Sam Nunn Security Program Mission and History

Mission Statement

The Sam Nunn Security Program, funded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s Science, Technology, and Security Initiative, exists to expand the role of scientists and engineers in the realm of international security policymaking. The program is guided by a belief that the solutions to problems such as arms proliferation, critical infrastructure protection, and economic and environmental security will not be revealed in the absence of adequate scientific and technological understanding. The Program pursues its objectives along four lines: through a fellowship program that educates select scientists and engineers about the policy making process and the tools of policy analysis; through research projects designed to increase understanding of problems at the nexus of science and international security; through policy advisement that shares expertise on such problems with the policymaking community; and through outreach that seeks to make the public, academia, and policymakers aware of these problems and to engage in a dialogue on solutions.


The Sam Nunn Security Program was born as the result of a request from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation that Georgia Tech’s Center for International Strategy, Technology, and Policy submit a proposal for their funding initiative on science, technology, and security. In doing so, Georgia Tech would become one of ten grant recipient institutions to receive funding under this program. The other recipient schools, all with strong science or engineering programs and well-developed educational programs on national security policy, were Carnegie Mellon, Cornell, Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Stanford, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the University of Maryland at College Park. The MacArthur initiative was designed to bring more scientific and technological advice into the national security policymaking arena by supporting educational and research activities at institutions with a capacity to advance such an objective.

The first grant of $1.248 million over three years began on January 1, 2003 under the joint direction of Professor John Endicott and Professor Seymour Goodman of the Sam Nunn School of International Affairs. In August of 2003, the first class of Sam Nunn Security Fellows entered the Seminar on Science, Technology, and National Security. Since then, every year ten to fifteen fellows have been admitted to the program to complete the course of instruction on national security policy formulation and analysis. The seminar uses decision exercises on such issues as energy security, critical infrastructure protection, climate change, and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to teach scientists and engineers about the challenges that must be confronted in formulating and delivering advice on science and technology related policy. The fellows also conduct an extensive research project over the course of the year on some topic for which they are able to bring their technical expertise to bear on an issue of international security policy.

Fellows are exposed to individuals with expertise in national security policy making by way of guest speakers, field trips, and open lectures. Past guest speakers and lecturers have included: Former Assistant Secretary of State Ambassador John Kelly, Georgia Tech President Wayne Clough, Assistant Secretary of Defense Dale Klein, Former Commander of Strategic Command General Eugene Habiger, author of America The Vulnerable Stephen Flynn, Vice President of the Council on Foreign Relations Gary Samore, and the Director of Homeland Security and Justice Issues at the Government Accountability Office Cathleen Berrick. Annual field trips include those to both local and regional facilities as well as to sites in the Washington DC area. Past local and regional field trips have included visits to the Port of Savannah, Redstone Army Arsenal, Oakridge National Laboratories, Marshall Space Flight Center, the Centers for Disease Control, Lockheed Martin Aerospace, and the Savannah River Site. The annual spring trip to Washington DC has included visits to the State Department, the Department of Energy, Aberdeen Proving Grounds, the Central Intelligence Agency, various House and Senate offices, the National Academies of Science, the National Security Council, and the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center. During these visits, efforts are made to expose the fellows to scientists and engineers who are currently active in the policymaking process. This has included visits with the Science and Technology Advisor to the Secretary of State, the National Intelligence Officer for S&T, and Congressional Committee staffers who have bring backgrounds in science to bear in their present positions.

In December of 2005, the MacArthur Foundation informed Georgia Tech that they would continue to fund the Sam Nunn Security Program for another five years from 2006 to 2011 at a rate of $1.84 million. Furthermore, Georgia Tech made commitments designed to help the program become self-sustaining into the future as a permanent fixture in the Institute’s educational and research activities. The renewed funding includes support for four research initiatives to be carried out by faculty and fellows of the program as well as continued contributions to the biennial Sam Nunn – Bank of America Policy Forum. The four research projects investigate cyber security in the developing world, the role of information and communications technologies in post-conflict societies, the vulnerabilities facing the global nuclear nonproliferation regime, and the means to develop public-private partnerships in the field of homeland security and local preparedness.

To date, Program personnel have been involved in a number of activities resulting in advice and guidance on national and international science, technology, and security policy. Examples of these activities include:

  • Dr. John Endicott’s Track II efforts to advance a plan for a Limited Nuclear Weapons Free Zone in Northeast Asia (LNWFZ-NEA).
  • Dr. Endicott’s efforts to facilitate meetings between representatives of the North Korean and US governments.
  • Dr. Seymour Goodman’s Chairmanship of a National Research Council committee on Improving Cybersecurity Research in the United States.
  • Dr. Goodman’s participation on an advisory panel to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Networks and Information Integration.
  • Dr. Michael Best’s direction of the Innovation Committee of the US Agency for International Development’s (US AID) Last Mile Initiative.
  • Contributions by Sam Nunn Fellows Dr. Peter Hollingsworth and Dr. Jan Osburg to the Congressionally commissioned study entitled Responding to the Call: Aviation Plan for American Leadership.
  • Faculty Fellow Man-Sung Yim’s participation on the External Steering Committee of Idaho National Labs.