National Nuclear Security Administration

The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) is a United States federal agency responsible for safeguarding 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 United States Navy with safe and effective nuclear propulsion; and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the United States and abroad.

National Nuclear Security Administration
Agency overview
HeadquartersJames V. Forrestal Building, Washington, D.C.
EmployeesAbout 2,300 federal (2015), 23,000 contract (2009)
Annual budget$13.9 billion (FY18)
Agency executive
Parent agencyDepartment of Energy

Established by the United States Congress in 2000, NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the United States Department of Energy. It is led by Lisa Gordon-Hagerty, who was confirmed by the United States Senate on February 16, 2018.[2]


The National Nuclear Security Administration was created by Congressional action in 1999,[3] 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.[4] 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.[5] The first Under Secretary for Nuclear Security and NNSA administrator appointed was Air Force General (and CIA Deputy Director) John A. Gordon.[6]

Mission and operations

NNSA has four missions with regard to national security[7]:

Defense programs

One of NNSA's primary missions is to maintain the safety, security and effectiveness of the United States' nuclear weapons stockpile without explosive testing.[8] 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[9].


NNSA's Office of Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation in conjunction with international partners, federal agencies, U.S. national laboratories, and the private sector works around the clock to discover, protect, and or dispose of radiological and nuclear materials.[10] The NNSA's Office of Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation also tracks the spread of WMD technology and all related expertise.[10]

The core competencies for nonproliferation are as follows:[10]

  • Extract, dispose, and reduce the materials used in the proliferation of nuclear arms
  • Protect technology, materials, and the facilities used to store such materials and technology
  • Track the spread of nuclear materials, expertise, and the technological knowledge associated with the creation of nuclear weapons
  • Conduct research and development for solutions to mitigate the spread of nuclear materials, and the application of protective measures
  • Develop policy solutions and develop programs to reduce nuclear and radiological dangers.


NNSA has successfully led the recovery efforts of nuclear materials from dozens of countries. The Department of Energy/NNSA has removed more than 6,000 kg of highly enriched uranium and plutonium worldwide.

For example, in 2017, it removed all the highly enriched uranium from Ghana and repatriated it to China. The Ghanaian reactor now uses low-enriched uranium.[11]

NNSA's Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program is responsible for providing efficient nuclear propulsion plants for the United States Navy. It provides the design, development and operational support required to power the U.S. Navy's aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines. The Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program is responsible for the efficient and safe operation of all nuclear powered vessels the U.S. Navy deploys and maintains for combat readiness. The NNSA's Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program consists of both civilian and military personnel who maintains, designs, builds, and manages the various nuclear powered ships in the U.S. Navy's naval fleet.

The following are the elements of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program:[12]

  • Research and development to support currently operational laboratories
  • Skilled contractors who design and build propulsion plant equipment
  • Shipyards that service, repair and build nuclear powered ships
  • Facilities to support the U.S. Navy
  • Training facilities for Naval Reactors and Nuclear Power schools
  • Various field offices and the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program Headquarters

Emergency response

NNSA's Office of Emergency Operations has the obligation of responding to emergencies throughout the NNSA enterprise.[13] Its high level of alertness allows the U.S. to respond to incidents using dedicated assets in a rapid manner.

Counter-terrorism and counter-proliferation

The following areas are the focal point of the NNSA's Office of Counterterrorism and Counterproliferation[14][15]:

  • Radiological search - searching for radiological materials as well as identifying them
  • Rendering safe - comprehensive evaluation of radioactive materials and or nuclear device if such a device is found to ensure safety
  • Consequence management - analysis of the spread of radioactive materials should such an incident were to occur

The NNSA deploys response teams around 100 times each year primarily to search for radioactive materials. The missions are driven by safety concerns with regard to large public events such as presidential inaugurations and the Super Bowl.

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

NNSA's Defense Nuclear Security program is accountable for securing nuclear weapons and components required to develop nuclear weapons as well materials that may come in all shapes and sizes.[16] Another responsibility of the NNSA's Defense Nuclear Security is to safeguard personnel and nuclear weapons, and produce threat assessments.[16] NNSA maintains eight state of the art facilities to safeguard nuclear weapons; they employ the most modern security counter measures as well as maintaining a well-trained protective force to further ensure security of nuclear weapons and materials stored in the facilities.[16]


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

NNSA-owned facilities

Facilities not owned by NNSA


  1. NNSA Act (Title XXXII of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2000, Public Law 106-65)"The National Nuclear Security Administration Act and other relevant legislation". Retrieved June 14, 2018.
  2. "Lisa Gordon-Hagerty Confirmed as Energy Department Under Secretary for Nuclear Security and Administrator for the National Nuclear Security Administration". National Nuclear Security Administration. February 16, 2018. Retrieved June 14, 2018.
  3. "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.
  4. Eric Schmitt, "Spying Furor Brings Vote In Senate For New Unit", The New York Times, July 22, 1999
  5. Eric Schmitt, "In Shift, Secretary Supports Bill That Overhauls Energy Department," The New York Times, September 28, 1999
  6. "C.I.A. Official Chosen for Weapons Agency", The New York Times, March 3, 2000
  7. "Missions". Retrieved June 14, 2018.
  8. "Maintaining the Stockpile". Retrieved June 14, 2018.
  9. "Office of Secure Transportation". Retrieved June 14, 2018.
  10. "Nonproliferation". Retrieved June 14, 2018.
  11. "NNSA Removes All Highly Enriched Uranium from Ghana". NNSA Press Release. August 22, 2017. Retrieved August 17, 2018.
  12. "Powering the Navy". Retrieved June 14, 2018.
  13. "Emergency Operations". Retrieved June 14, 2018.
  14. "Counterterrorism". Retrieved June 14, 2018.
  15. "Nuclear Incident Response". Retrieved June 14, 2018.
  16. "Defense Nuclear Security". Retrieved June 14, 2018.

Further reading

This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.