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Beginning in FY17, administration of PASCC transitioned to the U.S. Air Force Academy's Institute of National Strategic Studies. As of 1 October 2017, NPS will no longer update this website. For updated information about the PASCC program, please visit the U.S. Air Force Academy's PASCC website. PASCC reports will continue to be archived by HSDL (see links below).

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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. 


FY16 PASCC Projects   FY15 PASCC Projects   FY14 PASCC Projects



For more information about PASCC, please check out our About PASCC page or download our latest Annual Report.

If you would like to be added to our contact list regarding the BAA and other PASCC announcements, or have questions about PASCC, please email us at

PASCC is sponsored by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency's Joint Directorate of Strategy, Plans and Resources.


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Recently Released PASCC Reports

HSDL LogoCan't find a specific report? The Homeland Security Digital Library provides a searchable repository of all PASCC reports! 

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.

On-Campus Users   Off-Campus Users

Perspectives on Security and Strategic Stability: A Track 2 Dialogue with the Baltic States and Poland

Performer: Kathleen Hicks, et al. (CSIS)

AbstractThe Baltic States and Poland have been the primary focus of NATO’s assurance and deterrence efforts since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2014. In the wake of the crisis, U.S. and allied officials adopted a policy approach that was heavily influenced by the perceptions and requests for assistance coming from their Eastern European counterparts. As NATO and the United States seek to expand their presence along the alliance’s eastern flank, it is important to engage Track 2 interlocutors in the Baltic States and Poland to better understand whether assurance efforts are having the desired effect and whether the statements and requests of the Baltic and Polish governments are, by and large, consistent with the attitudes and desires of their local populations To that end, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) executed a dialogue with local civil society leaders, security experts and academics, and government representatives from across the Baltic States, Poland, and the United States. The end result is a richer understanding among all parties regarding the shared threats and challenges facing Europe’s eastern flank; the perceived effectiveness of the overall response from NATO, including the United States, in addressing them; and the implications for broader strategic stability. 

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Missile Defense, Extended Deterrence, and Nonproliferation in the 21st Century

Performer: Catherine McArdle Kelleher, ed. (UMD)

Abstract: This collection of papers provides an up-to-date report on the current status of ballistic missile defense worldwide, and offers analysis on how different choices by the United States and its regional allies may well shape offense/defense tradeoffs in doctrine and issues of credibility and trust in a rapidly changing political order, especially in Asia. This analysis will be useful for policymakers and academics as they continue to grapple with the issues of strategic stability, cost, system effectiveness, and credibility/utility as an instrument of public opinion mobilization in crisis and confidence building. The draft papers were presented, reviewed, and discussed at a small event held at the University of Maryland, College Park in June 2016. 

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American, Australian, and Japanese Perspectives on a Changing Security Environment

Performer: Thomas G. Mahnken, Ross Babbage, and Sugio Takahashi (JHU-SAIS)

AbstractFacing an increasingly assertive China, both Japan and Australia are deepening military cooperation with the U.S., and with one another. Japan is exploring ways to reinterpret its constitution to allow it to play a more active role in collective self-defense, has lifted restrictions on defense cooperation, and is playing a more active role in security cooperation in the region. The Australian government is increasing its defense budget; acquiring new capabilities, to include a new generation of attack submarines; and is considering granting greater access to Australian facilities to the United States. This study is the culmination of a multi-national research effort to examine American, Australian, and Japanese attitudes toward the security environment, deterrence and reassurance, and proliferation. 

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The Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention: Implications of Advances in Science and Technology

Performer: Katherine Bowman, et al. (National Academy of Sciences)

AbstractIn preparation for the 8th Review Conference, a meeting was convened in Warsaw in September 2015 to identify and discuss Trends in Science and Technology Relevant to the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. The conference noted many issues of relevance to the Review Conference and reached several overarching conclusions. Among other findings, the meeting concluded that the technological barriers to acquiring and using a biological weapon have been significantly eroded since the Seventh Review Conference, and that the speed at which the life sciences and technology are advancing, and the rate of convergence of disciplines, is still accelerating. This increases the likelihood of such developments in the foreseeable future. 

