National Nuclear Security Administration

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National Nuclear Security Administration
NNSA Logo.png
Agency overview
Formed 2000[1]
Headquarters James V. Forrestal Building, Washington, D.C.
Employees About 2,300 federal (2015), 23,000 contract (2009)
Annual budget $12.6 billion (FY16)
Agency executive
Parent agency Department of Energy

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) is the U.S. agency responsible for enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science. NNSA maintains and enhances the safety, security, and effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear explosive testing; works to reduce the global danger from weapons of mass destruction; provides the U.S. Navy with safe and effective nuclear propulsion; and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the U.S. and abroad. Established by the United States Congress in 2000, NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the United States Department of Energy.


The National Nuclear Security Administration was created by Congressional action in 1999,[2] in the wake of the Wen Ho Lee spy scandal and other allegations that lax administration by the Department of Energy had resulted in the loss of U.S. nuclear secrets to China.[3] Originally proposed to be an independent agency, NNSA gained the reluctant support of the Clinton administration only after it was instead chartered as a sub-agency within the Department of Energy, to be headed by an administrator reporting to the Secretary of Energy.[4] The first NNSA administrator appointed was Air Force General (and CIA Deputy Director) John A. Gordon.[5]

Mission and operations[edit]

NNSA has four missions with regard to national security:

Defense programs[edit]

One of NNSA's primary missions is to maintain the safety, security and effectiveness of the United States' nuclear weapons stockpile without explosive testing. After the Cold War, the U.S. stopped production of new nuclear warheads and voluntarily ended underground nuclear testing. NNSA maintains the existing nuclear deterrent through the use of science experiments, engineering audits and high-tech simulations at its three national laboratories: Los Alamos National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and Sandia National Laboratories. NNSA assets used to maintain and ensure the effectiveness of the American nuclear weapons stockpile include the National Ignition Facility, the Dual-Axis Radiographic Hydrodynamic Test Facility, and the Z Machine. NNSA also uses multiple supercomputers to run simulations and validate experimental data.

The organization provides safe and secure transportation of nuclear weapons and components and special nuclear materials, and conducts other missions supporting national security. It has responsibility to develop, operate, and manage a system for the safe and secure transportation of all government-owned special nuclear materials in "strategic" or "significant" quantities. Shipments are transported in specially designed equipment and are escorted by armed federal agents.


NNSA works with international partners, key U.S. federal agencies, national laboratories and the private sector to detect, secure and dispose of nuclear and radiological material as well as related WMD technology and expertise. Among its goals are to prevent proliferation, ensure peaceful nuclear uses, and enable verifiable nuclear reductions.

Naval reactors[edit]

NNSA's Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program is responsible for providing militarily effective nuclear propulsion plants. It provides the design, development and operational support required to power the U.S. Navy's aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines.

Emergency response[edit]

NNSA is responsible for responding to radiological and nuclear emergencies and working with law enforcement agencies to prevent nuclear or radiological terrorism. Experts at its national laboratories maintain a high level of readiness to deploy resources capable of responding to nuclear or radiological incidents worldwide. Key capabilities looking for and identifying radiological material, rendering safe nuclear devices, and managing the spread of radiological material in the event of a natural or terrorist incident.

With support its three national labs, the Remote Sensing Laboratory (RSL), and the Pantex Plant, it maintains readiness to respond and manage the resolution of accidents, or incidents of significance involving nuclear weapons. [6]

Counter-terrorism and counter-proliferation[edit]

NNSA provides expertise, practical tools and technically informed policy recommendations to advance U.S. nuclear counterterrorism and counterproliferation objectives. It is responsible for understanding nuclear threat devices and foreign nuclear weapons that cause proliferation concerns. To accomplish these goals, NNSA initiates international dialogues on nuclear security and counterterrorism; conducts scientific research to characterize, detect and defeat nuclear threat devices; develops and conducts WMD counterterrorism tabletop exercises; and promotes nuclear information security policy and practices.

