Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Liberal Think Tanks Taking Over National Security Policy?

From Defense One:
...A tight network of well more than 1,000 national-security-minded progressives—mostly in their 20s, 30s, and 40s—has succeeded in infiltrating the U.S. foreign policy machine. The group of wonks is loosely connected by two center-left organizations that sprang up in the mid-2000s—the Truman National Security Project and the Center for a New American Security—as well as organizations such as the Center for American Progress, the National Security Network, and Third Way. Like the conservative groups they sought to emulate, they have cultivated a farm league that has groomed and handpicked individuals for key leadership posts at the Pentagon, the State Department, and Capitol Hill.

More can be found here.  It is from earlier in the year, but still an interesting read...

And for some more updated news, CNAS CEO Michele Flournoy has reportedly pulled herself out of the running to replace Chuck Hagel as the head of the Defense Department.  More can be read here.  Guess the idea that Hagel could become the new CEO of CNAS is a bust...

Although Flournoy is out, a variety of other CNAS-connected folks could still snag the SecDef spot.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Think Tank Quickies (#153)

  • Billionaire Peter Peterson announces new $200 million think tank: Peterson Center on Healthcare.
  • Jeb Bush's education think tank: Foundation for Excellence in Education.
  • Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) speaks about missile defense at AEI on November 19.
  • Free-market think tank NCPA back in sex scandal spotlight with lawsuit.
  • Canadian think tank ideology: Top 25 Canadian think tanks ranked by Twitter followers.
  • Manhattan Institute scholar: Democratic think tank (CAP) published a chart that would "get laughed out of Econ 101."
  • Manila think tank rebrands as Albert Del Rosario Institute and partners with CSIS.
  • Brookings guest scholar and former Member of Congress Bill Frenzel dies.
  • Former DoD official Daniel Chiu named Deputy Director of Atlantic Council's Brent Scowcroft Center on International Security.
  • Ilan Goldenberg, former Chief of Staff to Special Envoy for Israel-Palestinian Negotiations and Iran Team Chief of OSD-Policy, named CNAS Middle East Security Program Director.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Will Chuck Hagel Head Another Think Tank?

Could there be a big think tank head swap in the cards?

With the announcement that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is stepping down from his post, word on the street is that Michele Flournoy, the co-founder and CEO of Center for a New American Security (CNAS), is among those that could be tapped by President Obama for the SecDef position.

Hagel is the former Chairman of Atlantic Council, a think tank that is now chaired by Jon Hunstman.  With that post already taken, it may be a perfect swap if Flournoy moves to head DoD and Hagel becomes CEO of CNAS.

After all, Hagel is not devoted to just one think tank.  For example, during the June 27, 2007 official launch of CNAS, then-Senator Hagel delivered a keynote address for the think tank.

Hagel also has close ties to the defense-oriented think tank Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), where Flournoy used to work.  Hagel delivered the keynote address last year at CSIS's Global Security Forum.  [And CSIS head John Hamre's name has been floated as a possible Hagel replacement.]

In May, Hagel spoke about NATO expansion and European Security at the Wilson Center, and he has previously spoken at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) a number of times.

Robert Work, the current Deputy Secretary of Defense, and a former CEO of CNAS, is another name being floated as a potential Hagel replacement.  So is CNAS co-founder Kurt Campbell and CNAS board member Richard Danzig (who is also Vice Chair of the Board of Rand Corp.).

Ashton Carter, another name being floated for the top DoD spot, is a member of CFR and has spoken a variety of times at CNAS.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Former Think Tank Exec Gary Palmer Headed to US Congress

Republican Gary Palmer recently won a seat in the US House of Representatives, becoming what we believe to be the first think tank founder to win a Congressional seat.

Mr. Palmer of Georgia founded the Alabama Policy Institute (API) about 25 years ago.  The conservative state think tank supports limited government, free markets, and strong families.  API will be holding its 25th anniversary dinner with Speaker Bobby Jindal on December 4.

API was attacked during Mr. Palmer's campaign because the think tank would not reveal its donors.

Also, another incoming member of Congress has strong ties to the think tank world.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Brookings Video Catches President Obama in a Lie?

Be careful what you say at think tanks, because it may come back to bite you in the future.  Even presidents are not immune.

President Barack Obama has been arguing that MIT economist Jonathan Gruber, who has been singled out in recent days for making controversial comments about the Affordable Care Act (ACA), was not involved in writing the ACA, commonly known as Obamacare.  And President Obama clearly wants to distance himself from Gruber.  Yet a Brookings video shows Mr. Obama saying that he has "stolen ideas" from Gruber "liberally."

The Daily Caller has the video here.  The event, titled "Restoring America's Promise of Opportunity, Prosperity and Growth," took place April 5, 2006, when Obama was a senator from Illinois.

Then-Sen. Obama was on the first panel of that event, and Gruber was on the second panel at that event.  Here is a transcript from the event.

Think Tank Quickies (#152)

  • Think tank law via Peter Singer of NAF (formerly of Brookings): The more boring a think tank event, the more event reminders you will receive.
  • New HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell finds herself in defensive posture, even though in friendly environs of the liberal Center for American Progress (CAP).
  • SCMP: Think tanks with Chinese characteristics won't fully succeed in muzzling scholars.
  • New UCSD think tank to tackle aging issues.
  • Jon Kyl of AEI and Stephen Moore of Heritage pen piece together for WSJ.
  • The word "genocide" made its debut in 674-page "Axis Rule in Occupied Europe" doc by CEIP?
  • CSIS launches Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI).
  • Cato Institute head John Allision promoting new book: "The Leadership Crisis and the Free Market Cure."
  • Professor Elena Lazarou gives classes at LUISS University on the role of think tanks.
  • South-South and Triangular Cooperation: Emerging opportunities for think tanks consultation.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Canadian TV to Examine Role of Think Tanks

The Agenda with Steve Paikin, the current affairs program on TVOntario (TVO), will broadcast a program on November 17 titled "Think Tanks and Policy Planks" which will examine the role think tanks are playing in influencing policy in Canada.

Guests include:
  • Rohinton Medhora: President, Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI)
  • Trish Hennessy: Director, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
  • Jason Clemons, Executive Vice President, Fraser Institute
  • Don Abelson: Professor, Political Science, Western University
  • Tasha Kheiriddin, Colunist/Editor of Editorial Board, National Post
  • Kathleen Monk, Founding Executive Director, Broadbent Institute

We will be watching closely to see if they discuss the state of Canadian think tanks and if Canadian think tanks are truly in decline.

CAP to Hold Annual Policy Conference with Major Dems

Center for American Progress will hold its annual policy conference on November 19.  The event will be streamed live on

Those giving speeches include Democratic heavyweights such as the newly minted Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julian Castro, Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), US Ambassador to the United Nations (UN) Samantha Power, California Attorney General Kamala Harris, Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), billionaire Tom Steyer, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

The event is by invitation only, and will take place from 9am to 4:30pm at the Mayflower in Washington, DC.

Here is what Ezra Klein of Vox had to say about CAP's policy conference.

Last year CAP held its 10th anniversary policy conference, where Hillary Clinton was a featured speaker.  The think tank has close ties to the Clintons and is expected to be one of Hillary Clinton's go-to think tanks as she ramps up for a likely 2016 presidential run.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Diplomat & Think Tank Circuit Fixture Under FBI Investigation

Here is what The Washington Post is reporting:
A veteran State Department diplomat and longtime Pakistan expert is under federal investigation as part of a counterintelligence probe and has had her security clearances withdrawn, according to U.S. officials.
The FBI searched the Northwest Washington home of Robin L. Raphel last month, and her State Department office was also examined and sealed, officials said. Raphel, a fixture in Washington’s diplomatic and think-tank circles, was placed on administrative leave last month, and her contract with the State Department was allowed to expire this week.

Based on a Think Tank Watch investigation, among the think tanks that Raphel frequented include the Middle East Institute (MEI), the Atlantic Council, the Wilson Center, the Stimson Center, and US Institute of Peace (USIP).  A long time ago, she spoke at this Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP) event.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post on the think tanks that spies prefer.  Here is another post about how think tanks abound with former spies.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Carnegie Becomes Latest Think Tank to Disclose Donors

Some of Washington's top think tanks are quietly releasing funding data amid a powerful push by some groups for more transparency.

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP) is the latest think tank to disclose its donor data, after the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE) quietly released a bunch of updated funding data.

You can be among the first to check out CEIP's 2014 contributors and funders here.  Several entities have given CEIP more than $1 million in 2014, including the Carnegie Corporation of New York, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the UK Department for International Development.

Entities that have given the think tank between $250,000 and $999,999 is FY 2014 include the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the International Development Research Centre (Canadian).

The US Department of Defense, US Department of State, North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and the Taipei Economic and Cultural  Representative Office (TECRO) have each given more than $100,000.

Here is CEIP's funding policy statement.  The think tank says that it relies on its endowment (the legacy of Andrew Carnegie's original 1910 gift of $10 million), to provide core funding for its programs.  That endowment covers close to 50 percent of the think tank's annual budget.

