Monday, June 29, 2020

Fact-Checker Scolds Biden on Think Tank Claim

The nonpartisan, a project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, recently wrote a piece fact-checking Joe Biden's claim that "most of the conservative think tanks," including the Heritage Foundation, agree that tax cuts championed by President Donald Trump "generated virtually no growth at all."

Here is more:
There are many economists who might agree with Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, that the tax cuts have not generated much, if any, economic growth, but most conservative think tanks, including the Heritage Foundation, are not among them.
Biden’s campaign cited three articles that it says came from conservative institutions: two from the American Enterprise Institute and one from the Tax Foundation. None of them support Biden’s claim, though.
As for Biden’s specific claim that “even places like the Heritage Foundation said that [TCJA] didn’t grow the economy,” the Biden campaign did not get back to us with backup for that. But the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, says that’s false.

Here is a recent Think Tank Watch piece on the think tankers that are advising Joe Biden.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Having More Think Tanks in Your City Correlated with Lower Crime?

According to a 2017 study by three New York University scholars, having more nonprofits (including think tanks) in a community is correlated with a stronger social fabric and lower crime.

Here is more:
Largely overlooked in the theoretical and empirical literature on the crime decline is a long tradition of research in criminology and urban sociology that considers how violence is regulated through informal sources of social control arising from residents and organizations internal to communities. In this article, we incorporate the “systemic” model of community life into debates on the U.S. crime drop, and we focus on the role that local nonprofit organizations played in the national decline of violence from the 1990s to the 2010s. Using longitudinal data and a strategy to account for the endogeneity of nonprofit formation, we estimate the causal effect on violent crime of nonprofits focused on reducing violence and building stronger communities. Drawing on a panel of 264 cities spanning more than 20 years, we estimate that every 10 additional organizations focusing on crime and community life in a city with 100,000 residents leads to a 9 percent reduction in the murder rate, a 6 percent reduction in the violent crime rate, and a 4 percent reduction in the property crime rate.

Here is the full study, and here is a review of it.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

New America's OTI Will No Longer Accept Facebook Funding

Here is a statement from New America's Open Technology Institute (OTI):

Last week, leadership at Facebook refused to take down a post from President Donald Trump threatening that "when the looting starts, the shooting starts" in reference to nationwide demonstrations against police brutality, as well as other posts from the President that promoted disinformation about mail-in voting. Civil rights groups sharply criticized the policy, and hundreds of Facebook employees staged a “virtual walkout” in protest of the company’s decision. Amid this outcry, Facebook’s leadership dismissed civil rights groups’ concerns and reiterated the company’s policy of non-intervention for harmful posts by public figures that would otherwise violate the platform's policies.
In reflection on Facebook’s years of struggles to implement content moderation policies that do not reinforce systems of racism, and in light of the failure of the company’s leaders to respond meaningfully to concerns raised against the backdrop of the past weeks’ deep turmoil, the Open Technology Institute has decided that, as of today, it will decline further funding from Facebook.

Recent New America donors and partners include: New York City Economic Development Corporation, Rockefeller Foundation, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Ford Foundation, US State Department, Aphorism Foundation, Eric and Wendy Schmidt, Omidyar Network, Skoll Global Threats Fund, Siemens Foundation, Ballmer Group, Reid Hoffman Foundation, Pivotal Ventures LLC, JPMorgan Chase, Craig Newmark Philanthropies, Florida International University, and William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

Facebook funds and partners with a number of other think tanks, including Atlantic Council, Center for American Progress (CAP), Third Way, and American Enterprise Institute (AEI).

Here is a 2018 Think Tank Watch post entitled "Dark Clouds Linger Over Think Tank New America."  Here is another post from 2017, when a scholar from New America was fired for criticizing Google, one of its major donors.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Think Tanks May Soon Have to File As Foreign Agents Under FARA

It it possible that think tanks that accept foreign funds may soon need to file as foreign agents under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), a law requiring organizations advocating interests of foreign powers to disclose their relationship with those foreign governments.

In recent months, the Department of Justice (DOJ), which administers FARA, has taken an increasingly broad view of FARA's scope, making many organizations wonder whether their work may trigger FARA registration.

Here is more from Foreign Lobby Report:
The Department of Justice is sending shock waves across the advocacy community by treating certain grant-funded non-governmental organizations as agents of foreign governments.
The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) registered as a foreign agent of Norway earlier this month after being told that it was “obligated” to that country’s government because it had received money from the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD). The Washington-based nonprofit is the recipient of a five-year, almost $6 million grant from the agency to combat deforestation in Indonesia and South America.
The new requirement has clearly rankled a widely respected nonprofit that prides itself on its independence, and other nonprofits could soon find themselves in similar straits.

