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Former Target Manager Now Acting Chief of Defense Nuclear Security

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Steve Asher

Steve Asher

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) continues to make leadership changes in the wake of the spectacular security failure that allowed an 82-year-old nun and two accomplices to break into the Y-12 National Security Complex in 2012.

Retired Air Force Colonel Steve Asher has been named acting Associate Administrator for Defense Nuclear Security/Chief of Defense Nuclear Security at the NNSA, according to the Nuclear Weapons & Materials Monitor, which means he is in charge of all nuclear weapons sites around the country. According to the Monitor, Asher began working at the NNSA at the end of 2012 as a security consultant and will now replace Brigadier General Sandra Finan, who left the agency to head the Nuclear Weapons Center at Kirtland Air Force Base. Finan replaced Doug Fremont, who was reassigned after the July 2012 break-in at Y-12.

While in the Air Force, Asher was the Group Commander and Chief of Police for the 341st Space Wing at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana. Malmstrom is one of the country’s three intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) bases. He retired in July 2008, and subsequently the 341st Space Wing at Malmstrom failed security tests including force-on-force tests, designed to measure how the base handles and protects nuclear weapons.

After leaving Malmstrom, it would seem that Asher had left the nuclear security world behind when he became the manager of a Target store in Spokane, Washington, the Nuclear Weapons & Materials Monitor reported on January 29. A few years ago, Asher was talking about Black Friday deals, last year he was asked to consult on security management changes at the NNSA, and now he is the acting Chief of Defense Nuclear Security.

The NNSA is undoubtedly in need of management changes. Now, in particular, the NNSA will need strong, competent leaders to pull them out of the security mess they’ve been floundering in for years. Asher’s got a lot to fix. If he doesn’t, he just might be the next NNSA security Chief with a target on his back.

Image from the U.S. Department of the Interior.

By: Lydia Dennett
Investigator, POGO

lydia dennett Lydia Dennett is an investigator for the Project On Government Oversight. Lydia handles whistleblower intake and works on nuclear safety and security at the U.S. nuclear weapons complex.

Topics: National Security

Related Content: Nuclear Security, Nuclear Weapons Complex Oversight, Y-12 /Oak Ridge National Lab

