Thursday, July 30, 2015

Powerful Think Tanker Sells Iran Deal on Capitol Hill

Think tanker Nicholas Burns, a top diplomat in the Bush Administration, has been tapped by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to sell the recently reached Iran nuclear deal to Capitol Hill.  Here is more from Politico:
A former top diplomatic appointee in the administration of President George W. Bush will help sell the Iranian nuclear deal to House Democrats this week.
Nicholas Burns, who served as undersecretary of state for political affairs from 2005 to 2008, will brief the caucus on Wednesday at the invitation of Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Burns, who helped Bush design the current detente with Iran, is a strong proponent of the nonproliferation deal.

Mr. Burns is a Director of the International Advisory Board at the Atlantic Council and sits on the board at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).  He is also a member of the board at Harvard's Belfer Center.  He also serves on the Panel of Senior Advisors at the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House). He was previously a public policy scholar at the Wilson Center.

In related news, Ellen Laipson, President and CEO of the Stimson Center, has just penned a piece entitled "Iran Deal Debate Highlights Think Tanks' Role in US Policy."

Nearly every major foreign policy think tank in the US has weighed in on the Iran deal, and many are working behind the scenes to influence its outcome in Congress and elsewhere.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Think Tanks Trying to Score Visit From Chinese President

Chinese President Xi Jinping is coming to the United States in September, and think tanks are falling over themselves trying to get him to speak at their institution.  Why such desires from think tank land?  Landing a big-name figure like the Chinese president brings prestige, media attention, and respect, among other things.
Here is what one Chinese newspaper is reporting:
[Chinese Ambassador to the United States] Cui Tiankai says numerous organizations and think-tanks have sent out requests for Xi Jinping to speak to them.  He says they're doing their best to try to fit as many in as they can.

Mr. Xi seems to have a particular affinity toward think tanks, and he and his group may want to do in-person studies of how the US's most powerful and influential think tanks operate.

But don't worry think tankers.  If you don't score Mr. Xi, there is always Pope Francis.  He will be visiting Washington, DC later this year and may want to visit a think tank or two.

Fight Erupts Over Hard-Hitting Piece on Carnegie

Leonid Bershidsky, an author and Bloomberg View columnist who was the founding editor of Russia's top business daily Vedomosti, has just penned a retort to James Kirchick's piece in The Daily Beast slamming the Carnegie Moscow Center for being too close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.  Here is more:
...That, however, doesn't make the office [Carnegie Moscow Center] a Putin puppet. No one who follows Carnegie's Andrew Weiss, a Russia expert, on Twitter or reads his writings about the Ukraine conflict would suspect him of a pro-Kremlin agenda; he watches the Russian operation closely enough not to allow it to be subverted. If the center does indeed serve as a channel of unofficial communication between Russia and the U.S., that's a legitimate function that helps forge useful, sometimes lifesaving, deals, such as the Minsk one. A think tank is not designed to fight unsavory regimes; its job is to make them more understandable and transparent by filtering out the noise and distilling the substance.
The Kirchick piece offended the staff at Moscow Carnegie Center. "The world of American Kirchick, like the world of a bad Russian TV presenter, is divided into those who work for the State Department and those who work for Putin," editor Alexander Baunov, a polyglot ex-diplomat (also my former colleague at two Moscow publications, and assuredly no fan of Putin), posted on Facebook. "His piece is written as a complaint to the U.S. authorities: Pay attention, these guys are deviating from the party line. There's only one excuse for the author: Americans have never lived in a totalitarian state and they haven't developed an immunity to the urge to write such complaints."

In Mr. Bershidsky's piece, entitled "Putin Hurts a Think Tank by Not Banning It," he also wonders if the think tank will eventually end up on the Kremlin's list banning NGO's that are deemed undesirable:
At the same time Carnegie employees must be wondering when they might end up on the "stop list." The think tank, unlike the MacArthur Foundation, doesn't fund any activities but its own -- it's a recipient of funds, not a donor -- so it may be perceived as less dangerous to the Kremlin. That, though, would be a weak source of immunity. 

Mr. Bershidsky has taken his anger to social media as he defends the think tank:

And Mr. Kirchick has had his own fits of rage:

Mr. Bershidsky notes that Carnegie Moscow Center has 10 senior researchers but is considered influential.  He also notes that former US Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul once worked there.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

William Hague to Chair British Think Tank RUSI

The well-known British defense and security think tank Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) has just named William Hague as its next Chairman.  Hague served as Member of Parliament for Richmond from 1989 to 2015.  From 2010 to 2014 he served as Foreign Secretary, and between 2014 and 2015 he was Leader of the House of Commons.

Hague will take over from Lord Hutton of Furness on September 1, 2015.

In the recent past RUSI has hired other well-known figures, including David Petraeus in 2013.

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.

Corporate members of RUSI include: Accenture, Oracle, BAE Systems, Finmeccanica, QinetiQ, L-3, Palantir Technologies, Raytheon UK, Airbus, Rolls Royce, General Dynamics UK, Saab Group, Hitachi UK, Fujitsu Defense, and Leidos, among others.

The think tank also has many diplomatic members, including the embassies/governments of China, Israel, Bahrain, Finland, Turkey, Switzerland, Egypt, Pakistan, Singapore, Denmark, Austria, Germany, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Poland, Korea, Sweden, US, India, and Saudi Arabia.

RUSI was ranked as the world's 25th best non-US by the my recent University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings report.

Pope Francis Turns Two Offices Into "Think Tanks for the Church"

It looks like Pope Francis has embraced think tanks so much that he decided to create a couple of his own.

Here is more from Jason Berry in the Global Post:
And drawing down Rome's propensity for theological battles of scant interest to most Catholics, Francis rejuvenated two offices that had been around for years: the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Peace and Justice. He has turned them into think tanks for a church looking outward at the wider world.
Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana runs Peace and Justice, and guided the drafting of the ecology encyclical.
Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo of Argentina runs Sciences, and oversaw this month's conference with the mayors on climate change.

Think Tank Watch should note that the official English name for the above-mentioned "think tank" is the Pontifical Council of Peace and Justice.  A link to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences can be found here.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post on how one think tank sought to block the Pope's climate encyclical.

Think Tank Watch has heard rumors that Pope Francis may visit at least one think tank when he visits Washington, DC later this year.  Is American Enterprise Institute (AEI) a likely courter?

Monday, July 27, 2015

Carnegie Slammed for Being Too Close to Putin

A well-respected think tank has just been slammed for being too cozy with Russian President Vladimir Putin.  It also stands accused of being a "trojan horse" for Russian Influence.