More coming soon....

Think Tank Quickies (#151)

  • Truman National Security Project's "secret email" on Iran nuclear talks.
  • Former Brookings Fellow Erica Downs joins Eurasia Group as Senior Analyst on China.
  • Former House member Allen West to be CEO of National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA).
  • SCMP editorial: China needs better think tanks to provide quality advice.
  • CSIS announces new Cyber Security Task Force.
  • Rep. John Delaney (D-MD) highlights think tank support for his infrastructure bill. 
  • LSE Career Blog post: Working in the think tank sector.
  • World Economic Forum (WEF) launches Think Tank Leader Forum.
  • Think tanks bridge research to policy.
  • Paul Saunders of Center for National Interest: The Media's Mistaken Assumptions About Washington Think Tanks.

CSIS Scholar Tapped to be Assistant Secretary of Defense

The White House recently announced that it intends to nominate David Berteau to be the next Assistant Secretary of Defense for Logistics and Materiel Readiness.

Berteau is currently the Senior Vice President and Director of the National Security Program on Industry and Resources at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), one of the world's top defense think tanks.

He joined CSIS full time in 2008, and before that he was a Nonresident Senior Associate at the think tank.

Here is what Defense News had to say.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Peterson Institute Discloses Funding Sources

Amid pressure by various groups to disclose funding sources, the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE) has quietly released a 10-page document outlining its funders, with details from 2010-2013.

The conclusion is no suprise: PIIE relies heavily on foreign sources of funding.  The document shows that in 2013 the think tank received 43 percent of its funding from non-US sources.

As loyal Think Tank Watch readers are well aware, many current and former foreign government officials are connected to PIIE.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Celebrity Chef Cat Cora Coming to Think Tank Land

On November 13 the think tank New America Foundation (NAF) will be hosting an event with celebrity chef Cat Cora, who will deliver a keynote address on why putting a meal on the table is harder than ever for modern families, and how they can solve it.

This unique event is being put on by NAF's Breadwinning & Caregiving Program, which, among other things, works on work-family balance issues.  Here is a list of the Program's Advisory Council.

A reception will follow the discussion, which is being underwritten by Betty Crocker.  More on Cat Cora can be found here, and here is her homepage.

It will not be the first time that a celebrity chef has come to think tank land.  For example, Jose Andres came to Center for American Progress (CAP) several years ago, and served a Spanish "bento."

Friday, November 7, 2014

Favorite Lines From WPost Piece on Brookings Funding

Now that Think Tank Watch has viewed enough of the Brookings Fight Club video, we'd thought it was finally time to summarize some of the interesting points in the recent Washington Post article on alleged donor influence on research at the Brookings Institution.

Following are our favorite lines from the Washington Post piece, titled "At Fast-Growing Brookings, Donors May Have an Impact on Research Agenda," and written by Tom Hamburger and Alexander Becker.

