Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Think Tank Quickies (#157)

  • Richard Branson and Amory Lovins create mega think tank for clean energy. 
  • Three pages of Sen. Rand Paul's book apparently plagiarized from Heritage, Cato.
  • What role can think tanks play in Washington's policymaking, via Global Times.
  • Indian PM Modi met with CAP president during his DC visit (Indian Embassy is a client of the lobbying firm that CAP founder Podesta co-founded with his brother).
  • George Will: A "fixture in the right-ring think tank infrastructure," serves on board of Bradley Foundation, which funds Heritage, Hudson, and AEI.
  • New group, Distinguished Executives Alumni Network (DEAN) to act as de facto think tank to advise policymakers and to serve as a resource for improving federal government.
  • Diplomat and think tank-circuit figure Robin Raphel, under investigation by FBI, is defended by lontime friend Ellen Laipson, head of the Stimson Center; former college boyfriend shared house with Strobe Talbott, who is now head of Brookings.
  • The role of think tanks in the EU policy process remains largely uncharted territory for political scientists.
  • Via Jamestown Foundation: Building think tanks with Chinese characteristics.
  • Linking think tank performance, decisions, and context.

Monday, December 22, 2014

TTW Exclusive: Google Trends Shows Think Tanks in Decline

Something to ponder during the holiday season: Are think tanks in decline? A search from Google Trends shows a rapidly declining interest in think tanks since 2004. Ironically, every year brings more and more think tanks and more and more reports and studies. But is less attention being paid to the big think tank players? And does anyone actually read think tank reports these days?

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Sony Reached Out to Think Tanks for North Korea Advice

Sony reached out to various think tanks for advice and intelligence when it learned that North Korea was angry about its film "The Interview," according to Michael Lynton, Chairman and CEO of Sony Pictures Entertainment, who was interviewed by CNN's Fareed Zakaria.

RAND Corporation Senior Defense Analyst Bruce Bennett said that he was asked by Mr. Lynton to look at "The Interview," and Mr. Bennett said that the film should be released.  Mr. Lynton is on the Board of Trustees of RAND.  Here are some more Bennett comments, from Deadline:
Bennett says Sony chief Michael Lynton...asked him, as a favor, to look at the movie. “I told him I thought it was coarse, that it was over the top in some areas, but that I thought the depiction of Kim Jong Un was a picture that needed to get into North Korea. There are a lot of people in prison camps in North Korea who need to take advantage of a change of thinking in the north.”

Here is a biography of Bruce Bennett, who has written extensively about Korean security issues.  Here is a December 11 piece by Mr. Bennett titled "Did North Korea Hack Sony?"

Interestingly, Mr. Lynton of Sony moderated a panel at RAND titled "How Hollywood Affects Global Policy" in which the topic of playing real-life characters and the legal/moral obligations to living subjects was brought up.  A video of that 2012 event can be watched here.

Many other South Korea and North Korea experts at think tanks have weighed in on the Sony film issue, including Victor Cha of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Katharine H.S. Moon of Brookings, and Scott Snyder of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).

In related think tank-Hollywood news, think tankers from all over the world traveled to Santa Monica, California for a three-day Lights, Camera, Liberty conference focused on helping think tanks create and distribute high-impact videos online.  That event is sponsored by the Atlas Network.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Brookings Alum Starts as VP Biden's Chief Economist

Benjamin Harris, who previously worked as Policy Director at the Brookings Institution's Hamilton Project, is starting this week as Vice President Joe Biden's chief economist.  His work can be read here.

Vice President Biden has tapped his chief economist from the think tank world in the past, namely Jared Bernstein, who came from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) and now works as a Senior Fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP).

In related news, Karen Aderson, the Managing Director of The Hamilton Project, is launching an independent consulting firm called KLA Strategies.  Kriston McIntosh will be the new Managing Director.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post on The Hamilton Project and the heavy-hitters that are affiliated with it, including former Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Think Tank Quickies (#156)

  • Government borrowing more ideas from private sector, think tanks?
  • Think tanks: Why aren't millenials spending?  They're broke.
  • A "fake" Eurasian strategy think tank?
  • AEI President = new spiritual guru?  Pens "abundance without attachment."
  • Ben Judah suggests investigative piece on think tank "consulting" policies, says former oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky planning to build a new think tank.
  • New think tank head Allen West already caught plagiarizing?
  • Pic: AEI holiday party at Per Se.
  • Heritage Foundation promotes Jack Spencer to serve as VP for the Institute of Economic Freedom and Opportunity, as Derrick Morgan returns to Capitol Hill after 4-year Heritage stint.
  • Citigroup Global Chief Economist William Buiter joins CFR as Senior Fellow; CFR releases 7th annual Preventive Priorities Survey, with ISIS a top priority.
  • CFR honors Kissinger critic.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Think Tank-Connected Duo Make Big Money Moves

Capital Business has a piece out today on a Maryland-based firm called Enlightenment Capital that is making some big money moves, and the co-founders happen to have ties to the think tank world.

One co-founder of the $80 million fund is Devin Talbott, the son of Brookings President Strobe Talbott.  The other co-founder is Pierre Chao, a former Senior Fellow and Director of Defense-Industrial Initiatives at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).  He joined the defense-oriented think tank in 2003.

Talbott is on the Advisory Board of the Aspen Security Group, and is a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).

Interestingly, the advisors to the firm read like an advisory board at a high-level Washington think tank.

Here is more about what Enlightenment Capital does.

Carnegie Scholar Blocked From Entering Egypt

On Friday (Dec. 12) Michele Dunne, a Senior Associate in the Carnegie Middle East Program, was refused entry into Egypt.  Here is a statement from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP):
Egyptian authorities refused to allow Michele Dunne, senior associate in the Carnegie Middle East Program, to enter Egypt on December 12, 2014. She was held for six hours at Cairo’s airport before being put on a plane to Frankfurt. Dunne was traveling to Cairo to speak at a conference organized by the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs.

Condemning the Egyptian authorities’ decision, Carnegie President Jessica T. Mathews said, “Michele Dunne is a scholar of unimpeachable integrity who has devoted her professional life to analyzing Egyptian politics and improving U.S.-Egyptian relations. She is enormously respected throughout the Middle East, as well as in the United States and Europe, for the rigor and fairness of her work.”

Marwan Muasher, vice president for studies for Carnegie’s Middle East Program, added, “We are deeply disappointed by the Egyptian government’s action, which undermines the important need for open dialogue about the difficult challenges facing Egyptians today and further isolates Egypt from the international community.”

Dunne’s research focuses on political and economic change in Arab countries, particularly Egypt, as well as U.S. policy in the Middle East. She was previously a Middle East specialist at the U.S. Department of State, where she served in assignments that included the National Security Council, the Secretary’s Policy Planning Staff, and the U.S. embassy in Cairo.  

It is the first time a Carnegie scholar has been denied entry into Egypt.

The New York Times notes that Ms. Dunne is critical of the government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi.  Much of her work can be read here.

She was also the Founding Director of Atlantic Council's Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Google Drops Sponsorship for Conservative Think Tank

This is from CQ:
In 2013 Google sponsored a lavish dessert buffet for those attending the Competitive Enterprise Institute's (CEI) annual dinner in Washington.  The libertarian group had defended Google from charges that its dominant position in the Internet search market violated antitrust laws.  Still, Google took flak from environmentalists - and from many of its own employees - because CEI also opposes environmental regulations and government actions to stop climate change.  Google didn't sponsor the think tank's 2014 dinner.

A link to CEI can be found here.

