Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

May 8, 2019

Photo of then-Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher shoveling dirt at NIF groundbreakingThen-Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher (right) joined Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Director Bruce Tarter and Energy Secretary Federico Peña for NIF’s groundbreaking ceremonies in May 1997.

California Rep. Ellen Tauscher picked up a shovel to help with NIF’s groundbreaking ceremonies in 1997. Twelve years later, she returned for the facility’s dedication ceremony, calling NIF “the crown jewel of scientific achievement.”

Over the years, she visited NIF and the Laboratory numerous times. So when Tauscher died April 29, she was remembered as a longtime champion of NIF in the Livermore Valley, in Washington D.C., and beyond.

“Ellen was a steadfast supporter of NIF and a great friend to the laboratory,” said Jeff Wisoff, LLNL principal associate director for the NIF and Photon Science Directorate. “She will be missed by the NIF&PS Team.”

Tauscher—a centrist Democrat whose career took her from the New York Stock Exchange to Congress and then to negotiating major international nuclear arms treaties for the Obama administration—died of complications from pneumonia at Stanford University Medical Center. She was 67.

Photo of Ellen Tauscher visiting the NIF lobby.Ellen Tauscher visiting the NIF lobby. Credit: Mark Meamber

Tauscher had been serving as chair of the Board of Governors of Lawrence Livermore National Security, LLC, and was a member of the University of California Board of Regents.

She served as the representative of California’s 10th congressional district—which includes both LLNL and Sandia National Laboratories/California—from 1997 to 2009. She left the House of Representatives to serve as Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security Affairs within the Department of State, serving under then-Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Tauscher’s centrist brand of politics, dubbed “Tauscherism,” boosted her national profile as a key voice of moderate Democrats in seven terms in Congress and leader of the 60-member House New Democrat Coalition. During her tenure as congresswoman, she served as chair of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, responsible for oversight of the country’s nuclear weapons stockpile, missile defense program, and the national labs.

“Ellen was a great leader who leaves a legacy of service to the nation and to international nuclear security,” said Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Director Bill Goldstein. “She gave generously of her time and passion to the causes she believed in and was a loyal friend and mentor to those who worked with her.

“Among those causes was this Laboratory, which, since her time as representative from the 10th congressional district, she has championed as a force for international security and the advance of science and technology. As chair of our Board of Governors, Ellen brought her experience, savvy and limitless commitment to excellence and the Lab’s mission, to lead us at a crucial time. Her strong, steady hand will be greatly missed. Our hearts go out to her family.”

Photo of Rep. Ellen Tauscher, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, UC Regent Chairman Richard Blum, and Rep. Zoe LofgrenAt the NIF dedication on May 29, 2009, Rep. Ellen Tauscher, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, UC Regent Chairman Richard Blum, and Rep. Zoe Lofgren listen as then-NIF Director Ed Moses explains how NIF operates.

Tauscher joined dignitaries such as California Gov. Arnold Schwarzeneggerfor NIF’s dedication ceremonies 10 years ago this month. In a speech, she saluted Lab staff “for delivering what many people believed was unachievable.

“What we are doing here today is not only the end of one part of a journey, but the beginning of such an exciting time for science in this country,”  she said. “The National Ignition Facility is a tool unlike anything the world has ever seen. It is the crown jewel of scientific achievement that shows the federal government can deliver when it has a clear mandate and consistent funding.”

She also said NIF would “give our scientists unprecedented insight” into nuclear weapons research.

“It will improve our national security and help make the world a safer place,” she said. “NIF also plays a crucial role in the science-based Stockpile Stewardship Program, which ensures the safety and reliability of our nuclear deterrent, once again without nuclear testing.”

Photo of Ed Moses, Ellen Tauscher, and Kevin Lawson touring the Target ChamberIn December 2011, Tauscher—then State Department Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security Affairs—toured the Target Chamber with then-NIF Director Ed Moses (left) and special state department advisor Kevin Lawson.

“Ellen’s tenure in Congress was almost parallel with my time as director,” recalled Director Emeritus Bruce Tarter. “She is a major reason we are where we are today. She is an incredible loss for the country and certainly for the Lab.”

In July 2010, Tauscher was diagnosed with esophageal cancer and underwent an intense series of treatments including radiation, chemotherapy and surgery. Throughout her battle, she continued to serve as undersecretary.

Photo of Ed Moses and Ellen Tauscher with current Operations Manager Bruno Van WonterghemMoses and Tauscher in 2011 with current Operations Manager Bruno Van Wonterghem.

In a recent interview with POLITICO, Clinton said Tauscher was “the most important person in getting us to the negotiation of the New START Treaty." In the talks surrounding what was then the first major agreement signed with Russia in more than two decades, Clinton said Tauscher showed an uncanny grasp of “the politics as well as the technology...In my opinion, it would not have happened without her.’’

Tauscher maintained close friendships with Clinton, as well as Sen. Dianne Feinstein and other members of Congress.

“I would not be where I am, or who I am, if not for Ellen Tauscher,” said Eric Swalwell, who serves as representative of the 10th district. Swalwell worked as an intern for Tauscher in 2001. “I was a college athlete unsure of what I wanted to do with my life,’’ he told POLITICO. “The example she set with her public service, her leadership and her character inspired me to think beyond my own pursuits and set my goals around helping others … She broke the mold again and again.”

Photo of Tauscher helping NIF employees commemorate a safety milestoneTauscher helps NIF employees commemorate a safety milestone.

Tauscher left politics in 2012 and went on to serve on many publicly held corporate and nonprofit board positions, among them the boards of Edison International/Southern California Edison, eHealth, and the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, which she also chaired. She was a member of the board of advisers of SpaceX, the board of directors of BAE Systems Inc., NTI. and the executive committee of the Atlantic Council, as well as vice chair of the Atlantic Council's Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security.

Ellen O’Kane Tauscher was born in Newark, New Jersey, graduated from Seton Hall, and was the youngest woman to become a member of the New York Stock Exchange.

In 1989, she moved to California and founded the ChildCare Registry to verify the background of child care workers. She was married and divorced twice, to investor William Tauscher and to a pilot, Jim Cieslak. She is survived by her daughter Katharine.

Here's the video of Tauscher’s speech at NIF’s May 29, 2009 dedication ceremony:

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