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
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 »
AVOIDS SHUTDOWN WITH A FEW HOURS TO SPARE
Trump Signs Border Deal
6 days ago
THE LATEST

"President Trump signed a sweeping spending bill Friday afternoon, averting another partial government shutdown. The action came after Trump had declared a national emergency in a move designed to circumvent Congress and build additional barriers at the southern border, where he said the United States faces 'an invasion of our country.'"

Source:
REDIRECTS $8 BILLION
Trump Declares National Emergency
6 days ago
THE DETAILS

"President Donald Trump on Friday declared a state of emergency on the southern border and immediately direct $8 billion to construct or repair as many as 234 miles of a border barrier. The move — which is sure to invite vigorous legal challenges from activists and government officials — comes after Trump failed to get the $5.7 billion he was seeking from lawmakers. Instead, Trump agreed to sign a deal that included just $1.375 for border security."

Source:
COULD SOW DIVISION AMONG REPUBLICANS
House Will Condemn Emergency Declaration
6 days ago
THE DETAILS

"House Democrats are gearing up to pass a joint resolution disapproving of President Trump’s emergency declaration to build his U.S.-Mexico border wall, a move that will force Senate Republicans to vote on a contentious issue that divides their party. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said Thursday evening in an interview with The Washington Post that the House would take up the resolution in the coming days or weeks. The measure is expected to easily clear the Democratic-led House, and because it would be privileged, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would be forced to put the resolution to a vote that he could lose."

Source:
MILITARY CONSTRUCTION, DRUG FORFEITURE FUND
Where Will the Emergency Money Come From?
6 days ago
THE DETAILS

"ABC News has learned the president plans to announce on Friday his intention to spend about $8 billion on the border wall with a mix of spending from Congressional appropriations approved Thursday night, executive action and an emergency declaration. A senior White House official familiar with the plan told ABC News that $1.375 billion would come from the spending bill Congress passed Thursday; $600 million would come from the Treasury Department's drug forfeiture fund; $2.5 billion would come from the Pentagon's drug interdiction program; and through an emergency declaration: $3.5 billion from the Pentagon's military construction budget."

Source:
TRUMP SAYS HE WILL SIGN
House Passes Funding Deal
1 weeks ago
THE DETAILS

"The House passed a massive border and budget bill that would avert a shutdown and keep the government funded through the end of September. The Senate passed the measure earlier Thursday. The bill provides $1.375 billion for fences, far short of the $5.7 billion President Trump had demanded to fund steel walls. But the president says he will sign the legislation, and instead seek to fund his border wall by declaring a national emergency."

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