Washington, DC — Today Rep. Henry A. Waxman, Rep. Edward J. Markey, and Rep. Bart Stupak, released a report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) identifying serious weaknesses in the National Nuclear Security Administration’s (NNSA) plans for recovering and reconstituting the classified supercomputing system in the event of a disaster or other service disruptions.   

“NNSA’s classified supercomputing systems are critical to our nation’s modern nuclear weapon development and testing program,” said Rep. Waxman, Chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce.  “It is a matter of national security that NNSA be prepared to maintain the continuous operations of these supercomputers in the event of a disruption.  I urge the agency to address the GAO’s recommendations and to implement effective and comprehensive contingency and disaster recovery plans at all three of its nuclear laboratories.”

The work of our nuclear weapons laboratories’ supercomputing facilities is essential for our national security – doing the computer analysis to respond to emergencies, analyzing the intelligence we gather to stop terrorist attacks, and making sure our nuclear bombs operate,” said Rep. Markey, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Energy and Environment.  “Just as every student learns to back up computer files for their homework, so the NNSA needs to be prepared to maintain its vital operations even if a fire or a terrorist attack wipes their hard drives.  There is nothing super about a supercomputing facility saying that the dog ate its homework.  I urge DOE to quickly address the weaknesses identified in this report.”

“GAO’s report on contingency planning and disaster recovery for NNSA’s supercomputing capabilities highlights serious issues with the oversight and planning of NNSA’s supercomputing program,” said Rep. Stupak, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations.  “Proper planning and implementation of contingency planning is necessary to continue to safeguard our nuclear weapons mission.”

NNSA’s classified supercomputing assets, which represent a considerable investment of taxpayer dollars, are used to understand the entire life cycle of nuclear weapons and ensure that these weapons meet military requirements and contribute to other national security missions.

At the request of Chairman Waxman and Subcommittee Chairmen Markey and Stupak, GAO conducted an evaluation of supercomputing capabilities at the three NNSA weapons laboratories – Los Alamos, Sandia, and Lawrence Livermore.  GAO found that NNSA has not fully implemented contingency and disaster recovery planning and testing for its classified supercomputing assets.

The GAO report, “Information Security:  National Nuclear Security Administration Needs to Improve Contingency Planning For Its Classified Supercomputing Operations,” credits the three laboratories for having implemented components of a contingency planning and disaster recovery program for their supercomputing assets.

However, GAO also identified a lack of comprehensive planning and analysis by the laboratories to assess the relative significance of components within their classified supercomputing operations.  GAO also reported that none of the laboratories knows the minimum supercomputing capacity needed to meet the nuclear weapons mission, and none have tested the capability to share supercomputing capacity “on-demand” should service disruptions occur.

In addition, GAO found that neither NNSA nor the laboratories has tracked the costs for ensuring the implementation of these important activities.  GAO identified a need for clarity within NNSA’s component organizations of the roles and responsibilities for ensuring the implementation of contingency and disaster recovery planning.

The GAO report is available online here .