Congressman Mike Turner gave remarks at the Air Force Association's Breakfast Seminar Series. Turner, who is Chairman of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, focused on the need for reform at the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and the need for sound and effective management of our nuclear security enterprise.
The full text of Congressman Turner's remarks follow below.
Remarks at the Air Force Association's Breakfast Seminar Series -- As Prepared for Delivery
The Honorable Michael R. Turner
Chairman, Strategic Forces Subcommittee, House Armed Services Committee
June 7, 2012
This President, more than any other I can think of, has a habit of blaming others who try to offer constructive solutions, especially when he isn't bold enough to offer his own solutions, and his habit for attacking those who hold him to his own commitments.
Look at the budget standoff today: the President threatens to veto the legislation introduced by Chairman McKeon to prevent defense sequester for one year, and to pay for it, without offering his own solution, making sequester far more likely.
His own Defense Secretary has warned repeatedly just how dangerous this is.
And we've all seen with disbelief the President's practice of putting up budgets, like his past two, that even his own party can't support when they come to a vote in the House or Senate.
For example, this year, the President's budget request did not get a single vote from a single member of his or my party.
Frankly, I'm not sure if these are examples of the President's leading from behind, or just failing to lead.
But today I'd like to view this habit through the recent example of how the House Armed Services Committee has tried to help the President to honor his commitments and promises to nuclear modernization that he made while seeking ratification of the New START treaty.
The Subcommittee I lead, the Strategic Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, decided early on this year that the time had come to reform the NNSA.
It was clear when we saw the President's FY13 budget request and we saw the proposed delays in key programmatic promises by the President that the NNSA wasn't able to deliver on the President's promises. Let me say that again, the President's promises.
Yet, when HASC offered ideas for how to help the President get those promises fulfilled, all we get are "strong objections" from the President's senior advisors.
The result is the President is walking away from his promises, without a fight, other than his fight with those who are trying to help him.
I think it's a logical question to ask, was the President serious about these promises in the first place?
If so, where are his alternative ideas? What is it about this President that his gut reaction is to attack those who offer solutions?
Why Reform NNSA?
As everyone in this audience knows, a very long series of reports over the past ten years have documented major problems with DOE and NNSA's governance of the nuclear security enterprise.
The reforms in the recent HASC bill are drawn directly from the recommendations and findings of these reports, including those by the Strategic Posture Commission, the National Academies of Science, the Defense Science Board, the Henry L. Stimson Center, the National Laboratories Directors Council, the GAO and others.
In 1999 and 2000, the Strategic Forces Subcommittee spearheaded creation of the
semi-autonomous NNSA to address major problems at DOE--an organization that one 1999 investigation called a "dysfunctional bureaucracy that has proven it is incapable of reforming itself."
A 1995 commission: "revealed a counterproductive federal system of operation" for DOE's national labs, citing "increased overhead cost, poor morale, and gross inefficiencies as a result of overly prescriptive and excessive oversight by the Department," and "inordinate internal focus at every level of these laboratories on compliance issues and questions of management processes, which takes a major toll on research performance."
NNSA was created to enable the nuclear security enterprise to address these problems and be more effective, more focused, and more efficient.
Twelve years after the creation of NNSA, the question we've been asking this past year is: Has it worked?
According to the myriad reports, studies, and experts the subcommittee has consulted, the overwhelming conclusion is: no, it has not worked.
Many of the same problems still exist, and many have gotten worse.
The bipartisan Perry-Schlesinger Commission stated, for example, that " the governance structure of the NNSA is not delivering the needed results. This governance structure should be changed , the original intent of the legislation creating the NNSA has not been realized. The desired autonomy has not come into being. It is time to consider fundamental changes."
Ultimately, the Commission recommended that Congress re-constitute NNSA as a wholly independent agency reporting to the President through the Secretary of Energy.
Others have begun thinking about moving NNSA over to the DOD, since DOD is increasingly funding the NNSA's activities, and, DOD is of course the customer of the NNSA.
Of course, the HASC took a more reserved initial approach to reform of the NNSA in its bill this year.
Yet, even these modest reforms have met opposition, mostly from entrenched interests at DOE and in federal employee unions.
