Audit Report: DOE-OIG-20-28

You are here

February 21, 2020

Office of Science Contract Reform Efforts at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

Since 1962, Stanford University has managed and operated SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory (SLAC) for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science.  SLAC is 1 of the 10 Office of Science laboratories and is home to a 2-mile long particle accelerator, an x-ray laser, and a broad range of scientific research and experiments.

In August 2016, the Office of Science Director recommended that the Department implement a new model contract with Stanford University for a trial period of 3 years.  Accordingly, the Department’s Office of Science, Stanford University, and SLAC jointly developed a new model contract by reevaluating, modifying, and streamlining the traditional management and operating contract.  In October 2016, SLAC began the process of implementing the new model contract.  In light of the contract reform efforts within the Department, and since SLAC was chosen as the initial pilot site, we initiated this audit to evaluate how the Office of Science’s contract reform efforts impacted SLAC’s health and safety, safeguards and security, human resources, and procurement functions.

The audit was performed from June 2019 through January 2020 with a review of SLAC’s contract reform efforts that included contract modifications and deviations from Department of Energy requirements.  During our review, nothing came to our attention to indicate that the contract reform efforts have increased risk at SLAC or materially changed the Department’s Federal oversight. 

In our review of the administrative changes resulting from the contract reform efforts, we concluded that the changes were risk-neutral in nature and did not yield any exceptions based on the results of our limited testing.  While it is encouraging to recognize the positive results of the contract reform efforts at SLAC, it is important to note that we do not provide any assurance that similar efforts implemented at other sites would produce a similar outcome because each site is unique with its own culture, leadership, and oversight structure.  Therefore, in our judgment, a careful review and examination of each site planning to implement a new contract model is fully warranted.  At this time, we are not providing any recommendations.

Topic: Management and Administration