FAS Project on Government Secrecy

DOE Classification and Security<1>

The Department of Energy (DOE) operates many programs that involve sensitive national security issues; the nuclear weapons program is one of the most sensitive. Because of the national security implications of its programs, DOE requires most employees -- its own and those of its contractors -- to undergo personnel security investigations and obtain and maintain security clearances. The security clearance is intended to restrict access to classified information, material, and security areas to those who, through the personnel security investigation process, are found trustworthy and those whose positions require such access. The clearance is one of two requirements that must be met to obtain access. The second is an official need for specific access to perform one's job. DOE Order 5631.2A, December 1985, sets out the agency's personnel security policy, program, and requirements. DOE'S Director of Safeguards and Security develops policies, standards, guides, and procedures to implement the order. DOE's decentralized management structure allows the field office managers flexibility to interpret and implement these orders and regulations. Program implementation is the responsibility of the director at headquarters and of the managers at 8 field offices which oversee the activities of contractors at 27 DoE-owned facilities.


Classes of Information

Unclassified Controlled Nuclear Information (UCNI) is a dissemination category for identifying, controlling and limiting the dissemination of unclassified information on the physical protection of special nuclear material, vital equipment and facilities.

Formerly Restricted Data (FRD) is information removed from the Restricted Data category upon a joint determination by the Department of Energy (or antecedent agencies) and the Department of Defense that such information relates primarily to the military utilization of atomic weapons and that such information can be safeguarded adequately as classified National Security Information in the United States. For purposes of foreign dissemination, however, such information is treated in the same manner as Restricted Data.

Restricted Data is all data concerning design, manufacture or utilization of atomic weapons; the production of special nuclear material, or the use of special nuclear material in the production of energy, but does not include data declassified or removed from the Restricted Data category under Section 142 of Public Law 83-703.

The DOE classification system also encompasses other categories of military information, as well as the dissemination of nuclear-related information to other agencies.

National Security Information (NSI) is information which requires protection against unauthorized disclosure in the interest of the national security of the United States and which has been determined to be classified in accordance with the provisions of Executive Order 12356 or any predecessor or successor order.

Critical Nuclear Weapon Design Information (CNWDI) is that Top Secret Restricted Data, or Secret Restricted Data, revealing the theory of operation or design of the components of a thermonuclear or implosion-type fission bomb, warhead, demolition munition or test device. Specifically excluded is information concerning arming, fuzing, and firing systems; limited life components; and total contained quantities of fissionable, fusionable, and high explosive materials by type. Among these excluded items are the components which DoD personnel set, maintain, operate, test, or a replace. Critical Nuclear Weapon Design Information (CNWDI) is an access limiter used primarily within the DOD to control need-to-know access for nuclear weapon design information.

Restricted Data (RD) is one of the most stringently protected categories of classified information. The Atomic Energy Act of 1954 states that RD can be declassified if it can be published without undue risk to the common defense and security. FRD is the next most stringently protected classified information. FRD is not protected as stringently as is RD but is better protected than NSI. FRD can be declassified when it may be published without constituting an unreasonable risk to the common defense and security. Accepting a less-than-unreasonable risk (i.e., accepting a reasonable risk) presumably means accepting more damage than from an undue risk. According to EO 12958, information can be classified as NSI if its disclosure would cause damage to the national security. In practice NSI is less stringently protected than either RD or FRD, and some damages are acceptable from the disclosure of declassified RD and FRD. The damages acceptable before information is classified as NSI are greater than those acceptable from declassification of FRD. The threshold level of damages for Secret RD is about the same as the threshold level of damages for Top Secret FRD or NSI.<2>


The Sigma System

DOE uses a Sigma numbering system to identify Nuclear Weapon Data that is classified RD or FRD. For example, the Sigma 1 category covers information concerning the theory of operation or complete design of thermonuclear weapons or their unique components. Information in a Sigma category may be made available only to individuals approved to receive that category of information. Sigma Weapons Data Access Designator Categories of Restricted Data and/or Formerly Restricted Data concern the design, manufacture, or utilization of atomic weapons or nuclear explosive devices.<3>

Sigma 1 Theory of operation (hydrodynamics and nuclear) or complete design of thermonuclear weapons or their unique components.

