Feb 6, 2009
Thursday, 05 February 2009 17:04
The new Obama administration has made a number of assertions about its intentions to make the operation of government more transparent. It has, for example, pledged to make legislation publicly available for five days before it is signed, and directed agencies to do a better job of responding to Freedom of Information Act requests.
How has it performed on my own first test?
I've been writing stories this week on a proposal to study the possibility of moving the nuclear weapons program, now run by the quasi-independent National Nuclear Security Administration from within the Department of Energy, to the Pentagon.
In reporting the story, I have called the Department of Energy to ask if it is true that our new Energy Secretary, Steven Chu, in an all-hands employee meeting, answered a question from the audience by saying that he thought such a move (removing nuclear weapons work from DOE) was a bad idea. To be clear here, I do not know whether Chu said he thinks the proposal is a bad idea. But if he did (and enough people have independently told me they think he did to make it a reasonable question), it would be an important element in moving forward the public's understanding of a story that is of great importance to the more than 20,000 New Mexicans who work for the NNSA.
Two days on, I've still not received a response from the Department of Energy in answer to my question about what Chu might have said.
Since the passback memo was undated it is difficult to interpret DOE's response to your inquiry. Perhaps Secretary Chu answered "off the cuff" because he didn't know about the memo yet? That could explain why DOE wants to bury his response now. On the other hand, maybe he really does think it's a bad idea to move NNSA to DOD and has been admonished for being out of step with the Obama administration. From what I've seen so far, the former seems more likely. And this little misstep is just one more reason he'd be happy to be rid of the NNSA.
So, did anyone see the video feed of Secretary Chu's all hands meeting? What did he say?