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Report blasts LANL’s project oversight system

Posted: Friday, November 14, 2014 9:00 pm | Updated: 12:18 am, Sat Nov 15, 2014.

By Patrick Malone
The New Mexican

The system at Los Alamos National Laboratory that tracks budgeting and progress toward project goals has been unreliable and could be scrapped, according to a nuclear industry trade publication.

Certification of the lab’s Earned Value Management System, first granted in 2009, faces withdrawal by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration over “systemic and material deficiencies,” the Nuclear Security and Deterrence Monitor reported Friday.

The publication cites a draft letter from Los Alamos Field Office Contracting Officer Sheryl Chesnutt and an attached memo from the Department of Energy’s Office of Acquisition and Project Management saying a review of the lab’s system this summer yielded 92 corrective actions and found it out of compliance with 31 of 32 accepted guidelines for systems of its kind.

Over the course of three reviews in the five years that the tracking system has been in place, Energy Department reviewers found repeated deficiencies and “an increasing trend in repeat findings.” Among the failures identified the report were planning, scheduling, budgeting and accounting. The report said the lab had trouble managing projects and encountered massive cost increases that delayed one construction project and caused major cost and schedule overruns on another.

“Data is not reliable, accurate, timely, auditable, traceable, or reconcilable, and therefore, any performance Measurement baseline would be invalid such that neither the current project status nor the forecast completion cost and schedule are determinable,” Paul Bosco, Energy Department Acquisition and Project Management chief, wrote in an Oct. 30 memo to lab and NNSA officials, according to the Nuclear Security and Deterrence Monitor.

“As a result, the Government cannot have confidence in any project’s reported financial position, and the Government’s ability to manage and take corrective actions has been hampered.”

One review of the system found it to be more a “contractually mandated system” than an effective management tool. It blamed “an apparent lack of rigor” in the lab’s attention to the system and “a general lack of knowledge in regard to even the most basic of Earned Value concepts.”

The lab has until Dec. 10 to submit a plan for recertification of its tracking system to the Energy Department. Otherwise, the lab could face stricter oversight on its projects from Washington.

“We are working together and aggressively addressing identified issues,” a lab spokesman said in a written statement. “We have additional systems in place that give us confidence in our ability to oversee our construction projects.”

Contact Patrick Malone at 986-3017 or Follow him on Twitter @pmalonenm.

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