Belfer Center Home > People > Graham Allison

« Back to list of experts

Graham Allison

Mailing address

Littauer 368
Belfer Center for Science & International Affairs
79 John F. Kennedy Street, Mailbox 53
Cambridge, MA, 02138

Graham Allison

Director, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

Douglas Dillon Professor of Government, Harvard Kennedy School

Member of the Board

Contact:
Telephone: (617) 496-6099
Fax: (617) 495-1905
Email: graham_allison@harvard.edu

 

Experience

Director of Harvard's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Graham Allison is a leading analyst of U.S. national security and defense policy with a special interest in nuclear weapons, terrorism, and decision-making. As Assistant Secretary of Defensem in the first Clinton Administration, Dr. Allison received the Defense Department's highest civilian award, the Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service, for "reshaping relations with Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan to reduce the former Soviet nuclear arsenal." This resulted in the safe return of more than 12,000 tactical nuclear weapons from the former Soviet republics and the complete elimination of more than 4,000 strategic nuclear warheads previously targeted at the United States and left in Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Belarus when the Soviet Union disappeared.

His latest book (2013), Lee Kuan Yew: The Grand Master’s Insights on China, the United States and the World (co-authored with Robert Blackwill), has been a bestseller in the U.S. and abroad. His previous book, Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe, now in its third printing, was selected by the New York Times as one of the "100 most notable books of 2004."  It presents a strategy for preventing nuclear terrorism organized under a doctrine of "Three Nos:" no loose nukes; no new nascent nukes; and no new nuclear weapons states. Dr. Allison's first book, Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis (1971), was released in an updated and revised second edition (1999) and ranks among the all-time bestsellers with more than 450,000 copies in print.

As "Founding Dean" of the modern Kennedy School, under his leadership, from 1977 to 1989, a small, undefined program grew twenty-fold to become a major professional school of public policy and government.

Dr. Allison has served as Special Advisor to the Secretary of Defense under President Reagan.  He has been awarded the Department of Defense's highest civilian award, the Distinguished Public Service Medal, twice: first by Secretary Cap Weinberger and second by Secretary Bill Perry. He served as a member of the Defense Policy Board for Secretaries Weinberger, Carlucci, Cheney, Aspin, Perry and Cohen.  He currently serves on the Advisory boards of the Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, and the Director of the CIA.

Dr. Allison was the organizer of the Commission on America's National Interests (1996 and 2000), a founding member of the Trilateral Commission, a Director of the Council on Foreign Relations, and has been a member of public committees and commissions, among them the Baker-Cutler DOE Task Force on Nonproliferation Programs with Russia, the IAEA’s Commission of Eminent Persons, and the Commission on Prevention of Weapons of Mass Destruction, Proliferation, and Terrorism.

Dr. Allison has served as a Director of the Getty Oil Company, Natixis, Loomis Sayles, Hansberger, Taubman Centers, Inc., Joule Unlimited, and Belco Oil and Gas, as well as a member of the Advisory Boards of Chase Bank, Chemical Bank, Hydro-Quebec, and the International Energy Corporation.

Dr. Allison was born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina. He was educated at Davidson College; Harvard College (B.A., magna cum laude, in History); Oxford University (B.A. and M.A., First Class Honors in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics); and Harvard University (Ph.D. in Political Science).


Assistant Info:
Simone O'Hanlon
Executive Assistant
Telephone: 617-496-6098
Email: Simone_OHanlon@hks.harvard.edu

 

 

By Date

 

2016

Summer 2016

From the Director

Newsletter Article, Belfer Center Newsletter

By Graham Allison, Director, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

What is the most serious danger facing the world today?

Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Mohamed ElBaradei, and Dick Cheney all give the same answer: nuclear terrorism. If terrorists succeed in exploding a nuclear weapon in New York, Boston, or London, the other issues we care about will not matter much.

In 2009, President Obama proposed an ambitious agenda to address this danger. Among the steps he called for was a Global Summit on Nuclear Security. Seven years and four summits later, including the final one this spring in Washington, we can take stock of progress—and the Belfer Center’s role in helping conceive and sustain it. Policy impact is rarely a simple case of cause and effect.

 

 

Spring 2016

"From the Director"

Newsletter Article, Belfer Center Newsletter

By Graham Allison, Director, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

Groupthink is a dangerous tendency in any organization. In military and intelligence assignments, it can be fatal—which is why leaders there often employ so-called “red teams” to chal­lenge assumptions. Dissent generates sharper analysis and better choices.

 

 

commons.wikimedia.org

April 4, 2016

"Could There Be a Terrorist Fukushima?"

Op-Ed, The New York Times

By Graham Allison, Director, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School and William H. Tobey, Senior Fellow, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

The attacks in Brussels last month were a stark reminder of the terrorists’ resolve, and of our continued vulnerabilities, including in an area of paramount concern: nuclear security.

The attackers struck an airport and the subway, but some Belgian investigators believe they seemed to have fallen back on those targets because they felt the authorities closing in on them, and that their original plan may have been to strike a nuclear plant. A few months ago, during a raid in the apartment of a suspect linked to the November attacks in Paris, investigators found surveillance footage of a senior Belgian nuclear official. Belgian police are said to have connected two of the Brussels terrorists to that footage.

 

 

March 2016

"US and Iranian interests: Converging or Conflicting?"

Op-Ed, Iran Daily

By Graham Allison, Director, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

The nuclear issue has dominated relations between the US and Iran over the past decade. Now that the two countries have shelved that issue by agreeing to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, it is appropriate to ask where and how the national interests of both countries converge and conflict.

 

 

(SIPA via AP)

March 8, 2016

"Is Iran Still Israel’s Top Threat?"

Op-Ed, The Atlantic

By Graham Allison, Director, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

Six months after the United States Senate failed to block the Iranian nuclear agreement, the Islamic Republic has taken major steps to dismantle its nuclear infrastructure. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which is monitoring the country’s compliance, declared that Iran has fulfilled its initial nuclear commitments, and most international sanctions on Iran have been lifted.

 

 

(AP Photo)

February 22, 2016

"Fear Death From Tree Limbs, Not Terrorists"

Op-Ed, The Boston Globe

By Graham Allison, Director, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

Comparing causes of violent deaths in the past decade, a person living in the United States is more than over 100 times more likely to be killed by falling objects than by jihadi terrorists. To repeat: On average, 4 people in the United States have been killed by jihadi terrorist attacks each year over the past decade; 688 by falling objects.

....Al Qaeda, ISIS, and other mutants of Islamist jihadism are real threats that must be addressed and defeated. But terror-mongering that elevates foreign jihadists to levels where a majority of Americans fear for their families’ lives is no more reasonable than fears of witches that led our ancestors in 17th-century Salem to acts we now find insane.

 

 

Fall/Winter 2015-2016

From the Director

Newsletter Article, Belfer Center Newsletter

By Graham Allison, Director, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

Over a lifetime, Robert Belfer has made many philanthropic investments. When asked which yielded the highest return for his family’s aim to build a more secure, peaceful world, he tells them it is the Harvard research center that bears his name. It is thus with great pleasure that we announce that Bob, along with his wife, Renée, and their son, Laurence, are redoubling their commitment to the Belfer Center and to Harvard Kennedy School. With a new gift of $15 million, the Belfer family will ensure a strong future for the School’s mission of public-service leadership and the Center’s work on the world’s most critical security challenges.

 

2015

(AP Photo)

November 27, 2015

"The Key to Henry Kissinger’s Success"

Op-Ed, The Atlantic

By Graham Allison, Director, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

In his new biography of Henry Kissinger, the historian Niall Ferguson recalls that halfway through what became an eight-year research project, he had an epiphany. Tracing the story of how a young man from Nazi Germany became America’s greatest living statesman, he discovered not only the essence of Kissinger’s statecraft, but the missing gene in modern American diplomacy: an understanding of history.

 

 

(Belfer Center Photo/Benn Craig)

October 14, 2015

Belfer Center Conversation with Secretary of State John Kerry

News

By Graham Allison, Director, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs hosted Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday, October 13, for a discussion of diplomacy and challenges in key hotspots around the globe.

In a one-on-one discussion with Secretary Kerry, Belfer Center Director Graham Allison asked Kerry about his concerns and plans related to Iran, Syria, Russia, and the Islamic State, among others.The overflow event in the Charles Hotel ballroom included questions from the audience of more than 500 Harvard students and faculty.

Included here is the complete U.S. Department of State transcript from the event. The video is included with the original transcript.

 

 

(AP Photo)

September 28, 2015

"U.S.-Russia Relations: What Would Henry Kissinger Do?"

Op-Ed, The National Interest

By Graham Allison, Director, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

Over a public career that spans six decades, and now in his 93rd year, Henry Kissinger has been cautious about offering presidents advice in public.  But the outline of what he would say if Obama asked him about Russia is clear in the interview he gave to Jacob Heilbrunn in The National Interest’s latest issue. Drawing on decades of experience with successive Russian leaders during the Cold War, as well as many hours of quality face time with Putin, Kissinger’s views about how the United States should manage its relationship with Russia could hardly differ more from the bipartisan Washington consensus and Obama administration policy.

 

Nuclear Terrorism: The Ultimate Preventable Catastrophe

Graham Allison, founding dean of Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, a former top official at the Pentagon, and one of America’s leading scholars of nuclear strategy and national security, presents the evidence and argument that led him to two provocative conclusions: a nuclear terrorist attack on an American city is inevitable on our current course and speed, but preventable if we act now. 

Events Calendar

We host a busy schedule of events throughout the fall, winter and spring. Past guests include: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, former Vice President Al Gore, and former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev.