The Department of Energy should consider a “BRAC-style” consolidation of its national laboratories due to dwindling budgets, according to the departmental inspector general. The recommendation came in a November report that assesses management challenges for the current fiscal year.

The report noted the DOE’s total support costs of more than $3.5 billion – out of the approximately $10 billion total cost for laboratory operations – may be “unsustainable in the current budget environment.” Because of this, the DOE should emulate the Defense Department’s Base Realignment and Closure process as a model for establishing its own panel to examine lab consolidation.

The panel also suggests the DOE examine the possibility of a new type of management contract for its labs, including Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore and Oak Ridge. Also, the DOE should consider whether it should divert its research and development funds to existing university and non-profit research centers.

The report goes on to suggest the DOE consider requesting that Congress ends the semi-autonomous status of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). NNSA was created as a separate agency, which now “maintains a costly set of distinctly separate overhead and indirect cost operations that often duplicate existing Departmental functions.” Because of this, the report suggests a study to evaluate the re-incorporation of NNSA into the DOE’s organizational structure.

Another idea to save money suggested in the report is reviewing how DOE provides security at its laboratories.

Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., expressed doubts about whether the DOE Inspector General’s idea would gain enough adherents to move forward. “I haven’t heard any serious conversation about it in Congress or here in Washington,” he was quoted as saying in the Albuquerque Journal.

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Chandler Harris is a freelance business and technology writer located in Silicon Valley. He has written for numerous publications including Entrepreneur, InformationWeek, San Jose Magazine, Government Technology, Public CIO,, U.S. Banker, Digital Communities Magazine, Converge Magazine, Surfer's Journal, Adventure Sports Magazine,, and the San Jose Business Journal. Chandler is also engaged in helping companies further their content marketing needs through content strategy, optimization and creation, as well as blogging and social media platforms. When he's not writing, Chandler enjoys his beach haunt of Santa Cruz where he rides roller coasters with his son, surfs and bikes across mountain ranges.