Rep. Turner pushes for military control of U.S. nuclear facilities

Turner, who chairs the House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee, wants American troops on station at the Defense Department's atomic weapons facilities and a handful of nuclear installations controlled by the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration.

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If signed into law, Turner's bill would implement the same security procedures already in place by DOD for nuclear weapons and materials already under Pentagon oversight. 

“Shifting security to the military provides a number of advantages over the current system," Turner said in a statement released Friday. "Our military has the capabilities, training and cultural mindset needed to secure the nation’s most powerful weapons."

Currently, security operations for NNSA and a number of DOD nuclear facilities are handled by teams of private security contractors under agreements reached with the Pentagon and Department of Energy. 

However, a recent security breach at the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tenn., put a spotlight on some of the glaring deficiencies in NNSA and DOD's approach to protecting U.S. nuclear sites, according to Turner. 

In late July, a band of protesters with the anti-nuclear weapons organization known as the Plowshares Group cut though the security fences at the Oak Ridge site and vandalized a uranium storage facility. The group was detained by security forces shortly after the break-in. 

In response, Turner and other subcommittee members "were stunned by the series of failures, at all levels" that allowed the protesters to enter the Y-12 facility undetected and deface the storage building before being caught. 

"It is clear that the NNSA is broken and we must take immediate action to ensure the security of the nation’s nuclear materials,” Turner said in the statement. 

"I am not willing to risk having security for our nuclear weapons continue to reside inside this broken system,” he added.