SANTA FE – The agency that oversees the nation’s nuclear labs still has a boss.
Last week, U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico sent a letter to now-President Donald Trump saying his transition team had not asked the top officials of the National Nuclear Security Administration to stay on until Trump named new leaders. NNSA and its important national security work were in danger of being left to run on “auto-pilot,” Heinrich said.
Heinrich’s letter got national press attention. He also brought up the matter during a Senate committee hearing on former Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s nomination to be Trump’s secretary of the Department of Energy, which includes the NNSA.
In New Mexico, the Los Alamos and Sandia national labs are overseen by the NNSA.
A spokesman for the agency confirmed Monday that NNSA administrator Lt. Gen. Frank G. Klotz had been asked to remain and was still on the job since Trump’s Friday inauguration as president.
Political appointees in the federal government are typically asked to submit resignations when a new president is elected, but incumbents can be asked to stay until the new president chooses to keep them or names replacements.
As reported by the Journal, Perry said at the Senate committee meeting Thursday that he’d had “a good conversation” with Klotz and had “sent the message that it would certainly be my desire to have that continuity.”
The website Gizmodo published a staff memo that Klotz sent out late Thursday — the day before the inauguration — that said, “To help ensure continuity in our critical nuclear security work, I’ve been asked to remain as the NNSA Administrator for a period of time. I’m truly honored to do so, and eagerly look forward to working with the incoming Secretary of Energy.”
He also noted that eight ranking members of the NNSA staff, all “non-career appointees,” including principal deputy administrator Madelyn Creedon, were leaving and commended them for their service.
In a related matter, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez has endorsed Perry for the top DOE post. In an opinion piece published in Sunday’s Journal, Martinez called herself a “strong supporter” of Perry’s nomination. She wrote that Perry will “protect” New Mexico’s national labs “and continue to utilize them for groundbreaking research.” She also said, “Perry’s record proves we can have economic prosperity without sacrificing environmental standards.”