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of that office has recommended be pursued, and I believe the Commission would do so only in the most extraordinary circumstances.
In this regard, I believe it is important to set the record straight on the meaning of the term "independence" where the Office of Investigations is concerned. Everyone agrees that 01 should have adequate "independence" to carry out the responsibilities delegated to it by the Commission, or 1f elevated to a statutory office, by the Congress. However, it is now clear to me that the Director of 01 ascribes a different meaning to that word then do I, or perhaps than do any of my colleagues on the Commission. The Director seemingly believes his office should be free to "independently" decide what does and does not serve the regulatory and enforcement needs of the Commission, what is in the "best interests" of the Commission and what the priorities of the agency should be. He appears to view the word "independence" as endowing his office with a character more akin to a mini-FBI than to an agent of the Commission.
I strongly believe that 01 should have all the necessary independence to carry out its responsibilities as a service organization for the Commission. By that, I mean that for a particular case, 01 should have complete freedom from interference by the Staff or Commission in carrying out any investigation which is necessary to satisfy the regulatory or enforcement needs of this agency. 01 does indeed now have such freedom. But "independence" should not mean that as an organization, 01 is somehow detached from the Staff or the Commission. Indeed, it is critical that the Staff have significant input into decisions regarding which investigations are important for regulatory and enforcement purposes and which are not. For its part, the Commission must be free to determine broad agency policy, to supervise management, and to set management priorities for the use of limited agency resources. Commission decisions in such areas may in some circumstances conflict with the personal views of the Director of any Commission office.
However, no more and no less the any other Commission level office, 01 is and should remain responsible to the Commission, and must adhere to the
policy and management guidance of the Commission. The five Commissioners, as collective heads of this agency, are responsible for establishing such guidance and for making the ultimate decisions regarding the use of investigative resources. We sometimes make mistakes. We may one day make a wrong call with regard to investigative priorities. But the buck does stop at the Commission, and it is the responsibility of the Director of 01 to provide the Commission the very best advice in his or her area of expertise, as should every agency office director. But the Commission must remain the ultimate judge of the wisdom of that advice.
Finally, I feel compelled to state that I am deeply troubled that as an indirect consequence of what I believe to have been at the outset an unwise and untenable position taken by the Commission majority on the specific legislative proposals at issue — establishment of an independent inspector general, and confirming in statute the Office of Investigations as currently constituted — the Commission now finds itself embroiled in seemingly interminable controversy. No less than four separate investigations are underway, in some cases investigations of investigations, and on and on. None of this was necessary and most of it has occurred because of illconsidered (indeed almost unconsidered) Commission opposition to these two straightforward proposals that for the reasons I have noted would be of minimal practical consequence for the day-to-day operation of the Commission.
Mr. Chairman, while this NRC may not be perfect, it is the only NRC the country has. And to this day, when it comes to the professional integrity, credentials, and dedication of its employees, I will stack the NRC up against any agency in the U.S. Government.
Mr. Gejdenson. Thank you.
I think there are those of us who probably figure that even the Congress isn't perfect, but we keep trying to make it better. Mr. Asselstine.
Mr. Asselstine. Mr. Chairman, I have a prepared statement. In the interests of time, I would simply ask that it be included in the record.
Let me just make a couple of informal comments at this point, if that is satisfactory. Mr. Gejdenson. Without objection.
Mr. Asselstine. First, I support both of the concepts embodied in H.R. 2126; first, the establishment of statutory Inspector General for the NRC; and second, efforts to protect and strengthen the independence of our Office of Investigations.
In the case of the Inspector General, I simply find that our current office, the Office of Inspector and Auditor, lacks the credibility within the Agency to serve as an effective and independent watchdog of Agency behavior. I think we are in need of an Inspector General.
In the case of our Office of Investigations, I think it is worth recognizing that the Office of Investigations carries out an essential function in terms of the safety mission of the NRC. As a practical matter, we simply lack the resources and the capability to review more than a small portion of the many activities that go on at our licensed facilities on a day-in and day-out basis.
