CNS exec: contractor has ‘limited flexibility’ in moving funds between Y-12 and Pantex

photo-001Dave Beck at last week’s Nuclear Deterrence Summit in Washington, D.C.

Consolidated Nuclear Security, the Bechtel-led partnership that manages the Y-12 and Pantex nuclear weapons plants under a combined contract, has “limited flexibility” in moving federal funds between the two sites, according to one of the contractor’s top executives.

“There’s not much flexibility at this point,” Dave Beck, a CNS vice president and program integration manager, said last week during an interview at the Nuclear Deterrence Summit in Washington, D.C. “We’re trying to get a mission done, and there’s limited flexibility. And that’s mainly determined by the control points from Congress.”

CNS reportedly operates with an aggregated budget for the two sites, and the intent is apparently to give the contractor more room for cost savings and efficiencies — which was the focus of the competition that combined the two management contracts.

Asked if there was ultimately the possibility of moving work back and forth, Beck responded, “Sure. There’s limited capabilities of doing that, of moving small amounts of work from one site to the other. And some of that may happen. But it’s too early to tell. Just like we’re in the processing of doing make/buy decisions about whether we do it inside the sites or whether we contract it out to other vendors. And so we have some flexibility there.”

Beck noted that budgets are formulated for work expected in the future.

“They’re formulated two years in advance,” he said. “So, a lot of things that come to us are things that were done two years ago, and the planning is that way.

“But, in the margins of things, if we have a specific problem at one site or the other and a particular account at the other sites has money available because they’re being more efficient, we may in some cases be able to do that in the government’s best interest. Right now, the work at both sites is growing, and so one of the questions that’s underlying here is are we moving jobs . . . Mission assignment are assigned to different places.”

Beck said CNS has a single budget for the two plants, but added, “There are 32 different control points from Congress, and we’re given one budget for each of those control points, with the exception of a category that’s called ‘ops of facilities,’ and that’s specific to the site.”

So, much of the funding is not necessarily tied to a particular plant?

“Not at this point,” Beck said. “But we have budget planning that we’ve done — scopes, schedules, costs — aspects at both sites that we have to execute. And you just can’t move large amounts of money from one site to the other. Nor would we want to.”

So, Consolidated Nuclear Security apparently could shift some funds between the sites to tackle specific problems, as needed, and some day could make programmatic shifts between the two plants — although that’s not being done now.

“It is not,” Beck stated. “And the issue is we have people at the two sites that are trained and skilled people to do the work that’s been budgeted for them two years ago. Planned for in the budget. So that’s where we are.”

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About Frank Munger

Senior Writer Frank Munger covers the Dept. of Energy's Oak Ridge facilities and many related topics — nuclear weapons, nuclear waste and other things nuclear, environmental cleanup and science of all sorts. Atomic City Underground is, first and foremost, a news blog, but there's room for analysis, opinion and random thoughts that have no place else to go.