National Nuclear Security Administration

Graduate Fellow Feature: Margaret Williams

January 30, 2019

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Margaret Williams, a NNSA Graduate Fellow supporting Defense Programs
Margaret Williams

The NNSA Graduate Fellowship Program (NGFP) is a unique opportunity for recent graduates to join the Nuclear Security Enterprise. These full-time, salaried positions offer a year of specialized, on-the-job training and the chance to tackle real-world challenges in one of NNSA’s program offices. Fellows develop technical and leadership skills to launch their careers with a full immersion in one of NNSA’s core mission programs.

What is your academic background/field of study?

I recently completed my master’s degree in International Policy at Stanford University where I specialized in International Security and Cooperation. I conducted independent research on how U.S. nuclear modernization projects are impacting the nonproliferation treaty regime and I supported faculty research on public opinion and the laws of armed conflict. I also worked as a consultant for the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a D.C. based think tank, and prior to starting graduate school, I served as a legislative aide for Maine Sen. Angus King covering defense, foreign policy, and veterans’ affairs.

What are you currently doing for NNSA?

I currently support the Office of Defense Programs front office. In that capacity, I help facilitate communication among a wide array of internal and external stakeholders. For example, I regularly work with the program offices to develop briefing materials for the NNSA Administrator or in response to Congressional inquiries. This has allowed me to increase my understanding of the technical and scientific capabilities that support the stockpile.

What drew you to the NGFP program?

I wanted to gain first-hand experience executing U.S. nuclear security policy as well as expand my expertise regarding stockpile stewardship and ongoing modernization programs. The NGFP program provided a clear path to achieve those goals as well as better familiarize myself with the Nuclear Security Enterprise. In particular, the travel and training opportunities afforded by the Fellowship have enabled me to get out of headquarters and to see the incredible work being done by our labs, sites, and production facilities.

What interests you most about nuclear security?

The advent of the nuclear age fundamentally changed the way strategists think about issues of war and peace. As Bernard Brodie—one of the original architects of deterrence theory—noted, “thus far the chief purpose of our military establishment has been to win wars. From now on its chief purpose must be to avert them.” Since the end of the Cold War, the world has witnessed meaningful progress towards nuclear risk reduction; however, this goal must be balanced against the need to maintain a robust deterrent. Today, the tension between these dueling imperatives feels more acute than ever before, yet I firmly believe that complimentary progress can continue in both arenas; I want to contribute to that effort.