Sigma 2 Theory of operation or complete design of fission weapons or their unique components. This includes the high explosive system, and nuclear initiation system as they pertain to weapon design and theory.

Sigma 3 Manufacturing and utilization information not comprehensively revealing the theory of operation or design of the physics package, and complete design and operation of nonnuclear components but only information as prescribed below for nuclear components. Utilization information necessary to support the stockpile to target sequence. Information includes: general external weapon configuration, including size, weight, and shape; environmental behavior, fuzing ballistics, yields, and effects; nuclear components or subassemblies which do not reveal theory of operation or significant design features; Production and manufacturing techniques relating to nuclear parts or subassemblies; and anticipated and actual strike operations.

Sigma 4 Information inherent in preshot and post-shot activities necessary in the testing of atomic weapons or devices. Specifically excluded are the theory of operation and the design of such items. Information includes: logistics, administration, other agency participation; special construction and equipment; effects, safety; and purpose of tests, general nature of nuclear explosive tested including expected or actual yields and conclusions derived from tests not to include design features.

Sigma 5 Production rate and/or stockpile quantities of nuclear weapons and their components.

Sigma 9<4> General studies not directly related to the design or performance of specific weapons or weapon systems, e.g., reliability studies, fusing studies, damage studies, aerodynamic studies, etc.

Sigma 10 Chemistry, metallurgy, and processing of materials peculiar to the field of atomic weapons or nuclear explosive devices.

Sigma 11 Information concerning inertial confinement fusion which reveals or is indicative of weapon data.

Sigma 12 Complete theory of operation, complete design, or partial design information revealing either sensitive design features or how the energy conversion takes place for the nuclear energy converter, energy director or other nuclear directed energy weapon systems or components outside the envelope of the nuclear source but within the envelope of the nuclear directed energy weapon.

Sigma 13 Manufacturing and utilization information and output characteristics for nuclear energy converters, directors and other nuclear directed energy weapon systems or components outside the envelope of the nuclear source, not comprehensively revealing the theory of operation, sensitive design features of the nuclear directed energy weapon or how the energy conversion takes place. Information includes: general external weapon configuration and weapon environmental behavior characteristics yields, and effects; component or subassembly design that does not reveal theory of operation or sensitive design features of nuclear directed energy weapons categorized as Sigmas 1, 2, or 12; and production and manufacturing techniques for components or sub-assemblies of nuclear directed energy weapons that do not reveal information categorized as Sigmas 1, 2, or 12.


Clearances

DOE and other federal employees and contractor employees hold about 220,000 clearances. DOE employees hold about 4 percent of the total; contractor employees, about 93 percent; and other government agencies and congressional staff, the remaining 3 percent. DOE issues five levels of clearances:<5>

Q Sensitive allow access to Special Nuclear Material (SNM) category 1. An employee with a Q sensitive clearance could have access to nuclear weapons design, manufacture, or use data; disclosure could cause exceptionally grave damage to the nation.

Q Nonsensitive allow access to Special Nuclear Material (SNM) category 2. The higher the SNM category, the more readily the material could be converted to a nuclear explosive device. Categories 1 and 2 require special protection, such as armed guards.

L clearances allow access to Secret National Security Information and to Special Nuclear Material (SNM) categories 3 and 4, but not to Secret Restricted Data or SNM categories 1 and 2. Persons with L clearance may have access only to Confidential RD but may have access to both Confidential and Secret FRD and NSI. For an L clearance, the background investigation of a person is much less extensive -- hence much cheaper and quicker -- than for a Q. The two clearances do, however, require the same standards of personal conduct. Anything turned up by an investigation that would cause a Q to be denied would also cause denial of an L.

