Department of Energy, Challenges Exist in Managing the Spallation Neutron Source Project
GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE WASHINGTON DC RESOURCES COMMUNITY AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT DIV
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We are here today to testify on the Department of Energys DOE management of the Spallation Neutron Source Project project. This billion-dollar complex, to be built in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, is designed to be the worlds most powerful accelerator-based facility. Experiments conducted at the facility are expected to lead to the production of new materials for use in applications ranging from aircraft and automobiles to drugs and computer hard drives. The project represents the largest interlaboratory collaboration ever attempted, bringing together the work of five national laboratories. In summary, Mr. Chairman, the project is not currently in trouble, but warning signs in three key areas raise concerns about whether it will be completed on time and within budget. First, DOE has not assembled a complete team with the technical skills and experience needed to properly manage the project. A permanent project director was just hired last week, 5 months after the Congress approved the start of construction and over a year after the projects design was approved. Other important positions remain unfilled, including those of a technical director and an operations manager. Second, cost and schedule estimates for the project have not been fully developed. Furthermore, the projects contingency allowances for unforeseen costs and delays are too low for a project of this size and scope, according to project managers and DOE. Finally, DOEs approach to managing the project requires an unprecedented level of collaboration among five different laboratories, managed through DOEs complex organizational structure. Coupled with DOEs history of not successfully completing large projects on time and within budget, these warning signs make the Spallation Neutron Source project a significant management challenge for DOE and suggest a need for continued close oversight.
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