U.S. Nuclear Security Agency Has ‘Failed,’ Says Advisory Panel

U.S. Energy Department security personnel take part in a 2012 exercise. A congressionally convened panel said an Energy Department agency has "failed" in efforts to effectively oversee the U.S. nuclear-weapons complex.
National Journal
Diane Barnes
Add to Briefcase
See more stories about...
Diane Barnes
March 27, 2014, 6:34 a.m.

A con­gres­sion­ally man­dated pan­el says a key En­ergy De­part­ment agency has “failed” in its mis­sion to ef­fect­ively over­see U.S. nuc­le­ar-arms op­er­a­tions.

Drastic re­forms are cru­cial to ad­dress “sys­tem­ic” man­age­ment short­com­ings at the Na­tion­al Nuc­le­ar Se­cur­ity Ad­min­is­tra­tion, ac­cord­ing to pre­lim­in­ary find­ings un­veiled on Wed­nes­day by the co-chairs of the Ad­vis­ory Pan­el on the Gov­ernance of the Nuc­le­ar Se­cur­ity En­ter­prise.

“The un­mis­tak­able con­clu­sion of our fact-find­ing is that, as im­ple­men­ted, the ‘NNSA ex­per­i­ment’ in­volving cre­ation of a semi­autonom­ous or­gan­iz­a­tion has failed,” ac­cord­ing to Norm Au­gustine, who headed the bi­par­tis­an group with re­tired Adm. Richard Mies.

“The cur­rent DOE-NNSA struc­ture has not es­tab­lished the ef­fect­ive op­er­a­tion­al sys­tem that Con­gress in­ten­ded,” Au­gustine told the House Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee in a writ­ten sum­mary of the pan­el’s ini­tial con­clu­sions. “This needs to be fixed as a mat­ter of pri­or­ity, and these fixes will not be simple or quick.”

The former of­fi­cials at­trib­uted the Na­tion­al Nuc­le­ar Se­cur­ity Ad­min­is­tra­tion’s his­tory of high-pro­file se­cur­ity lapses at atom­ic-com­plex fa­cil­it­ies and soar­ing cost over­runs in ma­jor pro­jects to prob­lems that be­came em­bed­ded in the na­tion’s nuc­le­ar weapons cul­ture after the end of the Cold War. Con­gress es­tab­lished the agency in 2000 fol­low­ing the Wen Ho Lee spy scan­dal at Los Alam­os Na­tion­al Labor­at­ory, giv­ing it the re­spons­ib­il­ity to over­see arms activ­it­ies that were pre­vi­ously handled by the En­ergy De­part­ment it­self.

Today, both or­gan­iz­a­tions con­tain “too many people [who] can stop mis­sion-es­sen­tial work for a host of reas­ons,” Mies said in a writ­ten state­ment to the com­mit­tee, provided for a Wed­nes­day hear­ing. He ad­ded that “those who are re­spons­ible for get­ting the work done of­ten find their de­cisions ig­nored or over­turned.”

He also as­ser­ted that a cul­ture of mis­trust has de­veloped between NNSA of­fi­cials and the nuc­le­ar-weapons labor­at­or­ies they over­see.

Au­gustine said nuc­le­ar-arms ef­forts man­aged by both the En­ergy and De­fense de­part­ments have been be­deviled by “com­pla­cency” and a “loss of fo­cus” since the end of the Cold War.

Mies ad­ded that “there is no af­ford­able, ex­ecut­able joint DOD-DOE vis­ion, plan, or pro­gram for the fu­ture of nuc­le­ar-weapons cap­ab­il­it­ies.”

The pan­el’s ini­tial find­ings did not en­dorse any spe­cif­ic plan for al­ter­ing over­sight of the nuc­le­ar-weapons com­plex. The group — man­dated early last year un­der a pro­vi­sion of the fisc­al 2013 Na­tion­al De­fense Au­thor­iz­a­tion Act — is ex­pec­ted to is­sue its fi­nal re­port this sum­mer.

Past re­form pro­pos­als have in­cluded a Re­pub­lic­an-led push to elim­in­ate En­ergy De­part­ment over­sight of NNSA op­er­a­tions and in­crease con­tract­or in­de­pend­ence. Oth­ers have ad­voc­ated a boost in En­ergy’s over­sight, or to place the atom­ic agency un­der Pentagon con­trol.

Au­gustine said the pres­id­ent and his ad­min­is­tra­tion would shoulder primary re­spons­ib­il­ity for in­sti­tut­ing changes.

“Prob­ably the most im­port­ant in­di­vidu­al un­der today’s or­gan­iz­a­tion is the sec­ret­ary of En­ergy who, in many cases in the past, did not have a back­ground at all with­in this arena,” he said dur­ing the com­mit­tee ques­tion-and-an­swer ses­sion.

What We're Following See More »
ARE “OPEN TO NEGOTIATION”
Sens. Paul, Cruz, Johnson and Lee Oppose Senate Health Care Bill
2 hours ago
THE LATEST

The four Senators released a joint statement, saying in part, "There are provisions in this draft that repreesnt an improvement to our current health care system, but it does not appear this draft as written will accomplish the most important promise we made to Americans: to repeal Obamacare and lower their health care costs."

Source:
UNKNOWN IF TRUMP WANTS 2024 GAMES IN L.A.
Trump Meets With International Olympic Committee Today
2 hours ago
THE LATEST

"President Trump will meet with the International Olympic Committee Thursday amid a battle between Los Angeles and Paris for the right to host the 2024 games. The meeting at the White House will come roughly three months before members of the IOC vote on which of the two cities will welcome the Olympics during what could be the final year of Trump's presidency, should he win re-election. Trump has remained largely silent on whether he plans to fight for the U.S. to receive the games in 2024."

Source:
TRUMP SUGGESTED THERE WERE TAPES
No Comey Tapes
3 hours ago
THE LATEST

Trump tweeted Thursday afternoon, "With all of the recently reported electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking and illegal leaking of information, I have no idea whether there are "tapes" or recordings of my conversations with James Comey, but I did not make, and do not have, any such recordings."

Source:
DEVELOPING
Senate Healthcare Bill In Trouble?
4 hours ago
BREAKING
ALTERED, STOLE VOTER INFO
Russian Hacking More Extensive Than Previously Reported
4 hours ago
BREAKING

"The hacking of state and local election databases in 2016 was more extensive than previously reported, including at least one successful attempt to alter voter information, and the theft of thousands of voter records that contain private information like partial Social Security numbers. ... Congressional investigators are probing whether any of this stolen private information made its way to the Trump campaign. ... The House Intelligence Committee plans to seek testimony this summer from Brad Parscale, the digital director of the Trump campaign."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login