U.S. Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette likes where the National Nuclear Security Administration is right now: not with the Department of Defense and not running off unfettered, still within arm's reach of his Energy Department.
"It's my personal view that I think it's appropriately housed, in the manner in which it's housed, at DOE," the 15th energy secretary told a U.S. House appropriations subcommittee Feb. 27. "Civilian control of the nuclear weapons complex, in my personal view, is very, very important. So I would not support a move to DOD."
Brouillette's remarks were made in response to Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Florida Democrat, who asked for his opinion on where "NNSA should be housed within the federal government." Wasserman Schultz said she, too, did not want the National Nuclear Security Administration shifted to the Defense Department.
"With regard to its independent status, I do not think that that is the appropriate answer, as well," Brouillette continued. "I think it's very important that these agencies have cabinet-level accountability, as well as oversight."
The National Nuclear Security Administration, established by Congress in 2000, is a semiautonomous agency within the Energy Department. It's in charge of the nation's nuclear arsenal – its well-being, too – as well as nonproliferation and naval nuclear propulsion. The NNSA's first in command, currently Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, is picked by the president and vetted by lawmakers.
The NNSA operates and is poised for growth at the Savannah River Site, the sprawling nuclear reserve south of Aiken. The site is stewarded by the Energy Department's nuclear cleanup office, Environmental Management.
President Donald Trump's fiscal year 2021 budget request included $19.8 billion for the NNSA. A vast majority of that figure is flagged for nuclear weapons work.