The transition team for President-elect Donald Trump has informed the leadership of the National Nuclear Security Administration they will be compelled to resign on the day of his inauguration.
The move bucks the precedent of incoming administrations allowing a grace period for administrative officials. It could result in the crucial agency to languishing for months without political leadership.
On Jan. 9, an anonymous official from within the Department of Energy revealed the Trump transition team has told Under Secretary for Nuclear Security Frank Klotz and NNSA deputy Madelyn Creedon to depart from their positions by Jan. 20, the day of Trump's inauguration.
"It's a shocking disregard for process and continuity of government," the DOE official told Gizmodo.
Historically, incoming administrations allow appointees who occupy crucial administrative roles to remain in their positions for an extended period before finding a suitable replacement. Trump's potential choices to head the NNSA will require Senate confirmation, meaning Klotz and Creedon's immediate dismissal could result in the agency lacking leadership for several months.
The immediate removal of Klotz and Creedon echoes the Trump transition team's recent decision to call in all U.S. ambassadors appointed by President Barack Obama by inauguration day. The move also bucks the precedent of allowing grace periods for diplomatic envoys abroad and has afforded the diplomats a window to secure new living arrangements for their families, according to Politico.
The NNSA, which was established in 2000, is tasked with securing and maintaining the readiness of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.
Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Co-Chair Bob Rosner noted that the NNSA will still function without Klotz and Creedon but that their removal will result in the agency lacking any negotiating power in upcoming budget talks.
"To some extent, what we're talking about is the political leadership, the leadership appointed by each administration," Rosner said. "The department is really run by its civil servants."
Rosner added that while the wheels will continue to spin in the agency, it will likely struggle to secure optimal funding when the Senate sets its budget.
"When it comes to budget negotiations, the fact is that without political leadership they will be struggling for money," Rosner said.
An NNSA with reduced funding would clash with Trump's recent assertion that his administration will expand U.S. nuclear capabilities.
On Dec. 22, Trump tweeted "The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world to its senses regarding nukes."
Trump's statement has not been clarified but has been interpreted by analysts as a call to modernize the U.S. arsenal. The Obama administration had already instituted a plan to do so to the cost of $1 trillion.
Rosner expressed bafflement at Trump's statement, asserting that the U.S. nuclear capabilities were already being bolstered.
"[Trump] didn't understand that, under Obama, that we'd rebuilt the entire production complex," Rosner said. "So exactly what he would mean by 'strengthening the nuclear program,' it's a bit of a mystery. I don't know what he's talking about. We've done it already."