James Kirchick, a Fellow with the conservative think tank Foreign Policy Initiative (FPI), has some pretty harsh words for the Carnegie Moscow Center (a subdivision of the Carnegie Institute for International Peace) and certain scholars there.  Following are some of Think Tank Watch's favorite excerpts from the piece, entitled "How a US Think Tank Fell for Putin."

On the "Secret" Boisto Meeting to Solve the Russia/Ukraine Tensions:
The Boisto Group’s meeting was sponsored by three entities: the Finnish Foreign Ministry, the Institute for World Economy and International Relations (a think tank affiliated with the Russian Academy of Sciences), and the Carnegie Corporation of New York, one of the largest funders of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, which describes itself as “the oldest international affairs think tank in the United States” (Such a long-running pedigree hasn’t been without its hiccups: a former president of Carnegie was Alger Hiss, the State Department official who spied for the Soviets.) Boisto’s first three signatories were Tom Graham, a former associate at the Carnegie Endowment, and a managing director at Kissinger Associates; Andrew Weiss, the Carnegie Endowment’s vice president for studies who also serves as a senior adviser at the Albright Stonebridge Group, and Deana Arsenian, vice president of the international program and director of the Russia program at the Carnegie Corporation. On the Russian side, the delegation included, among others, Alexei Arbatov, a scholar-in-residence at the Carnegie Moscow Center, and Vyacheslav Trubnikov, a former head of the country’s Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR).

Think tank vs. Business Consulting - A Conflict of Interest?
Policy analysts who simultaneously work for major consulting shops founded by former secretaries of state (Henry Kissinger and Madeleine Albright, respectively), Graham and Weiss—who also served as co-chairs of the Boisto initiative—are influential players in the transatlantic conversation about Russia, although it’s unclear where their analytical work stops and their business interests begin.
“I don’t want to be holier than thou,” a Russia analyst at a prominent Washington think tank said when asked about Graham and Weiss’s work as business consultants while also dispensing ostensibly objective analysis. “It seems to be a direct conflict of interest.

On Western Think Tanks in Russia
Carnegie was the first major Western think tank to open a branch in Russia following the breakup of the Soviet Union, and, ironically, it may be the last. 1994, when the Moscow center was founded, was a period of optimism for liberal reform of the post-communist system, and Carnegie Moscow was one of the leading Western outposts providing independent and reliable analysis of Russian domestic politics and foreign policy. After Vladimir Putin came to power in 2000, and throughout his rise as Russia’s new tsar, the center built a reputation for quality and insight. That reputation was built in part upon the work of three individuals: Lilia Shevtsova, a political scientist and one of the most well-respected analysts of Russian politics; Nikolai Petrov, who headed the center’s Society and Regions Program; and Maria Lipman, a journalist and author who edited the center’s renowned Russian-language Pro et Contra journal. All three have been vocal and prominent critics of Putin and the corrupt and sclerotic system he has imposed.

On Recent Turnover at Carnegie's Moscow Center
The center began to undergo serious change, however, after Putin returned to the presidency in 2012 following a rigged election and violent crackdown on pro-democracy protesters. In January 2013, Petrov left after his program was canceled, not due to lack of funds, he contends, but a desire not to ruffle Kremlin feathers.
Next to go was Lipman, laid off in the summer of 2014 due to what she was formally informed were “personnel cuts.” This came as a surprise, not least because in 2013 Carnegie Moscow had received a three-year grant of $350,000 from the MacArthur Foundation to fund the publication of Pro et Contra.
Last out the door in October was Shevtsova, who only two months earlier had signed the open letter protesting the Boisto manifesto, pitting her against her superiors, Arsenian and Weiss. Shevtsova, who is now affiliated with the Brookings Institution, told The Daily Beast: “Carnegie has been a wonderful place over the years with a strong a tradition of pluralism of views, including most prominently liberal principled views. Over the past year or two, however, I have sensed that this has changed, with a squeezing out of different points of view.”

On Carnegie's New Hired in Moscow
Three months after Shevtsova’s departure, in January 2015, Carnegie announced the hiring of three new analysts in its Moscow office, ostensibly to replace the veterans who had left. “I’m a great admirer of [Lilia] Shevtsova, Masha Lipman and Nikolai Petrov and their remarkable contributions to the Carnegie Moscow Center over many years,” Weiss said in an email. However, one current Carnegie staffer has referred to Lipman and Shevtsova as “dinosaurs” in this author’s presence.

Carnegie Not a Target of Russia's Campaign Targeting Think Tanks, NGOs
As the Russian government ratchets up a xenophobic campaign targeting Western nongovernmental organizations, accusing them of espionage and attempting to foment a coup, Carnegie’s presence in Moscow continues to be tolerated. Its name is conspicuously missing from the latest list of “undesirable organizations” compiled by the Russian government, which includes many other institutions of similar profile: George Soros’s Open Society Foundation, the National Endowment for Democracy, Freedom House, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, and the MacArthur Foundation, the latter of which announced last week that it will leave Russia due to Kremlin pressure.
Adding to the mystery of Carnegie’s absence from the list of “undesirable organizations” is the fact that MacArthur, Mott, and Open Society have all funded the Moscow center. 

Carnegie Moscow Center Doesn't Do Anti-Russia?
A list of events held by the Carnegie Moscow Center on its website provides one clue to why this might be the case: Scarcely any have addressed internal Russian politics or, more amazingly, the ongoing war in Ukraine. “[Carnegie Moscow] used to be a venue where events were held regularly, and, I would say, quite frequently, that discussed current developments in looking at various aspects of Russia. I don’t see such events any more and if they still hold them they are much fewer,” Lipman said.

Carnegie Moscow Center Cozy with Russian Intelligence?
According to Garry Kasparov, the Russian chess grandmaster, human rights activist, and Daily Beast contributor, Carnegie functions in a role not unfamiliar to students of the Cold War: as a tribune to the West through which Russian intelligence whispers the official Moscow line—or rather, what Moscow wants the West to believe is that line. The Moscow center is the sort of operation that influential actors in the Kremlin, he said, “use at a time when they need to communicate their messages to the West not from official structures but from something that is viewed as independent and even American.”

Has Carnegie Lost Its Independence?
Over half a dozen Russia analysts at prominent Washington-based think tanks consulted for this article chose not to go on the record with their concerns out of professional courtesy. But they joined Kasparov in assessing that Carnegie has decided to place a premium on maintaining its presence in Moscow, sacrificing its intellectual independence and analytical rigor in the process.

