Scope of the Position:

The Deputy Secretary of Energy implements departmental objectives and oversees the second largest contracting base in the federal government, following the Department of Defense. The Department of Energy (DOE) allocates a $29.6 billion budget across its divisions and programming. Tasked with maintaining steady execution and coordination of DOE projects, the Deputy Secretary's planning ranges from clean energy initiatives to nuclear security efforts. With a $25.3 billion contracting budget, the Deputy Secretary must also work to prioritize each of the Department's increasingly important objectives across 11 agencies. The position also holds programmatic responsibilities for all science, technology, energy, and national security programs.

Illustrative Management Challenges:

In recent years, critics have been wary of the Department's response toward whistleblowers and its reluctance to hold contractors accountable.1 In a recent study, the Government Accountability Office determined that "DOE has infrequently used its enforcement authority to hold contractors accountable for unlawful retaliation [toward employees], issuing two violation notices in the past 20 years." This controversy has put the Department on the defensive with Congress for its management of nuclear projects and efforts to ensure safety at nuclear sites.2

Management of the National Nuclear Security Administration

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) is an agency within the Department of Energy that ensures national nuclear security. Since its establishment in 2000, the Agency has received significant attention for mismanagement and ineffective planning. Most recently, the DOE Inspector General found the NNSA's Network Vision Initiative to modernize infrastructure and implement a virtual workforce was "significantly behind schedule and over budget as a result of ineffective project planning practices."3 The Agency has also received criticism for its high costs and security concerns.4 In 2012, a notable security breach of the Agency's Y-12 National Security Complex in Tennessee from a 82-year-old nun and other anti-nuclear activists spurred criticisms of the NNSA and its ability to safeguard nuclear weapons.5 As a result of these issues, the Agency has remained on the GAO High Risk List for years.6


     1Department of Energy: Whistleblower Protections Need Strengthening;; July 11, 2016.
     2Energy Department, Contractor Faulted for Handling of Whistleblowers;; March 11, 2014.
     3Semiannual Report to Congress;; October 1, 2015-March 31, 2016.
     4NNSA chief to step down;; December 27, 2012.
     5Report: Two Years After Y-12 Break-In, U.S. Nuclear Security Still 'Chaotic';; July 2, 2014.
     6Department of Energy: Observations on DOE's Management Challenges and Steps Taken to Address Them;; July 24, 2013.      

Deputy Secretaries of Energy:

Nearly all Deputy Secretaries of Energy had some federal government experience prior to their appointments, but that experience was characterized by a lot of variety. Some were high-level officials in the national security and defense sphere, others in economics, and some in the environmental regulatory arena. In addition, several Deputy Secretaries have held senior positions in private sector energy corporations, such as General Electric. 

Current Incumbent:

Dr. Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall (2014-present): Sherwood-Randall previously served as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for European Affairs at the National Security Council. She also served as White House Coordinator for Defense Policy, Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction, and Arms Control. Prior to her work with the Obama Administration, Sherwood-Randall worked at Stanford University, Harvard University, and with the Council on Foreign Relations. At Stanford University, she was a founding Senior Advisor for the Prevent Defense Project. She also served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia under the Clinton Administration. Sherwood-Randall earned her bachelor's degree from Harvard University and a doctorate in international relations from Oxford University.

Previous Deputy Secretaries:

Daniel Poneman (2009-2014): Poneman currently serves as the President and CEO of Centrus. Prior to his appointment as Deputy Secretary, Poneman was a principal of The Snowcroft Group.  In the 1990s, he worked for the National Security Council (NSC) as Director of Defense Policy and Arms Control, And he also served as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Nonproliferation and Export Controls at the NSC.  Poneman worked as a member of the Commission to Assess the Organization of the Federal Government to Combat the Proliferation of Weapons and Mass Destruction. He has practiced law intermittently throughout his career. He earned his BA and JD from Harvard University.

Jeffrey Kupfer (Acting) (2008-2009): He currently is the Senior Director of Governance, Risk & Compliance Solutions for Starling Trust Sciences. Prior to his time as Acting Deputy Secretary, Kupfer served as a Special Assistant to the President for Economic Policy. He also worked as the Deputy Chief of Staff for the Department of the Treasury, as well as the Chief of Staff for the Department of Energy. Kupfer earned his BA from Yale University and his JD from Harvard Law School.

Clay Sell (2005-2008): Sell currently serves as the President of Hunt Energy Horizons. Preceding his appointment as Deputy Secretary, he worked as a Special Assistant to the President and served on the professional staff of the National Economic Council and in the Office of Legislative Affairs. He previously held a senior staff position on the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations. Sell received his JD from the University of Texas School of Law.

Frank Blake (2001-2002): Blake most recently served as CEO and Chairman of The Home Depot. Prior to his tenure as Deputy Secretary, he served as General Counsel for General Electric and as Vice President of Business Development of GE Power Systems. He previously served as General Counsel for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Deputy Counsel to Vice President George H.W. Bush. Blake also clerked for Justice Stevens of the U.S. Supreme Court. He earned his JD from Columbia University School of Law.

T.J. Glauthier (1998-2001): Glauthier currently is President of TJG Energy Associates, LLC. He previously served in the White House as Associate Director for Natural Resources Energy and Science for the Office of Management and Budget. Prior to his tenure in public service, Glauthier served as Vice President of Temple, Barker, & Sloane, a management consulting firm. He also worked as Director of Energy and Climate Change at the World Wildlife Fund. Glauthier received his BA in mathematics and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Elizabeth Moler (1997-1998): Moler most recently served as Vice President of Governmental Affairs and Public Policy at Exelon Corporation. Prior to her appointment as Deputy Secretary, Moler served as Chairwoman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. She also served as the Senior Counsel for the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources for 12 years. She received her JD from George Washington University.

Charles B. Curtis (1995-1997): He currently serves as the President Emeritus of the Nuclear Threat Initiative. Preceding his appointment as Deputy Secretary, Curtis worked with the Securities and Exchange Commission as Special Counsel to the Division of Trading and Markets and the Chief of the Branch of Regulation and Inspection. He then served as the supervising staff attorney with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. From 1971 to 1976 he worked as the Lead Energy, Securities, and Consumer Counsel for the U.S. House Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce. Curtis was also a founding partner of the Washington, D.C., law firm Van Ness, Curtis, Feldman, & Sutcliff, PC. He earned his JD from Boston University School of Law.

William "Bill" White (1993-1995): White currently serves as a Senior Advisor at Lazard, and he was the mayor of Houston from 2004-2010. Prior to his appointment as Deputy Secretary, White worked as a partner with Susman Godfrey, LLP where he practiced antitrust, securities, oil and gas, and commercial law. He also worked for short periods as a legislative assistant in the U.S. House of Representatives and as an Adjunct Assistant Professor. White earned his BA in economics from Harvard University and his JD from the University of Texas School of Law.

Additional Resources: