National Security Expert
Lisa Owens Davis died on February 26 at home in Alameda, Ca. Her story is inspiring, especially for young women seeking to make their mark in the national security world. Lisa was born on the first day of Spring in 1966, at Cottage Hospital in Santa Barbara, California. She graduated from UC Santa Barbara with a degree in Spanish literature and a love of languages. She lived in Spain and worked at the Spanish consulate in Los Angeles, which sparked her interest in diplomacy. She taught English in the Czech Republic soon after the fall of the Berlin Wall and travelled extensively throughout Eastern Europe and Russia in the days immediately following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Relying on her extraordinary language skills, Lisa made her way across the former Soviet states as one of the first Americans to visit remote towns in Siberia. She camped on Lake Baikal and hitched rides on trains, ships and even hopped a ride on a Soviet military helicopter. Her adventures shaped her career - and made for long conversations during security clearance reviews.
Lisa pursued her masters degree at the Monterey Institute of International Studies (now Middlebury College) and was one of Bill Potter's early graduates from the Center for Nonproliferation Studies. She was an intern at the International Atomic Energy Agency and later returned to the US Embassy in Vienna to work on nuclear safeguards policy. Upon graduation Lisa worked for Michael Krepon at the Stimson Center and was selected to the Presidential Management Program which enabled her to serve in the Department of Defense and the Department of Energy (DOE), where she accepted a position managing nuclear safeguards support to the IAEA. At DOE Lisa led delegations to numerous countries, funded research at the national labs, served as lead DOE representative to the negotiations on the Additional Protocol, and chaired the inter-agency committee on safeguards technology. It was during the latter duty that Lisa met her future husband, Zachary Davis, who was representing the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency on her committee. In 1995 Lisa moved to the State Department and served as chief of staff to Ambassador Norm Wulf, the US Representative to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty for the crucial 25 year NPT Review Conference. Ambassador Wulf recalled Lisa's work in support of the US NPT delegation as "indispensable to achieving success at the 2000 NPT Review Conference."
Lisa and Zack returned to their native California to work at Lawrence Livermore National Lab's Z Division, where Lisa quickly rose through the ranks to manage a wide range of analytic and operational intelligence support programs across the lab. In 2006 she returned to Washington to support innovative inter-agency interdiction efforts, where she earned high praise for building bridges between diplomatic, military, intelligence and technical agencies. In 2015 Lisa founded her own consulting firm to advise a range of government and private sector clients. She will be remembered for her contributions to non and counter proliferation policy and operations.
Lisa was a runner, yoga practitioner, stand up paddler, and hiker. She took delight in literature, especially Spanish language fiction, languages, slapstick comedy, baseball (Go Giants!), soul and disco music, beaches, travel, family and friendships. Her diagnosis of pancreatic cancer came without warning during a family trip to Italy. She is survived by her father Bill Owens of San Clemente, mother Wendy Owens of Oceanside, brother Bill Owens and family of Saipan, sister Sara Madani and family of Santa Ana, her teenage sons Max (19) and Sam (16) and her husband of 20 years Zack, who will miss her every minute of every day.