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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.


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.

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