A United States senator on the Armed Services Committee is calling on the Trump transition team not to let the National Nuclear Security Administration, which manages the safety of the nation’s nuclear arsenal, go leaderless after this Friday.
This morning, Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) sent a letter to president-elect Trump imploring him to “immediately notify and request” that senior officials in both the NNSA and the Pentagon stay on in their roles until their eventual replacements can be found and confirmed by the Senate. As Gizmodo reported earlier this month, the NNSA chief and his deputy have not been invited to stay on by Trump, and are planning to clear out their desks at noon Friday—marking, Heinrich warned, “the first time in [the agency’s] 16-year history, through four different administrations, in which there will not be any continuity in leadership during a presidential transition.”
“As of today,” Heinrich wrote, “the heads of maintaining our nation’s nuclear arsenal, Lieutenant General Frank G. Klotz (Ret.), and Principal Deputy Administrator, Madelyn Creedon, have not been requested to continue serving. With career civil servants in acting positions, important functions and decisions related to the $12.9 billion budget of the NNSA, nuclear weapons life extension programs, project planning, facility construction, and personnel decisions impacting the workforce of over 25,000 employees will be put on hold pending confirmation of your administration’s nominees by the Senate.”
It has been commonplace in previous transitions for the incoming administration to invite political appointees in key roles to stay on until they can be replaced. Trump, however, has embraced his disruptive reputation and appears to prefer a power vacuum to keeping Obama appointees in their roles, even temporarily. According to Heinrich, Trump has asked a mere six of the 58 total appointed officials in the Pentagon to stay on until they can be replaced.
No replacements for Klotz and Creedon have been named, and anyone chosen by Trump will have to be approved by the Senate.
Heinrich characterized the situation as urgent:
I understand that new administrations, regardless of political party, bring new management and personnel, but the United States faces an increasing number of global threats—to include North Korea, Russia, China, Iran, and terrorist organizations across several continents—and we simply cannot afford to allow national security positions to effectively run on “auto-pilot.” The responsibilities are too important.
According to an official within the Department of Energy, the Trump team has still not reached out to the NNSA about its transitional leadership in any capacity. And unless anything changes significantly in the next three days, come January 20, Klotz and Creedon will both step into retirement, though they will likely remain active in the nuclear community.
“I think you can expect to see them serving in panels, boards, lecturing, etc.,” our source told us. “Not on a full time basis, of course, but I think their experience and subject matter expertise just offers too much to lose in the community if they back away completely.”
Neither Trump nor the NNSA have responded to our request for comment. Klotz and Creedon’s goodbye party is scheduled for tomorrow.
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