National Nuclear Security Administration

NNSA expert shares stories from across the pond

April 30, 2019

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The U.S. Embassy in London
The U.S. Embassy in London.
David Kovatch tells fellow employees about his international efforts on behalf of NNSA and DOE at a lunch event in Washington, D.C.
David Kovatch tells fellow employees about his international efforts at a lunch event in Washington, D.C.

The enduring missions of NNSA and the Department of Energy (DOE) stretch many years into the future and many miles in every direction. There is a network of highly-capable foreign affairs specialists stationed abroad in partner countries – including one of our oldest allies, the United Kingdom.

David Kovatch has served as the first-ever Energy Attaché and Director for the DOE/NNSA office at the U.S. Embassy in London for the past four years.

In this role, he advances U.S. energy policy interests and promotes deeper cooperation between the United States and United Kingdom in the fields of energy security, fossil fuels, nuclear power, nuclear security and nonproliferation, nuclear legacy management, basic science, energy efficiency, and renewable energy. Because Kovatch’s portfolio of responsibilities is quite broad, coordination and teamwork within the Embassy are key to his success.

Building relationships and maintaining contacts should be a priority. Invite people out for coffee – even if you have nothing to gain from them. Invite them to the embassy for a tour. People think it’s pretty cool – we have a pub in our embassy.

David Kovatch
Energy Attaché and Director for the DOE/NNSA office at the U.S. Embassy in London

“Communication is really important,” Kovatch said. “Explaining that we’re not here to steal what you’re doing. We’re not here to replace you and hopefully we can work together and we can enhance what you’re doing.”

The U.S. Embassy in London was relocated to a new building in 2017 and is the largest in Western Europe. Kovatch has made a special effort to get to know his British counterparts there.

“Building relationships and maintaining contacts should be a priority. Invite people out for coffee – even if you have nothing to gain from them. Invite them to the embassy for a tour. People think it’s pretty cool – we have a pub in our embassy,” Kovatch added. “Don’t put it off. Develop those relationships early.”

When asked for advice he’d offer to someone heading up a new office aboard, he explained the importance of perspective and asking for help when you need it.

“In this office, I was able to hire a local employee. It took me close to a year to do that. And that was because I wanted to dive right in and get to work,” Kovatch said. “I wish I had prioritized a little better and not focused on the work right in front of me, but had seen further out. Even though you’re drinking from a fire hose and want to be useful – and that will make you a good attaché – sometimes you can’t do it all. My assistant is such a valuable resource and I wish I’d brought him on sooner.”

In a couple of months, Kovatch will report to his next assignment: the first Energy Attaché and DOE/NNSA Director at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City. He joined the Nuclear Security Enterprise in 2010 through the NNSA Graduate Fellowship Program, working in the Office of Global Material Security. He holds a master’s degree in international affairs from Columbia University.