Beginning 1 October 2017, the administration of PASCC transitioned to the U.S. Air Force Academy's Institute of National Strategic Studies. For updated information about the PASCC program, please visit the U.S. Air Force Academy's PASCC website.
As of 1 October 2017, NPS will no longer update the PASCC portion of this website except to post reports from projects funded in FY16.
All PASCC reports will continue to be archived by the Homeland Security Digital Library (HSDL). Most reports are publicly available, with a small collection of For Official Use Only (FOUO) reports that require user authentication and log-on to access.
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The Project on Advanced Systems and Concepts for Countering WMD (PASCC) supports research activities that benefit the public through analysis and engagement to reduce and counter the threats posed by WMD/WME. PASCC seeks to:
- Cultivate national and international research community partnerships across domains
- Bring scientific, technical, and social science faculty/experts together
- Look ahead to help understand and anticipate WMD/WME capabilities and threats
We encourage you to take a look at our Research in Progress (RIP) summaries for our new and ongoing projects. These RIP sheets describe the strategic relevance and proposed approach to each project, and are published when a project receives funding; they do not include project findings or conclusions.
PASCC is sponsored by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency's Joint Directorate of Strategy, Plans and Resources.
Projects Funded in FY16
U.S. Engagement in the Humanitarian Consequences of Nuclear Weapons Debate
Performer: Scott Sagan (Stanford University)
This project was conceived to address a substantial gap in discussions about modern U.S. nuclear policy: what are the implications of the humanitarian consequences of any potential use of nuclear weapons for U.S. decision makers in international law and nuclear policy?. In an effort to encourage debate and understanding on this issue, Sagan brought together experts and former high-level practitioners from a range of relevant backgrounds for a two-day workshop at Stanford University. Discussants were asked to prepare papers in advance, several of which have since been published (see below). The workshop's discussions and publications will help shape public discussion of the humanitarian consequences of nuclear weapons and encourage wider conversations between advocates and critics of the nuclear ban treaty.
• Benjamin Valentino and Scott Sagan, "The Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty: Opportunities Lost," The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, July 2017. Access Article
Assessing the Benefits and Burdens of Nuclear Latency
Performer: Rupal Mehta and Rachel Whitlark (National Strategic Research Institute, University of Nebraska Lincoln)
This project investigated how nuclear latency affects a state’s security and bargaining power in order to better understand the international causes and consequences of nuclear latency, defined as a state’s possession of technical capabilities that enable—but fall short of—acquisition of nuclear weapons. A range of technological assets are needed to construct nuclear weapons, but two requirements stand out as having particular importance: (1) the materials and technical expertise required to fabricate an explosive device and (2) the capacity to produce fissile material (i.e., plutonium or enriched uranium). This project sought to identify the conditions under which latency benefits or burdens states in international interactions, and to illuminate the determinants of nuclear latency by examining what factors influence a state’s decision to pursue fuel-cycle technology.
With PASCC's support, Mehta and Whitlark published the following articles and book chapters through this project:
Evaluating WMD Proliferation Risks at the Nexus of Manufacturing Tools and Methods Used in DIY Communities: Deterring Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing
Performer: Ferenc Dalnoki-Veress and Robert Shaw (MIIS)
Abstract: US nonproliferation policy has principally relied on the notion that the proliferation of nuclear weapons can be controlled by limiting access to nuclear technology through export controls on items of concern, as well as on preventing access to nuclear materials. The spread of manufacturing technology and know-how may be making it easier for nefarious actors to surmount traditional export control mechanisms for nuclear technology and other sensitive items. In this project, the authors provide an in-depth examination of the potential proliferation risk as a result of additive manufacturing as well as the implications of the broader democratization of manufacturing around the world. This democratization of manufacturing includes both the technologies, such as 3D printing, as well as the instructional materials, online forums, and communities with shared interest in methods and techniques for manufacturing a wide range of products. They evaluate the risks that these DIY communities pose for assisting (perhaps inadvertently) in the manufacture of specific items included on nuclear nonproliferation export control lists. They also explore whether new manufacturing tools will decrease the R&D efforts necessary to produce items or technology that would make it easier to produce weapons of mass destruction.
Securing Compliance with Arms Control Agreements
Performer: Susan Koch, Thomas Scheber, and Kurt Guthe (National Institute for Public Policy)
Abstract: The study of arms control over the past century is replete with hundreds of books and reports which examined the need for, negotiation of, verification of, and continuation of arms control treaties and agreements, but few analysts have studied why states do or do not comply with these treaties. In this report, the authors examine through several case studies why countries or leaders may choose not to comply. They also offer the lessons that the United States has (or should have) learned from these cases and apply them to today’s compliance concerns. Currently the U.S. government is tracking Russian noncompliance with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, Syrian noncompliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention, the danger of Iranian noncompliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and North Korean noncompliance with multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions. Each compliance concern is unique in that the actors, motivations, overtness, and security implications all differ; but the U.S. approach to each could benefit from incorporating lessons learned and recommendations from past cases of compliance and non-compliance.
Back to Basics: A Conference Report from the US-ROK-Japan Trilateral Strategic Dialogue
Performer: Brad Glosserman (Pacific Forum CSIS)
Abstract: This report provides an in-depth summary of the key findings from the August 2016 U.S.-ROK-Japan Extended Deterrence Trilateral Dialogue, held in Maui, H.I. More than 41 Japanese, Korean, and U.S. experts, officials, military officers, and observers met in their private capacities to discuss the deterrence of potential adversaries in Northeast Asia. North Korea’s relentless modernization of its nuclear and missile programs, in combination with a young, untested, and increasingly provocative leader, have raised doubts about the certainty of deterrence on the Korean Peninsula. Equally troubling has been the advent of a more muscular and assertive foreign policy in Beijing, which has triggered concern in Tokyo and Washington (and to a lesser degree in Seoul) that China may be a revisionist power that is ever less deterred as its military strength grows. This report also discusses the results from a tabletop exercise that examined the three countries’ reactions to a crisis on the Korean Peninsula in which the North used nuclear weapons. As in previous meetings, this exercise revealed both problems and prospects for trilateral cooperation.
The Role of Clandestine Capabilities in Deterrence: Theory and Practice
Performer: Brendan Rittenhouse Green (University of Cincinnati) and Austin Long (Columbia University)
Abstract: Clandestine military capabilities pose problems of information management, both externally and internally, and trade-offs between military effectiveness and political utility. In the modern era many elements of military power depend on secrecy for their battlefield effectiveness, but this secrecy can make them difficult to exploit for political purposes. The past three decades have witnessed a revolution in remote sensing, which is being fully exploited for military applications via the increased diversity, persistence, and sensitivity of sensors. Prompt and precise munitions allow the fruits of this intelligence to be used against targets across the globe. Many of these technologies were developed for nuclear operations and retain their relevance for contemporary nuclear balances. In this report, the authors seek to clarify what constitutes a clandestine military capability and how these types of capabilities can influence political-military outcomes. They provide several hypotheses regarding the variation in outcomes, and conclude with two Cold War case studies to demonstrate the utility of their framework and the plausibility of some of their hypotheses.
Strengthening Strategic Security in Central and Eastern Europe
Performer: Peter B. Doran, Janusz Bugajski, and Matthew S. Brown (CEPA)
Abstract: U.S. extended deterrence is breaking down in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). There are two primary causes. First, Russia has introduced limited-war military strategies that are backed by a credible threat of nuclear escalation. Second, U.S. capabilities in Europe are decreasing and the political and strategic unity of the NATO Alliance is at an all-time low. These security dynamics have placed the frontline CEE states in a new and more dangerous position than at any other point in the post-Cold War era. Furthermore, allied postures bear on future regional stability, either by plugging critical gaps in the extended deterrence architecture or by decoupling allies from NATO plans and, in the extreme case, potentially contributing to an escalation in security threats. This report conveys the findings from a series of Track II dialogues that seek to understand the interplay between “new” Russian warfare techniques and emerging counter-strategies of CEE states and to highlight the role of ally- and U.S.-level deterrence options for contributing to regional and global strategic stability.
A Precarious Triangle: U.S.-China Strategic Stability and Japan
Performer: James L. Schoff and Li Bin (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace)
Abstract: U.S.-China strategic nuclear relations are becoming more salient to U.S. defense planning and alliance management, as military tension and mutual suspicion rise in Northeast Asia. The North Korean nuclear catalyst and the need to balance allied interests make this expanding nuclear dimension increasingly complex. To improve mutual understanding of strategic stability and introduce the alliance element, Carnegie facilitated discussions between American, Chinese, and Japanese security experts. They focused on: a shared concept and definition of strategic stability; its purpose; and its establishment. While participants agreed on certain traditional characteristics of strategic stability, divergent views about the sources and possible remedies for currently fragile crisis and arms race stability will be difficult to bridge. The workshop highlighted four interconnected areas that will frustrate attempts to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in U.S.-China relations or U.S.-alliance concerns: the extent of linkage between regional/conventional conflict and the nuclear realm; Japan’s role; perceptions of mutual vulnerability; and North Korea’s role.
