Feds suggest replacing security personnel with soldiers

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 The U.S. Energy Department faces pressing personnel issues within private security forces that guard nuclear weapons material at six locations, including Savannah River Site, according to a new Government Accountability Office report.

The problems involve policies, salaries and equipment-including weapons-that can vary widely from site to site, in addition to concerns that increasingly rigorous training requirements could make it harder for employees of private companies to work until retirement age.

One option that has been discussed off and on for the past decade involves "federalization," or replacing the private firms with U.S. military soldiers. It was most recently explored in a 2009 study, but subsequently rejected as an alternative.

"Although DOE rejected federalization as an option in 2009 because it believed that the transition would be costly and would yield little, if any, increase in security effectiveness, the department recognized that the current contracting approach could be improved by greater standardization and by addressing personnel system issues," the GAO concluded.

The private workforce includes 2,339 unionized officers and 376 non-union supervisors who  "are not uniformly managed, organized, staffed, trained, equipped, or compensated across the six DOE sites," the report said.

Savannah River Site's contractor, Florida-based Wackenhut Services Inc., has a local workforce of 823 and is in the process of downsizing to 756.

The other five sites that handle "special nuclear material" are Los Alamos National Laboratory, New Mexico; the Y-12 National Security Complex, in Oak Ridge, Tennessee; Pantex Plant, near Amarillo, Texas; Nevada Test Site, Nevada; and Idaho National Laboratory, near Idaho Falls, Idaho.

Differences among the sites are often due to separate contracts and collective bargaining agreements between contractors and protective force unions, the report said. "As a result, the management and compensation-in terms of pay and benefits-of protective forces vary."

Arms and equipment also vary from site to site, the GAO noted.

Most forces, including those at SRS, rely upon the basic M4 U.S. military rifle, while heavier weapons-such as belt-fed machine guns-are generally versions of the M240 and M249 family, also widely used in the U.S. military.

"However, sites have variously adopted other equipment," the GAO study said, citing examples that included three separate models of handguns in two calibers; four different types of grenade launchers (although all four used standard 40 mm grenades); and multiple varieties of precision sniper rifles and armored vehicles.

The GAO also said the private security officers were less likely to become involved in traditional law enforcement as their mission's emphasis moves more to a "tactical response force" with duties more like the military than traditional law enforcement.

Such law enforcement duties, the GAO said, are handled differently from site to site, with SRS having one of the most defined programs.

"The SRS protective force includes 26 Special State Constables (about 5 percent of SRS's total protective force) who have state law enforcement jurisdiction on the 310-square-mile complex," the report said. "These officers wear special uniforms and drive specially marked vehicles. In addition, they must complete and maintain state law enforcement qualification requirements, in order to retain their state law enforcement authority."

Having officers designated for such duties, SRS officials told investigators, allows the remaining protective force personnel to focus on the primary mission of protecting nuclear weapon materials.

The GAO's recommendations include having the Energy Department explore options to standardize its protective force in terms of training and policies, and to conduct further research to enhance those employees' career longevity and retirement options.

 To see the complete report:

http://www.gao.gov/products/GAO-10-275

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disssman
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disssman 02/09/10 - 07:05 pm
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I wonder if they are aware

I wonder if they are aware that the current age limit to enlist is close to 40 years of age? And they are worried about an aging work force. Further, I wonder if they have looked at the thousands of dollars being offered to people just to enlist in the Army? That should give them a little insight into just how equipped the military is to take on another job. And add to that the law that says the U.S.military cannot be used for law enforcement. What a stupid idea.

andywarhol
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andywarhol 02/09/10 - 07:39 pm
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The age limit is 42. Bonuses

The age limit is 42. Bonuses have dropped drastically as well. Replacing the private force with Soldiers will create cheap labor vs. paying high salaries, but in the long run you will have more military retirees to support for the rest of their lives.

andywarhol
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andywarhol 02/09/10 - 07:40 pm
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Heck, a Private only makes

Heck, a Private only makes around $1100/month. For every Soldier that makes over $50K there are about 10 more that make under $30K

devgru1
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devgru1 02/09/10 - 07:51 pm
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Standardization makes for

Standardization makes for better security. If a 42 year old can pass the physical requirements and get through basic training then obviously they are fit for duty. These sites are federal sites anyway, putting soldiers on them has nothing to do with using military for law enforcement. It would be no different than a military base, The White House, The Capitol, etc.

wildman
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wildman 02/09/10 - 08:28 pm
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I'm not sure if the military

I'm not sure if the military is the answer but WSI has about twice as many employees as they need due to ridiculous DOE requirements. If the government had to run the site as a company that made a profit they would have been out of business a long time ago.

TheSPOKnows
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TheSPOKnows 02/09/10 - 08:52 pm
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I will have a few more

I will have a few more comments in a bit, but FIRST off, Federalization in the GAO report and ALL reports since 1991 DOES NOT mean replacing Security Police Officers that work for contractors now with the Military. It means converting the now private contractor force into a Federally employed Protective Force

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