DOE accused of shirking duty to lock down country's nuclear secrets

DOE accused of shirking duty to lock down country's nuclear secrets

DOE accused of shirking duty to lock down country's nuclear secrets

A three-decade veteran of the U.S. Air Force says it's clear that the Department of Energy, for nearly a decade, has failed to implement security recommendations to protect America's nuclear secrets – both military and civilian.

According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GOA), the Department of Energy (DOE) continues to leave America's nuclear secrets vulnerable to "insider" threats, whether by theft of nuclear material or compromise of information – and the result, says a GOA report, could have "devastating consequences."

American Family News spoke to Air Force Col. (Ret.) Rob Maness, a former bomber squadron commander who served the U.S. military for more than 30 years. Maness explains that in his last active-duty assignment in 2011 he headed up "a large operation that involved nuclear security." The retired officer says he's not surprised by the GOA's May 2023 Nuclear Security Report.

"Even then, in 2011, the military's intelligence capability was telling us that the insider threat was the biggest threat," he adds.

While the DOE said it took several security measures in 2014, the report released last month reveals that not all required measures for its Insider Threat Program have been implemented.

"What this says about the DOE is that there's pretty compelling evidence that somebody's not paying attention to the biggest potential threats to that enterprise," Maness concludes.

Maness, Col. Rob (USAF-Ret) Maness

Those threats, he explains, include cyber threats, computer viruses, and information leaks.

"Cyber threats and computer viruses cause machinery to go awry," he continues – and as for insider threats, "classified information shouldn't be shared over unclassified computer systems, potentially [allowing others to] get their hands on sensitive information."

To that end, about 250 unclassified insider threat-related security incidents occurred in 2017, as noted by the GOA report. While most of those incidents were considered "unintentional," 100 were dubbed "serious" breaches. The report points out that these incidents included "sending classified information over unclassified systems, leaving security areas unattended, and not properly protecting classified information."

According to the report, the DOE has not effectively integrated its responsibilities to a centrally managed entity or individual to address the recommendations provided to the executive department that oversees the research and development of America's nuclear power and nuclear weapons.

After reading the GAO report, Maness offers this assessment:

"Here are apparently two different stovepipes – one responsible for gathering, collecting, and analyzing data; and another responsible for operational control," he says. "Trouble can occur fairly quickly if there's a disconnect between operational control and the actual intelligence collection analysis. [So] an actual person or office has to implement a response to address the concerns of the GOA."

According to the retired military officer, multiple entities stand to benefit from lax security.

"Every nation-state adversary – China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, even terrorist organizations – would be happy to get their hands on classified information [about American's nuclear programs]," he tells AFN. "The lack of implementation of security recommendations and the lack of oversight shouldn't take a backseat to the country's other priorities."

Maness argues that the absence of action to lock down the country's nuclear secrets suggests the Biden administration and the bureaucrats in Congress are "ignoring" the risk.