Biosecurity Project

I’m Michael Stebbins; my group focuses on biosecurity issues and national policy as it relates to health and biological sciences. These two areas have melded together in a number of ways since the anthrax attacks in 2001. First, there was a dramatic increase in research on bioterrorism threat agents including anthrax, tularemia, and plague. With this increase came the daunting fact that we have also dramatically increased the number of scientists who have access to and the knowledge of how to handle these agents. Second, what we have not seen is a serious commitment to increasing our nation’s public health infrastructure to handle emergencies, including the threat of a pandemic outbreak of influenza. This is absolutely essential, not just for the nation’s national security as it pertains to bioterrorism, but for all public health emergencies.

We have several active projects that address these important issues and will update you on them here. Please visit our main page for more information on the biosecurity group. Our bios can be found here.

Arms Sales Monitoring Project

My name is Matt Schroeder and I am the manager of the FAS’ Arms Sales Monitoring Project (ASMP). Since 1991, the ASMP has worked to increase transparency, accountability and restraint in the arms trade, and to end the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons. To that end, we do original research on arms trade policy issues, maintain the largest free online source of data and analysis on U.S. arms trade policies and programs, and advise policymakers, the media, and civil society on arms trade issues.

I hail from Holland, Michigan (aka God’s Country) but have lived on the East Coast for nearly a decade. I spent five years in New York City, where I worked for a couple of NGOs and earned a master’s degree in international security policy from Columbia University. I moved to DC in 2002, but still consider myself a New Yorker.

I am looking forward to sharing my thoughts (and reading your reactions to my thoughts) on the critically important but oft-ignored issues surrounding the arms trade. Defense trade controls, shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles, and small arms/light weapons trafficking are my current foci, but many other issues will undoubtedly come up.

Government Secrecy

Welcome to this latest FAS experiment in blogging. We hope it will provide you with some insight into our activities and offer us another channel for presenting our work and our observations on strategic security and everything that entails, which is… a lot.

I’m Steven Aftergood, and I focus on secrecy and intelligence policy. The two fit together rather intimately, since secrecy is a characteristic feature of intelligence. But secrecy, while necessary in many cases, also has corrosive effects. It tends to impede oversight, to shield incompetence, and, worst of all, to degrade the performance of the intelligence bureaucracy itself. That’s why the 9/11 Commission concluded that U.S. is “too complex and secret.”

Confronting official secrecy can be a daunting task, and a frustrating one. But it can be done. I put out Secrecy News, an email newsletter (soon to be a blog, too) that tracks some of the latest twists and turns in secrecy policy, and I will be plagiarizing from it here regularly. So let’s go!

Welcome to the Federation of American Scientists’ Blog

Welcome to the inauguration of the Federation of American Scientists’ Web Log on national security issues. We are very excited about this new blog.

The Federation of American Scientists (FAS) was founded by scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project to develop the first atomic bombs. The birth of the atomic bomb was, or course, a turning point in history but one that had a particular significance for scientists because of their special role in its development. The founders of FAS thought that scientists should be concerned about the social, security, and political implications of their work and should strive to make the public aware of the implications of new science and technology. The founding motivations of FAS were keeping nuclear weapons and research under civilian control, minimizing the number of nuclear weapons and their salience to national security, and emphasizing international cooperation to reduce nuclear dangers. It would be nice, 60 years after the founding of FAS, to be able to say that all of these concerns have been taken care of. Unfortunately, in many ways they are as relevant today as they were then.

The six project directors of the FAS Strategic Security Project will be the regular contributors to our blog. Each of them has contributed a brief introduction as their first blog entry. I am Ivan Oelrich, the Vice President for Strategic Security, and I will cover nuclear weapons issues, including dirty bombs, and address some conventional weapons and budget questions. I will also write on nuclear energy questions when they relate to nuclear proliferation. Steve Aftergood will discuss the needed balance between secrecy and a well-informed public. Anne Fitzpatrick’s interests include technology policy, especially computers, the National Labs, and all things Russian. Hans Kristensen will discuss nuclear doctrine and force structure. Matt Schroeder will look at conventional arms control and the international trade in arms. Mike Stebbins covers biology, bio-security, and bio-terrorism. We will occasionally invite guest contributors.

Readers will be able to filter the blog by author or subject matter. The blog will include a moderated letters section. We welcome thoughtful letters but suspect we will be able to publish only a fraction of them. We think the blog is unique and fills an important niche – the first NGO blog with overall coverage of national security written by real experts in the field. We hope you enjoy the blog; we know we are looking forward to it.