Conferees agree to set up new weapons agency at DOE

ksaldarini@govexec.com

House and Senate negotiators reached agreement last week on a plan to establish a separate, semi-independent nuclear weapons agency within the Department of Energy.

House and Senate conferees on the fiscal 2000 defense authorization bill adopted recommendations made earlier this year by former Sen. Warren Rudman, R-N.H., in his role as chair of a presidential task force assigned to study security leaks at DOE nuclear weapons labs.

Conferees approved the Rudman report's recommendation to establish a semi-autonomous nuclear weapons agency within the Energy Department. The new agency, the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), would be solely responsible for nuclear weapons research and production. The head of NNSA would report directly to the Secretary of Energy.

"This legislation will provide for clearer lines of authority and accountability to ensure that our nation's most vital nuclear secrets are properly managed and secured," said Rep. Floyd Spence, R-S.C., chairman of the House-Senate conference committee.

The debate over restructuring DOE has been the subject of heated discussions in recent months. Several members of Congress have argued that a nuclear weapons agency would serve only to compound old problems and create new ones. Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson has consistently opposed the creation of a semi-autonomous agency within his department. Richardson only warmed to the idea when even more severe proposals were floated on Capitol Hill, including the idea of taking away responsibility for nuclear weapons from DOE.

Under the adopted proposal, the NNSA would be led by an undersecretary of Energy with broad authority over all activities related to nuclear weapons, including security, policy, budgeting and counterintelligence.

An Energy Department spokesman told The Washington Post that Richardson has "a lot of problems" with the proposal, and is leaning toward recommending that President Clinton veto the $289 billion defense authorization bill in which it is included. One major problem, the spokesman said, is that under the proposal, Richardson would have no authority to hire or fire employees of the NNSA.

The agreement would set in motion the most dramatic changes to DOE since its creation in 1977. According to a House Armed Services Committee summary of the bill, it would keep environmental, safety and health oversight in the Secretary of Energy's jurisdiction and would set up a corps of managers to supervise the contractor community that deals with NNSA.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    View
  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

    View
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    View
  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

    View
  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

    View
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    View
  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.

    View

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.