Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette is establishing a new office to manage “all policy within the Department,” and appointing a new personal adviser for nuclear security, according to an all-hands memo dated Tuesday.
To do this, Brouillette will rebrand the current Office of Policy (OP) as the Office of Strategic Planning and Policy (OSSP), which will report directly to the Office of the Secretary of Energy, according to the memo, which was obtained by Nuclear Security & Deterrence Monitor. The Office of Policy currently reports to the undersecretary of energy.
The” OSPP will provide a more efficient and effective approach to the analysis, formulation, development, and advancement of all policy within the Department. This streamlined approach will require a smaller staff in order to be agile to the Department’s needs and will engage directly with Departmental Elements policy experts,” Brouillette wrote.
To lead the office, Brouillette has tapped into a youth movement, elevating a pair of his own advisers to new heights of responsibility within the agency. Benjamin Reinke will be executive director at OSPP, and Allison Bury will be deputy director, Brouillette wrote.
Reinke, who according to his LinkedIn profile completed a doctorate in nuclear engineering in 2016, in May left his job as a professional staff member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to become an adviser to then-Deputy Secretary of Energy Brouillette. The Senate panel sets policy for DOE nuclear energy programs.
Allison Bury, who according to her LinkedIn profile completed a master’s in environmental science in 2015, has been an adviser to Brouillette for the past two years. Prior to that, she spent seven months as a House aide, most recently as a legislative clerk on the Energy and Commerce Committee and initially as an intern for Rep. Francis Rooney (R-Fla.).
The new energy secretary thanked “Cathy Tripodi and Kyle Yunaska for their leadership of OP.” Tripodi now will become chief operating officer for research management operations, reporting to Mark Menezes, the undersecretary of energy. Yunaska, who is the brother-in-law of Eric Trump, son of President Donald Trump, will be director of the national laboratory operations board.
Employees displaced from OP will be shifted to other DOE roles “over the coming weeks,” according to the memo.
The Energy Department did not respond to a query seeking more detail about the reorganization.
In his memo, Brouillette announced several other personnel moves. He has tapped Larry LeGree to be senior adviser for nuclear security affairs for the secretary, according to the memo. A source familiar with the latest round of personnel moves at DOE said LeGree is a Navy captain known to Jim Colgary, Brouillette’s chief of staff.
LeGree heads to the secretary’s office in the midst of a suddenly public policy dispute between Brouillette and Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, head of the department’s semiautonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).
Gordon-Hagerty, according to media reports in recent weeks, persuaded President Donald Trump to agree to a 2021 budget request of roughly $20-billion for the NNSA. Brouillette had backed a smaller request of roughly $17.5 billion, but was “overruled” by Trump, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said this week, according to a report by the arms-industry trade publication Defense News. Inhofe’s office did not reply to a request for comment this week.
Even if the administration seeks $20 billion for the NNSA, Congress would still have to approve the figure, which is nearly $3.5 billion more than the weapons agency’s 2020 appropriation.
The NNSA could not shift that much money into its Weapons Activities budget without defunding essentially the entire budgets of its Naval Nuclear Reactors and Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation accounts, which have budgets of roughly $1.7 billion and $2 billion, respectively, for 2020.
That leaves as potential bill-payers the rest of DOE or other federal agencies, including parts of the defense budget that fund conventional warfare.
The White House is expected to release its 2021 budget request on Feb. 10.