Think Tank Quickies (#155)

  • Atlantic Council announces new Art of Future Warfare (AFW) project; VP Biden headlines the think tank's Energy and Economic Summit in Istanbul, Turkey; has new Global Energy Center.
  • How DC became irrelevant, by Bruce Katz of Brookings.
  • Meet Jerry Brito, head of the new think tank Coin Center.
  • CNAS: To end hacking, US must make China pay.
  • Heritage Action losing grip on the Hill.
  • Turkcell and Turkish Infomatics Foundation partner with Brookings.
  • Think tankers visiting Austin to grill Gov. Rick Perry on a variety of topics for 2016 run.
  • Think tanks in UAE playing key role as country seeks to become the world's most innovative state.
  • Constance Berry Newman, former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, becomes Nonresident Senior Fellow at Atlantic Council's Africa Center.
  • Ed Rogers, fmr. Deputy Assistant to President George H.W. Bush, joins CNAS Board of Advisors.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

New Report Shows Think Tanking is Big Business

Santa has delivered a nice present to think tank land.

A new report released by today by Transparify shows that the US's 21 top think tanks broke the billion-dollar spending barrier in 2013, highlighting how massive the think tank industry has become.

Here is more from Transparify:
The 21 think tanks in the sample collectively spent over one billion dollars in 2013, probably for the first time in history, and employed a total of 7,333 people, including part-time employees. Their total net assets grew 8% to USD 2.65 billion.
Many individual think tanks in the U.S. are larger than the entire sector in most other countries of the world. The median think tank in our sample had a revenue of USD 39m, expenditures of USD 32m, held assets worth USD 87m, and had 211 employees.

The full report can be read here.  And some cool visualizations can be found here.

According to the new report, the ten largest think tanks by expenditure in 2013 are:
  1. RAND: $275 million
  2. Brookings: $97 million
  3. Heritage: $82 million
  4. Urban Institute: $75 million
  5. Council on Foreign Relations: $62 million
  6. World Resources Institute: $48 million
  7. German Marshall Fund: $38 million
  8. National Bureau of Economic Research: $36 million
  9. Center for American Progress: $34 million
  10. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace: $33 million

According to the report, the ten largest think tanks by assets in 2013 are:
  1. Brookings: $404 million
  2. Council on Foreign Relations: $377 million
  3. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace: $275 million
  4. RAND: $239 million
  5. AEI: $178 million
  6. German Marshall Fund: $176 million
  7. Heritage: $154 million
  8. Urban Institute: $120 million
  9. National Bureau of Economic Research: $102 million
  10. Wilson Center: $98 million

The report also has a section that compares revenue from 2012 to 2013.  It shows that several think tanks had more than a 25% drop in revenue during that one-year period, including the Peterson Institute for International Economics (-27%), Council on Foreign Relations (-28%), Cato Institute (-34), and Center for Global Development, which had a 50% decline in revenue.

Think tanks that had more than a 25% increase in revenue from 2012 to 2013 include: New America Foundation (+29%), German Marshall Fund (+41%), Atlantic Council and Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (both at +45%).

But as Transparify points out, it is important to note that year-to-year revenue changes may be the result of fluctuations, such as inflow or draw-down of multi-year funding.  Thus, one should take single-year revenue increases and decreases with a grain of salt.

The report also includes a nice chart of the ten largest think tanks by number of employees.

Here is more from Nonprofit Quarterly (NPQ).

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Senate CIA Report to Harm CIA Relationship With Think Tanks?

Here is more from the Washington Post:
The CIA’s operational activities go together with a less publicly notorious, but arguably more effective community of analysts. These analysts are often loosely involved in broader networks of relationships with policy experts in academia and think tanks (many of them political scientists). Most of the work of the CIA is in analyzing information that is relevant to U.S. interests, and ever more of the information that is useful to the intelligence community is “open source” or publicly available, rather than clandestine. The CIA, like other government agencies, has only limited resources, and often supplements its internal expertise with frequent outreach to academic and non-academic experts who might have useful things to say. Finally, the CIA needs to recruit highly skilled analysts, who often have a lot of specialized experience, and could typically earn much more money in the private sector.

