A Policy Perspective at the Fifth Key Verification Assets Fund Program Review

Frank A. Rose
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance
Washington, DC
March 22, 2016

As prepared


Yesterday, DAS Bruce Turner kicked-off the fifth Key Verification Assets Fund Program Review with two examples of current and future policy challenges the arms control and nonproliferation community faces in its effort to ensure strategic stability while bolstering deterrence.

Today, I would like to discuss the concepts of Strategic Stability and Deterrence as they apply to science, technology, and innovation as well as their implications for verification during negotiation and implementation of current and future treaty regimes and agreements.

I would like to emphasize that this is not a policy speech. This is an opportunity to exchange ideas on the vital role verification plays in making the United States and international community more secure.

Astronaut Scott Kelly recently returned from nearly one year in outer space, a record in manned spaceflight. The rigorous training regime and dangers to astronauts is well documented in films such as the Right Stuff and Apollo 13. What is less well known is that there are over 2,000 pieces of trackable space-debris traveling at hypersonic speeds threatening space-systems and even astronauts living and working at the International Space Station. The vacuum of space is already inhospitable enough for astronauts to also concern themselves with having to execute maneuvers to avoid deadly objects. Space debris resulting from tests of anti-satellite weapons or ASATs is just one emerging threat to strategic stability that drives our quest to develop verification solutions such as space-based monitoring—solutions that could contribute to a safer, more secure and more sustainable outer-space environment.

Union of Verification and Strategic Stability

First, though let me explain how verification of arms control regimes help to enhance strategic stability and deterrence.

Born of the Cold War, the term “strategic stability”, became associated with the concept of “mutual assured destruction” – the notion that the incentive to initiate nuclear use would be discouraged by the fear of suffering unacceptable retaliatory damage.

This notion, of course, is not well suited to the nuclear weapon possessing States of today or the growing complexity of multifaceted interests around the globe. My understanding of the term is to characterize enhancing strategic stability as finding concrete means and opportunities to prevent misperceptions and miscalculations between nations.

To reach this end, my Bureau is looking for technologies and other creative means of using arms control verification and compliance tools or additional measures that can help to increase transparency or predictability with other nuclear powers, especially in the broader objective of enhancing regional strategic stability.

Arms control is at a crossroads globally. The old archetype based on strategic delivery systems and nuclear tests must evolve. We are facing new challenges, such as monitoring smaller and smaller units of account—nuclear warheads, items that are inherently dual use in chemistry or biology; advanced conventional weapons are just a few of the types of things that the verification regimes of tomorrow must capture.

Ambassador Paul Nitze defined verification as follows: “if the other side moves beyond the limits of the treaty in any militarily significant way, we would be able to detect such violations in time to respond effectively and thereby deny the other side the benefit of the violation.” That is effective verification, and it is our way to guarantee that all parties play by the same rules; the world is changing, and so too is the nature of what we need to monitor and verify.

To help merge these two concepts, I have been asking myself, what new tools and methods can we incorporate into arms control verification and monitoring for all weapons of mass destruction and for the broader objective of safeguarding our national security? I am specifically interested in creative and innovative ideas about how, together, we can improve, and augment the tools needed for the verification of arms control treaties and agreements, as well as create new ones.

What are our Strategic Stability and Deterrence Goals and Verification Challenges?

Arms control treaties agreements and transparency initiatives are core to the strategy of countering this source of strategic instability. How do we get those states that possess nuclear weapons to safeguard their nuclear enterprise in a way that minimizes the risk of accidental nuclear use, proliferation, or theft?

One step is to design a verifiable agreement to tackle these obstacles. We recently established the International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification (IPNDV) to pool the energies of nuclear weapon and non-nuclear weapon states towards that end. This Partnership demonstrates a commitment to explore practical solutions to technical challenges related to nuclear warhead verification, particularly at the back end of the nuclear-weapons fuel cycle

This is uncharted territory for the United States or any other state for that matter—how to you find technical solutions under a construct that also prevents revealing proliferation-sensitive information.

