NNSA Folds Advisory Council

By Kucia, Christine | Arms Control Today, September 2003 | Go to article overview

NNSA Folds Advisory Council


Kucia, Christine, Arms Control Today


IN A SURPRISE decision, the Energy Department's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) shut down an advisory committee established to review the agency's research and development portfolio and make recommendations for strengthening its science and technology work. The action drew harsh criticism from several members of Congress.

The committee, which was created June 25, 2001, had a two-year term for its work, and the NNSA decided not to renew it. Committee members included physicists and other scientists with technical knowledge about nuclear weapons, as well as former government officials and experts with experience on a complex range of nuclear policy issues. The committee was created soon after the NNSA was established as a semi-autonomous agency of the Energy Department, when General John Gordon-the first head of NNSA-tasked the committee to "provide advice and recommendations on matters of technology, policy, and operation." The charter also indicated that the advisory group "is expected to be needed on a continuing basis." The committee met five times during its two-year term.

The committee's termination occurred soon after Ambassador Linton Brooks was sworn in as NNSA's administrator in May. (See ACT, June 2003.) According to NNSA spokesman Bryan Wilkes, the group's members should not have been surprised by its termination because federal advisory committees stand only for two years unless a specific renewal request is made. He added that, in the absence of the committee, the Nuclear Weapons Council-comprised of Brooks and two officials from the military and the Defense Department-will continue to develop guidance on nuclear weapons policy. "Ambassador Brooks has no shortage of advice," Wilkes said.

Some former committee members disagree. "A committee like this was a very useful thing for NNSA to have," Raymond Jeanloz, a University of California professor of planetary science, told ACT August 20. He explained that the committee provided analysis, recommendations, and constructive criticism for the agency. …

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