  • Over the past decade, a new business model has taken hold at Brookings. The Washington institution renowned for impeccable research and its clout as an independent policy architect has in recent years placed an emphasis on expansion and fundraising — giving scholars a bigger role in seeking money from donors and giving donors a voice in Brookings’s research agenda.
  • Lobbyists are increasingly encouraging clients to donate to Brookings and other think tanks as a way of getting researchers to spend time on the issues that donors care about. Lobbyists say they warn clients not to expect that they can dictate research results from an elite think tank such as Brookings but note that they gain a chance to make their case directly to researchers, stay in touch as papers are written and suggest participants in public forums.
  • Its [Brookings] hundreds of scholars — about 150 in-house and 250 who retain nonresident affiliations — occasionally operate as unofficial government envoys who take part in delicate international diplomacy. Others produce definitive works examining Congress, the economy and American society.
  • In the past, Brookings was funded for the most part by no-strings-attached grants from large foundations and individual philanthropists. An endowment, unusual for a Washington think tank, provided steady interest income that supported independent research and insulated scholars from the fundraising side of the organization.  That became problematic. Foundations began to place more restrictions on their grants, part of a challenging new trend facing Brookings and other academic institutions in which donors increasingly specify their expectations as part of what they call “impact philanthropy.”
  • The strategy also led to a lesser reliance on the endowment. Brookings’s annual reports show that, as the organization has grown, income generated by the endowment has declined as a proportion of annual operating revenue — from about one-third a decade ago to 11 percent in 2013.
  • Brookings officials said no single donor provides more than 2.5 percent of the overall budget, limiting the influence that any one funder can have on the institution. Yet a Washington Post review of a few key issue areas found that Brookings’s public seminars, research papers, congressional testimony and op-eds often correspond to the interests of donors.
  • Heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune, who have poured money into school initiatives challenging the power of teachers unions, have joined their ideological allies in giving millions of dollars to support Brookings’s education policy center — whose scholars regularly adopt market-oriented stances­ oWhile the bulk of Brookings’s work focuses on broad policy issues, the institution has on occasion produced reports that address specific requests from individual donors, although officials say such work always serves a broader purpose.n key issues.
  • Energy companies have escalated their giving to Brookings in recent years, and its Energy Security Initiative has built a team of experts made up in large part of individuals with oil and utility industry ties.
  • While the bulk of Brookings’s work focuses on broad policy issues, the institution has on occasion produced reports that address specific requests from individual donors, although officials say such work always serves a broader purpose.
  • Atlanta-area boosters seeking to build a rail line between the city and Macon, for instance, agreed to pay Brookings and contributing researchers $200,000 in 2010 for an economic impact study and received a report forecasting large benefits from the project — a study that Brookings officials later said failed to meet the institution’s standards because it was not properly reviewed.
  • Brookings officials say there are many examples in which the think tank has declined offers to conduct research and cases­ in which donors withdrew their money because they disagreed with Brookings’s activities.  In one instance, Brookings lost funding from a longtime Turkish donor who had objected to an event that included a Kurdish official, said David Nassar, Brookings vice president for communications.
  • Corporations made up 25 percent of Brookings’s donors giving at least $50,000 in 2013, up from 7 percent in 2003, the analysis found. The proportion of donors at that level coming from overseas, including foreign governments and trade associations, rose from 6 percent to 22 percent in that period.
  • Researchers mingle with top-level donors at “Brookings in the Hamptons” and private travel seminars, some to overseas locales, including China, India and the Middle East. Lobbyists from Washington’s premier firms show up regularly, with clients in tow to meet with scholars and institution luminaries.
  • From the outside, said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, it appears that Brookings no longer behaves like the independent academic institution it once was.  Weingarten, who leads one of the country’s two major teachers unions, said she and her predecessors used to be regularly invited guests at Brookings forums on education policy. But now, with the center’s scholars largely taking stands that run counter to the unions’ views, Weingarten said she is rarely on the Brookings invite list.
  • A number of recent Brookings studies have been singled out for criticism by academics and others, some of whom attribute the research results to Brookings’s association with corporate donors and other wealthy interests.

Okay, now back to the Fight Club video...

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Brookings to Open Another Branch in India?

Brookings opened a branch in New Delhi, India less than two years ago, and rumors are already suggesting that Brookings now wants to expand in India by opening a branch in Chennai.

Besides the think tank outpost in India, Brookings has the Brookings Doha Center (BDC) in Qatar.  It also has the Brookings-Tsinghua Center for Public Policy (BTC), a partnership of Brookings and China's Tsinghua University.

And besides its Washington, DC headquarters, Brookings's only other US office is located at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas (and supported by gold mining and casinos).

Think Tank Quickies (#150)

  • Will Brookings expand in India?  Is Chennai branch next...?
  • Growing stink about think tanks, by Alan Tonelson. 
  • Stanford Law School guide to think tank world. 
  • Think tanks face hurdle in answering Xi Jinping's call for "new type of Chinese think tank."
  • Think tanks too optimistic about "zero casualty war."
  • Former Prime Minister of Australia Kevin Rudd to become first president of Asia Society Policy Institute, described as a "new kind of think tank on the rise of Asia."
  • From AICGS at Johns Hopkins: How think tanks think.
  • Do think tanks send too many emails? (Think Tank Watch's answer: yes)
  • Is Russia "buying" Western think tanks and experts?
  • PBS Newshour's former foreign affairs and defense editor now watches wonks push policy in Washington's multitude of think tanks.

As Arctic Melts, Think Tank Rises

Arctic ice melting is causing scientists, businesses, and others to pay much greater attention to the region, and creating a boon for the niche think tank The Arctic Institute (TAI) in Washington, DC.

The Wall Street Journal just wrote an article almost solely on one recently released Arctic Institute report, which said that cargo shipping volume through the Northern Sea Route is rising as Arctic ice melts.

TAI recently announced it has signed a one-year partnership agreement with the High North Center in Bodø, North Norway. TAI will help the Center develop their High North Dialogue Conference, an Arctic-themed conference.

