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IDDS History and Mission


The Institute for Defense and Disarmament Studies (IDDS) is an independent, non-profit, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt center dedicated to research, alternative policy studies, and public education on ways to reduce the risk of war, minimize military spending, and foster democratic institutions.

Founded in 1980 by Director Dr Randall Forsberg, the Institute has a Board of Directors drawn from several universities (MIT, Cornell, Columbia, University of Chicago, University of Southern California, Georgetown), but is not formally affiliated with them. The Institute is supported financially by a combination of foundation grants, individual donations, and income from subscriptions to our specialized reference works (see below).

IDDS conducts basic research to develop safer, wiser security policies and to help build a citizenry that is informed and active in shaping public policy on matters of war and peace, arms and disarmament. IDDS will celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2005. This will be marked by a two-day Symposium on "Nonproliferation and Disarmament: the Way Forward," which will be held at MIT on 21-22 October, along with special luncheons and receptions. Please see the 25th Anniversary page for more details and registration.


The Institute publishes studies of global military and arms control policies in two forms:
• Reference works intended mainly for professional analysts and libraries, and
• Policy studies, working papers, op-ed pieces, public talks, and articles intended for all those concerned with international affairs.
There are two main reference works: the IDDS World Arms Database: Holdings, Production, and Trade 1972-2015, which provides a regularly updated accounting of worldwide major weapon holdings, production, acquisition, and trade; and the Arms Control Reporter, which provides a day-by-day chronology of all arms control talks and arms control treaty implementation, plus essential background material.

The Institute’s alternative policy publications and activities center on two coalition-based projects. Global Action to Prevent War is a carefully-developed program of policies and activities to help move the world toward a future in which war is rare, brief, and small in scale; it is also a transnational coalition of individuals, organizations, and governments dedicated to identifying and implementing these policies and activities. is a petition-based project supported by a coalition of US-based groups. It focuses on educating a public on current US nuclear weapon and arms control policies and options for a better path to security.

Building on our military and arms control reference works, and on the studies and proposals that underpin the Global Action and projects, in 2005 IDDS will publish the first edition of a new annual survey, ArmsWatch 2005: Global Trends, Prospects, and Policy Options in War and Peace, Arms and Disarmament. This brief survey (about 80 pages) will sketch out global trends in armaments and warfare; describe likely future developments, given current policies; and discuss alternative policy options that would be more likely to reduce the risks of war and the costs of preparing for war. ArmsWatch is intended for use by college teachers and students, journalists, congressional aides, activists, and concerned citizens, as well as professional military and arms control analysts.

With ArmsWatch as our centerpiece, IDDS staff members have begun focusing our public education activities on projects to help engage and educate college students on a much bigger scale than has been the case in the past. One such project is a structured Internship Program, offered for 8-12 weeks in the summer, fall, and spring. In this program students (college, graduate, and post-doc) have an opportunity to conduct research and writing for the Arms Control Reporter or ArmsWatch; and they take part in a weekly seminar that explores basic questions relating to the causes of war and conditions for peace. Our current resources permit IDDS to accept 10-15 students for the summer term (working full time), and 5-10 for the spring and fall terms (working 10 hours/week in most cases). The Internship Program offers an introduction to military, arms control, and disarmament policy-oriented research and analysis that is not available at most colleges; and a significant proportion of IDDS interns (and entry-level staff members) go on to careers in this field, in government, academia, or public-interest groups.

In 2006 IDDS will launch a major new program, the College Outreach Project. The goal of this program is to encourage college teaching of courses, or units, which introduce students to security issues, including weapons of mass destruction, proliferation and nonproliferation efforts, arms control, arms production, military spending, and national security policy. The project will have several components:
• Written material, available through the internet, including a compilation of sample syllabi, book and article lists, documentaries, films, and other resources; introductory material that discussed possible goals, issues, and potential pitfalls in teaching this subject; and suggestions for ways to use ArmsWatch as a course or unit textbook.
• Work with other college teachers to expand existing summer programs to train college teachers from various fields — including English, humanities, arts, and natural sciences as well as social sciences —- to teach a unit on this subject.
• A program of direct outreach conducted by retired or semi-retired experts in this field (for example, MIT physicist and security expert Kosta Tsipis), who travel and meet with college deans, department heads, and individual faculty members, exploring opportunities for increased teaching on the topic.
Over the next decade, the IDDS goal will be to foster the teaching of at least one course on the military aspects of security in every degree-granting, four-year undergraduate program in the United States, that is, some 3000 college programs.


Over the past quarter-century, research and education activities at IDDS have moved through several main phases:

1980-1984: In the early 1980s, most IDDS work concentrated on the national Nuclear Weapon Freeze Campaign, which was initiated by IDDS and had its first Clearinghouse at IDDS, from April 1980 through December 1981, when we set up an independent national Clearinghouse in St Louis. In 1981 Chalmers Hardenbergh, the founding editor of the Arms Control Reporter, produced a trial version of the publication, which was formally launched in January 1982.

1985-1989: In the mid-1980s, IDDS research and education projects expanded to give as much attention to conventional military forces as to nuclear weapons. Conventional forces and major weapon systems — aircraft,ships, missiles, artillery, tanks, and other armored vehicles — account for the bulk of military spending in the United States and globally, well over 90 percent. Moreover, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction closely tracks regions where there are great risks of conventional war. IDDS work during this period focused on an international "Alternative Defense Working Group" and on studies of the conventional armed forces of NATO and Warsaw Treaty Organization (WTO) countries. In September 1988, IDDS co-hosted the first conference ever jointly sponsored by the Soviet Academy of Sciences with a Western organization, a conference at IMEMO (the Institute of World Economy and International Relations) on goals for the upcoming NATO-WTO talks on reducing conventional forces in Europe.

1990-1994: In 1989-1990 IDDS conducted an intensive study of the prospects for reducing the conventional armed forces of NATO and WTO countries, and the negotiations on this topic underway in Vienna. We published a bi-weekly faxed report, ViennaFax, which was used as a source by diplomats and journalists. As the Cold War ended, IDDS again broadened our agenda, to include not just nuclear and conventional armaments, but new concepts for security in a cooperative international environment. Collaborating with the bimonthly Boston Review,edited by IDDS Board member Joshua Cohen, IDDS helped organize and contributed to five "round-table" discussions on post-Cold War security, which were then reproduced as reprints and distributed to college teachers. In all, more than 40,000 reprints were distributed.

1992-1996: As a concrete example of new post-Cold War security options, IDDS sponsored an international project on the future of the arms industries in the major arms-producing countries: the USA, Russia, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, and Sweden. (These are the countries which independently develop and produce major weapon systems at the leading edge of technology.) With research partners in each of these countries, IDDS conducted the "International Fighter Study," a study of the on-going development and production of new types of advanced combat aircraft by the former Cold War adversaries, which no longer had any clear need for these aircraft. This resulted in a book co-sponsored by the Harvard Center for Science and International Affairs and published by MIT Press, The Arms Production Dilemma: Contraction and Restraint in the World Combat Aircraft Industry (1994). A planned follow-on volume on Arms Control Cooperation in an Era of Security could not be completed, however, because the European partners decided that the bureacratic and industrial impetus to continue development and production of Cold War-era armaments was too great to be overcome by a mere "rational" policy change. More specifically, they concluded that even if Europe stopped its new, no-longer-needed weapon programs, the United States would not. And this course of action would lead to a US monopoly on advanced arms production. Blocking such a monopoly turned out to be the over-riding concern.

1997-2001: In the late 1990s,IDDS work on conventional armed forces and alternative, "confidence-building" defense policies culminated in the completion of two major projects:
• The development of the initial the Global Action to Prevent War program, which was done chiefly by IDDS Director Randall Forsberg and IDDS Board members Jonathan Dean and Saul Mendlovitz, with the support of US and international steering committees; and
• The publication of the IDDS World Arms Database.
After many years of groundwork on a World Arms Database conducted during the CFE study and the International Fighter Study, we focused on completing the compilation of data for military aircraft, naval ships, and tanks. Thanks to the support of IDDS Board member Hayward Alker, we were able to publish the first edition of the Database in August 2001. Pending completion of the 2005 update, summary extracts from the 2001 edition are still used in our web-based "Report Generator" on conventional armed forces (see the Database section).

2002-2005: In 2002, IDDS made major staff cuts following the decline of foundation funding for arms control and disarmament programs in the wake of 9/11. Unable to undertake annual updates of the World Arms Database with paid staff, we developed our current Internship Program, which offers interns an opportunity to conduct research and writing for ArmsWatch and the Database or for the Arms Control Reporter. In our 2003 summer Internship Program we had six interns work full time on the Reporter. In 2004, we had 12 interns who began updating the 2001 Database and working on regional and country essays for ArmsWatch. In 2005 six interns continued work on the Database and ArmsWatch, while three worked on the Arms Control Reporter. The intern contributions in 2004-2005 made it possible to update the World Arms Database fully through the end of 2004, and to begin work on ArmsWatch 2005.


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