Fermi National Laboratory

Volume 23  |  Friday, March 24, 2000  |  Number 6
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General Habiger Visits Fermilab
DOE's Security Czar

by Judy Jackson

Saying that he understands that "one size doesn't fit all" when it comes to tailoring policies for the Department of Energy's national laboratories, retired Air Force General Eugene Habiger, DOE's "security czar," visited Fermilab on March 7 to size up security issues at the laboratory.

Habiger, whose official title is director of DOE's Office of Security and Emergency Operations, was on a national tour of DOE's "Tier 3" laboratories. Tier 3 laboratories include those such as Fermilab and the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, where no secret, or classified, research is performed. Concerns about security lapses at Tier 1 defense laboratories, including the high-profile case of Wen Ho Lee at Los Alamos National Laboratory, have prompted a DOE-wide effort to improve security at all national laboratories.

"I am aware that Fermilab is not Los Alamos," Habiger told laboratory staff during his visit. "I understand that the security issues are not the same. I know that scientists have to be able to communicate with other scientists in order to do their work. I'm not here to put a stop to that."

During a briefing session, Fermilab officials described the laboratory's environment of openness both to university scientists from around the world and to neighbors from surrounding communities. Habiger shared his view that the primary security concern at Fermilab is not the guarding of secrets but the protection of research facilities.

"You have unique, one-of-a-kind expertise and facilities here that are the best in the world," Habiger said. "We have to make sure that these unique facilities, this investment, is protected."

Similarly, cybersecurity concerns center on possible corruption of experimental data and disruption of systems that control and monitor accelerators and detectors, rather than access to classified information.

"It's not that people want to steal your data," Habiger said, "but they could compromise your data."

Accompanied by Fermilab Director Michael Witherell and other laboratory staff, Habiger visited the Main Control Room for the Fermilab accelerator complex. Operations Chief Bob Mau and Duty Assistant Mary Kohler explained the procedures in place to make sure no one gets into an accelerator tunnel who isn't supposed to. Kohler demonstrated the fail-safe system of interlocks that control accelerator access and provided a look at the databases that track required training for those with access to the accelerator.

"You're doing a good job, Mary," Habiger said.

In a half-hour meeting with Fermilab employees, Habiger faced pointed questioning, especially on the subjects of badging and of public access to the laboratory site. Employees and users at Tier 1 and some Tier 2 laboratories (which are not defense laboratories but do perform some classified research) are required to wear identification badges at work. Traditionally, most Tier 3 labs, where research environments more closely resemble those of universities, have not required badging. One purpose of Habiger's visit, he said, was to assess the need for badges at Fermilab.

"The Department of Energy has no credibility with Congress when it comes to security," Habiger told employees. "We have a short time period to show Congress that we have changed and to make security at DOE the best in the nation."

Fermilab theorist Andreas Kronfeld acknowledged DOE's difficulties with Congress, but said Tier 3 labs such as Fermilab have no such Congressional image problem. Why, he asked, must Fermilab be caught up in the response to security problems at other labs?

"You're in the frag zone," Habiger replied, in one of many battlefield metaphors he used to make the case for improved security.

Nevertheless, Habiger told employees, DOE would not propose sweeping changes in security policy for Tier 3 labs.

"I think you'll be pleasantly surprised," he told the crowd in Fermilab's One West conference room. "You are not going to be walking around Wilson Hall wearing badges. Your neighbors are not going to have to wear badges when they come on the site. There won't be guards with guns. Or dogs."

Habiger's Fermilab tour included a stop at CDF. During a drive around the Tevatron ring, he said his recent reading of Richard Rhodes' "The Making of the Atomic Bomb," an account of the World War II Manhattan Project, had given him insight into scientists' views of security. He said he sympathized with Army General Leslie Groves, who managed the Manhattan Project for the military and was responsible for the security issues surrounding that project.

"Poor General Groves," Habiger said.


last modified 3/24/2000   email Fermilab