A report published by Gizmodo on Monday made a troubling claim: The Trump transition team hasn’t lined up new leadership for the National Nuclear Security Administration – and they have not announced plans to keep the heads of the department until replacements can be been found. This means that the $12-billion-a-year agency entrusted with maintaining “the safety, security, and effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile” is leaderless for the foreseeable future.
While the Gizmodo report initially claimed that the Trump team asked NNSA director Frank Klotz and his deputy, Madelyn Creedon, to step down on Jan 20, the NNSA is pushing back against those claims. Instead, NNSA officials claimed “There have been no discussions between the president-elect’s transition team and any of NNSA’s political appointees on extending their public service past Jan. 20.”
While Trump may not be technically firing the heads of the agency, it seems clear the department may simply be without leadership altogether for weeks or even months while any nominees go through a Senate confirmation process. Along with these high-profile roles, there are a number of smaller appointed roles that will need to be filled in the coming weeks.
There is a small sliver of silver lining to this story: the civil servants within the agency will still be able to serve in their regular roles, even without appointed leadership. While this affects the agency’s ability to secure funding or begin new programs, day-to-day operations will continue. Even if you feel ambivalent about maintaining America’s nuclear arsenal, it’s good to know it’s not going to be left completely unmonitored for months as the NNSA awaits new leadership.