The Matthew B. Ridgway Center for International Security Studies produces original and impartial research on key 21st Century security issues, making this analysis available to policymakers, scholars, journalists, and the broader public.  On this page, visitors can learn more about current Center projects. To discuss our project in more depth, please contact us at 412.624.7884.

Counter proliferation and Command and Control Systems

This working group consists of members from the Ridgway Center, the Swanson School of Engineering, and the School of Information Science. Researchers are collaborating with graduate students from each school to examine the relationship between transnational organized crime, nuclear and radiological materials smuggling, nuclear technology knowledge and diffusion, and terrorist aspirations to acquire WMD. The project aims to identify the best ways to recognize and prevent these activities and to create a research and policy base for a much more holistic approach to decision-making to counter nuclear proliferation.

Members are analyzing contemporary threats to the nuclear nonproliferation regime stemming from (1) the intersection of transnational organized crime and the trafficking of nuclear and radioactive materials; (2) the continued diffusion of nuclear weapons technology and knowledge and, in particular, the possibility that the North Korean proliferation network might be the successor to the A.Q. Khan network; and (3) the desire of terrorist groups, especially Islamic State, to obtain materials that would facilitate the construction of a “dirty bomb” or to attack nuclear facilities.

Deliverables include the compilation of a dataset of nuclear smuggling activities from 2004 to present, analysis of such activities, standardization of unstructured data, curation of primary sources, and the design and development of a mechanism and tool to serve as an “early alert” system of illicit activities.

In the fall of 2018, a second project focusing on cyber threats to infrastructure and nuclear environments will be initiated.  These projects are expected to have multiple stages.

FBI Associated Projects

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles - Criminal usage of commercial drones has been identified as a broad emerging threat. We have been tasked by our FBI partners with examining the current applications of commercially-available Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) technology in the U.S., past criminal uses both in the U.S. and abroad, and legal enforcement regarding UAV usage. 

Homegrown Violent Extremist Red Team - Attacks by one or more ISIS-inspired Homegrown Violent Extremists (HVEs) against transportation systems was identified by FBI partners as a second task.  This group functions as a Red Team to evaluate and examine various attack scenarios by HVEs.

Intrusions into the Gray Zone

The Gray Zone is a term that is increasingly used to discuss competition between the United States on the one side and China and Russia on the other, that is low-level and places the onus for escalation on the United States. It is also sometimes described as hybrid warfare in which information operations, cyber attacks, and other nonmilitary instruments are extensively used along with coercive displays of military power. As part of an attempt to understand the Gray Zone, the Ridgway Center is compiling a data set of incidents in which Russian planes come close to or intrude into the airspace of NATO members as well as Finland and Sweden. The data set includes an attempt to understand the context within which such activities occur, as well as the risks and dangers that result.

Russian Contract Killer Database

Since the 1990s, the Ridgway Center has been compiling an extensive data set on Russian contract killings. This helps to reveal the activities and targets of Russian organized crime, both in Russia and elsewhere. It also helps to identify divisions in the Russian criminal world, targets for the criminal takeover of legitimate business, and people who threaten Russian organized crime and therefore need to be eliminated. The data set has recently been updated, but we are seeking to develop it further. 

Resource Links

The Ridgway Center has compiled a list of useful resource links for research on international security issues and challenges. These external sites do not signify the Ridgway Center’s endorsement.

Matthew B. Ridgway Center for International Security Studies
3930 Wesley W. Posvar Hall, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15260