Remarks Honoring NTI Emeritus Board Members

I join Joan in thanking all of you very much for joining us at tonight’s dinner.   I especially want to thank our panelists: Graham Allison, Brooke Anderson, Laura Holgate and Andy Weber for your insightful comments, your outstanding service to our nation and your work both at NTI and with NTI over the last 12 years.

Tonight, as Joan mentioned earlier, we are honoring our seven “board members emeritus.”  This is a group of individuals with vast but diverse experience, yet they all share one distinction:  Each joined the board in the very early days of NTI and each has made lasting contributions to this organization and its mission.

Our emeritus designation honors their roles in the birth and accomplishments of NTI.  But there is a catch. We are honoring their service in the most productive way possible – by encouraging more service.  We hope each emeritus board member will continue to attend board meetings and permit us to continue to draw on their wise counsel. 

Thirteen years ago, we began reading, thinking, and writing – asking ourselves whether we should establish NTI.  Could a private organization make an impact when most of the levers for risk reduction were in the hands of governments?  We concluded that a private organization could make a difference, but only under certain conditions. 

One of the key conditions:  the organization would have to be governed by an international board of directors with commitment to risk reduction, knowledge of politics, experience in government, and the credibility to command the attention of top government leaders.  Our NTI Board exceeded those high standards. 

With the help of our Board, NTI has been able to play an important role in reducing the risks posed by weapons of mass destruction around the globe, in reshaping how government leaders approach security threats and in raising awareness about these crucial issues. A few examples:

  • Helping remove nearly 2-and-a-half bombs’ worth of HEU from a reactor in Belgrade and spurring the creation of the U.S. government’s Global Threat Reduction Initiative;
  • Creating the NTI-World Health Organization’s Global Emergency Outbreak Response Fund;
  • Funding a railway, in partnership with Canada, to securely transport chemical munitions to a destruction facility in central Russia;
  • Working with the IAEA to establish its much-needed Nuclear Security Fund;
  • Helping create the Middle East Consortium on Infectious Disease Surveillance (MECIDS) and CORDS, a global networks of regional disease surveillance groups;
  • Creating Global Security Newswire;
  • Creating the World Institute for Nuclear Security;
  • Stimulating the groundwork and funding, with Warren Buffett’s help, for an international fuel bank which we hope will become a reality this year;
  • Creating the NTI Nuclear Materials Security Index;
  • Coordinating the work of Shultz, Perry, Kissinger and Nunn through the Nuclear Security Project partnership with Hoover and Stanford;
  • Developing and producing two major films – “Last Best Chance” and “Nuclear Tipping Point”.
  • And to give you a sneak preview, tomorrow we will release a report “Building Mutual Security” – a project co-chaired by myself, Des Browne, Igor Ivanov and Wolfgang Ischinger.

And the list goes on.

NTI owes its success and accomplishments in great part to the stature and contributions of the board, including these men and women we honor tonight.  In many ways, their expertise and their work tells the story both of NTI and of the challenges that we all continue to face as we work to reduce global threats.

Let me share with you for a moment just a few observations about this all-star cast. I’ll start with two board members who were not able to join us this evening, Amartya Sen and Prince Hassan of Jordan.

Amartya Sen

Some years ago, Charlie Curtis and I were guests of Amartya Sen, when he was the Master of Trinity College, Cambridge.  We met for lunch and sat at the high table with a host of scholars, including a visiting scholar from the United States who proudly announced to the table that he had now earned six honorary doctorate degrees.  He then unwisely asked Professor Sen how many honorary doctorates he had earned.  After a modest pause, the answer was “about 100”.  The number has probably doubled since then. 

Amartya Sen, both a philosopher and an economist, is one of the most versatile and wide-ranging scholars in the world today.  As a nine-year old boy, he witnessed the Bengal famine of 1943 that took three million lives. His work in the field of economics, particularly his work on poverty, inequality and famine, won him the Nobel Prize and prompted a fellow Nobel laureate in economics to call him “the conscience of our profession.”  The core insight of Professor Sen’s influential work, “Poverty and Famine,” is that famine is not a natural disaster.  It is a man-made catastrophe – a preventable one. 

So one can see why we at NTI, dedicated to the mission of preventing a man-made catastrophe that could cause millions of deaths, would seek out the wisdom and insight of Professor Sen.  Amartya has spent his life thinking about how to solve large global problems.  We are honored that he has spent 11 years stimulating our thinking on how to avoid what Graham Allison calls the “ultimate preventable catastrophe.”

Prince El Hassan Bin Talal

We knew it would be essential for NTI to have on the Board an internationally respected figure with a deep understanding of the Middle East.  We have been very fortunate to have the counsel of His Royal Highness Prince Hassan of Jordan.  He is a passionate advocate for peace in the Middle East as well as for reducing the threats from nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.  He also has an unmatched understanding of regional complexities and how socio-political factors affect the way people and governments see the threats.   

Prince Hassan was an early and avid supporter of NTI’s program MECIDS – the Middle East Consortium for Infectious Disease Surveillance.  We knew that there were many regions of the world where countries shared common borders and common sources of water and food, but did not share data or information on disease outbreaks.  This left people vulnerable to biological threats, whether from natural causes or terrorist bio-weapons.

MECIDS brings together public health officials from Jordan, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority.  Despite the political tensions, their doctors and scientists today are sharing lab techniques and common protocols for specimen collection and disease reporting. 

Prince Hassan is also a powerful voice on the dangers of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East.  He has been invaluable to NTI with his insights into the complexities and the challenges and the opportunities to reduce risk in the Middle East and the region. We are very grateful for his dedicated service to NTI and to world peace, and we have been assured by Prince Hassan that he will continue to advise us.

Right Honorable Professor Shirley Williams

Shirley Williams has been a journalist, an author, a Harvard professor, a member of the House of Commons, a Labor cabinet minister, co-founder of the Liberal Democratic Party and is a member of the UK House of Lords, where she has served as leader of her party.  Shirley advises Prime Minister Cameron on issues of nuclear non-proliferation and is a member of the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Disarmament.  

Shirley has been one of the leading voices on NTI’s mission in the United Kingdom and in Europe, urging members of Parliament and leaders of Europe to reduce reliance on nuclear weapons.  She is known for her energy and passion for these issues.  She is also known for very creative and original thinking. 

As a professor and a successful political leader, Shirley understands that you must find effective ways of explaining an issue and inspiring people to join the cause.  She is continuously working to find new ways to educate people about the threat, and while Shirley is at home among the most elite members of government and society, she understands the power and importance of speaking in plain language to recruit more citizens to the cause.

She also is an advocate for transparency as well as more open lines of communication, even in the most challenging circumstances. In a recent brilliant speech, the Michael Quinlan Anniversary Lecture, in discussing India, Pakistan, Israel, Iran and North Korea, Shirley pointed out that, “The absence of transparency and of effective communication greatly heightens the danger of nuclear conflict between these countries.”

Shirley’s energy, eloquence and idealism are deeply inspiring to all of us at NTI.  It has been an honor to have her on our Board, and we will continue to rely heavily on Shirley as an emeritus member.

Pete Domenici 

Pete Domenici and I were both elected to the Senate in 1972.  I’ve been working with him as a friend, colleague and admirer since then, so I admit that I am not an unbiased witness to the value of his work and career.  In 1991, when several members of the Senate were at first contemptuous about the Nunn-Lugar bill, calling it “aid to the Soviet military,” the Senator from New Mexico delivered strong, succinct remarks that came quickly to the point:  “If we do not act,” Pete asked his colleagues, “who knows where those nuclear weapons are going to be, and who is going to control them?”  Pete Domenici’s appeal made a dramatic impact—thanks to the authoritative power of his argument and the moral dimension of his leadership.  

Pete took the lead in creating both the U.S.-Russia lab-to-lab program and our nuclear materials protection program, which were two of the mainstays of our security relationship with Russia during a crucial period.  In 1996, Pete, Dick Lugar and I co-authored America’s first concerted effort to train local, state, and law enforcement officials to respond in the event of a catastrophic terrorist attack.  This bill was a building block for America’s homeland security efforts, both before and after the September 11th terrorist attacks.  Pete has also been the crucial voice for the elimination of excess uranium and plutonium from U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons stockpiles.

Pete was one of the very first names I thought of when Ted and I agreed on the idea of NTI.   As Chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, Pete understood nuclear power.  Pete, more than anyone, has worked at the intersection of these issues.  He has given the NTI Board continuous expert advice on how to balance the key concern of nuclear non-proliferation with the need for nuclear power, especially with the concerns of climate change.   Pete is a great friend, a true statesman and has been a tremendous asset to NTI.  I am confident he will continue to be.  Thank you, Pete. 

Nafis Sadik

Nafis Sadik is one of the most insightful, informed and inspiring leaders on the international stage today.  She began her career as a physician, serving as a civilian medical officer in Pakistani armed forces hospitals.  She then served the government of Pakistan in many capacities, advising on health policy issues, and becoming director general of the Pakistan Central Family Planning Council.  Nafis then began her distinguished service to the United Nations, where she is now special advisor to the UN Secretary-General.  She previously served as executive director of the UN Population Fund with the rank of under-Secretary-General.  She was the first woman to head a major UN voluntarily funded program. 

These are all very striking accomplishments, but the achievement that especially impresses me is Nafis’ ability to explain how nuclear weapons issues can be understood in the context of the social, economic and political pressures that people and their leaders face. 

