You can't think about threats related to nuclear security and proliferation without fretting about the huge number of goods moving around the world at any moment, in millions of shipping containers, and also by air. But here's the thing: Nearly all that traffic is controlled by the private sector. Sure, governments can inspect containers and put radiation detectors all over the place, but actually bolstering security requires that the private sector manage the global supply chain in a way that keeps the bad guys out.
This helps explain why the MacArthur Foundation recently awarded $400,000 to the George J. Kostas Research Institute for Homeland Security at Northeastern University.
MacArthur granted the $400,000 for two years to the Kostas Institute “to study ways to improve private-sector counter-proliferation efforts in the global supply chain.“
The initiative includes a series of meetings in different cities starting this fall, and will give a lot of attention to new technologies and strategies that may be still be on the drawing board. Working with the transportation industry will be key. (Kostas describes the project here.)
Of course, business has its own good reasons for keeping a nuclear bomb from going off some day, or any other nuclear event that could threaten "business continuity."
The award was just a portion of $3 million in grants MacArthur announced in March, aimed at enhancing global nuclear security. In addition to the recent grant to Northeastern, MacArthur awarded grants to nine other institutions for a variety of projects aiming to enhance nuclear security, including the Arms Control Association, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Security Studies program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Grants to the Federation of American Scientists, the Stimson Center, and the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute also aimed to improve security efforts within various industries, and inject private sector expertise into the mix of government and academic efforts “aimed at preventing the theft or diversion of fissile materials to terrorist groups, as well as addressing security concerns arising from national efforts to develop nuclear capabilities."
Editor’s Note: The MacArthur Foundation is currently winding down several of its grantmaking programs. Although the foundation has not officially announced a plan to close its Peace and International Security program, it is “exploring the elements and feasibility of a big bet based on a new approach to reducing the threat posed by nuclear weapons. We also think that a big bet could be a place, rather than an issue.” MacArthur is currently exploring Nigeria as a region of focus for its future nuclear security related grantmaking. We’ll keep you posted as new information comes in.