Next Steps in the Creation of an Accidental Nuclear War Prevention Center

In early 1983, members of Stanford University's Center for International Security and Arms Control met to discuss ideas on the establishment of a joint U.S.-U.S.S.R. center to support cooperative efforts to prevent accidental nuclear war. William Perry (former Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering) began the discussion by outlining several measures he felt could help to reduce the risk of nuclear war by accident or miscalculation. Calling attention to the earlier proposals of Senators Gary Hart, Sam Nunn, and Henry Jackson, he endorsed the concept of a joint accidental nuclear war prevention center as a mechanism to support efforts of the two superpowers to prevent or reduce the likelihood of the outbreak of nuclear war. Most notable in this regard was his personal experience of an erroneous warning of a large-scale Soviet missile attack on the U.S., which resulted from a NORAD computer malfunction. Information exchanges and consultation to clarify circumstances surrounding an accident - or the misperceptions that might result from one - could be facilitated by a number of different types of centers that have been suggested. Perry described one possible configuration for such a center, consisting of two stations, jointly staffed and located in Washington and Moscow.

Members of the Stanford Center met again in June 1983 to examine in more detail the issues raised by this idea and similar ones, and possible next steps involved in implementation. This paper reports on research in progress on this subject. In addition to the Perry contribution, much of the conceptual analysis of the missions of a joint center derives from the work of Alexander George on crisis prevention and crisis management.' Those elements of the research covering the technical and 'mechanization' requirements are contributed by Elliott Levinthal and Ted Ralston. Lastly, the suggested negotiating approach derives from the experiences and thinking of Sidney Graybeal, former U.S. Commissioner of the Standing Consultative Commission (SCC).