While we spend a lot of time focusing on nuclear weapons, the other weapons of mass destruction—particularly biological weapons—pose even greater challenges for arms control policy, because they involve inherently dual use materials and, thus, difficult to disentangle from normal industrial or commercial processes. Advances in technology are creating a convergence of biological and chemical production methods, pushing the boundaries of our ability to verify government and industry facilities compliance with the Chemical Weapons Convention.

We need creative thinking on how to facilitate transparency in the bio sector without comprising sensitive or propriety information.

Space and Cyber Security

One my chief priorities as Assistant Secretary is configuring our Bureau to meet the emerging security challenges of the 21st Century. Unlike many of the arms control regimes governing weapons of mass destruction, rules on the use of the space and cyber-space domains are not as mature.

The President directed in the 2010 National Space Policy that we consider space-related arms control concepts and proposals if they are equitable, effectively verifiable, and enhance the national security of the United States and its allies.

We have implemented this policy by pursuing pragmatic, non-legally binding transparency and confidence-building measures (TCBMs) to encourage responsible actions in, and the peaceful use of, space.

Innovative technologies that provide insight into how States and other space actors adhere to the TCBMs, guidelines, and potential future “norms” of responsible behavior can greatly increase strategic stability. Among the areas of interest for new technological solutions are innovative concepts for space-based monitoring to complement and enhance ground-based space situational awareness capabilities, for identifying potentially harmful interference with U.S., allies, and partners space systems.

Detection of intentional or irresponsible behavior in space is crucial to our ability to determine how States choose to adhere to these TCBMs, guidelines, and norms. In the future, attribution using unclassified as well as classified capabilities may be is critical to rallying an international response to intentional or irresponsible behavior.

I would now like to turn to discuss our continuing efforts to explore the adaptation of information age tools into 21st century arms control policy, by looking at cyber security.

Arms control approaches that attempt to control or prohibit a whole class of technology based on legally binding definitions are quite challenging in the cyber arena. Information technology is inherently dual use, and as a result, classifying a particular technology as a “cyber weapon” is difficult and could result in unintended consequences for innovation, research and free-speech. Moreover, verifying the existence or intended use of a particular cyber capability would be a significant challenge.

As a result, the U.S. approach is to focus on discussion of responsible State behavior in cyberspace, rather than on limiting capabilities. While emphasizing that existing international law applies to state behavior in cyberspace, the Department of State has pioneered the promotion of a framework of shared norms based on concepts drawn from existing international law to guide state behavior in peacetime. We have also advanced the development of practical cyber confidence building measures (CBMs) to reduce risk, with the objective of establishing a coalition of states in support of that framework.

Attributing irresponsible or malicious behavior in cyberspace is one of the largest challenges. To the extent that technology can assist in attribution, it might also act as a motivator for actors in cyberspace to better adhere to international law and voluntary norms of behavior.

Connecting Verification Challenges with Innovation

Future arms control measures will require creativity, patience and persistence, and an acknowledged bond between arms control and deterrence.

Effective verification is inseparable from our overall goal of maintaining strategic stability and preventing conflict. Aiding us in overcoming these verification challenges is our Key Verification Assets Fund or V Fund Program. Congress established the V Fund in 1999 to help preserve critical verification assets and to promote the development of new technologies that support the verification of, and compliance with, arms control treaties, nonproliferation agreements, and disarmament requirements.

One of the V Fund’s objectives is to enable the Department of State to encourage organizations either to develop new technologies or to adapt existing projects to the needs of arms control verification, and proliferation detection or monitoring.

The V Fund is a form of prospecting—identifying the most target rich technologies that promotes further investment by those actors who have bigger war chests. The Department of State uses the funding as “seed money” to develop new technologies or to adapt existing projects to the needs of arms control verification, and proliferation detection or monitoring with the hope that other agencies will pick up the tab and provide follow-on support for promising projects.

I want to thank you for participating in this year’s program review and encourage you to identify innovative scientific and technological projects that meet some of the goals I have set out for you today.

I also believe that it is important that those in the verification technology community must come together to take the time to discuss some of our common interests, concerns, and missions.

Our constrained budget environment should be seen as an opportunity—not a hindrance—to work across the interagency and intelligence communities to tackle common scientific and technological verification challenges.

Thank you, and now I’d welcome your questions.