September 29, 2016

Followup Audit of the Department’s Continuity of Operations Planning

Continuity of Operations (COOP) is an effort within individual executive departments and agencies to ensure that essential functions can be performed during and after emergency events that disrupt normal activities.  National Security Presidential Directive 51, National Continuity Policy, and Federal Continuity Directive 1, Federal Executive Branch National Continuity Program and Requirements, require that organizations develop and document a COOP plan and supporting procedures so that, when implemented, the plan and procedures provide for the continued performance of an organization’s essential functions under all circumstances.  Because the Department of Energy is responsible for some of the Nation’s most critical and sensitive activities, such as designing, producing, and maintaining the nation’s nuclear weapons, it is imperative that it is able to perform these essential functions across a broad spectrum of events, including emergencies related to natural disasters and pandemics.

In January 2011, our prior audit on Improvements Needed in the Department’s Emergency Preparedness and Continuity of Operations Planning (DOE/IG-0845) found that many Department elements had not submitted updated COOP plans, some site offices had not added the COOP Contractor Requirements Document to their management and operating (M&O) contracts, and the COOP plans for some program and field elements did not give full consideration to requirements contained in the Department’s continuity directive.  

This audit identified continued weaknesses in the management of COOP programs at Headquarters program and staff offices (program elements), field elements, and at the Department’s M&O and facility management contractors.  While some progress had been made in adding the COOP Contractor Requirements Document to M&O contracts, several previously identified issues had not been resolved.  In addition, our review of the pandemic section of the Department’s April 2013 Continuity of Operations Plan disclosed that, while providing guidance to Department program and field elements, it did not establish pandemic planning procedures that addressed how the Department would respond to a pandemic event in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area.  

The COOP issues we identified occurred, in part, because the Department failed to properly identify the resources necessary to maintain a functional COOP program.  Department officials at Headquarters program and field offices stated that constraints in resources and the lack of priority placed on the COOP program led to the continued weaknesses we identified.  We also noted a lack of coordination and collaboration among Headquarters staff offices in developing a pandemic plan for Headquarters.  Department elements and contractors that have not yet developed a COOP plan or whose plans are outdated or incomplete could hinder the Department’s ability to meet its mission essential functions related to national security during a continuity event.  

Topic: Management & Administration