I’ve devoted three decades to countering global threats. In different U.S. government national security positions, I have worked to avert dangers posed by nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and terrorism, as well as to strengthen global health security. I’ve often been on the front lines of these efforts in the Middle East, former Soviet Union, Africa and Asia. For the Departments of State and Defense, I served in Saudi Arabia, Germany, Kazakhstan, Hong Kong and spent 19 years in high-level positions in Washington, including Assistant Secretary of Defense under President Obama. Among other projects, I oversaw global expansion of the Nunn-Lugar nonproliferation and biosecurity programs, including the elimination of chemical weapons in Libya and Syria. Earlier, I played a key role in operations to remove weapons grade uranium from Kazakhstan and Georgia; efforts to reduce biological weapons threats in the former Soviet Union; and to remove nuclear capable MiG-29 aircraft from Moldova. More recently, I helped coordinate U.S. and international efforts to respond to the Ebola crisis in West Africa. All of these assignments involved building teams, working in difficult environments, managing through crisis, and most of all–getting results. My passion remains making the world a safer and healthier place.
I am a private consultant, researcher, and adjunct professor in the Global Security Studies Program at Johns Hopkins University. My current work covers issues in countering weapons of mass destruction, arms control and disarmament, energy, and the security implications of climate change. I lived in Tokyo in 2016 as a Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellow in Japan, conducting research on nuclear issues.
From 2011 to 2015, I served as the Senior Advisor to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological Defense Programs in the U.S. Department of Defense. In that capacity, I advised and assisted in managing more than $3 billion per year in research and development, acquisition, treaty compliance, and international partnership programs. I managed major projects focused on the Asia-Pacific and Middle East regions, including a multi-year effort contributing to the international mission to remove and destroy Syria’s chemical weapons.
Prior to joining the Department of Defense I worked for various think tanks, including the Center for Climate and Security, and the Center for a New American Security. Before that, I contributed to two best-selling nonfiction books as a researcher for journalist Bob Woodward.
My academic background lies in international political economy and unconventional threats/nonproliferation. I have written or coauthored dozens of reports, articles, and commentaries; testified before Congress; and lectured at universities in the United States, Vietnam, and China.
John Gower, CB OBE
As a serving Rear Admiral, I fulfilled my final three-year appointment, until my retirement from active service in late 2014, as Assistant Chief of Defence Staff (Nuclear, Chemical, Biological) in the UK Ministry of Defence. I had spent half my 36-yr military career at sea, above and below the waves, becoming a specialist Navigating Officer and culminating in the sequential command of two operational and globally deployed submarines, the first being the most advanced and last diesel submarine in the Royal Navy (HMS UNICORN) and the second a Trafalgar class SSN (HMS TRAFALGAR).
I then spent 17 years ashore mostly in the MoD in London increasingly specialising in UK nuclear weapon and counter-CBRN policy but also with time in Washington DC as the Assistant Naval Attaché and twice on the staff of the UK Defence Academy. I had a key leadership role the UK contribution to the international activity between 2011 and 2014 to counter the threat of Syria’s CW programme culminating in the successful removal and destruction of Assad’s UN-declared stocks. With very close ties to US and French nuclear and counter-CBRN operators and policy makers, I also represented the UK in senior NATO nuclear and counter-WMD committees.
While committed to the currently necessary existence of strategic nuclear deterrence, I advocate broadly for continued actions from the nuclear weapons states to reduce their reliance on these weapons for their broader national security and to seek pragmatic yet innovative ways to make progress on all fronts in pursuit of their obligations under the NPT.
To those ends, I have been a speaker at several USSTRATCOM Deterrence Symposia, the 2015 Carnegie Endowment Nuclear Policy Conference in Washington DC, at the NATO Defence College in Rome, IFRI in Paris and the Royal United Services Institute and the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. I recently contributed as a speaker at the Moscow Non-proliferation Conference in October 2017 (MNC 2017). I have also spoken on nuclear cruise missiles at the United Nations on the invitation of the Swedish and Swiss governments. I write on these specialist issues and participate in strategic dialogues wherever I feel I can add value and I am a Consulting Member of the IISS.