New undersecretary for Hanford oversight to be named

By Annette Cary, Tri-City HeraldJuly 18, 2013 

A Department of Energy reorganization will move oversight of the Hanford nuclear reservation under the newly created position of undersecretary for management and performance.

The White House announced Thursday afternoon that Beth Robinson, chief financial officer at NASA since 2009, will be the nominee for the job.

Robinson previously served as the assistant director for budget at the Office of Management and Budget and deputy director of the Congressional Budget Office.

She is educated as a scientist, with a bachelor's degree in physics from Reed College in Portland and a doctorate in geophysics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.

She also has congressional experience, including as principal minority staff member for the House Committee on Science from 1995-98 and earlier as a staff member for the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology and project director for the Office of Technology Assessment.

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., applauded the reorganization, which could help make Hanford and other environmental cleanup work a higher priority within DOE.

The DOE Office of Environmental Management, with responsibility for Hanford, no longer will report to the undersecretary for nuclear security. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz made the announcement Thursday as he held his second town hall meeting with DOE employees since taking office two months ago.

Former Energy Secretary Steven Chu shifted responsibility for Hanford and other environmental cleanup work to the undersecretary for nuclear security two years ago without consulting Congress. The undersecretary for nuclear security also leads the National Nuclear Security Administration, or NNSA, which was formed within DOE by Congress in 2000 for the management and security of the nation's nuclear weapons, nuclear nonproliferation and naval reactor programs.

"Since the Office of Environmental Management was first placed under NNSA oversight, I've been very concerned about prioritizing funding for the Hanford site against other NNSA projects," Murray said in a statement.

She was pleased that Moniz created the new undersecretary for management and performance position to ensure federal funds are spent wisely and effectively, she said.

Hastings expressed a similar sentiment.

"This plan addresses my longstanding concerns about moving EM (environmental management) under the NNSA where it would always come last in line behind weapons programs," Hastings said in a statement.

The reorganization should provide the clear and narrow focus the environmental management program needs to be successful, he said.

"After a productive meeting with Secretary Moniz last week, I am encouraged by this renewed prioritization of the nuclear waste cleanup responsibilities of the federal government," he said.

-- Annette Cary: 582-1533;; Twitter: @HanfordNews

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