2019 Annual Report

Facing the Challenge Together

The right to a safe and secure future

For nearly 40 years, Ploughshares Fund has been confronting the existential threat and immorality of nuclear weapons.

The risk is real. With nearly every nuclear threat increasing over the past year, Ploughshares Fund continues to fulfill our mission with increased urgency: every day we work to reduce and eliminate nuclear weapons, to stop their spread and build peace in regions of conflict where nuclear weapons exist.

Ploughshares Fund is the largest foundation in the world devoted exclusively to eliminating nuclear weapons. Our opportunity to make major changes is now. Let’s face this challenge together.

Ploughshares Fund president, Joe Cirincione

Letter from the President

During these dangerous and troubling times, one thing remains clear. The work of Ploughshares Fund is more important now than ever before.

When Donald Trump became president, he inherited a host of nuclear dangers left unresolved by his predecessors. Under his policies, they have grown worse.

Ploughshares Fund is on the frontlines of facing this challenge. We have the strategy and the people to prevent a catastrophe and to build a better world. And we have you.

That is why I am optimistic. I see champions in Congress proposing new bills to prevent any president from being the first to start a nuclear war. I see them working to cut nuclear budgets and new nuclear weapons. They may be pushed back this year, but they’ll be back next year. And their proposals have been picked up by presidential candidates and by the rising popular movements in our country.

By championing, collaborating and convening with our grantees, Ploughshares Fund provides the intellectual, political and organizing tools needed to transform American nuclear policy.

Nothing about this work is easy. But nothing about this work is impossible. I am convinced that we can prevent catastrophe and build a better world. Thank you for joining us. I feel so much better knowing that we are facing this challenge together.
Ploughshares Fund President

Snapshot: Letter from the President

Joe Cirincione

Watch Joe Cirincione discuss the new moment facing US nuclear policy, in the midst of a trillion-dollar nuclear arms buildup and escalating crises in Iran and North Korea at Chain Reaction 2019.

Big Nuclear Issue

Stopping a New Arms Race

Rep. Adam Smith, chair of the House Armed Services Committee, pinpointed the threat succinctly at our recent Washington DC policy conference: “We are at a very dangerous point right now. We are in an arms race—an arms race that has no sort of control at the moment.”

He may have been understating the dangers. In the past year, the United States and Russia abandoned the INF Treaty, tensions in the Middle East have greatly increased following the United States’ violation of the Iran nuclear agreement, negotiations to solve the North Korea nuclear crisis have stalled, and the Trump Administration continues to push for new nuclear weapons.

But we are facing the challenge.

We are working to stop the new nuclear arms race, limit the president’s sole authority to launch nuclear weapons, save the arms control treaties and stop the $2 trillion spending spree on new nuclear weapons. Our grantees are bringing smarter, saner nuclear policy to the forefront of the national security discussion in Congress and building a national grassroots movement to advance a more progressive national security policy. Together, we won a crucial vote in the House to defeat Trump’s new “low-yield” nuclear warhead, the first time in a decade that the House has voted to cancel a new nuclear weapon.

Nuclear Timeline August 2018 to July 2019

Timeline reflects fiscal year beginning July 2018.

Snapshot: Stopping the New Arms Race

Trita Parsi on Press the Button

A deep dive into the firing of John Bolton and his record of failure. Special Guest: Trita Parsi, Executive Vice President of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, starts at 13 min. mark.

Big Nuclear Issue

North Korea: Is Peace Within Reach?

Despite the high profile Trump-Kim summits that periodically dominate the news cycle, the North Korea nuclear crisis remains unsolved. Diplomatic relations between the United States and North Korea remain at an impasse, the Hanoi Summit in February between President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong-un ended abruptly with no new agreement, and subsequent attempts at negotiations have stalled.

However, we have made progress.

Engagement with North Korea is supported by several Democratic presidential candidates, and the threat of a nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula remains lower than it was at the beginning of President Trump’s term. Our grantees are working effectively to prevent military conflict in the region and pursue a diplomatic solution to North Korea’s nuclear program.

