Douglas B. Shaw
at the U.S. Department of Energy’s
Next Generation Safeguards Initiative Human Capital Development Conference
hosted by Los Alamos National Laboratory in cooperation with
August 10, 2009
This spring, the celebrated deterrence theorist and historian of nuclear strategy Sir Lawrence Freedman visited the Elliott School and observed an imperative for higher education to respond to a “lost generation” of nuclear weapons specialists. Others have made similar observations.
In explaining his decision to host a July 2009 conference on “Waging Deterrence in the 21st Century,” General Kevin Chilton, commander of the U.S. Strategic Command, observed “I think we have allowed an entire generation to skip class, as it were, on the subject of strategic deterrence.”
Jim has asked me to address faculty goals and resource needs for nonproliferation and safeguards education. I will approach this task by reflecting on the four basic goals Jim identified in his paper. First, the interdisciplinary character of nonproliferation; second, the need to confront real-world problems; third, empowering students to balance the costs and benefits of nuclear technology; and finally, the incorporation of experiential learning. These are just a few ideas and my only pride in suggesting them is that the audience assembled to receive them is so capable of improving upon them.
“complex and interconnected, spilling across academic disciplines and often across national borders. Solutions will require theoretical knowledge and practical problem-solving skills, including the capacity to build and lead teams drawn from a variety of disciplines. This will require leaders who can cross boundaries of science, policy, geography, theory, and practice.”
Needless to say, $15 million is important among my suggestions for resources needed to stimulate new teaching for nonproliferation, but I suspect this effort has more to teach us about the integrative work of connecting our disciplinary perspectives into the formation of future nuclear security professionals. The Next Generation Safeguards Initiative could convene a discussion to define the future professions necessary for nuclear security and seed the establishment of model professional degree programs to support them, support a network of schools offering these types of programs, and regularly convene meetings like this one to establish a network of faculty teaching on nonproliferation and alumni who have received this training, perhaps forming the core of new professional organizations. These efforts should leverage other networks already under development, such as the United Nations annual reporting on Nonproliferation and Disarmament Education, the efforts of the International Association of University Presidents, and the work of pioneers in this field, particularly including the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.
He approaches this problem through the creation of flagship courses, one on human rights and another on ethics and global development designed to get students talking about these value-laden topics outside the classroom by making them more visible and widening student interest.
High-profile speakers – like the Secretary of Energy or the White House Science Advisor – touring campuses would raise student awareness considerably. Awards and essay competitions – like the one that got Hans Blix interested in the field – have impacts that extend through time and beyond their winners. These kind of efforts hold promise for shifting the curve of awareness up across entire student bodies and widening the conversation to include ethical and political considerations in the uncontrolled real world with information and theoretical frameworks reliably supplied in the classroom.
Guest speakers with real world experience – nonproliferation and safeguards are extraordinarily complex topics and many key documents are dry and difficult to teach – the Additional Protocol is one example of critical document that is difficult to teach because it is obtuse and boring to read. Sharing lived experiences can contribute to deeper student engagement.
Multimedia – different people learn differently; unfortunately individual faculty have limited capacity to develop diverse teaching resources themselves. I recall when I was at the Department of Energy I had the opportunity to use a CD-ROM training program called Nuclear Material Control and Accounting 101. This particular resource might not be appropriate for general distribution, but something similar could be produced and even made available online and would provide a multi-media learning opportunity for my students that I could not produce on my own.