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"Forget the Rest" blog


For immediate release 5/17/13

As Problems Mount, U.S. Nuke Warhead Chief Steps Down

Agency facing management crisis from cost overruns, mission expansion, contract problems

Contact: Greg Mello 505-265-1200

Albuquerque – The Los Alamos Study Group today praised National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) Administrator Neile Miller’s decision to resign, announced this morning, effective June 14.

Study Group Director Greg Mello:

“I am sure Ms. Miller tried her best to drain the NNSA swamp in the five months she has been in the top spot, but she did not succeed.  She inherited the consequences of bad decisions made by her predecessors, but she also made some very bad calls herself, like overruling her subordinates in order to extend the management contracts at Los Alamos and Livermore, and changing the key scoring official just eight days prior to a $23 billion contract decision.

 “NNSA’s problems are now mounting to an unprecedented degree.  Her successor will need to make hard decisions that halt runaway growth in programs and costs, which will disappoint some politicians and contractors.

For now, weapons program chief Don Cook is slated to take Ms. Miller’s place.

“Dr. Cook, who has been in charge of many of NNSA’s worst recent debacles, is the wrong person to run the agency.  No person should be confirmed at NNSA without a rigorous commitment to cut the costs of, and make very tough decisions regarding, NNSA’s powerful contractors.  So far Cook has been loath to do this.  Given Cook’s extensive background with Lockheed, a major NNSA contractor and beneficiary, it would be far better to bring in somebody from outside the narrow world of NNSA and its contractors.

“The special traditions of the nuclear weapons complex, to which Ms. Miller referred in recent testimony, are the problem, not the frame in which answers to NNSA’s management crises should be sought.”

Many of NNSA’s largest programs and projects have experienced severe cost and schedule overruns, have been downscoped, or are being indefinitely deferred or are being slowed, with potential cancellation a possibility for some.  With each new revelation NNSA’s credibility on Capitol Hill has declined. 

NNSA has not delivered legally-required planning reports to Congress for many months, leaving congressional committees in limbo and perplexed – not to say angry. 

NNSA’s budget promises the agency will find efficiency savings of $320 million per year in FY2014 and after in its nuclear weapons program, but the agency has not identified how these savings will be achieved.

Today the Nuclear Weapons and Materials Monitor revealed that NNSA’s flagship Uranium Processing Facility (UPF), to be constructed at the Y-12 site in Tennessee, might not be completed prior to 2034, 23 years behind schedule, and with a price tag that might be as much as roughly 20 times the original figure quoted to Congress.  NNSA was advised of this possibility about two years ago by the Army Corps of Engineers but has not stated it publicly.  The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently told Congress in a confidential briefing* that a design error on the project cost $540 million and a year’s delay.

A variety of official sources, including Dr. Cook, have stated the agency's desire to completely renew and replace the entire U.S. nuclear arsenal in the next 25 years, including warheads just being overhauled today.

Recent Study Group public talks have focused on NNSA's mounting problems and the inadequacy of its management approaches and themes.  More information is available upon request.


*Now available from the Study Group; will soon be posted on our web site.


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