Foreign Lobby also notes that lobbying firm Waxman Strategies registered as a foreign agent for Norwegian-funded projects with the Center for International Policy (CIP), a think tank based in Washington, DC.

Nearly every major US think tank receives money from foreign governments as well as foreign businesses.

In its "FARA Guide for the Perplexed," the law firm of Covington & Burling LPP notes that FARA is written so broadly that it could potentially require registration even for some routine business activities at think tanks.

A number of foreign governments hire US-based lobbying firm to do outreach to think tanks.  One example is DiNino Associates, LLC, which provides government relations assistance and outreach to think tanks on behalf of the Indian Embassy in the US.

Another example is Gotham Government Relations, which assists Libya's Government of National Accord (GNA) which outreach to think tanks.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch piece about FARA entitled "When Think Tanking Becomes Illegal."

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Think Tankers "Hope They'll be Rescued" From Their Jobs

This is from the opening of a new piece on Brookings Institution scholar and former Trump Administration official Fiona Hill that was penned by New Yorker writer Adam Entous:

The Brookings Institution is one of many think tanks in Washington, D.C., where scholars and bureaucrats sit in quiet offices and wait by the phone. They write op-eds and books, give talks and convene seminars, hoping that, when reputations falter or Administrations shift, they will be rescued from the life of opining and contemplation and return to the adrenaline rush and consequence of government. Nearly always, the yearning is to be inside. Strobe Talbott, who became the president of Brookings in 2002, served in Bill Clinton’s Administration as his leading Russia expert, and he was rumored to be on the shortlist for Hillary Clinton’s Secretary of State. Others, too, may have expected a call. But, after Donald Trump was elected, only one prominent Brookings stalwart was summoned, and her story became emblematic of all those in Washington who entered the Administration full of trepidation but hoping to be a “normalizing” influence on a distinctly abnormal President.

Former managing director at Brookings, William Antholis, said he was "deeply offended" by the line about being "rescued" from life at a think tank.

Think Tank Watch's favorite line from the New Yorker piece:  "After Trump’s victory, the mood at Brookings was funereal."

After her stint within the Trump Administration, Hill returned to Brookings where she is currently a Senior Fellow in the Center for on the United States and Europe in the Foreign Policy Program.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch piece about Hill.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Think Tank Quickies (#380)

  • American Institute for Economic Research (AIER) accused of "pushing the thus-far-unfounded claim that SARS-CoV-2 originated in a Chinese lab."
  • USTR Robert Lighthizer bashes PIIE study on US-China trade in Senate Finance hearing.
  • Wellcome Trust, a $33 billion UK foundation which has ties to think tanks, gave early coronavirus warning that woke up Wall Street.
  • Pic: Think tank cartoon for the times.
  • MacroPolo - a think tank run by the Paulson Institute, which promotes constructive ties between the US and China.
  • French think tank Obliquum wants edge in African affairs.
  • Heritage Action has hired Ryan Walker, currently deputy chief of staff and legislative director for Rep. Mark Walker (R-NC), as director of government relations. 
  • Laura Rodriguez, formerly chief of staff to Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (D-FL) and a Bill Nelson and State Dept. alum, is now VP for government affairs at CAP.
  • Wendy Edelberg, former chief economist for the CBO, is replacing Jay Shambaugh as director of the Hamilton Project at Brookings.
  • John Cusey, who most recently served as director of policy at HHS' Office of Refugee Resettlement, will rejoin AEI as VP of Communications.

Friday, June 19, 2020

"Think Tank" With Qatari Ties Registers as Foreign Agent

Here is more from Foreign Lobby Report:

A Washington nonprofit that describes itself as an “independent research institute” has registered as a foreign agent of Qatar after coming under scrutiny from the Department of Justice.
The Qatar-America Institute (QAI) registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act in late May, according to a lobbying filing made public this afternoon. In the 51-page filing, the institute reveals that it received a $5.2 million pledge from the Qatari Embassy in Washington, plus another $1 million from the embassy, the Qatar National Tourism Council and the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy through March 2019.
The institute was formed in September 2017 to promote US ties with Qatar after rival Gulf states Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates cut diplomatic ties with Doha and launched multi-million-dollar US public relations campaigns against the country. Those countries’ attempts to influence US policy via think-tanks have also come under scrutiny.

