Research

An interdisciplinary policy research center, CISSM builds the case for a fundamental transformation of international security policies by focusing on areas where current policies fail to adequately reduce risks, including: the management of nuclear weapons and nuclear energy; the local dynamics of civil conflict and post-conflict reconstruction; the effects of climate change on the risks of civil violence and nuclear instability; emerging challenges, such as cybersecurity and geoengineering; the moral dimensions of global security problems; the oversight of research with dangerous pathogens;and the use of space for security and for the public good.

The Advanced Methods of Cooperative Security Program

A powerful combination of circumstances is transforming the fundamental problems of international security, requiring a substantial redesign of policy. Threats of concern are smaller in scale than the massive deterrent operations and conventional force contingencies that dominated the Cold War, and they are also more diffuse, more embedded in socioeconomic conditions, and more difficult to identify. Effective protection against them will depend less on military firepower than on the adroit management of information. This program explores the conceptual issues that must be resolved and the operational techniques that must be developed to subordinate traditional practices of active confrontation to refined collaboration. In particular, the program focuses on contexts where the need for adjustment is clear and the logic compelling: biological pathogens, space operations, nuclear programs, and civil conflict.

A Multi-stakeholder Approach to Cybersecurity Risk Management

No country, company, or private individual can fully utilize the benefits of information technology while protecting all of their own data, communications, or computer networks from every potential cyber threat, regardless of how much time and money they invest in protective systems. Each entity must set priorities, balance tradeoffs, and make choices about cyber protection, knowing that their choices will affect others and that others’ choices will affect them, too. Minimizing the most serious forms of cyber attack, espionage, and crime without hindering beneficial uses of information technology requires skillful multi-stakeholder governance. This project includes a set of research, education, and outreach activities to facilitate that process. 

Security Cooperation with Iran: Challenges and Opportunities

The lengthy process of negotiating, approving, and implementing a nuclear agreement with Iran has underscored how Iranian relations with the rest of the world can have major effects on international security—for both good and bad. This project seeks to improve U.S. and European security policy making towards Iran by increasing public and official understanding of the concerns and perspectives of Iran’s leaders and citizens.

Nuclear Past, Present and Future Project

Nuclear weapons and materials continue to pose unnecessary risks that could be addressed by shifting global security policies away from legacy deterrence policies. Ensuring nuclear security in the coming decades will also require nations to adapt their policies in response to the challenges posed by global warming and the growth in nuclear power generation aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. To make rapid enough technical and political progress on a program that avoids both catastrophic climate change and nuclear disaster requires the major powers to fundamentally change their relationships, to reduce risks associated with their own nuclear programs, and to establish new systems to manage and secure the nuclear fuel cycle.

Re-evaluating Space Security

Recent technological and geopolitical developments underscore again the need to balance a desire to preserve complete freedom of action and widely accepted governing rules as the basis for space operations. This project explores what has changed, and what has not, since George W. Bush’s quest for U.S. military space dominance first prompted CISSM to consider whether the United States could use its huge military advantages in space to achieve reliable security for itself and its allies, or if the stability, security, and safety of space operations required more equitable cooperation among all stakeholders.

Civil Violence Project

In recent decades, civil conflict has become the principal source of global violence and is the arena where U.S. concerns about terrorism intersect most directly with the broader international security agenda. Yet the sources of civil conflict are not well understood. This project works to develop more sophisticated tools for analyzing the microdynamics of civil conflicts and to stimulate new thinking for policymakers on how to address their root causes, when to initiate crisis response measures, and what to do in their aftermath to assure reconstruction.

The Program for Public Consultation

The Program for Public Consultation (PPC) seeks to improve the quality of governance by consulting the citizenry on the key public policy issues their government faces. It conducts surveys of public attitudes in the United States and in other countries, using innovative methods such as policymaking simulations.

The Controlling Dangerous Pathogens Project

Biotechnology is perhaps the ultimate dual-use problem: the same lines of research that might help eradicate many human diseases also could endanger a large portion of humanity if deliberately misused or inadvertently misapplied. This project brings together leading scientists, arms control experts, information technology specialists, lawyers, and industry representatives from the United States and abroad to discuss the need for systematic protection against misapplications of biotechnology, and to develop a prototype oversight system in which selective disclosure and review could increase protection without banning beneficial research or imposing excessive secrecy.

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

This project began with the intention of exploring the role of missile defense in extended deterrence and nonproliferation worldwide. However, era-changing events in Europe, notably the Russian aggression in Crimea and Ukraine, mandated a core shift in the project’s focus. As a result, the project became more oriented toward Europe. As U.S.-Russia tensions continued to escalate and NATO allies searching for greater reassurance, missile defense—relegated to the back burner since the end of the Cold War—again took center stage. Familiar debates about the technical efficacy of missile defense, its role in assuring allies, and the potential for undermining strategic stability reemerged in today’s more complex security environment with a sense of greater urgency than at any time in the last 25 years. 

U.S.-Russian Security Relations

Research, outreach, and educational programming to assess and fundamentally improve U.S-Russian security relations. The project’s specific areas of interest include nuclear weapons policy, internal and external political stability in Europe, missile defense, and cybersecurity.