The right man for the job: Guy Roberts’ journey to becoming USA’s lead man the field of CBRNe.


The nomination as Assistant Secretary Of Defense For Nuclear, Chemical and Biological Defense Programs (ASD(NCB)) will be the crown jewel of Mr. Guy Roberts’ already impressive career. Looking back at his track-record, the White House chose a suitable candidate in these times of duress, where threats from all sides of the CBRNe spectrum are widespread. It is no surprise that a careful vetting procedure preceded before the nomination of the United States’ next ASD(NCB). This article will take a closer look at the man who will lead US policy-making against CBRNE threats and which challenges he will be facing.

The tasks and responsibility attached to the position of ASD(NCB) should not be understated in the current climate. Mr. Guy Roberts will act as the principal advisor to the Secretary and Deputy Secretary of Defense and the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics (USD (AT&L)) on nuclear energy, nuclear weapons, chemical and biological defense. The Department of Defense’s (DoD) dual mission of sustaining a safe, secure and effective nuclear deterrent, in addition to countering the threat of nuclear terrorism and nuclear proliferation, will at large be dependent on the tasks carried out by Mr. Guy Roberts.

Challenges within CBRNe today are numerous: the use of chemical agents for political assassinations has again proven to be a popular method; recent epidemics have shown that disaster relief response is too slow; North Korea’s nuclear policy is becoming increasingly volatile and terrorist organizations are seeking to develop their own nuclear capabilities. His confident answers during the hearing in front of Senator John McCain, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, indicate that Mr. Roberts is well aware of the threats that need to be dealt with. From the aforementioned, nuclear deterrence will be amongst his top priorities.

During his statement at the hearing on Thursday the 2nd of November, Mr. Guy Roberts assured to build a “robust nuclear enterprise with a full set of flexible, credible, ready and survivable nuclear capabilities” and “institute declaratory policies that, in any adversary’s eyes, credibly convey the message that aggression of any kind is not a rational option.” During the questioning he continued to state his support to the “Departments’ efforts to modernize the nation’s nuclear forces and weapons complex” affirming that he views the funding, development, and fielding of the Long-Range Stand-Off Weapon as a logical step of “timely modernization.”

In parallel to the modernization of nuclear capabilities and effective deterrence, Mr. Guy Roberts stated that his priorities would entail “ensuring the destruction of the U.S. chemical weapons stockpile, decreasing the threat of proliferation chemical and biological weapons, and to keep WMD out of the hands of terrorists and other enemies by locking down, monitoring, and destroying weapons and weapons related materials.”

These assessments are based on thirty years of experience within the field of arms control, anti-proliferation, deterrence and strategic stability issues. At the Marine Corps he served as an action officer on the Joint Staff with a portfolio that included the Chemical Weapons Convention, Biological Weapons Convention, Certain Conventional Weapons Convention addressing landmines and incendiaries.

As the Department of the Navy’s Associate Counsel for arms control agreements, he was charged with reviewing all naval programs for compliance with strategic arms controls. While serving as the Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Negotiations Policy, he was appointed Deputy Head of Delegation to the Biological Weapons Convention Review Conferences and was a member of the Moscow Treaty negotiating team. Furthermore, he played a role in the creation and implementation of the Proliferation Security Initiative and the negotiation of UN Security Council Resolution 1540.

Until August 2011, he acted as NATO’s Deputy Assistant Secretary General for WMD Policy as well as the the Director for Nuclear Policy wherein he was responsible for NATO’s Countering WMD policy and initiatives. He also oversaw NATO’s nuclear deterrence posture and was one of the drafters of NATO Deterrence and Defense Posture Review.

To date Mr. Guy Roberts has kept a prominent presence in the world of CBRNe through consultancy by sharing his expertise with over thirty domestic and international organizations and institutions. He served as a Chairman at multiple NCT events across the world, including: NCT CBRNe Asia 2013 (Kuala Lumpur), NCT USA 2015 (Washington DC), NCT Middle East 2016 (Kuwait), NCT Asia & SISPAT 2017 (Singapore) and NCT Europe 2017 (Sonthofen, Germany). Within this capacity he has guided discussions and knowledge sharing with a multitude of CBRNe stakeholders worldwide.

The track-record outlined is a testament to the qualities that Mr. Roberts possesses, making him the right man for the job. With his dedication to protect all Americans from the threat of WMD proliferation and promoting continued cooperation with US allies in synchronizing efforts to counter threats, Mr. Guy Roberts’ nomination is an important step towards coherent US policy-making in the field of CBRNe.

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Martijn van Ballekom is an consultant at IB Consultancy and holds a Bachelor of Arts in History and International Relations from Royal Holloway University of London. He has completed a Master’s of Science in International Relations and Diplomacy at the University of Leiden. At IB Consultancy, Martijn is responsible for marketing activities and has frequently written for the CBRNePortal and other platforms.