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Speech

Administrator D'Agostino's Remarks at the Tennessee Valley Corridor Summit National Technology Summit
May 26, 2010


Good afternoon and thank you Darrel (Kohlhorst) for that kind introduction. I appreciate the opportunity to speak to you today on National and Homeland Security and particularly the key role that Y-12 and Oak Ridge play in that arena.

Let me begin by thanking Ted Sherry for the excellent job he has done as our Site Office Manager at Y-12. We have a terrific leadership team at all of our sites, but the Y-12 National Security Complex -- and indeed the whole Oak Ridge community – is fortunate to have one of our very best there. Ted, thank you for your service to our country and the community.

Let me also take a minute to thank you for the work you have done since 1995 to make the Tennessee Valley Corridor one of our nation’s high-tech hotspots. That is good for your communities, good for NNSA, and good for our country.

For NNSA to succeed, one of the things we need is strong communities around our sites that embrace our mission and help foster a commitment to science and discovery.

Our future depends on our ability to recruit and retain the next generation of nuclear security professionals. Thanks to your efforts, the Tennessee Valley Corridor – and Eastern Tennessee in particular – is home to some great research centers and universities. And many of your local primary and secondary schools participate in programs that engage younger students in science and math programs.

All of that helps gives us a ready pool of talent to draw from, and helps us attract talented young people to the national security jobs of tomorrow.

In fact, just this month, one of the programs that we both support reached an important milestone. For the past two years, Y-12’s “America’s Veterans to Tennessee Engineers” Program has been supporting veterans looking for employment in the Knoxville-Oak Ridge area, as well as corporations seeking new engineers.

We were proud to announce recently that the first veteran in the program has completed his studies at the University of Tennessee and graduated with a degree in Engineering. Pete Ditmer, who served with the U.S. Army, received his B.S. from UT and will begin working at the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama.

I know you have supported this program and many others like it. Our Department of Energy facilities in Eastern Tennessee have been the beneficiary of your work, and we thank you for that.

I would also be remiss if I didn’t take a minute to thank the founder of this organization, Congressman Zach Wamp. Just as our sites cannot truly thrive without supportive communities, the residents of Eastern Tennessee have benefited from truly excellent representation in Congress. Congressman Wamp’s leadership in forming the Tennessee Valley Corridor is an example of that. Like you, we at NNSA will be losing a true champion in Congress when Zach Wamp’s term ends this year.

But I also know that the people of Oak Ridge will continue to be well served in Washington by strong leaders like Congressman Lincoln Davis and Senators Alexander and Corker.

As you know, this is the 23rd Tennessee Valley Corridor Summit. For NNSA, it comes at a critical time for the future of our enterprise, including the Y-12 National Security Complex.

Last month, NNSA celebrated its 10th anniversary as an independently organized part of the Department of Energy. It is safe to say that this has been one of the most eventful years in NNSA’s history, as well as one of the most rewarding ones.

In the last few weeks alone, we have seen the release of a Nuclear Posture Review that adopts a 21st century approach to nuclear security and brings renewed emphasis to the full range of our nuclear security missions.

We saw the signing of the new START Treaty that will have an impact on the future size of our stockpile and the workload at sites like Y-12. We saw the completion of an historic Nuclear Security Summit – which gathered the leaders of close to 50 countries to take concrete steps toward securing all vulnerable nuclear material around the world within four years.

As you know, Y-12 plays a critical role NNSA’s efforts to accomplish that goal. I was delighted to see some of men and women from Y-12 prominently featured in a recent ABC News story about NNSA’s efforts to return the last of Chile’s HEU to the United States during the devastating earthquake their earlier this year. Every day, men and women from places like Y-12 and Oak Ridge are working to keep the American people safe by keeping vulnerable nuclear material out of the hands of terrorists and proliferators.

Now, as we meet today, we are nearing the end of the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty review conference, which may have a significant impact on the future of the international nuclear nonproliferation treaty regime.

And all of this follows the release in February of the President’s FY2011 Budget Request, which makes critical investments in the physical, technological, scientific and human capital required to manage our nuclear deterrent and implement the full range of nuclear security missions.

For NNSA, the President has requested more than $11 billion for the upcoming fiscal year to support our nuclear security work and the infrastructure it will require, an increase of 13% from this year.

As you may know, this represents the largest increase since the NNSA was stood up. It reflects the Administration’s commitment to ensuring national as well as nuclear security, and to implementing the President’s nuclear security agenda within the Department of Energy.

