The Energy Department’s inspector general calls for the creation of an independent panel to examine ways of consolidating the labs.

DOE-SealAlready under fire for granting a $535 million federal loan guarantee to Solyndra, the Department of Energy now faces a critique from within.

The department’s inspector general, Gregory H. Friedman, issued a report calling for a wholesale restructuring of the department’s far-flung laboratories and other operations. He warned that “painful” staff reductions were certain to come as Congress sought deep federal budget cuts in the months ahead.

In one of his more striking criticisms, Mr. Friedman wrote that the department spent nearly $13 billion a year to run 16 separate laboratories but that only about half of that money went toward actual research, with 49 percent paying for overhead and capital spending. That ratio is “out of sync,” he said, and could be improved by combining some operations. The report noted that the Energy Department has three centers for nuclear weapons work, two for Navy propulsion reactors, five for energy technology and 13 for general science. “The department’s research complex is organized essentially as it has been for over a half-century,” it said.

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Source: Matthew L. Wald | The New York Times
Image: U.S. Department of Energy