Based on the Statement of Administration Position on the House-passed FY13 National Defense Authorization bill, the Administration is stuck in the status quo, apparently captive to a major constituency in an election year.
What happens if these reforms are stymied by a lack of Presidential leadership and the inertia of bureaucratic self-interest I can't say just now.
But if it's clear that NNSA can't be fixed within DOE, there is only really one alternative, move it.
Let me review the HASC action briefly.
Reform in the Bipartisan House-passed NNSA
The HASC reforms are broken down into several discrete sections, and I'd like to describe to you what they are and why we went in this direction on the Committee.
Section 3133 (thirty-one thirty-three) strengthens the semi-autonomous nature of NNSA. This is done by clarifying that the NNSA Administrator is responsible for all programs, policies, regulations, and rules of the NNSA--Other than authority to disapprove any action of the Administrator--the neither the Secretary of Energy (nor his staff) can interfere in the operations or management of NNSA.
This provision implements the original intent of the NNSA Act. As a special panel of the House Armed Services Committee found in 2000 and 2001, DOE has been undercutting the intent of the NNSA Act since the very beginning.
It is time for this to end.
Section 3113 (thirty one thirteen) requires NNSA to eliminate transaction-based oversight of the enterprise and conduct performance-based oversight wherever possible, all while holding contractors accountable for fulfilling clear, high-level performance goals.
Transaction-based oversight is strangling the innovation and efficiency of the labs and plants. As many studies have found, it is unnecessary in most if not all areas.
NNSA needs to set clear, high-level standards and goals in both mission and operations. Then will audit those standards and goals.
If the contractor fails to meet them, NNSA must hold them accountable.
Section 3111 (thirty one eleven) caps the number of employees in the NNSA Office of the Administrator, resulting in a total reduction of 15% within 2 years.
This reduction is an important forcing function for ensuring the shift to performance-based oversight actually occurs. With fewer federal employees, NNSA will simply be unable to do detailed transaction-based oversight any longer.
This will help force the move to performance-based oversight. It will also save, ultimately, hundreds of millions of dollars that can be invested in the mission: providing the nuclear deterrent for the U.S. and its allies.
Section 3115 (thirty one fifteen) mandates that authority for establishing and overseeing policies and regulations regarding health, safety, and security resides with the NNSA Administrator. It also enables flexibility regarding non-nuclear health and safety standards while providing incentives for using OSHA-based standards.
The Strategic Posture Commission and many others have recommended almost exactly this provision.
Contrary to criticism we've heard from those with vested, bureaucratic interests in preserving the status quo, this provision would strengthen safety. In military operations, we know that confused and duplicative lines of authority and responsibility lead to bad outcomes--sometimes to disaster. It is the same with safety.
I believe this reform package is both comprehensive and prudent.
Each part is interdependent with the others, and collectively they address nearly all of the most critical problems identified by the various studies.
Most of the studies and experts have recommended full autonomy for NNSA. I believe the NDAA takes a more measured approach that also has a significant chance for success--if robustly implemented.
However, if these reforms don't work--or vested interests stand in the way--I and many of my colleagues may become receptive to the more drastic reforms we have heard talked about, such as full autonomy or shifting NNSA to DOD.
One way or another, we will not allow DOE's suffocating, entrenched bureaucracy or other special interests to continue to slowly strangle the weapons program.
The Imperative of Reform and Presidential Leadership
This reform effort comes at a critical time for NNSA.
The scope of work on the nuclear weapons stockpile that lays before NNSA over the next two decades is enormous.
And because it is the nuclear weapons stockpile, there is no room for failure.
We have to make NNSA effective and efficient if it is going to perform as the nation requires.
As I stated at the outset, why is all of this necessary now? Simply put, in this budget environment, the nation's security can no longer afford the waste and mismanagement we see at the NNSA and DOE.
For example, in the President's FY13 budget request, the B61 life extension program (LEP) would be delayed by two years.
The CMRR facility in Los Alamos would be "deferred by at least five years"--which effectively means canceled.
And, the W76 LEP would be slowed to the point that the Navy isn't sure it will meet their needs.
In fact, the NNSA can't even now tell us how much it needs in FY13 for the W76 LEP.
