There is just one National Nuclear Security Administration, but it has numerous locations with their own ways of doing business, the administrator of the semiautonomous Department of Energy nuclear-weapons agency told an advisory group this week.
The 16-member Secretary of Energy Advisory Board was chartered in 2018 to provide independent advice to the secretary of energy from a mixture of business leaders and former public servants. One of the big themes of Tuesday’s meeting was DOE’s brand, and how to burnish it for the public.
Nuclear weapons programs, famously born secret, don’t necessarily seek the spotlight
“Most Americans won’t even know what we do,” Gordon-Hagerty told the board.
Still, she touted the agency’s “one-NNSA initiative,” published in December 2018. Equal parts slogan and management philosophy, the initiative calls on the agency’s eight sometimes-competitive sites to “work with a single purpose as … through more effective teaming and improved mission integration.”
Practically speaking, that might include keeping a director of one of the NNSA national laboatories on message if she or he visits with congressional representatives to lobby for her or his site, Gordon-Hagerty said Tuesday.
“I’m of the opinion that if a lab director wants to speak with his local congressman or senator, or he or she is on the Hill, I think that’s a wonderful thing,” Gordon-Hagerty said. “Never would we stop anyone from speaking to a congressman or a senator or anything like that, but we have an incredibly important mission [and it] will serve us better if we do it [with] an integrated approach.”
Still, there are limits to any top-downing NNSA is willing to do from headquarters.
“While we are one NNSA, we also have eight very unique brands,” Gordon-Hagerty said, referring to NNSA labs, production sites, and the Nevada National Security Site. “And we are absolutely wedded to ensuring that they retain that unique signature and brand that is their own.”