As a result, we depend very heavily on the utilities and on our licensees to be honest with us, to report information and problems to us, and to attempt to comply with our requirements in an honest and straightforward and good faith manner.
Because of the importance of relying upon the industry to be honest and to carry out their responsibilities in a good faith manner, we need some mechanism to ensure that that in fact is occurring, and that is the purpose of our Office of Investigations.
Mr. Chairman, I agree with your comments at the outset of this hearing, that the vast majority of the people who are involved in this industry are honest and well-meaning and well-intentioned, and they try to do a good job. But, unfortunately, past experience has shown that that is not always the case and that from time to time there are questions of wrongdoing and problems that do need to be investigated if we are to have confidence in the ability of our licensees to attempt to carry out our regulations and requirements in good faith and, where there are problems, to bring them to our attention.
Before the Office of Investigations was established, this function was carried out by the NRC Technical Staff and it was carried out with some degree of difficulty. The Technical Staff were not experienced and knowledgeable and capable investigators. As a result, they did not always follow good investigative practices, and the Agency came under a great deal of criticism for poor investigative practices in the past.
As a result, the Commission established our Office of Investigations in 1982 and staffed it with qualified and experienced and trained investigators. The result has been that that office has performed, in my view, extraordinarily well. In fact, we have received a number of letters from the U.S. Attorney General commending the Agency for the work of our Office of Investigations in conducting investigations of wrongdoing allegations by our licensees.
Over the past several years, our Office of Investigations has been under attack by the industry for many of these very efforts. And, as well, there have been efforts within the agency to rein in our Office of Investigations. That is why I think there is a need to provide some additional protection and strengthen the independence of that office, and that is why I support efforts along the lines of the concepts embodied in H.R. 2126 to achieve that objective.
My prepared statement has a few suggestions for you on how I think those objectives might be strengthened and further enhanced in the legislation, and I think that will conclude the comments I would be prepared to make on that subject.
One final point. To address the comments that Chairman Zech made in response to your opening statements, I respect what the Chairman Zech said; I know that he sincerely believes what he said about the role and effectiveness of this agency and the people who staff it. Unfortunately, for myself, I conclude that there are some instances in which the NRC may not be maintaining the kind of arm's-length relationship with the industry that is necessary and I think that there are also some instances in which this Agency is not pursuing the regulatory initiatives that are needed and indeed are long overdue. And I think that you are going to explore during the course of this hearing a couple of specific instances in which I think those two conclusions are supported.
I would urge you to look in detail at some specific instances and judge for yourself whether this Agency has maintained the kind of arm's-length relationship with the industry that really is needed, and whether we really are pursuing the kinds of efforts that are needed. And I would cite fire protection and drug and alcohol abuse as two examples that I think merit further study.
[Prepared statement of Mr. Asselstine follows:]
STATEMENT BY COMMISSIONER JAMES K. ASSELSTINE
SUBCOMMITTEE ON GENERAL OVERSIGHT AMD INVESTIGATIONS
COMMITTEE ON INTERIOR AMD INSULAR AFFAIRS
JUNE 11, 1987
Mr. Chairman, I would like to add a few comments to the Commission's testimony. I favor legislation to create an independent, statutory inspector general for the NRC. I also support the goal of section 3 of H.R. 2126 to protect the independence of the Commission's Office of Investigations. However, I have some concerns that the bill, as drafted, may not be the best means of accomplishing its goals. I will outline later in my testimony some changes you may want to consider.
I support the creation of a statutory Inspector General (IG) for the NRC. The function of an inspector general is to serve as a watchdog for the agency to help ensure that the mission of the agency is carried out effectively and efficiently. The mere existence of an independent watchdog also helps to assure the public of the integrity of an agency's program. In addition, reports from an inspector general can be a useful tool for agency management. They provide an objective, independent look at how the agency functions and make suggestions for improvement. However, in order to be an effective watchdog, the inspector general must be credible; that