NNSA Nominee Klotz Pledges to Focus on Security and Safety

Rachel Oswald, Global Security Newswire
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Rachel Oswald, Global Security Newswire
Sept. 19, 2013, 11:02 a.m.

WASH­ING­TON — Re­tired Air Force Lt. Gen. Frank Klotz on Thursday told a Sen­ate pan­el he would fo­cus on main­tain­ing “se­cur­ity and safety” at the em­battled Na­tion­al Nuc­le­ar Se­cur­ity Ad­min­is­tra­tion if con­firmed as its dir­ect­or.

Pres­id­ent Obama in Au­gust nom­in­ated Klotz, the pre­vi­ous head of the Air Force Glob­al Strike Com­mand, to lead the En­ergy De­part­ment agency that over­sees U.S. atom­ic weapons and nuc­le­ar-non­pro­lif­er­a­tion ef­forts. In re­cent years, NNSA has ex­per­i­enced prob­lems with its over­sight of the con­tract­ors it em­ploys to man­age and pro­tect key U.S. nuc­le­ar weapon fa­cil­it­ies, as well as with cost over­runs and delays for con­struc­tion pro­jects aimed at re­pla­cing aging fa­cil­it­ies that deal with fis­sile ma­ter­i­als.

Klotz told the Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee dur­ing his con­firm­a­tion hear­ing that “se­cur­ity and safety are go­ing to be my top pri­or­it­ies if con­firmed.”

Com­mit­tee mem­ber Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) had asked Klotz wheth­er he had any con­cerns about NNSA re­li­ance on con­tract­ors, giv­en the re­cent Wash­ing­ton Navy Yard shoot­ing al­legedly by a con­tract­or Aaron Alex­is and the massive in­tel­li­gence leaks by former NSA con­tract­or Ed­ward Snowden.

The former lieu­ten­ant gen­er­al said, “We need to take a very close look, giv­en the events of the past few months, wheth­er it’s a fail­ure in terms of se­cur­ity of in­di­vidu­als or fail­ures in terms of … se­cur­ing fa­cil­it­ies.”

A 2012 break-in by a trio of eld­erly peace act­iv­ists at a bomb-grade urani­um stor­age area of the Y-12 Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Com­plex in Ten­ness­ee brought con­gres­sion­al scru­tiny of the qual­ity of NNSA con­tract­ors. The site at the time was man­aged by private op­er­at­or B&W Y-12.

At the same time, there are con­cerns there is too much gov­ern­ment over­sight of the na­tion’s nuc­le­ar weapons fa­cil­it­ies. A Septem­ber Na­tion­al Academies of Sci­ence re­port con­cluded that NNSA over­sight of con­tract­ors was con­trib­ut­ing to the es­cal­at­ing cost of the atom­ic ex­per­i­ments that are a core func­tion of the en­ter­prise’s na­tion­al labor­at­or­ies.

Klotz on Thursday told the Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee that he would use the les­sons he learned lead­ing the Air Force’s Glob­al Strike Com­mand to im­prove the per­form­ance of the semi­autonom­ous En­ergy De­part­ment agency.

In his writ­ten re­sponses to ad­vance-policy ques­tions from the Sen­ate com­mit­tee, Klotz said he would work to re­form the NNSA by cla­ri­fy­ing lines of au­thor­ity and ac­count­ab­il­ity throughout the agency’s bur­eau­cracy. He also prom­ised to “identi­fy steps to stream­line busi­ness pro­cesses and elim­in­ate need­lessly bur­den­some, non-value ad­ded activ­it­ies.”

“I will like­wise fo­cus with in­tens­ity on ad­opt­ing meas­ures to dra­mat­ic­ally im­prove NNSA’s cap­ab­il­it­ies for cost es­tim­a­tion, pro­gram man­age­ment, and over­sight of cap­it­al con­struc­tion pro­jects,” he wrote.

Klotz led Glob­al Strike Com­mand from 2009 to 2011. It was cre­ated in re­sponse to nu­mer­ous lapses in the Air Force’s man­age­ment of its nuc­le­ar weapons mis­sion such as the 2007 ac­ci­dent­al flight of four nuc­le­ar-armed cruise mis­siles across sev­er­al U.S. States. Un­der Klotz, re­spons­ib­il­ity over the Air Force’s ICBMs and nuc­le­ar bombers was merged in­to a single chain-of-com­mand.

“When we es­tab­lished the com­mand in 2009, our task was to es­tab­lish clear lines of au­thor­ity, re­spons­ib­il­ity and ac­count­ab­il­ity,” said Klotz.

“We also placed strong em­phas­is on strength­en­ing the safety and se­cur­ity cul­ture, while at the same time, stream­lin­ing pro­cesses and elim­in­at­ing need­lessly bur­den­some, non-value-ad­ded activ­it­ies that stood in the way of our people and their in­cent­ive to in­nov­ate,” Klotz said.

Sen­ate Armed Ser­vices Com­mit­tee Rank­ing Mem­ber James In­hofe (R-Okla.) em­phas­ized his con­cerns with NNSA in his pre­pared open­ing state­ment for Thursday’s hear­ing.

“Con­gress has ser­i­ous con­cerns about [NNSA] man­age­ment, es­pe­cially with re­spect to cost growth, sched­ule slip­page, se­cur­ity and plan­ning,” the Ok­lahoma Re­pub­lic­an said.

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