The House Energy and Commerce Committee will consider a bill this week that would tighten the secretary of energy’s control over the National Nuclear Security Administration.
H.R. 8159, the ‘‘Department of Energy Organization and Management Improvement Act,’
’ would make the change by amending the National Nuclear Security Administration Act to say that “Each officer or employee of the Administration shall be responsible to and subject to the authority, direction, and control of the Secretary” of energy. Rep. Greg Walden (D-Ore.), the chair of the Energy and Commerce energy subcommittee, is sponsoring the bill. Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), who chairs the full committee, was the only co-sponsor, at deadline Monday.
The bill is one of 38 the committee will consider in a markup scheduled for 11 a.m. Eastern time on Wednesday. The committee plans to stream the markup online on its website, but had not provided a link for the stream at deadline.
Congress created the semi-autonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) in 2000, in part to insulate DoE’s nuclear-weapons portfolio from parts of the agency that have nothing to do with national defense. The NNSA manufactures, maintains and modernizes nuclear warheads and bombs. Whether the secretary of energy should have more control over the NNSA is a near-perennial issue that often gets some sort of attention from Congress in each legislative session.
This year, after private disagreements about NNSA’s budget request between Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette and NNSA Administrator Lisa Gordon-Hagerty became public, the attention from Capitol Hill has been more pointed than almost any year since Congress created the semiautonomous weapons agency.
In July, Pallone accused the NNSA of going “rogue” from DoE in an attempt to grab a bigger budget. That was after the Senate Armed Services Committee tried, but failed, to give the Department of Defense more power over the NNSA’s annual budget request to Congress — including by subordinating the secretary of energy’s preferred NNSA budget to the Pentagon’s favored level.