Director's Message

Looking back, 1994 was a milestone for the WMD community in many ways.  That year, “Project Sapphire” resulted in the removal of 600 kg of weapons-usable uranium from the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan, a dramatic event made possible by programs created in the 1991 Soviet Threat Reduction Act.  The Cooperative Threat Reduction Program, also known as the Nunn-Lugar program, was initially established to secure and dismantle the former Soviet nuclear weapons program (its mission has since expanded to include WMD programs outside of the former Soviet Union).  In December 1993, pursuant to Presidential Decision Directive (PDD) 18, Secretary of Defense Les Aspin launched DoD’s Counterproliferation Initiative.  This effort recognized that counterproliferation was a new mission, different from the needs of the Cold War. The threat of nuclear, chemical, biological and ballistic missiles in the immediate post-Cold War environment required action to limit the acquisition and use of WMD by irresponsible states and terrorist groups.  One month later, in January 1994, Dr. Ash Carter, then-Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear Security and Counterproliferation, requested that the Joint Staff establish a counterproliferation “Center of Excellence” at National War College.  Established in May 1994, the new Center for Counterproliferation Research began work, led by its first Director, Dr. Robert Joseph. 

The “WMD Center” started with a small staff, which included Dr. John Reichart, who became the Center’s second Director in 2001.  The dramatic changes in the threat environment after September 11, 2001, led to the renaming of the WMD Center into its current form, the Center for the Study of Weapons of Mass Destruction (CSWMD). 

2024 is the 30th Anniversary of a WMD Center at National Defense University.  In the past three decades, this Center has actively supported senior level strategy and doctrine development, provided high impact support to the policy and operator communities, and led education, leader development, and community building for the growing WMD community of interest.  In just the past two years, CSWMD experts have led the shaping and writing of the 2022 Nuclear Posture Review, the 2023 Biodefense Posture Review, and the 2023 Strategy for Countering WMD.  Center experts lead the community on the role of disinformation and WMD, policies needed to address biosecurity post-COVID, and shaping the nuclear deterrence and extended assurance policies in a world staring at the reduced influence of formal arms control agreements with Russia and China. 

On June 20-21, 2024, CSWMD will hold its WMD Symposium, the first in-person gathering since the start of COVID-19 in 2020.  You will learn more about the agenda and focus for this milestone event in the coming weeks.

I welcome you to our web portal and invite you to browse our publications, attend our events, and confer with our experts.  Finally, I look forward to your comments on how we can improve our site and the content that we provide to you.

CSWMD is the nation’s premier institution for research and analysis, policy support, and education and leader development regarding the national security challenges presented by nuclear, chemical, biological weapons. Our experts have a wealth of relevant policy, operational, and technical expertise gained at the highest levels of government, to include the White House; the Departments of Defense, State, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security; the Intelligence Community; and with Allies.  We also have worked in related industry, academic, and national and international non-governmental organizations that contribute to understanding and responding to these challenges. The Center serves as a vital hub in the “whole of government” network dedicated to reducing and eventually eliminating the dangers posed by the existence of WMD.

Brendan G. Melley
Director, Center for the Study of Weapons of Mass Destruction
Institute for National Strategic Studies
National Defense University