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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Halvor A Undem
JSIS B 427
Seattle Campus

Weapons of Mass Destruction: Development, Deployment, and Detection

Practical understanding of the development of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons plus missile delivery systems. Proliferation detection technology and its limitations. Case studies of past and current arms control agreements and non-proliferation programs.

Class description

The course provides future non-scientist, international security specialists with a fundamental level of understanding of the development and acquisition of weapons of mass destruction. The course emphasis is on nuclear weapons technology, though biological and chemical weapons technology and delivery systems are also reviewed. Historical and current real-world examples of technical arms control and nonproliferation efforts is a core theme. In addition to referenced texts and assigned readings, the course is augmented heavily from first-hand accounts by the instructor and other U.S. professionals working in the proliferation prevention and homeland security fields. The result is a course that is unique in the U.S. in providing students with a solid background in the technical dimensions of weapons of mass destruction, including verification, detection and monitoring.

Student learning goals

Attain a basic understanding of the design of nuclear, biological, and chemical munitions, as well as ballistic missile delivery systems, to a level that would set the graduate apart when working in the international security community for the U.S. Government or any non-governmental nonproliferation organization.

Attain a basic understanding of the critical materials and processes needed to manufacture nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons in order to better understand U.S. and international efforts to control their spread (nuclear) or to assure their complete elimination (biological and chemical).

In concert with basic technical information provided on WMD, develop an historical perspective of the use of biological and chemical weapons, rocketry, and nuclear weapons.

Develop a cursory understanding by example of U.S. and international agreements and programs to eliminate completely, or halt the spread of WMD technology.

Develop a cursory understanding by example of the kinds of technical considerations that drive U.S. and international WMD nonproliferation and arms control policy development.

General method of instruction

Instruction consists of a three-hour lecture on the technical dimensions of WMD, and a two-hour topical discussion session that is tied to the technical lecture but focuses on current policy issues. The lecture sequence roughly follows the chapter sequence in Langford, and as such, chapter reading assignments are listed for each lecture. The discussion session is usually based on a specific reading that is very current as well as tied to the lecture, unless faster-moving world events are of greater relevance.

Recommended preparation

Class assignments and grading

Course grades are based on a 3000-5000 word midterm paper (1/3), an objective final examination (1/3) after a comprehensive review session, and participation in a group researched and presented Case Study (1/3). Graduate students are expected to produce a slightly longer midterm paper and be prepared to lead a Case Study or discussion session on their paper topic or another relevant topic with instructor approval. Opportunities for extra credit will also be made available.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Halvor A Undem
Date: 03/25/2013