Executive Summary

The International Science and Technology Center (ISTC) was established to help address a perceived crisis that was created by the dissolution of the Soviet Union—that is, the threat of a large exodus of scientists and engineers with knowledge and experience in the development of weapons of mass destruction. The primary objective of the ISTC, as stated in the agreement establishing it, is to “give weapons scientists and engineers, particularly those who possess knowledge and skills related to weapons of mass destruction or missile delivery systems, in the Russian Federation and, if interested, in other states of the CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States] and Georgia, opportunities to redirect their talents to peaceful activities.”1 By providing opportunities for scientists and engineers to work on problems unrelated to weapons, the ISTC's founding parties hoped to reduce the incentive for these scientists and engineers to sell their knowledge and experience to unfriendly governments or organizations.

The ISTC's founding parties anticipated a transition in the former Soviet Union (FSU) to a market economy, which would help alleviate the proliferation risk. In the United States, support and funding for the ISTC were tied to other nonproliferation and assistance programs with limited objectives and finite lifetimes. Thus, U.S. government funding of the ISTC is projected to decline to zero by the year 2003, and, without other nongovernment funds, the United States would withdraw from the ISTC at that time.

The Committee to Assess the International Science and Technology Center reviewed the ISTC's objectives and plans, discussed its activities with U.S. and FSU officials, and met with FSU grant recipients and institute directors. The committee concludes that during its first two years the ISTC was successful and effective in meeting its primary objective, which, in turn, has contributed to the larger goal of diminishing the risk of weapons proliferation. Moreover, the opportunities provided to FSU scientists and engineers do indeed offer meaningful nonweapons-related work, which helps address the demoralization that may otherwise contribute to scientists' being lured into work for unfriendly governments.

The committee believes the ISTC has also been successful in addressing its secondary objectives—namely, the solution of national and international technical problems; the support of basic and applied research and technology development for peaceful purposes; and, to a lesser degree, reinforcement of the transition of the FSU to a market-driven economy. In particular, the committee believes that integrating FSU scientists and engineers into the international science and engineering communities is crucial to stabilizing the science and engineering communities in the FSU, and it makes several recommendations in this area.

In addition to the benefits arising from its stated objectives, the committee identified other positive features and impacts of the ISTC. The ISTC enjoys advantages not held by other U.S. organizations operating in the FSU, such as tax and customs privileges and the ability to address intellectual property rights issues. The ISTC has also reinforced important broader U.S. national security objectives by promoting increased confidence building between U.S. and FSU weapons institutes.

While the ISTC has contributed to these positive trends, the proliferation risk remains high, and the ISTC continues to have a role in mitigating that risk. Based on the ISTC's success to date, the other benefits of its activities to U.S. national security objectives, and the continuing threat of proliferation, the committee recommends that the U.S. Government sustain annual core funding for the ISTC at least until and probably beyond 2003.

The committee believes that it is crucial for the ISTC to maintain a focus on nonproliferation. Core funding for the center will ensure the continuation of collaborative grants aimed specifically at offering weapons scientists nonweapons-related work. In addition, the committee recommends a financial contribution to, and increased representa-

1  

Agreement Establishing an International Science and Technology Center; see Appendix A.



