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former IAEA Director-General

Panel Calls for NNSA Overhaul
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January/February 2015

By Daniel Horner

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) should be reconstituted as the Office of Nuclear Security within the Energy Department, and the department’s name should be changed to the “Department of Energy and Nuclear Security,” according to a high-level independent report.

Since it was established 15 years ago, the NNSA has been a semiautonomous agency within the Energy Department responsible for the management and security of U.S. nuclear weapons and for nuclear nonproliferation and naval reactor programs. Congress created the NNSA to sharpen the department’s focus on nuclear security and other issues relating to the U.S. nuclear weapons complex.

In its recently released report, “A New Foundation for the Nuclear Enterprise,” the panel argued for “a knowledgeable, engaged” energy secretary and for department-wide “ownership” of the NNSA’s mission. That stands in contrast to proposals for greater NNSA autonomy.

The congressionally mandated report also stressed the need for better coordination and collaboration with the Defense Department. According to the report, NNSA “customers” in the Pentagon currently “lack confidence” in the NNSA’s ability to carry out programs to extend the life of warheads in the U.S. stockpile and modernize the facilities that produce the warheads.

NNSA reform is crucial because “nuclear weapons have become orphans” in Congress and the executive branch, the report said.

Posted: January 8, 2015