There is limited documentation by the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) related to how it plans and selects research and development (R&D) projects that are aimed at filling gaps in the nation’s Global Nuclear Detection Architecture (GNDA), the Government Accountability Office (GAO) says in a new report.
The report says that the agency’s Transformational and Applied Research (TAR) Directorate, which conducts R&D related to radiation and nuclear detection devices, doesn’t “document the rationale for how its immediate funding priorities are intended to fill gaps in the GNDA.”
The directorate also lacks a long-term research roadmap to guide its strategic goals, says the report, Combating Nuclear Smuggling: DHS Research and Development on Radiation Detection Technology Could Be Strengthened (GAO-15-263). Such a roadmap would improve the understanding of the R&D program by DHS components such as the Coast Guard and Customs and Border Protection and improve their interaction with the directorate regarding the research investments, GAO says.
The report notes that the directorate plans to develop a strategy for one of its six R&D portfolios is a positive step but adds that a roadmap needs to be in place for the entire program.
“Without documentation that explains how the portfolios align with the research challenges and gaps in the GNDA and defines in detail how the TAR Directorate will address its research challenges, it is unclear to some end users the extent to which the TAR Directorate’s investments are positioned to address gaps in the GNDA,” the report says.
GAO also says that DNDO lacks a “systematic approach for collectively evaluating its R&D investments” and how the success in developing specific technologies has helped address the “TAR Directorate’s research challenges of developing cost-effective detection equipment, detecting shielded nuclear material, enhancing wide-area search capabilities, or monitoring along challenging pathways.”