Scope of the Position:

The Under Secretary for Nuclear Security and NNSA Administrator is responsible for the management and operation of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). This person works to promote the President's nuclear security agenda and implement Department of Energy (DOE) policy matters. The Under Secretary is also responsible for the management and operation of nuclear facilities and must interact with and act as an advisor to the President. As a key management role within the Department of Energy, the Under Secretary is responsible for the operational awareness of the implementation of nuclear safety requirements and guidance; the implementation must be consistent with the principles of Integrated Safety Management (rules that govern how the integration of environmental standards, safety standards, and health requirements coalesce with departmental work) and the maintenance of adequate numbers of technically competent personnel necessary to fulfill nuclear safety requirements. This position oversees nuclear test sites, weapons, security, and counter-terrorism programs. Other duties, such as environmental cleanup, also fall to the Under Secretary's jurisdiction.

Illustrative Management Challenges:

Security Efforts

Many have questioned the Agency's security efforts following a notable break-in in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, in 2012.1 In July 2012, three anti-nuclear activists, including an 82-year-old nun, entered the Y-12 National Security Complex and gained access to weapons-grade uranium.2 Since then, the NNSA signed a five-year contract with Consolidated Nuclear Security in an attempt to heighten programmatic security.1 Despite efforts to strengthen security, NNSA has continued to attract attention for its lack of precision and has been described as chaotic and dysfunctional.3 In a recent audit by the Governmental Accountability Office, it was found that "although it has initiated several efforts, NNSA has not completed a Security Infrastructure Plan as required by law."4 This ongoing effort has an expected completion date of December 2016.

High Risk List

NNSA has been on the GAO's High Risk List for a number of years due to its lack of adequate planning and inability to estimate appropriate project costs.5 According to the 2015 Report, "NNSA cost estimating requirements and guidance for projects and programs generally do not reflect best practices for developing cost estimates." In addition to inefficient cost estimation practices, several of the NNSA's major projects, including the B61 Life Extension Program, Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility, design plans for a new uranium processing facility, and Chemical and Metallurgy Research Replacement Facility have all experienced or are projected to experience significant cost increases.

Rising Cost of Weapon Modernization and Failure to Estimate Budget Increases

According to a recent GAO study, the budget estimates for weapon modernization recently increased by $4.2 billion.6 Other modernization efforts, such as the W88 Alteration 370 and the IW-1 LEP, have either failed to include budget estimates or have underestimated costs. In 2013, a report announced that NNSA's "total budget estimates for modernizing the nuclear security enterprise for fiscal years 2014 through 2031 ... increased by about $19 billion overall when compared with the estimates in the agency's fiscal year 2012 budget materials."7 Reports detailing the NNSA's failure to provide estimates on the cost savings have garnered rebuke from Congress and other governmental audit agencies.8


      1NNSA selects new firm to manage two nuclear arms sites;; January 8, 2013.
      2Nun sentenced to 35 months in nuclear plant break-in;; February 18, 2014.
      3Nuclear Security: NNSA Should Establish a Clear Vision and Path Forward for Its Security Program;; May 2014.
      4Nuclear Security: Status of the National Nuclear Security Administration's Effort to Develop a Security Infrastructure Plan;; May 13, 2016.    
      5Department of Energy's Contract Management for the National Nuclear Security Administration and Office of Environmental Management;; 
       February 2015.
      6Modernizing the Nuclear Security Enterprise: NNSA's Budget Estimates Increased but May Not Align with All Anticipated Costs;; March 4, 2016.               7Modernizing The Nuclear Security Enterprise: NNSA's Budget Estimates Do Not Fully Align with Plans;; December 11, 2013.
      8Nuke Agency Rejects Mandate to Provide Cost-Savings Details;; May 16, 2014.

NNSA Administrators:

Nearly all NNSA Administrators come into the job with significant experience in defense, national security, and nuclear arms. Many also come from military backgrounds, with a focus on the analysis and handling of nuclear arms and nuclear proliferation.

Current Incumbent:

Frank G. Klotz (2014-present): Prior to his appointment as Under Secretary, Lieutenant General Klotz served in various capacities in the military and the national security community. From 2009 to 2011, Klotz served as the Commander of Air Force Global Strike Command. He also served in various positions such as Assistant Vice Chief of Staff and Director of the Air Staff. In 2001, Klotz was named Director for Nuclear Policy and Arms Control on the National Security Council. He previously served at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow as the defense attaché. Klotz graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy and received an MPhil in international relations and a DPhil in politics from Oxford University.

Previous Administrators:

Tom D'Agostino (2007-2014): D'Agostino currently serves as the Senior Vice President for Strategy and Development in Fluor's Government Group. Prior to his tenure as Under Secretary, D'Agostino served in the Navy Command Center as the Navy Department Duty Captain. He previously spent eight years on active duty as a submarine officer for the Navy. D'Agostino also worked with the Board of Inspection and Survey where he performed nuclear and propulsion engineering inspections for over 65 submarines and nuclear-powered ships. He received his MS in national security studies from the Naval War College, an MS in business finance from Johns Hopkins University, and a BS in physical science from the U.S. Naval Academy.

Linton Brooks (2002-2006): Brooks currently serves as an independent consultant on national security issues, a Senior Advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and a Research Fellow at the National Defense University. Prior to his appointment as Under Secretary, Brooks served as Deputy Administrator for Nuclear Nonproliferation at the NNSA. He also worked as Assistant Director of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and Chief Negotiator for the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. Brooks previously served as Director of Defense Programs and Arms Control for the National Security Council. He holds a BS in physics and an MA in government and politics. He also holds a degree from the Naval War College in strategy, management, and operations.

John A. Gordon (2000-2002): Gordon was the first Under Secretary and Administrator of the NNSA. Directly preceding his appointment, he served as the Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Gordon previously served as Director of Operations for the Air Force Space Command and Special Assistant to the Air Force Chief of Staff. Gordon also worked as Associate Director of Central Intelligence for Military Support. He holds a BS in physics and an MS in physics from the Naval Postgraduate School.

Additional Resources: