The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) would have to report to Congress about the benefits of competitively awarding management and operations contracts for nuclear weapons sites by March 1, if the House’s version of the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act becomes law.

Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-Texas), who holds the seat recently vacated by longtime Armed Services chair Mac Thornberry, ordered up the report in one of the noncontroversial amendments approved for the annual defense policy bill early on in Wednesday’s marathon markup. 

Jackson’s 13th Texas district includes the Pantex Plant in Amarillo, Texas, where the NNSA services and dismantles nuclear weapons and stores weapons that are no longer deployed.

“The committee is concerned that the lack of clarity and sometimes sustained periods of time before a contract is awarded for a management and operation contract for the National Nuclear Security Administration’s facilities can provide uncertainty for employees at the facilities and for industry partners seeking to work with the federal government,” Jackson’s amendment reads.

So, if Jackson’s language survives to appear in the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) presented to President Biden, the NNSA would have to turn in a report that, among other things, quantifies the time it takes to award a management and operations contract “throughout the NNSA complex” and discuss “the benefits that accrue from…contract competitions.”

The Senate Armed Services Committee passed its version of the NDAA in July. Neither chamber’s NDAA had received a floor vote at deadline.

A typical NNSA management and operations contract, including options, runs about a decade, if not longer. Large industry competitors usually band together to form joint ventures, organized into limited liability corporations, often taking on small business subcontractors or partners at the agency’s behest. 

The only active NNSA management and operations procurement at the time of Tuesday’s debate in the House Armed Services Committee was the competition for the joint management and operations contract for the Pantex Plant and the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

The new contractor now won’t take over at the two production sites until at least November, and maybe not until March, depending on how the rest of the competition goes. 

NNSA was targeting a June award when it put the two-site deal on the street in 2020 — the pact has five years of firm money, but with options would stretch out to 10 years and a total value of just under $30 billion — but after the presidential election and the corresponding leadership change at federal agencies, the agency extended the Bechtel-led incumbent Consolidated Nuclear Security.