Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Trump Supporters to Kill Off Traditional Think Tanks?

The Trump White House is forming a new internal think tank, but there is also a movement by Trump supporters and "alt-right" types to completely change Washington's think tank landscape.  Here is more from Politico:

The "new-right" (known until recently as the "alt-right") is now enjoying something of a moment...disdaining the traditional Washington think tanks as passe, they're taking aim straight at America's sense of its own identity, with plans for "culture tanks" to produce movies that make anti-immigrant conservatism look cool, and advocacy arms that resemble BuzzFeed more than the Heritage Foundation.  They talk elliptically about internet memes replacing white papers as currency of the policy realm, pushed out by "social media strike forces" trained in the ways of fourth-generation, insurgency-style warfare.
For a movement that feeds on outsider energy, its members already enjoy surprising access to the inside of the incoming White House.  [Milo] Yiannopoulos' official title is technology editor of Breitbart, the website formerly run by top Trump adviser Steve Bannon, with whom both Yiannopoulos and internet troll Charles Johnson say they keep in touch.  Yiannopoulos and Johnson also both say they know Trump's most influential megadonor, Rebekah Mercer.

The article goes on to quote Richard Spencer, the president of the "think tank" National Policy Institute, who said that his policy shop, currently based in Arlington, Virginia, could eventually take over the Cato Institute's space in downtown Washington, DC.  "Maybe Cato will go under.  Maybe we'll take over that facility."

The issue of the death of think tanks is getting so much attention that the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation, which has extremely close ties to the Trump Administration, will be hosting an event on that very subject next month.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Heritage Foundation to Host "Death of Think Tanks" Event

The conservative think tank Heritage Foundation will soon be holding an event on the hottest think tank topic of 2017: the death of think tanks.  Here is a description of the event:

The role of think tanks has risen significantly over the past half century. Increasingly, Washington, D.C.-based think tanks have served as a resource for newly elected politicians, including presidential administrations. These "newcomers" draw on think tanks for potential staff members and policy support.
As President Trump continues to fill his administration with successful businesspeople and military leaders, it seems he is determined to change that narrative. The think tank community must now ask itself what its role will be in this new era. Is this the death of think tanks as we have come to know them? Join us for a discussion on the evolution and future of think tanks in the era of the Trump Administration.

The event, entitled "The Death of Think Tanks in the Trump Era," will take place on February 7.  Speakers include:
  • Andrew Selee, Executive Vice President of the Wilson Center
  • Josh Rogin, Columnist at The Washington Post
  • Rebeccah Heinrichs, National Security Policy Analyst at the Hudson Institute

The event will be hosted by James Jay Carafano, Vice President and Fellow at the Heritage Foundation who served on Donald Trump's transition team.  His recent piece entitled "Think Tanks Aren't Going Extinct.  But They Have to Evolve," can be found here.

Here is some required reading before you attend, including Josh Rogin's recent piece on the death of think tanks.

As Think Tank Watch has just reported, the Trump White House is forming its own internal think tank as it works to bypass the role of traditional think tanks.

Stay tuned for another Think Tank Watch piece tomorrow on how the Washington think tank landscape is quickly changing...

Trump White House Starting Powerful Think Tank

President Donald Trump has not taken a liking to think tanks, but a powerful group of Trump advisors is in the process of starting their own mini-think tank within the White House to act as the go-to policy shop.  Here is more from The New York Times:

...Stephen Bannon, the president’s chief strategist, and Jared Kushner, his senior adviser and son-in-law, are forming what is being loosely called the Strategic Initiatives Group, a mini-think tank within the White House comprising analysts who can grapple with large-scale issues like cybersecurity.
Such a group would have as many as a dozen strategists, and could help to centralize policy-making on some topics by Mr. Bannon and Mr. Kushner. Reince Priebus, the chief of staff, who knows Washington well and who works in conjunction with the two, is likely to run more of the day-to-day operations of the West Wing, according to one person involved in the planning.

Mr. Trump himself is not a fan of think tanks and intellectuals (and has largely been ignoring top think tankers), but many in his Cabinet have close ties to think tanks.

