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Director, Arms Control and Disarmament Agency

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Introduction by Jane Wales


Director, Arms Control and Disarmament Agency

Thank you very much, Jane. It is a pleasure to be here. I want to thank you and congratulate you and Jack Gibbons and the other organizers of this conference for the significant contributions it's making to our knowledge and our national security.

The nuclear age began 50 years ago at Los Alamos, New Mexico. The Trinity Explosion made glass of the desert sand and moved J. Robert Oppenheimer, the head scientist of the Manhattan Project, to utter the now famous words from Sanskrit poetry: "I am become death, the destroyer of worlds." Science and technology have often been cast as villains in arms control and nonproliferation sometimes by scientists themselves. It is widely believed that if we could just place a lock on the technologies of mass destruction, in the laboratory and certainly in international commerce, then we would hold the key to a safer world.

Technology denial is one important method of arms control, but I want to emphasize this morning the contributions of technology development to the same cause. As Adlai Stevenson said, "there is no evil in the atom, only in men's souls." From my seat at the national security table, science and technology are not the enemy. Instead, one of their main effects is to empower us by enabling us to make arms control effective and broaden its scope.

Partly as a result and speaking unmistakably to those who think of this work asa "Cold War relic" President Clinton, in his March 1, 1995 address to the Nixon Center, affirmed that in 1995 "the United States will pursue the most ambitious agenda since the atom was split to dismantle and fight the spread of weapons of mass destruction." I would like to illuminate the role of science and technology and arms control and nonproliferation by focusing on several leading elements of the immense agenda the President described.

Last week's tragic events in Tokyo underscore the need for all nations to make chemical weapons harder to make and easier to trace. The United States has the opportunity to lead this year in bringing the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) into force. No one step can guarantee a world without terror; as President Clinton said in his speech, nonproliferation has no silver bullet. But the CWC is a huge step forward. Without it, stockpiling chemical weapons is legal. Under it, all chemical weapons will be outlawed and their ingredients more widely and rigorously controlled.

The CWC actually resulted from a confluence of scientific wherewithal and political will. The use of chemical weapons was banned in 1925, but the Geneva Protocol that year was quickly rendered toothless, in part because the technology of chemical weapons had far outpaced the development of any tools to detect them. The problem was compounded by the fact that chemical weapons are often made from ordinary chemical precursors with legitimate uses.

New technology for example, a portable combination gas chromatograph/mass spectrometer (GC/MS) makes it feasible to detect specific compounds in small concentrations. If pared with sophisticated software, GC/MS can sniff the molecules specific to chemical weapons production and degradation, while not reporting other chemicals involved in legitimate, proprietary processes. The CWC's extensive verification regime harnesses advances already achieved, and by design leaves room for others to come an explicit assignment for scientific communities represented here today.

We have in some respects an even greater challenge in the realm of biological arms. While chemical weapon compounds are relatively distinct and unambiguous, biological weapons agents may be fragile and, with the relatively common carbon-based composition, even harder to detect. While chemical weapons usually become less lethal as diluted, biological organisms and the right host environment will multiply and spread.

These challenges magnify the role of science, as we wrestle this year with ways to strengthen and improve compliance with the Biological Weapons Convention. For detection purposes we need to pinpoint the exact genetic composition of biological agents. Already we have instruments that can find some organisms of concentrations of one in a billion; but we need even better capability to detect a range of bugs and work reliably under even dirty and mobile conditions.

There is an even cheaper and equally indiscriminate weapon that as yet has not received the scientific attention it deserves: anti-personnel landmines, which the Clinton Administration is taking major steps to bring under control. Today some 100 million such land mines are buried, but still active. At least ten new ones are emplaced place for every old one cleared; but leftover landmines kill and maim many people every day, most often children at play or farmers returning to their fields.

We are unlikely any time soon to achieve a global consensus against military uses of landmines. If all mines included self-destruct devices, then after some reasonably short period the mines could deactivate and cease being a threat to anyone. We urgently need to develop cheap self-destructing and self-deactivating components costing, say, $3 versus about $25 for those now standard in U.S. mines. Closing this gap will boost our efforts to rid the world of long-lived mines.

