An all-female group of senior military officers from 12 nations recently visited the Center for Global Security Research (CGSR) and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) to share information and expertise regarding current perspectives, research and technology in areas affecting global security.
The visit was part of the 2021 Halifax Peace with Women fellowship, a program designed to provide female leaders in the armed forces the opportunity to amplify their understanding of current and emerging security issues through discussions and visits.
Over the course of a month, fellows engaged in discussions and visits across Washington, D.C., Silicon Valley, Ottawa and Toronto – the technology and political capitals of the United States and Canada. The fellows hailed from Australia, Canada, France, Lithuania, North Macedonia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, Sweden, Turkey, United Kingdom and the United States.
The fellowship culminated at the Halifax International Security Forum, where the officers took part in the annual esteemed gathering in Nova Scotia, Canada, designed to strengthen strategic cooperation among allied nations.
The group of fellows – who have served their nations for a combined total of 330 years – spent the first half of the day meeting with Lab leaders and researchers.
LLNL Chief of Staff Sheryl Hingorani spoke to the group about the Lab’s mission, while CGSR Deputy Director Mike Albertson provided an overview about the center’s research and activities. They also were briefed on nuclear weapons by CGSR’s Bruce Goodwin and learned about the Lab’s climate research from David Bader.
“I’m an engineer by trade, so it was really interesting to see what LLNL is doing, along with the potential of this work,” said Diana Morais, a lieutenant colonel who is a senior adviser to Portugal’s Minister of National Defense. “I’ve been thinking about how we can enhance our collaboration with the United States in all the areas the Lab tackles, since my country doesn’t have [similar] means. The network we have developed through these visits, as well as with the other fellows, is an excellent tool we can draw upon to share best practices and knowledge.”
In the afternoon, the group toured the National Ignition Facility (NIF) with Kevin Fournier and returned for a presentation on the post-pandemic world by biosecurity researcher Brian Souza, as well as in-depth talks from CGSR postdoctoral fellows Anna Péczeli, Lauren Borja, Brian Radzinsky and Brandon Williams, who spoke respectively about the European Security landscape, directed energy, nuclear issues and cyber issues.
“We at CGSR really appreciated the opportunity to present our research,” Borja said. “As our work often focuses on how science and technology plays a role in military and power competitions between countries, we benefit from hearing the perspective of those who deal with these topics from different angles as military officers from around the world.”
Halifax Fellow Monika Mertinaite, a lieutenant colonel from Lithuania who is a senior adviser in the country’s Ministry of National Defense, reflected that the morning’s presentations were useful to her as Lithuania is currently finalizing its national defense strategy.
“They made me think about what have we paid enough attention to [in the strategy], and how we might define our capability development as we look to the future. And as fellows, we have gotten to know each other’s perspectives on issues such as gender and climate – how we differ and what unites us. It’s been an extraordinary experience,” Mertinaite said.
Hingorani also emphasized the gathering’s significance.
“We are thrilled to continue our relationship with the Halifax Peace with Women delegation and discuss some of the emerging national security issues facing the U.S. and our allied nations,” she said. “The knowledge exchange between LLNL and the fellows was invaluable and will continue to provide benefits and insights for the Lab community.”