David W. Hafemeister

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David W. Hafemeister

David W. Hafemeister is an affilate and was previously a 2005-2006 Stanford University, Center for International Security and Cooperation science fellow. He is a professor (emeritus) of physics at California Polytechnic State University[1]

He was born in Chicago in 1934.


B.S. Mechanical Engineering, Northwestern University, 1957 M.S. Physics, University of Illinois, 1960 Ph.D. Physics, University of Illinois, 1964[2]

Political work

Hafemeister spent a dozen years in Washington as professional staff member for Senate Committees on Foreign Relations and Governmental Affairs (1990-93 on arms control treaties at the end of the Cold War), science advisor to Senator John Glenn (1975-77), special assistant to Under Secretary of State Benson and Deputy-Under Secretary Nye (1977-78), visiting scientist in the State Department's Office of Nuclear Proliferation Policy (1979), the Office of Strategic Nuclear Policy (1987) and study director at the National Academy of Sciences (2000-02).[3]

Scientific work

David Hafemeister has also held appointments at Carnegie Mellon, MIT, Stanford, Princeton, and the Lawrence-Berkeley, Argonne and Los Alamos national laboratories. He was chair of the APS Forum on Physics and Society (1985-6) and the APS Panel on Public Affairs (1996-7). He has written or edited ten books and 140 articles and was awarded the APS Szilard award in 1996.[4]

Federation of American Scientists

Hafemeister was a member of the National Council of the Federation of American Scientists (1989-92, 1994-98).

He was a member of the Joint FAS/CSS (Committee of Soviet Scientists) Cooperative Research Project on Arms Reductions (1988-90).[5]

Soviet connections

In the 1980s, David W. Hafemeister was involved in numerous exchanges with Soviet scientists, making his "professional life more exciting as a result".

Hafemeister first met Evegeny P. Velikhov, the Soviet Academy's then vice president for applied physics and mathematics, at a meeting of the International Physicians for Social Responsibility in the summer of of 1983. Earlier in that year, a group of Soviet academics had sent an open letter to US scientists, asking whether, in the light of president Reagan's "Star wars' speech of March 1983, there had been a change in the professional consensus in the US, regarding the feasibility of effective missile defenses.

Only the Federation of American Scientists responded directly and were invited by Velikhov to visit the Soviet Union. Despite a partial boycott on bilateral scientific contacts, which the federation had joined mainly because of the soviet government's treatment of Andrei Sakharov, the group decided to accept Velikhov's invitation.

In November, the federation sent a party to the USSR, which included FAS president Jeremy Stone, John Pike of the FAS staff, John Holdren, University of California - Berkeley and FAS vice chairman and FAS chairman David W. Hafemeister.

Velikhov told Hafemeister, that the reason he decided to organize the Committee of Soviet Scientists was to educate a new generation of Soviet Scientists, including himself, about nuclear arms control and to re-open the US-Soviet dialogue on strategic defense with the roles reversed.

Now it would be the Soviet scientists who would try to convince the the US government, with US scientists as intermediaries that the pursuit of ballistic missile defenses would be counterproductive.[6]

1991 Russian visit

In December 1991, the last week of the Soviet Union. Hafemeister was a member of the American delegation in Moscow to deal with the coming changes on nuclear weapons. The American delegation consisted of nuclear weapon designers and laboratory directors, the CIA, several non-governmental organization scientists and Hafemeister, representing the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC). The meetings dealt with implementing the newly–passed Nunn-Lugar legislation to protect nuclear warheads from theft, to dismantle warheads and missiles, to store nuclear materials, to convert weapons–grade uranium into reactor fuel, and to verify the results. After successful high-level meetings in Moscow and Kiev, the US delegation departed.

Hafemeister stayed on for further discussions at the Soviet Ministry of Defense and the Soviet On-Site Inspection to prepare for the SFRC hearings on the Strategic Arms Reductions Treaty. This forced him to stay two days beyond the length of his visa.

As Hafemeister was leaving, Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport was mobbed as Russians and foreigners were fleeing Moscow to avoid the chaos. The panic level was compounded by a lack of jet fuel as the Soviet system started to collapse.

As Hafemeister reached the head of the line, he noticed three Soviet soldiers, packing AK–47’s. He handed them my passport with its outdated visa. They spotted the discrepancy, pointed towards Moscow and said that Hafemeister must get a new visa.

Hafemeister bribed his way onto the plane with three US $10 notes.[7]