Jan 13, 2009

Selected Excerpts from the Prepared Statement of Dr. Steven Chu, Secretary of Energy-Designate, Before the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources

The work of the National Nuclear Security Administration in maintaining our Nation’s nuclear defense and promoting nonproliferation throughout the world is critical to our national security. I take this responsibility extremely seriously, and I am committed to working with the President, the National Laboratories, other agencies, Congress and other organizations in the community to assure a safe and reliable nuclear stockpile and to address proliferation concerns as part of a long-run vision of a world without nuclear weapons.

The Department also has legal and moral obligations to clean up the wastes left over from 50 years of nuclear weapons production. I know that many of you represent states where the Department has not yet fulfilled these obligations. Cleanup of these materials is a complicated, expensive, long-term project, but I pledge to you to do my best to accelerate these efforts in order to protect human health and the environment, and to return contaminated lands to beneficial use.
As diverse as these missions and programs are, my efforts as Secretary will be unified by a common goal: improving management and program implementation. Simply put, if the Department is to meet the challenges ahead, it will have to run more efficiently and effectively. One of my first priorities will be to put a strong leadership and management team in place – one that shares not only my vision for the Department, but also my commitment to improving the way the Department does business.

I do not underestimate the difficulty of meeting these challenges. But I remain optimistic that we can meet them. I believe in the dynamism of our country and our economy. And as a scientist, I am ever-optimistic about our ability to expand the boundaries of what is possible.

If I am confirmed as Secretary of Energy I commit to you that I will provide strong, focused, energetic leadership for the many missions of this Department. In particular, I look forward to a close partnership with this Committee. In my role as Secretary, I look forward to a new chapter of collaboration with this committee and others in Congress as we embark on an ambitious, and urgent, mission to move to a sustainable, economically prosperous, and secure energy future. The challenges we face will require bipartisan cooperation and sustained effort. I know that President-elect Obama is committed to exactly this kind of effort. If confirmed as Secretary, I will do my utmost to serve him and our great nation to the best of my abilities.
Dr. Chu's prepared remarks can be downloaded here. An archived video of the confirmation hearing can be viewed here.

[The first 15 minutes and 14 seconds is just a title screen. Fast forward to 15:14 to view the hearing.]


Eric said...

I just finished listening to the entire hearing, about three hours. There were lots of words on energy and renewable energy and a few words on environmental clean up.

I do not remember a single word about nuclear weapons design or maintenance. I expected that there would be at least a few.

Did I miss something?

Anonymous said...

You usually do, Eric. You usually do.

Anonymous said...

Nah, Dr. Chu and especially the new Congress aren't interested in nuclear weapons, even though it makes up over 65% of the current DOE budget.

Only question I heard during the interview on this subject was from some Congressman who wanted to know why the US spends over 11 times as much on nuclear weapons as we do on energy conservation.

Somehow, I think Congress is getting ready to drastically change that ratio by making huge cuts to the weapon accounts. It's become clear to me that this new Congress has absolutely no interest in the declining state of the US nuclear weapons complex. Bob Gates and the DOD can worry all they want, but the weapons complex is going to continue to deteriorate under this Congress and Administration.

In fact, this new Congress seems down right embarrassed that we even possess any atomic bombs. Therefore, I expect to see huge cuts to NNSA weapons spending in this next year's budget.

What did former Sen. Pete Domenici say about all this?... Oh, yeah, now I remember... "LANL can expect to lose about 2000 jobs if these cuts are implemented." Get ready, because I fear they're coming our way.

Anonymous said...

Sen. Udall says LANL has a "bright" future. Mikey told him so. Therefore, everything is going to to be fine for LANL.

What a minute... didn't Director Miller over at LLNL tell his people that the future looked "bright" for LLNL under LLNS... right before he announced a major layoff?


Anonymous said...

What sense does it make for Obama and the Congress to talk of spending around $1 trillion for the purpose of job stimulus... while at the same time, destroying good paying jobs for people working at US owned government labs?

I'm experience some severe cognitive dissonance with this bizarre economic concept.

Anonymous said...

1/13/09 8:18 PM

"In fact, this new Congress seems down right embarassed that we even possess any atomic bombs. Therefore, I expect to see huge cuts to NNSA weapons spending in this next year´s budget."

I agree 100%, unfortunately this anti-nuke view within Congress, the new President-elect, and by the general public, even believing in the very naive and dangerous view that "zero nuclear weapons in the world," would benefit US national security, is not shared amongst the adversaries in the world, that are modernizing their nuclear weapons and delivery systems, so doing the opposite in US is wrong and escape from reality and history.

Anonymous said...

Within 10 years, India or Pakistan will be better prepared than the US in terms of their nuclear weapons expertise. The serious decline that Bob Gates speaks of will not be halted with this Administration and Congress in charge of our national security. They have decided to hide their heads in the sand. When the last 50-something weapons designer soon retires or, more likely, is fired from NNSA service, the long sought goal of unilateral US disarmament will finally have been achieved by the anti-nuke crowd.

Anonymous said...

1/13/09 9:01 PM

I don't think the jobs you refer to have much impact on the nations economy. National Labs are not the issue and won't be much of a factor with regard to solving the economic mess we are in. I suspect WFO and Basic Science will dry up totally.

Anonymous said...

"I suspect WFO and Basic Science will dry up totally." (8:23 AM)

The weapons budget is over 70% of the funding for LANL, so when it gets hit, LDRD will also be hit very hard.

As far as WFO goes, you can expect LANS to follow their usually course of action. When overhead is hurt because of a declining weapons budget, they will simply raise the overhead tax rates on all remaining projects to make up for it. Thus, WFO will also be seriously hurt. There are very few sponsors willing to pay an FTE rate of about $500K per year for a single scientist's output.

SNL will be the one bright spot in this clusterf*ck. They may have some layoffs, but they are much better prepared to face this Brave New World.

As far as LLNL goes, the clock is ticking away to the day that it is closed down as an NNSA lab. A bare bones NNSA budget simply won't allow for LLNL to be in the weapons complex for much longer. It will be converted to a much smaller DOE lab, with any critical weapons expertise moved over to LANL. This will probably happen sometime in the next year or two, shortly after NIF is finally up and running. NNSA will "rent out" NIF for any future research they need done with this equipment.

Don't expect Director Anastasio or anyone else in either LANS upper management or at NNSA to level with staff about what's coming. All you'll hear from these people is lots of happy talk about a "bright future". Phrases like this are typically heard in management circles right before the axe falls hard. Sorry to be so bleak, but this is how I see it playing out.

Anonymous said...

On the bright side, it has recently been leaked that Hillary Clinton is demanding the State Department's budget be raised by an enormous 43%!

She also wants a large segment of the nation's non-proliferation responsibilities shifted over to State.

Anonymous said...

1/14/09 11:45 AM

You mean you would rather have that twit Bush and his cabinet back? Or perhaps Mr. Magoo and wack job? You need to get a grip.

Anonymous said...

I didn't say I wanted to see Bush remain in office. YOU need to get a grip, 8:57 PM. He'll soon be gone, so you can drop your tiresome Bush tirades.

Anonymous said...

The Bush haters will be blaming Obama's first two years of mistakes and problems on Bush. Get used to it.

Anonymous said...

We'll soon find out whether Chu is a real scientist, or simply an apparatchik in Nobel laureate's clothing. The litmus test is, of course, whether he will permit the pseudo-scientific witchcraft of polygraphy to continue to exist in his National Laboratories. I'm anxiously waiting to see how he squares the intellectual grand challenge of solving the global energy, water, and climate crises with the subhuman mental brutality of polygraphy.