The role that nuclear weapons play in international security has changed since the end of the Cold War, but the need to maintain and replenish the human infrastructure for supporting nuclear capabilities and dealing with the multitude of nuclear challenges remains essential. Recognizing this challenge, CSIS launched the Project on Nuclear Issues (PONI) in 2003 to develop the next generation of policy, technical, and operational nuclear professionals through outreach, mentorship, research, and debate. PONI runs two signature programs—the Nuclear Scholars Initiative and the Annual Conference Series—to engage emerging nuclear experts in thoughtful and informed debate and research over how best to address the nuclear community’s most pressing problems. The papers included in this volume comprise research from participants in the 2016 Nuclear Scholars Initiative and the PONI Conference Series. PONI sponsors this research to provide a forum for facilitating new and innovative thinking and to provide a platform for emerging thought leaders across the nuclear enterprise. Spanning a wide range of technical and policy issues, these selected papers further serious discussion in their respective areas.
Table of Contents
Click on link to jump to section summary.
The global security landscape has become increasingly multifaceted, dynamic, and unpredictable across the spectrum of conflict. This is easily apparent in what many consider a foundation of the United States’ security posture: rapid global strike. Following the end of the Cold War, national security scholars and practitioners prioritized conventional warfare within global strike, allowing the equally significant role of nuclear warfare to atrophy. Emerging twenty-first century security realisms will not afford the United States the luxury of ignoring issues and challenges prsent in constructing and executing full-spectrum global power missions. A re-analysis of operational readiness and human capital methodologies, view through a dual-doctrine1 lens, is required to ensure a global strike force prepared for next generation combat and deterrence.
Jared Dunnmon | Nuclear Command and Control in the Twenty-First Century: Maintaining Surety in Outer Space and Cyberspace
Cyber vulnerabilities in the space-based component of U.S. nuclear command, control, and communications (NC3) systems represent a significant risk to ensuring continuing nuclear stability. This paper examines emerging threats to the surety of the U.S. nuclear deterrent resulting from asymmetric threats to space-based assets from actors in the cyber domain, and considers how responses to such threats could be framed in terms of the laws of armed conflict. Several scenarios are developed to demonstrate both the immediacy and the inherent difficulty of operational problems that could result from current NC3 architectures. Finally, distinct sets of recommendations spanning both technology and policy domains are developed with the goal of reducing the possibility of nuclear destabilization caused by a cyber attack on U.S. NC3.
This paper examines potential Japanese ballistic missile defense (BMD) policy options within their recent military normalization process. The purpose is to recommend the United States encourage specific policies explored by Japanese officials in order to improve U.S.-Japanese defense cooperation. Japanese efforts will have a significant effect on regional security dynamics and the U.S.-Japanese defense relationship. As such, it is beneficial for the United States to support those Japanese endeavors that offer the most potential for security in a dynamic region.
This analysis will also consider the parallel development of nuclear delivery systems from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as the context that instigates Japanese-American ballistic missile defense improvements. Using data from a literature review and interviews with Japanese and U.S. defense officials, academic experts, and policymakers, this study evaluates options for BMD improvements. These potential improvements are assessed against metrics based on regional security risks, benefits to the U.S.-Japan alliance, and the feasibility of the programs.
Through this analysis, three recommendations are produced: outfitting existing Japanese destroyers with the Aegis Weapon System (AWS) platform, continuing U.S.-Japanese joint development of the SM-3 Block IIA missile, and opposing expansion of the Sea-Based X-Band Radar (SBX) program. Together, these policies would strengthen U.S.-Japanese BMD cooperation, counter rising regional threats, and avoid alarming other regional powers.
Modeling and simulation tools are key to understanding nuclear effects across the nuclear enterprise. From nuclear treaty monitoring to strategic planning, scientists and engineers use models to answer the questions of policy leaders and decisionmakers. As the community moves to build on legacy systems with modern computing technology, they must collaborate to create informative tools for end users beyond complex code development. Whether looking to understand employment of U.S. weapons or being prepared to detect a terrorist nuclear attack, the science is the same. Collaborating on development of nuclear effects tools is the only way to close technology gaps and ensure decisionmakers are informed in increasingly complex environments.
How did the conventional military dominance that the United States demonstrated during the First Gulf War shape its post–Cold War nuclear policy? In analyzing the nuclear lessons of the Gulf War, this paper investigates how conventional warfare shapes states’ nuclear postures and strategies more generally. Nuclear-armed states frequently conduct conventional military operations. Yet, in emphasizing the categorical difference between nuclear and conventional weapons, existing scholarship largely overlooks the influence of conventional warfare on nuclear strategy. Based on examination of primary and secondary sources, as well as interviews with participants, I find three types of nuclear lessons learned from the Gulf War. First, the most important nuclear lessons were the danger posed by regional powers’ nuclear proliferation, and the United States’ insufficient tools to counter this proliferation. Second, the Gulf War convinced policymakers that precise conventional systems could increasingly substitute for nuclear systems, though changes in nuclear strategy reflect the end of the Cold War as well as the lessons of Desert Storm. Finally, there is incomplete evidence that the Gulf War changed the United States’ approach to conflict escalation. Cumulatively, these findings substantiate my conclusion that conventional warfare can change the way states view the utility and efficacy of their nuclear arsenals, as evidenced by modification of states’ nuclear posture and strategy.
