The United States must continue to lead international efforts to limit and reduce nuclear arsenals, combat nuclear proliferation, and secure nuclear materials across the globe, the retired military officer who has been nominated to lead the National Nuclear Security Administration told a Senate committee.
But the NNSA has a second, unique responsibility: maintain a safe weapons arsenal, retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Frank Klotz said in prepared remarks to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday morning.
“Appropriately-sized nuclear forces still play an essential role in protecting U.S. and allied security interests, even as we seek to reduce the overall number and role of nuclear weapons in our national security policy,” Klotz said. “As President Obama and congressional leaders have repeatedly emphasized, as long as nuclear weapons exist, we will maintain a safe, secure, and effective nuclear arsenal.”
Klotz said the two roles are different but complementary.
President Barack Obama and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz have nominated Klotz, a Virginia resident, to serve as under secretary and NNSA administrator. The NNSA is a semi-independent part of the U.S. Department of Energy, and it is responsible for managing and securing the nation’s nuclear weapons, nuclear nonproliferation, and naval reactor programs. The Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge is an NNSA site.
Klotz said many of the NNSA’s successes “go largely unheralded.
“It has made tremendous progress in helping to achieve the president’s goal of securing vulnerable nuclear materials around the globe,” Klotz said. “It is delivering the life-extended W76-1 warhead to the Navy on schedule. And, it is currently transferring work at the Kansas City plant into a new, modern facility that will greatly improve efficiency—which was constructed on time and on budget.”
Still, he said escalating costs in several major programs are cause for serious concern, especially as pressures on overall government spending continue to mount.
“Restoring trust in NNSA’s ability to deliver on its commitments requires strong leadership focus on managing costs to deliver capability for less expense,” Klotz said. “It also requires re-building partnerships between the headquarters and the field; between federal employees and the laboratories and plants; and between NNSA and the Congress and the Department of Defense.”
Klotz said he wants to ensure that the nuclear weapons stockpile is sustained, facilities are modernized, and the nation helps prevent nuclear materials from “falling into the hands” of terrorists and would-be proliferators. The NNSA should also continue its leading-edge scientific research, support the Navy’s nuclear reactor program, and protect the safety and security of its sites and employees, and the public, he said.
Klotz said he would draw upon his recent experience as the first commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, which has responsibility for all of America’s nuclear-capable long-range bombers and land-based ballistic missiles.
“When we established the Command in 2009, our first task was to establish clear lines of authority, responsibility and accountability,” Klotz said. “We also placed strong emphasis on strengthening the safety and security culture, while at the same time streamlining processes and eliminating needlessly burdensome, non-value-added activities that stood in the way of our people and their incentive to innovate. Finally, we continually stressed that everyone in the organization, regardless of job, or rank, or seniority was a valued member of the team and that her or his work was absolutely essential to success. If confirmed, this is the leadership approach I intend to bring to NNSA.”
Read the full statement on the NNSA site here.