Finding mines is also no easy trick. Most de-mining today is done with 40-year old technology. Modern neutron probes and earth-penetrating radars could do better. One experimental infrared technique has even been directly adapted from instruments used to measure the temperature of a nuclear denotation's fireball. Although all of these ideas work, none is yet fully practical. Whoever makes these breakthroughs will have achieved an immediate human good of heroic proportions.

1995 is a momentous year for nuclear arms control and nonproliferation. Starting next month the fate of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) will be determined at its 25th year review and extension conference in New York. President Clinton has made clear that "nothing is more important to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons than extending the Treaty indefinitely and unconditionally." The NPT, now with 174 members, is increasingly valuable as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) becomes increasingly effective. The IAEA has strengthened its safeguards regime in recent years, thanks to improved measurement devices, integrative systems for surveillance and measurement, robust tamper- indicative devices, reliable communications, and other advances.

The New York conference will also focus on the NPT as an engine for scientific cooperation and commerce and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy under effective international safeguards. The United States has vigorously promoted and practiced such cooperation according preference, of course, to NPT member countries or members of equivalent regional arrangements. An uncertain future for the NPT would put at risk most peaceful nuclear cooperation and its many fruits enjoyed throughout the world, in fields ranging from agriculture to power generation to medicine.

Paranoia and selfishness cripple scientific progress; the United States is committed to keeping them out of the laboratory. The NPT's role in support of peaceful nuclear cooperation is yet another strong reason to make it last forever.

1995 is a decisive year for the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty as well. The test ban's time has come-- to ensure that there will not be another qualitative arms race, and also to restrain proliferation by denying aspiring proliferators the ability to advance beyond primitive, cumbersome devices. President Clinton has revised the U.S. negotiating position to speed conclusion of the Treaty. He has further extended the United States moratorium on nuclear tests to overlap with the expected completion of the test ban negotiations.

The meaning of this is profound: If the Conference on Disarmament does its job, we are prepared for the conclusion that the United States had already conducted its last nuclear test. For decades the chief barrier to a comprehensive test ban has not been its desirability as a matter of policy, but its feasibility as a matter of science both as to verification and to confidence in maintaining a safe and reliable stockpile. For verification, we can now build more sensitive monitoring stations to help locate and identify clandestine testing. Hydroacoustic monitoring a global network of radioactivity-measuring equipment and remote studies of likely test sites all will contribute to our confidence that the ban is being respected.

One likely component of a global monitoring system is made possible by the remarkable growth in the power and cost-effectiveness of high speed data communication links and digital computers. A proposed international data center will routinely and continuously process gigabytes of raw data, boiling it down to a form at least 10,000 times more compact, thus making it useful to treaty parties. Because nuclear deterrence remains vital to U.S. national security, we will also maintain a science-based stockpile stewardship program including sustained research and a viable base of scientific expertise in nuclear weapons design and manufacture.

For example, the Los Alamos Nuclear Physics Facility, a proton linear accelerator where physicists may recently have measured the mass of the neutrino for the first time, is being adapted to become a powerful source of neutrons that will allow us to peer deeply, and nondestructively, into the pits of nuclear weapons so that changes can be detected before the safety or reliability of the weapon comes into question.

New fast-cycling charge-coupled devices (CCD) may make possible hydrodynamic testing facilities which could make x-ray movies of the implosion of many nuclear warhead replicas. These could confirm, that even as they grow old, our existing weapons will perform correctly, but would not provide information for the confident design of new weapons.

The National Ignition Facility (NIF) could conduct experiments of great scientific value in fields closely enough related to the physics of weapons design to maintain the skills of a cadre of nuclear experts. The NIF is neither intended to generate new weapons designs nor to risk spreading nuclear weapons technology.

Another leading negotiating priority in 1995 is the global cutoff in the production of fissile material for nuclear explosives--our best hope of putting a cap on the potential nuclear programs of the so-called nuclear threshold states India, Pakistan, and Israel that are outside the NPT. For detecting undeclared activities, perhaps the most dramatic scientific developments relate to extremely sensitive environmental monitoring. No matter how careful a violator may be in conducting clandestine nuclear activities, some particles will escape. Even minute concentrations can now be detected through sampling and particle analysis. Of course, we seek further advances in this area.