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Managing Escalation and Limiting War to Achieve National Objectives in a Conflict in the Western Pacific 

Performers: Elbridge Colby and Burgess Laird (Center for a New American Security)

AbstractThis project explores the challenges of managing escalation in limited war scenarios. Colby's contribution analyzes the new conceptual challenges of limited nuclear war in the post-Cold War system, while Laird's study of China's literature on escalation and war control provides new insights into East Asian conflict scenarios.  

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Predicting Proliferation: High Reliability Forecasting Models of Nuclear Proliferation as a Policy and Analytical Aid

Performer: Erik Gartzke (UCSD)

AbstractWhile scholars have laid important groundwork in understanding the causes of nuclear pursuit, these studies are primarily focused on explaining rather than predicting proliferation. Drawing from existing quantitative work, this project uses statistical learning methods to construct a predictive model of proliferation, focusing on the ability of different nuclear proliferation theories to make accurate out-of-sample predictions. This study makes two contributions to the literature on nuclear proliferation and the larger policy debate. First, it identifies for the first time an empirically grounded set of nuclear “triggers”— conditions under which countries are most likely to shift from latent nuclear capacity to a full-fledged nuclear weapons effort. Second, this study helps to reconcile conflicting empirical findings in the literature. Predictive analytics provide a new and useful way of understanding the substantive significance of existing empirical findings, and of comparing the relative importance of different theoretical approaches. 

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Improving Security through International Biosafety Norms

Performers: Gigi Kwik Gronvall, et al. (UPMC Center for Health Security)

AbstractDeveloping and agreeing to international biosafety norms is more important now than ever. Powerful tools to manipulate genomes are being used in laboratories around the world, and even in the citizen-science community; these powerful technologies could be intentionally or inadvertently used to produce pathogens that would be difficult for public health measures to control. Additionally, there has been an increase in national laboratory capacities around the world. Countries no longer are expected ship samples to other nations with more advanced laboratory capacity; rather, they are expected to develop that capacity within the nation. While there is a great deal of technical guidance for researchers and institutions to achieve high levels of safety, there is a need for national-level biosafety norms that could provide reassurance to other nations that consequential work is performed with appropriate and sufficient safety systems. In this report, the authors examine what norms and expectations nations should have of each other to maintain a biosafety infrastructure capable of preventing and mitigating consequences a catastrophic biocontainment failure. 

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Expanding Cooperative Threat Reduction in the Middle East & North Africa: Law-Related Tools for Maximizing Success

Performer: Orde F. Kittrie (Arizona State University)

AbstractOver its first fifteen years, the Department of Defense Cooperative Threat Reduction program focused its work to combat WMD almost entirely on the former Soviet Union. Since 2010, however, DOD/CTR has begun to expand into the Middle East and North Africa region, undertaking peaceful cooperative projects to combat WMD proliferation in that region. This report analyzes the legal issues related to the expansion of this program and provides recommendations for more effectively addressing law-related challenges and opportunities that could play a pivotal role in the success of CTR work in the MENA region. 

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North Korea’s Nuclear Futures: Implications for Peace and Security

Performer: Joel S. Wit (JHU-SAIS)

AbstractThe North Korea Nuclear Futures Project, conducted by the US-Korea Institute at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in cooperation with the Center for the Study of WMD at the National Defense University, was established in mid-2014 to examine Pyongyang’s emergence as a small nuclear power. The project, through a series of three workshops in 2014-2015, analyzed how North Korea’s nuclear deterrent and strategy may develop over the next five years, the implications for the United States, the region and the international community and possible policy responses. This report is a compilation of a dozen papers on various aspects of North Korea's possible paths as a growing nuclear power.

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Preparing for the Next WMD Elimination Mission - Lessons Learned from Past Experiences

Performers: Chen Kane and Philipp C. Bleek (MIIS)

Abstract: In mid-2014, an American-led coalition of states and international organizations completed a remarkable task, eliminating one of the largest remaining chemical weapons (CW) stockpiles in the world, declared by Syria only the year before. Similar opportunities for elimination are likely to arise in the future. At least three categories of future potential elimination missions can be identified: Those of possessor states, North Korea being the most challenging cases; of non-state actors, likely located in failed or fragile states or ungoverned territories; and of residual cases, i.e. past possessors who never completely disarmed, such as Iraq, Libya, and Syria. This report summarizes the findings of a study aimed at developing a comprehensive framework for eliminating WMD. 

