The Senate Armed Services Committee is calling in the head of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, and the undersecretary of defense in charge of nuclear weapons procurement for a very-late-in-the-season hearing on the civilian weapons agency’s budget.

The hearing, “Matters Relating to the Budget of the National Nuclear Security Administration

,” is on the slate for 9:30 before the full Armed Services Committee in the Dirksen Senate Office Building in downtown Washington, which is still mostly closed to the public amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, the NNSA administrator, will testify alongside Ellen Lord, under secretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, and Adm. Charles Richard, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command: the interagency forces that carry U.S. nuclear weapons.

The Senate Armed Services Committee will gavel in about a week after the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved a bill that could reduce the NNSA’s autonomy within the Department of Energy — more or less the opposite outcome Senate Armed Services Chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.) has pursued in legislation this year.

The House committee’s bill last week passed on a voice vote, with plenty of support from senior Republicans.

H.R. 8159 “removes a restriction in the NNSA that inhibited mission-support personnel from working department-wide on behalf of the secretary [and] clarifies that all National Nuclear Security Administration and contractor personnel, as with all other departmental personnel, are responsible to and subject to the authority, direction and control of the secretary of energy,” Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), the House committee’s ranking member and a co-sponsor of the legislation, said during last week’s markup.

As part of its version of the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, the Senate Armed Services Committee this year proposed giving the joint Pentagon-DoE Nuclear Weapons Council — which Lord chairs, and to which Gordon-Hagerty belongs — a sort of veto power over the Secretary of Energy, when it comes to the NNSA’s budget.

The full Senate voted against the proposal, but the House’s subsequent moves to legislate the NNSA partway back into the Department of Energy, or to limit the NNSA administrator’s authority, have rankled Inhofe, who in a hearing last month characterized those efforts as attempts to give the Secretary of Energy his own veto power over nuclear weapons experts in the government.