September 17, 2020

Manchin Questions NNSA, DOD On Keeping Nuclear Wearpons Spending Under Civilian Control

Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), questioned witnesses from the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and Department of Defense (DoD) on nuclear weapons spending decisions being kept within civilian control through the Department of Energy (DOE) to ensure unbiased allocation of nuclear deterrence resources.

This questioning comes after the FY 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) included several provisions degraded the Secretary of Energy’s ability to develop the DOE budget. These problematic provisions provided the DoD the authority to control over half of the DOE budget, depriving DOE of its independence.

“In 1946 Congress established the Atomic Energy Commission as a civilian controlled agency tasked with managing nuclear weapons. This was done to set a clear separation of control of our nuclear weapons program between the military and civilians,” said Senator Manchin. “I think we all agree and you all have answered what you think, that it’s working, and you don’t see the need to change but you need to see transparency…Do you agree the Secretary of Energy must maintain clear control and accountability for the Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration’s budget?”

The Administration witnesses representing DoD and DOE agreed to the importance of leaving current statute untouched thus protecting the Secretary of Energy’s authority over the Department of Energy’s budget. The panel also agreed that the present nuclear weapons budget process is meeting the requirements of both Departments and that no legislative alterations are required. 

Established by Congress in 2000, NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within DOE responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science. NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, and effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile; works to reduce the global danger from weapons of mass destruction; provides the U.S. Navy with safe and militarily effective nuclear propulsion; and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies in America and abroad.

To watch a video of Senator Manchin during the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, click here