Friday, February 06, 2009


Obama's pondering it, apparently:
The Obama administration is considering moving the nation’s federal weapons complex, including New Mexico’s Sandia and Los Alamos national laboratories, under military control, ending decades of civilian oversight.

The Albuquerque Journal, in a copyright story Wednesday, said an internal memo it obtained shows the administration is looking into turning over control of the labs to the Department of Defense. They currently are controlled by the Department of Energy.

The Office of Management and Budget memo, which carried no date, said such a change would not occur until at least 2011.

I'm not sure what this would entail for some of the labs. LLNL and Los Alamos would presumably move to DOD control; but would ORNL remain with DOE while the Y-12 weapons complex moved to DOD? Growing up in Oak Ridge I do think that the current DOE management of the national labs leaves a lot to be desired, but DOD might not make a better home. Perhaps a better idea would be to recreate the old Atomic Energy Commission and delegate DOE's various nuclear functions to it. In my view, DOE's big problem is that it wears far too many conflicting hats; an agency with a narrow nuclear focus might do a better job than DOE dealing with issues ranging from managing the weapons complex to developing advanced nuclear fuel cycles.


Charles Barton said...

Many of the problems of the old AEC originated from the control which the United States military exercised over it. The control, however, was not exercised by the DoD, rather it stemed from the political power of a Navy officer, Hyman Rickover.

Sovietologist said...

Although the old AEC was a troubled organization, it got things done (just like Admiral Rickover). Its successor agencies seem capable only of delay and obstruction. That's why I'm nostalgic for the old days when the AEC and NASA actually fielded new technologies in a matter of a few years, rather than deacades.