The new internal White House think tank is further evidence that many in the top levels of the White House have a disdain for traditional think tanks and would rather rely on their own ideas, beliefs, and skills to determine policy.

This is more discouraging news for think tanks, which have been mostly ignored and marginalized in the new Trump era, forcing many of the policy shops rethink their missions and significance.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Think Tanker Arrested on Drug, Prostitution Charges

A think tanker who worked at George Washington University's (GWU) Center for Cyber & Homeland Security (CCHS) has just been arrested on drug and prostitution charges.  Here is more:

Jesse Morton made national headlines when he was accused in federal court of using his Revolution Muslim website to encourage attacks against the creators of “South Park” and others he said were enemies of Islam.
After he was convicted, the Virginia man became an FBI informant. Once released from prison, he joined a D.C.-area think tank focused on studying extremism, saying he hoped to “make amends” through his work.
But Morton, now 38, again faces legal troubles after being arrested and accused of bringing cocaine to meet a prostitute. He is due in court next week and could return to prison.
Morton is no longer working as a research fellow at George Washington University’s Program on Extremism, a spokesman confirmed.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch article on Jesse Morton.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

2017 Think Tank Rankings - Cheat Sheet

The University of Pennsylvania has just released its annual think tank rankings today - the 10th version of its extensive rankings of the world's think tanks - and Think Tank Watch has been busy analyzing an early copy of the report.

As always, it is no surprise that the Brookings Institution remains the world's #1 think tank, particularly since they were the ones who published the new book by the UPenn professor who runs the rankings (more on that here).

Top Think Tank Worldwide (US & Non-US):
  1. Brookings Institution
  2. Chatham House
  3. French Institute of International Relations
  4. Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS)
  5. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace 
  6. Bruegel
  7. RAND Corporation
  8. Wilson Center
  9. Fundacao Getulia Vargas (FGV)
  10. Council on Foreign Relations (CFR)
Top Think Tanks in the US:
  1. Brookings Institution
  2. CFR
  3. CSIS
  4. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  5. Wilson Center
  6. RAND Corp.
  7. Heritage Foundation
  8. Cato Institute
  9. Center for American Progress (CAP)
  10. Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE)

Top Think Tanks in Mexico and Canada:
  1. Consejo Mexicano de Asuntos Internacionales (COMEXI)
  2. Fraser Institute
  3. Centro de Investigacion y Docencia Economicas (CIDE) 
  4. Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI)
  5. Fundar, Centro de Analisis e Investigacion

Top Think Tanks in Central and South America:
  1. Fundacao Getulia Vargas
  2. Comision Economica para America Latina (CEPAL)
  3. Fedesarrollo
  4. Centro Brasileiro de Relacoes Internacionais (CEBRI)
  5. Consejo Argentino para las Relaciones Internacionales (CARI)

Top Think Tanks in Sub-Saharan Africa:
  1. Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA)
  2. Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis (KIPPRA) 
  3. Botswana Institute for Development Policy Analysis (BIDPA)
  4. IMANI Center for Policy and Education
  5. African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD)

Top Think Tanks in Central Asia:
  1. Center for Economic and Social Development (CESD)
  2. Kazakhstan Institute for Strategic Studies
  3. Caucasus Institute for Peace, Democracy and Development (CIPDD)
  4. Armat Center for the Development of Democracy and Civil Society
  5. Caucuses Research Resource Center (CRRC)

Top Think Tanks in China, Japan, India, and South Korea:
  1. Korea Development Institute (KDI)
  2. Japan Institute of International Affairs (JIIA)
  3. Korea Institute for International Economic Policy (KIEP)
  4. China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR)
  5. Observer Research Foundation (ORF)

Top Think Tanks in Southeast Asia and the Pacific:
  1. Australia Institute for International Affairs (AIIA)
  2. Centre for Strategic Studies (CSS)
  3. Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies (IDSS)
  4. Centre for Public Policy Studies (CPPS)
  5. Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)

Top Think Tanks in Central and Eastern Europe:
  1. Center for Social and Economic Research (CASE)
  2. Carnegie Moscow Center
  3. Polish Institute of International Affairs (PISM)
  4. Institute of World Economy and International Relations
  5. Razumkov Centre

Top Think Tanks in Western Europe:
  1. Chatham House
  2. French Institute of International Relations (IFRI)
  3. Bruegel
  4. Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS)
  5. Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS)

Top Think Tanks in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA):
  1. Center for Strategic Studies (CSS)
  2. Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies (ACPSS)
  3. Institute for National Security Studies (INSS)
  4. Carnegie Middle East Center
  5. Al Jazeera Cenre for Studies (AJCS)

Top Defense and National Security Think Tanks:
  1. Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)
  2. RAND Corporation
  3. International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS)
  4. Brookings Institution
  5. Chatham House

Top Domestic Economic Policy Think Tanks:
  1. Brookings
  2. Adam Smith Institute (ASI)
  3. National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
  4. Cato Institute
  5. PIIE

Top Education Policy Think Tanks:
  1. Urban Institute
  2. Brookings
  3. National Institute for Educational Policy Research
  4. RAND Corp.
  5. Cato Institute

Top Energy and Resource Policy Think Tanks:
  1. Oxford Institute for Energy Studies (OIES)
  2. James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy
  3. Institute of Energy Economics
  4. World Resources Institute (WRI)
  5. Center for Science of Environment, Resources and Energy

Top Environment Policy Think Tanks:
  1. Stockholm Environment Institute
  2. Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research
  3. World Resources Institute
  4. Center for Climate and Energy Solutions
  5. E3G - Third Generation Environmentalism

Top Foreign Policy and International Affairs Think Tanks:
  1. Brookings
  2. Chatham House
  3. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  4. French Institute of International Relations
  5. Council on Foreign Relations

Top Domestic Health Policy Think Tanks:
  1. Cambridge Centre for Health Services Research
  2. Bloomberg School of Public Health Research Centers
  3. RAND Corp.
  4. Brookings
  5. Fraser Institute

Top Global Health Policy Think Tanks:
  1. Cambridge Centre for Health Services Research
  2. Bloomberg School of Public Health Research Centers
  3. CSIS
  4. Brookings
  5. RAND Corp.

Top International Economics Think Tanks:
  1. PIIE
  2. Bruegel
  3. Brookings
  4. Vienna Institute for International Economic Studies
  5. Korea Institute for Economic Policy

Top Science and Technology Think Tanks:
  1. Max Planck Institutes
  2. Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF)
  3. Center for Development Research
  4. Battelle Memorial Institute
  5. Institute for Future Engineering; FKA Institute for Future Technology

Top Social Policy Think Tanks:
  1. Urban Institute
  2. Brookings
  3. Center for Social and Economic Research (CASE)
  4. Fraser Institute
  5. RAND Corporation

Best For-Profit Think Tanks:
  1. McKinsey Global Institute
  2. Economist Intelligence United
  3. Boston Consulting Group
  4. A.T. Kearney Global Business Policy Center
  5. Nomura Research Institute

Best Government-Affiliated Think Tanks:
  1. World Bank Institute
  2. Asian Development Bank Institute
  3. Norwegian Institute of International Affairs
  4. Congressional Research Service
  5. Development Research Group, World Bank

Here is a look at last year's (2016) rankings cheat sheet, compiled by Think Tank Watch.

Remember, you may want to be careful about reading too much into these rankings, which have numerous flaws and biases. 

A video of the launch of this year's rankings, which took place at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), can be found here.  A video from the Asia Society, which also hosted a launch event, can be found here.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Think Tank Quickies (#250)

  • How think tanks can survive and thrive in the age of Trump.
  • Muckety map: The conservative think tanks surrounding the Trump camp.
  • Map: think tanks in Africa.
  • Mark Mazur (former Treasury official) to lead Tax Policy Center (TPC) think tank.
  • Think tanks in DC would be more fun if their directors had cooler hairstyles (pic, via Milena Rodban).
  • AEI in 2016 by the numbers.
  • Swedish think tank details Russian disinformation in new study.
  • Ranking of Russian policy think tanks. 
  • French think tank proposes Vladimir Putin for Nobel Peace Prize.
  • Think tanks are essentially the marketing brochures of political parties.
  • Howard Dean: Jim DeMint turned a respected conservative think tank (Heritage) into a "laughing stock in DC which produces fake news."

Monday, January 23, 2017

Brookings Scholar Suing Trump

Brookings Institution scholar Norman Eisen is among a group of people suing President Donald Trump over foreign payments to Mr. Trump's firms.  Here is more from the New York Times:
A team of prominent constitutional scholars, Supreme Court litigators and former White House ethics lawyers intends to file a lawsuit Monday morning alleging that President Trump is violating the Constitution by allowing his hotels and other business operations to accept payments from foreign governments.
The lawsuit is among a barrage of legal actions against the Trump administration that have been initiated or are being planned by major liberal advocacy organizations. Such suits are among the few outlets they have to challenge the administration now that Republicans are in control of the government.
The legal team filing the lawsuit includes Laurence H. Tribe, a Harvard constitutional scholar; Norman L. Eisen, an Obama administration ethics lawyer; and Erwin Chemerinsky, the dean of the law school at the University of California, Irvine. Among the others are Richard W. Painter, an ethics counsel in the administration of George W. Bush; Mr. Gupta, a Supreme Court litigator who has three cases pending before the court; and Zephyr Teachout, a Fordham University law professor and former congressional candidate who has been studying and writing about the Emoluments Clause for nearly a decade.

Forbes notes that Eisen attempted to justify the suit in a December white paper for the Brookings Institution, where is is a Fellow in Governance Studies.

He previously served as US Ambassador to the Czech Republic in the Obama Administration, and before that was Special Counsel to the President and Special Assistant to the President.

In 2001 Eisen co-founded Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics (CREW), a government watchdog group.

Brookings is expected to be one of the biggest attack dogs when it comes to fighting Mr. Trump, and has recently been touted as a sanctuary think tank for liberals.

How Think Tanks Celebrated Inauguration Day

A few tweets that show how different think tanks celebrated (or protested) Inauguration Day:

And here is the best Inauguration-related tweet on think tanks:

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Best Think Tank Tweet of 2017

Although it is early in the year, Think Tank Watch can definitely declare that this tweet from Ariel Edwards-Levy, Staff Reporter and Polling Director at The Huffington Post, is the best think tank tweet of 2017:

Simple but deep...

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

USIP Hosts "Passing the Baton" Event with Trump, Obama Teams

On January 9 and 10 the US Institute of Peace (USIP) hosted a "Passing the Baton" conference to facilitate Donald Trump's transition into the presidency.

Here is more about the event from USIP:
Ten days before the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump, members of his national security team will join Secretary of State John Kerry and other senior foreign policy officials from current and former administrations to discuss immediate and long-term challenges facing the United States. The president-elect’s designated National Security Advisor Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, current National Security Advisor Ambassador Susan Rice, former National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and other officials and experts join in a day of on-the- record discussion on January 10.
The meetings will form the third Passing the Baton conference hosted by the U.S. Institute of Peace as part of the transfer of power between U.S. presidents since 2001. USIP, an independent and nonpartisan national institution founded by Congress, hosts the event in accordance with its congressional mandate to advance informed, problem-solving on threats to U.S. national interests and to promote international peace without violence. The conference will bring together current, future and former officials as well as hundreds of foreign policy and national security experts to cover topics such as America’s role in the world, and how the country can prepare to deal with unanticipated strategic surprises.
USIP’s partners for the conference include the American Enterprise Institute, the Atlantic Council, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Center for American Progress and the Heritage Foundation. Politico and SiriusXM’s POTUS Channel 124 are USIP’s media partners for this event.

Here is a full list of speakers and panelists, which included various think tank leaders and scholars such as Arthur Brooks (AEI), Fred Kempe (Atlantic Council), and James Carafano (Heritage).

An event program can be found here. Partners of the event included American Enterprise Institute, Atlantic Council, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Center for American Progress (CAP), and the Heritage Foundation.  Media partners included Politico and SiriusXM

Sponsors of the event included LMI, Boeing, Chevron, and J. Robinson West & Eileen Shields-West.  [J. Robinson West is the Founder and Chairman of PFC Energy.]

So, did the event accomplish anything?  Indeed it did according to the New York Times, which says that the Obama team and the Trump team engaged in a "public display of harmony" when incoming National Security Adviser Michael Flynn shook hands with outgoing National Security Adviser Susan Rice.

Here is how The Economist describes the think tank event.

In 2009 USIP held a "Passing the Baton" event 50 high-level speakers and 1,900 attendees.

Vanity Fair recently wrote a piece about USIP entitled "Is the US Institute of Peace Really Making the World a Better Place?"

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Top-Level Think Tankers Being Ignored by Trump Team

The numerous think tank scholars who signed anti-Trump pledges that had been circulating around for several months are now feeling the repercussions deeply.  Here is more from the Washington Post:

They are some of the biggest names in the Republican national security firmament, veterans of past GOP administrations who say, if called upon by President-elect Donald Trump, they stand ready to serve their country again.
But their phones aren’t ringing. Their entreaties to Trump Tower in New York have mostly gone unanswered. In Trump world, these establishment all-stars say they are “PNG” — personae non gratae.
Their transgression was signing one or both of two public “Never Trump” letters during the campaign, declaring they would not vote for Trump and calling his candidacy a danger to the nation.
One letter, with 122 names, was published by War on the Rocks, a website devoted to national security commentary, during the primary season in March. The other, with 50 names, including some repeat signatories, was published by the New York Times during the general-election campaign in August.
Now, just days before Trump is sworn in as the nation’s 45th president, the letter signers fear they have been added to another document, this one private — a purported blacklist compiled by Trump’s political advisers.
...The purportedly blacklisted figures report to their jobs at Washington law firms and think tanks in a state of indefinite limbo as their colleagues, some working in the same offices, are flirting with potential administration jobs.

The article goes on to note that the Trump transition team held a private briefing for secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson to prepare him for his Senate confirmation hearing.  But an unnamed former Bush national security official who works at a think tank said that some of his younger staff assistants were invited to participate but he was not.  The reason?  Likely retribution for signing an anti-Trump letter.

Think Tank Watch wrote about the "Never Trump" letters early last year.

But people who signed those letters are not the only think tankers who may be left out in the cold as the Trump Administration takes office.  After all, it is looking increasingly likely that Mr. Trump will largely ignore the *entire* think tank community as he favors businessmen over scholars.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Death of Think Tanks Fast Approaching?

The death of the think tank may not be greatly exaggerated.  Why?  Simply put, President-elect Donald Trump, who will be in power for the next four or eight years, prefers businessmen over scholars.  Here is more from Josh Rogin:
For decades, Washington think tanks have been holding pens for senior government officials waiting for their next appointments and avenues of influence for sponsors of their research. Donald Trump’s incoming administration is bent on breaking that model.
Trump’s appointments have so far have been heavy on business executives and former military leaders. Transition sources tell me the next series of nominations — deputy-level officials at top agencies — will also largely come from business rather than the think tank or policy communities. For example, neither the American Enterprise Institute’s John Bolton nor the Council on Foreign Relations’ Richard Haass is likely to be chosen for deputy secretary of state, while hedge fund manager David McCormick is on the shortlist. Philip Bilden, a private equity investment firm executive with no government experience, is expected to be named secretary of the Navy.
The president-elect favors people who have been successful in the private sector and amassed personal wealth over those who have achieved prominence in academic or policy fields. Those close to him, including chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon and senior adviser Jared Kushner, see think tanks as part of a Washington culture that has failed to implement good governance, while becoming beholden to donors.
 “This is the death of think tanks as we know them in D.C.,” one transition official told me. “The people around Trump view think tanks as for sale for the highest bidder. They have empowered whole other centers of gravity for staffing this administration.”

The piece goes on to note that if Mr. Trump ends up shutting out think tanks, they will likely try to maintain influence by focusing more on Congress, industry, and foreign entities.

Others have come to the same, bleak conclusion about think tanks.  The Economist recently noted that the world has reached "peak think tank" and many have become redundant and useless.  Think Tank Watch recently wrote a piece entitled "Trump Dumping Think Tanks."

Think tanks are trying to change rapidly in order to evolve to the new environment.  The liberal Center for American Progress (CAP) has pivoted from thinking to attacking.  The Brookings Institution is touting itself as a sanctuary think tank for liberals.

