U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell’s concern about the amendment in the pending National Defense Authorization Act that transfers control over nuclear weapons, laboratories and cleanup from the Department of Energy to the Department of Defense is well-founded [“Keep civilian control of federal nuclear work,” June 30, Opinion].
Since Presidents Truman and Eisenhower, there has been tension in our country about civilian versus military control over our nuclear assets. Human nature being what it is, we each see the world through the lens of our own experience — surgeons see solutions primarily as surgical, artists view the arts as the reservoir of civilization, faith leaders look to faith as the framework to find answers.
For this human tendency, it is essential that our governance structure for national assets be designed with sturdy checks and balances. It should never depend on the ethics, morality or personality of leaders. Wise military leaders know this. Thus, civilian control over our nuclear weapons, laboratories and cleanup must be maintained. I hope Congress strips out this provision from the National Defense Authorization Act for our sake and the world’s. And if not the 2020 Congress, then the next must act to remedy this.Gina Bourgeois, Seattle