Leon Ratz is a Program Officer with NTI’s Material Security and Minimization program. He works on issues pertaining to the security of military nuclear materials, Russian nuclear security, and other nuclear security and non-proliferation matters. Before NTI, Ratz worked for the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory as a policy specialist on Russian nuclear security in the Office for International Material Protection and Cooperation in the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration. He has a bachelor’s degree from Boston College and a master’s degree from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government where he worked as a student associate at Harvard’s Project on Managing the Atom and published a report on the national security implications of the dissolution of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency.
How did you end up in Washington and at NTI?
I followed the advice of two of my grad school professors, Will Tobey and Matthew Bunn, to come down to Washington in 2013 for a fellowship at the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). There I had the opportunity to work on nuclear security cooperation with Russia during (unfortunately) the last days of the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction program. One of my mentors at NNSA was Andrew Bieniawski, and after he retired from government, he suggested I apply for a job at NTI to work on the nuclear materials security and minimization team. I’ll never forget my second day on the job when I got to brief Senator Nunn on issues related to U.S.-Russian nuclear security cooperation. That’s when I knew I had landed one of the coolest jobs in DC.
Your work at NTI cuts across several departments. What are your main areas of focus?Right now, I mostly work on projects related to Russia, Central Asia, Eastern Europe, and pretty much anywhere else that speaks Russian or a similar language. As you can imagine, with everything that’s going on in the news, there is no shortage of things to work on day-to-day. Right now I’m working on a very interesting initiative to improve regional cooperation on radiological security in Central Asia.