To be sure, a handful of conservative think tanks have close ties to the Trump Administration, but whether they have any real influence after January 20 is an open question.


Here are some reactions from the piece:
  • Bruce Bartlett: Trump could cause the death of think tanks as we know know them...but they've been brain-dead for years.
  • Rebecca Buckwalter-Poza, a fellow at CAP: Trump can't kill off think tanks.  Separate streams.  He's more likely to end up outsourcing to them.
  •  James Jay Carafano of the Heritage Foundation: There is room for better think tanks in Washington.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Economist Talks Think Tanks

The Economist has a new piece on think tanks entitled "What Do Think Tanks Do?"  Here are Think Tank Watch's favorite quotes:

  • Sharp quotes, intriguing facts, and bold new policy proposals are attributed to the mysterious [think] tanks (as is plenty of rubbish).
  • The "think tank" label become popular in the 1950s.
  • Think tanks aim to fill the gap between academia and policymaking.  Academics grind out authoritative studies, but at a snail's pace.  Journalists' first drafts of history are speedy but thin.  A good think tank helps the policymaking process by publishing reports that are as rigorous as academic research and as accessible as journalism.  (Bad ones have a knack of doing just the opposite.) 
  • Think tanks flourished in the 20th century for two reasons.  Governments were expanding everywhere, meaning there was lots of demand for policy expertise.  And the arrival of the 24-hour news cycle created an insatiable appetite for informed interviewees.  The same trends are now causing think tanks to take off in developing countries.
  • Yet the world may have reached peak think tank.  UPenn researchers found that in 2014 the number of new think tanks declined for the first time in 30 years.  One reason is that donors nowadays prefer to make project-specific grants, rather than funneling money into mere thinking.  Another is increased competition.  Professional consultancies such as McKinsey publish a fair bit of brainwork, and members of opinionated "advocacy organizations" can make for more compelling interviewees than balanced think tankers.

To cut straight to the chase, the Economist is saying that think tanks are essentially becoming redundant and useless.

We should note that the Economist recently wrote a piece on "worried wonks" at think tanks.

Think Tank Quickies (#249)

  • Trump NSC pick Monica Crowley plagiarized from think tanks (Update: she has now quit). 
  • Bruegel event on Jan. 26: Why are think tanks more important now than ever before? 
  • Economist: What do think tanks do?
  • Jennifer Rubin on the challenges for think tanks in 2017.
  • Washington Post calls white nationalist group National Policy Institute a "think tank."
  • What role for a European think tank in the age of populism?
  • Will think tankers be put on something similar to the "Professor Watchlist" created by conservative youth group Turning Point USA?
  • Center for American Progress (CAP) casts doubts on Trump infrastructure plan. 
  • Jacob Leibenluft joined CBPP as a senior adviser for national policy; he most recently led Hillary Clinton's economic policy team during the 2016 campaign and served in the Treasury and White House under President Obama. 
  • Former Brookings and Urban Institute alum Carey Anne Nadeau featured in Washington Post for her company Open Data Nation.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

US Intel Agency Says Russia Targeted Think Tanks

A new report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) confirms many previous reports from the media and cybersecurity firms in saying that Russian has been hacking into think tanks.  Here is an excerpt:
We assess Russian intelligence services collected against the US primary campaigns, think tanks, and lobbying groups they viewed as likely to shape US policy...Immediately after Election Day, we assess Russian intelligence began a spearphishing campaign targeting US Government employees and individuals associated with US think tanks and NGOs in national security, defense, and foreign policy fields.  This campaign could provide material for future influence efforts as well as foreign intelligence collection on the incoming administration's goals and plans.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post on Russia's alleged targeting of think tanks during the election season.  Nearly every major US think tank has been targeted by foreign intelligence agencies over the past few years.

