U.S. News

Head of U.S. agency overseeing nuclear weapons stockpile resigns

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The head of the agency that oversees the U.S. stockpile of nuclear weapons has resigned, the U.S. Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration said on Friday, without providing a reason.

FILE PHOTO: Under Secretary for Nuclear Security of the U.S. Department of Energy and Administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration Lisa Gordon-Hagerty (centre) tours the Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Alabama in Bangor, Washington, U.S. in this October 10, 2018 handout photo. Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Amanda R. Gray/U.S. Navy/Handout via REUTERS

Lisa Gordon-Hagerty resigned as administrator of the NNSA, a semi-autonomous branch of the department.

William Bookless is now serving as NNSA’s acting administrator, it said in a statement. He had been serving as NNSA’s principal deputy administrator for the last year-and-a-half.

The action drew criticism from Senator James Inhofe, Republican chairman of the Armed Services Committee who praised Gordon-Hagerty and harshly criticized Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette.

“That the Secretary of Energy effectively demanded her resignation during this time of uncertainty demonstrates he doesn’t know what he’s doing in national security matters and shows a complete lack of respect for the semi-autonomous nature of NNSA,” Inhofe said in a statement.

Brouillette’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Gordon-Hagerty became the first woman to serve as administrator when she took up her post in early 2018.

NNSA oversees the development and maintenance of nuclear weapons, but not the delivery systems, which are managed by the Department of Defense.

DefenseNews was first to report Gordon-Hagerty’s resignation. The news outlet said she had clashed over her budget with Brouillette.

Gordon-Hagerty had proposed a record budget of nearly $20 billion for fiscal year 2021 to help pay for modernization of the nuclear weapons stockpile, which is expected to cost more than $1.2 trillion over 30 years.

Brouillette had backed a budget of $17.5 billion proposed by the Office of Management and Budget, a White House office. President Donald Trump later sided with Gordon-Hagerty for a budget of nearly $20 billion.

Reporting by Timothy Gardner in Washington, additional reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Leslie Adler, Matthew Lewis, Tom Brown and Cynthia Osterman