HOW THE NNSA HELPS PROTECT AMERICA’S NUCLEAR INTERESTS
By Buddy Blouin
Ever since the creation of nuclear weapons, we’ve been working to contain them. These incredible weapons of mass destruction can devastate mankind in a number of ways. There are nine nations in the world that can create nuclear weapons, and the United States is not only one of them but also one of the nations with the largest stockpile of any nuclear state. Keeping these weapons from falling into the wrong hands, disposing of their materials, and the general management necessary to ensure they are well-maintained takes a lot of work. This is where the NNSA comes in. Those who work for the NNSA are tasked with securing America’s nuclear interests in a variety of ways. The NNSA is a great way for active-duty military members to segue into a civilian career after their service and still work with the Department of Defense (DoD).
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What Is the NNSA?The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) is a federal agency operating under the Department of Energy. Founded in 2000, this Washington, D.C., unit’s primary goal is to keep America’s nuclear technologies safe. This is achieved in multiple ways and includes protecting against cyber attacks, nonproliferation, and counterterrorism initiatives in addition to maintaining America’s nuclear stockpile. The agency works in various places with multiple labs and sites collaborating to continue American excellence in nuclear power.
How Many Employees in NNSA?There are more than 50,000 employees that work for the NNSA. While a couple thousand are federal employees, a large majority are contract workers who work throughout the various sites and labs across the country. NNSA jobs are attractive options for ex-military, engineers, and scientists interested in nuclear energy. The pay system uses pay-banding, which puts the emphasis on paying employees for their performance rather than their longevity. Working at NNSA will likely position candidates to live in or around Washington, D.C., Germantown, Maryland, or Albuquerque, New Mexico, as these are the three locations where the NNSA operates.
NNSA MissionsThe NNSA’s missions can be broken down into four main categories:
- Maintaining America’s nuclear stockpile. This includes securing nuclear locations and materials operated by America.
- Nonproliferation to help stop the spread of materials and knowledge related to creating nuclear weapons.
- Counterterrorism and counterproliferation to keep Americans and others safe both at home and abroad. This may also include preventing and responding to active threats that may occur around the globe.
- Powering the nuclear Navy and ensuring that the lifespan and maintenance of the Navy are maximized for effectiveness and longevity.
How Many Supercomputers Does NNSA Have?Determining the exact amount of supercomputers used by the NNSA can be a bit difficult; however, El Capitan will be the $600 million supercomputer helping to keep America’s nuclear codes safe beginning at the end of 2022/start of 2023. There has been an uptick in upgrading America’s supercomputing capabilities in regards to our nuclear initiatives. This is also why the focus on an increase in cybersecurity continues to be a critical part of our success. Supercomputers’ performances are measured by floating-point operations per second (FLOPS), with some, such as El Capitan, capable of performing up to a hundred quadrillion FLOPS. These sophisticated machines help us manage nuclear weapons, chemicals, labs, and more on a scale that is simply unfeasible using human capital alone. The NNSA continues to be a vital component of America’s nuclear policy to ensure that nuclear power energy and warfare are properly maintained and secure. Lucrative salaries, unique career opportunities, and military-adjacent work continue to make a career with the NNSA a popular choice among Veterans and those transitioning out of the military.
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