NSO Interns Explore the National Security Environment

The National Security Office (NSO) at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) supports the Laboratory director and other senior management in meeting LANL's national security mission by providing advice, strategic planning, guidance, and more. NSO provides the interface needed between national and international security policies and the scientific and technical capabilities used to address those policies.

For example, working with LANL's national security and science programs, the NSO monitors and studies global scientific, technical, and policy environments. NSO also maintains relationships with U.S. national security policy makers in the Departments of Defense, Energy, and State; the U.S. intelligence community; other national laboratories; and important academic and nongovernmental institutions.

To help provide the expert analysts needed for national security in the future, the NSO, directed by Bryan L. Fearey, provides internships for undergraduate and graduate students. NSO interns learn about and gain experience in the national security science and policy realms that dovetail with the Laboratory's national security mission.

The following three articles provide examples of the kinds of research and real-world experiences undertaken by NSO's interns.

NSSB

Los Alamos National Laboratory is home to the National Security Office, where interns learn about and gain experience in the national security science and policy realms that dovetail with the Laboratory's national security mission.

Ariana RowberryAriana Rowberry

The Alliance Is Changing: NATO's Evolution in the Post–Cold War World

While working with the Los Alamos NSO for the past two years, I conducted research on the evolution of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Formed in 1949, NATO served as a transatlantic military alliance, providing collective defense against the threat posed by the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact. With the end of the Cold War in 1991, NATO's traditional role effectively ended. No longer did a unifying threat exist for NATO. Recognizing that the risk of an attack on NATO territory after the Cold War was at a historical low, the alliance adapted to the new global security environment. This adaptation resulted in NATO's focusing its resources outside of the European periphery through engagement in out-of-area missions.

For the past 20 years, involvement in out-of-area missions has increasingly been NATO's paradigm. NATO has conducted four large out-of-area missions to date: Operation Deliberate Force in Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1995; Operation Allied Force in Kosovo in 1999; the mission through the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan in 2003; and most recently, Operation Unified Protector in Libya beginning in 2010. Each operation has provided NATO with the opportunity to adapt to a new security environment and evolve as an alliance.

Although out-of-area missions have provided NATO with purpose beyond the Cold War, these missions have paradoxically placed the alliance in a vulnerable position.

There have been six Strategic Concepts produced throughout NATO's history, three of these after the end of the Cold War: in 1991, 1999, and 2010. A Strategic Concept outlines NATO's enduring purpose and fundamental security tasks. The North Atlantic Council, the principal political decision-making body within NATO, adopts a new Strategic Concept when the security environment has changed substantially enough to warrant a reexamination of NATO's mission. The post–Cold War Strategic Concepts reveal an increased emphasis on crisis management and prevention. The 2010 Strategic Concept globalizes NATO's definition of collective security and affirms its commitment to "analyze the international environment to anticipate crises and, where appropriate, take active steps to prevent them from becoming larger conflicts."

Although out-of-area missions have provided NATO with purpose beyond the Cold War, these missions have paradoxically placed the alliance in a vulnerable position. Out-of-area missions have unveiled a political stratification within the alliance. During the Cold War, member states easily rallied around one clear adversary: the Soviet Union. Today, the security environment is more diverse, and the world order is multipolar, meaning there are multiple states that hold economic and political power. The way one NATO member state perceives a potential threat may not match the way another member perceives it. These incongruent perceptions have made engagement in out-of-area missions contentious within the alliance, resulting in problems with acting collectively.

Uruzgan, Afghanistan—An International Security Assistance Force soldier provides security in a village while children swarm around him in hopes of getting a small treat.
–Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class John Collins, U.S. Navy

NATO provides the public good of globalized security through its engagement in out-of-area missions, meaning that the security provides benefits for all member states. However, each member state has a contrary incentive to preserve its resources and not contribute to out-of-area missions, with the assumption that other member states, who may place a higher value on conducting these missions, will contribute more. A member state is more likely to contribute to NATO missions when its negative externality is large, that is, when the member state does not have to pay the full cost of its participation. Conversely, member states are less likely to contribute when their negative externality is small.

Each member state has a contrary incentive to preserve its resources and not contribute to out-of-area missions, with the assumption that other member states, who may place a higher value on conducting these missions, will contribute more.

