By Isabel Martinez and Anna Schumann
The Biden administration has made history with many of its nominations and appointments, from the first female U.S. intelligence leader to the first Black Secretary of Defense, and many other positions that will be key to U.S. and global security and peace measures. And, for the first time ever, the country’s top day-to-day nuclear arms control positions across the federal government are or might be held by women — an impressive feat and welcome change, as some have noted.
Ambassador Bonnie Jenkins has been nominated for Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, which “leads the interagency policy process on nonproliferation and manages global U.S. security policy, principally in the areas of nonproliferation, arms control, regional security and defense relations, and arms transfers and security assistance.” If confirmed, Amb. Jenkins will focus on policies that prevent missile, nuclear, chemical, biological, and conventional weapons proliferation. The Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance; the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation; and the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs report to the Under Secretary, who serves as Senior Advisor to the President and the Secretary of State. Amb. Jenkins has already served in several federal roles, most recently as the Department of State’s Coordinator for Threat Reduction Programs in the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation from 2009-2017.
Alexandra Bell was named Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance (AVC), whose mission is to deter conflict and enhance “strategic stability using tools such as arms control treaties, other international agreements, and transparency and confidence-building measures.” AVC works to strengthen global arms control and transparency measures, working closely with allies and partners to control the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction. Bell’s area of expertise is in bilateral and multilateral arms control and non-proliferation and Euro-Atlantic security. In the Obama administration, she served as a Senior Advisor in the Office of the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security and as an advisor in AVC.
Leonor Tomero was appointed Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear and Missile Defense Policy in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. In this position, Tomero develops “strategies, policies, and oversight of national nuclear policy, treaty negotiations, and missile defense policy.” This includes coordinating the interagency Nuclear Posture Review and Ballistic Missile Defense Review, and managing the growing political-military implications of missile defense. Tomero spent more than a decade working as House Armed Services Committee Democratic professional staff lead for nuclear deterrence, nuclear weapons, nonproliferation, military space, and missile defense.
Mallory Stewart was named Senior Director for Arms Control, Disarmament, and Nonproliferation on the National Security Council (NSC). The president consults the NSC on matters of national security and foreign policy decisions, and it is composed of the president’s senior national security advisors and cabinet officials. Stewart has spent more than a decade working in the federal government, most notably as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Emerging Security Challenges and Defense Policy in the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance.
In addition to the historic nature of these four positions being held by women (pending Amb. Jenkins’ Senate confirmation), this marks quite a historic moment for us at the Center as well: all four women have had a relationship with us in some fashion over the years. Tomero worked at the Center from 2005-2010, most recently as Director of Nuclear Non-Proliferation; Bell worked as Senior Policy Director from 2017 until her appointment in January 2021; Stewart served on the Center board from 2019 until her appointment in January 2021; and Amb. Jenkins, a long-time friend of the Center, was a gracious guest on our Nukes of Hazard podcast episode featuring women in nuclear security in 2019.
So, as the Twitter user who alerted us to this historic moment says, “Who runs the nukes? Women.”
These women have spent their careers working on peace and security matters, striving to create a world free from nuclear threats. They are the best in the business, and the world will be safer because of them.
Editor’s note: If you’d like to hear from them yourself, check out their Nukes of Hazard articles and podcasts: