July 7, 2021

Management of Institutional General Plant Projects at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

As 1 of the 8 National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) sites, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) maintains 686 buildings with 6.1 million total square feet of floor space.  The age of the buildings, about 42 years on average, along with historically low maintenance budgets, has created a large backlog of buildings and systems in need of revitalization or modernization.  NNSA accomplishes this, in part, through minor construction projects referred to as General Plant Projects.  According to Department of Energy Order 430.1B, Real Property Asset Management, General Plant Projects are necessary to adapt facilities to new or improved production techniques; to affect economies of operations; and to reduce or eliminate health, fire, and safety problems.  Department Order 430.1B also identifies a class of General Plant Projects called Institutional General Plant Projects (IGPP). 

We initiated this audit to determine whether LLNL managed its IGPP in accordance with applicable guidance.  We found that LLNL followed applicable Department IGPP guidance for two of the three projects we reviewed.  The two projects that complied with Department IGPP guidance included a manufacturing laboratory and a utilities project that provided needed utilities to LLNL.  We found that these two projects benefited multiple programs at LLNL; therefore, they were institutional in nature.  However, we found that the third project, a $7.2 million renovation to Building 490, did not comply with Department IGPP guidance that required the project to be of a general institutional nature whose benefit cannot be directly attributed to a specific or single program and are required for general-purpose sitewide needs.  The issues occurred, in part, because of incorrect interpretations of funding requirements for IGPPs and because of ineffective project reviews by LLNL and Livermore Field Office officials.

One recommendation was made to the Department’s Acting Chief Financial Officer who concurred with the recommendation to review the potential violations identified and, in coordination with the Office of General Counsel, issue a determination consistent with the Office of General Counsel’s legal guidance and provide any appropriate recommendations regarding disciplinary actions.  The other six recommendations were made to NNSA management.  NNSA nonconcurred with many of our findings and recommendations and concurred in principle with one of the recommendations.  The Office of Inspector General will await the Chief Financial Officer’s determination on the potential violations of the Antideficiency Act, the purpose statute, and bona fide need rule.  Since management’s proposed corrective actions are not consistent with our recommendations, we do not consider these recommendations closed.

It should be noted that NNSA’s comments address a prior recommendation that has since been eliminated.  Specifically, in the prior draft report, our first recommendation was for NNSA to obtain a legal opinion as to whether the Building 490 renovation project violated the Antideficiency Act and/or the purpose statute.  Since our first draft report, NNSA obtained a legal opinion; therefore, we eliminated the associated recommendation from this report.

Topic: Management & Administration