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Understanding Pathogenicity: Providing Information about Advances in Science and Technology to the Biological Weapons Convention

Performers: James Revill, Katherine Bowman, and Nancy Connell (National Academy of Sciences)

Abstract: Advances in science and technology can have profound implications for nonproliferation regimes such as the Biological Weapons Convention (BWC). As part of its annual program of intersessional meetings and five year review conferences, the BWC considers relevant scientific developments in order to ensure that the treaty keeps pace with a changing landscape and takes into account the impact of developments on treaty goals and implementation. A workshop preceding the 2014 Meeting of Experts was organized with support from PASCC under the auspices of IAP: The Global Network of Science Academies. This workshop brought together approximately 35 scientists from academia and industry, scientific and technical experts from BWC delegations, and members of stakeholder communities interested in BWC issues. Participants focused on two complementary strategies for combating infectious diseases: targeting pathogen virulence factors and modifying a host’s immune responses. In addition to presentations, the meeting discussed potential applications and implications of this field of discovery for the BWC and the biosecurity community (see Appendix for the workshop agenda, discussion questions, and participant list). This report summarizes the presentations and discussions that occurred.

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Revisiting South Africa's Nuclear Weapons Program: Its History, Dismantlement, and Lessons for Today

Performers: David Albright with Andrea Stricker (Institute for Science and International Security)

AbstractTwenty five years ago South Africa acceded to Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty after dismantling its nuclear weapons. Yet, the full story of that nuclear weapons program was not revealed publicly at that time. Parts were hidden from the International Atomic Energy Agency as well. Now, after many years of work by the media and independent experts, with the cooperation of a number of former members of the nuclear weapons program, a much fuller picture of South Africa’s nuclear weapons program has emerged. This book is the first comprehensive, technically-oriented history of South Africa’s nuclear weapons program and its dismantlement. This book also takes stock of the lessons today of this dynamic and complicated nuclear weapons program. Although none of the nine states that currently possess nuclear weapons appear on the verge of following South Africa’s example, the South African case contains many valuable lessons in non-proliferation, disarmament, export controls, and verification.

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Scoping Study of a U.S.-Israel Security Dialogue

Performers: Chen Kane (MIIS), W. Seth Carus, and Nima Gerami (National Defense University)

Abstract: During the last six years, U.S.-Israel relations have come under increasing strain and pressure. Structural changes in the strategic environment facing both countries, as well as differences in the worldviews and leadership styles of American and Israeli leaders, have led to rare public discord, and the bilateral U.S.-Israel Strategic Dialogue, the highest formal level of coordination between the two countries, has not been held since September 2014. This project sought to determine whether there is a need for a future U.S.-Israel security dialogue to address current policy gaps, with special emphasis on enhancing cooperation to counter the proliferation of WMD, strengthen nonproliferation norms, and prepare for regional security emerging threats. This report presents the results of a scoping study conducted by the Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) at MIIS and the National Defense University’s Center for the Study of Weapons of Mass Destruction (CWSMD) assessing the desirability, feasibility, and scope of a U.S.-Israel security dialogue to be implemented after the 2016 U.S. presidential election. 

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Strategic Multilateral Dialogue on Biosecurity

Performers: Anita Cicero et al (UPMC Center for Health Security)

Abstract: Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia have emerged as strong partners to the US in efforts spanning trade, diplomacy, and defense. These countries also share concerns about biological threats, particularly in light of recent high rates of human migration, climate changes, as well as growing terrorist activity in the region. In recognition of these worrisome trends, the UPMC Center for Health Security (UPMC) initiated the first-of-its-kind Track II multilateral biosecurity dialogue in 2015, with delegations from Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and the US. Dialogue participants shared perspectives on the biosecurity challenges facing their nations, and discussed areas in need of progress. This report details the primary findings from this dialogue.

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Saudi Arabia's Nuclear Future

Performers: Matthew Moran, Wyn Bowen, and Dina Esfandiary (King's College London)

Abstract: Against the background of Iran's nuclear hedging behavior and the acceptance of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, this project had two objectives: to generate insights into Saudi Arabia’s nuclear intentions and how these have been influenced by an Iran widely perceived to be engaged in a strategy based on nuclear hedging; and to explore the measures that Western powers might adopt to strengthen Saudi Arabia’s commitment to nuclear restraint.  This report seeks to summarize the core arguments and views emerging from the project.

