Department of Energy restructuring

Jack Anderson

Last week Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz announced a restructuring of DOE’s leadership. The plan makes significant changes that will affect Fermilab, so in today’s column I will take you through some of the highlights. If you’d like to hear about the changes directly from Secretary Moniz, I encourage you to watch the video of his town hall meeting for DOE employees.

The first major change that will affect our lab is the merging of the two existing undersecretary positions for science and energy. The new undersecretary for science and energy will oversee the Office of Science—our home within DOE—as well as the five energy offices. Most of DOE’s national labs will fall under this new undersecretary. The merged structure will allow science and energy research to be better coordinated within DOE.

While many of the lab’s interactions are with the Office of Science, we also work closely with DOE personnel in operations roles. That side of the house is also undergoing a change with the creation of a new undersecretary for management and performance, who will oversee the department’s principal support organizations. This office will host a new National Laboratory Operations Board, where leaders from the laboratory system and from DOE will work together to tackle administrative issues that touch all 17 labs. This new board will give the laboratories a recurring and direct line of communication with senior DOE leadership, and I’m hopeful that over time it will improve coordination within complex environment in which we work.

Laboratory directors and senior DOE officials will also join forces in a new National Laboratory Policy Council. This council, to be initially chaired by Argonne Director Eric Isaacs, will help define the lab’s role in the department’s overall strategy for research and technology development.

It will be some time before the laboratories feel the full impact of these changes. Many positions—including the Office of Science director, vital for Fermilab—remain to be filled or confirmed. But the creation of the National Laboratory Operations Board and the National Laboratory Policy Council will undoubtedly introduce a new, exciting dialogue between the Department of Energy and its laboratories about priorities, our collective performance, challenges and opportunities for improvement.