PONI Expands and Looks to the Future

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PONI Expands and Looks to the Future
By: Rebecca Hersman

In 2003, a group of senior leaders in the U.S. nuclear community acknowledged a hard fact: the nuclear expert community was aging and retiring at an alarming rate; the pipeline to replace them was disturbingly empty; and future challenges and conditions of the global security environment required fresh, creative solutions. Moreover, detecting and stopping proliferation, verifying arms control agreements, managing a nuclear stockpile at much lower numbers without nuclear testing, and ensuring a safe, secure, and effective nuclear deterrent under these conditions for the foreseeable future was a task that would demand more of our future leaders, not less. They would need more creative strategies, more complex and refined technical solutions, and operational concepts and plans that could adapt to a very complex and murky global security environment.

That realization led to the creation of the CSIS Project on Nuclear Issues (PONI), a program designed to identify, network, support, and mentor the next generation of nuclear experts. The roster of PONI affiliates has grown over the past decade to a community of more than 1,900 individuals. PONI has sponsored more than 42 conferences designed to cultivate new thinking and new expertise in the nuclear field, showcasing the work of more than 550 young scholars. More than 185 talented young professionals have gone through the PONI nuclear scholars program, and alumni of the program are already making their mark as emerging leaders in the nuclear field.

In April, PONI’s founding director, Clark Murdock, stepped down. My goal as the new director is to continue PONI’s tremendous work and growth. Capitalizing on PONI’s great name recognition, high-quality programming, talented and engaged young professionals, and deep bench of committed mentors, PONI will continue to cultivate the next generation. But the needs of this community have grown and changed since 2003. Going forward, PONI will expand its outreach to address all career and academic levels, broaden the topics it covers across the full range of nuclear issues, and include expertise from all critical domains—academic, military, scientific, and technical.

PONI will do more to leverage other next-generation efforts across the country through enhanced information sharing, coordination, and cross-platform networking. PONI will improve its online presence, develop innovative web-based content, enhance access through social media, and expand its focus on mid-career nuclear professionals. As part of this effort, PONI is launching a new initiative to give broader exposure to our talented scholars and presenters—the PONI Next Generation Speakers Bureau. This paper and online catalog will include brief profiles of ready-to-go and battle-tested presenters who can represent the next generation in classes, conferences, and meetings. Look for the launch of the first PONI Speakers Bureau in late June.

Rebecca Hersman is director of the Project on Nuclear Issues and senior adviser for the International Security Program. Other posts by .


  • Gustavo gonzalez
    June 30, 2015, 7:44 am  Reply

    Congratulation for your new appointment and the best in all your challenges.
    indeed replacement of generations is an important issue but what is more critical is the fact that public opinion is not fully aware of the real problem behind the issue of non proliferation which is the existence of the nuclear weapons arsenal. ready to collaborate with you in the area of my expertise (diplomacy).

  • Bob Servant
    June 30, 2015, 12:32 pm  Reply

    I really like the idea of expanding the poni online presence…a move in the right direction. I also like the expanded exposure through the speakers bureau. I look forward to this year’s conference series coupled with the changes planned for poni.

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