Inspection Report: DOE-OIG-19-27

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April 19, 2019

Low Altitude Airspace Security over Select Department of Energy Sites

In recent years, Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), commonly known as “drones,” are becoming increasingly popular.  The increasing availability and improved capabilities of small UAS enhances the potential for use in illicit operations, including surveillance, disruption, and weaponization.  The Office of Environment, Health, Safety and Security is the author of the Department of Energy’s security directives, which are overseen by Federal personnel and implemented by the Department’s security contractors.  We conducted this inspection to determine whether the Department has effective controls to address UAS encounters.

We determined that the Department has not made a threat determination on UAS utilizing the most current information pertaining to UAS capabilities; therefore, the Department may not have effective controls in place to address such encounters.  Specifically, based on information available as of 2016, the Department did not deem UAS as an attack platform in Department Order 470.3C, Design Basis Threat.  Utilizing the information available at the time, the Office of Environment, Health, Safety and Security determined that UAS were not likely to be used in an attack against Department assets.  However, more current information has heightened the Office of Environment, Health, Safety and Security’s concerns regarding the rapid increase in technology, opportunity, and availability of UAS.

It is essential that effective security controls are in place at Department sites to protect against UAS, and ultimately, to protect the overall security of the Department’s interests.  Accordingly, to ensure that the potential risks from UAS are adequately addressed, we recommended that the Office of Environment, Health, Safety and Security make a determination on the criticality of UAS threats and ensure that the Department uses the appropriate process to update security controls based on the most recent information available concerning UAS capabilities.

Topic: National Security & Safety