2018 Summary

Light on the Horizon

Now is the time

The past year has not been easy.

Under the Trump administration, we have faced the most serious risk that nuclear weapons might be used, either by accident or design, since the Cold War. President Trump’s policies and rhetoric continue to stun the world and present grave challenges for our core strategic objectives.

Yet despite this uncertainty and fear, there is a ray of hope. The national appetite for confronting nuclear challenges has been growing every day, and the public and media are talking about nuclear weapons with a frequency not seen in decades. A continued spotlight on our issue, paired with the vibrant mass movement rising up around this country, offers us a unique opportunity to confront these new challenges and make a significant and lasting impact.

Ploughshares Fund is uniquely positioned to shape this moment. Using our effective and proven strengths in the media, expert and advocacy fields, as well as our role as network coordinator at the hub of the progressive national security community, we have an unmatched potential to leverage our message to build a new nuclear platform, promote new champions and reinforce national leaders working on this issue.

Now is the time to build the world we want to see tomorrow. We are working hard to make that dream a reality.

LETTER FROM JOE CIRINCIONE, President, Ploughshares Fund

Why You Should Care

The November elections realigned US politics.

They demonstrated the incredible power of the new mass movement. Citizens across the nation were roused to action, running, campaigning, donating and voting in historic numbers. It wasn’t just the flip in the House of Representatives from one party to another, it was the staggering numbers of new voters, driven by the growing power of women, people of color and energized young people.

We have to do everything we can to make sure their voices are heard in our field. We have already started.

Ploughshares Fund supports a broad coalition of organizations and individuals. Many have been around for years, contributing their knowledge and expertise to the ongoing battle for the global elimination of nuclear weapons, but many new projects have emerged in just the past few years that represent these new forces.

Ploughshares Fund’s value-add continues to be our ability to identify new stars and help them shine. It’s not just the money (though, let’s be honest, that is a big part), it’s the network we provide. We have the policy expertise, the connections within government and civil society, and the operational smarts to leverage the good work of our grantees for maximum impact.

We now have a real opportunity to fundamentally transform US nuclear policy in the new Congress, in the presidential campaigns and in the next administration. We can build a new national security platform that relies less on weapons of mass destruction and more on cooperative diplomacy; less on nationalist bluster and more on our common humanity. We believe that this is the national security strategy Americans want.

This is the foundation for a new campaign to create a better world.

For peace, justice and security.


Joe Cirincione at the Pittsburgh World Affairs Council

Ploughshares Fund president Joe Cirincione discusses the potential effects of President Trump’s INF Treaty withdrawal on US-Russia relations and a burgeoning global nuclear arms race.


Reducing the threat of U.S. Nuclear Weapons

Since the election of President Donald Trump, advocates of nuclear sanity have faced a deficit of enlightened political leadership. President Trump has called for more “usable” nuclear weapons, congressional leaders are plowing ahead with plans to spend almost $2 trillion to rebuild the Cold War nuclear arsenal. Meanwhile, the recently passed National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) authorizes $88 million for a low-yield submarine-launched warhead—a new nuclear weapon—and mandates that the Pentagon develop an implausible space-based missile defense system.

As the nation most responsible for developing—and using—nuclear weapons, the United States has a unique and vital obligation to advance global nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament.

Our coalition has worked tirelessly in advocating against low-yield nuclear weapons. We’ve worked with former Secretary of Defense Bill Perry to educate members of Congress on why slowing the expansion of nuclear capabilities worldwide is a strategic imperative.


Eric Schlosser and William J. Perry

Author, producer and Ploughshares Fund board member Eric Schlosser and 19th Secretary of Defense William J. Perry discuss transforming nuclear policy at our November 14, 2018 conference in Washington, DC.

Rep. Adam Smith

A champion of moving nuclear weapons policy in the right direction, Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) spoke on the importance of multilateral arms control, passing legislation to reduce the risk of nuclear war, and canceling plans for new, more 'usable' nuclear weapons at our November 14, 2018 conference in Washington, DC.

Grantee Spotlight


As much as peace and security require the work of experts in the field, it also requires the voices of everyday citizens. People who can pressure legislators to do what’s right for our safety, rather than what’s just politically expedient.

The Indivisible Project helps local groups of citizens advocate with elected officials for solutions that make our world stronger and more stable. There are now more than 5,000 Indivisible groups around the country, with at least one in every congressional district.

“We’re making sure everyone’s voice is heard, that our government is responsive to the people,” says Elizabeth Beavers, associate policy director.

