The Honorable Spencer Abraham, Former Secretary, United States Department of Energy
Interviewed by: Steve Clemons, Washington Editor-at-Large, The Atlantic
Spencer Abraham is Chairman and CEO of The Abraham Group, an international strategic consulting firm based in Washington, DC.
After being nominated by President-elect George W. Bush, Spencer Abraham was sworn in as the tenth Secretary of Energy in United States history on January 20, 2001. He began his tenure in the midst of a severe energy crisis that included the California blackouts, declining domestic energy supplies and insufficient international energy trade opportunities. In response, he helped President Bush devise America's first national energy plan in over a decade and oversaw its implementation. As part of this plan, he led efforts to broaden America's international energy partnerships, working with China, Japan, Russia, the E.U., countries in South America and Africa and certain OPEC nations. Secretary Abraham has been a close observer of world energy markets, and under his leadership the Department of Energy conducted a number of short and long-term studies of world oil, gas, electricity and other markets. Domestically, he spearheaded the department's high-tech efforts in the areas of hydrogen fuel cell research and the development and expansion of clean coal technology programs, and provided a strong voice for the reemergence of safe nuclear power. According to the Presidential Management Agenda scorecard, the Department of Energy went from "worst to first" of well-run agencies under Secretary Abraham's leadership.
When he announced his resignation at the end of President's first term, The Washington Times sang Abraham's praises, writing that he "inherited a large and unwieldy agency in post-Cold War drift. He bequeaths [his successor] something much better. Mr. Abraham led his agency with distinction and high integrity." Faced almost immediately with the energy and safety issues of the post 9/11 world, Secretary Abraham distinguished himself by revitalizing and refocusing the Department of Energy on the new homeland security challenges our country faced. Abraham saw to the safety of America's nuclear stockpiles while he played a key international role by dramatically expanding the Department's focus on nuclear nonproliferation programs, negotiating with Russia and other former Soviet states. He created new safeguarding plans that the Washington Post called "great gifts to the nation from Abraham."
Prior to being named Secretary of Energy, Abraham served as an effective and highly productive U.S. Senator from Michigan for six years, where he was the author of 22 pieces of legislation signed into law - an unprecedented accomplishment for a freshman senator. He also chaired two subcommittees: Manufacturing and Competitiveness and Immigration. Always on the cutting edge, he became a leading advocate for technological issues and was one of the first politicians to recognize the importance of establishing a relationship with Silicon Valley's technological entrepreneurs and business leaders. He authored three particularly ground-breaking pieces of technology legislation: the Electronic Signature in Global and National Commerce Act, the Government Paperwork and Elimination Act, and the Anti-Cybersquatting Consumer Protection Act. All three were landmarks in the governance of cyberspace and the use of important new technology. A strong supporter of the business community, Abraham consistently endorsed policies that enhanced America's competitiveness and global leadership.
Abraham is also Non-Executive Chairman of AREVA, Inc and a member of the Board of Directors of Occidental Petroleum. In addition, he is a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution, and a periodic contributor of op-ed articles to the Financial Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Weekly Standard and other publications as well as frequently appears as a guest commentator on Fox News, Fox Business, CNN, CNBC and Bloomberg.
Spencer Abraham and his wife, Jane, are the parents of three children. He holds a law degree from Harvard University, where he co-founded the Federalist Society, and is a native of East Lansing, Michigan.
Steve Clemons is Washington editor at large for The Atlantic and editor of Atlantic Live. He writes frequently about politics and foreign affairs.
Clemons is a senior fellow and the founder of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation, a centrist think tank in Washington, D.C., where he previously served as executive vice president. He writes and speaks frequently about the D.C. political scene, foreign policy, and national security issues, as well as domestic and global economic-policy challenges.