Campus & Community

Rolf Mowatt-Larssen named senior fellow at Belfer Center

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Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, director of the Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence at the U.S. Department of Energy and former head of the Central Intelligence Agency’s WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction) and terrorism efforts, will join the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs as a senior fellow on Jan. 19.

As director of intelligence and counterintelligence with the U.S. Department of Energy, Mowatt-Larssen and his 600-person organization have been responsible for the areas of nuclear terrorism, nuclear proliferation, science and technology, energy security, and counterintelligence. His office also provides support to policymakers and conducts collection and analysis, with a special focus on harnessing U.S. scientific and technological expertise to solve intractable problems. His primary focus has been preventing a nuclear terrorism attack on the United States by working to keep nuclear weapons and weapons materials out of the hands of terrorists.

At the Belfer Center, Mowatt-Larssen will work with the center’s nuclear team on an initiative to reduce the dangers posed by the current unraveling of the global nuclear order. Along with Belfer Center Director Graham Allison, Professors Ashton Carter and John Holdren, Associate Professor Matthew Bunn, International Security Program Director Steven Miller, and others, he will help advance work begun by a Commission of Eminent Persons (launched earlier this year by International Atomic Energy Association [IAEA] Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei) to find ways to maximize contributions of nuclear technologies to human well-being while minimizing the risks of nuclear weapons proliferation and nuclear terrorist attacks. Mowatt-Larssen will focus on building a stronger global community of scholars and policy analysts interested in this goal, as well as on researching, analyzing, and communicating findings to the IAEA, to the incoming administration, and to other relevant governments.

In announcing Mowatt-Larssen’s appointment, Allison said, “Since 9/11, Rolf Mowatt-Larssen has led the government’s efforts to find and track potential nuclear terrorists and to prevent a nuclear terrorist attack on the United States. Over a career of almost three decades in the intelligence community and at the Department of Energy, Rolf has likely learned more about the plans and potentials of al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups seeking to mount catastrophic terrorist attacks on the U.S. than anyone I know. He is deeply committed to preventing nuclear attacks and restoring a global order that will make that possible. We are extremely pleased to have him join our nuclear team.”

“It is a pleasure and an honor to join Graham Allison and his distinguished team at Harvard’s Belfer Center,” Mowatt-Larssen said, in confirming his departure from the government in January. “Their important work lies at the cutting edge of preventing a nuclear catastrophe. I share Dr. Allison’s vision and ambitious agenda to lower the risks and ultimately eliminate the threats posed by nuclear weapons to all mankind. I am looking forward to contributing to this great cause.”

In testimony presented to the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee of the U.S. Senate in April, Mowatt-Larssen said he believed the world would be tested during the early years of the 21st century “in our ability to prevent nonstate efforts to develop and detonate a nuclear weapon.” He added, “We must get nuclear materials off the black market and take every possible step to stop global trafficking in these materials. It must be a global effort incorporating police, intelligence services, militaries, government agencies, ministries, and dedicated citizens across the world. In addition, we need broad information sharing across every front — between government and private sector, and among foreign partners, including those who previously were our adversaries. Al-Queda thinks and plans dynamically and they rarely follow straightforward, linear paths to their targets. We need to be just as flexible and dynamic in our efforts to stop them.”

Prior to his appointment to the top intelligence position in the Department of Energy, Mowatt-Larssen served for 23 years as a CIA intelligence officer in various domestic and international posts. These included deputy associate director of Central Intelligence for Military Support, chief of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Department, Counterterrorism Center, and most recently, chief of the Europe Division in the Directorate of Operations. His overseas assignments included service in Moscow, Stockholm, Athens, Zurich, and Oslo, among other locations. A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy (West Point), Mowatt-Larssen is the recipient of numerous awards including the CIA Director’s Award, the Distinguished Career Intelligence Medal, the Commendation Medal, and the Secretary of Defense Civilian Distinguished Service Medal.