About two weeks before 2019 budget negotiations are set to compete for lawmakers’ attention on Capitol Hill, the Senate still has not taken a look at the Trump administration’s nominee to lead the National Nuclear Security Administration.
President Donald Trump nominated former Department of Energy and National Security Council staffer Lisa Gordon-Hagerty to the post on Dec. 19. About a month later, Frank Klotz resigned after almost four years as head of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), leaving agency policy chief Steven Erhart at the helm on an acting basis.
Now, the Trump administration is preparing to send its fiscal 2019 budget request to Capitol Hill on Feb. 12. That would signal the beginning of budget hearings that compete with confirmation hearings for lawmakers’ time. More urgently, Congress must still pass a budget bill for the rest of fiscal 2018, which ends on Sept. 30. The current stopgap, agreed to only after a three-day partial government shutdown precipitated by partisan disagreements about immigration, expires Feb. 8.
The NNSA administrator, who also serves as undersecretary for nuclear security, is by far the highest-ranking Department of Energy (DOE) nominee the Senate has left to consider in the Trump administration. The agency’s other two undersecretary-level positions were filled in November, around four months after the administration sent their nominations to Capitol Hill.
The NNSA is also by far the biggest single piece of DOE’s budget. Congress appropriated about $13 billion for the semiautonomous nuclear-weapon agency in fiscal 2017: about 40 percent of DOE’s total budget.
The Senate Armed Services Committee has already held nomination hearings for other government posts this year, but had yet to schedule one for Gordon-Hagerty at deadline Monday for Weapons Complex Morning Briefing. No hearing was scheduled as of Monday, a committee spokesperson said.
Klotz was nominated in January 2014 and confirmed in April 2014. There have been four NNSA administrators since Congress created the DOE branch in 2000. Most were confirmed around two months after they were nominated.