Beavers’ office educates local Indivisible leaders about the ways the Trump administration threatens our security relationships around the globe, and helps them advocate for a smarter approach.

Even with a Republican Congress set on supporting the president’s ill-informed agenda, Indivisible is rallying thousands of people across the country to engage. When Mike Pompeo was nominated for Secretary of State, their members told elected officials that his militant Islamophobia was not in the national security interest. When the president first threatened to pull out of the Iran deal, Indivisible held a Facebook live event with Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut to explain the ramifications of that decision. Tens of thousands of viewers joined in.

“There’s a movement out there that will show up,” she says, “one that will demand answers, and expose whether Congress is taking this seriously.”


Stopping a war with Iran

President Trump’s decision in May to violate the Iran deal (the JCPOA) was an event whose consequences, even now, are just beginning to play out. America’s unilateral re-imposition of sanctions has gravely damaged an Iranian currency and economy largely dependent on crude oil exports, while co-signatories of the deal like the European Union, Russia and China scramble in an effort to salvage the accord.

For all its perceived flaws, there is no question—none—that the Iran deal was working effectively to block off all conceivable pathways to an Iranian nuclear weapon.

But even with the US withdrawal from the deal, the hard work of our coalition has yielded significant progress that has made the world safer and has laid a foundation to overcome the administration’s hawkish Iran agenda.

First: The efforts of our coalition have helped avoid a new war in the Middle East. Our community provided an alternative path to war and built up a broad base of expert and popular support for a diplomatic solution to the Iranian nuclear program.

Second: Our work to shore up support for the JCPOA within Europe has so far held, and the deal has survived the American withdrawal.

Third: Keeping the deal alive this long has allowed for four years in which Iran has been in total compliance with international entities—a strong counter to those who argued that Iran would never keep its promises.

Fourth: Iran’s breakout period to produce enough fissile material for one nuclear weapon went from two months to at least one year, and that is still the case regardless of whether the United States remains in the JCPOA or not.

The Iran campaign was an enormously successful stress test for our community and Ploughshares Fund’s capacity. We built, and maintain, a network that coordinates its efforts and objectives weekly. Because of this experience, we are in a better place to deal with new challenges ahead.

We remain committed to upholding diplomacy in the region and to preventing a new war, whether by accident or design.


Nuclear Policy in the Mass Movement

Stephen Miles of Win Without War, Elizabeth Beavers of Indivisible, and Iram Ali of MoveOn.org speaking at our November 14, 2018 conference in Washington, DC.

Grantee Spotlight

Win Without War

One day, the Trump administration will be out of office, but the legacy of President Trump’s misguided policies could reverberate for quite some time.

That’s what worries Stephen Miles, director of Win Without War (WWW).

Walking away from the Iran deal was an unmitigated foreign policy disaster,” he says. “What that tells the world is that when we negotiate a deal, we won’t be true to our word.”

WWW is making sure leaders in Washington know the American people are watching.

WWW is a network of partner organizations and activists ready to act at a moment’s notice when our security is threatened. Most organizations in the network aren’t strictly peace-focused. But partners like MoveOn, CREDO, the Friends Committee on National Legislation and Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND) know that what happens in foreign policy has implications for everything their members care about—and they’re ready to advocate loudly for saner policies.

WWW’s partners and activists give Miles hope. Together, they have put Congress and the administration on notice. Meanwhile, WWW is spotlighting the smart security solutions that keep us safe and build a more peaceful world, rather than relying on the use of military force.

“The public is on our side,” Miles says. “No one is demanding a new arms race, no one is marching in the streets fired up for a war with Iran. What we do have is a steady drumbeat of activism. We have truth. And we have the American public, and we can go really far with that.”

North Korea

Finding a diplomatic solution in Korea

The summit between the United States and North Korea was a rare breakthrough for nuclear diplomacy, and preliminary results have been promising. Pyongyang has retained its self-moratorium on nuclear and ballistic missile tests, dismantled a missile launch facility and overseen the repatriation of the remains of dozens of American servicemen killed during the Korean War. Kim Jong-un even offered a vague completion for his country’s denuclearization by 2021.

But critical challenges remain. The Singapore declaration lacks clear policy details. Disagreements over the style and substance of North Korean denuclearization—including what the US is willing to do in return—have repeatedly stalled negotiations.

To be sure, Washington’s current preference for diplomacy over military threats is an achievement in itself. Yet the true test—whether the two sides can agree on a reciprocal framework for dismantling North Korea’s nuclear arsenal—remains well ahead of us.

Ploughshares Fund’s North Korea campaign maintains its four primary activities:

1) investing in non-governmental experts to provide policymakers with concrete scenarios for a deal;

2) funding direct advocacy to educate legislators on the risks of war and the need for a diplomatic solution;

3) engaging grassroots partners to increase pressure on policymakers and maintain an activist infrastructure in case the military option reappears;

4) developing messaging that pushes back against misinformation, defends diplomacy and supports a potential denuclearization agreement.

We remain firmly committed to our twin goals of preventing military conflict on the Korean peninsula and containing North Korea’s nuclear weapons program through diplomatic means. We also understand these two ends are mutually reinforcing: reduced tension makes diplomacy more likely; ongoing diplomacy serves to further reduce tension.


Assessment of Regional Threats

Christine Ahn of Women Cross DMZ and Lara Friedman of Foundation for Middle East Peace discuss regional threats in North Korea and the Middle East. Moderated by our executive director ​Philip Yun​​ at our November 14, 2018 conference in Washington, DC.

Grantee Spotlight

38 North

Under the Trump administration, lots of things are upside down—including diplomacy with North Korea.

For years, the country had earned international rebukes for its nuclear weapons program. And then out of nowhere, President Trump moved to set up a face-to-face summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

“As long as leaders are willing to meet, there’s room to be cautiously optimistic,” says Jenny Town, co-founder of 38 North, a website that provides analysis about North Korea’s nuclear program, military, economy and more.

But she wonders where Trump’s unorthodox approach will ultimately lead us.

“Normally, you’d want a more systemic procedure,” says Town. “The hard work is done first, agreements are reached and successfully implemented, and then the reward is high-level engagement. By doing it backward, there are opportunities for big decisions. But it undercuts the persuasive power of lower-level negotiators.”

In the face of Trump’s strategy reversal, 38 North provides analysts and federal staffers with as detailed a picture as possible about what is happening in the closed country.

“When facts are hard to come by, it can be easy to fall into narratives that ignore them,” Town says. One of 38 North’s imperatives is to keep this from happening, because it hampers true progress.

“It’s too easy to dismiss the North Koreans as people you can’t trust,” she says. “But they do have a strategic interest in improving relations.”

Accurate and timely analysis is critical. 38 North is providing the insights that policymakers, journalists and the public need to understand a situation that has changed—and yet is still as complex as it ever was.


Tom Collina on the Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong-un Summit

Our policy director spoke as an expert guest on BBC World News, September 19, 2018.

South Asia

Preventing conflict

When nuclear weapons are injected into simmering local conflicts, the risk of catastrophe increases dramatically. Ploughshares Fund addresses these situations through targeted efforts to resolve conflict and build civil society engagement in affected areas. We also fund work to study the root causes of conflict in unstable regions—particularly where one or more states has nuclear weapons—and to help resolve these conflicts before they escalate to disaster.

South Asia remains a flash point of tension across multiple borders. A long-standing dispute continues between India and Pakistan—both nuclear weapons states—over the status of Kashmir. It remains to be seen whether Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan can make good on his stated intention to negotiate an end to hostilities, particularly given a hardening of the positions on both sides.

Our South Asia strategy seeks to create the space and public pressure to move the peace process forward between Pakistan and India, ultimately leading to creating the conditions necessary for both countries to reduce their nuclear arsenals.

In the Middle East, the next step toward seeing a world without nuclear weapons is addressing the underlying conflicts driving regional instability. Creating a strong civil society discussion of what security entails is critical. There is an urgent need to strengthen the communication channels between key Arab states, Israel and Iran, to decrease the likelihood of uncontrolled escalation.

Our work here focuses on two, non-nuclear goals: 1) elevating credible, diverse voices in Israeli civil society to provide new lenses and views for how the Israeli public and leaders see and evaluate its own security; and 2) creating communication channels and relationships between experts and former officials in the Middle East. By addressing these two areas, countries such as Israel, Jordan, Egypt and Turkey will be better equipped to address the security problems driving many of the ongoing conflicts in the region.

Grantee Spotlight

MENACS: The Middle East Next Generation of Arms Control Specialists

In the end, it always comes down to talking. Negotiations, diplomacy, idea exchanges—any kind of progress is wholly dependent on lines of communication.

MENACS—the Middle East Next Generation of Arms Control Specialists—was founded to create and sustain those connections, even when some governments would prefer they didn’t exist.

MENACS is a network of about 20 young people from the Middle East working in nonproliferation and disarmament, some in government, some in NGOs, others in academia.

Members share nonproliferation, arms control and disarmament knowledge with each other, and connect with mentors. And perhaps most important, they talk with each other.

Which can be dangerous.

“In my country, I can’t legally be in the same room with Israelis,” said one MENACS member. That member called the opportunity for meeting with other MENACS members face to face “life-changing.”

MENACS members have now been cooperating across borders for seven years. They meet twice annually, outside of the region, over long working days. Policy specifics, perceptions and insights are shared from early in the morning to late into the night. Participants become colleagues, and colleagues become friends.

“Repeated over time, it creates relationships,” Dr. Kane says. “It creates trust in the other side, which is considered the enemy. In the future, after those emerging experts are settled in more senior, decision-making positions, they’ll be able to reach out to each other. You have connections to communicate with, both to create bridges and prevent the escalation that is so easy in the region.”

Women's Initiative

Striving to correct the nuclear policy field's gender imbalance

More than ever before, the challenges facing women in America are out in the open—and the national appetite for confronting serious challenges and entrenched prejudices is growing every day.

The Ploughshares Fund Women’s Initiative is a vital part of our collective efforts to realize a world where nuclear weapons will never be used again, and where all people are guaranteed the right to a safe and secure future.

We firmly believe that the nuclear policy field must correct its longstanding gender imbalance. The exclusion of ideas, people and organizations that diverge from the conventional is an obstacle to achieving a more just, inclusive and secure world. We strive to inject approaches that will place people, not the weapons themselves, at the center of policy.

Over the past year, the Ploughshares Fund Women’s Initiative has built a network of women from both inside and outside the nuclear sector—who are all committed to creating more just, inclusive peace-oriented policies in national security and foreign policy. We convened five meetings with women in the field on various aspects of this issue, all of which have helped shape the initiative and our vision for this work.

Likewise, we have brought together a group of funders, including The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, The Compton Foundation, One Secure Future and The Jubitz Family Foundation, dedicated to amplifying the voices of women and women-led organizations in the field.

Overall, Ploughshares Fund made a total of 39 grants to women and women-led organizations across our campaigns in the past year, totaling $1,769,745. That makes up 48% of our total grants over the past year, and 42% of our grantmaking budget, bringing our overall grantmaking portfolio close to gender parity.

The second year of this initiative holds even greater promise, as we continue to grow the network; align our organizational values, practices and grantmaking to a vision of greater inclusivity and gender balance; and influence the nuclear policy peace and security field to join us in investing in gender balance.

Grantee Spotlight

Gender Champions Initiative

When it comes to ideas for creating a safe and secure planet, more is more. That’s why Ploughshares Fund is working to bring diverse perspectives to the security conversation through its Women’s Initiative.

“We are not so glutted with good ideas in nuclear policy that we can afford to leave 50 percent of the people who could contribute to the side,” says Laura Holgate, vice president for materials risk management at the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI).

Last year, Ploughshares Fund turned to Holgate with an idea to expand the perspectives informing nuclear security thinking. It was one of the first grants made under the Women’s Initiative.

Out of her work came the Gender Champions in Nuclear Policy—a campaign for public commitment by leaders in the US nuclear policy field to ensure more women are represented.

Holgate notes, of course, that there is no universal “women’s perspective.” But research from the other sectors has demonstrated clear benefits when at least 30 percent of any group is composed of women. At that level of representation, two things happen: there is enough diversity to be able to potentially change the perspective of the entire group; and there is enough representation that all group members feel welcome to share honest, frank perspectives.

Under the Gender Champions Initiative, more than 30 think tanks, funders and other organizations—including Ploughshares Fund—are making public commitments to diversity. One pledge that’s common to all participants is not to participate in any panel discussion that includes just one gender.

“I’m not going to say that more women will make the world a more peaceful place,” Holgate says. “But I do think we’re in need of better ideas than what we’ve come up with historically. And this is a way to generate those ideas.”


Gender Champions in Nuclear Policy

Amb. Laura Holgate and 13th Secretary of Energy Ernie Moniz of Nuclear Threat Initiative, along with Ploughshares Fund Board Member Amb. Pam Hamamoto, present the launch of Gender Champions in Nuclear Policy at our November 14, 2018 conference in Washington, DC.