Arms Control Projects - Since 1960

From 1960 to now, the Academy has convened experts in both theory and practice to provide analysis and advice to both reduce the risk of nuclear war and enhance national security. 

Arms Control, Disarmament and National Security: 1960-1961

The Academy convened a program of conferences and studies that led to the seminal 1960 special issue of Dædalus on arms control, which President John F. Kennedy subsequently called the “Bible” on the subject. The volume was designed to provide a comprehensive analysis of arms control as a means of reducing the risk of nuclear war and improving national security. Read extensively by scientists and government leaders, this report helped fashion an intellectual framework for the fledgling area of nuclear weapons arms control. The authors hoped the compendium of knowledgeable and responsible opinion would inform and stimulate work necessary to move toward a more peaceful world. Since publication of that Dædalus issue, and its subsequent publication in book form, the Academy has remained a leading source of scholarship in the study of nuclear nonproliferation and international security challenges.                   

Japanese-American Relations: 1967-1974      

This project brought together American and Japanese scholars and decision-makers to discuss the security problems of East Asia and the Western Pacific. Participants met five times over several years, in the United States and in Japan. Among the topics examined were: Japan’s security problems and defense forces; the nonproliferation treaty and its impact on Japan and other non-nuclear nations; Japanese-U.S. relations with respect to security and economic development; China’s impact on Japanese-U.S. relations; and analysis of Asian security situations. Final papers were assembled in a book on Japanese-U.S. relations in the 1970s.                 

The Future of the Submarine-based Deterrent: 1972-1973    

This project responded to growing concern over new developments in the Soviet-American nuclear competition. The Academy convened a conference to examine the emerging belief that the present second-strike, and thus deterrent, capabilities of missile-carrying nuclear submarines could be eroded by technological advances in strategic antisubmarine warfare. If so, this would threaten the stability between the U.S. and the Soviet Union created by the then-new 1972 Strategic Arms Limitation Talks, and initiate a new spiral in the arms race. The resulting book examines the various aspects of the future of the sea-based deterrent to insure that future discussions of these issues can be undertaken intelligently by specialists and laymen.                    

New Directions in Arms Control: 1972-1975

By the early 1970s, much of the conceptual base for arms control efforts remained grounded in the Academy’s 1960 project and special issue of Dædalus on arms control. Little attention had been given to questions about the basic purpose of arms control efforts in light of substantial changes, such as growing détente, in military technology and the political context over the previous 10 years. In 1972, an Academy steering committee organized a study on new directions in arms control. Participants critically reviewed past developments and future trends in the evolution of military technology, strategic doctrine, domestic and economic determinants of arms policies, and the impact of international political developments and international negotiations upon arms decisions.

International Arrangements for Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing: 1975-1977        

From the beginning of the atomic age, nuclear energy and nuclear weapons have been interconnected. Every country that acquires a reactor has taken a step, at least potentially, toward nuclear weapons capability, despite the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons of 1968. Therefore, the spread of reprocessing facilities under the control of countries not now possessing nuclear weapons has become a matter of international concern and controversy. The Academy co-sponsored a multidisciplinary symposium focused on the technical, political, and economic issues surrounding multinational control of the nuclear reactor fuel cycle. The resulting volume evaluates the advantages and disadvantages of placing reprocessing facilities under international or multinational control.        

The European Security Study ESECS: 1981-1985     

This study addressed an urgent issue: How can NATO improve its conventional weapons capacity to enhance its deterrent to aggression and lessen its dependence on possible early use of nuclear weapons? The project’s leaders assembled a large group of Americans and Europeans with experience in government, the military, defense analysis, and international relations. Participants determined that the central purpose of NATO is to maintain peace and political stability in the North Atlantic Treaty area, and to protect its members against military aggression or intimidation by the Soviet Union. The project showed that while NATO should continue to have nuclear weapons as a component of its deterrent, it must improve its conventional capabilities to avoid reliance on the early use of nuclear weapons in resisting any Soviet conventional aggression. The project resulted in two publications, one suggesting proposals for strengthening European security and the other developing a specific program for improved conventional weapons capabilities.

