After less than 2 months on the job, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz is beginning to spell out how he plans to approach some of the Department of Energy's (DOE's) thornier issues, including improving the management of its expansive network of 17 national laboratories. In a letter that he wrote earlier this week to members of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, Moniz describes plans to create two internal panels that will advise him on possible reforms to the $12-billion-a-year network of science, weapons, and environmental cleanup facilities.
A National Laboratory Policy Council made up of senior DOE officials and select lab directors will help define the lab's role in the department's overall strategy for research and technology development, Moniz wrote in the 10 July letter to Representative Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), chair of the science panel's energy subcommittee, and its top Democrat, Representative Eric Swalwell (D-CA). And a new Laboratory Operations Board will focus on "finding opportunities to improve effectiveness and efficiency." Moniz also plans to ask the existing Secretary of Energy Advisory Board to weigh in on opportunities to improve lab organization.
Moniz emphasized that any changes will be based on broad discussions and agreement between DOE and lab leaders. "As Secretary, I plan to set the agenda and lead this dialogue with the clear understanding that the lab leadership are strategic partners," he wrote, adding that he met with lab directors three times in person or by videoconference during his first 6 weeks on the job.
The letter is a response to an array of questions about the national labs that lawmakers asked Moniz during and after an 18 June appearance before the committee. Lummis placed it into the public record yesterday, during a hearing on possible reforms at the labs.