Monday, August 12, 2013

The Influence of CSIS

The Boston Globe has just outlined the "new era of partisanship" at many think tanks and the role that money plays in those institutions.

The piece highlights the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) as a particularly influential think tank.  Here is what was said about CSIS:

An example of the hidden reach of such [think tank] sponsorships arose in June, when [Defense Secretary Chuck] Hagel arrived in Singapore’s plush Shangri-La Hotel for one of his first major policy addresses to a large gathering of defense ministers and generals from across Asia. He outlined plans for a long-term — and costly — US security umbrella requiring a greater commitment of forces, warships, training, and foreign weapons sales.
Undisclosed to Hagel’s audience — or the public, for that matter — was the fact that his remarks were crafted with help from scholars at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, one of the most respected of Washington think tanks.
National security agencies increasingly rely on the center to help formulate strategy, even as the think tank receives its biggest share of tax-deductible contributions for research from arms manufacturers, energy companies, and other major corporations seeking to shape policy — nearly a third of its $33 million in revenues last year, according to think tank officials and public records.
Roughly 4 percent of annual revenue is raised from foreign governments, including the Canadian province of Alberta; Norway; and several Persian Gulf emirates.
CSIS is building a new 15,000-square foot, $100 million headquarters in Washington with money raised by a high-powered collection of former senior government officials and titans of industry representing defense giants Lockheed Martin, Boeing, and Raytheon, along with pharmaceutical conglomerate Procter & Gamble, oil giant Chevron, and a top adviser to the Sultan of Oman, according to CSIS officers and documents.
CSIS maintains that it has rigorous internal procedures to prevent donors’ interests from infecting scholarship or its large volume of advice to the government.
“We have 130 projects right now, and I keep close track of them. I know who is funding each of them,” said John Hamre, a former deputy defense secretary who has been president of CSIS since 2000.
Its full-time researchers, meanwhile, must annually disclose any outside business clients to an internal management committee, he said. That applies to at least one member of the team whose assistance was sought by senior Pentagon officials on Hagel’s Asia speech: Ernest Bower, a leading Asia scholar at CSIS who also runs a large business consulting firm, Bower Group Asia, with offices in nine Asian countries.
Bower told the Globe he discloses all of his business clients to CSIS, but he says he cannot reveal their identities publicly, due to contractual agreements.
“We listened to ideas from experts at several think tanks,” said Pentagon press secretary George Little. He would not identify the think tanks, however.
“It’s perfectly appropriate for government officials to listen to ideas from nongovernment sources, including think tank experts,” he said. “This is America, after all, where compelling ideas don’t always originate inside government agencies and departments.’’
But Hagel's office acknowledged that it was not aware when it sought Bower's independent advice that he is also a paid consultant for unidentified companies with interests in Asia. It declined to respond to questions about whether Hagel or his aides believe they should have been made aware.

CSIS was recently ranked as the best think tank in the world for security and international affairs by the University of Pennsylvania annual think tank rankings.  It was also ranked as the 5th best think tank in the world.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post on CSIS's new headquarters.