By promoting solutions to nuclear crises rooted in diplomacy and cooperative negotiation, we can meaningfully advance the denuclearization of North Korea and build lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula.

Grantee Profile

Christine Ahn

Christine Ahn

Christine Ahn is the Founder and Executive Director of Ploughshares Fund partner Women Cross DMZ, a global movement of women mobilizing to end the Korean War, reunite families, and ensure women’s leadership in building peace. Women Cross DMZ has injected new energy and vision into the struggle to end the 70-year war and division of the Korean Peninsula.

How can nuclear war be avoided?

We must first agree that nuclear weapons—and militarization in general—do not make us safer and, in fact, threaten everyone’s security, regardless of who has access to them. History shows we cannot deter the proliferation of nuclear weapons using threats of force or other means of violence such as sanctions, which can have dire humanitarian consequences. To avoid war, we must focus on establishing peace, and this process should include disarmament and demilitarization on all sides.

Why do you dedicate your livelihood to the issue of nuclear weapons?

Nuclear weapons not only threaten peace, but our very existence. I’ve been dedicated to this issue my entire adult life, and this is a direct result of growing up and experiencing firsthand how my family was impacted by the Korean War. My parents were in their twenties during the war and it wasn’t until before they passed away that they even began to talk about the horror of that war. I was instilled with a strong sense of justice. The fact that thousands of family members are still separated from one another after 70 years is deeply unjust and tragic. I won’t rest until there is peace and justice for millions of Koreans.

If you could change one thing about nuclear policy, what would it be?

We are so focused on North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, we forget that the US boasts about 6,000 nuclear weapons and expects to spend nearly $100,000 per minute on arsenal sustainment. If we demand other countries eliminate nuclear weapons, we can’t justify maintaining a stockpile that would end the world many times over.

Fellow Profile

Catherine Killough

Catherine Killough on Press the Button

Catherine Killough served as the Roger L. Hale Fellow at Ploughshares Fund, where she focused on North Korea’s nuclear and missile development. She has been involved in efforts to promote diplomatic solutions to the US-North Korea nuclear crisis, and to encourage greater engagement between the two countries.

What do you appreciate most about the challenge of your work?

I really appreciate that my work is about centering the people who have been (and continue to be) most impacted by the policy decisions of a few men. In the case of the Korean conflict, too often the discourse on the prospects for “peace” in Korea is taken up as a matter of enforcing the status quo. We are not interested in the status quo. How to make peace is the bold challenge we have set for ourselves, and it requires situating the “North Korea problem”—as the nuclear community understands it—in the larger context of a 70-year-old unresolved war.

How do you know you’re making a difference?

Sometimes your friends are the best measure of the difference you make in the world at large. I slip into an existential spiral if I attempt to measure my individual impact on the systems of oppression I seek to change, from the patriarchy that undergirds nuclear weapons to the militarism that prolongs the Korean War. These are powerful, deeply entrenched forces that will take more than a few policy changes to overcome. But making visible those intersections is perhaps where I see the greatest potential for making a difference, and it is a task I actively, personally take on. So how do I know I’m making a difference? I look to the connections we are forming across social justice movements, and take heart knowing that these modes of solidarity can be replicated on a political level someday.

If you had the power to immediately change one thing about nuclear policy, what would it be and why?

Effective immediately: nuclear weapons are illegal—shout-out to the trailblazers at International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN)! This is not to minimize the risks of nuclear weapons in the hands of countries like North Korea, but I do not feel comforted by a world that continues to privilege the interests of established nuclear powers in the west—especially the United States.

Catherine Killough authored the February 2019 in-depth Ploughshares Fund report, “Begun is Half Done: Prospects for US-North Korea Diplomacy.” The report, available for download at ploughshares.org, emphasized how the United States is within reach of an agreement that could meaningfully advance the denuclearization of North Korea and build lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula. Catherine now works with Women Cross DMZ.

Snapshot: North Korea

Jessica Lee on Press the Button

In this Press the Button episode's "Early Warning" Joe Cirincione discusses North Korea with Ploughshares Fund Deputy Director of Policy Mary Kaszynski and Jessica Lee, Senior Director at Council of Korean Americans at 3 min. mark.

