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.
What We're Following See More »
Trump, in a statement: “Based on the fact that the Democratic nominating process is totally rigged and Crooked Hillary Clinton and Deborah Wasserman Schultz will not allow Bernie Sanders to win, and now that I am the presumptive Republican nominee, it seems inappropriate that I would debate the second place finisher. ... I will wait to debate the first place finisher in the Democratic Party, probably Crooked Hillary Clinton, or whoever it may be.”
"The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration identified on Friday the makes and models of 12 million cars and motorcycles that have been recalled because of defective air bag inflators made by Japanese supplier Takata. The action includes 4.3 million Chryslers; 4.5 million Hondas; 1.6 million Toyotas; 731,000 Mazdas; 402,000 Nissans; 383,000 Subarus; 38,000 Mitsubishis; and 2,800 Ferraris. ... Analysts have said it could take years for all of the air bags to be replaced. Some have questioned whether Takata can survive the latest blow."
Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson says 41 Secret Service agents have been disciplined in the fallout of an investigation over the agency's leak of personnel files. The leaker, who has resigned, released records showing that Oversight and Government Reform Chair Jason Chaffetz—who was leading an investigation of Secret Service security lapses—had applied for a job at the agency years before. The punishments include reprimands and suspension without pay. "Like many others I was appalled by the episode reflected in the Inspector General’s report, which brought real discredit to the Secret Service," said Johnson.
Mitt Romney spoke in an interview with the Wall Street Journal about his decision to challenge Donald Trump. “Friends warned me, ‘Don’t speak out, stay out of the fray,’ because criticizing Mr. Trump will only help him by giving him someone else to attack. They were right. I became his next target, and the incoming attacks have been constant and brutal.” Still, "I wanted my grandkids to see that I simply couldn’t ignore what Mr. Trump was saying and doing, which revealed a character and temperament unfit for the leader of the free world.”
"A bill to help Puerto Rico handle its $70 billion debt crisis is facing an uncertain future in the Senate. No Senate Democrats have endorsed a bill backed by House Speaker Paul Ryan and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, while some are actively fighting it. ... On the Republican side, senators say they’re hopeful to pass a bill but don’t know if they can support the current legislation — which is expected to win House approval given its backing from leaders in that chamber."