House, Senate divided on plan for DOE spin-off

House, Senate divided on plan for DOE spin-off

A House and Senate conference committee convened last month to resolve differences in fiscal 2000 intelligence authorization bills, which include provisions to reorganize the Energy Department.

The Senate on July 21 approved its version of the bill, which has an amendment sponsored by Sens. Jon L. Kyl (R-Ariz.), Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.) and Frank H. Murkowski (R-Alaska) to create the Agency for Nuclear Stewardship. The semiautonomous oversight agency would oversee the nation's nuclear weapons research and stockpile management.

Tighter control

The overhaul legislation comes in the wake of efforts by the department to bolster its security, including data control, because of allegations of espionage by former Energy lab employees.

Energy Secretary Bill Richardson said he supported the Senate proposal for three reasons: It would ensure that the department retains authority over counterintelligence and security policies; it would preserve the relationship that the department-funded research labs have with other Energy organizations; and it would protect the department's field operations.

The House passed its authorization bill in May. Richardson does not support that bill because it calls for transferring the weapons research duties to the Defense Department, Energy spokesman Stu Nagurka said.

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