The article argues that the recently released Senate CIA torture report will impact the CIA's relationship with the think tank community, and says that academics (and think tankers) will be less likely to want to talk to or with the CIA.  [For the record, Think Tank Watch does not think this will be the case, and the CIA will still rely heavily on think tank reports.]

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post on former spies who now work at think tanks.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Breaking: Top US Think Tanks Spent $1 Billion in 2013

Think tanking is a billion dollar industry with millionaires and billionaires throwing money left and right at powerful policy shops.

Think Tank Watch has just learned that top US think tanks spent (and received) more than $1 billion in 2013.  Transparify, which has compiled the data, will publish a report this Thursday.

More coming soon...

Think Tanks Most Followed by World Leaders

How influential are think tanks to the world's 647 heads of state and government and ministers of foreign affairs?

Twiplomacy has just released a study on the Twitter habits of world leaders, and it includes a list of which Twitter feeds are most heavily followed by them.  Think Tank Watch went through the list and found which think tanks are most followed by these top leaders.  Here is the conclusion:

  1. Council on Foreign Relations (CFR): 57
  2. Chatham House: 40
  3. European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR): 30
  4. Atlantic Council: 28
  5. Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS): 25
  6. Brookings Foreign Policy (FP): 25
  7. International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS): 24
  8. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP): 23
  9. Brookings Institution: 22
  10. RAND Corp: 19
  11. German Marshall Fund (GMF): 19
  12. US Institute of Peace (USIP): 17
  13. Carnegie Europe: 14

Please note that the list does not include individuals at think tanks, some of which scored very high (even higher than many top think tanks).

Monday, December 8, 2014

The Onion Invents "Father-in-Law" Think Tank

News satire organization The Onion has invented a new think tank - a Washington, DC-based think tank of fathers-in-law.  The think tank, however, was not given a name.  Here is what The Onion is reporting:
In its most sweeping policy statement to date, a Washington-based think tank of leading fathers-in-law issued a comprehensive single-sentence solution to the nation’s immigration, unemployment, and crime problems Tuesday. “All you gotta do is round ’em up and send ’em back,” read the one-line report, which the interdisciplinary team of middle-aged men affirmed would resolve all three difficult issues if the government was not, as long-term observational data suggested, blinded by political correctness. “Simple as that.” The new report from the father-in-law think tank comes on the heels of last year’s five-word white paper on how to handle unrest in the African-American community.

This is not the first time that The Onion has invented a think tank.  Last year, Think Tank Watch reported on another think tank it invented: the Westchester Institute for Ethics and the Human Person.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Gov. Perry Using Think Tanks for 2016 Presidential Run

Here is what recent reporting is saying about Texas Governor Rick Perry, who may run for president in 2016:
Perry is logging hours in a downtown office building, engaging in lengthy, informal policy discussions with experts, mostly from conservative think tanks.

Last Monday, he discussed health care policy with a group including Joseph Antos, the Wilson H. Taylor Scholar in Health Care and Retirement Policy at the American Enterprise Institute.
Antos said the freewheeling session lasted about four hours, and was "a good starting point" for a discussion focused on the principles of health policy. But he said he had no sense of specific policy proposals Perry might ultimately choose to advance. "We have no clue whatsoever about that, and it was none of our business, frankly," he said. "We did not discuss what happens the day after tomorrow."
Of the governor, Antos said: "He was actively engaged the entire time. He asked good questions. This is a man who is genuinely interested in what we’re doing in health policy, and genuinely concerned."
Other participants included Michael Cannon, director of health policy studies at the Cato Institute; Avik Roy, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and the opinion editor at Forbes; and Thomas Miller, a resident fellow at AEI who studies alternatives to the Affordable Care Act.
"Sometimes you meet with the principle and their advisers, and they're mostly selling you on what they're thinking and what they already have," Miller said. "The governor showed that it was a real conversation. It was an extended period of time with no fuss, no frills, no filters."

In August, Gov. Perry gave a major policy speech at the Heritage Foundation.

Former Senator Jim Talent Joins AEI

With the acquisition of yet another former Members of Congress, the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute (AEI) is becoming the go-to think tank for former GOP legislative talent.