Russia Moscow Center Influenced by Putin-Connected Think Tank?
Last December, Graham, Rumer and Weiss attended a conference in Moscow hosted by the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies (RISI), a think tank that, until 2009, was connected to Russia’s foreign intelligence service (SVR) and now provides analysis directly to the presidential administration. Under the leadership of Leonid Reshetnikov, a retired SVR general, the institute strongly supported the annexation of Crimea, and, according to former institute researcher Alexander Sytin, has hosted the separatist leader Igor Girkin (aka Igor Strelkov), himself a former operative in Russian intelligence and a purported “friend” of the institute’s director.

The Carnegie Moscow Center, which started its activities in 1994, was recently ranked as the 14th best non-US think tank in the world by the University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings.  It was ranked as the 26th best think tank in the world.  It was also ranked as the best think tank in Central and Eastern Europe.

CEIP was ranked as the world's third best think tank, and the second best think tank in the United States (after Brookings).

Friday, July 24, 2015

USIP to Expand Headquarters With Rehab of Historic Buildings

The think tank United States Institute of Peace (USIP) is going to be an even more major peace-building player with its new plans to rehabilitate two historic buildings and attach them to its current headquarters.  Here is more from The Northwest Current:
Preservationists encourage "adaptive reuse" of historic buildings, and the US Institute of Peace is fulfilliing that mission with a strikingly different reuse plan for two century-old former hospital buildings on the grounds of the old Naval Observatory and recently closed Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery - a landmarked complex west of 23rd Street and north of Constitution Avenue.
The institute presented plans to the US Commission of Fine Arts on June 18 for rehabilitating the two historic buildings and attaching them via a glassy walkway to its modern headquarters overlooking the Potomac River in Foggy Bottom.  The repurposing will create additional space for training Americans and foreign partners in what the institute calls "peace building."
Under the plan, the now-vacant "Contagious Ward," built in 1903 to 1908, will be used "to each effective conflict prevention and management skills" to foreign and domestic government officials, as well as "other professionals working for pace in conflict zones," according to institute spokesperson Allison Sturma.  The old three-story hospital building will also be used for expanded online education and training, Sturma said.
And the former "Male Nurses' Residence," another Georgian Revival building of the same vintage, will house the PeaceTech Lab, which will work "at the intersection of technology, media and data to help reduce violent conflict around the world," according to Sturma.

USIP was rated as the 22nd best think tank in the United States by the 2015 University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings.  It was also ranked as the world's 12th best government-affiliated think tank.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Fmr. UN Climate Chief Sacked From Think Tank Over Sex Complaint

Sex has brought down another think tanker.  In the latest case, a sexual harassment scandal has led to the dismissal of the head of an Indian think tank.  Here is more from Reuters:

Scientist Rajendra Pachauri, who quit a U.N. climate panel earlier this year over a sexual harassment complaint, was removed on Thursday from The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) he headed for more than 30 years.
The 74-year-old will be replaced at the Delhi-based think tank by Ajay Mathur, who heads the government's Bureau of Energy Efficiency, TERI said in a statement after a meeting of its governing council. 
Pachauri's 13-year tenure as head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), during which it shared the Nobel Peace Prize, was cut short in February when he stood down over complaints by a young female co-worker at TERI. 
Instead of resigning from the non-profit group, Pachauri took a leave of absence while police investigated the case. He recently won a court order allowing him to return to the organisation, according to local reports, bringing the simmering controversy to a head.
In its statement, TERI said that Mathur had been selected for the post after an extensive search initiated last September.
It added that TERI's governing council would not continue an internal investigation into the alleged sexual harassment by Pachauri, respecting a court order to halt the probe.

 Dr. Pachauri's profile from the think tank can be found here.  The alleged victim is said to be a 29-year-old think tank employee.  Here is an interview with her.

Apparently, around 50 employees, including several women, had threatened to go on strike if Pachauri returned to work.

Legal activists have reportedly slammed the Governing Council of TERI for delaying the removal of Pachauri.

TERI was founded in 1974 by Mr. Dabari Seth, builder of Tata Chemicals Limited.  It has a staff of more than 1,200. 

One-Stop-Shop Created for Conservative Think Tank Ideas

The news site Opportunity Lives has just launched a new Solutions Center aimed at organizing conservative policy ideas - including those from think tanks - in one location.

The site currently has categories for education, health care, energy, taxes, upward mobility, and retirement security.

For example, for energy, the site lists ideas of scholars from Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute (AEI), Mercatus Center, R Street Institute, and Manhattan Institute.

According to The Examiner, the site is meant to be a tool for aspiring Republican candidates trying to beef up on policy.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Rand Paul's Tax Plan Comes From Heritage Foundation

Who has helped Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), a presidential candidate and "one-man think tank," create his tax plan?  It appears that much of the plan has come from think tank land.  Here is what Sen. Paul writes in the Wall Street Journal:
My tax plan would blow up the tax code and start over. In consultation with some of the top tax experts in the country, including the Heritage Foundation’s Stephen Moore, former presidential candidate Steve Forbes and Reagan economist Arthur Laffer, I devised a 21st-century tax code that would establish a 14.5% flat-rate tax applied equally to all personal income, including wages, salaries, dividends, capital gains, rents and interest. All deductions except for a mortgage and charities would be eliminated. The first $50,000 of income for a family of four would not be taxed. For low-income working families, the plan would retain the earned-income tax credit.

It has been reported that Stephen Moore, a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Heritage, is in Sen. Paul's "outer circle," along with David Boaz of the Cato Institute.  (Boaz has defended Paul on numerous ocassions.)  Those scholars happen to be from the two think tanks that Sen. Paul was accused on plagiarizing from.

Think Tank Watch is wondering if Sen. Paul's chainsawing of the tax code was also a think tank idea...

And of course, other think tanks are in deep disagreement with Sen. Paul's tax plan.

Is Hillary Hogging All the Think Tankers?

Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton may be so good at building support that she may be taking away all the think tank talent from other Democrats who are running or want to run for president.

