Friday, July 17, 2015

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.