Expert Report

Each report is produced by a committee of experts selected by the Academy to address a particular statement of task and is subject to a rigorous, independent peer review; while the reports represent views of the committee, they also are endorsed by the Academy. Learn more on our expert consensus reports.

This report provides advice on how to better evaluate the performance and effectiveness of the Global Nuclear Detection Architecture, a worldwide network of sensors, telecommunications and personnel that serves to deter and detect attempts to unlawfully transport radiological or nuclear material. The Domestic Nuclear Detection Office within the Department of Homeland Security, together with several federal partners, is responsible for reporting on the performance of the Global Nuclear Detection Architecture (GNDA) each year. However, developing meaningful metrics and gathering appropriate data to gauge the progress of the GNDA is proving challenging. In part, this is because the GNDA works to address the threat of a high-consequence event that has never occurred, and because it must protect against a wide variety of adaptive and committed adversaries and threat materials.

The report finds that in theory it is possible to gauge the effectiveness of the GNDA. However, the committee finds that it is not feasible to develop outcome-based metrics to gauge the GNDA's effectiveness within the existing GNDA strategic plan. There are two reasons for this: the higher-level goals and objectives within the strategic plan not primarily outcome-based, and many objectives are focused on individual GNDA layers or resources, not the full architecture. Moreover, the higher-level goals are disconnected from the objectives and lower-level performance goals. This report presents a notional strategic plan (with notional outcome-based metrics) and a new analysis framework to evaluate the metrics and to prioritize the GNDA's goals and objectives. The report provides recommendations on developing a revised strategic plan and a notional strategic plan with metrics.

Key Messages

  • The committee provides several examples and concludes that it is fundamentally possible to develop outcome-based metrics to gauge the effectiveness of the GNDA. However, the committee finds that it is not feasible to develop outcome-based metrics against the existing performance goals within the existing GNDA strategic plan. This report presents a notional strategic plan (with notional outcome-based metrics) and new analysis framework.
  • There is no clear lead architect or single entity to make final decisions about or to be held accountable for the design and operation of the GNDA. Furthermore, there is no centrally controlled GNDA budget; GNDA-related detection and reporting activities are intertwined with diverse mission activities across GNDA federal agencies and do not have specific lines of funding. Thus, there is no single congressional appropriation for the GNDA nor is there a single entity with budgetary control over GNDA activities across multiple agencies.
  • The GNDA operates within a larger nuclear counterterrorism (NCT) mission. Its scope is limited to deterrence, detection, and reporting. When considering how to address and define the GNDA strategy and goals, focusing solely on the detection and reporting mission may limit wider U.S. government actions that span multiple components of the NCT mission space.