Opening Statement by Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr.

Committee on Science

Joint Hearing of the Committee on Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Power


Committee on Science Subcommittee on Energy and Environment


Restructuring the Department of Energy

July 13, 1999

The revelations of Chinese espionage at DOE, which first surfaced in the mainstream press and which were elaborated in the Cox and Rudman Reports, fundamentally call into question the ability of DOE to handle sensitive information. If our nuclear secrets are not safe, how can any DOE information be deemed secure?

I believe that the vast majority of Americans agree that an overhaul of the Department of Energy is long overdue. The issue is whether any of the current proposals on the table go far enough. The Rudman Reportís finding of "[o]rganizational disarray, managerial neglect, and a culture of arrogance-both at DOE headquarters and the labs themselves" largely echoes that of the 1995 Galvin report on the DOE labs. If the DOE and defense lab bureaucracies are "saturated with cynicism," have an "arrogant disregard for authority," and have "a staggering pattern of denial" to the point that our national security has been extensively and repeatedly compromised, I am afraid to even consider the state of the civilian labs that also work on classified scientific research and can harm as well as assist our national security. Thus, I believe the solution is not to concentrate on only the weapons labs, but to look at the entire complex. If the bath water is dirty, throwing out half the water will not clean the tub. In short, whatever the solution entails, I believe that it should address all the labs.

We also need to keep in mind the tension between science and security, and of the incredible scientific benefits attributable to the work at the DOE labs. We must ensure that while we safeguard the security of our Nation, we protect the scientific endeavors conducted at our DOE civilian laboratories.

And finally, we must ensure that there is adequate oversight of environment, safety and health matters at the DOE facilities. The Science Committee-on a bipartisan basis-has strongly supported the movement to external regulation of the civilian DOE labs, particularly in light of the safety fiasco at Brookhaven National Laboratory, which has cost the scientific community a world-class neutron research facility, the High Flux Beam Reactor. Consequently, I strongly believe that external regulation of DOE civilian labs must be part of any reorganization legislation.

The importance of these issues and the bipartisan concerns of both the Science and Commerce Committees are demonstrated here today by this joint hearing of both House Energy Subcommittees. I look forward to working with all Members on a bipartisan basis to craft legislation that best addresses the real problems of DOE.