Ploughshares Fund Board Goes to Washington

It’s not always easy to know what’s happening behind the curtain in Washington, DC. We got a rare glimpse this week, however, as Ploughshares Fund’s board arrived for our annual Washington briefings with Congress, the White House, State Department, think tank experts, activists, and the media.

Like Jimmy Stewart’s famous Mr. Smith, the board members hoped to energize policymakers with an outside-the-beltway perspective. Unlike Mr. Smith, however, Ploughshares board members are politically savvy experts, capable of asking astute questions and holding politicians to account.

The board's whirlwind tour found a story of success: engaged politicians moving forward on an ambitious new set of national security issues, including nuclear policy. On Tuesday, the Board attended a series of briefings on Capitol Hill. A stellar panel of national security reporters and political analysts, David Corn, Josh Rogin, and Eric Sapp, kicked off the event with a discussion about the politics and prospects of further progress on President Obama’s Prague Agenda. A dynamic speech about the nuclear budget by Rep. Ed Markey energized the group, and substantive visits from Senators Al Franken, Jeff Merkley, Jeanne Shaheen and Rep Gregory Meeks added high-level perspectives on policy matters from New START to Iran policy to the new Russia Caucus in the House of Representatives. 

A final panel featured a discussion on how to continue building a bipartisan consensus on national security issues from grantees with insight into both parties: Danielle Brian of the Project on Government Oversight, Chris Preble of the Cato Institute, and Geoffrey Kemp of the Center for the National Interest. Deb Rosenblum of our colleague funder, the Nuclear Threat Initiative, also spoke on these issues.

On Wednesday, the action moved to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, where board members received a briefing from top Administration officials from the White House's Office of Management and Budget on the latest intrigue surrounding the riveting budget battles underway in the capital.

The week was rounded off by a special visit to Foggy Bottom by board member Michael Douglas. The star of Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps met with top national security and arms control officials in the State Department and sat for interviews with reporters, bringing the message that diplomacy is one of the most useful tools that the U.S. has to keep the world on track towards achieving nuclear weapons reductions.

Through the whole week, the board found bipartisan energy and government commitment to a national security agenda based on common sense, across-the-aisle cooperation and efficient strategies to meet 21st century challenges. As the curtain peeled back, it was encouraging to see smart paths forward toward the goal we’ve always embraced: a world free of the threat of nuclear weapons. “Great principles don't get lost once they come to light,” said Jefferson Smith during his fictional filibuster on the Senate floor. We’re sticking to ours, and we’re glad to see that the winds of policy change are with us.