AEI announced this week that former Senator Jim Talent (R-MO) is joining the think tank as a Senior Fellow and will serve as Director of the National Security 2020 project, a new program from AEI's Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies.

Last year Talent, who is 2007 joined the Heritage Foundation as a Distinguished Fellow specializing in military affairs and conservative solutions to poverty, wrote a report with former Sen. Jon Kyl, now a Visiting Fellow at AEI, titled "A Strong and Focused National Security Strategy."

Last year, Kyl joined AEI along with former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT). 

Will Eric Cantor become the next former congressman to join AEI?

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Think Tank Quickies (#154)

  • Court case pushed by Cato could leave uninsured out in the cold?
  • South Asian think tank summit begins.
  • Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has built his own mini-think tank of policy experts. 
  • AEI has redesigned its website; Michael Strain named Deputy Director of Economic Policy Studies; Thomas Stossel, MD joins AEI as Visiting Scholar for health care policy.
  • Flashback: Historicizing the conservative think tank.
  • CNAS largely funded by defense contractors.
  • How to think about "think" tanks by Miles Corak.
  • CFR launches online education hub for teaching and learning about foreign policy.
  • Jan Sokolovsky asks: Do major think tanks violate US law? 
  • RAND Corp. announces collaboration with Lawrence Livermore National Lab on high-performance computing and decisionmaking; James Dobbins and Katherine Kahn receive Distinguished Chairs at RAND.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Rothkopf: Little Bold Thinking Goes On At US Think Tanks

Here is what David Rothkopf is saying in his latest Foreign Policy Piece titled "Dis Town: The Dumbing Down of Smart -- and Washington."
...Far too little bold thinking goes on in the country's think tanks.  It is safer to write an article that doesn't offend than it is to write one that actually breaks new ground.  It is safer to write an article that doesn't offend than it is to write one that actually breaks new ground. The result? Journals that are exercises in reputation management. The bland leading the bland.
In researching my book National Insecurity, I looked at 10 of the most prominent think tanks in Washington over a period of a decade. These organizations produced almost 12,000 events, papers, and research reports over that time. Of these, the vast majority concentrated on just a few topics -- such as the Middle East, the war on terror, and China -- linked closely to whatever was in the headlines at the time. Other areas, deserving of focus but outside the "buzz zone," got much less attention. The areas that got by far the least coverage? Science and technology -- never mind that they are responsible for most of the changes redefining life on the planet and many of the emerging threats with which humanity is grappling.

Mr. Rothkopf, who is CEO and Editor of Foreign Policy magazine, has a deep connection to a variety of think tanks.  For example, he is a Visiting Scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP),and he is on the International Advisory Council of US Institute of Peace (USIP).  He is also on the Advisory Committee of the Center for Global Development (CGD).

USAID's Nancy Lindborg Named as President of USIP

The US Institute of Peace (USIP) recently announced that Nancy Lindborg will become the new president of the think tank.  She will officially start on February 2, 2015.  In the meantime, Ambassador Bill Taylor will continue to serve as Acting President.  He previously served as Special Coordinator for Middle East Transitions in the State Department, and was US Ambassador to Ukraine.

Lindborg, the current Assistant Administrator of the US Agency for International Development's (USAID) Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance, will replace former congressman Jim Marshall, who left the think tank in January.  Since then, Kristin Lord had been serving as acting president for much of the time, but she left on October 3, 2014 to head the NGO IREX.

Here is more about USIP:
Created by an act of Congress in 1984, the U.S. Institute of Peace is a Congressionally-funded, independent, nonpartisan institution whose mission is to prevent, mitigate and resolve violent conflicts around the world. USIP fulfills this mission by engaging directly in conflict zones and providing analysis, education, and resources to those working for peace. The Institute’s staff of nearly 350 work in Washington and in some of the world’s most volatile regions, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, Sudan and South Sudan.

A biography of Lindborg can be found here.