Will DOE Shakeup Change U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policies?

Will DOE Shakeup Change U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policies?

Recent prominent changes in the Bush administration's war leaders and Iraq policy have overshadowed an important personnel shift in the Department of Energy (DOE). On Jan. 4, Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman announced his decision to dismiss Ambassador Linton Brooks as head of the DOE's National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).

Congress established the NNSA in 2000 as a semi-autonomous agency within the DOE charged with managing the use of U.S. nuclear energy for military purposes. Its responsibilities include maintaining the safety, security, and reliability of U.S. nuclear weapons, countering nuclear proliferation, developing nuclear propulsion systems for the U.S. Navy, and responding to nuclear-related emergencies throughout the world.

The immediate reason for Ambassador Brooks' removal was his failure to end the continuing security problems at U.S. nuclear weapons facilities. In June 2006, someone stole a computer containing sensitive personal data for 1,500 workers from an NNSA facility. In October 2006, local police discovered hundreds of pages of classified nuclear weapons-related documents at the residence of a woman who worked at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. There have also been recurring reports of lost keys to classified storage areas, transmissions of classified data on less secure e-mail systems, and poor tracking of nuclear materials and information. In December, the DOE Inspector General reported that, despite these repeated problems and the millions of dollars spent on upgrades, security procedures at Los Alamos remained "nonexistent, applied inconsistently, or not followed."

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