The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) is spending billions on programs to modernize the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile.
A review by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has found that NNSA has partially implemented selected leading practices to manage the work necessary to maintain and modernize the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile. GAO found that NNSA is in the early stages of initiating its portfolio management processes and has partially implemented leading practices, such as establishing a clearly defined portfolio of work. For example, NNSA officials stated that its Weapons Activities appropriations account is a portfolio of work. However, GAO also found that NNSA has not developed clearly defined and appropriately empowered governance roles, such as a portfolio manager, for its Weapons Activities portfolio.
The watchdog says that as NNSA continues to develop its approach to portfolio management, establishing a portfolio management framework—consistent with selected leading practices—may allow the agency to fully implement all leading practices, better define how program offices will pursue strategic stockpile modernization objectives, and optimize portfolio performance in the event that budget trade-offs become necessary.
NNSA’s offices have undertaken four separate efforts to identify and assess the capabilities needed across the nuclear security enterprise to meet its stockpile maintenance and modernization mission, but GAO found that NNSA has not developed a comprehensive or complete capability assessment that could support its portfolio management approach. NNSA undertook three of these four independent efforts to identify and assess capabilities in response to different legislative direction and did not incorporate information on all elements of a capability (knowledge, human capital, and infrastructure) in any of the individual efforts. The watchdog advises that working across the agency to conduct a comprehensive, complete capability assessment would provide NNSA with a portfolio-level view of the enterprise’s capabilities and needs, allowing for planning that considers interdependencies that have been missed in the past when planning focused on individual programs or projects.
GAO is making two recommendations – that NNSA should establish a portfolio management framework and develop a comprehensive and complete capability assessment. NNSA concurred in principle with the recommendations and stated that they have addressed them. However, GAO maintains that NNSA needs to take additional actions to fully address the recommendations.