WASHINGTON (NNS) -- Proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is a major challenge to global security, and representatives from 21 nations addressed the problem this week during a meeting at the U.S. Naval War College in Newport, R.I. that ended May 15.
The delegations attending the Proliferation Security Initiative operational experts group meeting focused on addressing critical challenges in counterproliferation interdiction and on identifying practical efforts and capacity building tools to help Proliferation Security Initiative states meet those challenges.
"Proliferation is one of the most difficult and challenging problems in the world today, and one in which you are going to explore over the course of this week," said Navy Rear Adm. Walter E. "Ted" Carter Jr., the president of the Naval War College, at the opening session.
The admiral told the delegations that the War College is a resource they can continue to use long after they leave. "Wherever you go, whatever country you're a part of, whatever instrument of power you represent in the world, the Naval War College is dedicated to improving our ability to analyze and think through difficult problems, just like proliferation," Carter said.
A total of 103 countries have signed on to the overall initiative, which is known as PSI. Malaysia was the most recent, telling President Barack Obama of their decision to join when he visited the country last month.
The operational experts group is made up of 21 countries. That number has grown significantly from a small core group of 11 that started PSI in 2003, said Rebecca K.C. Hersman, deputy assistant secretary of defense for countering weapons of mass destruction.
The initiative is a flexible, voluntary activity, quite different from other nonproliferation arrangements, Hersman said, noting that other arrangements are formal and legally binding. The more informal nature of the initiative allows the countries to be more innovative and adaptive, she explained.
"When a state executes an interdiction, it is doing it as a national action based on national authorities," Hersman said. "PSI really focuses on building the capacity and resolve of states so they are ready if an opportunity arises and if there is intelligence to take that interdiction action."
At Newport, the operations group looked at the toughest challenges in interdiction and also some of the most critical opportunities, using not only presentations and discussions, but also a table-top game. This is why the event was at the Naval War College, Hersman said, as the school has great expertise in gaming. "The game allowed us to basically test [operational experts group] countries and look at these issues and challenges in a really in-depth way," she said.
The game also helped countries determine if the capacity-building tools developed within the initiative will work and how they can be improved, Hersman added.
The delegations were not just groups of military personnel. The delegations used an interagency, whole-of-government approach, which included diplomats, customs officials, law enforcement experts and the military. These teams were necessary for countries to make the rapid decisions necessary for an interdiction, Hersman said.
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