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I
Overcoming Impediments to Cooperation Between the United States and Russia: Improving Communication During Project Definition

Michael S. Elleman and Wendin D. Smith

Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc.

The late 1980s and early 1990s were witness to thawing relations between the superpowers, strategic arms reduction treaties, the fall of the Soviet Union, and post-Soviet economic instability. The last two events generated concern among policy makers and security experts that the former Soviet Union’s nuclear weapons could be inadvertently or accidentally launched against the United States or that nuclear materials or entire nuclear weapons systems could be transferred to third parties. In response to these potential threats, the United States initiated an ambitious program aimed at eliminating obsolete, treaty-restricted strategic weapons systems, and enhancing security at facilities storing and/or processing nuclear materials.

These cooperative weapons elimination and facility safeguard programs were relatively easy to identify, define, and implement. Today, however, the potential threats emanating from the states of the former Soviet Union, as well as other states in unstable regions across the globe, have evolved. Policy makers must now grapple with the more ambiguous complexities of conducting threat assessments, redirecting scientists, and securing materials at chemical, biological, and nuclear facilities around the world. Indeed, no longer can the threat emanating from the territory of the former Soviet Union be captured in a Polaroid image of a nuclear armed ballistic missile. Rather, policy makers must now commission voluminous vulnerability assessments that contain few clear recommendations on how to enhance security, let alone reduce the proliferation threat. Some scholars suggest that a crisis is impending, and many policy makers are inclined to agree; yet few new, actionable ideas have been presented for implementation. To forestall the oft-purported nuclear and/or proliferation crisis, we must put aside the obsolete 1990s model of U.S.-Russia nuclear relations and recognize the potential threats posed by the proliferation of nonconventional weapons technologies. We must define, develop, and implement programs that address today’s evolving threat environment.

A new model for cooperative nuclear nonproliferation—as well as chemical, biological, radiological, and missile nonproliferation—should comprise specific components and should be designed against a timeline ranging from (1) project identification (reaching consensus that a particular program or project should be undertaken); to (2) project definition (establishing and agreeing upon clear, joint requirements that can be used to meet project goals); and finally, to (3) project implementation, sustainability, and closeout (engaging key stakeholders and commercial or government entities to execute and sustain the project’s goals). Specific measures can and should be taken to improve project identification and implementation. In this paper, however, we focus on the second and, we argue, the most critical phase—project definition—which bridges policy directives with implementation.

Across the range of cooperative threat reduction programs administered by the U.S. Departments of Defense, Energy, and State, project definition receives inadequate focus. Instead, a project or goal is often identified by senior policy makers; government agencies and their contractors, in turn, implement these objectives with few concretely defined requirements. When the critical bridge of project definition is overlooked, the burden for developing project requirements falls to the implementing agency or, worse, the implementation contractors. Thus, implementation is often plagued by confused host nation executive agencies, unanticipated hurdles, escalating costs, sliding schedules, and, perhaps most troubling, frustrated interagency and international communications. Below, we present an argument aimed at bridging the gap between policy and implementation. The discussion is divided into two sections: (1) recommendations for and advantages of enhanced project definition, which will lead to (2) enhanced communications and confidence-building measures with our Russian partners.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR AND ADVANTAGES OF ENHANCED PROJECT DEFINITION

In the current model, high-level U.S. policy makers identify individual project objectives and then task relevant agen-



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Strengthening U.S.-Russian Cooperation on Nuclear Nonproliferation: Recommendations for Action I Overcoming Impediments to Cooperation Between the United States and Russia: Improving Communication During Project Definition Michael S. Elleman and Wendin D. Smith Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc. The late 1980s and early 1990s were witness to thawing relations between the superpowers, strategic arms reduction treaties, the fall of the Soviet Union, and post-Soviet economic instability. The last two events generated concern among policy makers and security experts that the former Soviet Union’s nuclear weapons could be inadvertently or accidentally launched against the United States or that nuclear materials or entire nuclear weapons systems could be transferred to third parties. In response to these potential threats, the United States initiated an ambitious program aimed at eliminating obsolete, treaty-restricted strategic weapons systems, and enhancing security at facilities storing and/or processing nuclear materials. These cooperative weapons elimination and facility safeguard programs were relatively easy to identify, define, and implement. Today, however, the potential threats emanating from the states of the former Soviet Union, as well as other states in unstable regions across the globe, have evolved. Policy makers must now grapple with the more ambiguous complexities of conducting threat assessments, redirecting scientists, and securing materials at chemical, biological, and nuclear facilities around the world. Indeed, no longer can the threat emanating from the territory of the former Soviet Union be captured in a Polaroid image of a nuclear armed ballistic missile. Rather, policy makers must now commission voluminous vulnerability assessments that contain few clear recommendations on how to enhance security, let alone reduce the proliferation threat. Some scholars suggest that a crisis is impending, and many policy makers are inclined to agree; yet few new, actionable ideas have been presented for implementation. To forestall the oft-purported nuclear and/or proliferation crisis, we must put aside the obsolete 1990s model of U.S.-Russia nuclear relations and recognize the potential threats posed by the proliferation of nonconventional weapons technologies. We must define, develop, and implement programs that address today’s evolving threat environment. A new model for cooperative nuclear nonproliferation—as well as chemical, biological, radiological, and missile nonproliferation—should comprise specific components and should be designed against a timeline ranging from (1) project identification (reaching consensus that a particular program or project should be undertaken); to (2) project definition (establishing and agreeing upon clear, joint requirements that can be used to meet project goals); and finally, to (3) project implementation, sustainability, and closeout (engaging key stakeholders and commercial or government entities to execute and sustain the project’s goals). Specific measures can and should be taken to improve project identification and implementation. In this paper, however, we focus on the second and, we argue, the most critical phase—project definition—which bridges policy directives with implementation. Across the range of cooperative threat reduction programs administered by the U.S. Departments of Defense, Energy, and State, project definition receives inadequate focus. Instead, a project or goal is often identified by senior policy makers; government agencies and their contractors, in turn, implement these objectives with few concretely defined requirements. When the critical bridge of project definition is overlooked, the burden for developing project requirements falls to the implementing agency or, worse, the implementation contractors. Thus, implementation is often plagued by confused host nation executive agencies, unanticipated hurdles, escalating costs, sliding schedules, and, perhaps most troubling, frustrated interagency and international communications. Below, we present an argument aimed at bridging the gap between policy and implementation. The discussion is divided into two sections: (1) recommendations for and advantages of enhanced project definition, which will lead to (2) enhanced communications and confidence-building measures with our Russian partners. RECOMMENDATIONS FOR AND ADVANTAGES OF ENHANCED PROJECT DEFINITION In the current model, high-level U.S. policy makers identify individual project objectives and then task relevant agen-

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Strengthening U.S.-Russian Cooperation on Nuclear Nonproliferation: Recommendations for Action cies to implement the program. Thus, much of the project definition is conducted by the implementer, a body often inadequately familiar with the project’s terrain, key players, risks, and political constraints. The implementing agencies are also often unaware, or poorly informed about, similar projects being pursued by other U.S. agencies or international entities. Thus, when project definition is conducted in a partial vacuum and simultaneously with implementation, many of the initial steps taken in the project must later be altered at higher cost and with corresponding schedule delays. Similarly, poor project definition can lead to confusion at the political or diplomatic level, as the host nation is sometimes left unaware of its obligations and later fails to satisfy them. As such, enhanced project definition would warrant several considerable advantages. First, projects would be implemented more quickly. For example, projects driven prematurely to implementation may require one year or more to complete conceptual designs for potential destruction facilities, to only later understand that the design would not be accepted by Russian regulatory and implementing agents. Or, being unaware of local technical norms or political sensitivities, the implementing contractor may provide an unusable design. Instead, a well-managed project definition phase would engage and build partnerships with key Russian entities, including regulatory agencies and local representatives, to deliver a defined and actionable project to implementers in a shorter amount of time. On the basis of our experience, we estimate that following this model could reduce the time required to define program requirements from the typical 8 to 12 months to 4 to 6 months, depending on the complexity of the project. Second, overall program costs would be reduced if agile entities focused on risk management and the sustainability of the defined projects. The definition of program requirements through large U.S. national laboratories or Cooperative Threat Reduction Integrating Contractors can add millions of dollars to the project cost. While these bodies are irreplaceable in project implementation, they are not focused on cooperatively engaging Russian partners to define project goals. In the short time identified above, a more refined and agile entity could define program requirements with far less than the multiple millions of dollars currently required to sustain the implementation contractor’s team. Most important, implementing a more clearly defined project would reduce costs not only for program definition but also, more dramatically, for program implementation. The third advantage of improved project definition—enhanced communications and trust—represents the strongest potential benefit to project implementation and long-term nonproliferation success. Successful project definition, conducted in a way that asks, assesses, and integrates host nation concerns and goals, would enhance communications during project implementation and would strengthen program sustainability. The multiplicity of U.S. government contractors, subcontractors, government teaming partners, policy makers, congressional delegations, and other bodies perceived to be implementing nuclear nonproliferation programs can be confusing and perplexing. Especially because many aspects of the program involve sensitive information and controlled access to facilities, such confusion can cause host nation partners to become frustrated and disinclined to remain engaged. A better model would be to invite a single, small team composed of integrated in-country and U.S. personnel who possess cultural familiarity to define the program. Sensitivity to and awareness of multiple stakeholder concerns and goals would reduce confusion, build trust, and enhance clarity in program implementation for host nation and U.S. agency and congressional partners. Finally, improved project definition would significantly mitigate project risks. One of the key products of project definition and an aspect that is essentially overlooked in current nonproliferation models is the identification of project risks across the gamut of political, fiscal, engineering, environmental, and other factors. Conducting project definition would identify risks as well as potential mitigating options, thereby reducing negative impacts on program cost, schedule, and performance. This advantage is discussed in more detail below. ENHANCED COMMUNICATIONS AND CONFIDENCE-BUILDING MEASURES Conducting robust project definition would improve interagency and U.S.-Russian communications, build trust, and strengthen program sustainability. Beyond this, however, more robust project definition could enable funds dedicated to U.S.-Russia nonproliferation to be expended more confidently. Below, we outline recommendations that will yield these results. First, policy makers must take a comprehensive look at U.S. nonproliferation goals in Russia. The disconnect between various nuclear threat reduction programs is compounded by a lack of integration within nuclear initiatives, not to mention integration with chemical or biological nonproliferation initiatives. Through the National Security Council or another appropriate body, the U.S. government needs to identify and prioritize what it believes are the proliferation threats. As part of this effort, the United States should ask Russia to do the same: establish a prioritized list of nuclear nonproliferation goals from the Russian perspective. Second, U.S. and Russian policy makers and implementing partners should discuss these perceived threats in an open dialogue. It may be true that long-negotiated arms control treaties are no longer required, but the dialogue that these elicited is still essential. For years, many academicians and policy makers have called on the United States to engage Russia not as an aid recipient but as a partner. Mutual agree-

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Strengthening U.S.-Russian Cooperation on Nuclear Nonproliferation: Recommendations for Action ment on the nuclear threats confronting both nations and subsequent consensus on their prioritization would enable smooth project implementation. For example, many in the United States believe that the focus of the 21st century should be on physical security and personnel reliability at Russian institutions. Does Russia agree? If not, U.S. efforts to enhance physical security and personnel reliability are likely to fail. The third step to enhanced communications would be to open joint project offices in each country. Currently, U.S. government nonproliferation representation in Russia consists of a handful of hard-working departmental personnel who are understaffed to support project definition and implementation. The U.S. Department of Defense Cooperative Threat Reduction programs now require on-site program managers at each project site in Russia, a requirement that should apply to all U.S.-Russia nonproliferation programs. Fourth, U.S. and Russian project managers should be briefed on the lessons learned and should integrate these lessons into the project definition and implementation phases. In most cases, the lessons learned center around risks, many of which could have been mitigated. A number of U.S. Department of Energy and Defense programs struggle because programmatic risks were not identified in a timely manner or managed effectively. These risks can be divided into broad categories that include (1) the costs associated with contract design, reporting requirements, and other factors; (2) the schedules associated with optimistic estimates for implementation and completion of program elements; (3) the technical performance associated with the capabilities of U.S. and Russian participating organizations and contractors; and (4) the working environment risk related to the different laws, traditions, motivations, and conditions in participating countries. Outside of the risk areas identified above, we recommend a focus on three lessons learned from past programs. First, the host nation must appoint an executive agent (EA) who is recognized by the affected ministries and enterprises as the arbiter of program decisions. The EA must have local, regional, and bureaucratic authority to enforce its decisions and to identify controversial issues before they affect project implementation. The project definition phase should identify all ministries, laboratories, and enterprises that will be affected by program activities; determine their roles in the program; and assess the EA’s relationship with each. The EA, working with the joint program offices, must ensure that the affected entities are aware of their roles in the project and the potential effects on their enterprise, agency, or ministry. If one or more of these entities operates outside the authority of the EA, immediate action must be taken to make them a part of the team with a stake in the successful outcome of the project. The second lesson that must be learned is that local politics and groups opposed to project implementation can impede progress or prevent success. The following actions, which can be enhanced by the proposed joint program office, can limit the potential adverse impacts of the local political environment: Inform the public of the project objectives as early as possible and identify concerns before they evolve into points of opposition. Before addressing the public, assess the local political environment, study the history of public opposition to government-sponsored programs, and determine if the public understands the program objectives. Evaluate the local government’s attitude toward the project and identify the timing of local elections. Determine if project implementation will affect elections and take necessary actions to minimize the politics of opposition, such as the creation of a public outreach program. Evaluate the relationship between the local, regional, and national governments. If there is a history of conflict, consider the impact that this history might have on project implementation. The third and final lesson is that regulatory issues and project technology compatibility must be considered in project definition and implementation. A central aspect in improved communications in the project definition phase would be to frame key regulatory issues that will affect implementation. The following actions should be taken: All regulatory bodies must be identified and relevant requirements must be studied before significant project decisions can be made. Key regulatory agencies should be visited to communicate project intentions and to identify regulatory requirements. Regulatory bodies should be central to the project definition and implementation phases. U.S. team members should understand and appreciate the analytical methods used by Russian scientists and engineers. Project managers must ensure that host nation management and scientific personnel approve of the modified approaches being considered in the implementation phase. CONCLUSION Over the past dozen years, nonproliferation programs have evolved. Today’s programs are less concerned with arms control and are focused on the more ambiguous goals of threat identification, prioritization, and reduction. The less tangible objectives of today’s programs necessitate new approaches not only to reduce cost and keep schedules but also to cooperatively develop and sustain threat reduction initiatives. Focusing on the project definition phase will improve project implementation and help the United States and Russia overcome impediments to cooperation in the nuclear sphere. Success in the familiar ground of nuclear cooperation will, in turn, bolster cooperation and threat reduction in chemical, biological, and radiological realms.