University at Albany

U.S. State Department Calls on Rockefeller Political Scientist to Provide Strategic Trade Control Assistance Around the Globe

Professor Bryan Early is going places — literally! His expertise on the use of economic sanctions and strategic trade controls as tools of economic statecraft have earned him international passage as principal investigator on numerous grants from the U.S. State Department.

Bryan Early

Through a partnership with the State Department’s Export Control and Related Border Security (EXBS) program, Early and his team at Rockefeller College’s Project on International Security, Commerce & Economic Statecraft (PISCES) have secured more than $875,000 in grants over the past year and a half to provide strategic trade control assistance to countries in South America, Europe, the Middle East, and Central Asia.

Bryan Early and Richard
Young during a presentation
to Kyrgyz government

“The U.S. Government has had a long-running set of programs going back to the fall of the Soviet Union in which it has sought to help countries impose more stringent domestic international controls on their nuclear technology and other weapons of mass destruction (WMD) related technologies,” says Early. "The EXBS program has been providing assistance in terms of money, equipment and resources at the borders, and training and outreach to foreign government officials about how they can create more effective laws, regulations, and institutions to help regulate trade in items and technologies that have use in traditional military or WMD-related technology, such as nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. The program assesses which countries are at risk and allocates funding accordingly to countries that have demonstrated interest in having outreach engagement.”

The PISCES team: (Top row, left to right)
Bryan Early, Jay Nash (Lower row, left to
right) Richard Young, Lara Howe,
and Ryan Cathie

Much of the advanced technology necessary to create nuclear weapons and WMDs is available through commercial sources because of globalization and the proliferation of higher-end technology. “If the U.S. wants to protect this potentially destructive technology it can’t be passive and it can’t afford to be reactive. It’s got to be proactive in going out to the countries that have the capabilities to produce these items and technologies, or that might be exploited as places where illicit traders or smugglers would go to acquire them,” notes Early. United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540 provides further incentive for countries to accept the U.S. assistance. The resolution, adopted in 2004, created an international legal obligation for all countries to impose effective strategic trade control systems.

The National Opera and Ballet Theater in
Bishkek, capital of the Kyrgyz Republic

This fall, Early and PISCES colleagues Lara Howe and Richard Young will travel to Armenia for a session with government officials. PISCES has already completed workshops in the Balkans, Lebanon, Kazakhstan, and the Kyrgyz Republic. Upcoming assignments include Brazil, Oman, and Kosovo. In preparation, the team must first conduct assessments of the current state of a country’s strategic trade control system, analyzing which areas of the system require enhancement or improvement. Early and his colleagues are then able to provide recommendations for how that country can implement international best practices.

Bryan Early photographed
near Ala-Too Square in
Bishkek by a statue of
Manas, the legendary here
of the Kyrgyz nation

“We have to wear many hats,” says Early about the PISCES team. “We have to be comparativists because each country we go to has a different political system. There’s no standard strategic trade control system that’s one-size-fits-all. More than any other work I do, this is the most strenuous interdisciplinary exercise. It draws on my academic knowledge, my ability to be a policy analyst, and my understanding of how to get things done within political systems. I’ve had great opportunities to travel, see different countries, be exposed to different cultures, and learn about the various ways that people govern themselves. That’s really informed my work on the academic side as much as anything I’ve learned in books or through my graduate studies. It’s a different style of work but it’s one where my academic perspective and my work for an academic audience can contribute to what I can do in the policy world. My interactions and experience in the policy world give me fresh ideas and perspectives for my academic work. I feel like I’m bridging a divide between these two different communities that have two different perspectives on politics. If you’re comfortable going back and forth between them, it can be a very fruitful exchange.”

Photo at top: Bryan Early and the PISCES team hold a planning meeting at Rockefeller College.