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Thursday, December 11, 2014

Panel Calls for NNSA Move Back Under DOE

Governance Panel Calls for NNSA Move Back Under DOE

Weapons Complex Monitor
Dec 10, 2014

The Congressional Advisory Panel on the Governance of the Nuclear Security Enterprise is recommending not only a major overhaul for the National Nuclear Security Administration, but a recasting of how weapons complex contractors are compensated. The panel delivered its report, “A New Foundation for the Nuclear Enterprise,” to Congress yesterday, revealing broad recommendations aimed at fixing what it called a “dysfunctional system” spoiled by “decades of neglect.” The report isn’t expected to be released publicly until later this week, but NS&D Monitor obtained a copy of the 186-page document. While it is often scathing in its critique of the failings of the agency’s current governance structure, the panel recommended that the Department of Energy reabsorb the semi-autonomous agency rather than call for a shift toward more autonomy or a move to the Department of Defense. “The nuclear enterprise would be most effective in performing its missions if it were led by a knowledgeable, engaged Cabinet Secretary and if ownership of the mission were Departmentwide,” the panel said.

More autonomy for the agency would “only further isolate” the agency from senior level leadership. As part of its recommendations, the panel called for a change to DOE’s name, to the Department of Energy and Nuclear Security, and at least a six-year tenure for the director of the Office of Nuclear Security, which is what the panel proposes calling the agency in its new spot in DOE. “It is recommended that Congress place the responsibility and accountability for the mission squarely on the shoulders of a qualified Secretary, supported by a strong enterprise Director with unquestioned authority to execute nuclear enterprise missions consistent with the Secretary’s policy direction,” the panel said.

The panel also said that award fees paid to management and operating contractors across the weapons complex have “diverted substantial energy and resources from mission execution” and it recommended award fees be replaced by “market-based” fixed fees that “fairly compensate” M&O contractors as well as award-term extensions to motivate strong performance. “The panel found that an unintended consequence of the award fee structure is that it contributes significantly to detailed, transactional oversight. It has contributed to the growth of a government bureaucracy responsible to track fee. This, in turn, has induced the M&O organizations to grow a corresponding bureaucracy to provide the assessments that justify their award fees,” the panel said.

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

When NNSA was created there probably was a significant number of people that were members of DOE that simply transferred to the new agency. Change of letters on the badge and on the letterhead, voila same band of merry people, different name.

Moving back to DOE will cause some managers to lose title or jobs. So sad. St. Pete is not there to stop it so why not. Hopefully a little pain suffered by them will give them empathy that the LANS/LLNS changeover caused us. Hey, a guy can dream, can't he?

Anonymous said...

Moving back to DOE will cause some managers to lose title or jobs. So sad. St. Pete is not there to stop it so why not.

December 11, 2014 at 5:38 PM

Stop it? St. Pete stated he created a Frankenstein (NNSA) and wanted to "kill" it.

Anonymous said...

Both former Sen. Domenici and Sen. Bingamin are on record as saying the NNSA was a huge mistake.

It's not clear to me who supports the idea of the NNSA any longer. It hasn't worked so why not kill it off and go back to DOE control. At least that would put the nuclear weapon research efforts closer to a cabinet level secretary. NNSA is completely lost and ignored in the chaos of Washington DC.

Anonymous said...

Moving back to DOE would just be rearranging the deck chairs as the ship is already hulled, listing badly and near sunk. It was a mess before when it was in DOE and this proposed reversion to a bygone era would result in little noticeable change other than lots of reprinting of business cards, letterheads and door signs. Meaningful change would demand a more drastic move out of DOE.

Anonymous said...

Here's a Knoxville News link to the full report...

http://cdn.knoxblogs.com/atomiccity/wp-content/uploads/sites/11/2014/12/Governance.pdf?_ga=1.228861468.1045810815.1418398276

And the news article is at...

http://knoxblogs.com/atomiccity/2014/12/11/reforming-nuclear-security-enterprise/

Anonymous said...