Here is QAI's hompepage.  Qatar is considered a top funder to US think tanks, with a recent study showing that it gave US think tanks at least $8.5 million from 2014-2018.

Update: Qatar-funded think tank moves to drop "lobbyist" label.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

New Piece Sheds Light on Taiwan's Funding of US Think Tanks

Eli Clifton has a new piece on Taiwan's funding of US think tanks entitled "Taiwan Funding of Think Tanks: Omnipresent and Rarely Disclosed."  It was co-published by The American Prospect and Responsible Statecraft, a publication of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft.

Here are some excerpts:

Pushing back on bellicose statements from both parties requires credible policy advice from experts, many of whom are based at Washington research institutes. But five of the capital’s most prominent think tanks have been producing policy papers urging closer U.S. ties with Taiwan — a territory locked in an uncertain legal status that threatens to be a flashpoint between Beijing and Washington. These seemingly impartial research institutions are pushing for expanded arms sales and trade agreements with Taiwan without widely disclosing their high-level funding from the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO), Taiwan’s equivalent to an embassy.
The five think tanks — the Brookings Institution, the Center for American Progress, the Center for a New American Security, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and the Hudson Institute — all disclose their funding from TECRO but bury it deep on their websites or annual reports.
None of their researchers disclose the potential conflict of interest between Taiwanese funding and advocating for more security guarantees for and trade with Taiwan.

Some think tanks have already pushed back at the piece, as if often the case with investigative reporting on foreign funding of think tanks.

The author, Eli Clifton, said that the first thing the spokesperson for the Center for American Progress (CAP) told him when asked about CAP's Taiwan funding was "I'd like to know if you plan to note in the story that you are a former CAP staffer who left ThinkProgress, since that is a clear conflict of interest."

At the end of the piece, Clinton notes that he and Ben Armbruster, the managing editor of Responsible Statecraft, are former employees of CAP.

Bonnie Glaser, a Senior Adviser for Asia and Director of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), had a back-and-forth with Clifton on Twitter, with Glaser saying that all reports her program has published that were funded by Taiwan have included a statement on funding sources.  Clifton notes, however, that other pieces CSIS has published have not disclosed Taiwan funding.

Clifton has written other pieces about think tank funding in the past, including this 2013 piece about Taiwan's funding of American Enterprise Institute (AEI).

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch piece about Taiwanese think tanks setting up shop in Washington, DC.

Update: In response to the piece, China's foreign minister said that US think tank should be fair and objective.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Think Tankers Advising Joe Biden on Economy

The New York Times (NYT) recently had a piece on who presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden is turning to for advice on the economy, and a handful of think tankers and those with close ties to think tanks were named.

NYT says that his regular briefings are by a small group of liberal economists and other with roots in the Obama White House and Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign.  Here is more:

Mr. Biden is now seeking input from more than 100 left-leaning economists and other researchers, but there is little clarity on who has true influence. The Biden campaign recently formed an economic policy committee, which includes these outside experts, and imposed strict rules to ensure their public silence. 
Conversations with policy experts close to the Biden campaign suggest that Mr. Biden has thus far leaned on a core group of advisers who roughly match his own ideological standing within a Democratic Party that has steadily moved left since Barack Obama won the White House in 2008. Mr. Biden appears to have widened that group to include some of the young and sharply progressive thinkers who drove the policy debate leftward during much of the 2020 Democratic primary campaign.
Campaign officials refused multiple requests to detail Mr. Biden’s economic brain trust. They did confirm that Mr. Biden receives regular briefings from a group of advisers that includes at least three liberal economists who are firmly rooted in the party’s Washington establishment: Jared Bernstein and Ben Harris, two former chief economists for Mr. Biden from his time in the White House, and Heather Boushey, who was the top economist for Mrs. Clinton’s transition team when she was the Democratic nominee in 2016.

Jared Bernstein is a Senior Fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), Ben Harris served as a Senior Research Associate with the Urban Institute and Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center after leaving the Obama Administration, and Heather Boushey is President, CEO, and Co-founder of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth.

Another person giving Biden advice on economic issues, Lawrence Summers, chairs the board of the Center for Global Development (CGD).  He is also an advisor to The Hamilton Project (an economic initiative of the Brookings Institution), The Hutchins Center on Fiscal & Monetary Policy (also at Brookings), and the Peterson Institute for International Economics (PIIE).  He is also a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress (CAP).

Byron Auguste, another person mentioned in the article, is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and a board member of the Washington Center for Equitable Growth.  Indivar Dutta-Gupta was a Senior Policy Advisor at CBPP and was a Bill Emerson National Hunger Fellow and then a consultant to the Poverty Task Force at CAP.

