WASHINGTON, Nov. 22 (UPI) -- U.S. employees responsible for driving nuclear weapons and sensitive materials across the country may have been alcohol-impaired, a watchdog report said.
A report issued Monday by the Department of Energy's Inspector General's office indicated there were 16 alcohol-related incidents within the National Nuclear Security Administration's Office of Surface Transportation from 2007 through 2009.
"To put this situation in some perspective, the 16 alcohol-related incidents experienced by OST from 2007 through 2009 were from a total population of approximately 597 agents, agent candidates and other personnel," the memo said.
Two of the 16 incidents involved extended overnight missions where agents parked convoy vehicles in a safe harbor before checking into nearby hotels, the report said. Separately, an agent was arrested in 2007 for public intoxication, and two agents were handcuffed and detained by police officers temporarily in 2009.
While management took what seemed to be proper action in the cases, "in our judgment, alcohol incidents such as these, as infrequent as they may be, indicate a potential vulnerability in OST's critical national security mission," the report said.
Despite steps taken, OST management indicated it was concerned about the number of alcohol-related incidents involving agents and agent candidates, and was considering a variety of administrative remedies, the remedy said.
"We share this concern and believe that further action may be needed," the report said, offering several suggested actions as well, including:
-- Subjecting agents to alcohol testing at least once every 12 months or when there is reasonable suspicion of alcohol use.
-- Sending agents home if they are found with an alcohol concentration of 0.02 percent or greater.
-- Conducting annual alcohol awareness briefings.
-- Prohibiting consumption of alcohol within 10 hours before scheduled work.