Press Release

Leaked Defense Memo Criticizes the Department of Energy’s Push to Expand Nuclear Weapons Laboratories

The Department of Energy’s network of privately-operated nuclear weapons laboratories are riddled with waste, redundancies and lackluster scientific standards, according to a leaked Department of Defense memo obtained by the Project On Government Oversight (POGO).

The Nov. 16 memo reflects the Department of Energy’s (DOE) refusal to downsize, despite the end of the Cold War. It presents the arguments of a number of experts who have said DOE’s laboratories should downsize, rather than expand their mission. It also compiles evidence of DOE’s ongoing efforts to circumvent the congressional appropriations process.

“The DOE’s push to expand the mission of its national labs flies in the face of all reason—both from a strategic standpoint and a fiscal one,” said POGO Investigator Peter Stockton, who specializes in nuclear security and safety. “When the U.S. is locked into reducing its nuclear arsenal, it makes no sense to be expanding the DOE’s nuclear weapons production facilities.”

Among the issues pointed out in the memo are the bloated costs to run the labs, which are “an average of two to three more times more” than what it costs to run private facilities. The memo notes that lobbying by the lab directors has helped push lab funding above Cold War levels. POGO also found that seven of the top 15 officials at the three DOE nuclear labs make more than $700,000 per year, with one earning $1.7 million—more than the president of the United States and many government executives.

POGO sent a letter to the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces and other key committees on Tuesday in advance of a hearing scheduled for today when representatives from the DOE nuclear labs will testify.

In the letter, POGO made several recommendations. First, the letter asked Congress to ensure that all DOE funding be awarded competitively, rather than sidestepping the appropriations process. Second, the letter asked Congress to enact pending legislation that would put a cap on what taxpayers contribute to the executive compensation of government contractors, including those at the labs. Finally, the letter asked for a legally mandated evaluation of the DOE labs to check for redundancy and waste.

Follow the link to read the leaked memo.