New Paradigms Forum Proliferation Issues and Much More …


WMD and Counterproliferation Policy: Remarks to the V Fund Project Review


Below are remarks Dr. Ford delivered in his official capacity -- as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for WMD and Counterproliferation at the U.S. National Security Council -- on March 9, 2017, at the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance in Washington, D.C.

Good morning, everyone.  It’s great to be back here at the State Department, even if only for a brief visit.  It’s been quite a few years since I’ve even set foot in the building, but I have fond memories of my days working at what was then the VC Bureau.  I’m delighted to have the chance to talk today, and was pleased to see the names of so many old Bureau friends on the program today – folks who are now bureau stalwarts, such as Astrid Lewis, Dan Wurmser, and Rongsong Jih.

So, surrounded by such old friends – as well as a great many of you I don’t know but am looking forward to working with over the coming months and years – let me say a little bit about where we’re coming from in the new administration.  One of the things we’ve been directed to do at the NSC is to undertake broad reviews of U.S. national security policy.  All administrations review the policies of their predecessors, of course, and this one is no different in that respect – except perhaps that we are being encouraged to open the aperture wider than normal, to rethink things from first principles, and not to worry very much about the pieties of conventional wisdom if there is reason for the United States do depart from them.

This doesn’t mean that we’ll necessarily end up with novel or radical positions, of course. In some areas we may do so, and in other areas presumably not.  Even if we do end up back in fairly familiar places, however, it’s our hope that we’ll be back there for the right reasons – namely, as a result of having really thought through the alternatives and decided that such a course is the best available approach after all, rather than just adopting it as the result of some kind of reflexive path-dependency or reliance upon untested assumptions.  And if, after interrogating prior assumptions and looking afresh at the situation, we end up in new places, it is our hope that they’ll be more honestly arrived-at and effective ones than before.

Now, one of these broad reviews is in anywhere near bearing fruit yet, of course, and it’s too early to predict outcomes.  Let me say, however, that if you had any worries that there wouldn’t be anyone at the White House who shared your commitment to ensuring early detection and deterrence of WMD proliferation, let me assure you that you have a good friend in my directorate.  Our shop at the National Security Council combines the functions of three pre-existing directorates – the Arms Control and Nonproliferation Directorate, the WMD Terrorism and Threat Reduction Directorate, and the Iran Nuclear Implementation Directorate – and I can assure you that you would be hard-pressed to find a stronger supporter, anywhere, of effective verification, scrupulous compliance analysis, and robust enforcement in the arms control and nonproliferation arena.

I hope you won’t find that my commitment to these goals ends up making me annoying – such as in clearing the Compliance Report, for revisions to which I apologize in advance – but I can assure you that if it does, my heart is in the right place.  Know that verification and compliance equities have a strong and articulate voice at the White House.

You’ve been kind enough to invite me here for part of the program review of the AVC Bureau’s Verification Assets Fund.  It’s been years since I was here, but I remember the V-Fund fondly, and fully appreciate the importance of catalyzing innovative solutions to verification problems, such as through building public-private partnerships to help harness the potential of new technological developments.

To be sure, even the cleverest solutions aren’t “silver bullets” in addressing arms control and nonproliferation verification problems and ensuring that parties actually comply with their obligations.  In fact, good verification, alone, is a notably inadequate answer to these security challenges, since without effective compliance enforcement, verifiers are left in the uncomfortable position merely of having ringside seats as violators do what they wish.

But verification is surely a critical sine qua non for any sound regime of arms control and nonproliferation commitments – and, in turn, innovative uses of technology can often provide the key with which to unlock thorny verification problems.  You folks here at AVC know this very well, of course, since the V-Fund has been working for well-nigh two decades to improve verification-related technical capabilities.

With the technological aspects of the global threat environment today changing at an extraordinarily rapid pace, moreover, the importance of such catalytic investments is likely to be greater than ever.  Evolving technologies are creating new threats, but they may also create new opportunities to leverage new capabilities – things such as satellite sensors, advanced computing and big-data analytics, or advances in other fast-changing fields – in support of verification goals.

This is exciting stuff.  I’m delighted to be back in this business, and to have interagency partners doing the kind of work that you do here.  I am looking forward to working with you, and seeing the V-Fund adapt to evolving threats and opportunities, building partnerships that dramatically advance the state of the art in this important arena.

Thank you for having me here.

-- Christopher Ford

About Dr. Ford

Dr. Christopher Ford served from January 2018 until January 2021 as the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation. For the last 15 months of this period, he additionally performed the duties of the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security. Before this service at the State Department, he served as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for WMD and Counterproliferation on the U.S. National Security Council staff, and before that as Chief Legislative Counsel for the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Chief Investigative Counsel for the Senate Banking Committee, Republican Chief Counsel for the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senior Fellow at Hudson Institute, U.S. Special Representative for Nuclear Nonproliferation, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Minority Counsel and then General Counsel to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Staff Director of the Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. A graduate of Harvard (summa cum laude), Oxford (as a Rhodes Scholar), and the Yale Law School, Dr. Ford was also ordained by Roshi Joan Halifax of the Upaya Zen Center as a lay chaplain in a lineage of Soto Zen Buddhism. He was a jujutsu student of the late Grandmaster Dong Jin Kim of the Jigo Tensin Ryu lineage, and is a member of Dai Nippon Butoku Kai with Sandan (3rd degree black belt) rank. Dr. Ford served from 1994 until 2011 as an intelligence officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve, and is a member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, Chatham House, and the Council on Foreign Relations. In September 2017, he was promoted by Queen Elizabeth II of England to the rank of Commander in the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of Saint John of Jerusalem. Dr. Ford is the author of the books "China Looks at the West: Identity, Global Ambitions, and the Future of Sino-American Relations" (2015), "The Mind of Empire: China's History and Modern Foreign Relations" (2010), and "The Admirals' Advantage: U.S. Navy Operational Intelligence in World War II and the Cold War" (2005). He also co-edited "Rethinking the Law of Armed Conflict in an Age of Terrorism" (2012). For a list of his publications, see The views he expresses on this website are entirely his own, and do not necessarily reflect those of anyone else, in or out of government.
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