Call for Proposals: New Technologies and Nuclear Risk

RFP nuclear security

Advances in robotics, artificial intelligence, data processing, geospatial analysis, and other technologies are primed to transform, in ways that are difficult to predict, every aspect of human life—including warfare.

This rapid pace of technological change intersects with a rise in nuclear risk. No less an expert than former Secretary of Defense William Perry recently argued that “Today, the danger of some sort of a nuclear catastrophe is greater than it was during the Cold War.” With each major power investing heavily in nuclear and conventional modernization we are at the cusp of a new arms race, one that is especially hard to contain because the drivers of military advantage, from cyber to automation, are dual use and only partially controlled by governments.

The speed of war has increased and countries have acquired new ways to blind and confuse their adversaries. These evolving systems interact in unpredictable ways with nuclear arsenals and their command and control systems. In future crises, the fog of war is likely to roll in quicker and thicker than ever before.

Two years ago, Carnegie Corporation of New York launched a new research initiative at the intersection of nuclear risk and technological change. Since then, the geopolitical landscape has grown more contentious. Eastern Europe, the Korean peninsula, the Taiwan straits, the Middle East and South Asia all hold the potential for crises.

We seek research projects that combine technical and policy expertise to examine a particular emerging technology, or combination of technologies, that poses a threat to nuclear stability. For this emerging technology or technologies, the proposal should answer one or more of the following questions:

1.  How could this emerging capability lead to a new arms race? How might we manage this risk?

2.  What are the new weapons systems or capabilities that could lead to greater instability during a crisis? Will new technologies compress decision making time, undermine command and control, or otherwise increase the risks of inadvertent war or escalation? And what, if anything, can be done to mitigate these risks?

3.  Could the emergence of new capabilities reduce the risk of nuclear crisis? How might we facilitate this trend?

As with our last call for proposals, we are interested in any technological advances that might reshape the nuclear deterrence landscape, trigger an arms race, or increase the odds of a nuclear crisis. These may include advances in existing systems such as cyber, drones, geospatial and remote sensing, or ballistic missile defenses. They may also include advances in emergent capabilities such as hypersonic strike, directed energy, space weapons, autonomous weapons, biotechnology, nanotechnology, or quantum sensors.

In short, we are open to proposals related to any technology or combination of technologies that could lead to nuclear crises in the short to medium term (i.e. five to twenty year time frame). In some cases increased risks may come from these technologies themselves, while in other it will be from countermeasures these capabilities provoke. We are also open to proposals that argue that the threat posed by these systems is inflated or misguided.

Under this call for proposals, we are soliciting letters of inquiry for projects that address these questions and communicate their findings to government officials, military planners, international organizations, and/or the informed public. Requests should not exceed $500,000 in amount for two years in duration, although proposals of smaller scope are also encouraged.

Proposed projects will be assessed based upon the extent to which their work plans reflect:

•  A novel research question that has relevance for policy decisions;
•  A research design likely to deliver new insights;
•  A team with a track record of rigorous, policy-relevant analysis;
•  A well-defined outreach plan that identifies the target audience(s) and shows a path to policy relevance. Outreach should go beyond publishing a report or book, and should drive discussion on the implications of the research. (Methods might include public facing efforts like blogs and videos or might focus on expert briefings and Track 1.5/Track 2 engagements.)

While not a requirement, proposals will be given special consideration if they demonstrate the following elements:

•  Integration of international perspectives (e.g. Chinese, Russian, or others);
•  An interdisciplinary project team that has both technical and policy expertise;
•  A project team that reflects diverse political or ideological perspectives;
•  Integration of early-career and mid-career experts into the research team;
•  Multi-institution collaboration;
•  Institutional buy-in and complementary funding from other sources.

How to Apply
Please submit a letter of inquiry (LOI) with a succinct presentation of the need you have identified, the proposed solution(s), and your organization's qualifications for implementing the work. Click here for an application form, which includes the following sections:

•  Statement of need/Problem statement: What is the question you seek to answer or the problem you seek to solve? Why is this work significant? What would success look like? (400 words)
•  Organization description: What are the qualifications of key staff who will be funded by the project? (200 words)
•  Methodology: Describe the project and include major activities and desired objectives. (300 words)
•  Outreach plan: Identify the target audiences for this work. Be as specific as possible. Provide a detailed plan for reaching these audiences. If you seek to influence their attitudes or behaviors, identify these in concrete terms. (300 words)
•  Institutional buy in or complementary funding: Describe additional sources of support. These sources could internal or external. Specify whether these have been committed, contingent on funding, or are notional. (100 words)
•  Budget and timeline: A one-page outline that includes a timeline and a breakdown of costs (salaries, consultancy fees, meetings, travel, publications, etc.)

Program Restrictions
Corporation funding for this initiative is not intended to support or supplement already existing projects. The Corporation does not make grants for basic operating expenses, endowments, or facilities for individual school districts, colleges, universities, or to human services organizations. It does not generally make grants to individuals, nor does it make program-related investments.

Deadline for Applications
A first round of LOIs should be submitted no later than February 1, 2017. Before you begin your application, be sure to review the application form and read the Frequently Asked Questions. This FAQ will be updated throughout the application process.

Applications should be emailed to newtechrfp@carnegie.org.

After an initial juried review process, top-scoring applicants will be invited to submit full proposals for further review. Final paperwork instructions and deadlines will be provided at that time. Given the early internal deadlines for grant requests being submitted for consideration by the Corporation’s Board of Trustees meeting, we anticipate a fairly rapid turnaround for submission of these proposals. Approved grants will commence October 1, 2017.

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About Carnegie Corporation of New York
Carnegie Corporation of New York has been funding work on the nuclear threat for over thirty years, starting with its “Avoiding Nuclear War” program in the early 1980s. While public consciousness of the threat of nuclear war has disappeared, the threat itself has not. The Corporation remains committed to funding rigorous analysis and policy outreach on the changing nature of nuclear risks.