Report cites 'troubling displays of ineptitude' in Y-12 breach

Report cites 'troubling displays of ineptitude' in Y-12 security breach

The trio of protestors at Y-12. The trio of protestors at Y-12.

OAK RIDGE (WATE) - A Department of Energy report cites "multiple system failures on several levels" for causing a security breach at Y-12 National Security Complex in June.

The report released Friday by the department's Office of Inspector General calls actions by guards and oversight by the security contractor "troubling displays of ineptitude." Department of Energy supervisors are also blamed for failing to identify and correct system breakdowns.

The inquiry by the inspector general came after three peace protestors entered the nuclear processing facility in Oak Ridge by cutting four barbed wire fences, then vandalized a building at the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility.

Michael Walli, 63, of Washington, D.C.; Sister Megan Rice, 82, of Nevada; and Greg Boertje-Obed, 57, of Duluth, Minn., are accused of hanging banners, and spray-painting and splashing human blood on the building. They are members of a movement called "Transform Now Plowshares."

WSI-Oak Ridge is the security contractor for the nuclear production facility.

The report noted several troubling actions by the first guard to arrive at the site. It says he remained in his patrol vehicle and did not notice the trespassers until they approached and "surrendered" to him.

The officer then failed to secure the area or even draw a weapon. Instead, he allowed the trespassers to roam about and retrieve various items from their backpacks. 

Other guards were also negligent, the report says. One officer silenced an alarm without looking outside to assess the situation. 

"In short, the actions of these officers were inconsistent with the gravity of the situation and existing protocols," the report says.

The inspector general's inquiry found poor equipment maintenance contributed to the security breach, saying there was "a substantial backlog" of repairs and that those repairs were not always treated as a priority.

Supervisors felt they were unable to resolve the maintenance backlog because of the contractual arrangement with WSI-Oak Ridge. Instead, they attempted to compensate for the backlog by taking other measures, like sending a guard to visually check a location when a security camera was inoperable.

According to the report, these compensatory actions were over-used, leading to complacency and a false sense of security.

Another factor leading to the security breach was poor communication. The guards told investigators they incorrectly assumed the sound from the trespassers beating on a building wall with a hammer was coming from plant maintenance workers. They said they were often not alerted to maintenance work and that workers would show up in the security area without warning. 

"According to the officers, the arrival of maintenance workers in the hours of darkness and without warning was not unusual," said the report.

Instead of using secure radios to communicate, the guards used cell phones. The report says cell phones are generally prohibited at the site.

Funding was another issue blamed for security problems at Y-12. The report noted that some security features at the Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility were eliminated before construction was completed in 2008.

Although regular Department of Energy reports noted no security problems at the site, investigators say "a number of known security-related problems" existed.

The report concludes by saying the security breach was "an important 'wake-up' call regarding the need to correct security issues at the site." It outlines several recommendations to be taken.

Read the complete report

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