College of Humanities and Social Sciences
College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Sonia Ben Ouagrham-Gormley

Sonia Ben Ouagrham-Gormley

Sonia Ben Ouagrham-Gormley

Associate Professor

Organization and management of weapons programs; tacit knowledge and weapons development; Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) terrorism, ethics and science; WMD export controls; WMD-related trafficking in the former Soviet states; sanctions and proliferation financing; bioweapons dissuasion.

Sonia Ben Ouagrham-Gormley is an Associate Professor in the School of Policy, Government, and International Affairs at George Mason University.  She holds affiliations with GMU’s Biodefense Program, Center for Global Studies, and the Department of History and Art History’s Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies (MAIS) program.  She received her PhD in Development Economics from the Ecoles des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Paris; a graduate degree in Strategy and Defense Policy from the Ecoles des Hautes Etudes Internationales in Paris; a master’s degree in Applied Foreign Languages (triple major in economics, law, and foreign languages —Russian, and English) from the University of Paris X-Nanterre, and a dual undergraduate degree in Applied Foreign Languages and English Literature from the University of Paris X-Nanterre.  She is fluent in French, English, Russian, and spoken Arabic, and possesses beginner competence in Kazakh.

Prior to joining the GMU faculty in 2008, Professor Ben Ouagrham-Gormley was a Senior Research Associate with the Monterey Institute of International Studies’ James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS). While at CNS, she spent two years at the CNS Almaty office in Kazakhstan, where she served as Director of Research. She also was the founding Editor-in-Chief of the International Export Control Observer, a monthly publication focusing on proliferation developments and export controls around the globe. From 2004 to 2008, she was an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins' School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C. 

Professor Ben Ouagrham-Gormley has conducted research and written on such topics as nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons proliferation, organization and management of weapons programs, WMD trafficking in states of the former Soviet Union, biosecurity and bioterrorism, bio-dissuasion, export controls, defense industry conversion, transfer mechanisms of WMD expertise, and redirection of WMD experts. She has received several grants from the Departments of Defense, State, and Energy, as well as from the Nuclear Threat Initiative and the Carnegie Corporation of New York to conduct research on WMD proliferation and contribute to remediation programs such as the DOD-funded Cooperative Threat Reduction Program.

Current Research

Currently, Professor Ben Ouagrham-Gormley is working on a book that provides testimonies of former U.S. and Soviet bioweapons scientists, technicians and administrative personnel collected under a 4-year oral history project, funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. The book will be accompanied by a documentary on bioweapons and bioethics, featuring former bioweapons scientists. A website under construction will also contain transcripts of interviews conducted under the oral history project and serve as an online bilingual forum to educate U.S. and international scientists, engineers, and publics about the complicated ethical dilemmas underpinning scientific work. Professor Ben Ouagrham-Gormley is also working on a project that aims to evaluate the role of foreign technical assistance in state and non-state weapons programs' advancement.

Selected Publications

Barriers to Bioweapons: The Challenges of Expertise and Organization for Weapons Development, (Cornell University Press, 2014)

“Distributive Justice and Treaty Efficiency: Impact of Dual-use Research Restrictions on BWC Implementation,” Sonia Ben Ouagrham-Gormley, International Negotiation, Vol.9, no.3 (Forthcoming, 2014)

“Restricted Science,” Sonia Ben Ouagrham-Gormley and Shannon Fye, Frontiers in Public Health, (Forthcoming 2014)

“Dissuading Biological Weapons Proliferation,” Contemporary Security Policy, December 2013.

“Dual-Use Research and the Myth of Easy Replication,” Sonia Ben Ouagrham-Gormley, Journal of Disaster Research, Vol. 8, No. 4 (August 2013): 705-713.

“Bioweapons Alarmism in Syria,” Sonia Ben Ouagrham-Gormley, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Online, October 4, 2013, 

“On Not Falling Prey to Biological Weapons Alarmism in Syria,” Sonia Ben Ouagrham-Gormley, Pandora Report, September 6, 2013,

“Banking on Nonproliferation: Improving the Efficiency of Counter-Proliferation Financing Policies,” Nonproliferation Review, Vol. 19, No. 2 (July 2012)

“Barriers to Bioweapons: Intangible Obstacles to Proliferation,” International Security, Vol. 36, No. 4 (Spring 2012)

“The Pandora’s Box of Biology,” The Global Studies Review, Vol. 8, No. 1 (May 2012),

The Anthrax Diaries, a documentary produced with Slawomir Grunberg, Slava Paperno, and Kathleen Vogel, 

“Amerithrax Review: Lessons for Future Investigations,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Online, November 1, 2011,

“The Social Context Shaping Bioweapons (Non)proliferation,” with Kathleen M. Vogel, Biosecurity and Bioterrorism: Biodefense Strategy, Practice, and Science, Vol. 8, No. 1 (March 2010)

“Breaking Out of the CTR Mold?”  Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Vol. 66, No. 1 (January 2010)

“Nuclear Terrorism’s Fatal Assumptions,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Online, October 23, 2007,

“An Unrealized Nexus? WMD-Trafficking, Terrorism, and Organized Crime in the Former Soviet Union,” Arms Control Today, Vol. 37 (July/August 2007),

“Growth in the Anti-Plague System During the Soviet Period,” Critical Reviews in Microbiology, Vol. 32, No. 1 (2006)

“What Non-Proliferation Policy for the Soviet Anti-Plague System?” with Alexander Melikishvili, and Raymond A. Zilinskas, Critical Reviews in Microbiology, Vol. 32, No. 1 (2006)

“Plagued with Errors: New Approaches Needed to Tackle Proliferation Threats from the Anti-Plague System,” Arms Control Today, Vol. 36,

“Proliferation Threat from Former Biological Weapons Facilities in the Former Soviet Union,” The Liechtenstein Institute for Self-Determination, Princeton University, 2003

“Conversion of Soviet Biological Weapons Facilities: Lessons Learned from A Case Study in Stepnogorsk, Kazakhstan,” with Kathleen M. Vogel, Peace Studies Program Occasional Paper, Cornell University, 2003

“Conversion of Russian Chemical Weapons Production Facilities: Conflicts with the CWC,” Nonproliferation Review, Vol. 7, No. 2 (July 2000)