The Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) national laboratories have long served agencies and missions other than DOE’s. The laboratories’ broad mandate is implicit in the name “national laboratories;” that is, they serve the national interests in a variety of ways and for a variety of partners. It is not surprising, therefore, that there is a long history of recommendations for laboratory governance that differ from the current model, which vests all governance in DOE. The following are the most relevant examples for this governance study. Full references to the reports are given in Appendix C.
THE GALVIN REPORT (1995)
The Galvin Report, Task Force on Alternative Futures for the Department of Energy National Laboratories, looked at all DOE laboratories and recommended a “corporatized” approach to laboratories governance. The recommended structure would have DOE as the government sponsor of the corporation that would be “governed” by a board of trustees, appointed by the President, consisting principally of distinguished scientists, engineers, and private sector executives. The board would select a chief executive officer and other principal officers of the corporation, and each laboratory would have an advisory board elected by the parent board. Funding would flow directly to the corporation from Congress, not via DOE, which would be a customer of the corporation.
The corporatized model suggested by the Galvin Report makes clear that while DOE would be the laboratories’ sponsor, strategic partnership for them would be vested in the board, which would be composed of people outside DOE. The Galvin task force acknowledged it may not be appropriate to have the weapons laboratories be part of this corporatized approach, but it left the issue unresolved.
DEFENSE SCIENCE BOARD (2006)
The 2006 Defense Science Board study Report of the Defense Science Board on Nuclear Capabilities examined the issue of governance of the NNSA laboratories in some detail and weighed a variety of alternatives. It concluded that the current DOE/NNSA model does not (and cannot) work, nor is it appropriate to have DOD run the weapons laboratories for a variety of reasons. It recommended a government corporation (the National Nuclear Weapons Agency) overseen by a board of directors chaired by the Secretary of Defense and consisting of the Secretaries of Energy and Homeland Security and the Director of National Intelligence.
This proposal clearly gives the other agencies a seat at the governance table and puts the Secretary of Defense, not the Secretary of Energy, at the head of the table.
DEFENSE SCIENCE BOARD (2008)
The 2008 Defense Science Board study Report of the Defense Science Board Task Force on Nuclear Deterrence Skills did not focus on governance issues, but some of its recommendations called on DOE (or NNSA) to work with other cabinet agencies (principally DOD and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, ODNI) on governance-related issues. The issues are largely related to the strategic partnership of the laboratories; that is, assessing human capital needs and strategies in the laboratories and how to sustain fundamental nuclear capabilities and competencies.
The Defense Science Board did not call on the other agencies to provide funding for these activities or to assume them, but rather to collaborate to assess what was needed so that DOE as sponsor, and the Congress as funder, could do what was needed. This is a clear example of how strategic partnership complements the sponsor’s responsibilities.
STRATEGIC POSTURE COMMISSION (2009)
The 2009 report of the Strategic Posture Commission, America’s Strategic Posture, recommended establishing NNSA as an independent agency
reporting to the President through a board of directors composed of the Secretaries of State, Defense, Energy, and Homeland Security and the Director of National Intelligence. A presidential executive order would make this board responsible “for the programmatic and budgetary health of the laboratories.” The Commission further recommended that the board approve NNSA’s strategic plan and provide comments on its budget proposals before they are submitted to the Office of Management and Budget.
This is another shared governance model for the laboratories that involves the laboratories as principal clients/partners in the model. It also makes clear that the President would be the sponsor for the new agency, and the board would be its stewards.
STIMSON CENTER TASK FORCE (2009)
The 2009 Stimson Center study, Leveraging Science for Security, assessed the current governance model and concluded it was not working. The study recommended creating an independent agency to replace NNSA overseen by a board of directors consisting of the Vice President, Secretaries of State, Defense, Energy, and Homeland Security, the Attorney General, the Director of National Intelligence, and the head of the new agency. The laboratories and the Nevada Test Site (now known as Nevada National Security Site) would be part of this new structure. This is another example of the sponsor being the President with a board of directors providing strategic partnership to the laboratories as part of the overall organization.
NATIONAL RESEARCH COUNCIL (2012)
In its 2012 report, Managing for High-Quality Science and Engineering at the NNSA National Security Laboratories, the National Research Council (NRC) examined the framework for managing science and engineering research at the laboratories and provided an analysis of the relationships among the several players in the management of the laboratories—the NNSA, the site offices (now called field offices), the contractors, and the laboratory managers—and the effect of that relationship on the laboratories’ ability to carry out science and engineering research. The NRC stated that there is “an erosion of trust between NNSA and its National Security Laboratories to an extent that very seriously affects the labs’ capability to manage for quality S&E.” It recommended “rebalancing the managerial and governance relationship to build in a higher level of trust in program execution and laboratory operations in general.”
NATIONAL ACADEMY OF PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION (2013)
The 2013 National Academy of Public Administration report Positioning DOE’s Labs for the Future: A Review of DOE’s Management and Oversight of the National Laboratories concluded that the laboratories need a government-wide strategic approach to meet their responsibilities to serve the national security agencies and supported the work of the Mission Executive Council interagency group.