U.S. government agents hired to drive nuclear weapons and components in trucks sometimes got drunk on the job, including an incident last year when two agents were detained by police at a local bar during a convoy, according to a report Monday by the U.S. Energy Department’s watchdog. The department’s assistant inspector general, Sandra D. Bruce, said her office reviewed 16 alcohol-related incidents involving agents, candidate-agents and others from the government’s Office of Secure Transportation between 2007 through 2009. There are nearly 600 federal agents who ship nuclear weapons, weapon components and special nuclear material. The report said that two incidents in particular raised red flags because they happened during “secure transportation missions” while agents checked into local hotels during extended missions, and the vehicles were placed in “safe harbor.” One of those occurred in 2007, when an agent was arrested for public intoxication; the other happened last year, when police handcuffed and temporarily detained two agents after an incident at a local bar. “Alcohol incidents such as these, as infrequent as they may be, indicate a potential vulnerability in OST’s critical national security mission,” the report warns. The report recommends that officials consider actions such as a “zero tolerance” policy for alcohol incidents. Current guidelines call for alcohol testing at least once a year and when reasonable suspicion of alcohol exists; a ban on consuming alcohol within 10 hours before scheduled work; and sending home agents who have an alcohol concentration of 0.02 or more.
The Energy Department referred questions to its National Nuclear Security Administration, which had no immediate comment.