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25 October 2008


A sends also:, and (with photo of SST accident)

Road Mishap Puts a Focus On Shipments Of A-Bombs


Published: December 19, 1996

The Energy Department describes it simply as an ''off normal'' event. But it had all the drama of the opening scene of a post-cold-war thriller. In the dead of night a month ago, a secret armed convoy crossed the lonely plains of western Nebraska, then slowed at the onslaught of an unexpected ice storm. Laboring up a hill at 25 miles an hour, a tractor-trailer in that convoy skidded off the two-lane road and rolled onto its side, jostling its cargo of two nuclear bombs.

Then, for several hours before dawn on Nov. 16, the Nebraska Highway Patrol closed Highway 83 to traffic while a commercial wrecker righted the overturned 18-wheeler. Specialists swept the area for radiation leaks, and the bombs were gingerly transferred to another truck, which carried them the 250 miles back to Ellsworth Air Force Base, home of a B-1 bomber wing, near Rapid City, S.D.

The highway accident was the first in 13 years involving ''sensitive nuclear materials'' hauled by the Transportation Safeguards Division of the Energy Department. But it has focused a spotlight on daily secret shipments of nuclear weapons along the nation's roads. Because routes and schedules of those shipments are kept confidential, the Energy Department, at least for now, is not confirming that bombs were on the truck that rolled over.

''Our trucks have traveled 80 million miles since 1975 without recording any personal injuries or major damages to the vehicles,'' said Al Stotts, spokesman for the department's office in Albuquerque, N.M., which oversees the Transportation Safeguards Division. Last month's accident was the most serious of only four recorded in the last two decades, Mr. Stotts said, and it resulted in nothing more than scratches to the trailer.

Such trailers, which can carry up to two dozen bombs, are designed so they can crash and burn without damage to their cargoes. An Energy Department brochure says of them, ''The thermal characteristics of the Safe Secure Trailer would allow the trailer to be totally engulfed in a fire without incurring damage to the cargo.''

The drivers, called ''nuclear materials couriers,'' are trained in counterterrorist tactics. They are armed, and their cabs are bulletproof. Additional guards travel in escort vehicles, generally Ford or Chevrolet vans. The convoys move at night and are tracked by satellite.

''It is quite common and quite routine to have truck convoys on the highways going from military bases to Pantex,'' said Robert S. Norris, a senior analyst on nuclear weapons issues for the Natural Resources Defense Council. ''Right now there are probably convoys going from somewhere to somewhere, as there have been for the last 50 years.''



The Albuquerque Operations Office (Operations Office) established the Transportation Safeguards Division (TSD) [later renamed Office of Secure Transportation (OST)] in 1975. In Fiscal Year (FY) 1997, TSD employed 237 nuclear material couriers who act as Special Agents in transporting nuclear weapons, components, and material for the Department of Energy (DOE). The couriers are divided into three sections located in Albuquerque, NM (Albuquerque); Amarillo, TX (Pantex); and Oak Ridge, TN (Southeast). The sections are further divided into units consisting of about 30 to 37 couriers. The Pantex section has 3 units, whereas the Albuquerque and Southeast sections have 2 units each.

Metal Storm signs Contract with US Department of Energy

3 October 2005

ARLINGTON, VA - Defense technology company Metal Storm Limited today announced that it has signed a contract with the US Department of Energy (DOE) for the research and development of a short range weapon system. Metal Storm CEO, David Smith said “The objective of the contract is to provide proof of concept of the ability of the Metal Storm weapons system to distribute large quantities of ammunition over a large area in an extremely short time frame, which is something our systems have a unique capacity to achieve.

National Nuclear Security Agency
Office of Secure Transportation


DoE/NNSA Office of Secure Transportation (OST) for transport of nuclear weapons and materials (excerpts)
March 2008 (PPT, 2.9MB)






Aircraft shown at Albuquerque Airport (aerial below)

OST Albuquerque, NM, Operations Office



Aircraft Hangars


OST Oak Ridge, TN


OST Pantex, Pantex, TX



Zone 4 West, Pantex Plant, TX




OST Training Facility, Fort Chaffee, AR


A sends:


A2 sends:

[Image] [Image]
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A sends:

Sandia completes ground-up redesign of new DOE Armored Tractor


This photo shows a government license plate. An old report on the secure vehicles says that the
only way to tell the government's rigs from commercial rigs is by the government plates. I figure
the feds would have switched to commercial plates to take care of that.