Nuclear Dynamics in a Multipolar Strategic Ballistic Missile Defense World
Performer: Charles Ferguson and Bruce MacDonald (Federation of American Scientists)
Abstract: In this report, Charles Ferguson and Bruce MacDonald (Federation of American Scientists) examine the nuclear dynamics and strategic relations of a world where four nuclear-armed states - the United States, Russia, China, and India - are developing strategic ballistic missile defenses (BMD). Each state appears to have the common rationale of wanting at least limited protection against ballistic missile attacks, and all will respond with various countermeasures to ensure that their nuclear deterrents are viable as they react to missile defense developments in other countries. However, the authors find that each state has additional motivations for pursuing strategic BMD. The multipolar nature of today's nuclear-armed world greatly complicates the strategic landscape and the decision-making tasks of deterrence and defense against multiple nations’ nuclear forces. To assess implications, the authors examine the dynamics among these states and the effects of strategic BMD on other states. They discuss the blurring between theater missile defense (TMD) and strategic BMD, consider the effects of U.S. TMD activities with Japan and South Korea on other states (such as China and North Korea), and provide an overview of the BMD systems of China, India, Russia, and the United States and project what the potential capabilities of these systems could become in the coming years.
European Trilateral Track 2 Nuclear Dialogue
Performer: Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)
Abstract: Though the United States, United Kingdom, and France often meet bilaterally with one another, they rarely meet in a trilateral forum—either officially or unofficially—to discuss nuclear issues. In 2017, CSIS held two iterations of the long-running European Trilateral Track 2 Nuclear Dialogues, which promote trilateral understanding and cohesion on nuclear issues, enhance scholarship on the emerging challenges these long-critical allies face, and provide insight to policymakers, experts, and the public about the evolving nature and future of the American, British, and French (P3) security partnership. The 2017 dialogues, held in Chantilly, France, and Washington, DC, addressed pressing nuclear issues within the Euro-Atlantic security environment and produced a statement reflecting the consensus views of the undersigned. The statement addresses Russia and NATO, Iran and the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), National Nuclear Policies, North Korea, the Ban Treaty, and Nuclear Security.
International Workshop on Innovative Technologies for Chemical Security
Performer: National Academy of Sciences
Abstract: A total of 50 participants from 22 countries attended the international Workshop on Innovative Technologies for Chemical Security held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on July 3-5, 2017 at the Brazilian Academy of Sciences. Among other topics, participants discussed remote sensing of biochemical change in vegetation, satellite imagery analysis, mobile and wearable sensing technologies, digital health, and automated systems for data collection in dangerous environments. They also heard from OPCW experts, who discussed their experiences in chemical weapons related investigations, including those in the Syrian Arab Republic. The workshop discussions provided useful insights into the use of innovative new technological tools for the implementation of the Chemical Weapons Convention that will inform the Scientific Advisory Board’s report on developments in science and technology for the Fourth Review Conference of the CWC in December 2018.
Lost in Translation? U.S. Defense Innovation and Northeast Asia
Performer: Yuki Tatsumi (Stimson Center)
Abstract: The emergence and proliferation of disruptive technologies - such as advances in missile technology, modernization of fighter aircraft, development and expansion of blue water naval capabilities, and new threats in the space and cyber domains - present the U.S. with a complicated challenge in Northeast Asia. The region is home to two key allies, Japan and South Korea, that face an immediate military threat posed by North Korea. At the same time, the region is increasingly influenced by China’s growing assertiveness, matched by its increasing military capabilities. In this report, Yuki Tatsumi (Stimson Center) examines Northeast Asian perceptions of the risks posed by disruptive technologies in the military sphere and recommends a series of policy steps to minimize these risks. In the context of Northeast Asia and under the mantle of the Third Offset, the U.S. can and should work in cooperation with its allies and partners in the region to address the challenges presented by disruptive technologies of potential adversaries by developing effective responses and countermeasures.
In Search of Organizing Principle: A Conference Report of the U.S.-China Dialogue on Strategic Nuclear Dynamics
Performer: Ralph Cossa (Pacific Forum CSIS)
Abstract: This report provides an in-depth summary of the key findings from the March 2017 U.S.-China Strategic Dialogue, held in Washington, D.C. More than 40 Chinese and U.S. experts, officials, military officers, and observers met in their private capacities to discuss U.S.-Chinese strategic relations with an emphasis on their nuclear dimension. The off-the-record discussions covered comparative assessments of U.S.-Chinese strategic relations, organizing principles, the concept of integrated strategic deterrence, potential areas for U.S.-Chinese nuclear cooperation, and approaches for preventing and managing crises with North Korea.