December 12, 2014 at 5:09 AM

I agree for 50-60 years the labs where a disaster before the contract change. Unfortunately the contract change did not improve things.

Anonymous said...

"...Moving back to DOE would just be rearranging the deck chairs as the ship is already hulled, listing badly and near sunk..."

Even if true why have duplicative hierarchies $$$?

Anonymous said...

December 11, 2014 at 10:17 PM

"NNSA is completely lost and ignored in the chaos of Washington DC."


So is DOE. It is not an important cabinet position, and the secretary is not one of the DC power players. This has been true for administrations of both parties for decades.

Anonymous said...

So, move it under DoD?

What's left?

Anonymous said...

What's left?

December 14, 2014 at 11:33 PM

The AEC. One function, one focus, full autonomy.It worked for many years until Jimmy Carter came along.

Anonymous said...


The AEC. One function, one focus, full autonomy.It worked for many years until Jimmy Carter came along.

December 15, 2014 at 10:22 AM


Wrong.

The AEC became so blatantly dysfunctional that Congress dissolved it into the NRC and ERDA in 1974. Carter was not elected president until 1976.

The notion to re-elevate the stature of the nuclear enterprise to a higher level surfaces every few years. One study even proposed that it should report to the Office of the Vice President. It will eventually wind up residing where it should have been all along, under DoD.

Anonymous said...

DoD cannot control NW research and development under the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 as amended. Bark up another tree.

Anonymous said...

December 15, 2014 at 5:29 PM.

True. However, DOD could take over oversight/control of the production sites currently under NNSA - Pantex, Y-12, KCP, and SRS.

Keep LANL (except for direct NW production work), LLNL, and SNL in DOE. Treat them as real "national" labs and not just "NNSA" labs.

Anonymous said...

DoD cannot control NW research and development under the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 as amended. Bark up another tree.

December 15, 2014 at 5:29 PM


Sorry, but that dog hasn't hunted for many years.

Every time a move to DoD is mentioned, someone trots out this red herring. When challenged to produce the exact wording of current law that supports such a claim, they are always unable to do so.

In any event, it is totally irrelevant to the issue. There are literally thousands of organizational changes that are made to the US government org charts every year, and large parts of the executive branch have changed wholesale in the past six decades. Minor words in some congressional bill and the law is changed, assuming that it even needs to be modified at all.

Anonymous said...

Putting part of the complex under NNSA and another under DOD would create a security nightmare. We have a fair amount of difficulty agreeing what is and is not a given security level just with NNSA.

Mix in DOD into the picture and it will orders of magnitude worse. Both organizations will insist on their rules being applied over the other side of the fence, usually with DOD prevailing since they are the 900 pound gorilla. I've seen it first hand and it is a nightmare.

If you think NNSA can come up with some idiotic rules think of idiot squared when trying to communicate between a production lab under DOD and LANL/Sandia/LLNL under DOE.

Anonymous said...

December 16, 2014 at 7:27 AM,

I would agree with your take.

Here's a link to the current law

http://legcounsel.house.gov/Comps/Atomic Energy Act Of 1954.pdf

SEC. 91. AUTHORITY.—
a. The Commission [DOE] is authorized to—

(1) conduct experiments and do research and development work in the military application of atomic energy;

(2) engage in the production of atomic weapons, or atomic weapon parts, except that such activities shall be carried on only to the extent that the express consent and direction of the President of the United States has been obtained, which consent and direction shall be obtained at least once each year...

b. The President from time to time may direct the Commission (1) to deliver such quantities of special nuclear material or atomic weapons to the Department of Defense for such use as he deems necessary in the interest of national defense, or (2) to authorize the Department of Defense to manufacture, produce, or acquire any atomic weapon or utilization facility for military purposes: Provided, however, That such authorization shall not extend to the production of special nuclear material other than that incidental to the operation of such utilization facilities.

*****************
I think people get a bit confused between the 1954 Act and the Act of 1946 that transferred from the War Department (Manhattan Engineer District/Project) to the AEC everything associated with the atomic weapon project.