Top Secret An employee with a secret clearance could have access to weapons-related National Security Information; disclosure of this information could cause exceptionally grave damage to the nation.

Secret An employee with a secret clearance could have access to weapons-related National Security Information; disclosure of this information could result in serious damage to the nation.

The heart of DOE'S clearance program is the process by which DOE grants, continues, and revokes clearances. Before granting a clearance, either the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) or the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) conducts background investigations of applicants in accordance with standards prescribed in Executive Order 10450. DOE then reviews the results to determine whether applicants are trustworthy and eligible for a clearance. These organizations may also investigate the backgrounds of current clearance holders if DOE becomes aware of information that raises questions about the holders' trustworthiness. If DOE decides not to grant a new clearance or revoke an existing one, the applicant or employee may ask to have DOE'S decision reviewed through DOE'S extensive administrative review process.

Until 1993, essentially every weapons laboratory employee had a Q clearance.These facilities worked for more than 40 years with the assumption that everyone who has access to it has a Q clearance. One of the sticky points of the change is L-cleared persons' access to technical areas. Two major areas of concern are protecting secure computer networks and Secret Restricted Data matter-documents and material. Changes will be required both in facilities and procedures before DOE will approve L-cleared persons being in technical areas without escorts. The downgrading of clearance levels is part of a much broader movement in the DOE complex. The same thing is happening for DOE employees and for contractors at other DOE facilities. Eventually a significant percentage of weapons laboratory staff -- approximately 30 percent -- will have L instead of Q clearances.<6>

RD, FRD, and NSI may be transmitted only to persons having appropriate clearance and a valid need-to-know. RD or FRD may be transmitted to a foreign nation or a regional defense organization only if there is a formal Agreement for Cooperation between the receiving party and the US, entered into in accordance with the provisions of section 123 of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended, and implementing statutory determinations under sections 91 a., 144 b., and 144 a., as appropriate. The Office of Declassification (OC) provides oversight and guidance to the DOE classification community consisting of Declassification Officers at the DOE Field Offices and major classified contractors. There are Declassification Officer meetings sponsored by OC that are held three times a year to discuss classification issues of mutual interest. These meetings are supplemented by periodic visits by OC management to field organizations in order to improve communications between OC and the field and to increase field office and contractor management awareness of the classification program. The OC maintains a working relationship with other government departments and agencies on classification matters. The most extensive coordination is carried out between DOE and DOD because of the joint responsibility for FRD contained in the Atomic Energy Act and because of nuclear weapons-related classification guidance and other related matters.<7>



footnotes

<1> Adapted from: General Accounting Office, Nuclear Security -- DOE Needs a More Accurate and Efficient Security Clearance Program, GAO/RCED-88-28, December 1987, page 8-9.

<2> Adapted from: Department of Energy Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Security Classification of Information -- Volume 2 -- Principles for Classification of Information, (Martin Marietta Energy Systems, Inc., Arvin S.Quist, K/CS1077/V2), page 72.

<3> Adapted from: DOE Office of Classification, Classification Policy Study, (Meridian Corporation, Contract No. DE-AC01-90DP30414, 4 July 1992), pages 136-138.

<4> Sigma 6 , 7 and 8 are not designations that are currently in use.

<5> Adapted from: General Accounting Office, Nuclear Security -- DOE Needs a More Accurate and Efficient Security Clearance Program, GAO/RCED-88-28, December 1987, page 8-9, and:

"End of the Universal "Q" -- "L" Clearances Coming Soon for Many Sandians," SNL Lab News, 30 April 1993, pages 1, 5.

<6> Adapted from: "End of the Universal "Q" -- "L" Clearances Coming Soon for Many Sandians," SNL Lab News, 30 April 1993, pages 1, 5.

<7> Adapted from: DOE Office of Classification, Classification Policy Study, (Meridian Corporation, Contract No. DE-AC01-90DP30414, 4 July 1992), pages 136-138.
















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