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From the Director

Graham Allison

From the Director

Newsletter Article, Belfer Center Newsletter, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

Summer 2010

Author: Graham Allison, Director, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs; Douglas Dillon Professor of Government, Harvard Kennedy School

 

On April 13, President Obama hosted the largest gathering of heads of state to assemble at the invitation of an American president since FDR convened the meeting in San Francisco at which the United Nations was founded. The single focus of the meeting was "Nuclear Security:" locking down all nuclear weapons and materials worldwide to a gold standard-beyond the reach of thieves or terrorists. As President Obama said in welcoming the heads of state: "The single biggest threat to U.S. security, short term, medium term, and long term, is the possibility of a terrorist organization obtaining a nuclear weapon."

The big insight President Obama attempted to drive home is that these leaders have in their power to prevent the only terrorist attack that could kill hundreds of thousands of individuals in a single blow. This would indeed be a civilization changer. But if nations lock down all nuclear weapons and bomb-usable material as securely as gold in Fort Knox, they can reduce the likelihood of a nuclear 9/11 to nearly zero.

The themes developed at the Summit and its agenda of action, including countries' specific work plans, reflect the Belfer Center's analytic efforts over more than a decade. Belfer Center senior researchers were actively involved in providing support and suggestions for Center alumni, who were the White House's principal architects and organizers of this undertaking.  The Center also provided background materials, including a threat briefing, key facts, and proposed action agendas, to each of the heads of state and delegations attending the Summit.  In addition, the unofficial scorecard on progress in securing nuclear materials worldwide -- Matt Bunn's Securing the Bomb 2010 -- was released the week before the Summit.

On a related note, I am particularly pleased that the Belfer Center has established two new fellowship programs this year, a nuclear security fellows program and a fellowship in honor of Ernest R. May, a longtime member of the Belfer Center's board of directors, who passed away last year. The new fellowships fit in perfectly with the Center's dual mission: (1) to provide leadership in advancing policy-relevant knowledge about the most important challenges of international security and other critical issues where science, technology, environmental policy, and international affairs intersect; and (2) to prepare future generations of leaders for these arenas. These two new fellowship programs will expand the pipeline of talented men and women entering nuclear security-related fields, as well as encourage the next generation of leaders to examine links between history and public policy. That is now more important than ever.

 

For more information about this publication please contact the Belfer Center Communications Office at 617-495-9858.

For Academic Citation:

Allison, Graham. "From the Director." Belfer Center Newsletter, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School, Summer 2010.

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