Big Nuclear Issue

Iran: Saving the Deal

The Iran Nuclear Agreement is on life support.

Since the United States violated the Iran nuclear agreement in May 2018, Iran has taken steps to reduce its compliance with the deal, and the Trump Administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign has exacerbated tensions between the United States and Iran. The Trump Administration’s disastrous Iran policy came to a head in June, when the United States nearly went to war with Iran in retaliation for the downing of an American surveillance drone.

Despite these setbacks, we will not give up.

Our grantees organized bipartisan support for legislation to prevent an unconstitutional war with Iran, and a majority of Americans remain steadfastly opposed to military action against Iran.

We must protect the Iran nuclear agreement and lay the foundation for future policymakers to recommit to diplomacy with Iran.

Snapshot: Saving the Iran Deal

Rob Malley on Press the Button

Robert Malley, President and CEO of the International Crisis Group, sits down with Joe Cirincione to discuss the current situation in Iran at 11:46 min. mark.

Big Nuclear Issue

Women's Initiative

Everyone will be impacted by nuclear war. Yet, even though they make up half the population, women comprise less than 20% of those who determine our nuclear policies and our future.

Launched two years ago, the Ploughshares Fund Women’s Initiative aims to advance gender equity in the nuclear field, to fundamentally transform thinking, and to advance more just, inclusive and peace-oriented national security and foreign policies that do not rely on the existence or use of nuclear weapons.

Snapshot: Women's Initiative

Laura Holgate on Press the Button

Amb. Laura Holgate joins co-host Michelle Dover to reflect on the one-year anniversary of Gender Champions in Nuclear Policy, a leadership network that aims to break down gender barriers and promote gender equality in the nuclear field at 17:35 min. mark.

Staff Profile

Cara Marie Wagner

Cara Wagner

A member of our program team since 2015, Cara manages grantmaking portfolios focused on nuclear policy, conflict prevention and the championing of women and diverse voices in the field. Cara has been instrumental in co-leading the Women’s Initiative and served as co-editor of the 2019 report: “A New Vision: Gender. Justice. National Security.” It is a collection of essays by women leaders providing a snapshot of a diverse, equitable, inclusive and just new vision for nuclear policy and national security.

Why do you dedicate your livelihood to the issue of nuclear weapons?

The sole purpose of nuclear weapons is designed for mass murder and genocide and their existence makes all human life exponentially more unsafe. This does not comply with my values. All citizens have a right to participate in the conversation about our national security and be afforded the opportunity to hold our policymakers accountable to the decisions they make in the name of our safety and security. This rarely happens, especially in regards to nuclear weapons. I want to change that, get more people involved, and do what I can to help eliminate these violent weapons from our planet.

What do you appreciate most about the challenge of your work?

I get to support amazing, brilliant women, hear their ideas, and learn from them while also working together toward ensuring the field opens up to more equitable, inclusive, and just policies and practices.

Big Nuclear Issue

Regional Conflict

The India-Pakistan conflict continues to escalate.

India’s revocation of the special status of the Jammu and Kashmir region has inflamed tensions between India and Pakistan, countries that possess hundreds of nuclear weapons. In February, the Indian Air Force launched airstrikes against targets in Pakistan, marking the first time in history that a nuclear-armed power has conducted airstrikes against another country with nuclear weapons. If left unchecked, this conflict could escalate into a nuclear war. Our strategy focuses on ways to create the space and popular pressure needed to move the peace process forward between Pakistan and India. We will continue to support an open society space in the region, and lay the groundwork for an inclusive, durable peace process.

Tensions in the Middle east remain high. Regional challenges limited the likelihood of a potential peace plan for the Middle East to advance under the current administration. Israel currently faces challenges forming a government following elections in September. Tensions among regional powers, and between the United States and Russia, are escalating. Our strategy elevates credible, diverse voices in civil society and supports communication channels between regional experts, policymakers and the public to promote positive dialogue.

The Cowles Fund is a separately endowed fund that promotes a better understanding of root causes of conflict in unstable regions of the world where nuclear weapons exist. Its investments are currently focused on South Asia and the Middle East.