A Political History of Nuclear Weapons, 1938-2008



Thomas Reed,

Date and Time

March 11, 2009 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM


Open to the public.

No RSVP required


Reuben W. Hills Conference Room

FSI Contact

Justin C. Liszanckie

Abstract: A political history of nuclear weapons: where they came from, the surprising ways in which the technology spread, who is likely to acquire them next and why.

Tom Reed is a former Secretary of the Air Force. He has also served as Director of National Reconnaissance, as a special Assistant to President Reagan for National Security Policy, and as a consultant to the Director of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Reed graduated first in his class from Cornell University with a degree in engineering and an ROTC commission into the U.S. Air Force. He began his professional career at the Air Force Ballistic Missile Division in Los Angeles during the 1950s, the years of Sputnik and the missile gap. He earned his graduate degree from the University of Southern California and then moved on to Lawrence Livermore where he designed two thermonuclear devices fired over the Pacific in the Dominic test series of 1962.

On leaving Livermore, Reed started and ran a successful high-tech company making superconductors. He soon developed an interest in politics, and in 1966 became the northern California chair of Ronald Reagan's first gubernatorial race. He served as chief of personnel in the Governor's first administration and in 1970 assumed full responsibility for Governor Reagan's re-election campaign as the statewide chair and campaign director.

In 1973 Reed was recruited to manage certain intelligence projects at the Pentagon in connection with the Yom Kippur War then raging in the Mideast. Later that year he became director of information systems, developing a worldwide military command and control system, and then, in 1976, became Secretary of the Air Force. During the Reagan years Reed served as the Special Assistant to the President for National Security Policy. A principal project there was his authorship of National Security Decision Directive 32, signed by President Reagan in May 1982, which became the roadmap for prevailing and ending the Cold War.

Reed left Washington in 1983 to return to managing his business. Throughout the Soviet collapse Reed continued to advise the Joint Strategic Planning Staff (in Omaha) on policy and intelligence matters.

Reed was born in New York City. His first book, At the Abyss: An Insider's History of the Cold War (2004, Ballantine Books), delved into the lives of those who fought and ended the Cold War without a nuclear shot being fired.  His more recent book, Nuclear Express, notes that "since the end of the Cold War, nuclear weapons have fallen into less well-manicured hands."  Nuclear Express was co-authored with Danny Stillman who served, for thirteen years, as director of technical intelligence at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Tom lives in the wine country, north of San Francisco, with his wife Kay. 

If you would like to be added to the email announcement list, please visit https://mailman.stanford.edu/mailman/listinfo/stsseminar 

Share this Event