Here is more from Vox:
Clinton's been a boss at building institutional support. Here's her secret: Invite potential adversaries to the table, include some of their ideas in policy, and then send their laudatory remarks out to reporters. This signals to them that she'll be inclusive if she's elected president, and makes it hard for them to criticize her later on.
The MO has been most evident on the economic agenda Clinton's in the midst of rolling out. She consulted more than 200 economists, according to her campaign. Her aides worked closely with officials at the Roosevelt Institute, a progressive think tank, in advance of her official campaign launch rally on Roosevelt Island in New York and before her first big economic speech.
More important, she's taking input from liberal economists who emphasize "fairness" in the economic system and have warred with more Wall Street–oriented Democratic economists such as Bob Rubin and Larry Summers. Rather than choose between their "growth" wing of the Democratic economic establishment and the "fairness" wing, represented by the likes of Joe Stiglitz and Alan Blinder, Clinton has opted for both — and managed to co-opt both.
"Today Hillary Clinton began to offer the kind of comprehensive approach we need to tackle the enormous economic challenges we face, one that is squarely in line with what we have called for at the Roosevelt Institute," Stiglitz said in a statement.
That leaves her rivals with few respected economists left to vouch for their ideas, and it speaks to her mastery of coalition politics.

Think Tank Watch recently noted that think tankers played an integral role in drafting Hillary Clinton's recent economic speech.

Brookings Launches "Brookings Creative Lab" to Showcase Research

The Brookings Institution has just launched "Brookings Creative Lab," which is essentially a new YouTube channel that showcases the think tank's research with multimedia presentations.

Here is more from Brookings:
Today, the Brookings Institution launches “Brookings Creative Lab,” an innovative approach that illuminates Brookings research data with compelling images and storytelling. Led by George Burroughs, creative director in the Office of Communications, Brookings Creative Lab aims to showcase Brookings experts and their research through best-in-class data visualization, graphic, and interactive techniques. “We’re trying to give a face to the numbers,” Burroughs says.

There are currently six videos available for public viewing and they can all be watched here.  They include videos on research related to young adults entering parenthood, diversity, Baltimore, and social mobility.

Make sure to check out the one highlighting research from Melissa Kearney and Phil Levine on the effect of MTV's show "16 and Pregnant" on teen pregnancy.  The study found that in the places where more young adults watch MTV, there were significant declines in teen child-bearing.

So kids, make sure to listen to Brookings and watch your MTV.

Atlantic Council & Fletcher School at Tufts Join Forces

A major US think tank has just joined forces with a major US university, in what could be a a new phase in how think tanks collaborate and interact with academia.

It was recently announced that the Atlantic Council and The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University would enter into an exclusive partnership that will deeply link the organizations together.  Here is more from Atlantic Council:
The Atlantic Council and The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University announced a new partnership today that will link the organizations across a full range of substantive issue areas in a number of forms including faculty/scholar exchanges, joint programs between centers, cohosted conferences and workshops, and multi-media outreach. This will be the only partnership of its kind for both institutions.
The partnership will officially launch at a joint Atlantic Council-Fletcher School event on July 14 at 1:30 p.m.

The Atlantic Council was ranked as the 16th best think tank in the United States by the 2015 University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings.  Tufts, located in Medford, Massachusetts, was recently ranked as tied for the 27th best university in the US by US News & World Report.  In 2012, Foreign Policy ranked Tufts' Fletcher School as having the fifth best international relations master's program in the country.

Think Tank Watch has documented various think tank partnerships over the years, and they are not just with universities.  They can be with other think tanks, corporations, foreign governments, non-profits, news outlets/publications, and others.

Here is more on think tank collaboration with colleges/universities from On Think Tanks.

According to the 2015 University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings, more than half of the think tanks in North America and Europe are university affiliated.

According to those rankings, the best university-affiliated think tanks are:
  1. Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University
  2. IDEAS/Public Policy Group, London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)
  3. Center for International Development (CID), Harvard University
  4. Hoover Institution, Stanford University
  5. Earth Institute, Columbia University

Of course, there is the ongoing debate on whether think tanks or universities are more relevant.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Think Tank Quickies (#185)

  • USIP hosts Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on July 22.
  • VP Joe Biden gives speech at Truman National Security Project and CEIP.
  • Will these three new Hong Kong think tanks shake things up in Hong Kong?
  • The future of think tanks in Africa, via On Think Tanks.
  • Conservative think tank CEI has a new whiskey (!) project.
  • A complex web of Chilean think tanks, via Alejandro Chafuen.
  • 4th Transatlantic Think Tank Conference held.
  • "Darkode" described as "massive think tank for cybercriminals."
  • CAP to host special presidential envoy John Allen for discussion on countering ISIS; CAP hires former HHS official Joan Lombardi as Senior Fellow focusing on early childhood issues.
  • Republican presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) speaks at Atlantic Council. 
  • Henri Barkey named new Director of Wilson Center's Middle East Program; Laura Dawson named new Director of Wilson Center's Canada Institute.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Just Released: Think Tanks in the 21st Century

Daniel Drezner, professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, has a new piece in Canada's International Journal entitled "American Think Tanks in the Twenty-First Century.Here is the abstract:
Think tanks have been a part of the United States’ foreign policy establishment for more than a century. They have played a significant role at key junctures in US foreign policy. Two inflection points, however, have dramatically altered the think tank landscape in the last 15 years. The 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks caused these organizations to dramatically expand their staff and overhead, as the demand for their services increased. The 2008 financial crisis subsequently left many of these same think tanks financially overextended. This circumstance forced these organizations to seek out more unconventional funding arrangements, imposing new constraints at the exact moment that their competitive environment intensified. In the twenty-first century, US foreign policy think tanks will maintain their relevancy by moving beyond what made them relevant in the last century.

A very relevant and timely piece with the shake-up going on at one prominent defense think tank (and likely many others). 

The End of a Prominent Defense Think Tank?

Defense One is reporting on a major shake-up that is currently underway at the think tank Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA).  Here is more:
Andrew Krepinevich, who has been president of CSBA since 1993, has begun telling colleagues and friends that he will retire from the think tank in March. Todd Harrison — perhaps the capital’s premiere defense-budget analyst — is decamping as well, heading for the nearby Center for Strategic and International Studies.
While Harrison’s move was quietly announced by CSIS last month, the news of Krepinevich’s departure follows a meeting of CSBA’s board of directors last week. Krepinevich could could be reached for immediate comment.
CSBA is considered the preeminent think tank for U.S. defense-budget issues. Its reports have been must-reads for defense officials, lawmakers, businesses and reporters, especially as Pentagon spending has come under tighter scrutiny after a decade of record highs.
But the non-profit organization has been taking in less money from contributions and government grants, and instead propping up its bottom line with more corporate consulting work, according to CSBA’s latest financial disclosures. The total value of contributions and grants fell from $4.6 million in 2011 to $2.6 million in 2013, that latest year for which figures are available. Meanwhile, its corporate consulting revenue grew from $257,294 in 2011 to nearly $2.2 million in 2013. Much of that work is for a major defense firm, according to people with knowledge of the contracts who declined to speak publicly.
The think tank, which has about 15 employees, had total revenue of just under $5.5 million in 2013. That year, Krepinevich earned $828,553 in salary and compensation, according to CSBA’s latest financial disclosure forms. Jim Thomas, the think tank’s vice president and director of studies, was its second-highest paid employee, earning $644,351 in salary and compensation.
Numerous current and former senior Pentagon officials have worked for CSBA, including Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work and Mike Vickers, the undersecretary for intelligence who recently retired. Eric Edelman, a former undersecretary for policy in the George W. Bush administration is among several former Pentagon officials that currently do work for the think tank.

