The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) is a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy responsible for overseeing the nation’s nuclear weapons complex. Using private contractors to run day-to-day operations, the NNSA manages highly-classified research laboratories and nuclear defense facilities that maintain the stockpile of nuclear weapons as well as provide the propulsion systems for the US Navy’s nuclear fleet.
During the Cold War with the Soviet Union, the United States entrusted the production of its nuclear weapons first to the Atomic Energy Commission from the late 1940s to the early 1970s, then briefly to the Energy Research and Development Administration in the mid-‘70s, and finally to the Department of Energy from 1977 until the present. At its height, the nation’s nuclear weapons complex consisted of 15 major facilities, and another dozen smaller ones, that conducted research and development (R&D), produced nuclear fuel and assembled warheads.
(by James Risen and Jeff Gerth, New York Times)
The NNSA is responsible for maintaining and enhancing the safety, security, reliability and performance of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile as well as the nuclear weapons labs and facilities. It is also charged with nuclear non-proliferation duties overseas, provides the U.S. Navy with nuclear propulsion systems and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the United States and abroad. It does all this through the work of eight offices: Defense Programs; Nuclear Nonproliferation; Naval Reactors; Emergency Operations; Infrastructure and Environment; Nuclear Security; Management and Administration; and Office of the Administrator.
This office supports the leadership of the NNSA, including its top official, who holds the title of Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration and Undersecretary for Nuclear Security at the Department of Energy.
The NNSA’s primary stakeholders are those corporations contracted to run the day-to-day operations at the agency’s 11 nuclear labs and facilities. In addition to contractors, a wide array of public interest and anti-nuclear groups also pay close attention to the work of the NNSA. These include the Federation of American Scientists, the Union of Concerned Scientists, Global Security.org, the Center for Defense Information, Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety, Project on Government Oversight, Rocky Mountain Peace and Justice Center, Snake River Alliance, Atlanta Women’s Action for New Directions, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Physicians for Social Responsibility, to name just a few.
Once a key supplier of nuclear fuel for warheads, Savannah River still provides nuclear materials for warheads. It is run by a joint venture involving Bechtel, Babcock & Wilcox and CH2M Hill.
In the eight years since it was established, the NNSA has struggled to avoid controversy, much like its predecessors at the DOE who were charged with running the nation’s nuclear weapons labs and facilities. In 2003, the NNSA decided to abolish an independent, external technical advisory committee consisting of physicists and technical experts with extensive knowledge of nuclear weapons, as well as former government officials and retired senior military officers. NNSA leadership cited an administrative burden of supporting the committee among reasons for doing away with it. The decision provoked criticism from the Union of Concerned Scientists which included the dismissal of the advisory committee in its report, “Scientific Integrity in Policymaking: An investigation into the Bush Administration’s Misuse of Science.”
Some question whether the Bush administration’s Reliable Replacement Warhead is an attempt to develop a new nuclear weapon without Congressional approval.
Neile L. Miller, who has been the principal deputy administrator for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) since August 2010, will become acting administrator on January 18, 2013, upon the retirement of current director Thomas P. D’Agostino. NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) responsible for overseeing the nation’s nuclear weapons complex.
Born circa 1957, Miller is a 1975 graduate of Framingham North High School in Framingham, Massachusetts, going on to earn a B.A. in Political Science at Vassar College in 1979 and an M.S. in Foreign Service at the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in 1981.
Miller started her career at the Congressional Research Service, working on nuclear nonproliferation issues. In 1987, she joined the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) as the program examiner for the DOE’s radioactive waste management programs and for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. From 2003 to 2004, Miller served in DOE’s Office of Nuclear Energy, first as associate director for Resource Management and then as associate director of International Nuclear Cooperation.
She returned to OMB to serve as a senior program examiner in the National Security Division from August 2004 to October 2007, where she was responsible for overseeing NNSA programs and the Defense Department Cooperative Threat Reduction program. Returning to DOE, she served as the Department’s budget director from October 2007 to August 2010, where she managed its $29 billion annual budget.
In the private sector, Miller has worked for Cogema, Inc., and as a consultant for clients including DOE, Sandia National Laboratory, and the government of Germany. She also served as policy and communications officer in the Nuclear Energy Agency of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in Paris, France.
Miller and her husband, nuclear scientist Dr. Werner Lutze, have two sons, Max and Daniel.
Thomas Paul D'Agostino has served since August 2007 as the Undersecretary for Nuclear Security at the Department of Energy and the Administrator for the National Nuclear Security Administration. He graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1980 with a bachelor’s in Physical Science, from Johns Hopkins University in 1992 with a master’s in Business Finance and from the Naval War College in 1997 with a master’s in National Security Studies.