Director’s Corner: March 2020

A note from Director Rebecca on all things PONI; building a community in a crisis.

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Dear Friends of PONI,

When I welcome each incoming cohort of PONI scholars to their first session in Washington DC I usually explain my philosophy about building a community. I try to explain that it’s not about networking – superficial and often self-serving – it’s about making friends. Finding people whose opinions you value, whose judgment you trust, and whose knowledge complements your own. Meeting people you want to call someday when crisis strikes and help is needed. That day has certainly arrived and today we all need all the friends we can get.

Learning together, working together, breaking bread together, traveling together, going to happy hours together – that is what we try to offer this community. We are a close-knit group and today the PONI team and all the people we embrace in our community are learning how to do what we do under extraordinary strain and while practicing social distancing. This is a new way of working and engaging for all of us, but rest assured PONI is up and running at full speed even if our regular CSIS “stable” at 1616 Rhode Island Ave is closed for now. And while we have had to pause or delay some of our favorite activities, for now, we have not paused our work on behalf of the next generation nuclear community.

With that in mind, here are a few updates from PONI regarding our programming over the next couple of months and how we’re adjusting in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Through it all, we are committed to building community and engaging the next generation through outreach, mentorship, research, and debate.

We are working to make sure our regular programming continues to provide optimal experiences despite our limited ability to convene. Where feasible we will have virtual meetings and we are rescheduling other meetings later in the year. You are still getting your Nuclear Policy News every morning. Not receiving this resource? Check it out and sign up here: Our Nuclear Scholars are meeting remotely until we can get them all back together – we are extending and adding sessions later in the year so that they will still get the full experience. We are also developing programming and exercises to enhance our online capacity – simulations, games and learning modules – stay tuned. We have also had a great start to our new Next Generation Arms Controller initiative this year and more is planned.

As you know, unfortunately, we had to postpone our April Capstone Conference. This is a priority event for us, and we are working to reschedule. Once we settle on a date we will be sure to let you know. We are still cautiously planning for our June Summer Conference at Lawrence Livermore and plan to have our Fall Conference in October. As always, we need bright young minds to present at the conference. Submit your proposal today to be considered to present at a conference. For more information visit our website This is the perfect time to prepare a presentation on that thesis, project, paper or research project. The PONI team will consult by video conference and provide feedback. It’s a very positive experience and will make a future conference presentation stress free! Please encourage students, staff members, and others in your orbit to apply or do so yourself!

We have also been hard at work researching and writing. Just last week we issued the final report from our On The Radar project, Under the Nuclear Shadow: Situational Awareness Technology and Crisis Decisionmaking.

This report is the culmination of a two-year study funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York to examine the implications of emerging situational awareness technologies for managing crises between nuclear armed states. I am particularly proud that we were able to leverage rising professionals and a range of experts and expertise for the research. This was no better way to walk the talk and promote the next generation of experts. To learn more about the report, get resources, and access the report by visiting our On the Radar website

The launch of our new report is just of taste of what PONI has coming in the pipeline, stay tuned for more research and content from the PONI team. But we want to encourage you to join us. We are looking to showcase new voices on our PONI blog. Are you writing and need a place to publish, well we encourage you to submit pieces for our nuclear network website. This is a great opportunity to share your thoughts within the community and build connectiveness. We accept analytically rigorous pieces on a range of nuclear security issues The PONI team will work with individual authors to edit and publish the pieces online. Submit your piece today!

Finally, due to what I imagine has been a busy time for all, we have decided to extend the application for our Mid-Career Cadre to May 1st. The Mid-Career Cadre is a select group of nuclear professionals that have been in their field for 5 or more years and exhibit promise for developing expertise and leadership positions. Cadre members have the opportunity to moderate panels for our conferences, attend expert dinners, mentorship opportunities, publishing opportunities, participate in international exchanges and many more opportunities as they arise. The application package includes a resume, statement of interest, and a letter of recommendation. Please send your completed application package to Reja Younis ( For more information be sure to visit our website We had to reschedule one of our international exchange at NATO but we are committed to rescheduling and our annual UK exchange is already being planned and scheduled for September.

Despite the uncertainty with what lies ahead know that we are committed to being a resource for the community. Keep an eye out for what’s to come next and stay engaged! Stay connected with us on Twitter (@csisponi) and sign up for our monthly newsletters. ( to stay informed on all things PONI. We look forward to engaging with as many of you as possible, and in this new virtual and remote environment, we do mean as many of you as possible. We are bringing PONI to you. Don’t hesitate to “phone a friend.” We are here for you and feel free to share with others in your community and networks. In the meantime stay safe, stay healthy and be kind.



Director, Project on Nuclear Issues



Images are from the The news image was created by Eucalyp from the Noun Project. The people image was created by Komang Juliantara from the Noun Project. The Writing image was created by David Glöckler from the Noun Project

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