Defense Nuclear Security[edit]

NNSA is responsible for the development and implementation of security programs, including physical and personnel security, protective forces, nuclear materials control and accountability, classified and sensitive information protection and technical security programs.


  • Under Secretary for Nuclear Security[7]
    • Deputy Under Secretary for Nuclear Security
  • Administrator for the National Nuclear Security Administration
    • Deputy Administrator for the National Nuclear Security Administration
      • Deputy Administrator for Defense Programs
        • Deputy Assistant Administrator for Defense Programs
      • Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation
        • Deputy Assistant Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation
      • Deputy Administrator for Naval Reactors
        • Deputy Assistant Administrator for Naval Reactors
      • Associate Administrator for Emergency Operations
        • Assistant Administrator for Emergency Operations
      • Associate Administrator for Safety, Infrastructure and Operations
        • Assistant Administrator for Safety, Infrastructure and Operations
      • Associate Administrator for Defense Nuclear Security
        • Assistant Administrator for Defense Nuclear Security
      • Associate Administrator for Counterterrorism and Counterproliferation
        • Assistant Administrator for Counterterrorism and Counterproliferation
      • Associate Administrator for External Affairs
        • Assistant Administrator for External Affairs
      • General Counsel
        • Deputy General Counsel
      • Associate Administrator for Acquisition and Project Management
        • Assistant Administrator for Acquisition and Project Management
      • Associate Administrator for Management and Budget
        • Assistant Administrator for Management and Budget
      • Associate Administrator for Information Management and Chief Information Officer
        • Assistant Administrator for Information Management and Chief Information Officer
          • Deputy Associate Administrator for Information Management
            • Deputy Assistant Administrator for Information Management
          • Chief Information Officer
            • Deputy Chief Information Officer

Data security concerns[edit]

The NNSA maintains a database containing personal information on 37,000 persons who design and maintain nuclear weapons for the U. S. government.

In June 2006, The New York Times reported that sensitive information on nuclear weapons workers had been stolen from the NNSA, and stated that the theft had gone unreported for nine months.[8]

Safe recovery of nuclear materials[edit]

In 2008, the NNSA, in cooperation with Russia and other agencies, helped transport 341 pounds of enriched uranium in 13 radiation proof casks weighing 17,000 lb (7,700 kg) apiece from Budapest to Siberia.

This operation was conducted by American and Russian officials to ensure the safe disposal of the radioactive uranium that is highly enriched and weapons-grade. The Hungarian reactor is now being converted to use low-enriched uranium that cannot be used in a weapon and will not be a potential terrorist target.[9]

NNSA-operated facilities[edit]


  1. ^ NNSA Act (Title XXXII of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2000, Public Law 106-65)
  2. ^ "National Nuclear Security Administration: Additional Actions Needed to Improve Management of the Nation's Nuclear Programs". Report to the Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, Committee on Armed Services, House of Representatives, U.S. Government Accountability Office. January 2007. Retrieved April 19, 2010. 
  3. ^ Eric Schmitt, "Spying Furor Brings Vote In Senate For New Unit", The New York Times, July 22, 1999
  4. ^ Eric Schmitt, "In Shift, Secretary Supports Bill That Overhauls Energy Department," The New York Times, September 28, 1999
  5. ^ "C.I.A. Official Chosen for Weapons Agency", The New York Times, March 3, 2000
  6. ^ "Accident Response Group". National Nuclear Security Administration. Retrieved April 17, 2015. 
  7. ^ "DOE organizational chart" (PDF). US Department of Energy. Retrieved 18 May 2016. 
  8. ^ Stout, David (June 10, 2006). "Data Theft at Nuclear Agency Went Unreported for 9 Months". The New York Times. Retrieved April 19, 2010. 
  9. ^ "Highly Enriched Uranium Removed from Hungary". NNSA Press Release. October 23, 2008. Archived from the original on March 26, 2010. Retrieved April 19, 2010. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]