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Monday, September 17, 2012

Interesting comments in the Nuclear Weapons & Material Monitor

Anonymously contributed: ======================================================================================== Interesting comments in the Nuclear Weapons & Material Monitor (Todd Jacobson - 9/14/12) on last week’s Congressional Y-12 hearings… ======================================================================================== The Department of Energy has not gone far enough in its response to the July security breach at the Y-12 National Security Complex, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle argued this week, with some suggesting at a pair of hearings that more accountability is needed within the top ranks of DOE and the National Nuclear Security Administration. The impacts on the NNSA could be felt in both the short and long-term, with several lawmakers pushing—albeit indirectly—for the removal of key DOE and NNSA officials and House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee Chairman Michael Turner (R-Ohio) suggesting more drastic changes may be needed to the structure of the agency itself. Beyond leadership changes, Turner suggested that he wants to explore more radical efforts to reform NNSA, including changes that could involve removing the agency from under the umbrella of the Department of Energy or moving it to the Department of Defense. “I think next year we’re going to have to have a serious conversation about whether NNSA and DOE should remain responsible for some core functions of NNSA,” Turner told NW&M Monitor. “They cannot and will not do the job. We have absolutely seen it. This is no longer my opinion. This is hard, cold fact. They can’t modernize our weapons. They can’t build and undertake new facilities. They can’t even budget. And they can’t even protect our nuclear weapons. I know of no other agency so absolutely critical to our national security that is so broken.” The NNSA is currently the target of reform provisions authored by Turner in the Fiscal Year 2013 Defense Authorization Act (see related story), but he suggested to NW&M Monitor that those provisions might not go far enough. “Next year, this is going to give us the impetus to be much more proactive in our reforms,” he said. During the hearing, he noted that the NNSA was created by Congress in 1999 in response to security problems and mismanagement at DOE. “This Y-12 incident is just one more indicator that the creation of NNSA has not fixed the problems—12 years later and the entire nuclear weapons enterprise, from the budget process to facilities construction and now even basic security, is fundamentally broken,” he said. Turner and Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.), the ranking member of the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee, also suggested in a Sept. 13 letter to President Obama that the security problems at Y-12 exist across the weapons complex. “We write to share our deep concerns that the security at DOE-NNSA facilities is inadequate and the facilities could be gravely at risk,” Turner and Sanchez wrote. The lawmakers said that “lapses at every level in terms of process, personnel, and accountability could have allowed a disaster. We believe these issues may not be limited to Y-12. We ask your personal attention to this matter. We further ask that you take decisive action to ensure that in the aftermath of this incident the highest standards for accountable leadership and tough oversight are put into place at the DOE-NNSA.” After a brief public hearing Sept. 13, the House Armed Services Strategic Forces Subcommittee convened for a classified briefing with Poneman and NNSA Principal Deputy Administrator Neile Miller. While Turner did not disclose information that was talked about during the briefing, he said the private details did little to quell the anger among lawmakers. “I would say as a result of the classified briefing every member who was present was even more concerned and shaken as to the level of incompetence and insufficiency and security—on a bipartisan basis,” he told NW&M Monitor.

19 comments:

Anonymous said...


So off to the DOD then. That will change everything.

Anonymous said...

" I know of no other agency so absolutely critical to our national security that is so broken." - (Mike Turner, R-Ohio)

Bingo! This man gets it.

Anonymous said...

Very tough language for sure but, I’m more interested in what the do rather than what they say.

Anonymous said...

It is not so much that NNSA is broken that should be a concern. Just about everyone except NNSA now agrees on this point. The real issue is that the fix could make it worse. Unless the NWC is removed completely from the hopelessly broken DOE and put somewhere more closely aligned with its national security mission, do not look for any real improvement. At this point the sitution is so screwed up that it would not be a total shock to see some well intentioned politician suggest that it become part of that stellar example of good government -- DHS.

Anonymous said...

