International Security is a Shared Responsibility

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Women of the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation.
Women of the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation pose for a photo in the lobby of the U.S. Department of State’s Headquarters in Washington, D.C.

International Security is a Shared Responsibility

As we close this year’s Women’s History Month, the Department’s Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation (ISN) is proud to shine a spotlight on the women who work tirelessly to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). ISN leads the Department’s efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear, biological, chemical, and radiological WMD, their delivery systems, and destabilizing conventional weapons. ISN is home to approximately 200 subject matter experts, more than 50 percent of whom are women. Women in ISN take center stage in policymaking decisions and represent the U.S. government in the international arena.

We do not have enough room in this blog post to describe all of the phenomenal work the women of ISN do, but here is a brief snapshot of some of the experts that help keep America safe.

Women of ISN are leaders: Many women in ISN are recognized as trailblazers in the field and over half of the bureau’s 12 offices have women in leadership roles.  Two such prominent women are Ann Ganzer and Pam Durham. As members of the Senior Executive Service, they are the highest-ranking women in ISN. They manage offices that regularly deploy the full range of tools in the nonproliferation toolkit, including export licensing, visa screening, sanctions and interdiction efforts, as well as United States participation in three of the four international nonproliferation regimes. These women have extensive experience in nonproliferation and international diplomacy, and they are mentors to many.

Women of ISN are award winners: Rebecca Antzoulatos manages ISN’s Export Control and Related Border Security program for Asia. This program provides partner governments with technical assistance, detection equipment, and specialized training for their border control and enforcement agencies. Last year, Rebecca earned the Young Practitioner of the Year award from the World Export Control Review (ECR). ECR is a professional journal for export control and sanctions practitioners.          

Women of ISN are dedicated: Renee Sonderman, Director of the Office of Weapons of Mass Destruction Terrorism (WMDT), joined ISN as a Presidential Management Fellow. She came up through the ranks in ISN, served a stint at the National Security Council, and now leads one of the largest offices in the bureau. WMDT works to reduce the threat of WMD terrorism by strengthening the capabilities of international partners to prevent, detect, and respond to terrorist attempts to acquire radioactive or nuclear materials. In January 2016, Parade Magazine featured Sonderman in its piece entitled “Meet Ten Diplomats Working Hard to Keep Americans Safe and Healthy Around the Globe.”

Women of the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation -- (Left to Right) Renee Sonderman, Ann Ganzer, Caroline Russell, Rebecca Antzoulatos, and Maria Dudding (the author) -- pose for a photo in the lobby of the State Department's headquarters in Washington, DC.

Women of ISN are scientists: Science is fundamental to nonproliferation. ISN employs women such as Amali Wijeweera, a senior program advisor for biosecurity in the bureau’s Office of Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR). Amali graduated with a bachelor’s degree in neuroscience and later earned a master’s degree in infectious diseases. At CTR she uses her science background to oversee programs aimed at reducing the WMD threat posed by terrorist organizations or states of concern.

Simply, the nonproliferation work the Department undertakes could not be done without the valuable contributions of the many dedicated women in ISN who help design and implement policy and programs that keep America safe. Nonproliferation may seem to be a male-dominated space, but as you can see here, that is far from the truth. There is nothing inherently feminine or masculine in the fight against the spread of deadly weapons. International security is a shared responsibility. In ISN, brilliant women work at all levels alongside their male colleagues to make our world a safer place -- for this generation, the next, and beyond.

About the Author:  Maria A. Dudding serves in the Bureau of Internatonal Security and Nonproliferation at the U.S. Department of State.

Editor's Note: This entry also appears in the U.S. Department of State's publication on