Anne Harrington '72
“Perfect choice to lead the world's largest nuclear nonproliferation program"
Anne Harrington ’72: Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Non-Proliferation. It’s a wordy title. It means she and her staff at the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) keep an eye on materials and technologies inside and outside the U.S. that could be used to make a nuclear weapon.
In conjunction with her swearing-in last November, NNSA Administrator Thomas D'Agostino said, "Anne Harrington brings more than two decades of nonproliferation and threat reduction experience to this position and is the perfect choice to lead the world's largest (nuclear) nonproliferation program." Shortly after, North Country Public Radio reporter Jonathan Brown spoke with her; the following is adapted, with permission, from that NCPR broadcast:
Harrington: Our job is to look globally, as well as locally, at nuclear materials and to identify them, to secure them and then also dispose of any excess materials in ways to ensure that they cannot any longer be used as a weapon.
Brown: A lot of people will recognize the hot spots in this line of work: India, Pakistan, Iran, Russia.
Harrington: We have had teams on the ground in North Korea when North Korea has permitted us to be there. So we do go right into the hot spots, but we also try to prevent hot spots from happening. Our program’s Megaports Initiative is designed to go into countries that have ports that are involved in shipment or transshipment of goods to the United States. We receive a lot of containers from those ports, containers that could be on a ship going through the St. Lawrence Seaway, for example, and we don’t want something that could be put into one of those containers to go undetected and blow up some place on the Seaway. This is what we do every day in 120 countries, for the sole purpose of making sure those things never happen here.
Brown: We are talking about the security of this country and of the planet, really. How did you get to where you are now?
Harrington: My liberal arts foundation eventually led me to overseas postings with the State Department. After obtaining a master’s degree at the University of Michigan in 1974, I was in Hungry for three years and Russia for two years. I really got into the nuclear issues when I was at our Embassy in Moscow because I arrived there 10 days before the coup in 1991.
“People often ask me how I prepared for a career in nonproliferation and are surprised when they learn my academic background,” Harrington says. “I respond that my experience at St. Lawrence helped me develop broad interests and an open mind, and that my work backstage taught me valuable lessons in how to manage and motivate people that transfer to any management position.”
Harrington grew up in Long Lake, a hamlet in the center of the Adirondacks, and says the first real step in her career was going to college. “I had the opportunity to study physics, math, history and government, and I did some theater, particularly directing, costuming and stage-managing, which always helps open horizons,” she says. “I started out thinking that I would major in physics and math, but one of the great advantages of a liberal arts education is the exposure to multiple disciplines. During my freshman year, I took a history, which eventually led to me to English with a theater minor.