Farson, Goodman join NSRI as strategic deterrence interns

Photo Credit: NSRI interns
Wed, 06/23/2021 - 09:57

Mathematics major Grace Farson and political science major Annie Goodman have joined the National Strategic Research Institute (NSRI) this summer as strategic deterrence interns.

As part of an interdisciplinary team of eight civilians and Reserve Officers' Training Corps (ROTC) students, they will help transform NSRI's existing limited nuclear conflict tabletop exercise into a remotely playable format. The exercise focuses on developing a deeper understanding of nuclear warfare, and the team's work will provide leaders and operators from the Department of Defense (DOD), civilian support teams from the federal government, and students from academic institutions with more efficient access.

"I want to work at USSTRATCOM or in that realm," Farson said, "so to build those connections and get my foot in the door through this experience is a great opportunity."

The group of students—whose areas of study range from cybersecurity to psychology to mathematics to political science and more—will research the current escalating tensions in the region and devolve them into a conflict scenario where Russia's suspected strategy is executed. They will then create an elegant user interface that allows the participants to keep their situational awareness up and collaborate efficiently with other distributed team members. The effort will adopt agile software development techniques, introduce lean methodology and design thinking concepts, and highlight the complex deterrence missions of USSTRATCOM.

"To have such high-caliber students contributing to this important effort is very exciting," Christopher Yeaw, NSRI research director for nuclear programs, said. "My hope is that by submerging them into this growing challenge we will ignite their interest to pursue the many facets of strategic deterrence within their promising careers."

Originally an in-person experience for the Defense Threat Reduction Agency, the exercise re-introduces participants to nuclear strategy concepts, operational planning processes, and tactical nuclear capabilities. Participants investigate potential Russian employment of nuclear weapons in a conflict with Ukraine. The exercise has received very high effectiveness reviews for its eye-opening revelations about nuclear strategy.

"I decided my freshman year that I really wanted to work in national security," Farson said, "so I took those classes and ever since then I've just been driven toward nuclear deterrence, and I think it's just so interesting."

NSRI is the University Affiliated Research Center of USSTRATCOM. Leading scientists deliver innovative national security research, technology, product and strategy development, training and exercises, and subject matter expertise to the Department of Defense and other federal agencies. One of only 14 DOD-designated University Affiliated Research Centers in the country, NSRI is sponsored by U.S. Strategic Command and works to ensure the United States' safety and preparedness against increasingly sophisticated threats.