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Aligning the Governance Structure of the NNSA Laboratories

The National Research Council has published a new report from the Committee on Assessment of the Governance Structure of the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) National Security Laboratories, “Aligning the Governance Structure of the NNSA Laboratories to Meet 21st Century National Security Challenges.”

While the original mission of the principal NNSA laboratories—Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL), Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), and Sandia National Laboratories (SNL)— focused solely on nuclear weapons, the mission has evolved over time to include a broader array of national security challenges.

In response to requests starting in the late 1960s to serve various national security agency needs, and more recently motivated by the need to maintain the personnel and facilities required to sustain core nuclear capabilities, the NNSA laboratories have undertaken activities at the request of other agencies—especially the Department of Defense (DOD), the Intelligence Community (IC), and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)—to serve the national security missions of those other agencies and at the same time sustain the core mission.

These activities, which have historically been termed Work for Others, have grown over time to be a significant portion of the laboratories’ budgets, ranging from 9 percent at LANL to 36 percent at SNL.

Across the entire NNSA complex, WFO totaled $1.656 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2013, or about 20 percent of the budget. The challenge now is how to meet multiple agency needs in an era of extended federal budget austerity while maintaining the performance, safety, and reliability of an aging nuclear stockpile.

Several recent studies have argued that meeting this challenge will require a change in the governance of the NNSA laboratories away from sole control by DOE and toward a shared governance model in which the other national security agencies have a seat at the table.

The report addresses considerations for the alignment of mission priorities and key principles that any new governance model for the NNSA laboratories should observe.

Read the report online: Aligning the Governance Structure of the NNSA Laboratories to Meet 21st Century National Security Challenges.

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