September 29, 2023
Alleged Administrative Leave Abuse at the Office of Secure Transportation
The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) was established in 2000 as a semi-autonomous agency within the Department of Energy. NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, and effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile. In 1975, the Office of Secure Transportation (OST) was established for the safe and secure transport of Government-owned special nuclear materials in the contiguous U.S. In fulfilling its responsibility, NNSA, through OST, employs, trains, and administers a workforce of Federal Agents, known as OST Nuclear Materials Couriers (OST Couriers), whose primary responsibility is the safe and secure transport of such materials. OST Couriers are permanently assigned to their duty stations: Albuquerque, New Mexico; Amarillo, Texas; or Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and OST Couriers can spend up to 3 weeks per month traveling throughout the contiguous 48 states on mission assignments or in training. Their duties require scheduled and irregular hours, personal risk, and arduous exertion under real and potentially adverse environmental conditions.
On March 13, 2022, the Department’s Office of Inspector General received an allegation that OST was abusing administrative leave. Specifically, it was alleged that: (1) OST Couriers were granted more administrative leave hours than allowed for reasons that did not meet regulatory guidelines, and (2) a former OST Courier worked outside employment while on administrative leave. Additionally, the complainant alleged that prior to NNSA’s 2019 timecard review, OST Couriers were “tricking” the Automated Time Attendance and Production System by cancelling leave to prevent paid overtime. This was a change from the initial complaint. The complainant further alleged that an employee used their Government travel card to purchase materials needed to build a fence at their house.
We initiated this inspection to determine the facts and circumstances surrounding the allegations.
We did not substantiate the allegation that OST Couriers were abusing administrative leave. However, we did find that OST’s practice allowed employees to use extended periods of administrative leave hours that, although this practice is in accordance with the regulatory guidelines, raised concerns. Also, we did not substantiate that a former OST Courier worked outside employment while on administrative leave. Additionally, with respect to the allegation that OST Officers were cancelling leave in the Automated Time Attendance and Production System, we confirmed with the complainant that this was no longer a valid concern based on actions taken because of an NNSA 2019 timecard review. Lastly, we did not substantiate that an employee used their Government travel card to purchase materials needed to build a fence at their home.
During our inspection, we did not identify any issues that need to be addressed. Therefore, we made no recommendations or suggested actions, and no management response is required.