1995 is also a decisive year for strategic arms control and particularly for implementation of the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) and ratification of START II. Signing ceremonies are nice, but the promise of arms control is not fulfilled until agreed reductions are made and verified, for verification has always been the sine qua non of sound arms control.

Even today when on-site inspection is routine, "National Technical Means"-- are ways to look but not touch are decisive. For example, the COBRA DANE Phased Array radar in Alaska and the COBRA JUDY ship radar, combined with the COBRA BALL aircraft, allow the United States to monitor every re-entry vehicle flown from Russian test ranges. So we know the capabilities of each Russian missile, new or old. This is a remarkable capability at the intersection of policy, geopolitics, and science.

Looking to the future, strategic stability will be even better served once we and the Russians find ways to prove to one another that not only launchers and delivery vehicles, but bombs and warheads themselves, have been eliminated. This calls for creative diplomacy and science: transparency agreement and instruments that can, for example, measure the fissile material in weapons without revealing design secrets.

That may seem like a tall order, but there is a precedent. The CARGOSCAN X-ray machines used to verify the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty allow U.S. observers to learn just enough about a Russian missile to be sure that it is not one of those forbidden but without divulging the secrets of those missiles that are still allowed.

These are just a few examples of how science advances today's rich arms control agenda. They also broadly illustrate some of the priorities of the government's new working group to coordinate research and development in arms controls and nonproliferation, which ACDA co- chairs, as well as some of the needs identified by the National Science and Technology Council's Committee on National Security.

Some of these priorities also highlight how science can be a promissory note as well as a delivered product. The prospects for development of the portable gas chromatograph/mass spectrometer I mentioned were carefully considered in the lengthy negotiations culminating in the Chemical Weapons Contention. We have learned to look to science for capabilities that do not yet exist and to expect them in the reasonable future, even if at first blush our requirements seem anything but reasonable.

We in the policy community need to keep the science and technology community aware of what we would like to do. And you, in turn, should keep us informed of your new ideas, techniques, and developments which, given the nature of science, may find valuable uses even in unintended or unexpected ways. At least, as Faraday said to the cabinet minister interested in his electricity experiments, "Someone here in Washington will find a way to tax them."

President Kennedy established ACDA seeking to drain danger from the Cold War's chill. He set his course by a star of a less heavily armed world, and sent the United States out--as he did to the moon--on a ship powered by possibilities. Today scientific advances are helping us decide not just how to formulate and verify arms control agreements, but whether to do so in certain areas. They give us a richer array of policy choices. They allow us realistically to pursue forms of arms control which, even just recently, were beyond reach. It has been said that arms control is often rocket science. In fact, I have said it more than once recently in defending an independent expert agency for arms control. This morning really has been a return to perhaps the central nexus in my field, between policy, law, negotiation, and science. As it is rocket science, arms control is also national security in Secretary Perry's apt phrase, "defense by other means." It is a source of national strength fortified by science.

This room will be filled today with men and women of tremendous intellect and good will. It is exciting to think that this forum may well spur some to apply science and technology to arms control in a way that protects peace, prevents suffering, and makes our lives at once more civilized and more secure. The technology of destruction marches ever onward. Human nature almost guarantees it. Our task is to contain and counter that trend with a greater one. No less than their colleagues who find the cure for AIDS or cancer, the scientists and engineers who help the tools of peace prevail over the instruments of war will be heroes.

That science and technology help us should come as no surprise. The products of science and technology computers, their networks, CNN, and fax machines are already paving the way to a world of more open markets, open societies, open possibilities. Arms control is part of this overarching trend of engagement. As the President and his National Security Team have emphasized, this work serves not to isolate us, but fulfill and deepen our engagement in the world. Aided by science, arms control can help us build the kind of world that is in our deepest interests a world where nations are valued not so much for the arms they keep, but for the commitments they keep to other nations and to their own people. Thank you very much.

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