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Struggling with the Gray Zone: Trilateral Cooperation to Strengthen Deterrence in Northeast Asia

Performer: Brad Glosserman (Pacific Forum CSIS)

Abstract: The need to ensure that the US extended deterrent in Northeast Asia remains credible and effective has never been more pressing; the obstacles to doing so have never been higher. The Pacific Forum CSIS, with the Asan Institute for Policy Studies and with support from PASCC, held a US-ROK-Japan Extended Deterrence Trilateral Dialogue on July 19-21, 2015. Forty-one US, ROK, and Japanese experts, officials, military officers, and observers attended in their private capacities to address concerns about the capacity of the three countries to sustain and strengthen their deterrent in the face of new and enduring challenges. This report details the areas of convergance and divergence discussed during the dialogue and identifies key findings. 

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Scoping Future Nuclear Proliferation Risks: Leveraging Emerging Trends in Socio-Cultural Modeling and Analysis 

Performer: Jeannie Johnson (Utah State University) in cooperation with The Center for the Advanced Study of Language

Abstract: The key objective of this project was to identify and refine cutting-edge sociocultural analytic models tailored to anticipate aspiring WMD actors and identify points of leverage within their national communities. The researchers combined key features of two socio-cultural models successfully employed within the intelligence community into a framework designed to identify and capture critical components of WMD decisionmaking within a regime. They then developed several country case studies using their combined model to draw out key cultural components of the narratives driving WMD decisionmaking within the regime; decision vectors that may provide windows of opportunity for US policymakers; and tailored policy recommendations for the way ahead in engaging this regime. This report offers primary takeaways and promising avenues for the way ahead in anticipating nuclear activity and forging tailored strategies in order to achieve US policy ends. 

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Use of Attribution and Forensic Science in Addressing Biological Weapon Threats: A Multi-Faceted Study

Performers: Christopher A. Bidwell and Kishan Bhatt (Federation of American Scientists

Abstract: The threat from the manufacture, proliferation, and use of biological weapons (BW) is a high priority concern for the U.S. government. As reflected in U.S. government policy statements and budget allocations, deterrence through attribution (“determining who is responsible and culpable”) is the primary policy tool for dealing with these threats. In this report, the authors address  the science-law-bureaucracy-media response dynamic for attribution determinations regarding potential manufacture, possession, and/or use of BW, with a focus on the use of forensic evidence, particularly microbial forensics. This report explores the many challenges faced by policy makers in trying to convince others of the validity of an attribution determination and offers suggestions for improving the process.

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India's Nuclear Options and Escalation Dominance

Performers: Toby Dalton and George Perkovitch (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace)

Abstract: Since the early 2000s, Indian strategists have wrestled with the challenge of motivating Pakistan to demobilize anti-India terrorist groups while managing the potential for conflict escalation during a crisis. The growing prominence of nuclear weapons in Pakistan’s national security strategy casts a shadow of nuclear use over any potential military strategy India might consider to strike this balance. However, augmenting its nuclear options with tactical nuclear weapons is unlikely to bolster Indian deterrence in convincing ways. This report discusses the deterrence and escalaton environment in South Asia, and the implications for Indian strategy.

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Nuclear Command, Control, and Stability Framework

Performers: Virginia Tech Applied Research Corporation (VT-ARC)

Abstract: This project investigates the topic of nuclear command and control as a policy consideration for expressing and mitigating nuclear risks. The overall structure for the project revolves around two independent assessments of a stability framework first proposed in 2007. The first independent assessment focuses on the functional design of the stability framework and the ease and accuracy with which it could be used by policy makers. This assessment was agnostic of specific regional and global characteristics and focused on the framework as a tool for expressing power dynamics. The second independent assessment took a deeper look at the merit of the stability framework for expressing nuclear stability dynamics in a regional (bipolar or multi-polar) context. A primary focus of both independent assessments was to determine the overall utility of the framework for its application and use as a tool for constructive discourse by policy makers and non-technical personnel.

