An interdisciplinary policy research center, CISSM builds the case for a fundamental transformation of international security policies by focusing on areas where current policies fail to adequately reduce risks, including: the management of nuclear weapons and nuclear energy; the local dynamics of civil conflict and post-conflict reconstruction; the effects of climate change on the risks of civil violence and nuclear instability; emerging challenges, such as cybersecurity and geoengineering; the moral dimensions of global security problems; the oversight of research with dangerous pathogens;and the use of space for security and for the public good.

The Advanced Methods of Cooperative Security Program

A powerful combination of circumstances is transforming the fundamental problems of international security, requiring a substantial redesign of policy. Threats of concern are smaller in scale than the massive deterrent operations and conventional force contingencies that dominated the Cold War, and they are also more diffuse, more embedded in socioeconomic conditions, and more difficult to identify. Effective protection against them will depend less on military firepower than on the adroit management of information. This program explores the conceptual issues that must be resolved and the operational techniques that must be developed to subordinate traditional practices of active confrontation to refined collaboration. In particular, the program focuses on contexts where the need for adjustment is clear and the logic compelling: biological pathogens, space operations, nuclear programs, and civil conflict.

A Multi-stakeholder Approach to Cybersecurity Risk Management

No country, company, or private individual can fully utilize the benefits of information technology while protecting all of their own data, communications, or computer networks from every potential cyber threat, regardless of how much time and money they invest in protective systems. Each entity must set priorities, balance tradeoffs, and make choices about cyber protection, knowing that their choices will affect others and that others’ choices will affect them, too. Minimizing the most serious forms of cyber attack, espionage, and crime without hindering beneficial uses of information technology requires skillful multi-stakeholder governance. This project includes a set of research, education, and outreach activities to facilitate that process. 

Security Cooperation with Iran: Challenges and Opportunities

The lengthy process of negotiating, approving, and implementing a nuclear agreement with Iran has underscored how Iranian relations with the rest of the world can have major effects on international security—for both good and bad. This project seeks to improve U.S. and European security policy making towards Iran by increasing public and official understanding of the concerns and perspectives of Iran’s leaders and citizens.

Nuclear Past, Present and Future Project

Nuclear weapons and materials continue to pose unnecessary risks that could be addressed by shifting global security policies away from legacy deterrence policies. Ensuring nuclear security in the coming decades will also require nations to adapt their policies in response to the challenges posed by global warming and the growth in nuclear power generation aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. To make rapid enough technical and political progress on a program that avoids both catastrophic climate change and nuclear disaster requires the major powers to fundamentally change their relationships, to reduce risks associated with their own nuclear programs, and to establish new systems to manage and secure the nuclear fuel cycle.

Civil Violence Project

In recent decades, civil conflict has become the principal source of global violence and is the arena where U.S. concerns about terrorism intersect most directly with the broader international security agenda. Yet the sources of civil conflict are not well understood. This project works to develop more sophisticated tools for analyzing the microdynamics of civil conflicts and to stimulate new thinking for policymakers on how to address their root causes, when to initiate crisis response measures, and what to do in their aftermath to assure reconstruction.

Collaborative Education and Cooperative Security

This project brings together U.S. and Russian security experts to develop courses, research projects, and interactive teaching techniques that can be used to educate a new generation about enduring problems posed by nuclear policies and emerging security problems associated with globalization. The project is a partnership between CISSM and the School for International Security and World Politics at the Institute of USA and Canada Studies in Moscow (ISKRAN)

Emerging Issues in Cooperative Security

CISSM is extending the principles and ideas developed as part of the Advanced Methods of Cooperative Security program—for example, how information management practices can help to subordinate traditional practices of active confrontation with collaboration—to a range of emerging security policy issues. Among the issues CISSM has so far addressed are cybersecurity and responses to global climate change.

Morality and Security Project

To move beyond the political deadlock that characterizes the U.S. government’s responses to a range of important global security challenges—global climate change, nuclear risks, civil conflict, and global inequity—CISSM launched its “Morality and Security” research project. A central hypothesis of this work is that engaging faith communities—religious leaders, institutions, and individual believers—in considering how their moral beliefs apply to these global security challenges will increase support for cooperative steps to address them. Preliminary CISSM research, particularly the public opinion poll, “Faith and Global Policy Challenges,” supports this hypothesis. Among the other questions that this project seeks to address are: What is the best way to activate the application of moral beliefs and values to global policy challenges? What role do faith communities play in affecting the policy preferences of elected officials and other policy makers? Can a single set of moral beliefs be applied to a range of interrelated policy issues? This project involves scholarly research, as well as targeted outreach efforts aimed at students, policy experts, and faith communities.

The Program for Public Consultation

The Program for Public Consultation (PPC) seeks to improve the quality of governance by consulting the citizenry on the key public policy issues their government faces. It conducts surveys of public attitudes in the United States and in other countries, using innovative methods such as policymaking simulations.

The Reconsidering the Rules for Space Project

A series of recent diplomatic and technological developments underscore the stark choice between competition and cooperation as the basis for space operations. Space is increasingly important to commerce in the information age, to routine military operations, and to the management of global environmental problems. U.S. advantages in military space capabilities and the vulnerability of space systems makes a competition for military control of space superficially attractive to some U.S. policy makers, though ultimately unwise. In collaboration with the Committee on International Security Studies at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, CISSM is exploring operational rules and transparency measures that could be used to balance the interests of commercial, civilian, and military constituencies in the United States and other major space-faring countries.

The Controlling Dangerous Pathogens Project

Biotechnology is perhaps the ultimate dual-use problem: the same lines of research that might help eradicate many human diseases also could endanger a large portion of humanity if deliberately misused or inadvertently misapplied. This project brings together leading scientists, arms control experts, information technology specialists, lawyers, and industry representatives from the United States and abroad to discuss the need for systematic protection against misapplications of biotechnology, and to develop a prototype oversight system in which selective disclosure and review could increase protection without banning beneficial research or imposing excessive secrecy.