DNDO-Domestic Nuclear Detection Office

Extract from FAS Secrecy news post of August 24, 2005:


In a characteristically unilateral action, the Bush Administration
last April used a National Security Presidential Directive (NSPD) to
establish the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office (DNDO) within the
Department of Homeland Security, the purpose of which is to
coordinate the detection of nuclear materials for illicit use.

But Congress, expressing dissatisfaction with the President’s
unilateral move, sharply reduced proposed funding for the new

“On April 15, 2005, the President signed a joint presidential
directive establishing the office, NSPD-43 / HSPD-14, ‘Domestic
Nuclear Detection’,” said DNDO Acting Director Vayl Oxford in
testimony before the House Homeland Security Committee on June 21.

This was the first public acknowledgment that the DNDO had been
established by means of a national security presidential directive.
(Noted by Jeffrey Lewis of ArmsControlWonk.com.)

The full text of NSPD 43 has not been publicly disclosed, but a copy
of the associated fact sheet may be found here:


Both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees criticized the
way in which the DNDO had been established and both cut $100 million
from the Office’s proposed $227 million budget for 2006.

Creation of the DNDO is an example “of action being taken before
thoughtful planning despite the seriousness of the problems being
addressed,” the Senate Appropriations Committee averred (Sen. Report
109-83).  “Hasty solutions are fostering an apparent false sense of

“The Committee strongly agrees with the importance of improving
nuclear detection capabilities and coordination, but is troubled by
the manner in which this initiative has been handled.”

Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) complained about the “lack of
consultation on the proposed reorganization,” and itemized his
specific concerns in a 9 page letter to the Department of Homeland
Security on June 10.  See:


The White House largely dismissed the congressional criticism and
complained in a July 11 statement that “making a large portion of
DNDO funds contingent upon further congressional review may delay
improvements in the Nation’s capability to defend against
catastrophic threats.”

“This initiative is a top priority of the Administration,” the White
House said.”

Whatever the merits of the establishment the DNDO is now a statutory organization within DHS. The secrecy with which it was founded is perhaps just indicative that the Bush Administration often issued decisions without giving a full rationale for them or how they were made or what gaps in the current bureacracy they were designed to fill.

IMO the Bush decision was fully justified and it fascinates me that this office has struggled so much with its charter and determined to venture into procurement of an unproven technology in its bureacratic “bet the business” decision.

Okay for an update of this troubled org go to:

My hope is that whatever this organization needs to accomplish its very tough mission it should be given and will be interesting to see how the 112th Congress deals with the tough technical issues of nuclear detection. Hoping some insights will be gained before any capability existing in this office is destroyed. And of course hoping that it be strengthened.

About vlg338

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