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The Growing Nonproliferation Challenges in Southeast Asia - Forecasting Emerging Capabilities and its Implications on the Control of Sensitive WMD-Related Technologies

Performers: Stephanie Lieggi, Catherine Dill, and Diane Lee (MIIS

Abstract: Over the near to mid-term, the rapidly growing Southeast Asian economies will play a larger role in the development and trade of sensitive, high-tech commodities—both as customers and manufacturers. The increased prominence of dual-use commodities in the region suggests a need for a strengthened security framework to prevent possible proliferation of sensitive materials to programs, by both state and non-state actors, aimed at developing weapons of mass destruction (WMD). To better understand how the growth in Southeast Asia might affect global nonproliferation efforts, experts from the Middlebury Institute’s James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies reviewed and analyzed private industry projections as well as government forecasts, deciphering of relevant export statistics as a proxy for growing trends in the region. Ultimately, the project team identified several industries and sectors for special consideration, then prepared recommendations aimed at regional authorities and international partners to strengthen the existing strategic trade management frameworks and develop systems better able to assess potential proliferation activities in the near to mid-term. 

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Preventing Escalation During Conventional Wars

Performers: Keir Lieber (Georgetown University) and Daryl Press (Dartmouth University

Abstract: Preventing nuclear escalation during conventional war is arguably the greatest national security challenge facing U.S. leaders in the 21st century. This report describes the problem of adversary coercive nuclear escalation, and offers recommendations for how U.S. and allied political leaders and military planners might better evaluate – and prepare to deal with – the difficult inherent tradeoffs between the need for military effectiveness, the risks of adversary escalation, and desired end states.

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South Asian Stability Workshop 2.0: A Crisis Simulation Report

Performers: Feroz H. Khan, Diana Wueger, Andrew Giesey, and Ryan Morgan (NPS

AbstractSouth Asian Stability Workshop 2.0 was a crisis simulation tabletop exercise (TTX) held in February 2015. This tabletop exercise engaged top security experts and scholars from the United States, India, and Pakistan to explore dynamics revealed in a previous iteration of this workshop that demanded further testing. Examining the implications of strategic crisis emanating in South Asia, this exercise attempted to study the cascading effects of military crises and avenues for inadvertent escalation on air, sea, and land. Furthermore, this TTX explored shifting geopolitical tensions, trigger events that warrant military responses, escalation thresholds, and avenues for diffusion and de-escalation of the crisis.

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CSIS Track-II Dialogue on Limiting Non-Strategic Nuclear Weapons

Performers: Sharon Squassoni (CSIS

Abstract: Over the course of this project, CSIS held two Track-II workshops with Russian interlocutors to discuss the possible dimensions of an agreement to limit non-strategic nuclear weapons (NSNW). At the first workshop held in Vienna, Austria in October 2014, experts identified four baskets of issues where further collaboration would be useful: military doctrinal talks, specific transparency measures, development of verification technology and the safety and security of NSNW. Participants further identified specific ideas in those baskets which became the focus of discussion at the Washington workshop. Given the shrinking opportunities for official dialogue on nuclear weapons issues, participants also focused on identifying discussion topics for future Track-II dialogues. In June 2015, the Proliferation Prevention Program of CSIS hosted U.S., European and Russian experts at the second of two dialogues that aimed to analyze the core issues regarding potential future limits on non-strategic nuclear weapons, including verification, transparency, and confidence-building measures.

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Real-World Nuclear Decision Making: Using Behavioral Economics Insights to Adjust Nonproliferation and Deterrence Policies to Predictable Deviations from Rationality

Performers: Jeffrey W. Knopf, Anne I. Harrington, and Miles Pomper (MIIS

Abstract: Research in fields such as psychology and neuroscience has shown that human thinking and decision making often fail to match the assumption of rationality. Indeed, people can depart in quite systematic ways from the predictions of a rational actor model. These findings form the basis of behavioral economics, an approach to understanding human behavior that has attracted enormous attention in recent years. In this project, the authors explored the implications of behavioral economics, and the research that informs it, for policies and strategies designed to deal with the challenges posed by nuclear weapons.  

