Policy Forum Kicks Off with Event Highlighting New Book on Senator Nunn's Career

Sam Nunn: Statesman of the Nuclear Age

Posted December 18, 2020

The Sam Nunn School of International Affairs hosted a marquee event for the Sam-Nunn Bank of America Policy Forum featuring former Senator Sam Nunn and Frank Leith Jones, author of Sam Nunn: Statesman of the Nuclear Age

They discussed Jones' new book, which highlights Senator Nunn's career. The book focuses on three periods of Senator Nunn's leadership.

November 1972 to January 1981

The apprenticeship period begins following Senator Nunn's election. During this time, Senator Nunn was appointed to several tasks that shaped his career, including completing a study on NATO, visiting south Vietnam, and writing a report on NATO's capability. 

"I think by the end of this first period, Senator Nunn was seen as having a reputation among his colleagues – in the Senate, the executive branch, president, leaders in the armed forces, and media – as an expert in defense issues," said Jones. "Moreover, he became an important vote in several key policy issues during this period."

January 1981 to January 1987

During this period, Senator Sam Nunn served in the Senate Armed Services Committee and helped broaden the understanding of arms control and linked it to defense policy. The democratic party was no longer the majority in the Senate, and there was a republican president, Ronald Reagan. Having more republicans in office meant that democrats needed to reach across the aisle to pass bipartisan bills. Senator Nunn successfully navigated these waters and worked with republicans. 

"A more lasting work of Senator Nunn's partnership was with Republican Senator Barry Goldwater to fashion the legislation known commonly as the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986," claimed Jones. "Senator Nunn may not appear on the legislation, but there is no doubt that he was a full partner with Goldwater on this endeavor."

January 1987 to January 1994

The last period is considered the pinnacle of his career because he served as the Senate Armed Service Chairman. It was during this time that the Cold War ended, and a new world order was built. 

Senator Sam Nunn helped guide the National Defense Authorization Act to ensure reductions in U.S. armed forces and the defense budget were reasonable. According to Jones, Senator Nunn's highest achievement was creating the Nunn Lugar Act, which controlled the disposing of nuclear weapons and fissile materials in the former Soviet Union. 

"At this time of often bitter political polarization and partisan, Senator Nunn's reputation remains that of a statesman with a record of bipartisanship, and dedication to the U.S. national interests above all," recounts Jones. "His career, which I recount in my book provides both a lesson in the relationships among the U.S. government, foreign powers, and societies, but also a welcome reminder on the capacity of Congress to promote and enact policies that can make the country and world a better and safer place."

The event kicked off the 2020-21 Sam Nunn-Bank of America Policy Forum hosted biannually. In the spring 2021, there will be more virtual policy forum events.

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