Daniel Drezner notes that lots of think tanks will be confronting the same fiscal reality the CSBA is facing now.  "So think of the goings-on at CSBA as the canary in the coal mine for other, larger foreign policy/national security think tanks," writes Drezner.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Carnegie Endowment Rescinds Biden Invite

Did anyone else get that think tank dinner invite to hear Vice President Joe Biden speak only to later be disinvited?  Here is the story from Al Kamen, who writes the In The Loop column for The Washington Post:
The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace sent an invitation Friday for a private dinner Monday night with Vice President Biden, who’ll be giving “remarks” on the “Future of the U.S.-India Partnership.”
It was rather late notice, but folks were doubtless thrilled at the honor. Besides, you don’t want to miss a speech by Biden.
So we hustled to get the suit ready.
But then came this e-mail: “Earlier this evening you may have received an invitation to a private dinner on Monday, July 13 featuring remarks by Vice President Joe Biden. This invitation was sent in error, and the dinner is full.”

Think Tank Watch has seen a number of think tank invitations that have later been rescinded for a variety of reasons.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Think Tanks to Build Case for Iran Nuclear Deal

This from Greg Sargent of the Washington Post:
“There will be a multi-million-dollar effort from progressives to defend this deal,” Stephen Miles, the advocacy director for Win Without War, adds.
In addition to J-Street and Win Without War, these groups include Americans United for Change, MoveOn, Credo, and others, and group leaders have been meeting in recent weeks to discuss preparations for the battle to come. Foreign policy think tanks like the Truman Project will also be working behind the scenes and publicly to build the substantive case for the deal.

Here is what Truman National Security Project, which has close ties to a variety of prominent Democrats, says about the Iran deal that was just reached.

Of course, there are a number of conservative think tanks who are already looking to fight the Iran deal in Congress.

Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint has weighed in, saying that the deal will make the world a much more dangerous place.  He says that the deal completely fails to cut off Iran's path to nuclear weaponry.  James Phillips, a senior research fellow at the think tank, just wrote about the major flaws in the deal.

Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) writes about how the Iran deal misses the point.  And AEI's Michael Rubin writes about "the Iran deal's Qassem Soleimani problem."  AEI's J. Matthew McInnis writes about "five big issues" after the Iran deal.

Heritage has put together a piece on what 2016 presidential candidates are saying about the Iran deal.

Is Manipulation of Data Common at Think Tanks?

Dr. Donald Abelson, an expert on think tanks and author of the book "Do Think Tanks Matter?," was just interviewed by Till Bruckner, a researcher who manages advocacy for Transparify - an initiative promoting greater financial disclosure by think tanks.  [Transparify is funded by Open Society Foundations, a grant-making network founded by liberal billionaire George Soros.]  Here are our favorite questions and answers:

Q:  An article in the New York Times on foreign funding for think tanks caused quite a stir in the United States when it came out in late 2014. What reactions did you encounter as a researcher on the ground at the time?

A:  The impact on the think tanks scene has been significant. The think tanks I regularly contact are now being very cautious about who they speak to, and what information they release, especially in relation to the funding they receive from abroad.

Q:  Many think tanks openly regard advocacy as a core function. Is that a bad thing?

A:  People often think that if a think tank engages in advocacy, its work is tainted. That makes very little sense to me. When hospitals advocate for more beds, everyone thinks that is fine, but when advocacy is associated with think tanks, the assumption is often that they are trying to advance institutional interests over public interests.  Think tanks over time have become highly sophisticated, highly savvy, and employing well orchestrated strategies for shaping public policy is part of that. If advocacy compromises research quality, that needs to discussed. But the reality is that both Brookings and Heritage do similar things. The real question is, what is the quality of their work?

Q:  Between donor demands and dedicated campaigning arms, how can think tanks safeguard their intellectual integrity?

A:  Think tanks encounter considerable pressure in maintaining their intellectual independence, especially when millions of dollars are on the line. Some former think tankers with whom I corresponded for my book told me that they were often asked to manipulate data, or massage their findings to appease donors supporting their research. I have no doubt that this happens more often than we think. Although I cannot name the institutions that former think tank staff commented on, I am aware of this growing problem.

Q: You sound very negative. Do think tanks no longer have a positive contribution to make?

A:  If you look at the direction think tanks are taking in the United States, Canada and Britain, the trend is towards greater advocacy, not pure or applied research. They are looking to position themselves strategically in the market of ideas. By necessity, it's going to taint their findings.  Having said that, think tanks still perform an important function by increasing awareness around a host of domestic and foreign policy issues. They force us to think.

The full interview, in the Huffington Post, can be read here.  More on Donald Abelson, a professor of political science in Canada, can be found here.

Dr. Abelson's current projects include two forthcoming books: Northern Exposure: Revealing the Canadian Think Tank Landscape, and Think Tanks, Foreign Policy, and Geopolitics: Pathways of Influence.

Navigating Think Tanks in the News

Think Tank Watch has recently read the book Navigating the News by Michael Baranowski, and we have highlighted the interesting points raised about think tanks.

