Conference Theme

In today’s competitive security landscape, nuclear weapons cannot be examined in isolation from other strategic security challenges. Current and emerging challenges related to nuclear weapons increasingly cross-cut other domains, including cyber, space, and conventional war. The At the Nuclear Nexus virtual conference will include panel discussions spread out over multiple days and draw upon the analysis produced by the PONI At the Nuclear Nexus article series, which will feature medium length analysis pieces and related media examining issues that intersect nuclear weapons and other international security issue areas.

Nuclear weapons issues lie at the heart of a wide range of national and international security subject areas, such as conventional/nuclear integration as well as machine learning and artificial intelligence, cyber and space. The conference panels will go beyond the immediate nuclear community, bringing diverse subject matter expertise into the nuclear world. Panels will include some scholars from within the CSIS International Security Program and outside specialists. The conference will also feature a keynote address.

Conference Panels

Conventional-Nuclear Integration: Understanding Operations along the Conventional-Nuclear Seam – Plans, Exercises and Budget

This panel will assess budgetary, organizational, and warplanning components of conventional-nuclear integration. What tradeoffs exist between current modernization plans of conventional and nuclear forces? Which acquisitions advance further integration? How does the lack of clear firebreaks between conventional and nuclear command and control impact planning? What steps can be taken by regional combatant commands to enhance coordination with STRATCOM, and vice versa (exercises, organizationally)?

AI, Automation, and Managing Nuclear Crises

This panel will explore the potential benefits, challenges, and risks of integrating artificial intelligence and machine learning into nuclear command, control and communications. How might automation-driven decisionmaking impact strategic stability? How can policymakers mitigate unfamiliarity with decisionmaking processes and risks of unintended escalation? How will more widespread adoption of autonomous weapon systems impact crisis stability and escalation control?

Offense and Defense at the Nuclear Nexus – Missile Defense, Hypersonic Missiles and Intermediate Range Systems

This panel will assess the impact of advancing missile defense and hypersonic weapons on stability between nuclear-armed adversaries. How will increasing vulnerability of strategic forces and forward deployed systems, compressed decisionmaking timelines, and further blurring of strategic and conventional forces impact traditional thinking on deterrence and stability? What similarities can be drawn between hypersonic systems and past examples of disruptive strategic technologies—such as the ICBM and nuclear bomber? What role does missile defense play in mitigating the effects of these systems, either by reducing pressure to take preemptive action and limiting damage of a first strike, or perceptively sowing doubt in adversary minds? How might hypersonic weapons and prompt global strike impact the importance of intercontinental nuclear ballistic missiles to U.S. strategic deterrence?

Surveilance and Situational Awareness

This panel will assess the potential impact of advances in remote sensing, adoption of unmanned automated systems, and increasing intrusiveness of situational awareness technologies on stability and deterrence. How has the situational awareness ecosystem evolved? What are the potential benefits and risks of new capabilities to effective escalation management? How might real-time situational awareness capabilities counter both sub-conventional gray zone aggression and conventional preemptive attack?

Militarization of space and nuclear risks

This panel will assess the impact of increasing congestion and militarization of space on strategic stability and U.S. NC3. How vulnerable are U.S. nuclear-critical space assets, and how significantly might U.S. warfighting capabilities be degraded in the event its space-based NC3 is targeted in a crisis or conflict? Given that Russia, China, and the United States are testing new counter-space capabilities and space is simultaneously much more crowded, what approaches—between arms control, and offensive and defensive capabilities—can the United States take to protect its nuclear-critical space assets in the event that a conflict begins or spills over into space?

Registration link forthcoming.

This conference is made possible with the support of Northrop Grumman.