While it is logical and fair that member states with great economic power, such as the United States and the United Kingdom, contribute a higher amount to out-of-area missions, there are still examples where burden sharing, with a more equitable contribution of resources within NATO, should be improved within the alliance. For instance, the United States has, thus far, exhibited its willingness to absorb the majority of the cost for out-of-area missions because of its economic capabilities. When President Obama handed control of Operation Unified Protector in Libya from the United States to NATO, it was up to the European members to decide how to best resolve economic and other collective action problems. This transition signifies a new chapter in the alliance's future.

Last summer, while I was on a university study-abroad program, the NSO presented me with the opportunity to visit NATO Headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. There I had the privilege of interviewing several key NATO figures, including Diego Ruiz Palmer, head of planning, and Jamie Shea, the deputy assistant secretary general for emerging security challenges.

I concluded that NATO's ability for long-range commitments to current or future out-of-area missions is likely unsustainable.

After my visit, I concluded that NATO's ability for long-range commitments to current or future out-of-area missions is likely unsustainable. My conclusion comes from observing that, while the future security environment cannot be predicted, it is unlikely that NATO will have the resources for future operations that would allow it to pursue out-of-area missions at levels comparable to those in Afghanistan and Libya. This lack of resources is, in large part, due to the limitation of NATO's fiscal resources and its political will to expend them, which is a function of the complexities inherent in an alliance of 27 nations that no longer face a common adversary.

U.S. Marines are briefed in the well deck of the amphibious transport dock ship USS Mesa Verde, as the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group deploys to support U.S. and international efforts off the coast of Libya in the Mediterranean Sea in support of Operation Unified Protector. -U.S. Navy photo by Seaman Josue Escobosa/Released

As NATO moves forward, it should consider undertaking internal reforms that increase transparency and dialogue between and among member states to reduce current political stratification. Externally, NATO should also seek, depending on the specific mission, to more effectively coordinate efforts with international and regional organizations such as the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Cooperation for Europe, and the Arab League. Furthermore, NATO should look to use its resources in a more economical manner, engaging in out-of-area missions that require fewer resources and are more widely agreed upon by NATO members. For example, the 2010 Strategic Concept outlines that NATO could have a role in addressing nontraditional security threats in the future, including cyberterrorism and energy insecurity.

Nato FlagWith its unique membership and comparative advantage in conventional military forces, NATO is the only alliance of its kind in the world. NATO has demonstrated through its involvement in out-of-area missions that it is able to effectively engage in international crises. Because of its unique set of capabilities, it is in the security interest of both the United States and the international community to invest in NATO's mission.

Ariana Rowberry is a junior at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, studying political science and peace, war, and defense.

Emily Cura SaundersEmily Cura Saunders

Will South Korea Develop a Nuclear Capability?

The United States offers security guarantees to several countries; in some instances these are formal and tested alliances such as NATO, in others they are more implicit understandings. As a graduate research assistant at the NSO, I focused on the topic of security guarantees, sharpening such a broad topic by looking at nuclear security guarantees in Northeast Asia.

Through two different legally binding treaties, the United States is obligated to come to the defense of both the Republic of Korea (ROK)—South Korea—and Japan, should they be attacked. These treaties include a concept known as extended deterrence. Through extended deterrence, the United States extends the benefits afforded by its nuclear deterrent to key allies. This has been a centerpiece of U.S. foreign and defense policy for decades. Therefore, the U.S. commitment to defend the ROK and Japan is underlined by a nuclear security guarantee. While neither treaty explicitly states that the United States would use nuclear weapons in the event of a crisis, it does not rule out this option. This unwritten aspect of U.S. defense commitment is seen as essential by both of these U.S. allies.

Extended deterrence extends U.S. nuclear capability to key allies. It has been a centerpiece of U.S. foreign and defense policy for decades. Therefore, the U.S. commitment to defend the ROK and Japan is underlined by a nuclear security guarantee.

There is much speculation that these nuclear security guarantees are part of what has kept the ROK and Japan from pursuing nuclear weapons programs of their own. In recent years, various U.S. administrations have reduced both the role and number of nuclear weapons in the U.S. defense posture. These reductions have made some countries covered by the U.S. nuclear security guarantees question the strength of the U.S. nuclear commitment. The question is this: Are there red lines that the United States nuclear posture cannot cross before states under the security guarantee believe it is in their best interest to develop an independent nuclear deterrent?

Two variables that could affect whether a country pursues nuclear-fuel-cycle technology (spent-fuel reprocessing and enrichment) in the hope of hedging an independent nuclear deterrent are the loss of confidence in the U.S. commitment to nuclear extended deterrence and extreme regional security threats. It is useful to turn to history to examine these variables and their effects on a country's proliferation activities in the form of nuclear-fuel-cycle expertise, nuclear weapons development, and policy rhetoric. The ROK is an interesting case study because it illustrates the complexity of U.S. extended deterrence commitments.

""

USS Pueblo incident. The USS Pueblo was a Navy technical research ship gathering intelligence on North Korea. On January 20, 1968, North Korean military vessels fired on the ship in international waters (killing a crew member), then boarded, and captured it. Crew members (82) were held captive and tortured for 11 months, then released in December 1968. The USS Pueblo is still held by North Korea and is used as a tourist attraction. It remains in active commission and is the only U.S. naval vessel in captivity. –U. S. Navy

The ROK and the United States signed a Mutual Defense Treaty in 1953, right after the Korean War armistice. Just three years later, the United States reportedly introduced nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula. While there was no mention of nuclear weapons in the treaty, their physical presence would certainly demonstrate the U.S. commitment to its extended deterrence obligation. With nuclear weapons possibly on the peninsula and a major U.S. troop commitment, the assumption was that the ROK would not feel compelled to attempt an independent nuclear deterrent. Nevertheless, in the 1960s, the ROK began nuclear-fuel- related experiments. What were the circumstances in which the ROK felt it needed to begin these experiments?

As is the case today, in the 1960s the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK)—North Korea—often provoked the ROK. There were assassination attempts on the ROK president and several other terrorist acts such as capturing the USS Pueblo, armed guerrilla infiltrations, and shooting down a U.S. EC-121 reconnaissance plane. The DPRK is pursuing similar provocations today.

Are there red lines that the United States nuclear posture cannot cross before states under the security guarantee believe it is in their best interest to develop an independent nuclear deterrent?

The regional security issues were further exacerbated by the fact that the ROK was quickly losing faith in the United States' capability to protect it. With a major war then going on in Vietnam, President Nixon created a doctrine calling for more military independence by Asian countries under U.S. protection. In 1970, Secretary of State William Rogers notified South Korea that the U.S. planned to withdraw approximately 20,000 troops. In August of that year, Vice President Spiro Agnew went further, indicating the United States would withdraw U.S. military forces completely over the next five years. The threat of these troop withdrawals confirmed the ROK's fear of abandonment. Such a drastic drawsdown certainly triggered the ROK into looking into developing an independent nuclear deterrent.

With all of these factors bearing down on the Park Chung-hee administration, in 1970, President Park established the Agency for Defense Development and the Weapons Exploitation Committee. This committee was expected to produce or acquire nuclear weapons systems and military supplies. Three years later, ROK's nuclear weapons program was well underway, with nuclear research teams and efforts to obtain nuclear reprocessing plants, associated core designs, and additional nuclear technologies from France.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates look toward North Kore

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Defense Secretary Robert Gates look toward North Korea from a guard post in South Korea's Camp Oulette in the demilitarized zone. –U.S. Army

It appears that the ROK attempted to develop nuclear-fuel-cycle technology, explore weapons development, and acquire military supplies at a time when the DPRK was particularly provocative and when the United States was preoccupied with a war in Vietnam. Could these factors again compound to inspire the ROK to attempt to develop nuclear-fuel-cycle technology today? If they did attempt this, they could do so in full compliance with the International Atomic Energy Agencies safeguards, but would this be viewed as an attempt at developing an independent nuclear deterrent by the United States or by the international community? How acceptable would these actions be to the United States, which provides the nuclear umbrella over the ROK? What could the United States do to curb potential proliferation activities, bolster the confidence of the ROK, and apply diplomatic pressure?

Smoke rises from South Korean Yeonpyeong Island

Smoke rises from South Korean Yeonpyeong Island after being hit by dozens of artillery shells fired by North Korea on November 23, 2010. This was one of the heaviest bombardments on South Korea since the Korean War armistice in 1953. –Reuters/Yonhap

These are all worthwhile questions that I plan to examine in greater detail at LANL as part of my doctoral dissertation work. The Laboratory's NSO provides an exceptional opportunity to do this kind of research. For example, one of the most fruitful experiences I had at LANL occurred outside the walls of the Laboratory. My mentor, Bryan Fearey, director of NSO, brought me to the Pentagon in July. Over the course of seven meetings, I was able to speak to high-level officials about these very important questions. The knowledge and unique insights these policy makers shared with me is absolutely invaluable in terms of both my general curiosity and for my doctoral research.

Emily Cura Saunders is a Ph.D. student in political science at Claremont Graduate University's School of Politics and Economics where she studies public policy and comparative politics. She was recently honored as a selectee to the Center for Strategic and International Studies Project 2012 Nuclear Scholars Initiative.