I remember well her remarks in China on our Board trip in late October of last year.  We were meeting with representatives from the Chinese Institutes for Contemporary International Relations, and we listened to a presentation from one of their experts on the nuclear situation in Pakistan.  Our Chinese counterparts had focused primarily on the military dimension of the nuclear issue.

We asked Nafis to respond.  She gave an extraordinary presentation on the social, economic and geopolitical pressures facing Pakistan’s leaders and its citizens, and how those pressures influence nuclear policy and practices.  Nafis put it all in context.  

It was another reminder from Dr. Sadik that the pursuit of nuclear weapons occurs within a local, national, and regional context.  If we don’t understand the many incentives that encourage the pursuit of nuclear weapons, we will be unlikely to reduce their number or their danger.  NTI has been very fortunate to have her keen insights and wisdom on our board.   Thank you, Nafis. 

Susan Eisenhower

Susan Eisenhower’s entire career has been spent taking on tough issues with no easy solutions.  She is widely known and respected for her knowledge and understanding of Russia, which is at the center of NTI’s global efforts.  Susan is a highly respected expert in the energy field.  She served on the Blue Ribbon Commission to address America’s need for safe and secure management and disposal of used nuclear fuel and nuclear waste.  She served on the National Academy of Sciences Standing Committee on International Security and Arms Control.  As chairman of the Eisenhower Institute, she helps prepare new generations of young people for careers in public policy, ensuring they become stewards of the public good. 

Given this experience, it was an easy decision to ask Susan to join the NTI Board, and we were very fortunate that she said yes.  In January of 2001, as we were launching the Nuclear Threat Initiative, the Baker-Cutler Task force was concluding its review of U.S.- funded nuclear non-proliferation programs in Russia.  Its distinguished panel declared that the need to secure Russian weapons, materials and know-how was “the most urgent unmet national security threat to the United States.”  One of those panelists was Susan Eisenhower. 

Susan was deeply engaged in the cause her grandfather emphasized 40 years before, and President Eisenhower’s words in 1953 also apply to today’s world: “Let no one think that the expenditure of  vast sums for weapons and systems of defense can guarantee absolute safety for the cities and citizens of any nation. The awful arithmetic of the atomic bomb does not permit any such easy solution.”
Susan combines her DNA with a strong background and experience in the nuclear arena and her keen understanding and insight on Russia and the former Soviet Union.

Susan brought all of this skill, insight and passion to the NTI mission, and we have been very fortunate to have her as a key member of our board.  Susan has many balls in the air – all aimed at helping our nation – and we trust that one of those balls will be continuing to help and advise NTI.  usan, we thank you.

Bill Perry

Bill Perry set out to be a mathematician and earned a Bachelors, Masters and Ph.D.  He then discovered that he loved applying his technical abilities to issues of national defense.  In the 1950s, Bill became one of the country’s top experts on Soviet missiles.  In 1962, he was summoned to Washington to consult on the Cuban Missile Crisis.  In the 1970s, he served as Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, where much of today’s defense technology emerged under his leadership.  In the 1980s, he worked with high tech and defense companies and taught at Stanford.  And I’m leaving a lot out. 

In 1991, Bill came to my office with David Hamburg, Ash Carter and others, as we planned what would become the Nunn-Lugar legislation.  As you all know, Bill became Secretary of Defense in 1994.  What you might not remember is Senator Robert Byrd’s response to critics’ suggestions that Bill was too humble a man to lead the big egos at the Pentagon.  Senator Byrd said that in his 40 years in the Senate, he had never seen humility in a cabinet officer, and that it was time to give it a try.  I believe that Bill Perry has the highest “A to E ratio” of anyone I have ever known in Washington – A being accomplishment and E being ego.

There is no area of national security -- technical, policy or political – that Bill has not mastered, or could not, if you gave him a few hours.  Bill has been a guiding light for NTI and a leading voice in the Partnership – the quartet of Shultz, Perry, Kissinger, and Nunn. 

Bill is now writing a book on the evolution of his thinking on nuclear issues.  We’re eager to support him in any way we can, because it’s a book that will undoubtedly help guide the younger generation.  Bill has assured me that he will remain active with NTI, which is a mark of his dedication and cool calculation.  He knows that if he didn’t promise to stay active, there is no way we would let him go emeritus. The same can be said of each of our emeritus members.  Thank you, Bill, Amartya, Prince Hassan, Shirley, Pete, Nafis, and Susan.  

These are the seven Board members we honor and thank tonight.  I would ask you all to come join Ted and me on the stage and give us a chance to express our thanks.

April 3, 2013

Senator Nunn honors NTI's seven “board members emeritus,” a group of individuals who joined the board in the very early days of NTI and who have each made lasting contributions to NTI and its mission.

Sam Nunn
Sam Nunn

Co-Chair, NTI