July 1999


Security: Weapons lab or not,
ORNL ‘will get the scrutiny’
The recent uproar over the suspected loss of classified information from DOE weapons labs has been a very serious matter for all of the national laboratories. Many ORNL staff members, however, have been curious and somewhat vexed over the Lab’s being included with the weapons labs when the auditors and investigators come knocking.

For instance, the Rudman Report of the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board refers to its “emphasis on the five labs that perform weapons-related research,” those five being “Livermore, Los Alamos, Oak Ridge, Pantex and Sandia.”

ORNL is a multipurpose research and development lab, not a weapons lab. Protecting the Lab’s proprietary and unclassified sensitive information has a different scope from protecting nuclear weapons secrets, but the Lab as a whole takes the responsibility for protecting it very seriously as well, says ORNL Security Director Bill Rich.

“In an environment where much of our output is cutting-edge technology, it is imperative that we protect such data from any potential adversaries, be they foreign or domestic,” Rich says.

“We emphasized to the Rudman Committee that we are not a weapons lab,” he says. “We don’t even have any weapons data on site. While a few members of the ORNL staff do work with such data, they are stored at the Y-12 Plant, where a much more secure environment exists.”

Rich says the perception that ORNL is a weapons lab apparently results from our close proximity to the Y-12 Plant, which is indeed a weapons facility. “Also, those outside of Oak Ridge often tend to think of ORNL as encompassing the whole Oak Ridge Reservation, not just as one of three separate sites within the reservation.”

With respect to classified holdings at the Lab, Rich says, “Our holdings are minimal compared with a true weapons lab. The actual amount of classified defense information work done at ORNL represents only a three-tenths of one percent sliver of the Lab’s budget pie—not enough to get fat on, but plenty enough to make us very aware of our contribution to national security. The protection of classified information is taken very seriously by those authorized to work with it at the Lab.”

So whether ORNL is a weapons laboratory or not, expect close attention to be paid to ensuring that the Lab properly protects its information, both classified and unclassified sensitive.

Walter Dykas, computer and network security chief for the Computing, Information and Networking Division, adds, “The Energy Secretary’s policy applies to sensitive information also. And that we have a lot of. Whether or not the weapons association is wrong, we will get the scrutiny.”—B.C.