House Passes Costello Amendment to Make DOE Lab Contractors Accountable for Security Violations
The U.S. House of Representatives, during consideration of H.R. 1401, the Defense Authorization Bill for FY2000, today approved an amendment sponsored by U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello (D-IL) to make the contractors who manage and operate Department of Energy laboratories financially accountable for security breaches by their employees.
The goal, Costello said, is to ensure that lab contractors have a monetary incentive to work hand in hand with the Department of Energy to prevent lapses in security at the Department's science laboratories.
"There is no greater priority than protecting U.S. national security," said Costello, who is the ranking Democrat on the Energy and Environment Subcommittee of the House Science Committee. "DOE contractors must protect security at the National Labs, and if they don't, they should be fined."
DOE can currently impose a variety of civil fines for nuclear safety violations, but in many cases, the not-for-profit lab contractors are legally exempt from paying these fines.
The Costello amendment creates a new form of civil penalty that DOE can impose on all DOE contractors, including not-for-profit contractors. The Costello provision would provide for a penalty of up to $100,000, to be collected when any DOE rule, regulation, or order relating to safeguarding sensitive information is broken. "Accountability is one of the keys for maintaining tight security at the nuclear weapons laboratories," said Representative Costello.