  • "Many people assume that if a person has a Ph.D. after their name or is affiliated with a prestigious university or institute [such as a think tank], this person must be an expert.  But that's not necessarily so.  People with advanced degrees in political science almost always specialize in one very small part of their field and won't necessarily know anything more than an educated layperson when it come to the vast spectrum of politics that lies outside their area of expertise."
  • "Data from federal and state government sources is almost always reliable...Data collected by researchers from academic institutions is also pretty solid because much of their work is subject to peer review.  When it comes to public opinion data, major media outlets, as well as top tier polling organizations like Gallup, Roper, and the Pew Research Center, do a very respectable job of data gathering.  View any other sources - including political parties, think tanks (which usually have an ideological agenda), and candidates - with caution."
  • "Another useful fact-checking shortcut is to learn a few basic things about the organization that created the information.  Much of the evidence behind political arguments comes from government agencies or major national polling organizations, which are typically trustworthy.  But you're also likely to find a lot of evidence and arguments coming from political think tanks, which are private organizations that research and analyze politics, typically in order to advance a certain agenda."
  • "Sometimes, the media will indicate whether a think tank is ideologically biased, but that's not always the case, even in the same newspaper.  For example, in an article on April 9, 2012, the New York Times refers to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) as 'a left-leaning research organization,' but in an article the Times published only a few months later, EPI is identified as 'a research group in Washington that studies the labor market.'  Both of these descriptions are accurate, but only the first tells you that the group might be consistently presenting the interpreting evidence that favors liberal interests."

Think Tank Watch should point out that the author, Michael Baranowski, is an associate professor of political science at Northern Kentucky University (NKU).

Monday, July 13, 2015

WSJ: AEI is Washington's "Hottest" Think Tank

Following are Think Tank Watch's favorite excerpts from a new piece by William McGurn, a Wall Street Journal columnist and member of its editorial board, on the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute (AEI) and its president, Arthur Brooks.

On think tanks and their distinct personalities:
...think tanks have distinct personalities in addition to their politics.  The libertarian Cato Institute, for example, looks as though it had been designed by Howard Roark, the hero architect of Ayn Rand’s novel “The Fountainhead.” The Liberty Bell on the Heritage Foundation logo evokes a classic conservatism rooted in the American founding. The clean modernist lines of the Brookings Institution suggest its faith in good, rational government.

On how unconventional Arthur Brooks (President of AEI) is:
Before he was president of the American Enterprise Institute, Arthur Brooks played the French horn. Not on the side. For a living.
It’s not the standard route to the top job at a Beltway think tank. Then again, not much about Mr. Brooks is standard. From dropping out of college to go to Spain to play for the Barcelona City Orchestra, to earning his B.A. degree via correspondence courses from Thomas Edison State College in New Jersey, his life makes for an eclectic résumé.
Today he boasts a Ph.D. from the RAND Graduate School and enjoys an honored spot in the capital’s intellectual firmament. But the horn still defines how he sees the world.

On AEI and its Bush alumni:
In Mr. Brooks’s hands, AEI has become an orchestra. Sure, it is sometimes labeled “neocon” (almost always deployed as a pejorative) because of the home it provides for former George W. Bush administration officials such as John Bolton and Paul Wolfowitz, not to mention scholars such as Fred Kagan who write on military matters. These people are all vital to AEI, but they are only part of a larger ensemble.

On the office of AEI President Arthur Brooks:
He is speaking over lunch in his corner office overlooking 17th and M streets in northwest Washington, D.C. The office isn’t standard-issue, either.
The walls are bereft of the signed photos and tributes from presidents, senators and other pooh-bahs that are de riguer for the capital’s movers and shakers. The largest piece in the room is a poster featuring José Tomás, Spain’s greatest bullfighter. Mr. Brooks once saw him in the ring. “A true master artist,” he says.
The other poster is from the Soviet Union circa 1964. It features two workers. One is a drunk scratching his head as he looks at the one-ruble note in his hand. The other is a hale-and-hearty type proudly looking at the 10 rubles he has earned. The caption: “Work more, earn more.”

On AEI's growth:
Donors seem to like what they are hearing. AEI has never lacked for influence, and its scholars have helped staff many a Republican White House. But under Mr. Brooks the organization is experiencing explosive growth.
In the six years since he took over as president, annual donations have nearly doubled, to $40 million today from roughly $22 million in 2009. The endowment is about $90 million. “We don’t accept government money,” he says, “and we’re proud of that.”
There are more people too—225 full-time scholars and staff, up from 145. They range from political economist and demographer Nicholas Eberstadt, public-opinion analyst Karlyn Bowman and political scientist Charles Murray to political scientist and journalist Norman Ornstein, Yale Medical School’s Sally Satel and Kevin Hassett, a former senior economist at the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System.

On AEI's new office space:
But the many additions that AEI has made means it is now busting at the seams. This forced a big decision: Come February, AEI will move out of the office building it has called home since 1971 and into a refurbished historic landmark off DuPont Circle. It’s a former luxury apartment building where Andrew Mellon once lived.

In 2015, AEI was ranked as the US's 12th best think tank and the world's 24th best think tank by the University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings.

Think Tankers Help Draft Hillary's Big Economic Speech

Hillary Clinton, a 2016 Democratic presidential candidate, is giving a major economic speech today, much of which appears to have been shaped by prominent think tankers.

Here is more from Bloomberg Politics:
In developing the speech and its underlying policy positions, Clinton and her aides consulted with more than 200 domestic policy experts over several months, the campaign official said. The process—which included hours-long meetings with the candidate herself—was led by senior policy advisers Jake Sullivan, Maya Harris, and Ann O’Leary. Also taking part was Gary Gensler, the campaign’s chief financial officer and a former chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission who has advocated for stricter rules for Wall Street.
Aware that the names of those advising the campaign on the economy will be interpreted as an indication of the deeper direction of its policy, the official offered a list of 10 people who are center-left and have few ties to the financial services industry. The group includes longtime Clinton advisers including Tanden, former Clinton and Obama National Economic director Gene Sperling, former Clinton Council of Economic Advisers chair Joseph Stiglitz, and Alan Blinder, who worked in the Clinton White House and served as Federal Reserve vice chairman from 1994 to 1996.
Two of Obama's former CEA chairs—Krueger and Berkeley professor Christina Romer—have both advised the campaign, as have New York University law professor David Kamin, Duke business professor Ronnie Chatterji, Yale political science professor Jacob Hacker and Heather Boushey, executive director and chief economist at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, a think-tank that studies the impact of income inequality. 
One person omitted from the official’s list, but who has been among the many economic experts consulted by the campaign, was Larry Summers, treasury secretary under Bill Clinton and National Economic Council director under Obama. While Summers once opposed tighter regulation of the financial markets, he now embraces "inclusive prosperity," allowing the many—and not just the few—to benefit from capitalism.

Maya Harris, mentioned above, formerly worked at Center for American Progress (CAP),  and Neera Tanden is the president of that think tank.  Heather Boushey is a Senior Fellow at CAP, and also the Executive Director and Chief Economist at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth - a think tank within CAP.  Larry Summers is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at CAP.