Think about this: the agency that is responsible for ensuring the Navy can go to sea with the nuclear weapons required for our country's security cannot tell us how much taxpayer money it needs to perform that mission this year, after the President's budget has been submitted and after all four committees have marked up.
What's more, NNSA currently has no multiyear budget plan, neither the 1251 plan, nor even a five year budget proposal that every other agency can put together and NNSA has to put together according to the law.
If you look at what the FY13 budget cancelled or delayed -- the B61 LEP, the W76 LEP, the W78/W88 common warhead LEP, the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement facility -- these were all things the President's policy, since his 2010 Nuclear Posture Review, called for, often with specific timeframes based on military advice.
It was his NPR. It was his 1251 plan that stated funding levels. It was his certification in February of 2011 that reaffirmed the commitment to modernizing the triad and to accelerating CMRR and UPF.
The NNSA's failure to perform, or be able to perform, isn't to let the Administration off-the-hook for the President's failure to request what he promised for the New START treaty.
Don't forget, the fiscal year 2013 budget request was significantly below what he promised in November 2010 and as much as $4 billion below what is projected for just the next five years in the section 1251 plan.
And now, in a May 18, 2012 "Memorandum for the Heads of Departments and Agencies" from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) there appears fresh evidence that the President's promise isn't being kept.
The Acting Administrator of OMB instructed every federal agency, presumably including the NNSA that, "your overall agency request for 2014 should be five percent below the 2013 budget."
Thus, for a second consecutive year, the President will have failed to fully fund the modernization program.
This is unacceptable, and should be unacceptable to any American that believes our nuclear deterrent still plays a role in our national security and global stability.
Even if you don't support the U.S. nuclear deterrent, like many in the arms control community, surely, you don't just want U.S. nuclear disarmament. You of course want the Russians, Chinese and others to reduce as well.
That isn't happening now -- only the U.S. is failing to modernize. Only the U.S. is reducing nuclear forces.
And when the House passed a bill to attempt to fix all of these problems, what support do we get from the President?
In its "Statement of Administration Policy" on the NDAA, the Administration said it "strongly objects" to the NNSA reforms contained in the bill.
But where are the President's solutions? Nowhere -- he doesn't have any.
But, just like on the budget, just like on stopping sequestration from hollowing out the U.S military, the President throws stones at those who have taken bold first steps, but his Administration has offered no solutions of its own.
On May 18--the day the House passed the FY13 NDAA in a resounding and bipartisan
299 to 120 vote--Chairman McKeon and I sent a letter to President Obama.
Chairman McKeon and I recognize that the reforms in the NDAA are just one set of ideas--and in our letter we invite the President to put his own ideas on the table and work with us to find the right solution.
Regardless of whether or not the Administration decides to be constructive and work with
us going forward, reform is needed and will happen.
I assure you that my subcommittee will continue to conduct thorough oversight of these matters in the months and years ahead, and take vigorous action if required.
In a letter to the President yesterday, concerning the instruction from his acting OMB director, I made a simple point:
Mr. President, the American people deserve better, and the Congress deserves constructive alternatives when you and your Administration disagree with its proposals.
I ask you to start by fully funding your promises to modernize the U.S. nuclear deterrent and to stick to the schedule you promised for fielding a modernized nuclear triad and plutonium production facilities. Finally, I urge you to provide your own alternative for how to fix the broken management and governance system of the nation's nuclear
weapons enterprise instead of simply throwing stones at those who have taken the first steps.
Time will tell if the President will step up and, in this election cycle, take a bold stand.
We need the President to honor his commitments. Now is not the time for timidity in the face of self-interested special interest groups.
Failure by the President to offer up his own bold solutions will lead the American people to ask whether all of this was what the President was really intending. Is this all a convenient opportunity for the President to back out of things he didn't want to do, like modernize the U.S. nuclear deterrent?
Will he choose the security of the American people and his promises to the Congress, or the taking the U.S. alone on the Road to Zero?
Either way, the impact is clear, Congress will fix these things, and until they're fixed, future reductions should be off the table.
Whether these are the New START reductions or the reductions in the President's ongoing mini-NPR, which were likely presaged by Obama's former favorite General, James "Hoss" Cartwright, in his Global Zero "report" two weeks ago.
Thank you for inviting me to speak today, and I look forward to your questions.