Elliott School fellowship to deal with bipartisan nuclear policy

Media Credit: Keegan Mullen | Hatchet Photographer

The Elliott School of International Affairs will add a fellowship focused on bipartisan nuclear policy.

A new fellowship in the Elliott School of International Affairs will allow fellows to deepen their understandings of nuclear policy and foster bipartisan discussion on it.

A $750,000 grant from the MacArthur Foundation will fund the full-time fellowship program, which is based in the school’s Nuclear Security Working Group. The group will work with members of Congress to increase bipartisan knowledge of nuclear security issues.

Janne Nolan, the chair of the Nuclear Security Working Group and a research professor in the Elliott School, said she started the fellowship because there is increasingly less expertise in nuclear weapons, especially in Congress. Because nuclear policy has become a partisan issue used by politicians in their campaigns, it would be beneficial to have a group of non-partisan experts, she said.

“The idea is to start a process to bring in people who are non-partisan experts to learn about the political process by actually being on the Hill working for members of congress,” Nolan said. “The other part is to try to elevate the mechanism called the Nuclear Security Working Group, which is a bipartisan group of members of Congress.”

The Nuclear Security Working Group at GW is a private network of senior officials, senior military officers and nuclear experts funded by foundation grants, the Carnegie Corporation and the MacArthur Foundation, Nolan said. A congressional Nuclear Security Working Group in the House of Representatives, which Nolan said is a bipartisan set of members and staff who meet to discuss nuclear issues and host events on the topic, will work with the fellows.

Two fellows will be selected and assigned to work with members of the working group for a full year starting in January, Nolan said.

Applicants for the fellowship must have several years of experience in a related field, like international affairs, economics or political science, and some knowledge of nuclear policy issues.

Nolan said that Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb., and the co-chair of the House Nuclear Security Working Group, discussed with her the benefits of having a nuclear security expert in his office.

“He started talking about how useful it would be for experts to help him and take some of the pressure off of what would have been increasingly smaller congressional staffs,” Nolan said. “The number of people that actually work in Congress can devote time to specialized issues like this has gotten smaller and smaller over time.”

The fellows will stay involved with GW by hosting seminars with the working group at the Elliott School, and Nolan will continue to monitor their work, she said. GW’s Nuclear Security Working Group will also work with fellows to set up events on the Hill that are open to staff, members of Congress and sometimes the public, she said.

This is not the first time GW has gotten involved with nuclear policy: In February, GW joined a nuclear science and security consortium to help educate students on nuclear science and policy. And two years ago, a top nuclear official, Allison Macfarlane, joined the Elliott School’s faculty to lead the Center for International Science and Technology Policy and master’s program in the same field.

Charles Glaser, the director of GW’s Institute for Security and Conflict Studies, said the fellows will create value for the committee members of the House Nuclear Security Working Group in Congress. The program will also teach the fellows about how the government works and will give them insight into how to make their research valuable, he said.

“It will give experience across sectors, which often people don’t have the opportunity to do,” Glaser said. “Very few academics go into the government, even for a short amount of time, because it doesn’t fit into our normal career track.”

The fellowship will help create a group of experienced people who already know each other so they can work together on future topics, Glaser added.

“Often these types of fellowships help create collegial relations between themselves, which will also give them a foundation in these two worlds,” Glaser said. “This is a rare breed that have spent time in both worlds.”

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