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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

Rensselaer Professor Wins U.S. State Department William C. Foster Fellowship

September 14, 2011

Rensselaer Professor Wins U.S. State Department William C. Foster Fellowship

Fellowship Will Allow Steve Breyman To Study NATO Expansion, NATO in Afghanistan, and Nuclear Weapons in NATO

International relations expert Steve Breyman, associate professor in the Department of Science and Technology Studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, has been awarded the U.S. State Department William C. Foster Fellowship. He will be serving in the State Department Office of Euro-Atlantic Security Affairs in the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance.

Breyman will spend one year working at State Department headquarters in Washington, D.C.

“This is indeed an honor for Steve,” said Prabhat Hajela, administrative dean of the Rensselaer School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences. "We are certain he will make valuable contributions to the work of the U.S. State Department’s Office of Euro-Atlantic Security Affairs, and that — upon his return to teaching and research at Rensselaer — the new insights he develops will be of great benefit to our students.”

The fellowship is an exchange of work and experience for insight, said Breyman.

“They want new thinking. And I’m an extra pair of hands. I will be available for contingencies, for travel to meetings, for representation at negotiations,” Breyman said. “In exchange, I’ll have access to documents, historical and archival on the one hand, and current policy discussions, on the other hand. I’ll be part of policy proceedings — I’ll be in real-life, real-time meetings — that I'd never have access to otherwise.”

Breyman said he is interested in three aspects of the State Department’s work, each related to U.S. relations with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). First, Breyman is interested in understanding more about U.S.-NATO relations in the context of a physically expanded NATO. He will also explore the role of NATO in Afghanistan, where NATO troops provide the second largest role in battling the Taliban and rebuilding Afghanistan. And finally, he will explore the role of nuclear weapons in NATO.

“I think there’s a popular assumption that ‘oh we’re past the Cold War and the risk of nuclear war,’ that the big World War III that people worried about for 60 years is gone. What’s interesting is that some of the weapons systems that were underlying the great standoff in the heart of Europe are still there,” said Breyman. “President Obama in his Prague speech talked about the abolition of nuclear weapons. Maybe those smaller ones, the tactical weapons that the U.S. has strewn about a number of NATO countries, might come out.”

The State Department fellowship follows a similar experience Breyman undertook with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Office of Climate Change in 2008.

“That was an interesting insight into state-level policy-making experience,” Breyman said. “I suppose you could say that working for the feds is a natural follow-up.”

Breyman said the experience — which includes a top secret security clearance — will doubtless be interesting, although he isn’t entirely certain what will come out of it.

“It’s a funny kind of a conundrum in a way. I’ll be privy to things I otherwise wouldn’t be, but there’s a prospect that those are the things I don’t get to talk about,” he said.

Contact: Mary L. Martialay
Phone: (518) 276-2146