Atlantic Council's Top Risk of 2017: Trump

The think tank Atlantic Council has just published a list of the top 10 risks for 2017 and at the top of the list is the Trump transition.  Here is the full list:
  1. The Trump transition
  2. An imploding Europe
  3. An emboldened Russia
  4. US influence collapses in Asia
  5. A new low in the Middle East
  6. Escalating African conflicts
  7. Instability returns in Latin America
  8. Liberal values retreat
  9. A leaderless world
  10. A major pandemic finally happens

On the Trump transition, Atlantic Council says that a "crisis badly handled in the early days could weaken" Mr. Trump and the US, and Trump "has made it harder for himself by alienating the US Intelligence Community" even before he assumes office.

Atlantic Council also has a list of what it considers to be the top 10 risks for the year 2035.  The list comes from the think tank's 2016 report entitled "Global Risks 2035: The Search for a New Normal."

As some of you may know, Atlantic Council hosted an event about that report at the Improv in Washington, DC in which comedians parodied and poked fun of the contents of the report.  Think Tank Watch voted it the best think tank event of 2016.

Other think tanks produce similar lists.  For example, in December the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) published its 2017 Preventive Priorities Survey which asks foreign policy experts to rank conflicts based on the likelihood of occurring or escalating and their potential impacts on the US.

In December the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) issued its 2017 Global Forecast, a collection of essays by CSIS experts focused on the critical issues facing the US and the world in the year ahead.

Think tanks are big fans of both short- and long-term outlooks.  In 2010, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace published a report entitled The World Order in 2050.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Fake Think Tanks?

While fake news is getting all the attention these days, it is a little known fact that fake think tanks are highly fashionable.

The New York Times just wrote a piece on the proliferation of fake academia - what is essentially "fraudulent" journals and conferences.  Here is an excerpt from NYT:
OMICS International is a leader in the growing business of academic publication fraud.  It has created scores of "journals" that mimic the look and feel of traditional scholarly publications, but without the integrity.  OMICS is also in the less well-known business of what might be called conference fraud.  Both schemes exploit a fundamental weakness of modern higher education: Academics need to publish in order to advance professionally, get better jobs or secure tenure.  Even within the halls of respectable academia, the difference between legitimate and fake publications and conferences is far blurrier than scholars would like to admit."

But fake think tanks have been around awhile.  Here is a piece that Think Tank Watch wrote in 2015 about "fake" think tanks.

In fact, fake think tanks have been around for decades.  Take the so-called Boring Institute, a "fake," one-man think tank that originated in 1984.  Here is more on that "think tank" from the New York Times.

We should also note that there are a number of fictitious think tanks floating around...

Update: Here is a new Wired piece entitled "Fake Think Tanks Fuel Fake News - and the President's Tweets."

Monday, January 9, 2017

Democrats Finding Think Tank Market Tight

As the Obama era comes to a close and staffers pore out into the Washington job market, many are finding that their desire to score a cushy think tank job may not necessarily be a piece of cake.  Here is more from Politico:
The job market is about to get even more crowded for Washington Democrats, as thousands of Obama appointees join the hundreds of Clinton campaign staffers looking for employment.
There’s rarely been less demand for their services.
The Trump tornado is tearing up post-election planning around the Beltway. It’s not just that those 4,000 administration jobs are no longer available to Hillary for America alumni, or that failed Senate candidates like Russ Feingold and Katie McGinty won’t be able to hire their staff on the Hill. There are also the lobbying firms, trade associations and corporate government affairs offices that are pitching senior Obama aides’ resumes into the round file while scrambling to hire operatives with Republican connections.
It’s insult to injury for a generation of young operatives who are still managing their shock and grief from Hillary Clinton’s loss. And for those who want to fight to keep President Barack Obama’s legacy from being erased, there aren’t a lot of places ready to pay them to do it.

Making the navigation of the think tank scene even trickier is the fact that many Democratic think tanks have been tweaking their missions as the Trump Administration moves into Washington.

Moreover, fewer positions are opening for Democrats as many Clinton supporters at think tanks have decided to remain in place for the next four years, hoping for better luck in 2020.

But those that can score a coveted full-time think tank position will find salaries and benefits fairly robust, as money continues to pore into think tanks from corporations and foreign governments.

Nevertheless, the think tank outlook has been getting bleaker, particularly as more people have begun to question the independence of think tank research, the abundant pay-for-play schemes that have clouded think tanks, and the fact that Donald Trump does not seem to care much for think tanks.