Nuclear agency wins award for project management system

G2 integrates the Global Threat Reduction Initiative's project management data onto one IT platform.

The National Nuclear Security Administration received high honors on Monday for the project management system it uses to track the Global Threat Reduction Initiative.

The Project Management Institute, a nonprofit professional organization, awarded NNSA a 2010 Distinguished Project Award for its G2 system. Built in fiscal 2007, G2 integrates all the Global Threat Reduction Initiative's project management data onto a single information technology platform from the 800 sites around the world GTRI works to secure, convert and remove radiological material that could be used by terrorists. G2 can coordinate real-time geospatial project data with information like cost and schedule benchmarks, allowing managers to efficiently keep track of projects remotely.

The 2010 Distinguished Project Award is the second award PMI has awarded NNSA -- previously maligned for its poor management practices -- in the past four months. In October, PMI awarded NNSA its Project of the Year award for the construction of the National Ignition Facility, the largest scientific project NNSA has ever built.

During a conference call about the award Monday morning, Anne Harrington, NNSA's deputy administrator for defense nuclear nonproliferation, highlighted the Global Threat Reduction Initiative's recent successes, including the removal of all highly enriched uranium from Serbia and the extraction of more than 450 kilograms of highly enriched uranium from Poland, which would not have been possible without "excellence in project management" and the G2 system, she said.

Mark Langley, president and chief executive officer of PMI, said the implementation of the G2 system demonstrated exceptional "utilization of project management concepts and techniques," mentioning specifically the buy-in from executives throughout NNSA and the system's ability to "respond to complex circumstances and the ever-changing scope and mandate" of the Global Threat Reduction Initiative.

The award comes as GTRI is in the process of expanding significantly as one of the programs responsible for implementing President Obama's goal of securing all vulnerable nuclear material by 2013. President Obama's fiscal 2011 budget requests $559 million for GTRI, up from the fiscal 2010 budget request of $354 million.

Andrew Bieniawski, NNSA's assistant deputy administrator for GTRI, said during the conference call the G2 system has been "key to our success" as the GTRI program takes on a larger role. The information G2 provides managers means they "can respond in minutes" rather than days to changing circumstances on the ground. Moreover, Bieniawski said the information system, which itself costs less than 1 percent of the initiative's total budget, has allowed GTRI to operate successfully without hiring more managers -- even as the initiative has increased operations since the IT system's fiscal 2007 implementation.

In the past, the Energy Department's project and contractor management has been criticized. The Government Accountability Office since 1990 has identified as high-risk project management and contractor oversight at Energy, and NNSA specifically. In 2009, the National Academy of Public Administration reported that Energy's management lacked strategic vision and a clear understanding of the department's mission.

When asked about the recent PMI awards Energy has received, Ryan Coles of GAO congratulated the department, but warned, "It is important to keep these awards in perspective," adding, "NNSA continues to experience challenges managing its IT programs." In a December 2010 GAO report, NNSA did not effectively design or test a disaster recovery plan for the department's classified supercomputers. GAO expects to release its latest high-risk government program list later this month; Coles declined to comment on whether Energy or NNSA is still on the list.

Correction: The original version of this story erroneously referred to the Project Management Institute as the Project Management Initiative.

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