About the Author
After growing up in a tenement atop the Bergen Street IND Subway Station in Brooklyn, New York, one floor above his Irish born grandparents, Tom Ramos traveled up the Hudson River to attend West Point. He followed a traditional Army career path of attending the Airborne and Ranger Schools before commanding combat engineer companies in Germany and the Republic of Korea. After six years of troop duty, an officer board selected him to pursue advanced technological studies by enrolling in a two-year graduate school program in nuclear science. That led Tom to attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to earn an advanced degree in high energy physics. He then went on to teach physics courses to West Point cadets until he resigned his commission as an Army officer and assumed the role of a physicist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.
At Livermore, Tom joined a nuclar weapons design team and, in the 1980s, he became a designer of the X-ray Laser, one of the premier programs of President Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative. As a weapons designer, he participated in numerous nuclear weapons tests conducted at the Nevada Test Site, where he gained valuable experience learning how America developed its nuclear weapons. California had placed a “Nuclear Freeze Initiative” on a state-wide ballot, and Tom volunteered to address civic groups about the role nuclear weapons played as the nation’s core deterrent against nuclear war. He gave over fifty presentations at civic centers, high schools, and universities.
After a decade of design work, Tom switched careers to supporting arms control negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union. He helped prepare the Secretary of Energy for National Security Council meetings to determine the US position in START Treaty talks with the Soviets. Just prior to the outbreak of Operation Desert Storm, Tom was assigned to the Pentagon as the Senior Nuclear Weapons Advisor to the Secretary of Defense.
During his tenure at the Pentagon, Tom had to address an active movement by several Congressional leaders to engage the country in a unilateral nuclear test ban. He evaluated what the effects of such a ban would have on national security, and he summarized his research in a position paper on the topic that was signed by the Secretary of Defense; that paper became the Defense Department’s position on the matter. When he returned to Livermore, he channeled his energy into thinking of ways that the country could face the growing global threat of nuclear proliferation.
He gathered together a group of scientists and engineers, mostly chemical engineers, and he established a counterproliferation program that had as its goal to establish a means for the country to thwart efforts of rogue nations hostile to the United States from producing weapons of mass destruction. Starting with a $200,000 grant from the Department of Energy, Tom grew the program over the course of seventeen years into a $46,000,000 per year effort. His program was declared to be the most important counterproliferation program within the country’s defense establishment by the Secretary of Defense, and it was used by officials at the highest levels of government to make counterproliferation plans for the country.