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AN ASSESSMENT OF THE INTERNATIONAL SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY CENTER: Redirecting Expertise in Weapons of Mass Destruction in the Former Soviet Union Executive Summary The International Science and Technology Center (ISTC) was established to help address a perceived crisis that was created by the dissolution of the Soviet Union—that is, the threat of a large exodus of scientists and engineers with knowledge and experience in the development of weapons of mass destruction. The primary objective of the ISTC, as stated in the agreement establishing it, is to “give weapons scientists and engineers, particularly those who possess knowledge and skills related to weapons of mass destruction or missile delivery systems, in the Russian Federation and, if interested, in other states of the CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States] and Georgia, opportunities to redirect their talents to peaceful activities.”1 By providing opportunities for scientists and engineers to work on problems unrelated to weapons, the ISTC's founding parties hoped to reduce the incentive for these scientists and engineers to sell their knowledge and experience to unfriendly governments or organizations. The ISTC's founding parties anticipated a transition in the former Soviet Union (FSU) to a market economy, which would help alleviate the proliferation risk. In the United States, support and funding for the ISTC were tied to other nonproliferation and assistance programs with limited objectives and finite lifetimes. Thus, U.S. government funding of the ISTC is projected to decline to zero by the year 2003, and, without other nongovernment funds, the United States would withdraw from the ISTC at that time. The Committee to Assess the International Science and Technology Center reviewed the ISTC's objectives and plans, discussed its activities with U.S. and FSU officials, and met with FSU grant recipients and institute directors. The committee concludes that during its first two years the ISTC was successful and effective in meeting its primary objective, which, in turn, has contributed to the larger goal of diminishing the risk of weapons proliferation. Moreover, the opportunities provided to FSU scientists and engineers do indeed offer meaningful nonweapons-related work, which helps address the demoralization that may otherwise contribute to scientists' being lured into work for unfriendly governments. The committee believes the ISTC has also been successful in addressing its secondary objectives—namely, the solution of national and international technical problems; the support of basic and applied research and technology development for peaceful purposes; and, to a lesser degree, reinforcement of the transition of the FSU to a market-driven economy. In particular, the committee believes that integrating FSU scientists and engineers into the international science and engineering communities is crucial to stabilizing the science and engineering communities in the FSU, and it makes several recommendations in this area. In addition to the benefits arising from its stated objectives, the committee identified other positive features and impacts of the ISTC. The ISTC enjoys advantages not held by other U.S. organizations operating in the FSU, such as tax and customs privileges and the ability to address intellectual property rights issues. The ISTC has also reinforced important broader U.S. national security objectives by promoting increased confidence building between U.S. and FSU weapons institutes. While the ISTC has contributed to these positive trends, the proliferation risk remains high, and the ISTC continues to have a role in mitigating that risk. Based on the ISTC's success to date, the other benefits of its activities to U.S. national security objectives, and the continuing threat of proliferation, the committee recommends that the U.S. Government sustain annual core funding for the ISTC at least until and probably beyond 2003. The committee believes that it is crucial for the ISTC to maintain a focus on nonproliferation. Core funding for the center will ensure the continuation of collaborative grants aimed specifically at offering weapons scientists nonweapons-related work. In addition, the committee recommends a financial contribution to, and increased representa- 1   Agreement Establishing an International Science and Technology Center; see Appendix A.

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AN ASSESSMENT OF THE INTERNATIONAL SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY CENTER: Redirecting Expertise in Weapons of Mass Destruction in the Former Soviet Union tion in, the ISTC structure by the U.S. Departments of Defense and Energy. The committee also notes the growing interest among U.S. agencies and their laboratories in establishing ties with FSU institutes. These agencies and laboratories share a conviction that increased contact with FSU scientists and engineers is in the U.S. national interest. The ISTC is in a unique position to facilitate collaborative research on such joint projects. The committee notes the ISTC's interest in placing higher priority on projects with strong potential for commercial applications. the committee supports this course of action, with the qualification that projects continuen to include a majority of weapons scientists and engineers. the committee believes, that the role of the ISTC should not extend beyond precompetitive research (e.g., to product or process commercialization). Based on its findings, the committee makes the following recommendations: The United States should continue core funding of the ISTC. To maintain a focus on the nonproliferation goals of the U.S. Departments of Defense and Energy, these departments should increase their roles in the ISTC. The U.S. ISTC management should seek new funds from U.S. government mission agencies and the private sector. The ISTC should consider organizing an industrial advisory council. The ISTC should expand the scope of Western collaboration and encourage more active participation by collaborators. The ISTC should place more emphasis on involving biological and chemical warfare institutes in its activities. The ISTC should allow grants to fund communications equipment. The U.S. Government should expedite the appointment of U.S. representatives and staff to the Science and Technology Center in Ukraine.