Authors: Lydia Dennett

Submitted by JobSeeking at: April 21, 2013
Sounds like its his job even though the position in just closed advertising on 16 April 2013.
Submitted by D at: April 18, 2013
Col Asher is a great leader and more importantly a great man. He'll get the job done. Great choice
Submitted by ItMatters at: February 13, 2013
it is well known that Asher only got hired because he worked for BG Finan - at the same wing that flunked their nuclear inspection and to make matters worse she has him recruiting other cronies with dubious qualifications. And NNSA will misuse the hiring process to get them in with little fanfare - time for this joke to be over and NNSA be held accountable for delivering results. some one should also question Asher's statements about "advising" the IG on nuclear security - empty fluff if you ask me - meant to pad his CV and mask is clear lack of significant qualifications for this job.
Submitted by Scott Amey at: February 6, 2013
Retail is the way to a good govt job -- today REI exec to lead the Department of Interior.
Submitted by yktm at: February 4, 2013
With the history of USAF and nuclear armaments, ho, hum. A place holder, indeed!
Submitted by Lynn at: February 3, 2013
Yes, he will do the job great.
Submitted by G-G at: February 2, 2013
I wonder what the folks on the wrong side think of all this, They probably are searching Target for material to sew up a few black and white outfits.?
Submitted by dcwired at: February 2, 2013
Target was a hell of a springboard. To say he was overqualified for Target is the understatement of the meillinium.
Submitted by whatever at: February 2, 2013
He will do fine he cared enough to keep working and worked at target god was there for him.. the we're doomed attitude is not a good one, you don't know that.
Submitted by cyberman at: February 2, 2013
NNSA and its predecessor acronymed organizations has demonstrated that some bureaucratic incompetencies can be genetic. For decades through multiple managers NNSA has shifted security personnel when they came under the unpleasant spotlight of publicity. Yet these genetic deficiencies assured little in the way of much improved security would result. Rarely have political appointees been given the axe for allowing extremely dangerous vulnerabilities to weapons and SNM materials to exist. The reason is that there appears to be an inherent conflict of interest in NSAA's key primary mission to maintain a viable stockpile concomitantly with its security role. When push comes to shove, management priority is most often given to the former, not the later. Until serious study and consideration is given to whether oversight and even management of the DOE/NNSA security mission should be moved lock stock and barrel outside DOE to an independent organization not beholden to NNSA, DOE and NNSA will be security challenged and the same old same same old vulnerabilities will regrettably persist and pose a significant danger to the country.
Submitted by Rita at: February 2, 2013
Amazing! I'm not sure why JohnE thinks that Col Asher would be the "right man at the right time?" What are you basing this knowledge on? I do have a question about the failed security tests. It appeared that this failure happened after his left. At what point did these failures occur? Was it immediately after and what was his success rate while he was in charge of Malmstrom?
Submitted by Dom at: February 2, 2013
How does managing a Target store prepare one for this position? He may a been a great commander and chief pf police but what would lead us to believwe that he has the intelligence and ability to handle this tremendous responsibility? Was the 82 year old none considered for the job as well. I think she would get my vote!!! May God help us all!
Submitted by Pablosharkman at: February 2, 2013
Not sure why there is an emphasis on this peace activist's age. Not sure why you spin her heroic co-activists as accomplices, which is a pejorative in most media circles. I’m not seeing a lot of young people risking it – not too many Tim DeChistophers out there doing what needs to be done. As always, the empire's army of militarists and Little Eichmann's is a broken patriarchy -- top down, big honcho at the top. The reality is not agency should be "run" by a single person at the top. We need a much different frame in this empire to wrest control from these demigods by having oversight committees and broad-based citizens’ committees. Citing national defense and secrecy as the reason for mumbo-jumbo generals and Facebook pigs like Zukerberg controlling our every waking and sleeping nanosecond lives is the real crime by the Republicrats. Why not Target junk salesman at the helm. Why not. Cheney and the other neocons take us to war and the neoliberal Ivy League Demos keep us in them. Try this more reality-based site out for size!
Submitted by ivanczar at: February 2, 2013
Wow , I never heard this break down in security story before , more evidence of our media being asleep , really frightening .
Submitted by judgejj at: February 2, 2013
Don't forget, John Berry was Director of the National Zoo before becoming Director of federal humans at OPM.
Submitted by BertieBaby at: February 2, 2013
The question is "how can we, the American people, stop this continued bureaucratic rehiring of incompetent individuals? Even when in his previous failed role someone in our government hires an incompetent back for this critical safety position". Now I feel even less safe...don't let him near the big red button!
Submitted by Homer at: February 2, 2013
Clean up on aisle 3?
Submitted by scalli-wag at: February 2, 2013
Well, at least he knows how to deal with mutant employees if anything should go wrong.
Submitted by Dresden at: February 2, 2013
Agree that the Target job was a placeholder and source of income until the NNSA appointment. Let's see how handles his new job before making any judgements.
Submitted by jrsposter at: February 2, 2013
It is an outrage that your lead characterizes this man as a "former Target manager," when, in fact, he is a retired Air Force colonel. Your characterization makes it seem that he is unqualified for his job, when his experience as an Air Force colonel was probably right on point. I expect sleazy publications to engage in this sort of thing, not POGO>
Submitted by Jawaralal Mustaffa at: February 1, 2013
Is Ms. Dennett an elitist? She obviously looks down on Target and working, including managing a store, at Target. Is this any less honorable than, say, working at POGO? And what's to know about security. With the level of security demonstrated by NNSA in recent incidents, there is no doubt that even good ole store security would be value added. How many security people in town really know this stuff? We have many security problems, so much so that we need a gazillion federal workers and contractors in this field. Target could probably teach them something.
Submitted by JohnE at: February 1, 2013
Col Asher is the right man at the right time. He will do fine. The job at Target was a place holder...
Submitted by MrsZelmo at: February 1, 2013
We're doomed.

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