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Public Opinion, Commitment Traps and Nuclear Weapons Policy

Performer: Scott Sagan (Stanford University)

Abstract: It is widely believed by policymakers and scholars alike that a deep aversion against the use of nuclear weapons has taken hold around the world in the years since 1945. Indeed, many have even referred to the existence of a "nuclear taboo". Unfortunately, we lack empirical evidence about the strength of such "antinuclear instincts" and the conditions under which they might or might not operate in the U.S. public and in other nations. This project examined public attitudes toward nuclear weapons use, the Laws of Armed Conflict (LOAC), and just war doctrine principles. Utilizing the survey experiment methodology, the PIs studied specific scenarios in which the U.S. public and the Indian public would support the use of nuclear weapons or exert a constraining influence. The project evaluated how the following four factors influence public support for the use of nuclear and conventional weapons: 1) the impact of specific threats made by leaders (the commitment trap); 2) the significance of the kind of adversary target (foreign government or non-state group); 3) the importance of the “principle of proportionality” and saving the lives of one’s own soldiers compared to sparing the lives of non-combatants in an adversary’s state; and (4) the influence of the principle of noncombatant immunity in general. 

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Understanding the Dragon Shield: Likelihood and Implications of Chinese Strategic Ballistic Missile Defense

Performers: Bruce W. MacDonald and Charles D. Ferguson (Federation of American Scientists (FAS)

Abstract: China has received growing attention over the last ten years for its activity in modernizing and expanding its strategic offensive nuclear forces, both land- and sea-based developments and deployments. At the same time, little attention has been paid to Chinese activities in developing ballistic missile defenses (BMD). Nevertheless, for a number of years, China has been exploring and developing BMD capabilities to defend against a spectrum of ballistic missile challenges, from short-range missiles to ballistic missiles with intercontinental ranges. Through discussions with American and Chinese officials, military officers, and academics; an in-depth study of the literature; and an examination of potential incentives and disincentives for China’s BMD development and deployment, FAS investigated the potential strategic implications for the United States and its allies if China continued to develop strategic ballistic missile defense (BMD) and then deployed even a limited strategic BMD system.  

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North Korea's Evolving Nuclear Strategy

Author: Shane Smith (National Defense University) for the U.S.-Korea Institute at SAIS

Abstract: Over the past two decades, North Korea’s nuclear program has grown from a proliferation problem to a military threat to its neighbors and the United States. The country is now estimated to possess enough fissile material to build anywhere from six to about thirty nuclear weapons, depending largely on how much highly enriched uranium it has produced, and is poised to grow its stockpile, perhaps dramatically, over the coming years. North Korea has conducted three increasingly powerful nuclear tests since 2006 as well as a series of missile launches, suggesting to some that it could sooner or later target the US homeland. If that were not enough, the North has made excessively bold and even preemptive nuclear threats under the leadership of Kim Jong Un. 

Despite this growth in North Korea’s nuclear capabilities and threats, little attention has been paid to its emerging nuclear strategy. This report offers a systematic treatment of the different nuclear strategies North Korea may consider in the coming years. It provides an analytical framework for four alternative North Korean nuclear strategies: 1) a strategy aimed at extracting international political or diplomatic concessions; 2) a strategy aimed at internationalizing crises on the Korean peninsula in a way that triggers US and/or Chinese intermediation; 3) a retaliatory strategy to deter regime-threatening attacks; and 4) a nuclear warfighting strategy to offset conventional weaknesses vis-à-vis South Korea and the United States. The paper then assesses the limited evidence about North Korea’s nuclear strategy—where it has been and where it is going.

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U.S.-China Strategic Nuclear Relations: Time to Move to Track-1 Dialogue: The Ninth China-U.S. Dialogue on Strategic Nuclear Dynamics

Performer: Ralph A. Cossa, Brad Glosserman, and David Santoro (Pacific Forum CSIS)

Abstract: The China Foundation for International and Strategic Studies and the Pacific Forum CSIS, with support fromPASCC, held the 9th China-US Strategic Nuclear Dynamics Dialogue on Feb. 9-10, 2015. Some 80 Chinese and US experts, officials, military officers, and observers along with four Pacific Forum Young Leaders attended, all in their private capacity. The off-the-record discussions covered comparative assessments of the strategic landscape, nuclear dimensions of the “new type of major country relationship,” nonproliferation and nuclear security cooperation, ways to address regional nuclear challenges (North Korea and Iran), strategic stability and reassurance, and crisis management and security-building measures. While Chinese participants continue to favor deeper discussions at the Track-1.5/2 level and better use of existing official channels, these discussions also have been building consensus in China for enhancing the Track-1 step. Chinese and US participants concur that more work is needed on both sides to better avoid and manage crises, particularly crises triggered by third-parties. This involves better communication mechanisms and hotlines. 

