U.S. Nuclear Bomb Overseer Quits After Clash With Energy Chief

The U.S. official overseeing the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile resigned Friday after clashing with Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette.

Lisa E. Gordon-Hagerty, administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration and undersecretary of Energy for nuclear security, resigned after being told by Brouillette’s office that President Donald Trump had lost faith in her ability to do her job, according to two people familiar with the matter.

Some administration officials were disappointed that she’d been pushed out, saying that she was widely viewed by those in her field as capable, the people said.

Gordon-Hagerty and representatives of the National Nuclear Security Administration and the Energy Department declined to comment. NNSA Principal Deputy Administrator William Bookless was named acting administrator.

“As administrator, Ms. Gordon-Hagerty oversaw the modernization of NNSA’s infrastructure and the strengthening of its world-class workforce,” the agency said in a statement announcing her departure but misspelling her last name. “She also made significant strides in improving NNSA governance.”

Her resignation came after a budget dispute between the NNSA and Brouillette and other officials spilled into the open earlier this year.

Gordon-Hagerty had sought to enlist Brouillette to support a $20 billion request for fiscal 2021, but Brouillette and others instead asked her to sign a letter endorsing a lower amount while offering assurances the NNSA’s mission could still be achieved, according to the people.

The nuclear agency is a semi-autonomous arm of the Energy Department that is responsible for producing and dismantling nuclear weapons as well as cleaning up the toxic legacy left behind from previous nuclear bomb manufacturing across the U.S.

Gordon-Hagerty, who was confirmed as its leader in 2018, was the first woman to hold that position. According to the Department of Energy’s website, she began her career as a health physicist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California.

In a statement Friday, Senator Jim Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, praised Gordon-Hagerty as “an exemplary public servant and remarkable leader” of the NNSA while slamming Brouillette.

“That the secretary of Energy effectively demanded her resignation during this time of uncertainty demonstrates he doesn’t know what he’s doing in national security matters and shows a complete lack of respect for the semi-autonomous nature of NNSA,” Inhofe said.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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