Peter HongPeter Hong

Assessing Current Multilateral Nuclear Approaches for Nonproliferation

While interning with the NSO, I studied the viability of and prospects for efforts to establish multilateral nuclear approaches (MNAs). MNAs broadly describe proposals to place parts of the nuclear fuel cycle under multilateral control to reduce the risks of proliferation of nuclear weapons. The proposals seek to achieve two key, linked goals: guarantee states a source of fuel and incentivize states to not pursue fuel enrichment or reprocessing capabilities.

While MNAs will not prevent nuclear proliferation by states determined to seek nuclear weapons, MNAs could help other states resolve energy security problems.

For example, supporters reason that multilateral control of the nuclear fuel enrichment process (part of the "front end" of the nuclear fuel cycle) may persuade states not to pursue their own indigenous uranium enrichment capability. This capability enables states to produce fuel for peaceful uses as well as for nuclear weapons.

MNAs can best achieve their assurance and nonproliferation goals if the widest possible group of states finds the MNAs credible.

While MNAs will not prevent nuclear proliferation by states determined to seek nuclear weapons, MNAs could help other states address concerns about energy security problems. Yet MNAs have gained little traction, partly due to mistrust between the advanced nuclear states sponsoring MNAs and the nuclear entrant states encouraged to adopt MNAs.

Current MNAs

Despite the lack of progress, MNA interest was spurred by a 2005 report from the International Atomic Energy Agency Expert Group (that included representatives from 26 countries) that examined the nuclear fuel cycle and suggested several multinational approaches to strengthen controls over sensitive nuclear materials and technologies. Its findings brought forth new MNA proposals. Renewed attention on MNAs is also in response to an expected growth in interest in nuclear energy (albeit tempered by the Fukushima disaster). These recent proposals range from creating multilateral fuel reserves (fuel banks) to establishing enrichment, reprocessing, disposal, and storage facilities under multilateral control. Demonstrating a credible and assured multilateral fuel supply could convince these states that domestic, self-controlled sensitive-fuel-cycle technology is not necessary for achieving their long-term energy security goals.

The Iranian nuclear power plant in Bushehr

The Iranian nuclear power plant in Bushehr is the first civilian nuclear power plant built in the Middle East. Iran is striving to produce and enrich its own nuclear fuel, which could also be used to make a nuclear weapon. Recent MNAs include establishing nuclear fuel banks where nations could purchase, at the market price, reactor fuel for use in their power plants and not have to produce it themselves. Creating fuel banks is part of the global effort to stop the spread of nuclear arms to nations such as Iran and North Korea. –Reuters

Significant Ambiguities

However, I discovered that many of these recent MNA proposals contain significant ambiguities that do not guarantee credible and assured fuel access to states. A lack of detailed criteria on the use of fuel reserves to limit fuel supply disruptions, on arrangements for fuel fabrication, and on ways to avoid negatively affecting the commercial nuclear fuel market are just a few of the major uncertainties in recent MNAs. Addressing these missing details is essential to convince states to rely on a multilateral fuel arrangement instead of on indigenous enrichment or reprocessing. In addition, none of the current MNAs propose solutions for managing spent nuclear fuel (the "back end" of the fuel cycle). Yet solutions to the back end may be important for MNA adoption. First, the back end ignites contentious debates within nearly all states working toward setting a national policy on spent fuel disposition. Second, no permanent commercial or multi-lateral spent-fuel alternative solution currently exists. Clearly, establishing a back-end solution in an MNA is extremely difficult.

Unique Opportunities

For students interested in nuclear nonproliferation and arms control policy, Washington, DC, is thought to be the only logical "policy" destination. As an undergraduate interested in nonproliferation policy, my research at the NSO challenges this notion. The NSO gave me an experience marked with unique resources, access to nonproliferation-policy experts resident at the Laboratory, and critical insights. This facilitated my research in nonproliferation initiatives and gave me a newfound, deeper understanding of MNAs. After spending time in Washington, I can conclude that few undergraduate policy experiences in Washington compare to the opportunities for growth I experienced at the Laboratory.

Peter Hong is a senior majoring in political science at Stanford University.

Contact Us | Careers | Bradbury Science Museum | Emergencies | Inside LANL | Maps | Site Feedback | SSL Portal | Training

Operated by Los Alamos National Security, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy's NNSA © Copyright 2014 LANS, LLC All rights reserved | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy