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Official: Nuke Security Underfunded

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By H. Josef Hebert
Associated Press Writer
Monday, April 22, 2002; 6:52 PM

WASHINGTON The Energy Department complained to the White House in recent weeks that it was not getting the money to protect against terrorists at its nuclear facilities, according to a letter made public Monday.

In the letter, Bruce Carnes, a senior DOE budget director, complained that his department did not have enough money "to implement the security ... requirements" needed in response to last September's terrorist attacks.

The letter, dated March 28, was sent to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) at a time when administration officials, including senior DOE officials, were saying security at the nuclear facilities was at a high level and adequate to meet the terrorist threat.

Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., who released the letter Monday, said it shows "the White House refuses to deal with the consequences of September 11. ... That is very scary."

A frequent critic of security at federal and commercial nuclear facilities, Markey said the White House and DOE have not "put security at the top of their list. Clearly they've decided that even security has to be compromised."

Lisa Cutler, a spokeswoman for the DOE's National Nuclear Security Administration, said there is adequate money to meet security needs at weapons facilities and nuclear research labs.

While declining to speak to Carnes' letter specifically, she said "there are always discussions within the administration on the best way to meet the security challenges."

But Cutler said, "If we find that we have any funding shortfalls we will take steps. We will work with OMB or redirect funds from other programs to make sure security needs are met."

In his letter, Carnes complained that the OMB had "refused our security supplemental (budget) request" because the government had not yet completed its revamping of a general security document that outlines what kinds of threats the government must be prepared to defend against.

Carnes wrote to OMB that until the new so-called "design basis threat" document is completed the department must work under interim security guidelines reflecting conditions since Sept. 11 "and you have not provided resources to enable us to do so."

When Markey was critical of security at the federal research labs and other nuclear facilities in January, John Gordon, director of the DOE's National Nuclear Security Administration, strongly disputed suggestions that security was inadequate.

Markey said that contrasts sharply from the tone of Carnes' letter. He said he wants to know why OMB "rejected (the) request for additional funds" to implement new security guidelines.

2002 The Associated Press