Jeffrey LewisNational Nuclear Security Administration Advisory Committee

The House Armed Services Committee defense authorization report encourages the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Administrator Linton Brooks (right) to reinstate the NNSA Advisory Committee:

“The committee notes that shortly after the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) was created, the first NNSA Administrator established an independent committee to advise the Administrator on a wide range of issues, particularly technical areas. This advisory committee was not renewed after the first two years for several reasons, including the administrative burden of supporting the committee. The committee recognizes the complexity and importance of the NNSA’s mission, and notes it faces important decisions about ensuring the reliability of our nuclear stockpile, exploring new initiatives such as the Reliable Replacement Warhead program, and maintaining a high level of security in a cost-effective manner. The committee further recognizes the value of sound, balanced information and counsel from independent, credible sources on a range of technical and security matters. The committee encourages the NNSA Administrator to consider reinstating the advisory committee to assist the NNSA in its deliberations on the important challenges it faces.”

NNSA summarily abolished the Advisory Committee in June 2003.

The decision to eliminate the NNSA Advisory Committee and a second committee that advised the State Department on arms control issues provoked outrage among my colleagues. Representative Ed Markey (D-MA) wrote to the Secretary of Energy questioning the decision.

The Union of Concerned Scientists cited the dismissal of NNSA and State Department committees in Restoring Scientific Integrity in Policy Making, a statement signed by 62 preeminent scientists charging the Bush administration with widespread and unprecedented “manipulation of the process through which science enters into its decisions.”

The Bush Administration claimed the NNSA Advisotry Committee had completed its work, but the Union of Concerned Scientists observed the the original mandate indicated “The Committee is expected to be needed on a continuing basis.”

What’s going on here?

I think that some members of House are attempting to force a reconsideration of the US nuclear weapons policy. The HASC markup also:

  • Directs SECDEF “to modify the Future Years Defense Program budget submission to establish a virtual major force program for the New Triad that identifies and aggregates relevant program elements which are associated with the activities and capabilities identified for the New Triad.”
  • Establishes “a Commission on the Long-Term Implementation of the New Strategic Posture of the United States to assess and make recommendations about current U.S. strategy as described in the Nuclear Posture Review and other planning documents, as well as possible alternative strategies that could be pursued over the next 20 years.”
  • Outlines six goals for the Reliable Replacement Warhead (RRW) program, starting from the premise that “national security requires transforming the Cold War-era nuclear complex.”

Similarly, Greg Mello notes the House Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee markup of DOE’s FY06 nuclear weapons budget calls for NNSA to implement a “new nuclear weapons paradigm” that will result in a “dramatically smaller nuclear weapons stockpile in the near future.”

It seems the inmates may no longer run the asylum.