Jeffrey LewisHands Off My Nukes! Does Rumsfeld Want NNSA?

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld could make Caligula (right) blush.

Jason Sherman of Inside Defense reports that Undersecretary of Defense Michael Wynne has signed the Terms of Reference (TOR) for the Defense Science Board Nuclear Capabilities Task Force.

I notice the TOR include a mandate to:

Examine a wide range of institutional arrangements that could provide for more efficient management of the nuclear enterprise.

You know what that means: Donny wants Sammy’s nuclear weapons.

Is Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld scheming to assume responsibility for the nuclear weapons functions currently held by Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman and the Departent of Energy (DOE)?

That seems the most likely inference, given the conservative antipathy toward DOE (and its control of nuclear weapons) that dates to its inception in 1977. Hell, Ronald Reagan campaigned on abolishing DOE.

Both the Heritage Foundation and Cato Institute advocate turning over DOE’s nuclear weapons responsibilities to the Department of Defense.

Congressional Republicans even sponsored a bill to abolish DOE in the 104th, 105th and 106th Congresses entitled, well, The Department of Energy Abolishment Act. Future Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham (R-MI) was a co-sponser of the Senate versions.

The Department of Energy Abolishment Act would have created a Defense Nuclear Programs Agency to assume the national security functions held by the DOE. Although the National Nuclear Security Administration was created to resemble that arrangement, shifting NNSA to Defense sounds like an “institutional arrangement” that might be revisited by the DSB.

This is not a great idea. The House Commerce Subcommittee on Energy And Power and House Science Subcommittee On Energy And Environment held a joint hearing on DOE reorganization in July 1999. None of the witnesses—Victor Rezendes (Director, GAO), Maj. General George McFadden, (Former Director of Security, DOE), Dr. William Happer (Former Director, Office of Energy Research, Doe), Donald Kettl (Professor, University of Wisconsin) and Maureen Eldredge (Program Director, Alliance For Nuclear Accountability)—expressed much support for stripping DOE of its authority.

The reasons were pretty straightforward – seperating the designers and operators is an expression of civilian control and allows specialization in distinct, core competencies.

Of course, making his horse a Senator wasn’t a great idea, either.