There was agreement that the next dialogue should focus on more specific and practical areas, and address issues beyond the nuclear problem (to include missile defense, cyber, space, and conventional strategic weapons among others). Opportunities for joint studies were discussed, such as research on the changing balance of power in Asia and implications for China-US relations, of which nuclear and other strategic issues are a subset. This dialogue could work on developing an agenda for a Track-1 dialogue and on fleshing out the components of President Xi's proposed “new type of major power relations” concept. Deeper discussion on developing common approaches to preventing North Korean nuclear and missile tests were endorsed by all, as was the need to better identify the major impediments to preserving strategic stability. 

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U.S.-Turkey Strategic Dialogue

Performer: Daniel Brumberg (United States Institute for Peace

Abstract: This report summarizes a track II U.S.-Turkish dialogue organized by the U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) in Istanbul, Turkey, on February 26–27, 2015. While addressing a range of issues affecting U.S.-Turkish strategic cooperation and the role of Turkey in NATO, the discussions focused on the challenges and opportunities that weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and the dynamics of nuclear weapons proliferation pose to U.S.-Turkish strategic cooperation. Participants noted that the alliance between the United States and Turkey faces serious structural challenges. Left unattended, these problems could weaken the capacity of Turkey, the United States, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to tackle a myriad of growing security and nuclear weapons proliferation challenges in the Middle East.

The performers conclude that to strengthen these vital relationships in a spirit of trust and mutual cooperation, Turkey and the United States should consider a range of steps, including the following: 

  1. Create a permanent and dedicated institutional mechanism that would provide a forum for pragmatic problem solving by Turkish and U.S. leaders and policymakers. 
  2. Support this official effort by creating a parallel U.S.-Turkish Strategic Dialogue Group consisting of Turkish and U.S. policy experts drawn from NGOs and think tanks. 
  3. Build on the progress made at the February 2015 Istanbul track II meeting by planning for regular track II meetings to be held in 2015 and beyond. 

At the core of the proposals offered during the dialogue was the recognition that it is crucial for the United States and Turkey to enhance existing mechanisms of cooperation and dialogue, and to create new avenues by which experts from the two countries can work together to address security needs in a region that is increasingly destabilized. 

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Anatomizing Chemical and Biological Non-State Adversaries: Identifying the Adversary

Performer: Gary A. Ackerman (University of Maryland - START)

Abstract: Conducted by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START), this project represents one of the most comprehensive attempts to date to identify and characterize future CB adversaries. The research team sought to improve understanding and identification of perpetrators and potential perpetrators of attacks employing CB agents using qualitative analysis, statistical modeling, and elicitation to develop a series of indicators and characteristics.

Key findings:

  • All three streams of research generated al-Qa’ida central and two of its most active affiliates, al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), as among the most highly ranked threats, as well as the Shia jihadist group Hizballah. Other groups highlighted by the qualitative and quantitative analyses include the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), Las FARC in Colombia, Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Lashkar-e-Jangvi (LeJ).
  • The qualitative analysis and elicitation methods both identified a single disgruntled actor (such as an insider scientist or technician), apocalyptic millenarian groups, and domestic right-wing groups as potential threats.
  • Contrary to conventional perceptions, all three analyses identified actors motivated by left-wing ideology as among the top ten potential threats.

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Deterrence and the Future of U.S.-GCC Defense Cooperation: A Strategic Dialogue Event

Performer: Afshon Ostovar (CNA)

Abstract: This project convened a Track 1.5 Forum between U.S. participants and their Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) peers in order to gain a clearer picture of the U.S’ Gulf Allies’ security concerns, with the goal of preventing nuclear proliferation in the Gulf. Held in Istanbul on May 6, 2015, the forum consisted of three panels discussing strategic deterrence, the perceptions of U.S. policies in the region and the future of nonproliferation in the Gulf. As a result of discussions, several key conclusions were made. 1) Mistrust in GCC countries continues to grow and a nuclear deal with Iran might worsen relations between the U.S. and the GCC 2) As a result of growing mistrust, Gulf Arab states will likely seek “parity” with Iran, though nuclear proliferation is unlikely. However, Saudi Arabia might be a “wild card” for nuclear proliferation 3) No foreign power has the capability of replacing the U.S. as security guarantor in the region 4) GCC countries desire closer relations with the United States, more advanced ballistic missile technology and the ability to develop indigenous technology.