As Think Tank Watch has noted in the past, Hillary Clinton will likely rely on a variety of Democratic and Progressive think tanks for her campaign ideas, most notably CAP.

And in an apparent hat-tip to think tanks, Hillary Clinton is selling "Think Tank" tank tops on her official 2016 campaign website (Hillary for America) for $30.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Australia Plan to Transform Remote Regions Comes From Think Tank

Australia has a bold new plan to develop its northern regions over the next 20 years, and that plan comes from a think tank.  Here is more, from the Economist:
On June 18th Mr Abbott’s government published a white paper outlining plans for developing northern Australia over the next 20 years. Such attention is long overdue.
The plan drew on proposals by the Institute of Public Affairs, a libertarian think-tank. The institute has promoted its ideas in tandem with a group in Western Australia founded by Gina Rinehart, whose iron-ore wealth from the Pilbara region, in that state’s north, has made her Australia’s richest person. Both outfits want northern Australia to become a hub for Asian investment. To encourage this, they have pressed the government to make the region a “special economic zone”. They want it to have lower business and income taxes than the rest of Australia.

Australia's Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) was founded in 1943.  Here are some of the think tank's papers on developing northern Australia.

This is the latest example of how think tanks impact public policy around the globe, in nearly every country (and region) in the world.

According to the University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings, Australia has 29 think tanks.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Think Tank Quickies (#184)

  • What are think tanks thinking about EU-China relations? (via European Parliamentary Research Service)
  • Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and IMF chief Christine Lagarde speak at Brookings on July 8; DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson speaks at CSIS on July 8.
  • Cato scholar blasts Atlantic Council for allowing Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) to speak.
  • Cato Institute on the miracle of air-conditioning.
  • NBR scholar (and former CNAS scholar) Abraham Denmark named as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for East Asia.
  • AEI President Arthur Brooks' new book Conservative Heart coming out July 14.
  • Lauren Bohn: Male talkfest at think tanks isn't just anecdotal.
  • CSIS pics of disputed islands used to attack China on environment.
  • World Bank deletes section on China report.  Do think tanks also cave into the same pressure?

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Brookings Scoops Up More Power as Elmendorf Re-Joins Think Tank

Former Congressional Budget Office (CBO) Director Douglas Elmendorf has re-joined the Brookings Institution, where he was previously a Senior Fellow from 2007-2009.  He left the think tank in 2009 to join  the Obama Administration.  Elmendorf is re-joining the Economic Studies Program as a Visiting Fellow.

Elmendorf is one-half of a think tank power couple.  His wife, Karen Dynan, used to work at Brookings.

Today, Brookings also announced that Seth Wheeler has joined the Economic Studies Program as a Guest Scholar.  He was previously Special Assistant to the President for Economic Policy and Senior Advisor for Financial Services at the White House (under President Obama).  In that post, he earned a healthy $225,000 (almost as much as the Vice President Joe Biden).  He is an ex-Morgan Stanley banker who worked for Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson during the Bush Administration.

Think Tanker Quote of the Week: Peter Singer on Cyber Attacks

The think tanker quote of the week is a Twitter dialogue that Peter Singer of the New America Foundation (NAF), and formerly of the Brookings Institution, had with Wesley Morgan.

The last tweet refers to Singer's new book Ghost Fleet, which is getting tons of attention.

And in related cybersecurity (?) news, the Brookings Institution's website has been down for quite awhile today.  We wonder if Mr. Singer has any comments about a possible cyber attack on his former think tank...

Cato Working Behind Scenes to Close GOP's Campaign-Science Gap

Here are some excerpts from a new piece by Sasha Issenberg at Bloomberg Politics:
This spring, the Cato Institute identified 600 Americans who read more than 20 books per year and made arrangements to send them each one more. The libertarian think tank split these readers into three groups. One group received a free copy of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, one got longtime Cato executive David Boaz’s The Libertarian Mind, and one a book that Cato scholars considered a useful placebo to free-market doctrine: the Bible. After three months, six months, and 12 months, members of all three groups would be surveyed to see if the unsolicited books they had received could explain differential response rates to one question: Do you consider yourself a libertarian?
The Cato researcher behind the project explained to other members of a below-the-radar Republican group known as the Center for Strategic Initiatives, or CSI, that the 600 books were just part of a pilot test. If the design appeared to work properly, the experiment would be replicated on a larger scale: 12,000 books this time. “Political books have never been tested,” says David Kirby, now a vice president and senior fellow at Cato. “Think tanks think that books persuade people. Do they?”
Very few other members of the CSI circle had ever used books as tools for changing minds. A range of political consultants and vendors, they tended to trade in more ephemeral modes of communication: television ads and robocalls, direct mail, digital ads, and door knocks. But they were there for the same reason that Kirby had been willing to entertain the perfidy of using Cato resources to question whether reading Ayn Rand actually led people to libertarianism—a willingness to take everything they thought they knew about what works in politics and hold it up to empirical investigation.

These "field experiments" are still taking place at Cato, and here is what the article says about the schedule:
The CSI circle has yet to fall into a reliable schedule, and its gatherings—which now take place roughly every six weeks or so at Cato’s Washington headquarters—already mark a very different mode of collaboration. There is not a politician in sight, or many brand-name operatives; few attendees appear to be over the age of 40. This sphere of political operatives and party hacks angling to remake Republican campaigns includes strategists and tacticians for many of the party’s top presidential candidates, along with staffers from the Republican National Committee and consultants attached to various elements of the Koch political network.
...About 50 people responded to [CSI founder Blaise] Hazelwood’s invitation to gather at Cato in early June and, arrayed before her that Thursday afternoon, at long tables in lecture-hall formation, the schisms of the Republican Party in the early days of the presidential campaign were unmistakable.
...Kirby became an enthusiastic booster of Hazelwood’s project. After he went to work at the Cato Institute in early 2014, he offered one of the think tank’s large conference rooms to host the right’s version of the “geek lunch.” The first CSI meeting, in late 2013, drew more than 100 people from across conservative politics.

The full article can be read here.

In 2015 Cato was ranked as the 8th best think tank in the United States and the 16th best think tank in the world by the annual University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings.

Cato Institute's Aggressive Advertising

The libertarian Cato Institute is shaking up the game on think tank advertising with splashy new advertising in New York's Times Square.  Here is what Cato says about the new campaign:
Idividual liberty and limited government now light up Times Square.  All summer long, Cato’s commitment to stopping the government from overspending, overregulation, policing the world, and invading our privacy will be shining down to passersby from a jumbo screen.

