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Policy Letter

POGO Letter to DOE Deputy Secretary McSlarrow, Chairman Barton and Representative DeGette concerning media-less security at Los Alamos National Laboratory

Deputy Secretary Kyle McSlarrow

VIA Fax: (202) 586-7169

Chairman Joe Barton

VIA Fax: (202) 225-1919

Representative Diana DeGette

VIA Fax: (303) 844-4996

Deputy Secretary McSlarrow, Chairman Barton, Representative DeGette:

As you prepare for your trip to Los Alamos, we wanted to provide you with some relevant background. Attached is the section of POGO's 2001 report that deals with the dangers of theft of nuclear secrets caused by loss of computer media. As you may know, the solution to this longstanding problem - to go "media-less" - has been discussed, but not implemented for years. When NNSA Administrator Brooks was asked at this week's House Energy and Commerce hearing why a media-less system had not been implemented in 2000, he said he didn't know. The fact is, it was NNSA's objections (before Ambassador Brooks' tenure) that had shelved the plan. The attached documents make this clear.

What does "media-less" mean?

  • A scientist only has a monitor, keyboard and mouse at his/her desk. There are no ports at the workstation for downloading to removable media.
  • Fiber-optic cables run from the workstation to the computer which is locked in a vault with the other computers from that division.
  • In the instances where removable media are necessary, there is a two-man rule at the vault before any media can be released.

In 2000, DOE estimated it would cost $10-15 million to go media-less on the classified system for the entire complex. Now NNSA/Los Alamos is claiming it will cost $30-40 million at Los Alamos alone. It is a time-worn tactic of NNSA facilities to dramatically overestimate costs of things they do not want to do.

Lastly, one of Secretary Abraham's initiatives was to move all of the plutonium and highly-enriched uranium out of the indefensible TA-18 site at Los Alamos. It might be interesting to ask about the schedule for moving this Category I and II material out of TA-18. Will the site be totally de-inventoried by the end of 2005, as the Secretary expects? If not, when? We've heard from sources that Los Alamos is behind schedule on developing a schedule (in 2000 then-Secretary Richardson ordered that the material be out by 2004). Why is Los Alamos in charge of this move, anyway? Why isn't the NNSA taking the lead on this?


Danielle Brian

Project On Government Oversight



Excerpt on cyber security from POGO’s 2001 report, “U.S. Nuclear Weapons Complex: Security at Risk,”

Internal DOE presentation from 2000 plan to go “media-less”