SGS works to understand and reduce the risks from nuclear weapons and the strategies, postures, forces and policies of the nine nuclear armed states with a special focus on the United States and Russia, which possess most of the nuclear warheads worldwide. This includes developing technical and policy options for preventing arms racing, restraining deployment of ballistic missile defenses, reducing the numbers, types and degree of reliance on nuclear weapons, ending risks from command and control systems, taking nuclear missiles off hair-trigger alert, and advancing nuclear arms control between the United States and Russia and expanding it to include China and other nuclear-armed states. SGS also does research to support the 2017 United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and the goal of the verified and irreversible elimination of all nuclear weapons and weapon programs.
SGS works to develop confidence-building measures to reduce the risks of crisis, arms racing and nuclear weapons use in the U.S.-NATO-Russian region, South Asia, the Middle East, East Asia and the Pacific. The SGS Project on Peace and Security in South Asia was set up in 1997 to provide independent technical and policy analysis to inform the South Asian nuclear debate and develop policy proposals that could contribute to easing and ending the nuclear confrontation in the subcontinent. Since the early 2000s, SGS also has been engaged in efforts to reduce the proliferation risks from Iran’s nuclear program and has worked to develop ideas to make progress towards a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction, increase regional security and stability. SGS also carries out technical research to support a diplomatic process leading to the verified denuclearization of North Korea.
The control and elimination of fissile materials (the key ingredients for nuclear weapons) is major part of the SGS agenda. This includes supporting the International Panel on Fissile Materials (IPFM) and efforts to achieve an international Fissile Material (Cutoff) Treaty to end the production of fissile materials for nuclear weapons. SGS also is developing the technical basis for policy initiatives to end plutonium and HEU production; convert naval reactors and civilian reactors fueled with HEU-fuel; and to reduce the proliferation risks from uranium enrichment plants, including through ending national control of uranium enrichment.
SGS maintains an interest in space policy and space security. These include measures to lower the risk to people and property in outer space from space debris, and reducing the chances of a costly and destabilizing arms race among space powers, including anti-satellite weapons and the deployment of offensive and defensive weapon systems in space. SGS members have also been involved in questions of NASA policy, including directions for human space flight and solar system exploration.
Verification is seen as a central challenge for effective arms control, nonproliferation and disarmament agreements. SGS works to develop novel approaches, instruments and methods that can permit minimally intrusive and adaptive verification as part of possible inspections in nuclear weapon states. SGS also develops approaches and techniques for nuclear archaeology, the emerging field of using measurements and sampling at production and storage sites to characterize past fissile material production activities. SGS is working to develop new platforms and systems that can help foster collaborative development of new approaches to nuclear arms control treaty verification, including virtual reality, interactive mapping, and the use of robots and artificial intelligence.
SGS research aims to strengthen biological security with respect to antimicrobial resistance, natural disease, and dual-use biotechnology. This includes pioneering the idea of “One-Health” based on the insight that many infectious human diseases originate in other species. These diseases of animals that infect humans include anthrax, plague, and tularemia, are also potential bioterrorist agents. SGS also plays a role in developing ideas to prevent the misuse of new biotechnology by states and by non-state actors.
Cyber & AI
SGS aims to inform the policy debates about offensive cyberwarfare capabilities and artificial intelligence (AI) and their impact on international peace and security. This work includes understanding how cyberwarfare capabilities could impact nuclear weapons command and control and delivery systems, the extent to which these cyber-capabilities could enable states to reduce the size and role of nuclear arsenals, and the implication of these capabilities for states without nuclear weapons. The program's work also involves examining the risks of AI, autonomous weapon and control systems, as well the possible role of AI in supporting treaty verification.