Cato is known to do lots of advertising, particularly in various Capitol Hill publications.  For example, on June 10, it took out a full-page ad in publications such as Roll Call, The Hill, and Politico promoting a Cato Institute Book Forum event entitled "Going for Broke: Deficits, Debt, and the Entitlement Crisis."

In related news, Cato also has a new CatoAudio App that provides instant access to the views of its think tank scholars.

Think Tank Watch has also learned that Cato has joined together with Land's End to create a new online store where merchandise can be customized with the think tank's logo.

In 2015 Cato was ranked as the 8th best think tank in the United States and the 16th best think tank in the world by the annual University of Pennsylvania think tank rankings.  It was also ranked as the 4th best think tank in the world in terms of best use of social media, and 2nd best think tank in the world in terms of best use of the Internet.  It was ranked 12th best in the world in terms of best use of media.

Update: We should note that Cato is not the only think tank to advertise in the newspaper.  For example, in the September 9, 2015 edition of The Hill, RAND Corporation ran an ad for the RAND Review (RR), its flagship magazine.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

CAP Helps EPA Influence the Media on Climate Debate

This article from Fox News shows how think tanks try (and are often successful) in influencing the public policy debate in the United States:
A prominent left-wing group helped formulate Environmental Protection Agency talking points designed to sell a controversial regulatory scheme to skeptical journalists, internal emails show. 
The emails show Joseph Goffman, the senior counsel of EPA's Office of Air and Radiation, circulating talking points from Center for American Progress climate strategy director Daniel Weiss among EPA colleagues attempting to sell the agency's controversial power plant regulations to a New York Times reporter. 
Weiss emailed Goffman in September 2013 with a series of suggestions for convincing the Times' Matt Wald of the commercial viability of carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology, a vital component of the agency's stringent power plant emissions regulations. 
Five minutes later, Goffman sent an email to five colleagues in his office and the agency's public affairs division. Unredacted language in the email is identical to language in Weiss' list of talking points. 
The Environment & Energy (E&E) Legal Institute obtained the emails through a Freedom of Information Act request. Chris Horner, a senior legal fellow at E&E, said they show extensive behind-the-scenes collaboration between EPA and third-party groups that support the regulations.

The Center for American Progress (CAP) has extremely strong relations with the EPA, and former EPA Administrator Carol Browner is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the think tank.

Current EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy has given speeches at CAP, including this one in 2014, and this one in 2013.

Think Tank Watch should point out that it is not uncommon for think tank scholars to have close relationships with the White House, federal agencies, and the US Congress.  And since CAP has extremely close relations with the Obama Administration, it is no surprise that CAP helped craft EPA talking points.

And if Hillary Clinton becomes president, she will likely utilize CAP's ideas and talent.

In related think tank/climate change news, a new study shows that even with the numerous climate change-denialist think tanks, the US may not have the most climate change skeptics per capita.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

USG Paying Attention as Think Tanker Warns of WWIII with China

A 40-year-old Senior Fellow at the think tank New America Foundation (NAF) is causing a stir in the Defense Department and intelligence agencies with his predictions about World War III.  Here is more from The Wall Street Journal:
Peter Singer, one of Washington’s pre-eminent futurists, is walking the Pentagon halls with an ominous warning for America’s military leaders: World War III with China is coming.
In meeting after meeting with anyone who will listen, this modern-day soothsayer wearing a skinny tie says America’s most advanced fighter jets might be blown from the sky by their Chinese-made microchips and Chinese hackers easily could worm their way into the military’s secretive intelligence service, and the Chinese Army may one day occupy Hawaii.
The ideas might seem outlandish, but Pentagon officials are listening to the 40-year-old senior fellow at the New America Foundation, a nonpartisan think tank.
In hours of briefings, Mr. Singer has outlined his grim vision for intelligence officials, Air Force officers and Navy commanders. What makes his scenarios more remarkable is that they are based on a work of fiction: Mr. Singer’s soon-to-be-released, 400-page techno thriller, “Ghost Fleet: A Novel of the Next World War.”
Pentagon officials typically don’t listen to the doom-and-gloom predictions of fiction writers. But Mr. Singer comes to the table with an unusual track record. He has written authoritative books on America’s reliance on private military contractors, cybersecurity and the Defense Department’s growing dependence on robots, drones and technology.
The Army, Navy and Air Force already have included two of his books on their official reading lists. And he often briefs military leaders on his research.

Here is a bio of Mr. Singer, who was the founding director of the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence at the Brookings Institution (which Think Tank Watch calls a "Mini-CIA").  He was the youngest person named senior fellow in that think tanks 100 year history.

A copy of the book Ghost Fleet, co-written by August Cole, can be found here.  Mr. Cole is a Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council.

Here is a Popular Science Q&A about Singer's new book and a possible future war with China.  Here is what Brookings scholar Michael O'Hanlon, a friend and former colleague of Singer, says about the new book.

In related think tank/war news, Michele Flournoy and Richard Fontaine of the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) recently wrote a piece for the Washington Post entiteld "Go Big to Destroy the Islamic State."

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Think Tank Quickies (#183)

  • Atlantic Council pens new donor disclosure policy: $250 is the key number.
  • How the world is changing think tanks, by Brad Lips.
  • Think tanks move to fore on energy.
  • CNAS is the only national security think tank to be co-led by a Democrat and a Republican.
  • Even a junior analyst at a think tank can meet virtually anyone.
  • Ben Wattenberg, AEI scholar and host of PBS series "Think Tank With Ben Wattenberg," dies.
  • Think tanks are "overcrowded by people more concerned with official designations rather than serious policy research..."
  • Heritage Foundation honors John Von Kannon with its highest honor: the Luce Award.
  • Wang Chaoyong, founding Chairman and CEO of ChinaEquity Group, joins CEIP's Board of Trustees.
  • Todd Harrison, formerly with CSBA, joins CSIS as Director of Defense Budget Analysis and Senior Fellow in the International Security Program.
  • Robit Chopra, formerly with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, joins CAP as Senior Fellow.
  • Nora Bensahel and David Barno named as Nonresident Senior Fellows at Atlantic Council.
  • NAF scholars at NATO's CyCon conference; NAF cybersecurity fellows announced; NAF collaborates with community orgs to privacy and poverty in the US.
  • USIP's newly-created PeaceTech Lab announces board of directors.
  • RAND Corp. announces new Center of Excellence on Health System Performance.