By Kelsey Davenport
The American Security Project (ASP) honored Senator Richard Lugar (R–Ind.) on Wednesday for his extensive contributions to national security as the first recipient of an ASP award for leadership in national security. ASP will annually present “the Lugar Award” to an individual that embodies the Senator’s efforts to solve pressing national security concerns.
As a former intern in Senator Lugar’s Washington DC office, I felt honored to be present as he received this prestigious award from retired Brigadier General Stephen Cheney, ASP’s CEO. My interest in pursuing a career in arms control is largely a result of the six months I was able to spend in his office. Senator Lugar’s commitment to disarmament and nonproliferation is inspiring and exemplifies how perseverance and bipartisanship can strengthen U.S. national security. As antidote for a Congress that has recently been plagued by hyper-partisanship and often failed to reach consensus on important disarmament initiatives, ASP could not have made a better choice in recognizing Senator Lugar’s unique contributions.
Take, for instance, the invaluable work of the Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program. Begun in 1991 as a bipartisan effort with then Senator Sam Nunn (D–Ga.) to secure nuclear weapons and materials in the Soviet Union, this program has deactivated over 7,600 warheads and destroyed over 900 intercontinental ballistic missiles. It has dismantled 33 submarines that carried nuclear weapons and 155 bombers. It also has funded security measures to safeguard facilities housing weapons of mass destruction and destroy chemical and biological weapons. Or, as Brigadier Cheney so appropriately remarked at the ceremony, “the establishment of the Nunn-Lugar program has changed the course of history” and we have all benefited from the Senator’s efforts to “make this a safer world.”
And while the results of his disarmament initiatives deserve our respect and gratitude for their contribution to national security, so to does the manner in which Senator Lugar tirelessly works to achieve these goals. In his remarks at the presentation of the award, Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) highlighted Senator Lugar’s skillful ability to bring the two parties together “in common cause on the issues of national security.”
When the 112th Congress ends, this eminent statesman will leave the Senate after 36 years of distinguished service. While a public servant like Senator Lugar is impossible to replace, I hope that there is someone waiting in the wings that is willing to take up and continue his important nonproliferation and disarmament work that plays such a vital role in U.S. and global security. For ASP to institutionalize public recognition for such work in his honor is a valuable step toward this end.