NNSA needs updated budgeting process, says GAO
Wed, 2012-08-01 11:06 AM
By: Mark Rockwell
The semi-autonomous agency responsible for the security of the nation’s nuclear weapons and non-proliferation efforts needs to have a firmer handle on how it budgets, said a study by the Government Accountability Office issued on July 31.
The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) which operates under the Department of Energy, doesn’t thoroughly review budget estimates before incorporating them into its proposed annual budget, said the GAO. Instead, it relies on informal, undocumented reviews of such estimates and its own budget validation review process, that don’t comply with some DOE rules, said the study. According to the study, NNSA officials said the agency doesn’t follow the specific DOE rule because it expired in 2003.
Nevertheless, said GAO, the order is listed as current on DOE’s website, and a senior DOE budget official confirmed that it remains in effect, although it is outdated in terminology and organizational structure.
Additionally, the study said NNSA officials trust their agency’s contractors, minimizing the need for formal review of its budget estimates.
GAO said there were three key problems in the NNSA’s budget validation process. The first, it said, was the process doesn’t help NNSA, DOE, Office of Management and Budget, or congressional budget development decisions because it occurs too late in the budget cycle—after the submission of the President’s budget to Congress. Second, the current NNSA process isn’t thorough enough to ensure the budget’s credibility and reliability because it’s too limited and reviews only a small portion -- 1.5 percent -- of the agency’s budget. Third, said GAO, there was no formal evaluative mechanism to determine if corrective actions were taken in response to previous findings.
To fix the issues, the GAO recommended DOE update departmental orders for budget reviews, improve the formal process for reviewing budget estimates, and reinstitute an independent analytical capability.