The National Nuclear Security Agency (NNSA) has denied a report that President-elect Donald Trump's transition team has sacked the heads of the agency ahead of his inauguration on 20 January. A report by Gizmodo said that the transition team had instructed the NNSA head and his deputy to leave their posts by the inauguration, potentially leaving the crucial positions without replacements for an unforeseen time.
The $12bn-a-year (£9.86bn) agency is tasked with maintaining and enhancing "the safety, security, and effectiveness of the US nuclear weapons stockpile," according to Gizmodo. If the reports were true, those positions would likely be open for weeks or months during a time when the agency would need to advocate Congress for funding.
An anonymous NNSA official denied the report to DefenseNews in an interview on Monday (9 January). "The story is not accurate," the official said. "There have been no discussions between the president-elect's transition team and any of NNSA's political appointees on extending their public service past 20 January."
However, an official at the department of energy told Gizmodo that Trump appeared eager to push out all officials appointed by Obama, whether he had a replacement for them or not. "It's a shocking disregard for process and continuity of government."
According to the energy department source, Trump ordered Under Secretary for Nuclear Security Frank Klotz and his deputy, Madelyn Creedon, to leave their posts. The Trump team, however, has yet to nominate their replacements. Gizmodo notes that appointees in key positions such as these are often asked to remain until replacements are nominated and confirmed by the Senate.
President Obama, for example, kept a George W Bush appointee as the head of the NNSA for the entirety of his first term and part of his second.
"There are scores more [Obama] appointees within the department," the source added. "Secretarial and administration appointments that don't require Senate confirmation, mostly performing policy, liaison, and strategic advisory capacities in support of the agency they're at.
"They serve at the will of the head of their agency. Those people are, theoretically, also out on inauguration day unless otherwise directed, which hasn't happened yet to my knowledge."
The source added: "I'm more and more coming around to the idea that we're so very, very f****d."
The Gizmodo report comes on the heels of the transition team's decision to deny extensions past the inauguration to Obama's international envoys. Trump's team sent a blanket edict requiring politically appointed ambassadors to leave their overseas posts by 20 January, according to The New York Times.
The directive reportedly has led many ambassadors to scramble to secure living arrangements and acquire visas to allow them to remain in their countries so that their children can finish school.
Trump's transition team has not commented on the Gizmodo report.