Gizmodo subsequently published a clarification stating that, while the two officials "have submitted their resignations, intend to depart on January 20, and have not been asked by the Trump transition to stay past that date, the Trump team has not explicitly instructed them to leave or 'clean out their desks,' as we reported. According to our source, both officials 'have expressed [to the Trump team] that they would likely be willing to stay to facilitate a smooth transition, if asked,' as is the tradition for key officials, and have received no response."
Gizmodo altered its headline to reflect the clarification, as did Common Dreams.
President-elect Donald Trump—whose pending control of America's nuclear arsenal already has many people deeply concerned—has apparently ordered the resignation of two government officials whose role is to ensure that stockpile remains safe and secure.
Citing an unnamed Energy Department official, Gizmodo reported that on Friday, Trump "instructed the head of the National Nuclear Security Administration [NNSA] and his deputy to clean out their desks when Trump takes office on January 20th."
The NNSA is a semi-autonomous agency within the U.S. Department of Energy that, according to its website, "maintains and enhances the safety, security, and effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile without nuclear explosive testing; works to reduce the global danger from weapons of mass destruction; provides the U.S. Navy with safe and effective nuclear propulsion; and responds to nuclear and radiological emergencies in the U.S. and abroad."
While the exit of political appointees under a new administration is not unusual, what is surprising is Trump's seeming disregard for positions left unfilled—though the decision is in line with the president-elect's mandate, reported last week, that all foreign ambassadors appointed by President Barack Obama leave their posts by Inauguration Day, without exception.
Traditionally, all political appointees of an outgoing presidential administration turn in resignation letters effective on noon of Inauguration Day, January 20. But appointees in key positions—like the people who make sure our nukes work—are often asked to stay on in their roles until a replacement can be found and confirmed by the Senate, helping ensure a smooth transition and allowing our government to continue functioning. In fact, for the entirety of Obama's first term and into part of his second, the NNSA administrator remained a Bush appointee.
Trump, however, appears determined to immediately push out everyone who was appointed by Obama, regardless of whether or not he has anyone in line for the job. [...]
Just as with Obama's soon-to-be-removed international envoys, Trump has ordered Under Secretary for Nuclear Security Frank Klotz and his deputy, Madelyn Creedon—both Obama appointees—to leave their posts, even if it means no one is in charge of maintaining the country's nuclear weapons. According to our Energy Department source, Trump's team has yet to nominate anyone to succeed them. Since both positions require Senate confirmation, if could be months before their chairs are filled. And the vacancies may extend beyond the leadership roles.
Senior reporter Ashley Feinberg wrote: "As far as I can tell, this is unprecedented—January 20 will mark the first time in the NNSA's 17-year history that it will exist wholly without its appointed leadership."
And her source told her, "I'm more and more coming around to the idea that we're so very very fucked."
On Monday, Ploughshares Fund president Joseph Cirincione tweeted in response to the news:
This is not just dumb, it's dangerous. You do not want to leave nukes home alone. https://t.co/7rJu49FUSQ
— Joe Cirincione (@Cirincione) January 9, 2017
Late last month, Cirincione—whose group is circulating a petition calling on Obama to "take US nuclear missiles off hair-trigger alert, so that any attempt to use these weapons would take hours or days"—spoke to Democracy Now! about Trump's incoherent and frightening nuclear policy: