No go?

By Jason Simpson / April 24, 2009 at 5:00 AM

The Air Force's top general today said he sees no “obvious” reason to fold the National Nuclear Security Administration into the Defense Department.

Speaking at the Brookings Institution this morning, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz said the air service has “very little equity” in this discussion, but he doesn't see “immediately the obvious advantage” of the merger.

My personal view is, and at least my best military advise would be, that there is some merit in keeping the nuclear enterprise in our country not wholly concentrated within the Department of Defense -- that there is a history, a legacy, of civilian oversight and participation and involvement in the nuclear enterprise going back to the very first days.

Though “some” might see financial reasons to go forward with such a plan, the four-star general cautioned of some possible “unintended consequences” of migrating the Energy Department's role in the nuclear enterprise “in its entirety” into DOD. There isn't a “clear . . . distinct policy upside” to the idea, he added.

In January, the Office of Management Budget director, Peter Orszag, requested a study of the costs and benefits of transferring the budget and management of NNSA or its components to the Pentagon and elsewhere.

Schwartz isn't the first to oppose the idea. In February, Inside the Pentagon reported that some lawmakers worried a transfer could damage ongoing efforts.

Congressional sources at the time told ITP that any decision on the matter would require legislative action. And Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA), chairwoman of the House of Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee, wrote a letter to Orszag on Feb. 5 stating that the initiative “is not a new one, and has been rejected in the past for good reasons.”