San Diego is a literal hot spot of high-grade military nuclear materials, from the nuke-tipped missiles on Point Loma–based submarines to the reactors powering the subs and aircraft carriers frequenting the harbor.
"There are some 165 nuclear aerial bombs stationed at Naval Air Station North Island storage facility in San Diego, California. Another 65 W-80-0 Tomahawk [submarine launched cruise missile] munitions are distributed between this storage facility and the La Playa Annex Naval Weapons Station in the Point Loma area of San Diego," according to the website GlobalSecurity.org.
Charged with transporting and protecting all that radioactive firepower as it discretely travels in and out of town is an Albuquerque, New Mexico–based outfit called the Office of Secure Transportation in the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration.
The organization is "responsible for the safe and secure transport in the contiguous United States of government-owned special nuclear materials," according to its website.
"These classified shipments can contain nuclear weapons or components, enriched uranium, or plutonium.
Office of Secure Transportation video
"The cargo is transported in highly modified secure tractor-trailers and escorted by armed Federal Agents in other vehicles who provide security and national incident command system response in the event of emergencies."
Is all that atomic freight in good hands?
A recent audit by the Energy Department's Office of Inspector General raises doubts.
"We received an allegation that an Operations Squad Commander was engaged in unsuitable, reportable behavior and even though management was aware of the problems, no disciplinary action was taken," a summary of the report says.
"We found that the Squad Commander, along with other agents, engaged in unsuitable, reportable behaviors, such as uncontrolled anger, hostility, and aggression toward fellow workers and authority figures.”
In addition to anger-management issues, the summary goes on to say that the squad commander was alleged to have "forced a medically restricted agent to participate in physical training," as well as to have "falsified Federal documentation related to a work injury."
The unidentified employee also allegedly "manipulated the promotion selection process to select a personal friend over another applicant" and "threatened to pull agents’ [Human Resource Planning] access rendering them unable to train or perform their duties."
“These incidents were not reported as required. While the specific allegation that the Squad Commander forced an agent to participate in strenuous training while under medical restriction was not substantiated, we did find that the Deputy Director allowed the agent to engage in this strenuous training exercise without proper medical clearance….
"We confirmed seven separate incidents that took place over a span of 10 years, with the most recent occurring in early 2013.
“Senior OST officials told us that none of the incidents were reported to them, so they were unable to take disciplinary or other action. The remaining allegations against the Squad Commander were not substantiated….
"Even though OST had a number of internal controls in place designed to prevent the type of problematic behavior we substantiated, we found them not to be completely effective," the report notes.
"We made recommendations designed to strengthen controls in this important area," the summary concludes.
But the specific nature of the suggested changes and other details of the inspector general’s findings remain secret.
"The full report in this matter has been designated as for 'Official Use Only’ and is not available for public release," according to the November 24 online summary.