Energy nominee highlights nuclear weapons experience

Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall told senators Thursday that she has vast experience with defense and nuclear weapons, which would be a major part of her responsibilities as the second highest-ranking official at the Department of Energy (DOE).

At her confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Sherwood-Randall made it clear that she is committed to the DOE’s domestic energy missions as well. She is currently one of President Obama’s top advisors for defense.

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“Along with our uniquely capable military, our energy resources will be an essential source of our strength in the 21st century — especially given the changing global energy landscape,” Sherwood-Randall said. “The revolution in American oil and natural gas production is helping fuel our economic growth and enhance our energy security. At the same time, energy innovation drives our competitiveness and positions us to continue to lead the world.”

Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Brent Scowcroft, a retired Air Force lieutenant general who has advised presidents on defense, both spoke on her behalf to explain that while Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz’s strength is in energy research and the DOE’s domestic missions, Sherwood-Randall would excel in the agency’s defense missions. The department is tasked with maintaining the country’s nuclear weapons, reducing proliferation of nuclear weapons around the world and other roles.

“The current secretary of Energy is very well steeped in the energy area, in the science, technology part of that,” Feinstein said. “This is the balance, here, someone who is well-steeped in the other part of the portfolio.”

“She knows how to get hard things done, and that is certainly what is needed in a deputy secretary of Energy,” Scowcroft said.

The tone of the confirmation hearing was very cordial, and although many senators appeared friendly to Sherwood-Randall, no one committed to voting to confirm or deny her nomination. She would replace Dan Poneman, who will leave the agency later this year.

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), the committee’s chairwoman, said Sherwood-Randall appears to be up to the challenge of being the DOE’s No. 2.

“Ms. Sherwood-Randall brings a stellar background in nuclear weapons non-proliferation and international affairs to the department, and I might say, a wonderfully generous and genuine attitude to this really big job and a very humbling demeanor,” Landrieu said.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), the panel’s top Republican, said she was impressed by Sherwood-Randall’s qualifications.

“I think with your expertise on nuclear security and nonproliferation that this can be an asset to us on the committee,” Murkowski said.

Both Landrieu and Murkowski pressed Sherwood-Randall on allowing oil exports and increasing exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG). On both issues, she deferred to current administration policies.

“My understanding … is that the Department of Energy does not have purview over decisions on oil exports, that is a Department of Commerce issue,” she said on oil.

When Murkowski asked about natural gas exports, Sherwood Randall said that if confirmed, she would “work closely with you and members of the committee to ensure that there are no untoward delays in the review of proposals for export of LNG.”

The panel has not scheduled a vote on her nomination.