It reflects the emerging bipartisan consensus in Washington that now is the time to recapitalize an aging, outdated and expensive nuclear security infrastructure so it can meet the ever more complex set of nuclear security challenges of the 21st century.

It also reflects the tremendous capabilities of places like Y-12. Make no mistake: the work being done in your communities is critical to our nation’s security, critical to the future of our enterprise and the leadership here in Washington knows it.

From managing the enduring stockpile, to dismantling retired weapon systems, to supporting the President’s nuclear nonproliferation agenda, to providing the U.S. Navy with sound, safe and reliable nuclear propulsion, Y-12 supports all of these missions.

But, more importantly, the changes we are seeing at Y-12 are a powerful reminder of what is possible for the future of our enterprise and your communities.

Earlier this year, Vice President Biden said that, “some of the facilities we use to handle uranium and plutonium date back to the days when the world’s great powers were led by Truman, Churchill, and Stalin.” The facilities that we used to store and process Highly Enriched Uranium fall under that category. But we are working to change that.

In March, I had the honor of joining Secretary Steven Chu and many of you for a ceremony marking the completion of the new Highly Enriched Uranium Materials Facility. This state of the art storage facility provides a clear example of what we are trying to accomplish as we work to transform an old Cold War nuclear weapons complex into a 21st Century Nuclear Security Enterprise. Instead of storing HEU in aging buildings spread across 150 acres, we have a single impenetrable facility – a Fort Knox for uranium – that is cheaper to maintain and safer for our workers and the community.

It is a significant accomplishment, one that could not have happened without the support of this organization and the Oak Ridge community. We need your support as we continue to ensure that our nation has modern uranium facilities at Y-12.

The Nuclear Posture Review completed earlier this year specifically endorsed the need to replace the aging uranium facilities at Building 9212 with a new Uranium Processing Facility. The President’s FY2011 Budget Request includes specific funds to continue the design of the Uranium Processing Facility because this President and this Secretary understand that investing now in a modern, sustainable Nuclear Security Enterprise is the right thing to do.

We must invest in the tools and capabilities required to effectively manage the stockpile and support the full range of nuclear security missions – including our stockpile stewardship work as well as our growing nuclear nonproliferation, forensics, and counterterrorism responsibilities.

HEUMF shows what can be done if we have sound management and the resources we need to do the job. Now we need to get the job done on the Uranium Processing Facility. That means doing everything we can to improve the way we do business.

If we expect Congress to trust us with increased resources during challenging economic times, we must renew our commitment to being effective stewards of taxpayer dollars. We take this responsibility very seriously.

That is why, under the Secretary’s leadership, we have undertaken a series of management reforms that will change the way we do business in NNSA, the Department, and across the enterprise. For example, at NNSA, we started a process known as the Zero-Based Security Review that has helped drive down our security costs while improving core physical security capabilities at our sites.

We also established a Supply Chain Management Center that has already saved the taxpayers more than $130 million by pooling purchasing power across our sites and adopting modern procurement tools.

My point in raising these matters is that we will not be operating on a “business as usual” basis. We are making continuous improvements to assure the taxpayers that we are good stewards of their money. But, we need to do more, and we need to do much better.

That is why the Department issued a new construction policy that will significantly improve the way we manage large construction projects like UPF.

We are going to improve our cost estimates by spending more money up front figuring out exactly what we want before we ask Congress to fund construction. Ensuring greater design maturity will help ensure that we stick to our project baselines.

Also, instead of having independent cost estimates done only at the performance baseline, we're going to do it at the end of each critical decision stage in order to have somebody outside of the organization validate the numbers independent of the NNSA.

Taken together, these steps will help get the Department and NNSA off the GAO’s high-risk list, dramatically improve our construction project execution, and make it easier to maintain support for critical priorities like UPF. That is good for us, and good for your communities.

Our mission is as important today as it has ever been. We are seeing that in this year’s Program and Budget Request. We are seeing it in the Department’s commitment to leveraging our nation’s investments in the Nuclear Security Enterprise to tackle our nation’s broader challenges. And we are seeing it in the renewed focus on innovation in science and technology.

This job is not new to the NNSA. It is not new to the men and women working at Y-12 and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. And it is not new to you, leaders from across the Tennessee Valley Corridor, who have been critical to strengthening the science, technology, and engineering base that underpins our national security.

I thank you for your support, and look forward to continuing to work with you to continue and expand that work.

Thank you very much.