Morning Briefing - January 10, 2018
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January 10, 2018

NNSA Could Do With Less Semiautonomy, DOE No. 2 Tells Congress

By ExchangeMonitor

WASHINGTON — The semiautonomous National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) might not need all the semiautonomy it has now, Deputy Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette said here Tuesday in congressional testimony.

As part of a three-hour hearing on modernizing the Department of Energy, Brouillette said it was “awkward” that the NNSA has its own legislative affairs and general counsel offices. 

Those offices respectively serve as the NNSA’s main congressional liaison and top legal representation. They also, at least in Brouillette’s mind, duplicate functions of identically titled offices higher up the DOE chain of command in the Office of the Secretary.

“I am hard-pressed to make the argument for separate offices in separate parts of the building that are doing essentially the same function,” Brouillette said during the hearing of the House Energy and Commerce energy subcommittee.

The DOE No. 2 was responding to to a pointed question from Rep. Gregg Harper (R-Miss.), who asked specifically whether the NNSA really needed different congressional point-people and legal counsel than the secretary of energy. Brouillette also made clear he was speaking on his own behalf, and not for the Trump administration.

Congress created the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) in 2000, placing the Department of Energy’s (DOE) active nuclear-weapons and nonproliferation programs under the management of an undersecretary for nuclear security — who is also the NNSA administrator — who reports directly to the secretary of energy.

As part of the process, the NNSA got its own office of legislative affairs and its own office of the general counsel. With the law still on the books, Brouillette said DOE has little choice but to staff the agency as Congress prescribed.