Carter force fit ERDA into his newly created DOE in the late 70s. It never was a good fit from the start and it has gone from bad to broken. One example of how the broken DOE culture has metastasized beyond the Forrestal building and into the inner workings of the labs is to look at the retired DOE types that populate the upper ranks. At this point even if the labs are removed from DOE it will take different local leadership to have any noticeable impact.

Anonymous said...

It's incredible it took so long for anyone in authority to notice. How defective is our government that it takes more than a decade to see how badly this whole thing was botched.

Anonymous said...

DoD needs to take control of parts of NNSA it deems critical to its mission and then leave the rest to fend for themselves to justify their own existence in a planned contraction. Office of science can pick through the scrap if it needs to.

Anonymous said...

DoD needs to take control of parts of NNSA it deems critical to its mission...

September 18, 2012 2:48 PM

There are good reasons why civilian control of nuclear weapon research and development was mandated after WWII by the Atomic Energy Act of 1946 and then it's successor of 1954. No scientists of the time favored military control. You might want to do some research on why that was.

Anonymous said...

If 7:23 PM has their way, we freeze everything in time from 1946. No Civil Rights Act, no Internet, let list goes on.
It made sense then, now it doesn't.

Anonymous said...

There are good reasons why civilian control of nuclear weapon research and development was mandated after WWII by the Atomic Energy Act of 1946 and then it's successor of 1954. No scientists of the time favored military control. You might want to do some research on why that was.

September 18, 2012 7:23 PM

We learned there was no benefit in having General Groves breathing down the backs of Oppenheimer and Co. Unfortunately, while we think that the Military is finally not "inside the shorts" of our engineers and scientists, most if not all of the Facility Operations Directors at LANL at former "double dipping" ex-Navy nukes. Steve Henry, Hugh McGovern, ...., and don't forget Pete Nanos. And they all possess that same Caine Mutiny mentality, "who stole the strawberries"?

Anonymous said...

There are good reasons why civilian control of nuclear weapon research and development was mandated after WWII by the Atomic Energy Act of 1946 and then it's successor of 1954. No scientists of the time favored military control. You might want to do some research on why that was.

September 18, 2012 7:23 PM


Been out of touch with the rest of the country for a wee bit there, have we?
The Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986 is recommended reading.
In today's structure, civilian control is far stronger than it was in WW II (or Vietnam Nan).

Anonymous said...

There are good reasons why civilian control of nuclear weapon research and development was mandated after WWII by the Atomic Energy Act of 1946 and then it's successor of 1954. No scientists of the time favored military control. You might want to do some research on why that was.

September 18, 2012 7:23 PM

The poster is correct that there WERE reasons that the scientists of that era held their views, likely with good motivation. If you dig some, it is far more likely that those still clinging to the old structure are motivated by different factors than the scientists of the 40's. One place to start is the different salary structure of DOD vs DOE labs. Money causes people to hunt for reasons to keep the status quo and create smoke screens to obscure current realities. The same staff often can be heard wishing for a return to the days of UC management. It is an unrealistic dream at best, and more likely a delusional one.

Anonymous said...

“Unfortunately, while we think that the Military is finally not "inside the shorts" of our engineers and scientists…”

My concerns also - Regardless of past or present legislation, putting the military (para-military or DOD) in charge of engineers/scientist is imo, a mistake. Having retired military people in charge of training security guards at the various NNSA sites is acceptable, But, putting retired military in charge of Safeguards & Security Organizations at the various NNSA sites like Y12 or PX is a big part of the current problems. I’ve watched these organizations become so dumbed down that I refer to it as inbreeding.

Work that was performed by engineers/scientist is now performed by people that have no technical education/training. Imo, this festering mistake which started in the mid-late 1980’s is the result of Y-12’s recent failure & is rampant throughout the other NNSA sites.

Imo, wherever the NNSA function is put, many existing overseers/m&o managers/etc. will be brought along & will result in only a change of letterhead.

