Nuclear agency still struggling with management issues

The National Nuclear Security Administration continues to struggle with management problems, an agency expert said Tuesday. In 1999, Congress created the NNSA in response to allegations that inadequate security at the Energy Department and nuclear weapons laboratories contributed to the theft of nuclear secrets. Congress authorized the agency in the fiscal 2000 Defense Authorization Act to establish up to 300 scientific, engineering and technical positions, and set appropriate pay levels for those jobs. The new agency is solely responsible for nuclear weapons research and production.

On Tuesday, members of the House Armed Services Committee listened as John Foster, chair of the Panel to Assess the Reliability, Safety and Security of the United States Nuclear Stockpile, testified that agency management problems remain unresolved. "Some of the more fundamental management problems still remain to be addressed," said Foster. "Resolving these problems will greatly reduce inefficiency and improve morale in the weapons program." According to Foster, roles and responsibilities need to be more clearly defined at NNSA, while positions need increased authority and accountability. Also, Energy Department rules should be eliminated from the new agency's management practices, he said. "We hire competent, highly intelligent people to provide leadership at NNSA and to manage our labs and plants," Foster said. "We need to make it possible for them to manage effectively." In April, NNSA officials drafted a proposal to recruit and retain more employees. The proposed policy included a pay-for-performance feature and pay-banding for the 300 scientific, engineering and technical positions.

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