gaps in NNSA’s policies and procedures concerning the Universal Change Control Process.  Specifically, NNSA was not maintaining all approved change forms; therefore, NNSA did not have a history of the reasoning behind decisions that changed surveillance testing cost, scope, or schedule.  Additionally, we found that changes directed by a Federal employee to surveillance testing cost, scope, or schedule did not require a change form.  As a result, documentation standards between Federal employees and contractors were inconsistent.

These gaps occurred because NNSA’s policy for the Universal Change Control Process did not address how changes to surveillance testing cost, scope, or schedule should be documented and maintained after approval, nor did it specify which personnel were required to submit a change form.

Because of the corrective actions taken by NNSA during the course of our audit, there is no expected ongoing impact as a result of what we identified during this audit.

NNSA took immediate action to address our findings.  These actions will help NNSA ensure that change forms are completed for all changes to surveillance testing cost, scope, or schedule; and will ensure that documentation of the changes is maintained, so it can be used in making future decisions and in conducting trend analysis to identify problem areas.  Because NNSA implemented corrective actions during the course of the audit, we have no additional recommendations.