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FOIA Foiled Again

FOIA Denied

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In November 2012, the Project On Government Oversight learned that former Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Steven Chu asked three former senior government officials to review physical security at all U.S. nuclear weapons facilities and individually write a letter with their findings and recommendations for security improvements.

After learning of this latest security commission, POGO filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to obtain the letters filled with security recommendations from these experts.

POGO requested:

All reports, letters, or other correspondence between former Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Richard Meserve, retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Donald Alston, and retired Lockheed martin CEO Norm Augustine to or from Secretary Chu from January 2011 to the present. Specifically, anything related to the break-in at the Y12 facility and DOE’s model for protecting nuclear materials across the weapons complex.

On January 18, a DOE response informed POGO that the request was assigned to the Office of the Executive Secretariat who searched the Electronic Document Online Correspondence and Concurrence System, which tracks all formal correspondence. This search did not yield any results, but the Executive Secretariat would continue to look for any documents.

Just seven days later, POGO heard from the DOE again: “A search of Secretary Chu’s emails was conducted, for communications with the individuals referenced in your request. That search produced no responsive documents.”

Although POGO was able to obtain the letters through other avenues, it is rather remarkable that such a thorough search of Secretary Chu’s correspondence did not result in a single mention of this security commission or the reports that had been sent to him on December 6, 2012.

As these letters so clearly highlight, we are at a tipping point. Major changes must be made to the way the DOE and the NNSA approach physical security of our nuclear weapons, as demonstrated by the recent security failure at the Y-12 complex that allowed three protestors within feet of 300-400 metric tons of highly enriched uranium. It is POGO’s hope that the information in these letters will ensure immediate steps are taken to improve the security of the nuclear weapons complex.

By: Lydia Dennett
Investigator, POGO

lydia dennett Lydia Dennett is an investigator for the Project On Government Oversight. Lydia handles whistleblower intake and works on nuclear safety and security at the U.S. nuclear weapons complex.

Topics: Open Government

Related Content: FOIA, Nuclear Security, Nuclear Weapons Complex Oversight

Authors: Lydia Dennett

Submitted by LanceW at: February 12, 2013
Imo, it doesn’t speak well of America & it’s workforce when it’s considered better to Federalize a workforce than use the the Free Enterprise System as the only real means to prevent a strike/work stoppage at critical CAT-1 facilities. However, history shows strikes/work stoppages at these sites as a common occurance over the past 3-4 decades. It might be the best of the alternatives presented by Norman Augustine, nevertheless, it’s a sad commentary on America, imo. It might be the right choice under the circumstances but, even Augustine admits it’s contrary to his confessed personal prejudices. Unlike Norman Augustine, my credentials do not consist of over a half-century of managing at all levels in large organizations, lessons gained during the ten years devoted to government service, including Under Secretary of the Army, and a number of years as CEO of an organization with over 180,000 employees. However, I have had a front row seat and extensive hands on experience for the better part of 4 decades in the nuclear weapons business, including safeguards & security. And, I’m not about to let my experience cloud my judgement when it comes to (dispite Augustine’s excellent credentials) someone who has received a 25 cent tour/briefing of the Pantex Model.Too many times I’ve observed Federal & M&O S&S mgr.s influencing performance test to ensure positive results. Augustine’s evalution is well done imo, & he lists excellent management principles, some of which he says he gained “the hard way”. I just hope he, et al will recognize there’s more hard learning needed.
Submitted by Anne B Zill at: February 8, 2013

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