Assistant Secretary of Defense
for Nuclear, Chemical and Biological
Defense Programs, USA
For our inaugural issue, NCT Magazine invited United States Department of Defense Assistant Secretary for Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological ASD(NCB) Defense Programs, Guy Roberts, to share with our community his perspective of the current security environment, key challenges and key priorities.
As the ASD(NCB), Mr. Roberts is the principal advisor to the Secretary of Defense, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, and the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics for matters concerning nuclear, chemical, and biological defense programs. His nomination is the brown jewel of his already impressive career. The Department of Defense's (DoD) dual mission of sustaining a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent, in addition to countering the threat of nuclear terrorism and nuclear proliferation is, at large, dependent on the tasks carried out by Mr. Roberts and his team.
The NBC Defense Programs can rely on Mr. Roberts' thirty years of experience within the field of arms control, anti-proliferation, deterrence and strategic stability issues. Prior to joining the Trump Administration, Mr. Roberts led a distinguished career in the United States Marine Corps as an infantry officer, judge advocate, and staff officer. He went on to serve as the Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Arms Control and Nonproliferation Policy for the Department of Defense, and then as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Weapons of Mass Destruction Policy and Director for Nuclear Deterrence Policy before becoming an independent consultant and adjunct professor.
To date, Mr. Roberts has kept a prominent presence in the world of CBRNe through military, government, consultancy and chairing experience by sharing expertise with over thirty domestic and international organizations and institutions. This article will take a closer look at the man who is leading US-policy making against CBRNe threats and at the challenges that he faces.
What are your responsibilities in your current role?
As the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear, Chemical, and Biological Defense programs, I lead an organization responsible for ensuring the safety, security, and effectiveness of our nuclear deterrent; developing a spectrum of capabilities to protect the lethality of our forces against the myriad of nuclear, chemical, and biological threats they may encounter in the battle space; and ensuring DoD compliance with nuclear, chemical, and biological defense treaties and agreements.
Serving in this capacity is among the greatest honors of my life, I am grateful to the President for allowing me this opportunity.
How do you see the current security environment, particularly as it relates to WMD?
In broader sense, I think it’s fair to say that America and her allies face the most complex, demanding international security situation since the end of the Cold War, one fraught with old and new dangers.
As has been outlined in the Administration’s National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy, Great-power competition has reemerged as the central challenge to U.S. security and prosperity. It is increasingly clear that China and Russia want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model—gaining veto authority over other nation’s economic, diplomatic, and security decisions. We continue to seek areas of cooperation with China and Russia based on our national interests, but we must thwart their use of coercion and intimidation to achieve their ends or harm U.S. democratic institutions and interests.
As for WMD in particular, a number of recent examples illustrate the fact that WMD threats are real, evolving, and have significantly increased from what they were a decade ago, including ISIS’ evident creation of a CBW program and use of sarin and chlorine weapons; North Korea's use of VX nerve agent at an international airport in Malaysia; and Russia's assassination of a former member of their Federal Security Service, who had asylum in the United Kingdom, using plutonium-21; and the list goes on.
Among the drivers of the increasing WMD threats is the concurrent emergence of dual-use technologies and increased access to shared information, which is lowering the expertise required to harness these technologies for illicit purposes.
"WMD threats are real, evolving, and have significantly increased from what they were a decade ago"
What are your key priorities to address some of these threats?
Nuclear deterrence has been the cornerstone of American security for more than seventy years and the principal strategy that has prevented major power war and protected our allies even in the most perilous times. As we face new and diverse challenges from nuclear-armed states that make deterrence as critical today as it was in the last century.To remain viable, we must modernize our nuclear forces and the nuclear command, control, and communications capabilities that underpin them.
To this end, my first priority is to ensure the Department remains on track with implementing the plan outlined in the Nuclear Posture Review. Second, for all our efforts to deter and disrupt the use of WMD, our forces must be prepared to counter their effects should they face them. We largely do that by developing capabilities for our forces, such detectors, suits and masks, and medical countermeasures. Staying on top and ahead of evolving threats is imperative to ensure they will be able to fight through any such attacks.
Finally, the United States remains committed to its arms control obligations under New START and other arms control treaties to which it is party. It’s so important for us to remain engaged on upholding norms against the use of WMD, and ensuring DoD compliance to related treaties and agreements is an element of that equation. And partnering with our Allies to reduce WMD threats is another part, and one we continue to find new ways to do better, and in greater collaboration with partner nations.