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Topics / Nuclear Threats

Eight Grants to Address Emerging Threats in Nuclear Security

$3 million in new grants to advance the field’s understanding of technology-driven challenges

New technologies in a volatile world could create a new nuclear arms race and increase the risk of nuclear use. To better understand these emerging threats, Carnegie Corporation of New York today announced eight new grants aimed at reducing the risk of nuclear disaster. 

Advances in cyber-warfare, artificial intelligence, precision targeting, drones and hypersonic delivery systems are challenging assumptions about the capabilities of both nuclear and non-nuclear states.

Following a competitive selection process, the grants totaling more than $3 million will support researchers from four countries and a range of academic disciplines, all focused on innovative approaches to reducing nuclear uncertainty. 

Projects receiving funding include:

  • An exploration of steps China and the United States could take to reduce cyber-threats to nuclear command and control systems;
  • An assessment of ways that advances in conventional weapon systems in non-nuclear states could affect nuclear crisis stability and alliance dynamics; and
  • A game-driven assessment of the challenge that hypersonic delivery methods pose to nuclear stability.  

“For many years, nuclear war seemed unthinkable, but that can no longer be taken for granted,” said Carl Robichaud, a program officer in the International Peace and Security program at the Corporation. “Cyber attacks, machine learning, and advances in surveillance and accuracy have created new uncertainties and compressed decision-making time. The goal of this initiative is to encourage a fresh look, both at where we are and where we are headed, so that we don’t stumble blindly toward a disaster.” 

In selecting these projects from among 50 proposals, Carnegie Corporation placed special emphasis on work that combines technical and policy expertise, brings new voices to the field, fosters collaboration among multiple institutions, and integrates early-career experts.

Proposals came from university research centers, think tanks and other organizations, and each was considered through a two-step process. Internal and external reviews included a panel of more than a dozen top experts from government, industry, and academia. 

The following institutions will receive grants:

Australian National University, Canberra, Australia: $450,000 to evaluate how advances in networked sensing, data processing, and artificial intelligence are changing anti-submarine warfare and nuclear deterrence, with a focus on nuclear risks in the Asia-Pacific region.

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington, D.C.: $450,000 to explore technical and policy steps in the United States and China to reduce the risk posed by cyber threats to nuclear command and control systems.

Center for Strategic and International Studies, Inc., Washington, D.C.:$402,000 to bring current and rising nuclear experts together to examine how recent advances in computer platforms, sensors and networks could affect situational awareness of decision-makers during crises between nuclear-armed states.

Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies, London, U.K., in partnership with the Center for Nonproliferation Studies: $430,000 to understand how the capability of  non-nuclear states, such as South Korea, to conduct precision strikes with conventional weapons could affect strategic stability. Such capabilities could affect U.S and North Korean nuclear decision-making in important ways.

Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) Solna, Sweden: $400,000 to spotlight ways that machine learning and autonomy could lead to a new type of arms race that will affect nuclear operations. The project will develop recommendations for proactive crisis management.

University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, California, in partnership with Sandia National Laboratories and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory: $500,000 to explore and analyze the implications for strategic stability of tailored effects and low-yield, high precision nuclear weapons through serious games that force national experts and university students to confront escalation dilemmas.

Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, Washington, D.C.: $250,000 to evaluate the poorly understood effects of hypersonic technology on strategic nuclear stability and on current assumptions about deterrence and nuclear operations.

Atlantic Council of the United States, Inc., Washington, D.C: $250,000 to assess the impact of computer, space, and missile defense developments on the global power balance and on nuclear stability, and to identify ways that new technologies could reinforce rather than weaken the existing international order.