Threat reduction in Africa

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Senator Lugar ’54 and Grant Hartanov ’08 (right) at the Ugandan Virus Research Institute, where the collection of samples from the largest outbreak of ebola were stored. Between them stands Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological Defense Programs Andy Weber.

On Nov. 14, Senator Richard G. Lugar ’54 (R-Ind.) returned from a trip to Africa where he and a panel of Pentagon arms experts inspected sites that represent a new wave of international security concerns. In Uganda and Kenya, they visited laboratories that study and store pathogens such as anthrax, Ebola, Marburg, and Rift Valley fever. In Burundi, they visited facilities dedicated to dismantling conventional small arms that had stockpiled during that country’s 12-year-long civil war, and met with President Pierre Nkurunziza to discuss mutual concerns about the issue. The overriding concern at all of the sites is the risk of biological or conventional weapons falling into the possession of terrorists.

The mission took place under the auspices of Senator Lugar’s longstanding efforts to reduce threats to the security of the U.S. and its allies. In 1991, he and Senator Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) sponsored the Nunn-Lugar Act, which established the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program to help former Soviet Union nations safeguard and dismantle stockpiles of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. In 2006, the Lugar-Obama Act expanded the concept to include securing conventional weapons stockpiles, like those in Burundi.

Senator Lugar was not the only Denisonian in the delegation. As the special assistant to the director of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), Grant Hartanov ’08 coordinated many aspects of the trip, and even made advance visits to several of the sites. Hartanov spoke with TheDEN shortly after the delegation’s return, and explained that the Nunn-Lugar Global Cooperative Initiative, as it has come to be known, will have benefits beyond increased security. “It’s actually going to benefit the public health interests of a lot of nations,” Hartanov said. “While we’re securing these labs, we’re also going to station biologists, epidemiologists, and other experts in foreign lands, where they can share their knowledge with doctors, scientists, and authorities in those countries.”

Senator Lugar and Hartanov sport their Denison ties (literal and figurative) on the delegation’s tour of Africa.

The ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Lugar has been a member of the Denison Board of Trustees since 1966. Grant Hartanov is one of the scores of Denison students who interned for the senator as part of the college’s Richard G. Lugar Program in Politics and Public Service. That experience led to a full-time job on the senator’s staff and his current appointment at DTRA. When not traveling to Africa or former Soviet states or attending meetings in the Pentagon, Hartanov is working on his master’s in security studies at Johns Hopkins University.

Hartanov also shared that the trip gave him and the senator several opportunities to discuss common interests, such as his master’s thesis, the major athletics construction project now underway at Denison, and the election of Illinois Congressman Bob Dold ’91, whom Senator Lugar advised during his campaign.

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