- Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center Newsletter

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz: Statesman of Science and Diplomacy

| Summer 2016

Verification is a crucial part of all arms control agreements, from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in the 1980s to the recent Iran nuclear deal, U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz explained during a recent appearance at Harvard. And it is on verification where scientists can be decisive.

Delivering the Robert McNamara Lecture on War and Peace at the JFK Jr. Forum on April 14, Moniz noted that the Department of Energy is “fundamentally” a science organization with two major national security missions: nuclear security and climate change. The event was co-sponsored by the Belfer Center and moderated by Center Director Graham Allison.

Much of his speech was devoted to the former topic, particularly the recent Iran nuclear agreement in which Moniz played a central role. “The negotiation fundamentals were evident from the beginning,” Moniz said. “It’s about Iran substantially rolling back its nuclear enterprise, verifiably, in return for economic sanctions relief.

Still, that left a lot of areas to be defined, and the talks reached an impasse in early 2015. Moniz and his Iranian counterpart, Ali Akbar Salehi, were brought in to break the stalemate. Although the two men didn’t know each other, Salehi had studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where Moniz is a professor. Additionally, both men speak the language of science.

These commonalities allowed them to forge an agreement that upheld both sides’ bottom lines. This meant that Iran could continue its peaceful nuclear activities while still being at least a year away from producing enough nuclear material for a bomb.

Moniz was particularly proud of the “novel” verification measures included in the deal, such as the international surveillance of Iran’s entire nuclear supply chain. “The agreement breaks new ground,” he noted, “and I think it would be terrific if a lot of these elements could become a model” for future arms control agreements.


Moniz, Iran, and the Center’s Mission

Secretary Moniz’s role in the Iran nuclear agreement underscores the value of merging science with international affairs. In 1973, Paul Doty, a noted biochemist, established the Center and its mission “to advance policy-relevant knowledge about the most important challenges of international security and other critical issues where science, technology, environmental policy, and international affairs intersect.”

With this mission always in mind, Center faculty and fellows work to solve global issues ranging from nuclear security and cybersecurity to energy technology and climate change. Secretary of Defense Ashton B. Carter (a physicist), and Science Advisor to President Obama John P. Holdren (a physicist), are among the Belfer Center’s current standard-bearers in Washington.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Kech, Zachary. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz: Statesman of Science and Diplomacy.” Belfer Center Newsletter (Summer 2016).

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