Anonymous said...

The labs are run by contractors and the lab employees today no more work for Dr.Chu than vinegar floats on top of olive oil.
If the contracts to run the labs are held by Energy or Defense, it has nothing to do with who is in control of the weapons. The weapons are under the straight line control from the President (always been a civilian) thru a chain of command to the Commander of STRATCOM. That chain of civilian control is robust and has little to do with which cabinet department holds the operating contract for the labs.

Alternatively, perhaps the position is that scientists are less capable of working on national security systems if they are employed by a contractor that has a contract from Defense. And somehow are more capable of doing the same job in the same facility for the same contractor if the contract is from Energy.

Anonymous said...


Our military is the best in the world. It takes discipline, dedication and and a no-whining attitude to be in the military. They can get the labs to run like clockwork. One the issues is the "scientists" that think they know better, how things should be run and that playing in sandboxes is real work. This needs to change and if the military was in charge you bet that would change real fast.

Anonymous said...

Some NNSA facilities (without naming any names) perform quite well, and should not be subject to a disruptive breakup and re-sorting problem. Is there any reason why we shouldn't selectively move some problem facilities (providing critical services and capabilities to DoD) under DoD oversight? Does it have to be all-or-none?

As much as we like to point to problems of the old DoD, we have to accept the reality that they have done quite a bit over the past decade to implement reforms and break down the stovepipes, while NNSA has done little.

I would think that RAND or other organizations should be producing analyses and position papers dealing with realignment. I wouldn't be surprised if thorough analyses have already been done.

Anonymous said...

There are good reasons why civilian control of nuclear weapon research and development was mandated after WWII by the Atomic Energy Act of 1946 and then it's successor of 1954. No scientists of the time favored military control. You might want to do some research on why that was.

September 18, 2012 7:23 PM


In 1946 the Department of Defense did not yet exist!! If you really want to pull out ancient org charts, why not ask to be re-joined to the War Department? It is, after all, older than the Navy Department.
While in the process of turning back the clock, maybe someone can suggest that we should also bring NRC back into some modern day version of the AEC.

Anonymous said...


To be honest how would having DdD and the military in charge change anything? These organizations are probably just as dysfunctional as NNSA. Think about all the incidents that have occurs.

1 Air Force flies nuclear warheads

2 Huge cots overruns on almost every project

3 The military has a huge bloated command with way too many high ranking officers
"However, studies that I started years ago show that there are way too many generals for troops, planes and ships and these generals also make sure that their turf and positions are protected. They are costing us far more than their high salaries, retirements and perks; they are using their positions to protect the status quo in the military."
http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/5920:the-pentagons-biggest
-overrun-way-too-many-generals

5 The military cannot retain talent.
"Why are so many of the most talented officers now abandoning military life for the private sector? An exclusive survey of West Point graduates shows that it’s not just money. Increasingly, the military is creating a command structure that rewards conformism and ignores merit. As a result, it’s losing its vaunted ability to cultivate entrepreneurs in uniform."
http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2011/01/why-our-best-officers-are-leaving/308346/

4 They cannot keep secrets just look at Bradley Manning and wikiLeaks

5 They have endless safety issues, look at all the plane crashes, care crashes and accidents that are routine in the military.

6 They also have many incidents of theft The indictment alleges that while serving in Saudi Arabia, Minter and Nock embezzled over $2,700,000 from a U.S. government bank account at the Saudi Arabia American Bank (SAMBA) in Riyadh. Funds in this government account were to be used to operate the USMTM finance office, which supports U.S. troops.
http://articles.businessinsider.com/2012-05-08/news/31622127_1_saudi-arabian-armed-forces-military-gear-fellow-troops

Anonymous said...

In 1946 the Department of Defense did not yet exist!!

September 19, 2012 10:30 AM

Who said anything about the Department of Defense?? The reference was to "the military." Try the War Department and the Navy Department, which did exist. Truman fixed all that in 1947.

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