Bruce G. Blair

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Bruce Gentry Blair (November 16, 1947 – July 19, 2020) was an American nuclear security expert, research scholar, national security expert, the author of articles and books on nuclear topics, and a television show producer.

Education and background[edit]

Blair was born in Creston, Iowa.[1] He earned a Ph.D. in operations research at Yale University in 1984.[2] He received his B.S. in communications from the University of Illinois in 1970.

Prior to his position at Princeton, Blair was the president of the World Security Institute,[3] a non-profit organization.[3] He was a senior fellow in the Foreign Policy Studies Program at the Brookings Institution from 1987 to 2000.[4][5] Previously, he served as a project director at the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment from 1982 to 1985, where he worked on a study of the U.S.'s ability to communicate with its strategic forces.[6] From 1970 to 1974, Blair served in the U.S. Air Force as a Minuteman ICBM launch control officer and support officer for the Strategic Air Command's Airborne Command Post.[7]


Blair was a nuclear security expert and a research scholar at the Program on Science and Global Security at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.[8] Joining the program in May 2013, he focused on technical and policy steps on the path toward the verifiable elimination of nuclear weapons, specifically on deep bilateral nuclear arms reductions, multilateral arms negotiations and de-alerting of nuclear arsenals.[9] He was co-founder of Global Zero, an international non-partisan group consisting of 300 world leaders, over 150 student chapters and millions of supporters worldwide dedicated to achieving the elimination of nuclear weapons.[10]

Blair was an expert on United States and Russian security policies, specializing in nuclear forces and command and control systems.[11] He frequently testified before Congress.[12][13][14][15][16] In 2011, he was appointed to the U.S. Secretary of State's International Security Advisory Board, a small group of experts that provides the Department of State with independent insight and advice on all aspects of international security, disarmament and arms control.[17] He also taught security studies as a visiting professor at Yale and Princeton universities. In 1999, he was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship Prize for his research, work and leadership on de-alerting nuclear forces.[18] In 2008, he was selected as a finalist for the Skoll Social Entrepreneur Award.

Blair's expertise helped make nuclear and global affairs issues accessible to the public in various media outlets. He was an executive producer of Countdown to Zero,[19] a documentary film on nuclear weapons.[20] He also created and was the executive producer of the PBS weekly television series Superpower: Global Affairs Television (2002–2004), and was the executive producer for Azimuth Media and its weekly PBS television series, Foreign Exchange, which was first hosted by Fareed Zakaria (2005–2007) and subsequently by Daljit Dhaliwal (2008–2009).

He published the Washington ProFile (Russian), Washington Observer (Chinese), Washington Prism (Persian), Taqrir Washington (Arabic) and China Security.[21] He was also the executive producer of two television documentaries, CNN Presents' "Deadlock: Russia's Forgotten War"[22] and the PBS Frontline's "Missile Wars"[23] in 2002.

He was the author of numerous books and articles on security issues in such publications as Scientific American, National Interest, The New York Times and The Washington Post. His books include Strategic Command and Control (Brookings, 1985), winner of the Edgar S. Furniss Award for its contribution to the study of national security; Crisis Stability and Nuclear War (Oxford, 1988; co-editor); The Logic of Accidental Nuclear War (Brookings, 1993); and Global Zero Alert for Nuclear Forces (Brookings, 1995).[24]

Blair died in Philadelphia after a stroke on July 19, 2020.[1][25]

Forcing the military to implement McNamara's "Permissive Action Links"[edit]

In 2002 Blair said he had told former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara (1961-1968) the previous month that the secret codes (called "Permissive Action Links”) required to launch Minuteman missiles had all been set to OOOOOOOO. McNamara was shocked, because the top military leaders had assured him that those secret codes had been installed. In fact, the hardware had been installed. However, the secret codes had all been set to OOOOOOOO. Blair knew this, because one of his jobs while in the U.S. Air Force 1970 to 1974 had been as a Minuteman ICBM launch control officer. After he left the military, he began lobbying first the Department of Defense and then the U.S. Congress to change those codes to something different. They were officially "activated" in 1977. In discussing this, Blair concluded, "It is hard to know where to begin, and end, in recounting stories like this one that reveal how misinformed, misled, and misguided on critical nuclear matters our top leaders have been throughout the nuclear age."[26] For more, see Blair's other publications.[27]