"Section 9(a) of the Atomic Energy Act of 1946 provided that:
The President shall direct the transfer to the Commission of all interests owned by the United States or any Government agency in the following property:

(1) All fissionable material; all atomic weapons and parts thereof; all facilities, equipment, and materials for the processing, production, or utilization of fissionable material or atomic energy; all processes and technical information of any kind, and the source thereof (including data, drawings, specifications, patents, patent applications, and other sources) relating to the processing, production, or utilization of fissionable material or atomic energy; and all contracts, agreements, leases, patents, applications for patents, inventions and discoveries (whether patented or unpatented), and other rights of any kind concerning any such items;

(2) All facilities, equipment, and materials, devoted primarily to atomic energy research and development; and

(3) Such other property owned by or in the custody or control of the Manhattan Engineer District or other Government agencies as the President may determine."

Anonymous said...

"Atomic weapon or utilization facility" means "atomic weapon" or "utilization facility." A "utilization facility" is defined as any facility that utilizes SNM, e.g., a facility that stores atomic weapons. That wording of the AEA of 1954 did not override the wording of the AEA of 1946 as regards "facilities, equipment, and materials, devoted primarily to atomic energy research and development..." Only lawyers and judges should attempt to interpret laws.

Anonymous said...

OK, 8:16 AM, rather than snipe at the research that someone else did, how about coming up with the reference to support your opinion. Still waiting...


"Every time a move to DoD is mentioned, someone trots out this red herring. When challenged to produce the exact wording of current law that supports such a claim, they are always unable to do so."

Anonymous said...

OK, 8:16 AM, rather than snipe at the research that someone else did, how about coming up with the reference to support your opinion. Still waiting...

December 17, 2014 at 8:24 AM

Explaining established legal interpretation isn't an "opinion." There are some people who actually know some facts.

Anonymous said...

Still waiting for someone to produce the exact wording stating that under current law DoD can not do this. It has been claimed as a fact several times on this blog, as well as on some earlier ones, but never seems to be produced when requested.

Anonymous said...

December 17, 2014 at 2:26 PM;

As alluded to in an earlier post (December 16, 2014 at 7:27 AM) it is actually the Act of 1946 not 1954 that established civilian control of atomic weapons.

The Atomic Energy Act of 1946 (McMahon Act) determined how the United States federal government would control and manage the nuclear technology it had jointly developed with its wartime allies, the United Kingdom and Canada. Most significantly, the Act ruled that nuclear weapon development and nuclear power management would be under civilian, rather than military control, and it established the United States Atomic Energy Commission for this purpose.

"Section 6 (Military Applications of Atomic Energy)

(a) AUTHORITY. - The Commission is authorized to -

(1) conduct experiments and do research and development work in the military application of atomic energy;
(2) engage in the production of atomic bombs, atomic bomb parts, or other military weapons utilizing fissionable materials;...

... The President from time to time may direct the Commission (1) to deliver such quantities of fissionable materials or weapons to the armed forces for such use as he deems necessary in the interest of national defense or (2) to authorize the armed forces to manufacture, produce, or acquire any equipment or device utilizing fissionable material of atomic energy as a military weapon.

(b) PROHIBITION. - It shall be unlawful for any person to manufacture, produce, transfer, or acquire any equipment of device utilizing fissionable materials or atomic energy as a military weapon, except as may be authorized by the Commission"

http://www.osti.gov/atomicenergyact.pdf

This appears to be the legal genesis of the folklore that DOD can not directly control nuclear weapon work.

Anonymous said...

Agree with 6:02 AM that this story is folklore, and have seen the same words on Wikipedia as well. When you go hunting for exact support in current law that prohibits the move of NNSA to DoD, you come up empty.

That said, have also heard many times that NNSA was offered to DoD recently and that DoD turned it down flat. Not for any legal reason (since this isn't an issue) but for a practical one. Seems that they didn't want the headaches that would come with such a transfer.

The lesson might be that sometimes it is easier to beat up on an organization that belongs to another department, rather than one that is inside your own.

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