Dr. Gary A. Ackerman is the Director of the Unconventional Weapons and Technology Division at the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START). Prior to taking up his current position, he was Research and Special Projects Director at START and before that the Director of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Terrorism Research Program at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, California. His research encompasses various areas relating to terrorism and counterterrorism, including terrorist threat assessment, radicalization, terrorist technologies and motivations for using chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear (CBRN) weapons, and the modeling and simulation of terrorist behavior. He is the co-editor of Jihadists and Weapons of Mass Destruction (CRC Press, 2009), author of several articles on CBRN terrorism and has testified on terrorist motivations for using nuclear weapons before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security. He completed his PhD in War Studies at King’s College London, dealing with the impact of emerging technologies on terrorist decisions relating to weapons adoption.
This Special Issue of the Journal of Strategic Security (JSS) presents the results of a series of case studies of prior efforts by VNSAs to engage in complex engineering tasks, in the hope of informing strategic assessments of the threat of VNSA exploitation of emerging technologies.
One particular concern in international security lies at the nexus of violent non-state actors (VNSAs) and sophisticated technologies. When it comes to the assessment of such threats, much of the analysis hinges upon being able to accurately judge the desire and capability of adversaries to successfully carry out complex engineering operations. Yet, the actual process of how and why VNSAs engage in these efforts and the determinants of their success or failure are understudied aspects, at least in terms of systematic comparison across actors, technologies and time periods. This special issue presents the results of a series of case studies of prior efforts by VNSAs to engage in complex engineering tasks, in the hope of informing strategic assessments of the threat of VNSA exploitation of emerging technologies. The introductory article defines a complex engineering effort, summarizes the existing literature on the topic and sets out the methodology and framing questions used in the case studies.
Editor’s Note: This article forms part of a series of related case studies collected in this Special Issue and should be viewed in the context of the broader phenomenon of complex engineering by violent non-state actors. Readers are advised to consult the introductory and concluding papers for a full explanation and comparative analysis of the cases.
This work was supported by Sandia National Laboratories, Contract #1525332. Any opinions, findings, conclusions and recommendations in this issue are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect views of Sandia National Laboratories or the U.S. Department of Energy.
Ackerman, Gary A.. "“Designing Danger”: Complex Engineering by Violent Non-State Actors: Introduction to the Special Issue." Journal of Strategic Security 9, no. 1 (2016):
Available at: https://scholarcommons.usf.edu/jss/vol9/iss1/3