  • Bruce G. Blair (1979). Progress in Arms Control? Selected Readings from Scientific American. San Francisco: Freeman.
  • Bruce G. Blair (1985). Strategic Command and Control: Redefining the Nuclear Threat. Washington, D.C.: Brookings.
  • Bruce G. Blair; Condoleezza Rice, eds. (1987). Crisis Stability and Nuclear War. Ithica, N.Y.: Cornell University.
  • Bruce G. Blair; Kurt Gottfried, eds. (1988). Crisis Stability and Nuclear War. Oxford.
  • Bruce G. Blair (1993). The Logic of Accidental Nuclear War. Washington, D.C.: Brookings.
  • Bruce G. Blair (1995). Global Zero Alert for Nuclear Forces. Washington, D.C.: Brookings.



  1. ^ a b Roberts, Sam (July 24, 2020). "Bruce Blair, Crusader for Nuclear Arms Control, Dies at 72". The New York Times. Retrieved July 26, 2020.
  2. ^ "Bruce G. Blair". Princeton University. Retrieved 2013-12-09.
  3. ^ a b "World Security Institute: About Us". Archived from the original on June 25, 2012. Retrieved 2013-12-09.
  4. ^ "Interview - Bruce Blair". PBS Frontline. Retrieved 21 December 2013.
  5. ^ "More Missteps: Air Force official in charge of nukes left open blast door, sources say". Fox News. Retrieved 21 December 2013.
  6. ^ Gordon, Michael R. (1986-05-15). "Tug of War, With a Twist, On Secrets". The New York Times. Retrieved 21 December 2013.
  7. ^ Hoffman, David (2009). The Dead Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and its Dangerous Legacy. Random House LLC. pp. 365–66.
  8. ^ "VIAF: Bruce Blair". Retrieved 2013-12-09.
  9. ^ "Bruce G. Blair". Princeton University.
  10. ^ "Dr. Bruce Blair". Global Zero. Archived from the original on 20 December 2013. Retrieved 20 Dec 2013.
  11. ^ Mintz, Morton (5 Dec 2002). "Hair-Raising Hair Triggers". The American Prospect. Retrieved 19 Dec 2013.
  12. ^ "Statement of Bruce Blair to the House National Security Subcommittee". 13 March 1997. Retrieved 21 December 2013.
  13. ^ "Testimony to the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces" (PDF). 19 March 2013. Retrieved 2 January 2014.
  14. ^ Lynch, Colum (1 November 2007). "U.S. Official is Faulted for Nuclear Weapons Claim". The Washington Post. Retrieved 21 December 2013.
  15. ^ Schell, Jonathan (1998). The Gift of Time: Case for Abolishing Nuclear Weapons Now. Granta. ISBN 0805059601.
  16. ^ Broad, William J. (8 October 1993). "Russia Has 'Doomsday' Machine, U.S. Expert Says". The New York Times. Retrieved 22 December 2013.
  17. ^ "ISAB: Current Board Members". The Office of Web Management, Bureau of Public Affairs. Retrieved 2 January 2014.
  18. ^ "Brookings Senior Fellow Bruce Blair Wins 'No Strings Attached' MacArthur Award". Brookings Institution. 23 June 1999. Retrieved 19 Dec 2013.
  19. ^ "Bruce Blair - IMDb". Retrieved 19 Dec 2013.
  20. ^ "Countdown to Zero" (PDF) (Press release). dogwoof. 2010. Retrieved 2013-12-09.
  21. ^ "Bruce Blair Biography". All American Speakers. Retrieved 2 January 2014.
  22. ^ "Deadlock: Russia's Forgotten War". CNN. 2005. Archived from the original on 3 January 2014. Retrieved 2 January 2014.
  23. ^ "Missile Wars". Frontline: PBS. Retrieved 2 January 2014.
  24. ^ "Brookings Senior Fellow Bruce Blair Wins "No Strings Attached" MacArthur Award" (23 June 1999). Brookings Institution. Retrieved 19 December 2013.
  25. ^ "Global Zero Mourns the Loss of Dr. Bruce Blair". Global Zero. 2020-07-20. Retrieved 2020-07-20.
  26. ^ Bruce G. Blair (11 February 2004). "Keeping Presidents in the Nuclear Dark (Episode #1: The Case of the Missing Permissive Action Links)" (PDF). Bruce Blair's Nuclear Column. Wikidata Q111619559.
  27. ^ A list of Blair's publications are available in Bruce G. Blair, Bruce Blair's Nuclear Column, Wikidata Q111619228

External links[edit]