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Josef Korbel School of International StudiesSié Chéou-Kang Center for International Security & Diplomacy

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Sié Center News


DENVER, CO, May 17, 2018 The Sié Chéou-Kang Center for International Security and Diplomacy, a leading research center at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, is part of a multi-institution team awarded a $1million dollar grant by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). The DoD's Minerva Research Initiative's three-year grant supports social science research in areas of importance to U.S. national security policy.

The awarded project is a collaboration led by Michael C. Horowitz, Professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania, who will work alongside researchers at the Naval War College, Yale University, and the Sié Center. Entitled, "The Disruptive Effects of Autonomy: Ethics, Trust, and Organizational Decision-making," the study will explore the factors that affect the use of autonomous systems employed by U.S. military on the battlefield.

"Autonomous systems further remove human beings from the battlefield and reduce our control over weapons that can select and engage targets on their own," said Professor Julia Macdonald, the lead researcher on the project from the Sié Center. "This increased delegation of responsibility to machines not only raises the prospect of job losses, but may also affect the willingness of the U.S. public and senior decision makers to use military force overseas."

In addition to enhancing U.S. military operations, project findings will help DoD policy-makers refine use of force policies and strategy to meet the challenges of the future battlefield.

"Research on behavioral reactions and the balance of autonomy in battle has significant implications on effective strategy-making," Pardis Mahdavi, Acting Dean of the Josef Korbel School, said in a statement.

"The team features an array of world-class scholars who will assist Department of Defense policymakers at the tactical, operational, and strategic level," said Mahdavi.

Researchers will use an innovative, multi-method approach, including qualitative research, statistical analysis, and survey experiments on a broad range of military and foreign policy constituents.

"This research is promising because it will be the first to systematically study the behavioral effects of autonomous systems in the United States and potentially abroad," said Deborah Avant, the Sié Chair and Director of the Sié Center.

Founded in 1964, the Josef Korbel School of International Studies—housed at the University of Denver—is one of the world's leading schools for the study of international relations. The School offers degree programs in international affairs and public policy and is named in honor of its founder and first dean, Josef Korbel. Follow the Korbel School on Facebook and Twitter. For more information, please contact the school's Communications Department at [email protected] or by phone at 303-871-3513.