August 29, 2012

Inquiry into the Security Breach at the National Nuclear Security Administration's Y-12 National Security Complex

We initiated this inquiry to identify the circumstances surrounding the Y-12 National Security Complex breach because of the importance of ensuring the safe and secure storage of nuclear materials.  Our review found that the Y-12 security incident represented multiple system failures on several levels.  We identified troubling displays of ineptitude in responding to alarms, failures to maintain critical security equipment, over reliance on compensatory measures, misunderstanding of security protocols, poor communications, and weaknesses in contract and resource management.  Contractor governance and Federal oversight failed to identify and correct early indicators of these multiple system breakdowns.  When combined, these issues directly contributed to an atmosphere in which the trespassers could gain access to the protected security area directly adjacent to one of the Nation's most critically important and highly secured weapons-related facilities.  We noted that following the incident, Y-12 and the National Nuclear Security Administration took a number of actions designed to improve security at the site.  However, the successful intrusion at Y-12 raised serious questions about the overall security approach at the facility. 

Given the unprecedented nature of this security event, prompt and effective corrective actions are essential.  Accordingly, we made several recommendations for corrective actions in the report.  NNSA management agreed to implement the report's recommendations and outlined a number of corrective actions it had initiated or completed.  Management's comments were responsive to the report and its recommendations.

Topic: National Security & Safety