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New Article Advocates for Consolidating Nuclear Complex

This week Robert Alvarez published an article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists about the National Nuclear Security Administration called "Rebranding the nuclear weapons complex won’t reform it." The piece details the long history of the Department of Energy’s management (and mismanagement) of the nuclear weapons complex, the establishment of the semi-autonomous NNSA, and the many conflicts of interest that have prevented the downsizing of the sprawling U.S. nuclear weapons complex.

Alvarez also highlighted the astronomical costs associated with these facilities and recommended a truly independent commission, made up of specialists who do not have conflicts of interests, to review the complex:

Lab overcapacity, in particular, contributes to an inflated weapons complex cost structure, within which the average full time employee is two to three times as expensive as in the private sector. Since 2006, when management of the weapons labs was transferred from the nonprofit University of California to for-profit entities, administrative fees have jumped by 650 percent at Los Alamos. The bloat in the weapons complex is hardly limited to the national labs; the Y-12 nuclear weapons plant in Tennessee has excess capacity that is comparable, in size, to two auto assembly plants.

The Obama administration should establish a commission—one, this time, that is not dominated by the very contractors that run the nuclear weapons complex—to analyze and downsize the redundant elements of that complex. The Defense Department accomplished such a downsizing over the past 20 years; it's long past time for the Energy Department to begin shedding its surplus capacity. Given that weapons facilities dominate the wage and benefit structures of large areas in several states, such streamlining will no doubt meet stiff congressional resistance. Still, the downsizing sword could eliminate redundant facilities and free up funding to rebuild those that are truly needed.

The Project On Government Oversight has long supported eliminating redundancies and consolidating the nuclear weapons complex. Read Alvarez’s whole article here.

By: Lydia Dennett
Investigator, POGO

lydia dennett Lydia Dennett is an investigator for the Project On Government Oversight. Lydia works on safety and security of nuclear weapons and power facilities, foreign lobbying and influence, and works with Department of Veterans Affairs whistleblowers.

Topics: National Security

Related Content: Nuclear Weapons Complex Oversight

Authors: Lydia Dennett

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