The department of highly energetic disassembly

The Reality-Based Community

The Energy Department is poorly structured for doing this job under its current brief. Most of its responsibilities involve protecting the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile, which really should now be in DHS. Energy seems to have gotten this job under its 1978 organizing statute, and it appears that no one really wants it: at the time, DOD would have been the logical candidate, and could have kept it if wanted to. Somehow, no one suggested or pushed moving the function to DHS in the 2002 reorganization, which suggests again that this is a headache no one wants.

My recollection from the time is that nuclear weapons went into DoE both so that it would have something uncuttable to do and so that a big chunk of defense money would no longer be in DoD competing with other DoD projects (and subject to the usual pressure to cut defense budgets). Not quite camouflage, but close enough for low-information-policymaker purposes.

In addition, “stockpile stewardship” has some things to do with physical protection of things that go BOOM but a great deal to do with making sure that they will continue to go BOOM into the indefinite future, even as the radioactives currently making them up decay, and the nonradioactives degrade under the influence of radiation. That used to involve firing warheads underground on a regular basis, now involves enormous amounts of computer modeling and a smaller amount of no-mushroom-cloud explosive testing. One blenches to think what would have happened to all this activity (much less the nukes themselves) had it been transferred to the cesspit that is DHS.

On the other hand, we never would have heard of Wen Ho Lee had the nuke labs been under DHS; he simply would have been disappeared…


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