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Recollections Of A Fellowship

December 15, 2014 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 92, Issue 50

Reading Laura Pence’s description of serving as an ACS Public Policy Fellow (C&EN, Sept. 22, page 34) reminded me of an interesting year when I was a William C. Foster Fellow at the U.S. Arms Control & Disarmament Agency (ACDA), which is now part of the U.S. Department of State.

In the fall of 1995, I was selected for a yearlong fellowship, went to Washington, and reported in at ACDA. I recall that there were two other fellows that year—a nuclear physicist and a seismic geologist. I was assigned to the Intelligence & Verification Bureau.

My primary assignment was to assist with the development and then negotiation of the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC). Having served as a naval reserve officer with the Office of Naval Research helping with their chemical defense R&D program, I had some basic knowledge of the science behind the CWC. What I didn’t know, but soon learned a lot about, was how the U.S. government develops international policy, and in this case, a treaty.

Each day, representatives from the interested departments met to discuss drafting of the treaty. Representatives from the Departments of State, Defense, Commerce, Transportation, and Energy, as well as from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, attended and then would return to their respective offices to vet each and every word of the draft treaty with their superiors, returning the next day with changes. The process was long and tedious. As soon as these departments agreed on some language, we sought concurrence from the interested industrial entities; for example, the American Chemistry Council and PhRMA.

I was privileged to go to The Hague twice to bring the latest draft of treaty language to the international community. First, we sought agreement from those countries with close relationships with the U.S. After that we went to the international negotiation setting with each and every country present. That was really eye-opening from a policy point of view. The U.S. chief negotiator with ambassador rank had to be careful to not upset our “friends” but also work with our “enemies.” It was amazing to witness.

Unfortunately, I was not a fellow when our nation ratified the Chemical Weapons Convention, but I think it has been an effective international agreement.

If anyone is interested in international agreements, I would encourage them to apply for the William C. Foster Fellowship Program. They always need basic scientists to assist in the development and verification of our bilateral and multilateral treaties. The website is at

Robert J. Hargrove
Macon, Ga.

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