First-Ever Study Finds Congressional Attention on Nuclear Security Waning as Nuclear Terrorism Threat Persists

For Immediate Release: July 26, 2016


Media Contacts: Nathan Sermonis, Executive Director, Partnership for a Secure America, (202) 293-8580; Jack Brosnan, Program Associate, Partnership for a Secure America, 202-293-8580; Kingston Reif, Director for Disarmament and Threat Reduction Policy. Arms Control Association, 202-463-8270 ext. 104; Tony Fleming, Director for Communications and Operations, Arms Control Association, 202-463-8270 ext. 110


(Washington, D.C.)—A new report from Partnership for a Secure America and the Arms Control Association reveals a concerning diminution of congressional leadership and interest in critical efforts to prevent nuclear terrorism.


The report, Empowering Congress on Nuclear Security: Blueprints for a New Generation, assesses current congressional staff attitudes about nuclear security and explores the role of Congress and case studies in congressional leadership on this issue. The report also offers action items for lawmakers in enhancing nuclear security efforts and reducing global stockpiles of nuclear materials.


“As the threat of nuclear terrorism continues to loom, America must maintain its leadership of global efforts to keep dangerous nuclear and radiological materials out of the wrong hands,” said Nathan Sermonis, Executive Director of Partnership for a Secure America. “Unfortunately, congressional interest has steeply declined with nuclear security faded from the headlines. We need, however, an all-of-government approach to advance the most effective measures against this threat.”


This joint report, made possible by funding provided by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, comes at a time when national attention on the security of nuclear and radioactive materials is decreasing even as these materials remain at risk from theft and more countries express interest in nuclear research and development.


“Despite significant progress in securing and eliminating nuclear materials around the world and the continued dedicated leadership role of several lawmakers, there is a need for Congress to play a more active role in shaping nuclear security policy,” noted Kingston Reif, Director for Disarmament and Threat Reduction Policy at the Arms Control Association. “We provide an important blueprint to build upon Congress’ historic bipartisan achievements on nuclear security and engage a new generation of policy advisers on Capitol Hill.”


To mark the publication of the report, Partnership for a Secure America and the Arms Control Association will be hosting an invitation-only event July 26 on Capitol Hill for congressional staff. The event will feature Ambassador Linton BrooksAmbassador Bonnie Jenkins, and General Frank Klotz.
For more information about the report, please contact Partnership for a Secure America at or (202) 293-8580, or the Arms Control Association at or (202) 463-8270 ext. 104.

Off-the-Record Dinner with Joan O’Hara

On June 4,  Partnership for a Secure America hosted an off-the-record dinner for participants in the Spring 2018 Congressional Partnership Program with Joan O’Hara, Deputy National Security Advisor to the Vice President. Ms. O’Hara discussed the National Security Strategy, the upcoming summit between the U.S. and North Korea and the role of trade in foreign policy.

Joan O’Hara

Joan O’Hara joined the OVP NSA as Deputy National Security Advisor in February 2017, and served as Acting National Security Advisor from September 2017 through April 2018.

Prior to joining the Administration, Joan served as General Counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security, Majority Staff.  As General Counsel, Joan provided legal advice to the Committee Chairman on national security matters, and played a central role in developing the Committee’s policy positions and legislative agenda. Working closely with House Leadership, Members of Congress, interagency principals, and private sector stakeholders, she shepherded bills through the legislative process from drafting to passage into law.

Before entering law, Joan enjoyed more than a decade of experience as an elite athlete and award-winning NCAA Division I Head Coach in the sport of Rowing.  As a Resident Athlete at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in California, Joan trained with the U.S. Olympic Rowing Team and was United States National Champion in the Single Sculls and Quadruple Sculls.

Joan holds a B.A. from Loyola University, an M.A. from San Diego State University, and a J.D. cum laude from New York Law School. She hails from Long Island, New York.

Renewed Prospects for Peace on the Korean Peninsula?

On May 22, the United States Institute of Peace’s Senior Expert on North Korea, Frank Aum and the Senior Research Fellow on Northeast Asia at The Heritage Foundation, Bruce Klingner discussed the available options for President Trump at a US-North Korea Summit. Congressional Research Service Specialist in Asian Affairs, Emma Chanlett-Avery moderated the discussion. This was a closed, off-the-record event for congressional staff.

Frank Aum

frank_aumFrank Aum joins USIP from the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, where he was a Visiting Scholar. From 2010-2017, Mr. Aum served as the senior advisor for North Korea in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. During this time, he advised four Secretaries of Defense on issues related to Northeast Asia and the Korean Peninsula. Mr. Aum also served as head of delegation for working level negotiations in Seoul with the Republic of Korea (ROK), and received the Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service.

Mr. Aum previously worked as a corporate attorney, and also has extensive experience in the public and non-profit sectors. He completed a Fulbright Scholarship in Jeju Island, South Korea and worked as a speechwriter in the South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade. In addition, he worked to strengthen the Koreatown community in Los Angeles at the city’s Department of Neighborhood Empowerment and the Korean American Coalition (KAC).

Mr. Aum received his B.A. from Dartmouth College, his MPP from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, and his JD from the University of California, Berkeley.

Bruce Klingner

Bruce Klingner specializes in Korean and Japanese affairs as the senior research fellow for Northeast Asia at The Heritage Foundation’s Asian Studies Center. Klingner’s analysis and writing about North Korea, South Korea, and Japan as well as related issues, are informed by his 20 years of service at the Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency.

Klingner, who jointed Heritage in 2007, has testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

He is a frequent commentator in U.S. and foreign media. His articles and commentary have appeared in major American and foreign publications and he is a regular guest on broadcast and cable news outlets. He is a regular contributor to the international and security section of The Daily Signal.

From 1996 to 2001, Klingner was CIA’s deputy division chief for Korea, responsible for the analysis of political, military, economic, and leadership issues for the president of the United States and other senior U.S. policymakers. In 1993-1994, he was the chief of CIA’s Korea branch, which analyzed military developments during a nuclear crisis with Korea.

Klingner is a distinguished graduate of the National War College, where he received a master’s degree in national security strategy in 2002. He also holds a master’s degree in strategic intelligence from the Defense Intelligence College and a bachelor’s degree in political science from Middlebury College in Vermont.

He is active in Korean martial arts, attaining third-degree black belt in taekwondo and first-degree black belt in hapkido and teuk kong moo sool.


Roundtable: Congressional Leadership on Nuclear Security

On Thursday, February 2nd Partnership for a Secure America held a roundtable dinner discussion for a select group of Congressional staff  to discuss the results of PSA’s ongoing work with the Arms Control Association to build bipartisan engagement and restore Congressional leadership on nuclear security.

PSA Awarded Nuclear Security Grant by MacArthur Foundation

Washington, DC – Partnership for a Secure America (PSA) is pleased to announce a new grant award from the MacArthur Foundation in support of an innovative bipartisan campaign to engage Congress on evolving nuclear security challenges around the world. This will be a joint program between PSA and the Arms Control Association (ACA). The award is part of a recent collaboration between the Carnegie Corporation of New York (CCNY) and the MacArthur Foundation to reduce nuclear risk through innovative and solutions-oriented approaches.

Partnership for a Secure America was selected along with 10 other grant recipients from a pool of 83 proposals.

This project seeks to improve Congressional interest and knowledge on the issue of nuclear materials security, in response to uncertain international cooperation following the conclusion of the Nuclear Security Summit last year.  A key goal of the initiative is to catalyze enduring bipartisan commitment to this critical, yet increasingly-overlooked global threat.

“We are honored to receive this award from the MacArthur Foundation in support of PSA’s essential bipartisan work in Washington, DC,” said Nathan Sermonis, PSA Executive Director. “Capitol Hill has a crucial role to play in the nuclear security field, and we look forward to advancing bipartisan engagement among members of Congress and staff.”

In 2016, with the Nuclear Security Summit process coming to a close, Carnegie Corporation and MacArthur recognized that the progress started through the Summits remained fragile and much work was left to be done. The two foundations made a commitment – a “gift basket” pledge, in Summit parlance – to invest up to $25 million over two years “to secure nuclear materials and reduce the threat they pose.” This funding has gone toward nongovernmental efforts that provide new ideas; create opportunities for governments, industry, and civil society to collaborate; and hold stakeholders accountable.

More information about PSA’s work in bipartisanship, foreign policy, and national security can be found on our website.

Solutions Series Roundtable: North Korea

On Thursday, June 22nd Partnership for a Secure America held an off-the-record roundtable dinner for alumni of the Congressional Partnership Program to discuss the growing North Korea crisis. The discussion focused on the current state of legislative activity seeking to address the crisis, and potential opportunities for collaboration on new approaches.

Issue Background


2017 has seen the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) test 24 individual ballistic missiles, including short range, medium range, and submarine launched varieties. This is a continuation of the pattern of aggressive missile testing commenced by Kim Jong-un in 2012. DPRK has conducted 6 nuclear test detonations since 2006; the most recent test (held in September 2017) demonstrated a yield of over 140 kilotons, and is generally agreed to confirm DPRK’s development of thermonuclear capabilities. Current projections indicate that US military assets in Guam, Japan, and the Republic of Korea (ROK) are within striking distance of DPRK’s missiles, as well as Tokyo and Seoul – which together contain some 23 million citizens. In the months following this event, North Korea has performed several successful missile tests which place American cities from Los Angeles to Chicago within reach of their nuclear weapons.


Perry, Lugar at Bipartisan North Korea Panel

Washington, DC – Partnership for a Secure America (PSA) Advisory Board members William J. Perry, former Secretary of Defense, and Richard Lugar, former Senator (R-IN), recently spoke at the Hoover Institution on the future of North Korea, suggesting proposals on how to approach the North Korean threat. The PSA Advisory Board members joined Michael Auslin, Resident Scholar and Director of Japan Studies at AEI, on the bipartisan panel. The panelists agreed that Kim Jong Un is a rational and successful leader who will not attack unprovoked. They also suggested that this rationality will allow the United States to take a diplomatic approach to North Korea. Diplomacy requires cooperation between South Korea, Japan, Russia, and, most importantly, China, which will be the greatest challenge in this approach.

The Kim Regime

First, the panelists discussed the Kim regime, agreeing on Kim’s rationality and success as a leader. Perry, specifically, warned against calling Kim Jong Un ‘crazy’ and ‘irrational.’ Michael Auslin supported this claim, noting Kim’s successes in stabilizing the economy, developing new technology and weaponry, and securing the future of the regime more so than in the past. The panelists agreed that Kim’s main objective is to secure his regime’s power, which indicates that Kim is rational and understands that an unprovoked attack would be suicidal for both his regime and North Korea.

Diplomacy with North Korea

Coming to a consensus on the rationality of the Kim regime, the panelists noted that the current conditions are ideal for a diplomatic strategy. Perry noted that military action can no longer eliminate the nuclear program due to mobile missiles and secrecy within the country. He suggested that the President should appoint a special envoy to meet with North Korea, but proposed that the ideal diplomatic package must include China, South Korea, Japan, and Russia. Lugar suggested that the first steps in reaching diplomatic negotiations should be weakening the regime through economic means and helping North Korean citizens become better informed, noting that a better informed public would open up opportunities to work together in ways different from diplomatic negotiations. When questioned about Dennis Rodman’s role in diplomacy, Lugar joked that Rodman’s unlikely friendship could be considered this era’s ‘ping-pong diplomacy.’

Challenges of Diplomacy

The panelists agreed that one of the greatest challenges with diplomacy would be finding common ground with the various countries in the region, specifically China. Lugar compared the challenging nature of future negotiations with the Kim regime to negotiations in the past between the United States and the Soviet Union. Auslin highlighted that the United States must work harder to understand the different goals, perspectives, and capabilities of the different countries, but suggested that they can likely find common ground on nuclear nonproliferation. Perry, however, warned that the influence of the United States may be weakening as a result of our withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership as it will allow China to take on a more dominant role within the region.

Strengthening the IAEA

On March 22nd, Partnership for a Secure America hosted an experts briefing on how the IAEA can enhance its activities in Nuclear Security and Technical Cooperation. Speakers included David Waller, Former Deputy Director General, IAEA and James Casterton, Former Director, International Safeguards Division, Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. This off-the-record briefing focused on the findings of a recent report coordinated by PSA and conducted by former ambassadors to and senior officials of the IAEA reflecting their analysis and diverse views of the world’s deadliest materials, future scenarios, and policy recommendations.

PSA Launches New Video, Education Resources

We believe that nuclear issues did not lose their relevance when the Cold War ended. Families no longer construct fallout shelters in their backyards, but the United States still grapples with the challenges of protecting nuclear material and facilities from terrorists, and preventing more states from joining the nuclear club.

Although officials with nuclear–related experience from the Cold War remain in government and think tanks, they are retiring at a growing rate, and millennials will eventually replace them. We at PSA worry that millennials are insufficiently focused on or fully conversant with nuclear issues. Based on conversations with experts inside government and out, we know we are not alone. While other global security challenges may seem more pressing, all Americans must remain mindful that more than 15,000 nuclear weapons remain around the world, most of them more powerful than those dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

Grappling with these challenges will be a task for all generations, but we need to address them now. To encourage Americans, and particularly millennials, to think more about these security issues, we are proud to announce the release of our newest video “15,000 Ways to End the World”. Please enjoy watching it, and pass it along to your peers, colleagues, friends, and family.

This video, made with the generous support of Outrider Foundation, is one tool to help achieve a better-informed America, and alert the millennial generation to be cognizant of important national security issues.

Over the coming weeks, PSA will populate this space with more resources that you can use to learn more about nuclear policy issues.


Members of PSA Working Group Brief Vienna Diplomatic Community on Report’s Findings

Several of the participants in a 17-member international working group convened by Partnership for a Secure America briefed the diplomatic community in Vienna on the group’s study about how  the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) could work with non-state partners to enhance funding for the two activities of the IAEA that are traditionally under-funded: nuclear security and technical cooperation projects.
The working group, composed of former ambassadors to and senior officials of the Agency, concluded that the IAEA must develop a comprehensive fundraising strategy with strong support from the IAEA Director General, it should build a global leadership team that includes corporate leaders with a strategic interest in the Agency’s work, and it should develop its public face as have some other agencies in the UN family such as UNICEF.
Ambassador John Bernhard, former Permanent Representative of Denmark to the IAEA, discussed the Working Group’s conclusion that as the IAEA’s programs expand, its resources must also grow. The Agency should devise a fundraising strategy that can drive resource growth, and the strategy must receive the Director General’s commitment.The IAEA’s peer UN organization, UNICEF, has built a powerful brand through voluntary contributions that the IAEA can seek to emulate.
James Casterton, former Nuclear Counsellor at the Canadian Mission in Vienna, elaborated on the need for the Agency to enhance its brand and its ability to be a good partner for potential donors. The Agency must position itself so that it can match its objectives to those of potential donors, and it should explore ways to measure the impact of donations.
Dr. Massoud Samiei, former Programme Director for the Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy (PACT), discussed lessons he learned while leading the IAEA’s PACT project. He observed that there are some very simple steps that the Agency can take that will allow it to accept funds from nontraditional sources, such as streamlining the process for giving donations to the Agency in cash or with a credit card.
Dr. Roger Howsley, the co-founder and Executive Director of the World Institute for Nuclear Security, noted that the Agency could benefit from serious consideration of the experience of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). which implemented mandatory minimum aviation security standards, and actually made these standards profitable by partnering with firms offering aviation security certifications. The Agency, Dr. Howsley noted, could use a similar approach to nuclear security standards and training.
After the presentation, the four panelists engaged with members of the diplomatic community present in a question-and-answer session.


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