Rick Perry reportedly agreed to be energy secretary without checking what the Energy Department does
Maybe this is why Rick Perry forgot that he wanted to eliminate the Energy Department in his famous "oops" moment at a 2012 debate.
When President-elect Donald J. Trump offered Rick Perry the job of energy secretary five weeks ago, Mr. Perry gladly accepted, believing he was taking on a role as a global ambassador for the American oil and gas industry that he had long championed in his home state.
In the days after, Mr. Perry, the former Texas governor, discovered that he would be no such thing — that in fact, if confirmed by the Senate, he would become the steward of a vast national security complex he knew almost nothing about, caring for the most fearsome weapons on the planet, the United States' nuclear arsenal. [The New York Times]
As Perry could have learned by reading the Energy Department's website — or Wikipedia — the lion's share of the Energy Department budget goes toward maintaining, protecting, and updating the U.S. nuclear arsenal; financing a clutch of prestigious national laboratories; monitoring and countering nuclear proliferation; and managing America's aging nuclear production facilities. "If you asked him on that first day he said yes, he would have said, 'I want to be an advocate for energy,'" said Michael McKenna, a GOP energy lobbyist close to Perry who worked on Trump's transition team. "If you asked him now, he'd say, 'I'm serious about the challenges facing the nuclear complex.' It's been a learning curve."
Perry's confirmation hearing before the Senate Energy Committee is Thursday, and he can expect some tough questions to test his quick education. Perry, who has an undergraduate degree in animal sciences, holds the record as the longest-serving governor of Texas, and his 2012 and 2016 presidential campaigns were based on the economic success the Lone Star State had under his low-tax, low-regulation policies. His management experience would undoubtedly be a useful asset at any federal agency.
Obama's two energy secretaries had doctorates in physics — the first, Steven Chu, won a Nobel Prize, and outgoing Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz was chairman of the MIT physics department and director of the university's Laboratory for Nuclear Science. You can read more about Perry's learning curve at The New York Times.