Wednesday, May 17, 2000
Debby Clark and Cris Blackburn, Wackenhut security officers at Rocky Flats, search a vehicle at the west gate security station.
By BRIAN HANSEN
The Rocky Flats facility this year earned the Energy Department's highest possible ratings in cyber security, control and accountability of nuclear materials, and four other security categories, DOE officials announced Tuesday.
However, Colorado Congressman Mark Udall expressed concern over a proposed change in how the security budget would be structured at the facility.
The newly released security ratings, which were determined by the DOE's Office of Independent Oversight and Performance Assurance, indicate that the plant is on track in its mission of an accelerated and safe cleanup, DOE officials said.
"This is a truly significant milestone," said Paul Golan, Deputy DOE Manager at Rocky Flats. "This latest review ... demonstrates that we have successfully integrated safeguards and security controls, keeping our nuclear material safe while balancing the needs to safely accelerate the cleanup and closure of the site."
This is the first time in recent history that Rocky Flats earned satisfactory ratings -- the top score possible -- in all six security categories evaluated, DOE officials said.
The six categories that were evaluated include:
•Material control and accountability.
•Identification, measurement, and characterization of materials prior to removal from an existing location.
•Identification and consolidation of classified and sensitive information into appropriate and protected locations.
•Maintenance of effective physical security systems and protective force response measures.
•Limitation of sensitive locations to personnel with appropriate access authorizations.
Rocky Flats has one of the largest security forces in the state of Colorado. More than 200 highly trained and heavily armed officers employed by Wackenhut Services -- the security subcontractor at the site -- are authorized to use deadly force in protecting nuclear materials at the facility.
The Kaiser-Hill Company, which operates the facility for the DOE, lauded the accomplishments of its machine-gun-toting subcontractors.
"Kaiser-Hill is extremely proud of its safeguards and security professionals and security police officers who have once again shown their commitment to safeguarding and securing nuclear materials," said Kaiser-Hill president Bob Card. "To receive uniformly high marks from such a crucial review of our security systems is a rewarding experience."
This year's security evaluation paid special attention to cyber security, and especially to the firewall that is designed to protect Rocky Flats' computers from Internet hackers, DOE officials said.
Rep. Mark Udall, D-Boulder, was quick to laud the findings of the security evaluation.
"This isn't a surprise, but it is good news," Udall said. "In recent years there have been concerns about the adequacy of security at Rocky Flats. This report shows that DOE takes security issues seriously and is doing what needs to be done."
Still, Udall said he was concerned by reports that the DOE is considering a plan to have the site's security functions funded separately, outside of the general closure project account that was established by Congress in 1997.
"This could make it harder for DOE to meet the challenge of a safe and effective cleanup and closure before the end of 2006, because it would be more difficult for DOE to apply savings from future reductions in security needs to other necessary work," Udall said.
Udall said that security needs will likely diminish as more and more nuclear material is removed from Rocky Flats. Under the current plan, he noted, the DOE is allowed to apply the cost savings realized by these reductions to other pressing cleanup and closure needs at the site -- without formal reprogramming or additional action by Congress.
Udall, upon learning of a proposal to establish a "fenced" account for security at Rocky Flats, recently articulated his concerns in a letter to Office of Management and Budget Director Jacob J. Lew and DOE Secretary Bill Richardson.
"Segregating a portion of these funds in a separate, 'fenced' account for security -- or for any other purpose -- would greatly reduce this flexibility and make it harder to take advantage of these efficiencies," Udall wrote.
Udall requested that he be allowed to review and comment on the proposal before it is made final. He said his main concern is that it not adversely affect the DOE's ability to complete the cleanup and closure of Rocky Flats by Dec. 31, 2006.
DOE officials at Rocky Flats declined to comment Tuesday on the proposed budget structure change, saying it was a matter better addressed by officials at DOE headquarters.