A2 writes about the vehicles at Fort Chaffee:

The brown 'pit' vehicle in the small convoy has a 'FOUO' Government plate number of E201385.
I also note that these are rotated and sometimes even removed completely. The big rigs all have
commercial plates.


July 13, 1998

This panel was established in large part to examine the claim that the communication between TSD management and the special agents (SAs) had broken down. The panel concludes that there is a fundamental, deep, and long-standing lack of trust and respect between SAs and TSD management. We tested management’s hypothesis that SAs’ dissatisfaction with management is limited to the Southeast Courier Section and that even there, it is not widely shared. Contrary to this hypothesis, the panel discovered that dissatisfaction is equally widespread and deeply felt across all three sections. In addition, personal exposure to radiation is not the main concern of the agents. Instead, the agents’ primary concern is that management can trust and respect them. The panel found that many managers do indeed have a negative view of the agents. In addition, the panel heard numerous instances of special agents acting in a non-professional manner in their dealings with management.

In addition to reports by special agents, the panel observed a great deal of evidence that the agents are correct about how they are viewed. Managers used language that depicted the special agents figuratively as “children”, and at least several managers interviewed explicitly referred to the special agents as “spoiled babies.” The panel was provided with a variety of stories to support these views. Moreover, several members of support units reported that special agents earn more with overtime than many managers, implying that they didn’t deserve the money.

Not surprisingly, TSD agents believe that many managers do not deserve their respect. More than half of special agents interviewed by the panel expressed negative attitudes toward managers. These remarks range from the mundane ("Did you see the bellies on the management guys?") to the serious. In the latter case, agents cite specific examples of managers lying, cheating on timing runs, and stealing from TSD. (“My team leader got 30 days off for cheating on his run, got promoted and now he’s timing me.”) Perhaps the best illustration of TSD agents’ dismal view of how they are treated can be summarized by the sign visibly displayed in a locker room. It reads: “The beatings will stop when morale improves.”


TSD has been managing and operating a fleet of specially designed 18-wheel tractor-Safe and Secure Trailer (SST) road mobile rigs to transport nuclear weapons and nuclear materials within the continental United States since 1975. Convoys making the shipments include from one to four of these rigs, a number of convoy support vehicles, and a complement of armed federal special agents. Typically, several of these convoys are in operation on U.S. highways every week. There have been thousands of successful convoy operations since 1975.

The performance of the fleet has been essentially flawless since its inception, resulting in safe, secure, and on-schedule transportation of the weapons and materials. Public scrutiny of the operation, however, has risen over time, owing to increased media awareness of the operation, heightened public sensitivity to safety and employee rights issues, and changes in the legal environment.

Our findings on communications difficulties bear primarily on the issue of lack of trust between TSD management, management staff, and special agents. Attention to resolution of this issue is a matter of urgency, since the psychological tension it produces could have unpredictable results if the matter is not resolved.

Expressions of concern regarding radiation safety are principally a result of allegations by former Special Agent James Bailey and the Government Accountability Project (GAP). They alleged that the cause of cancerous brain tumors found in a new-born daughter of Mr. Bailey's in 1995 were the result of his occupational exposure to radiation. They also suggested that the cause of respiratory difficulties experienced by Mr. Bailey and others during a training exercise at Savannah River, S.C., in 1991 might have been related to radiation exposure.

We can readily understand how the numerous unexplained and often-denied operational events cited by Bailey and GAP as evidence of inadequate control of radiation exposure could lead them to conclude that occupational radiation of agents was not well controlled. Our investigation suggests that events such as the confiscation of personal clothing and empty trailers setting off portal radiation sensors were occasional problems, compounded by lack of follow-through investigation by management of legitimate agent inquiries and a similar lack of full and open communication of factual findings. Many, if not all, of the events that concern agents appear to have occurred, but upon investigation, none in fact disclosed a major radiation exposure problem.

