One of the raps against President Obama is that he’s in over his head due, in part, to lack of executive management experience.
Here’s one thing Obama could do to shore up his management credentials: find a way to get rid of Greg Jaczko as chairman of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Now would be a good time.
Jaczko’s four colleagues—two Republicans and two Democrats—sent a remarkable letter to White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley that said Jaczko is a bullying, mercurial control freak who keeps vital information from his colleagues, browbeats technical advisers, and intimidates NRC professional staff.
Jaczko, his four colleagues told Daley, has interacted with them “with such intemperance and disrespect that the commission no longer functions as effectively as it should.”
A chairman’s bad behavior can poison any collegial body. This isn’t the state cosmetology board we’re talking about here, however. It’s the commission charged with overseeing the safety of America’s nuclear power plants, passing judgment on reactor designs, and licensing the final resting place or places for dangerous nuclear wastes.
And what did former Jaczko boss Ed Markey have to say about all this? Markey, a high-profile Dem on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, accused the four commissioners of conspiring to delay tightening of reactor safeguards following the Fukushima accident and of plotting a “coup” against Jaczko.
Conspiracy and coup mongering are serious accusations. If Markey were to be believed, four wild-eyed individuals—a nuclear engineer and adviser to former Senator John Warner, a MIT engineering professor, a former head of DOE’s nuclear energy program during the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, and a retired Navy submarine squadron commander—are conniving intrigues straight out of a bad spy novel.
Pardon us if we don’t find Markey’s wild charges to be convincing. Last June, the NRC inspector general released a report taking Jaczko to task for intimidating staff and keeping fellow commissioners in the dark about his intentions to close down the proposed Yucca Mountain waste repository. Is the IG part of the plot too?
Closing down Yucca fulfills the political agenda of one Harry Reid, another former boss of Jaczko, who railed about a supposed “witch hunt” against the imperious NRC boss. Jaczko’s appointment smells like it was designed to advance a political objective, not to provide competent, objective leadership to the NRC.
At a crucial time for the U.S. nuclear industry, the NRC doesn’t need a chairman straight out of “Horrible Bosses.” Obama needs to fix a vital agency that’s in serious trouble by finding a way to replace Jaczko with a chairman who can get along with his or her colleagues and treat them and professional staff with the respect they deserve. If Reid and Markey don’t like it, that’s too bad.