In fiscal year 2016, the General Accounting Office (GAO) conducted an audit of 28 entities to address issues with Department of Energy (DoE) contractor oversight. DoE, including it’s National Nuclear Security Administration, is the largest federal civilian contracting agency, spending about 90 percent of its appropriations on contracts with companies, universities, and others for federal research and development,  production, and engineering. (GAO, March 12, 2019)

After reviewing contracting and subcontracting data and documents, analyzing regulations, and interviewing federal officials and contractor representatives, GAO found: DoE awards about $23.6 billion in prime contracts with about 30 percent ($6.9 billion) of that total going to subcontractors in the form of universities, different companies, or entities; almost all 28 primes were also subs; subcontractors totaled nearly 3,000; and subcontractor complexity makes it difficult to figure out the relationship between the various parties. (ibid)

More than $3.4 billion in subcontract costs (over a ten year period) were never audited. Because the statute of limitations is six years (according to the Contract Disputes Act), many unallowable costs may not be recovered. (ibid)

GAO made six recommendations, including that DoE develop procedures requiring local offices to verify completion of subcontract audits and that DoE independently review subcontractor ownership information to identify potential conflicts of interest. DoE agreed with all recommendations except to independently review subcontractor ownership information. (ibid) Huh. Wonder why.