The role that nuclear weapons play in international security has changed since the end of the Cold War, but the need to maintain the human infrastructure for supporting nuclear capabilities and dealing with the multitude of nuclear challenges remains the same. For a number of reasons, including the diminished emphasis on nuclear weapons post-Cold War, expertise on nuclear issues – particularly within young generations – has declined. Unless the nuclear community makes a concerted effort to engage young talent now, cultivating the expertise critical to meeting the nuclear challenges of the future will become increasingly difficult. The 21st century’s complex geopolitical and budgetary environment demands a solid foundation of high-quality human capital across the nuclear enterprise. For this reason, in 2003, CSIS launched the Project on Nuclear Issues – to develop the next generation of policy, technical and operational nuclear professionals through outreach, mentorship, research and debate.
For the upcoming year, PONI has set four priorities for engaging the next generation:
- Promote 21st-Century Research for 21st-Century Scholars
- Engage the Full Next Generation Pipeline
- Build a Big Tent by Convening and Promoting New and Diverse Voices
- Demand and Provide Excellence
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Meet the Team
Rebecca Hersman is the director of the Project on Nuclear Issues and senior adviser for the International Security Program. Ms. Hersman joined CSIS in April 2015 from the Department of Defense (DOD), where she served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for countering weapons of mass destruction (WMD) since 2009. In this capacity, she led DOD policy and strategy to prevent WMD proliferation and use, reduce and eliminate WMD risks and respond to WMD dangers. Ms. Hersman was a key leader on issues ranging from the nuclear security summit to the elimination of Syria’s chemical weapons to the global health security agenda. She served as DOD’s principal policy advocate on issues pertaining to the Biological Weapons Convention, Chemical Weapons Convention, Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and Cooperative Threat Reduction Program. Prior to joining DOD, Ms. Hersman was a senior research fellow with the Center for the Study of Weapons of Mass Destruction at the National Defense University from 1998 to 2009. Her primary projects focused on the role of DOD in mitigating the effects of chemical and biological weapons attack, concepts and strategies for eliminating an adversary’s WMD programs, as well as proliferation issues facing the United States. Ms. Hersman also founded and directed the WMD Center’s Program for Emerging Leaders, an initiative designed to shape and support the next generation of leaders from across the U.S. government with interest in countering weapons of mass destruction. Ms. Hersman previously held positions as an international affairs fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, a special assistant to the undersecretary of defense for policy, and a member of the House Armed Services Committee professional staff. She holds an M.A. in Arab studies from Georgetown University and a B.A. from Duke University.
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Deputy Director and Fellow
Eric Brewer is Deputy Director and Fellow with the Project on Nuclear Issues at CSIS. Mr. Brewer has extensive experience working nuclear proliferation challenges in the U.S. government—with a particular focus on Iran and North Korea—including at the National Security Council and in the Intelligence Community.
Prior to joining CSIS, Mr. Brewer served as a 2018-2019 Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellow at the Center for a New American Security. From 2017-2018, Mr. Brewer served as the Director for Counterproliferation at the National Security Council (NSC). In this capacity, he was responsible for coordinating U.S. policy to prevent and reverse the spread of nuclear weapons, their delivery systems, and related technologies, and he advised senior White House officials on these topics. While at the NSC, Mr. Brewer played a lead role developing and executing elements of U.S. North Korea policy. From 2014 to 2017, Mr. Brewer served as Deputy National Intelligence Officer for Weapons of Mass Destruction and Proliferation at the National Intelligence Council. From 2008 to 2014, Mr. Brewer held several positions at the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), including Senior Intelligence Analyst for Iran, and served as the agency’s lead expert on Iran’s nuclear intentions. Before joining DIA, Mr. Brewer worked at the National Nuclear Security Administration on export control and nuclear proliferation issues.
Mr. Brewer holds an MA in Security Policy Studies from The George Washington University, an MS in Strategic Intelligence from the National Defense Intelligence College, and a BA in International Relations from the University of San Diego.
Program Coordinator and Research Assistant
Suzanne Claeys is a program coordinator and research assistant with the Project on Nuclear Issues (PONI) at the Center for the Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) where she manages the Trilateral Track II Nuclear Dialogues and assists with the PONI conference series and outreach efforts. She holds a B.A. in international studies and Spanish studies from American University.
Program Manager and Research Associate
Simone Williams is a program manager and research associate with the Project on Nuclear Issues at CSIS where she manages the PONI conference series, outreach, and the chemical weapons research project. She has also worked with the Smart Women, Smart Power Initiative at CSIS where she coordinated the planning for the first Future Strategy Forum. She holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and received her master’s degree in international affairs from American University.
Program Manager and Research Associate
Reja Younis is the program manager and a research associate with the Project on Nuclear Issues in the International Security Program at CSIS. Prior to working at CSIS, she completed a year-long fellowship with The Stimson Center, where she conducted research on nuclear deterrence challenges, crisis dynamics, and great power competition in the context of South Asia. She has also worked as a research analyst for the Chicago Project on Political Violence and has served as an editorial writer and subeditor of the Opinion and Editorial section for the Tribune newspaper. She holds a bachelor’s degree in social sciences and liberal arts from the Institute of Business Administration Karachi and a master’s degree in international relations from the University of Chicago.
The Next Generation Nuclear Network is a product of the Andreas C. Dracopoulos iDeas Lab, the in-house digital, multimedia, and design agency at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Established in Washington, D.C., over 50 years ago, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) is a bipartisan, nonprofit policy research organization dedicated to providing strategic insights and policy solutions to help decisionmakers chart a course toward a better world. To learn more about CSIS, visit www.csis.org.