Month: July 2009

Strategic planning comes to the State Department

Strategic planning comes to the State Department

Can the State Department do a strategic plan and link it to setting budget priorities? We’re about to find out. Tucked away in the month’s news was a small, but important, announcement: The State Department and USAID are about to do something the Pentagon has done every four years since 1993–a quadrennial review. In this case, however, it will be a review of U.S. diplomatic strategy and development priorities, dubbed a Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR).

Is North Korea’s reprocessing facility operating?

Is North Korea’s reprocessing facility operating?

In response to a U.N. resolution punishing its nuclear test on May 25, North Korea defiantly threatened on June 13 to weaponize all of its newly separated plutonium. Pyongyang also declared, “More than one-third of the spent fuel rods has been reprocessed to date.” However, recent off-site air samples and satellite imagery suggest that North Korea’s reprocessing facility isn’t operating, casting doubt on Pyongyang’s statements. But is it possible that North Korea’s reprocessing facility could be in use without detection?

The safety inadequacies of India’s fast breeder reactor

The safety inadequacies of India’s fast breeder reactor

India’s Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) is planning a large expansion of nuclear power, in which fast breeder reactors play an important role. Fast breeder reactors are attractive to the DAE because they produce (or “breed”) more fissile material than they use. The breeder reactor is especially attractive in India, which hopes to develop a large domestic nuclear energy program even though it has primarily poor quality uranium ore that is expensive to mine.

The U.S. Army’s new biomedical regulations

The U.S. Army’s new biomedical regulations

The October 2001 anthrax event attracted considerable attention to the safety and security of microbiology research and diagnostic programs, particularly those operating at high-containment laboratories. This scrutiny, although not undue, has resulted in a great deal of caution–and subsequently, delays–within U.S. government departments and agencies responsible for conducting research on infectious disease.

Holdren brings science back to the White House

Holdren brings science back to the White House

In December 1995, on a chilly winter’s day in Oslo, John Holdren delivered an eloquent Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech on behalf of the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs. For the first time in its 95-year history, the Nobel Peace Prize had been awarded jointly to an organization, Pugwash, and to an individual, Joseph Rotblat, Pugwash’s co-founder and then-president.

The North Korean nuclear test: The Russian reaction

The North Korean nuclear test: The Russian reaction

Russia has decades of experience in dealing with North Korea on nuclear nonproliferation matters. The former Soviet Union first tried to coax Pyongyang into joining the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) back in the 1960s. Later, in the early 1970s, Soviet diplomats flew to North Korea to explain the virtues of NPT membership. They recall that the delegation was received with great fanfare and the hosts listened politely enough, but Pyongyang remained unresponsive.

Achieving détente with Iran

Achieving détente with Iran

The apparently fraudulent Iranian presidential election and the domestic unrest have presented President Barack Obama with a problem. Since his own election, Obama slowly has tried to open a diplomatic path to Iran, which, while scarcely consistent or imaginative, had the potential to be productive. However, because of its violent response to the protests that followed the election and the election fraud itself, Iran’s current leadership lacks both moral and political legitimacy, making bold U.S. diplomacy difficult.