performing hands-on stewardship tasks” and “inefficiency due to diffusion of authority and conflicting objectives. Unfunded mandates to meet functional requirements undermine program budget, plans, and milestones” (Foster et al., 2001).

In 2000, several security breaches led to the establishment by Congress of the NNSA. Congress cited “poor organization and failure of accountability” as causes for these security incidents (National Defense Authorization Act, 2000). The NNSA Act lays out the agency’s mission and organization.2 The NNSA took on several challenges that had yet to be resolved in the complex. This included the need for defining the roles and responsibilities of the laboratories, NNSA headquarters, and field organization units (Foster et al., 2001). The 2000 Foster Panel report emphasized that in order to overcome the challenges faced by NNSA, headquarters must:

Provide leadership and perform top management tasks, including: setting objectives; developing strategies, programs, priorities and budgets; providing guidance concerning milestones and objectives; setting measurable goals and appraising performance against these goals; and adjudicating differences among operating entities. Except for selected programs managed from headquarters, NNSA should not focus on the details of task execution. Achieving this goal will require simplifying, clarifying, and disciplining lines of command, communication, and authority with NNSA. Duplication of responsibilities should be eliminated and layers of headquarters and field management or oversight should be consolidated (Foster et al., 2001).

The 2001 Foster Panel report reiterated the points it made in its previous report, emphasizing that the Secretary of Energy must remove the unnecessary duplication of staff in such areas as security, environmental oversight, safety, and resource management. It also stated that NNSA had done little to resolve the management issues existing within the complex, creating even more bureaucratic issues (Foster et al., 2002).

To help align responsibility and management, the 2005 SEAB’s Task Force on Nuclear Weapons recommended that Site Office Managers report to the Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs (NA-10) rather than the Administrator in order to “redirect the contractors’ focus on the Complex.”

An issue stemming from the ill-defined roles and responsibilities of DOE and NNSA is that NNSA failed to gain the level of authority and flexibility that its creators intended it to have. Although the Agency has authority over a range of operations, putting this authority into practice has been difficult.

The SEAB’s 2005 Nuclear Weapons Task Force discussed in its report that because NNSA’s mission is vastly different, its management system must be tailored to its priorities. However, it found this was not the case, citing that “the DOE has burdened the Complex with rules and regulations that focus on process rather than mission safety. Cost/benefit analysis and risk informed decisions are absent, resulting in a risk-averse posture at all management levels.” The Task Force specifically noted:

Many administrative orders and procedures designed for the DOE civilian research and science laboratories are not well suited to the product-oriented Complex. The NNSA mission requires clear deliverables and requirements for the nuclear weapons life cycle, achieved by design, testing, manufacturing, and production with materials that by their very nature embody risk. The current DOE-NNSA structure should permit NNSA to apply appropriate rules and regulations to the NNSA Complex in a graded fashion (DOE, 2005).

The 2009 Strategic Posture Commission and the 2009 Stimson Center Task Force both support the premise that NNSA has failed to achieve its intended autonomy. The Stimson Task Force noted that due to NNSA not achieving the independence it was meant to have, “the laboratories now function under a complicated set of DOE and NNSA regulations, guidelines, and oversight.” The laboratories need better


2 The National Nuclear Security Administration Act was created as a provision under the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2000. For additional information about the NNSA Act, see

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