The think tank even has an online store where you can buy the latest copy of Arctic shipping routes, Arctic summer ice extent maps, and Arctic permafrost maps.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Soon-To-Be Youngest Woman in Congress a Think Tanker

Elise Stefanik (R-NY), 30, is expected to win a US House seat tomorrow, making her the youngest woman elected to the House.  And, according to The Washington Post, she has a think tank background:
She had stints with the conservative think tanks Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) and The Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI).

More specifically, she was an undergraduate fellow with FDD.  In other words, she was an intern.  At FPI, she was Director of Communications and External Affairs.  Both FDD and FPI are considered neoconservative think tanks.

Democratic opponent Aaron Woolf has said that every one of her ideas "is a kind of typical conservative think tank  idea from the last 20 years."

1st Rule of Brookings Fight Club: Beat Up Your Intern (or Try)

Think tank watchers may have been too distracted last week by that little Washington Post piece on alleged donor influence on research at Brookings to have noticed the much more significant news coming out of the world's top think tank: The Brookings Fight Club.

First, if you haven't seen the video, watch it here.  What you will find is a gem of a think tank video with Brookings national security intern Ben Bissell (who studies krav maga) fighting his boss Ben Wittes, Senior Fellow in Governance Studies at Brookings and Editor-in-Chief of Lawfare (who studied taekwondo and aikido).  Refereeing the 1st-ever think tank fight club fight match is Managing Editor of Lawfare Wells Bennett, in a bunny suit.

It is one of the only think tank videos in recent memory that is worth watching at least twice, even though we'd like to see a bit more blood spilled next time.  It is certainly much more interesting than a policy fight club.

What has the response been so far to the Brookings Fight Club?  Compared to most policy pieces, it has generally received rave reviews, and even has its own Twitter hashtag: #BrookingsFightClub.

Do you want to see two think tank scholars fight each other in the future?  Send us your ideas to info (at)

Think Tank First: Partnership With an Orchestra

The think tank world seems to be pushing the boundaries these days of what people have traditionally considered to be the role, activities, and partnerships of these once buttoned-down, conservative institutions.

A few weeks ago the Atlantic Council hired a star video game director.  Last week Brookings started the first-ever think tank fight club.  And now, the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), a top British defense and security think tank, has announced the first-ever partnership between a think tank and an orchestra.

Here is more from RUSI:
This will be the first time, perhaps in history, where a think tank and an orchestra have come together creatively to explore their respected fields over the next two years.
The partnership will be inaugurated on 10 November with an evening of music from the Great War. Hallé musicians will perform a programme of musical pieces derived from, and around, the First World War and featuring the music of some of the country’s best loved composers including Ralph Vaughan Williams and George Butterworth.
The event will take place at RUSI’s historic headquarters in Whitehall.
In 2015, RUSI and the Hallé will explore ‘leadership in music and the military’ with Sir Mark Elder and a leading military figure, as well as a stellar concert in October 2015 to mark the 600th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt.

Think Tank Watch wonders if think tanks will start one-upping each other for wilder and wilder partnerships.  Will Brookings Institution partner with Madonna?  Will American Enterprise Institute (AEI) partner with Jay-Z?

RUSI was founded in 1831 by the Duke of Wellington.  It is a British institution but has satellite offices in Doha, Tokyo, and Washington, DC.  Her Majesty the Queen is a Patron of RUSI.  His Royal Highness The Duke of Kent is the President of RUSI.  It is considered the world's oldest think tank.

In the most recent University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings, RUSI was named as the world's 40th best think tank.  It was also named as the world's 8th best defense and national security think tank.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

CSIS Co-Founder David Abshire Dies

David Abshire, co-founder and president emeritus of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) died on October 31 in Alexandria Virginia.  He was 88.

He helped established the think tank in 1962, and interrupted his work there several times to work for various Republican administrations.

Here is more from The Washington Post:
After working at a predecessor to the American Enterprise Institute, he joined retired Navy Adm. Arleigh Burke in founding CSIS. Once associated with Georgetown University, it grew into a think tank whose members include Kissinger and former national security advisers Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft.

Here is a statement from CSIS on Dr. Abshire's death.  Here is a statement from Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN).

CSIS has the Abshire-Inamori Leadership Academy (AILA) to provide rising global leaders with training opportunities in leadership, ethics, and foreign policy.  Dr. Kazuo Inamori was the founder of Kyocera Corporation.

CSIS's other co-founder, Arleigh Burke, died in 1996.  The think tank still has the Burke Chair in Strategy that provides political and military analysis of challenges facing the US and the world.  Anthony Cordesman is the current Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy.

In related news, Bill Taylor, former head of CSIS's International Security Program, recently passed away.