The Nuclear Weapons Freeze and Arms Control: 1982-1983

This conference had its origins in the divergence that was clearly taking place in 1982 between the traditional arms control community and the freeze movement. Much of the arms control community viewed the freeze movement with skepticism and insisted that what was proposed would require many years at best, thereby robbing the freeze supporters of the expectation of quick and visible results that fired their movement. This 1983 conference at the Academy brought together freeze proponents, arms control specialists, government officials, and public interest group leaders in the hope that some differences could be resolved, the essential issues identified, and an agenda of work formulated. The proceedings were subsequently published.

Weapons in Space: 1983-1986

In response to a 1983 speech by President Ronald Reagan, the U.S. military and scientific communities offered to study the science of defense against nuclear weapons. The Department of Defense had established a major new program, the Strategic Defense Initiative, to support a greatly expanded research program designed to avoid nuclear destruction. This so-called Star Wars proposal meant bringing weapons to space and required a change in U.S. strategy from the retaliatory nuclear deterrence model for defending against nuclear attack to an untried system dependent on new technologies of uncertain capabilities and reliability. Participants in this Academy project attempted to deal constructively with the principal issues raised by the SDI. The resulting report, initially published as a double-issue of Dædalus, does not reach conclusions about the desirability or feasibility of the SDI; rather, it presents favorable, opposing, and skeptical views about the relevant scientific, technological, strategic, and political issues involved.       

Strategic Defenses and Space Weapons: 1985-1987   

This London symposium examined the nature and implications of participation by Western European countries in the Strategic Defense Initiative being undertaken by the United States. The resulting book reviews the technological prospects and limitations of defenses against ballistic missiles, the positions of the U.S. and Soviet governments regarding such defenses, and the reactions of European governments to recent developments on this issue. Particular attention is given to the potential impacts of strategic defense programs on the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, and the effects of such programs on the nuclear arms race, on the weaponization of space, and on the chance of nuclear war.                  

Crisis Stability and Nuclear War: 1985-1988 

A study group composed of policy figures, military experts, and policy analysts studied such issues as the technical and political aspects of the U.S. and Soviet command and control systems over nuclear forces; the devolution and delegation of authority to use nuclear weapons; and the synergistic effects of U.S. and Soviet actions during a crisis. The final report included discussion of how the two nations can maintain stability during a crisis.  

European Missile Defenses: 1985-1988          

This study addressed the question: Does Europe need missile defenses and against what manner of threat? This question was the cause of considerable turmoil and disagreement within NATO; the issues it raised were so complex and interlinked with other questions that the Allies found it difficult to reach a consensus. The authors examined the political and technical aspects of missile defenses, as well as the implications of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Agreement and the U.S. Strategic Defense Initiative.                 

Defending Deterrence: 1986-1989      

Managing the ABM Treaty Regime into the 21st Century: This study analyzed ways in which the underlying objectives of the 1972 Antiballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. could continue to be realized in the future. Participants reviewed the underlying concepts and goals of the ABM Treaty, especially with a view to making the treaty regime adaptable to both future technological developments and possible reductions in offensive nuclear forces, and to providing more effective mechanisms for settling compliance disputes. The resulting volume contains a foreword by U.S. Senator Sam Nunn, then chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services.             

The Tritium Factor: 1988-1989          

The Academy co-sponsored a workshop to explore the feasibility of the United States and the Soviet Union agreeing to halt production of the radioactive, warhead-boosting agent tritium and to pace steady, significant reductions in their arsenals at the relatively rapid rate of tritium’s decay – the so-called “tritium factor.” U.S. nuclear reactors authorized to produce tritium were closed because of safety and environmental contamination. Some argued that the impending lack of tritium threatened the deterrent capability of the United States; others saw the termination of production as an opportunity to formally negotiate an arms control measure. The book presents an exploration of these different security philosophies and their implications.      

21st Century          

Learn about the Academy's current projects

The Global Nuclear Future

Meeting the Challenges of the New Nuclear Age