PREPARED STATEMENT OF SECRETARY BILL RICHARDSON
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY
HOUSE COMMITTEE ON SCIENCE
MAY 20, 1999
Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee for the opportunity to testify on the new security improvements we have implemented at the Department of Energy in the last eight months. I especially appreciate coming back to the Hill to visit with my colleagues.
Let me give you an overall outline of what we have done, are doing, and will do at the Department as we implement a new network of security and counterintelligence measures designed to protect our nation’s vital secrets. Then we can get to some of the details and to your questions.
It is plain that, in the past, security and counterintelligence were not given the necessary high priority at our weapons laboratories. The agency’s security operations were splintered – their overall strength too diffuse. There’s been a lack of accountability. And senior officials at the Department weren’t going to great enough lengths to moderate the lab culture, which tended, at the time, to resist adequate security efforts.
Since my appointment as Secretary of Energy, no mission has been more important to me than improved counterintelligence and security at the Department’s National Laboratories. In the eight months since my appointment, these safeguards of our national secrets have been dramatically strengthened and improved.
1. COUNTERINTELLIGENCE AND SECURITY UPDATE
My work today continues a trend. In February, 1998, President Clinton demanded that the Department of Energy increase security, implement a new, full-scope counterintelligence and cyber-security plan, and undertake a threat assessment to gauge the severity of hazards to our nation’s secrets.
By November, after I had been aboard three months, we had a comprehensive plan in place that included the use of polygraphs for Department scientists working in sensitive programs; mandatory background checks for all visitors from sensitive countries; more rigorous document controls at the laboratories; placing counterintelligence experts at our weapons labs (Let me tell you that the Department currently employs more China-specific counterintelligence expertise than anyone in the government); and pushing to increase our counterintelligence budget – which has risen by a factor of 15 since 1996.
Our counterintelligence program has been greatly improved. We have completed almost 90 percent of my plan’s "first tier" priorities, and will have them all done by the end of this year. At that point, the Department’s counterintelligence program will have been completely rebuilt, from the ground up, as good as the best in the U.S. Government.
Our new program is the right program and will serve U.S. national security well. The counterintelliegnce threat assessment requested by the President confirmed hazards against our labs, and government-wide studies have underscored that the counterintelligence initiatives we have implemented are prudent, warranted, and in the strictest national interest.
In March of this year, I demanded further counterintelligence upgrades, security training, and threat awareness, and directed an additional $8 million dollars to further secure classified and unclassified computer networks.
And last month, when I was informed of the serious security breach at our Los Alamos National Laboratory, I ordered a complete stand-down of the classified computer systems at our three major nuclear weapons laboratories – Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore, and Sandia.
I only allowed the system back up when I was confident that our computers were secure, that every lab employee knew their security obligations, and that a number of critical cyber-security improvements were done and more underway. With the improvements begun during the stand-down, and more I’ll detail shortly, the experts tell me that the Department’s cyber-security will be at the cutting-edge by 2001.
These actions constituted major security upgrades at our nation’s national laboratories. However, we have since raised the bar even higher.
2. DETAILS ON NEW REORGANIZATIONS AND IMPROVEMENTS
On the 11th of this month, I announced the largest, most-sweeping reform of security programs in the Department of Energy’s history. When I said that we were turning this ship around, I meant it – and this Security Reform Package constitutes a stem-to-stern review.
Now I’m not going to issue you a laundry list -- but let me sketch in some details to give depth to the broader picture I’ve just described.
The central component in our Security Reform Package is a new office of Security and Emergency Operations – which brings all the security functions of the Department under one, secure roof. The office will report directly to me, and will be funded under one budget. As you might know, right now I am looking for a Czar for this office -- a top general to whom I will give the clout, the funds and the tools to ensure security is taken seriously at the Department of Energy, and that my reforms are carried out fully. I’m going to get a leader in there; I have a good shortlist already, but I am open to your suggestions.
Now, this reorganization has several components:
Accompanying this plan, I have instituted a zero-tolerance security policy -- where no security infraction is acceptable. I will brook no quarter here: verified breaches or the willful flouting of security procedures will result in automatic suspensions.
Toward our counterintelligence ends, we have several new reforms. We are clearing our backlog of background investigations, and asking the FBI to run our most sensitive background investigations in the future. We are putting new cyber-intrusion detection systems in place. And we have created a new counterintelligence "red team," whose sole mission is to thoroughly evaluate espionage threats and act with the swiftness their name suggests.
We have also:
And while I am a proponent of freedom of information, I am an even greater proponent of national security. I think all of us in this room are. Therefore, I have asked the President to put in place an extension of the automatic declassification deadline.
We have to guard our secrets more thoroughly; I was concerned that the program was moving too quickly. This extension will, therefore, add another step to ensure that declassified documents are searched for inadvertently commingled nuclear design information. This is an even-handed approach that balances transparency with security, one that can guarantee an offer of openness without jeopardizing security.
Now, an important part of this reorganization is the consolidated security budget. As I mentioned before, security funds will be separated from program funds, which will ensure security needs and priorities will not be compromised by competing program missions.
But I need your assistance to bring dispatch to these sweeping measures.
I am working with OMB to identify offsets that will allow me to propose further increases for cyber and physical security in addition to the $8 million dollar increase the President requested last week. I hope to have something to the Congress soon.
You will recall my mentioning our new Office of Foreign Visits and Assignments Policy. This office will enable us to account for foreign visitors within the Department of Energy complex, audit visits, develop protocols for clearance and ensure security of documentation.
However, this office will not be a quarantine station. I believe the call to isolate American scientists is startlingly misconstrued and short-sighted. And it is wrong.
We engage in research with foreign scientists because it is in our nation’s interest. It is in our national security interest and in our interest for a continued future of scientific excellence.
Through our international work and our foreign visitor programs, we are strengthening America’s national security. In nonproliferation, we are helping to protect nuclear weapons material in the former Soviet Union from theft by rogue states or terrorists. We’re helping to find peaceful employment for Russia’s nuclear weapons scientists – many of whom are not being paid – so that they are not forced to accept work in places like Iran and North Korea. (The National Academy of Science’s Research Council released a study on Tuesday showing how perilous the Russian situation is. We need to continue our work there.) And we are furthering arms control by supporting international monitoring of treaties and helping to prevent nuclear smuggling.
For all of these programs, it is essential that U.S. personnel gain access to Russian nuclear sites, obtain information on Russian nuclear materials management and other sensitive subjects, and meet extensively with Russian counterparts.
Under these programs, U.S. specialists have visited dozens of formerly closed Russian nuclear sites, cooperating on security upgrades at highly sensitive locations, and are engaged in measurement, monitoring, and processing activities essential for the purchase or rendering harmless hundreds of tons of Russian nuclear-weapons material.
The critical underpinning for these programs has been the ability to offer Russian nuclear scientists and officials reciprocal visits to unclassified locations at U.S. weapon lab sites to demonstrate equipment, illustrate relevant U.S. practices, and provide critical training.
Termination of such visits would not only curtail the important Lab-based activities, but would immediately lead to the curtailment of U.S. access to sites in Russia; this would play directly into the hands of conservatives in the Russian security services, who have long opposed the opening of the Russian nuclear establishment.
An example of the crucial role of these visits was that of Russian Interior Ministry Police (MVD) officials to Department of Energy sites in July 1998 for an unclassified review of Department security practices. Building on the relationships established, the MVD, in return, has agreed to adopt U.S.-designed training programs and procedures for MVD personnel responsible for the protection of Russian nuclear sites.
Similarly, visits to U.S. nuclear sites to review unclassified security practices have fostered the close relations with the Russian Navy that have permitted the Department of Energy to help secure tens of tons of Russian naval reactor fuel containing weapons-grade uranium.
To provide confidence that Russia is disposing of weapons-quality materials under the Department of Energy’s plutonium disposition program, measurements of plutonium will be needed that are unclassified under U.S. law but that are still classified in Russia. U.S. and Russian lab scientists are trying to develop alternative measurement approaches that could avoid disclosing classified Russian information. As a practical matter, this work must be conducted at national nuclear labs, and the U.S. has used unclassified visits to Department of Energy labs to launch the effort. The Russians have reciprocated. Denial of access to Department of Energy labs would make further work impossible. This work is also directly relevant to anticipated nuclear-warhead dismantlement provisions under a future START III Treaty.
The Amendment would also undermine the ability of the Energy Department labs to train International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors, undercutting U.S. leadership.
For more than twenty years, Department of Energy national labs have served as the principal providers of training for IAEA inspectors in the areas of nuclear material controls and nuclear materials accounting (including those for weapons-grade materials). The labs are the world’s leading institutions in this area, and the fact that training is provided in U.S. labs gives the United States added confidence in the quality of IAEA inspector training, as well as the opportunity to mold the professional attitudes of the foreign specialists involved. All training is conducted at the unclassified level.
To ensure broad international political support for the Agency’s inspections, the IAEA inspectorate must include nationals from a wide range of IAEA member states. Although the U.S. labs have excluded nationals from Iran, Iraq, Libya, and North Korea from their training activities, nationals from other countries on the Energy Department sensitive countries list have received training to prepare them for their work as IAEA inspectors.
Curtailing training for nationals from all sensitive counties on the Department’s sensitive country list would lead the IAEA to declare the United States ineligible for the training mission, resulting in a highly damaging loss of influence in this crucial area.
The Department’s labs also buttress U.S. efforts to build support for vitally important international nonproliferation treaties, including the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and the Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT). Unclassified exchanges at the DOE labs and demonstrations of key verification technologies there are an essential tool for building support for both treaties among countries of proliferation concern, especially, China, India, Israel, and Pakistan.
Science is the key that unlocks many of our national challenges. To advance, we must include minds that are the world's first and finest. For science to rapidly advance at the frontiers, it must be open. I believe in a policy of openness, and have worked to defend it.
These scientific interactions also serve our national security. To do science in the United States today, we cooperate with scientists from nations all over the world, many of whom are working at American universities. An American Physical Society survey shows that over 50% of graduate students in the U.S. are foreign nationals – from China, Russia, India, and many others.
If we close-off cooperation between our labs and the great scientists of the world, we would perilously undermine the ability of our national laboratories to meet their national security and science missions.
We can do open science with international collaboration and safely protect our national secrets.
The right way to accomplish this is through strong security and counterintelligence efforts – and we are doing that. The wrong way would be to draw an iron curtain around the labs. Our national security is second to none because we have science that is second to none. We need to discuss solutions that work, not draconian decisions that can only hurt us.