As tensions between the United States and North Korea continue to rise, one think tank, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), has become a ubiquitous voice on the topic of missile defense, providing Official-Sounding Quotes to dozens of reporters in Western media outlets. All of these quotes speak to the urgent threat of North Korea and how important the United States’s deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile system is to South Korea.
In the past year, FAIR has noted 30 media mentions of CSIS pushing the THAAD missile system or its underlying value proposition in US media, most of them in the past two months. Business Insider was the most eager venue for the think tank’s analysts, routinely copying–and–pasting CSIS talking points in stories warning of the North Korean menace.
Omitted from all these CSIS media appearances, however, is that one of CSIS’s top donors, Lockheed Martin, is THAAD’s primary contractor—Lockheed Martin’s take from the THAAD system is worth about $3.9 billion alone. Lockheed Martin directly funds the Missile Defense Project Program at CSIS, the program whose talking heads are cited most frequently by US media.
While it’s unclear how much exactly Lockheed Martin donates to CSIS (specific totals are not listed on their website, and a CSIS spokesperson wouldn’t tell FAIR when asked), they are one of the top ten donors, listed in the “$500,000 and up” category. It’s unclear how high “and up” goes, but the think tank’s operating revenue for 2016 was $44 million.
FAIR goes on to note that five of CSIS's ten major corporate donors (giving $200,000+) are weapons manufacturers: Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Boeing, Leonardo-Finmeccanica, and Northrup Grumman. FAIR also notes that South Korea gives money to CSIS through the governmental Korea Foundation.
Think Tank Watch should point out that Lockheed has given donations to a number of different think tanks, including Atlantic Council, Heritage Foundation, Brookings Institution, and Center for American Progress (CAP).
For decades a number of think tanks have had strong ties to the defense industry. Here is a recent Salon piece about think tanks and war, and here is a part of the recent New York Times expose on how think tanks amplify corporate America's influence.