During a 2011 Republican primary, former Texas Governor Rick Perry proclaimed that if he were president, he would eliminate three government agencies: the Department of Education, the Department of Commerce and … he couldn't remember the name of the other agency he wanted to eliminate. That forgettable agency was the Department of Energy, which Donald Trump has announced he’ll nominate Rick Perry to lead. As Secretary of Energy, Rick Perry will be expected to oversee extremely serious national security matters:
As long as nuclear weapons exist, the United States will maintain a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent to keep America safe. In support of this presidential mandate, the Energy Department -- specifically the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) -- is responsible for ensuring the integrity and safety of the nation’s nuclear weapons, advancing nuclear nonproliferation and promoting international nuclear safety.
We also work with industry partners to model risks to privately owned U.S. nuclear facilities from cyber attacks and support climate change adaptation efforts to prevent overheating of nuclear reactors, an increasing threat as global temperatures rise and droughts become more common.
The current head of the Department of Energy is Dr. Ernest Moniz, a former Professor of Physics and Engineering Systems at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In fact, four out of the last five heads of the Department of Energy were world-renowned and/or Nobel Prize-winning scientists with a deep understanding of physics and nuclear weapons.
Rick Perry’s last job was as a contestant on Dancing with the Stars. As the New York Times notes, Perry is a curious pick for such a serious role.
While Texas is rich in energy resources and Mr. Perry is an enthusiastic advocate of extracting them, it is not clear how that experience would translate into leading what is also a major national security agency. Despite its name, the Department of Energy plays the leading role in designing nuclear weapons and in ensuring the safety and reliability of the nation’s aging nuclear arsenal through a constellation of scientific laboratories.
About 60 percent of the Energy Department’s budget is devoted to managing the National Nuclear Security Administration, which defines its mission as enhancing national security through the military application of nuclear science.
Excuse me, I’ll be back in a bit. I’m off to download instructions on how to build a bunker.