How Do You Create the Tools to Verify a World Without Nuclear Weapons?

Posted by Frank Rose
April 13, 2015
Frank Rose, Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance, speaks at the Inaugural Meeting of The International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification

It was six years ago this month that President Obama gave his landmark speech in Prague stating the U.S. commitment to seek the “peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”  The President acknowledged that reaching this goal would not be easy and may not be achieved in his lifetime, but it is a goal that can be -- and must be -- reached. One of the most important factors in reaching this goal is the creation of new and enhanced verification tools. 

That is why the United States created a new public-private venture called the International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification or IPNDV.  Last December, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, Rose Gottemoeller traveled back to Prague to launch the Partnership. And last month, the idea became a reality, when experts from twenty-eight nuclear weapon and non-nuclear weapon states came to Washington D.C. to begin the work of solving the verification challenges associated with further nuclear reductions.  

We are proud to be working with the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) on this unprecedented partnership and we are grateful to have a direct line to NTI’s experts who have acquired decades of experience working on these issues in all corners of the globe.

While our new Partnership is unique in its scope, lessons learned from past disarmament verification initiatives will inform the development of “work groups” -- or subject areas deserving of closer study. The United States-United Kingdom Technical Cooperation Program and the United Kingdom-Norway Initiative are two such past initiatives.  Both studies grappled with how to provide confidence and transparency with respect to a country’s declared nuclear weapons while, at the same time, controlling access to sensitive and classified information.

We have come a long way on nuclear disarmament. The proof is in the numbers. At the height of Cold War tensions with the former Soviet Union, the United States stockpile consisted of almost 32,000 nuclear warheads. Decades of bilateral arms control treaties and agreements with Russia have slashed that number by nearly 85%, and the U.S. offer for further reductions remains on the table provided there is a willing partner and conducive international security environment.

For all the progress on disarmament, future steps are expected to pose significantly more complex and intrusive verification challenges than in times past. Future success in addressing such challenges will be dependent, in part, on the development and application of new technologies or concepts. On-site inspections conducted under New START are just one example of how a strong verification regime is indispensable to any successful arms control treaty or agreement. Expanding the verification toolkit will lay the groundwork for further steps in negotiating verifiable reductions in nuclear weapons.

Addressing these challenges, and finding solutions, is one bridge needed to span the gap between our aspirations for nuclear disarmament and their eventual fulfillment. Fortunately, the robust participation of countries at the kickoff meeting of the verification Partnership indicates that the United States and the other nuclear weapon states do not and will not face this challenge alone.

The benefits derived from nuclear disarmament are not limited to just one country and we know that nuclear weapon states do not have a monopoly on creative ideas. A larger, more diverse group of states, many whom possess technical expertise in nuclear verification or the related sciences, will contribute to the discussion and provide a broader intellectual basis for exploring creative solutions. This is a way for all NPT parties, without distinction to their nuclear or non-nuclear weapon status, to advance disarmament objectives of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

We look forward to continuing the conversation with the public and other State Parties to the NPT at the upcoming NPT Review Conference. But we are in this for the long haul.  We intend to continue working with other states on these verification challenges for years to come.

For President Obama, freeing the world from the shadow cast by nuclear weapons is not just an aspirational goal, but a deeply personal one.  The President is “a father, who wants (his) two young daughters to grow up in a world where everything they know and love can't be instantly wiped out."

Everyone who shares this sentiment -- shares the goal of a world without nuclear weapons -- should devote time and energy to the verification challenges that face us.  An upfront investment in the tools and technologies to verify nuclear reductions at lower numbers is the means to the end we all seek.  The International Partnership for Nuclear Disarmament Verification can help us get there.

About the Author: Frank A. Rose serves as Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance. For more information on the IPNDV, go to or follow Assistant Secretary Rose on Twitter @StateAVC. 


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bharat i.
April 13, 2015
what are sattelite and cia for??? and on a serious note, you must be kidding to make world without nuclear weapon . the day world becomes nuke free, the very next day world war 3 would start...i hop ur aim is not to make world without people coz consequences of nukeless world is far more catastrophic than world with nuke...
Emmanuel O.
California, USA
April 14, 2015
A world without war can lead to a nuclear weapon free world. Consider an anti war resolution. All nation states standing as ONE against any aggressive nation or entity.l
Lisa B.
Pennsylvania, USA
April 14, 2015

Exciting article to read.
Thanks for sharing.

Eric J.
New Mexico, USA
April 14, 2015

@Frank Rose,

Iran will most certainly be the premiere test case that must set the new standard for this question if a deal is ever finalized and put into motion.

The obvious answer to "how" one creates the tools is to simply double the Dept of State and USAID's annual base budget to around 3% of the gov. annual total and hire a whole bunch of smart people to do that for you.

I know that's not your dept and may be wishful thinking on my part, but it furthers the entertaining hypothetical of what more might be accomplished in the world with double that 1.3% you'all do that with on a daily basis, as a national security priority to maintain a robust global presence with so many new crisis emerging and others ongoing. ( my answer to sequester appologists )

How much better able to judge the intent of those who's programs need verification in the first place would you be if you had the means to double your ability to asses double the volume of intel on all levels?

Maybe a better question would be how did you'all verify what you did with the tools you had, when Colin Powell became Sec. of State and folks and he was shocked folks were still using Wang computers at the turn of the century? Worse still that new hires couldn't keep up with attrition rates. The rebuilding of the Dept of State has taken a long time, now it's time to go to the next level.

So I hope you understand why I'd offer a budgetary solution to your question....(chuckle).

EJ 3/14/15

Erin C.
United States
April 15, 2015
Isn't this all a bit academic, so long as Israel, which is known to have a significant stockpile of nuclear weapons, refuses to sign the NPT? And you refuse to do anything about it?
Nate B.
North Carolina, USA
May 4, 2015
Fortunately, most of the hard skills and tools will be developed in DoE labs. Which, unfortunately is much better funded than State,


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