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Military Applications of Nanotechnology: Implications for Strategic Security

Performer: Margaret Kosal (Georgia Institute of Technology)

Abstract: Nanotechnology has emerged as a major science and technology focus of the 21st century. Proponents assert that military applications of nanotechnology have even greater potential than nuclear weapons to radically change the balance of power internationally. The suggestion that nanotechnology will enable a new class of weapons that will alter the geopolitical landscape remains to be realized. A number of unresolved security puzzles underlying the emergence of nanotechnology have implications for international security, defense policy, and arms control regimes.

This research gives the first systematic analysis of this new technology’s role and significance in security and foreign policy and contributes to the development of frameworks that may be helpful in designing policy responses to address the promise and perils of nanotechnology, biotechnology, and other emerging sciences. This work reviews and analyzes the current state of nanotechnology efforts in Russia in the context of military technology development.

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Hyper-glide Delivery Systems and the Implications for Strategic Stability and Arms Reductions

Performer: Center for Nonproliferation Studies (Middlebury Institute for International Studies)

Abstract: The United States, Russia, and China are all developing advanced conventional weapons often referred to as “hyper-glide” or “boost-glide” systems. Hypersonic glide vehicles (HGV) are those that travel at more than five times the speed of sound. “Glide” in this context refers to the behavior of the system as it reenters the earth’s atmosphere. Reentry is an extremely demanding environment, but the possibility of systems that can accurately deliver conventional payloads promptly over great distances or evade missile defenses presents obvious military advantages.

Few experts have questioned the impact these new systems will have on strategic stability. To remedy this, the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) initiated a yearlong study to better understand the possible impacts of hyper-glide delivery systems. Three central themes emerged from the project: 

1) The relatively early developmental status of hyper-glide programs leaves questions of cost-effectiveness and feasibility open; it's possible these systems will prove too costly relative to their potential utility 

2) Lacking hard data and technical information, fears over hyper-sonic glide vehicles (HGVs) are impressionistic and based primarily on scanty reporting.

3) The operational considerations that would influence strategic stability are only lightly appreciated.

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U.S.-China Strategic Dialogue: Phase VIII Report

PASCC Report: 2014 008. Performers: Michael Glosny, Christopher Twomey, and Ryan Jacobs (Naval Postgraduate School)

Abstract: The eighth annual session of the U.S.-China Strategic Dialogue on strategic nuclear issues was held in June 2014. The dialogue is a Track 1.5 meeting; it is formally unofficial but includes a mix of government and academic participants. The goal of this series of annual meetings has been to identify important misperceptions regarding each side’s nuclear strategy and doctrine and highlight potential areas of cooperation or confidence building measures that might reduce such dangers. The meeting was organized around four substantive panels, a set of breakout groups on confidence and security building measures (CSBMs), and a plenary session on CSBMs. The four panels examined “Common Challenges and the Evolving Nuclear Strategic Environment,” “Developments in Nuclear Modernization and Strategic Postures,” “Managing Crises and Avoiding Escalation,” and “Evolving Views on Missile Defense.” This report examines the discussions and presentations with a focus on the narrative of Chinese perceptions and statements aired at the meeting. The report then proceeds to examine and evaluate the proposed CSBMs discussed in the breakout groups and plenary.

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News and Events

2016 PASCC Annual Report Released

PASCC has released its 2016 Annual Report, highlighting PASCC performers' research and summarizing PASCC's accomplishments and activities during FY16.

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FY16-17 Research in Progress Sheets Released

PASCC has released the list and Research in Progress (RIP) sheet descriptions for the 24 research projects and strategic dialogues selected to received FY16-17 funding through PASCC's 2015 Broad Agency Announcement. 

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2015 PASCC Annual Report Cover