Sec. O'Leary says "strategic alignment" is trimming the budget;
GAO remains unsure whether Department is "truly committed."
Department of Energy (DOE) officials and like-minded politicians joined to defend the agency against Senate and House bills that would dismantle the department (em and its $17-billion annual price tag.
On September 4, the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources conducted hearings on S. 1678, The Department of Energy Abolishment Act. Aspects of the legislation include privatizing the federal Power Marketing Administrations (PMAs) and selling the Naval Petroleum Reserves.
Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-KS) said S. 1678 and its companion bill, H.R. 1993, were developed to respond to three facts: 1) DOE has strayed from its energy oversight mission, 2) DOE services are inefficient, and 3) with an annual cost of $17 billion, Congress could not realign or reinvent the agency, only abolish it.
Citing Vice President Al Gore's National Performance Review, Tiahrt noted that DOE's environmental management program could waste more than $70 billion over 30 years.
One witness pointed out that DOE carries 20,000 employees and 150,000 contract workers. Its budget has increased 253 percent over the amount set in 1977, the year the agency was created by President Jimmy Carter.