In October 2023, as part of the Truman Center’s ongoing efforts to diversify the nuclear security field, Truman organized a three-day Nuclear Policy Workshop in Hawai’i. The workshop brought together more than a dozen university students from across Hawai’i to engage with nuclear security experts. The event took place at the University of Hawai’i Mānoa and was led by Truman’s Janne E. Nolan Nuclear Security Fellow, Lily Wojtowicz, in partnership with UH Mānoa’s Center for Indo-Pacific Affairs and Center for Pacific Islands Studies and the Pacific Islands Development Program. This workshop is part of Truman’s ongoing series dedicated to broadening perspectives, experiences, and the talent pipeline in the nuclear security field.
Participants in the workshop included native Hawaiians, exchange students from Europe and a Marshallese student. “This workshop may very well be the first time deterrence, nonproliferation, and disarmament have been discussed on the UH Mānoa campus since the Reagan administration,” said Brien Hallett, professor in the Matsunaga Institute for Peace at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa.
Lily Wojtowicz opened the workshop with two sessions, one on the history of U.S. nuclear nonproliferation policy and the other introducing concepts on nuclear deterrence. The second day opened with a breakout session on nuclear proliferation in Asia, as the students played U.S. policy making roles and advocated their policy preferences to the “President.” Directly following the exercise, David Santoro, president of the Pacific Forum, gave a talk on strategic stability in East Asia. The day closed with a group discussion, guided largely by the participants, addressing comments and questions arising from the workshop so far and reflecting on what they learned in the breakout session.
Dr. Jana Wattenburg, a UKRI Postdoctoral Fellow and professor at Aberystwyth University, opened the third day with a session on nuclear disarmament, which included a lively debate on whether unilateral disarmament is a feasible path for the United States. Lilly Adams from the Union of Concerned Scientists followed with a session on ”Why Nuclear Testing Matters for Hawai'i.” Her talk covered issues including the environmental, health, and cultural consequences of nuclear testing, the legacy of U.S. nuclear testing in Oceania, and the impact it has had on Hawai’i.
The students then engaged with professionals in the nuclear field in a panel discussion over lunch on careers in nuclear policy, and closed out the workshop with a discussion on the 2018 false alarm in which an alert was accidentally issued over television, radio, and cellular networks in Hawai’i instructing citizens to seek shelter due to an incoming ballistic missile. Cynthia Lazaroff, founder of Women Transforming Our Nuclear Legacy and NuclearWakeUpCall.Earth, led the discussion, starting with her own experience on that day from her home in Kauai. Wojtowicz, Dr. Wattenberg, Adams, and Pacific Forum’s Young Leaders Program Director Carol Li also participated in the discussion. Students who lived through the experience shared their stories, and those who did not reflected on how they first learned about the false alarm. Many had never heard about the episode, and the group discussed the causes and effects of the lack of coverage of such a story in the media.
The discussions, lectures, and breakout groups held throughout the workshop exposed the students to the vast impact of nuclear weapons on U.S. foreign policy, U.S. engagement across Oceania, gender relations, the environment, indigenous rights, and more. One student commented, “Prior to the workshop, I had never thought about viewing nuclear politics through a gender lens, or using feminism as a tool for world peace, or that increased gender representation at nuclear arms control and disarmament discussions could potentially shape a different kind of foreign nuclear policy.” Through educating, engaging, and equipping the students with information and resources in these workshops, Truman is helping students from diverse backgrounds enter the nuclear policy field and utilize their unique perspective to diversify the field and directly impact nuclear policy-making.