Despite TSD's near flawless performance of its operational mission, a serious internal erosion of trust and respect has been steadily developing between TSD management and the special agents.Uncorrected, this problem could soon undermine TSD operational performance and damage its impressive record. While management and SAs do converse with and confront each other periodically, they do not communicate well or resolve differences quickly and effectively. As a result, a profound lack of trust and respect pervades the organization and seriously erodes morale. Effective and meaningful communication, essential within any organization, is lacking. The stressful and sleep-disturbed environment induced by the intense safety and security demands of convoy operations adds to the problem and leads to frustration and occasional outbursts of inappropriate behavior by the SAs. At other times, civil and reasonable inquiries by agents result in inadequate, untimely, and disrespectful responses by management. Low morale, distrust, and poor communications are the ominous symptoms of progressively worsening structural problems in the static and outdated career conditions experienced by agents. To give some examples:

• Members of this aging workforce have little or no prospect of promotion within the Department. Facing a career dead-end with their grade and base pay scales essentially frozen, they rely on massive amounts of overtime, averaging 60 percent of base pay, to improve their economic condition.

• The physical fitness requirement for these agents is inflexible and threatens discharge at each exam; the physical standards and maintenance program imposed on these individuals need to be reevaluated.

• While other similar careers in security work provide a 20-year retirement option, the only way for SAs to leave service with honor and retirement pay is to retire with a disability or to wait until they are eligible for a Federal Civil Service retirement. In either case, retirement is tied to base salary, rather than their gross.

• Special agents believe that these conditions could be alleviated, but that management has not been willing to take corrective actions.

Because management practices regarding some safety and personnel issues are not consistent and effective, agents do not feel supported by their superiors. Following are some brief examples of these issues (additional analysis and discussion of each appear in Section IV):

• There are perceptions among agents that overtime compensation is withheld to punish and retaliate against them for questioning various management practices and decisions.

• Unresolved individual safety complaint cases (such as the Bailey case and Southern Cross) result in loss of public trust and negative public attention.

• Leadership quality is underdeveloped at many levels.

• The radiation safety program has responded inadequately to concerns voiced by some regarding TLD dosimeter reports, clothing confiscation, portal monitors alarming on empty secure trailers, field worker comments about radiation levels, and questions regarding tritium container integrity.

• Support organizations apply federal civilian criteria inappropriate to the needs of a small, essentially paramilitary unit with a highly unique operational mission.

• Special agent contributions to decisions regarding equipment and armament selections have been inadequate.

• The operational training program is too narrowly focused and is more of a testing program than a training program.

The tensions within TSD arising from lack of trust and respect between agents and management are not new, so the decisions and style of current management are not likely to be the exclusive causes of the situation. It is not possible for us to determine with certainty the causes that have led to the present conditions, but it is obvious that the basic situation has existed for some time, probably dating from the creation of the organizational structure.

TSD is charged with a highly demanding national security responsibility -- the safe and secure movement of weapons of mass destruction. Accordingly, there is no margin for error in mission accomplishment. For this mission to succeed, a "paramilitary" force is appropriate. The dilemma, however, lies in how to integrate a force of this type within an agency that is predominately non-military in its organization and far more focused on research and development than on paramilitary operations.

These problems have persisted and grown despite extensive external review and oversight. TSD has undergone more than its share of scrutiny. There were five external reviews in 1996, seven in 1997, and seven so far in 1998. The schedule of reviews, audits, and investigations for the coming 12 months appears to be every bit as active. The reviews have been quite thorough and objective. Several have arrived at remarkably similar conclusions to ours, ("low morale and sense of futility," DeVasto, 1994; "communications problem," ES&H review, 1997) but the erosion of trust and respect has worsened, not improved. Initiating a new and definitive approach to reestablishing trust and respect is now imperative.

The Division maintains an aggressive program to continually assess the capability of agents to meet their job requirements. Periodic evaluations are conducted to ensure agents’ competence in operating equipment and using firearms and other weapons, as well as in maintaining required standards of physical fitness. Physical fitness policy presents one of the greatest leadership challenges. Standards were developed and adopted by the Department in 1981, following a review by accepted professionals in the field of job-related physical requirements. As the group of agents ages, their ability to meet the standards is declining. This decline results in increased injury rates and inability to perform their primary function: the provision of security for the transport of nuclear material.

While the Division has a remediation program in place, it requires a minimum of six weeks and may, depending on the individual, take much longer. During this time the affected agent does not perform convoy duties and does not earn overtime. From the agent's perspective, the lost overtime is a significant loss of income. It should be noted, however, that during the period of non-travel, the agent's basic compensation and benefits are not affected. This situation is not likely to improve, and in some ways is creating a "run to fail" condition in the force. That is, the force naturally becomes less capable to meet the physical prerequisites of the job as it ages. Attempts to maintain the standards simply result in an ever-increasing number of job-related injuries and early disability retirements. Therein lies the challenge. It seems prudent for the Division to seek solutions to insure the viability of the organization.

Unfortunately, over time a number of SAs have either experienced first hand or heard rumors of instances suggesting that their radiation environment may not have always been as tightly controlled as management would have them believe. For example, SA personal clothing has been confiscated on one or more occasions for possible contamination; empty SST trailers have frequently triggered facility radiation portal alarms; personnel in loading and unloading facilities have made comments that SST trailers or the tractor sleepers were "very hot" or that the loads picked up were "leaking.". Convoys have been required to traverse areas bounded by low level radiation waste storage areas, and SAs have been required to spend break time in facilities near such areas. SAs have measured above background radiation levels in and near convoy waiting areas; SSTs have “been said” to have been washed down by maintenance teams to decontaminate them, and SAs personal luggage has been reported to have been co-mingled with sealed tritium containers on air shipments.

The response of TSD management when questioned about the incidents described above is that there is no valid record of any of them happening, and that if they had occurred they were isolated and misinterpreted incidents that happened long ago. Despite a number of different and parallel procedures available to SAs to report and inquire about such incidents, they are very hesitant to use them out of concern that middle level management will label them "trouble makers," and that they will be shunned by their peers. There are numerous reports of such reactions by management in the past, so these fears do not appear to be groundless.

A second SA reported being present on a convoy departing Zone 4 at Pantex with three empty trailers, having all three trailers trigger the radiation portal monitors, and being "waved through" by the security forces without inspection. We validated this claim by asking ALO weapons program management for details. We were told that empty trailers frequently trigger portal alarms (as do fire trucks and other large vehicles), and that normally convoys that trigger the alarms are asked to back up for another try and held for a manual inspection if they trigger alarms again. In the above incident, the SSTs were waved through because they were known to have the proper inspection papers indicating no unauthorized nuclear material on board. This sequence of events is reported to have occurred on numerous instances at other installations, as well. An analysis of this situation by a qualified security system engineer from Sandia National Laboratories found that indeed the systems in use at most DOE facilities are prone to this kind of false alarm.

A review of annual training plans and schedules, coupled with observation of an In-Service Training (IST) operation at Ft. Chaffee, Arkansas [photos above] makes evident the importance that TSD leadership places on this critical issue. The scenarios developed for each IST session are generally practical and tied to the organization’s mission. Observed participants exhibited a high degree of enthusiasm in these phases of training and evaluation. Although some noted dissatisfaction with the frequency and similarity of operations at the Ft. Chaffee site, it was noted that the Division has in the past sought other locales (i.e., Ft. Pickett, VA.) to maximize the learning outcomes of the events. We are aware of Division plans to train at Ft. Hood, TX in the near future. This training, involving Division personnel and other federal and local agencies, will offer the opportunity to address contemporary training needs as identified by current threat assessments. This nexus between training and threat to include adversarial capabilities and intent is critical to the continued viability of the force. The same threat refinements that drive new equipment should be the basis for training adjustments and innovations.