Hagel US nuclear reform
U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is expected to order changes to how the country's nuclear forces are managed, according to the Associated Press. The move comes after a series of scandals hit three military branches tasked with nuclear weapons work. Getty Images


  • The watchdog said the Energy Department failed to train employees to identify and report potential insider threats
  • It added that the Energy Department didn't implement all required measures for its insider threat program
  • The U.S. witnessed at least 250 unclassified insider threat-related security incidents in 2017 alone

The United States is vulnerable to having its nuclear secrets leak due to failed security implementations to guard against fraudsters, leakers and spies, according to a new watchdog report.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) on Wednesday published a report where it said the Energy Department has, for years, failed to create an "insider threat" program to safeguard the country's nuclear secrets from fraudsters, leakers and spies. The watchdog report also said the department had already previously received recommendations from at least four independent reviewers to improve its security.

"The Department of Energy (DOE) has not implemented all required measures for its Insider Threat Program more than 8 years after DOE established it in 2014, according to multiple independent assessments," the GAO report read. "Specifically, DOE has not implemented seven required measures for its Insider Threat Program, even after independent reviewers made nearly 50 findings and recommendations to help DOE fully implement its program."

Apart from failing to implement an "insider threat program," the watchdog pointed out that the Department of Energy failed to train its employees to identify and report any potential insider threats. It also said the department failed to define the responsibilities of contractors hired to create the program.

The report noted that in 2017 alone, the U.S. saw at least 250 unclassified insider threat-related security incidents, including sending classified information over unclassified systems and allowing security areas to be left unattended.

One of these incidents, as the report noted, involved a nuclear safety program manager who accepted nearly half a million dollars in bribes in exchange for official acts. The manager in question was sentenced to only 18 months in prison followed by six months of home confinement and three years of supervised release in 2017.

"The theft of nuclear material and the compromise of information could have devastating consequences. Threats can come from external adversaries or from 'insiders,' including employees or visitors with trusted access," the GAO wrote in the report.

The nuclear security concerns have been raised less than a year after it was reported that China recruited at least 154 Chinese students working on government-sponsored research at Los Alamos National Laboratory.

U.S. Energy Secretary Granholm speaks at the State Department in Washington