As an effort to manage conflict at higher levels of escalation, Russian strategists have begun to analyze how to leverage advanced conventional tools to impose costs and de-escalate hostilities without crossing the nuclear threshold. Termed pre-nuclear deterrence, this strategy relies on the threat of escalation to radically transform the nature of a conflict and compel an opponent to manage hostilities. Looking to convey resolve and risk in the hopes of sustaining advantage—or avoiding defeat—in an escalating conflict, Russia may well see nonnuclear options that have the potential to achieve strategic results as a more tolerable escalation option than recourse to the limited use of nuclear weapons. This paper will review pre-nuclear deterrence and how it may be operationalized using a framework derived from Russian military journals and influential writings, and offer modest North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) force posture proposals to deal with this emerging challenge.
Sarah Shirazyan | Combatting WMD Terrorism: Law, Politics, and Flexibility of the UN Security Council Resolution 1540
Whether it is Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants using mustard agents against Kurdish forces, Islamic extremists in Paris trying to obtain radioactive materials from Belgian nuclear facilities to make a dirty bomb, or a group of middlemen trafficking highly enriched uranium through Moldova, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) remains a serious threat to international peace and security. To address this threat, in 2004, the United Nations (UN) Security Council enacted an unprecedented counterproliferation instrument—Resolution 1540. To facilitate and monitor countries’ domestic implementation of the resolution, the Council also established an ad hoc subsidiary body—the 1540 committee—consisting of all members of the council.
This paper analyzes how the UN Security Council defined and interpreted its 1540 legal mandate to accommodate competing political pressures and organize the global fight against WMD terrorism. By examining the Resolution 1540’s inception and the early strategic choices of the 1540 committee, this paper describes how institutions change at a time of great crisis. The analysis shows that the committee has chosen not to become a UN sanctions regime, either in the name of nonproliferation or counterterrorism. Instead, from the very beginning, it shaped its identity as a voluntary and cooperative mechanism. While the cooperative character of the committee generated a strong political consensus among UN member states for supporting Resolution 1540’s goals, this institutional design has also placed some limits on the United Nations’ ability and resources to identify and close transnational proliferation gaps.
The Stuxnet virus set off alarm bells all over the world when it was discovered in 2010. Many observers viewed this unprecedented cyber attack on a nuclear facility as the dawn of the age of cyber war—“the keystroke heard ’round the world.”
Stuxnet also had significant implications for nuclear security. The attack revealed a troubling reality: in the future, cyber weapons could be used against nuclear facilities to achieve consequences far more serious than those observed at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility in Iran.
Terrorist groups have stated their desire to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Cyber weapons provide a new attack vector for groups determined to achieve this goal. Security and surveillance systems can be hacked to mask the theft of weapons-usable nuclear materials, or vital control systems can be compromised, potentially leading to a serious radiological release. Given repeated recent discoveries of malware—targeted or otherwise—at nuclear facilities, it is not impossible that malicious actors could gain access to these systems.
Stuxnet was an extremely precise weapon deployed against a highly secure facility for a very limited purpose. At no point were human lives or the environment in danger. However, this will not always be the case. With the code for Stuxnet now widely available online, it may only be a matter of time before a group intending to cause harm deploys a less discriminate weapon against a less secure, higher-consequence target like a nuclear power plant or nuclear materials storage facility.
The international community must learn from Stuxnet’s lessons to prevent such an outcome.
The South China Sea is a point of tension between China and its neighbors due to the sea’s natural resources and key maritime shipping routes. Friction continues to grow as China engages in island-building and conducts naval patrols in these contentious waters, while the United States seeks to promote freedom of navigation and support allies by conducting its own patrols and surveillance activity. China’s People’s Liberation Army (Navy) (PLAN), in an effort to modernize its sea-based deterrent, is investing in its strategic ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) fleet. This paper will consider the role of the South China Sea in China’s maritime strategy, specifically whether it will serve as a route for an open-ocean deployment strategy or bastion for PLAN SSBNs. I will draw from the writings of nuclear scholars to discuss how China’s investment and deployment of SSBNs might impact nuclear deterrence between China and the United States. This paper will also examine the impact on Sino-Indian nuclear deterrence, considering India’s presence as both a maritime and nuclear power in the Pacific region. The paper will conclude by exploring options for confidence-building measures that will minimize the risk of conflict escalation between these three nuclear powers.
Tracey-Ann Wellington | The Impact of the Proliferation Security Initiative on the Interdiction of Weapons of Mass Destruction
The Proliferation Security Initiative, created in 2003, does not directly create new international authorities, but does encourage further development of international legal structures that support national interdiction activities, and encourages countries to create national laws that do so as well, with the overall goal of detecting and criminalizing the trafficking of WMD-related materials, equipment, and technology. Currently, 105 countries have committed to the initiative. As states tackle the continually growing issue of the trafficking of WMD-related commodities, new tactics have to be considered. The results show that there are ample national authorities being created and amended by the PSI endorsing states, but levels of implementation vary.
Rachel Wiener | The Impact of Hypersonic Glide, Boost-Glide, and Air-Breathing Technologies on Nuclear Deterrence
This paper compares and contrasts the current state of U.S. hypersonic missile technology with Russian and Chinese hypersonic activities and associated nuclear modernization programs. The U.S. hypersonic program, which is disassociated from its own nuclear modernization program, is similarly outlined. This paper also analyzes the dynamics of Russian and Chinese countermoves in response to U.S. antiballistic missile defense deployment. Current U.S. approaches to strategic defense are assessed in light of near-peer activities and several possible courses of action for U.S. policymakers are identified. The overarching conclusions are that the United States should modify its current policy on hypersonic missile armaments, develop countermeasures for hypersonic glide and hypersonic boost-
glide vehicles, and work toward the establishment of international norms for the development, deployment, and use of hypersonic weapons; if it does not deploy nuclear armaments on hypersonic delivery vehicles, the United States risks losing the benefits of an effective nuclear deterrent.