Samantha Pitts-Kiefer is Director of NTI’s Global Nuclear Policy Program (GNPP), which works with governments and partners around the world on the urgent, practical steps toward a world without nuclear weapons. She also has co-led two major projects: the NTI Nuclear Security Index and the Global Dialogue on Nuclear Security Priorities. Recent work includes cyber security of nuclear weapons and related systems and nuclear facilities, U.S.-Russia relations, and nuclear weapons policy and disarmament.
As the director of the GNPP, you work on the steps toward a long-term goal. Can you talk about that?
NTI has long advocated for the need to work toward a world without nuclear weapons. Recognizing that this goal will most likely not be achieved in any of our lifetimes, we believe it is important to take steps that are necessary to reach that goal and create the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons. At NTI, our projects take on many of the conditions, working both in the U.S. and with international partners in areas such as reducing the role of nuclear weapons; changing nuclear policies to reduce nuclear risks; encouraging countries to secure and reduce nuclear materials that could be used by terrorists; and supporting the universalization and enforcement of international instruments that would ban testing of nuclear weapons or the production of nuclear materials for nuclear weapons. So we do a lot of thinking about reducing nuclear risks and encouraging countries to take steps to reduce those risks.
You’ve also played a big role in the development of the NTI Nuclear Security Index and the Global Dialogue.
The Index and the Global Dialogue are two very, very different projects but each has its own impact on nuclear security. The Index is an assessment that has so far been released three times since 2012 to track and assess the security conditions in countries to prevent acts of nuclear terrorism—theft of materials or sabotage of a nuclear facility. The Index looks at specific measures that we think countries should be taking to improve security conditions for nuclear materials and facilities—from physical security or cyber security to ratification of treaties and even to things like corruption in a country. By assessing these conditions and actually scoring and ranking countries we’ve been able to start a dialogue, a conversation among countries and experts, about what really matters when it comes to securing nuclear materials, and we’ve been able to track progress over time. The Index also helps countries identify what they need to do to improve their security, and we know of several countries that took certain actions to improve security in response to the findings in the Index.