U.S. House of RepresentativesThe Honorable William S. Cohen
Committee on Commerce
Room 2125 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515-6115
August 14, 2000
U.S. Department of Defense
1000 Defense Pentagon
Washington, D.C. 20301-1000
Dear Secretary Cohen:
As you may know, the Committee on Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing last month addressing weaknesses in classified information security controls at the Department of Energy's (DOE) nuclear weapon laboratories. At that hearing, DOE addressed its plans to improve security over the handling of secret nuclear weapons data -- especially the type of sensitive information contained on the hard drives that recently disappeared from a vault at Los Alamos National Laboratory.
I understand that DOE shares, to some extent, similar information with the Department of Defense (DOD), and has in the past sought your agency's assistance in tightening controls on such information. In particular, DOE submitted in December 1999, a Higher Fences Initiative paper to DOD, proposing to increase security controls across the two agencies for certain highly sensitive information. I further understand that DOD sent a December 17, 1999 letter to General Eugene E. Habiger, Director of DOE's Office of Security and Emergency Operations, stating that "DOD entities must first have time to review its recommendation and assess the attendant ramifications should they be adopted from a cost-benefit perspective." Based on a briefing for my committee staff by DOD officials, it does not appear that your agency has made an adequate effort to review the DOE proposal or to improve DOD's security over such materials.
Accordingly, I am requesting that you provide the Committee with an explanation of your plans, if any, to modify security controls when such sensitive nuclear weapons information is in the possession of DOD or its contractors. If you have any questions, please contact me, or have a member of your staff contact Tom DiLenge, Deputy Chief Counsel for Oversight and Investigations, at (202)225-2927.
Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter.
Sincerely,cc: The Honorable John D. Dingell, Ranking Member