Jake Sullivan, who reportedly joins in on some of the economic talks, used to work for former Brookings Institution President Strobe Talbott at the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization.

Another economic adviser is Jack Lew, a former Treasury Secretary in the Obama Administration.  He is a member of CFR and on the Brookings Institution's Hamilton Project advisory board.

Although not mentioned in the article, Anthony Blinken, a top foreign policy advisor to Biden, previously served as a Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

Joe Biden himself has two think tank-like entities that are housed within universities: the Biden Institute at the University of Delaware and the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy & Engagement at the University of Pennsylvania.  Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) has called for an investigation of the latter, citing concerns about accusations of undisclosed donations from Chinese sources.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Twitter Worked With Think Tank to Delete Accounts Tied to Chinese Gov't

Here is more from CNN:

Twitter announced Thursday that it had shut down more than 170,000 accounts tied to the Chinese government. Experts working with Twitter who reviewed the accounts said they pushed deceptive narratives around the Hong Kong protests, COVID-19, and other topics.
The company said the accounts were "spreading geopolitical narratives favorable to the Communist Party of China" and were removed for violating its platform manipulation policies.
Twitter is officially blocked in China, though many people in the country are able to access it using a VPN. Among the targets of the Chinese campaign were overseas Chinese "in an effort to exploit their capacity to extend the party-state's influence," according to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, a group Twitter worked with to analyze the accounts. Twitter said the accounts tweeted "predominantly in Chinese languages."

On June 12, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) issued a report analyzing what is says is a "persistent, large-scale influence campaign linked to Chinese state actors" on Twitter and Facebook.

At the end of the report, it notes that ASPI's work is supported by defense contractors Lockheed Martin, Thales, and Naval Group (although it is unclear if those were the entities that supported this specific research).

Other ASPI donors include Northrop Grumman, Jacobs, MBDA, SAAB, Raytheon Australia, and Austal.  It also receives money from the US State Department.

Sponsors to the think tank's International Cyber Policy Centre (ICPC) include Microsoft, Amazon, Google, National Archives of Australia (NAA), and the Cyber Security Cooperative Research Centre (CSCRC).

A larger list of funders, which include the Embassy of Japan and Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECRO), can be found in its most recent annual report here.

The Global Times, published by the People's Daily, the official newspaper of China's ruling Communist Party, recently slammed ASPI for "hyping up anti-China issues."

In March, ASPI said it has one of the largest concentrations of Chinese-language speakers in any think tank in Australia.

In February, the Australian Financial Review said ASPI has "become a flashpoint in the breakdown of consensus in Beijing."

Canberra-headquartered ASPI was founded in 2001 and has a staff of 55 in full-time, part-time, and "casual" positions.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Police Think Tank Gets Flooded With Cash

It is a good time to be a think tank focusing on police reform.

Last year, the New York-based Center for Policing Equity (CPE) said it would get $30 million from The Audacious Project to expand its COMPSTAT for Justice project, a data tool that tracks police behavior to help law enforcement agencies reduce racial disparities in policing.

Launched in April 2018 and housed at TED, The Audacious Project pools philanthropic support from a leading group of individuals and organizations and gives it to social entrepreneurs and nonprofits with bold ideas.  CPE was one of eight projects funded in 2019 from a field of 1,500 applications.

In May 2020, Google's YouTube said it would donate $1 million to CPE, and in early June, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said he had donated $1 million to the think tank.  Luggage company Away and Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi have also said they will be donating to CPE.

Here is CPE's five-step policy action plan for policing in America.

Friday, June 12, 2020

Atlantic Council Promoting D-10 Alliance Alongside UK

It has recently been reported that the United Kingdom (UK) is lobbying aggressively to form an alliance of ten democracies with the goal of avoiding reliance on Chinese technology such as 5G.  The so-called "D-10" grouping would include the G-7 countries as well as Australia, India, and South Korea.

That idea has actually been promoted for years by US think tank Atlantic Council, which initiated a D-10 Strategy Forum in 2014.  The think tank coordinates annual D-10 meetings that are hosted by the foreign ministries of participating D-10 countries.  Last year's meeting was held in Berlin, and this year's meeting will be held virtually.

Separately, the Atlantic Council also convenes the D-10 Ambassadors Roundtable, which brings together Washington, DC-based ambassadors for a regular series of consultations on global challenges.

It is important to note that the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) gave more than $1 million to Atlantic Council in 2018, the latest year for which contribution data is available.

A spokesman for the think tank said that the grant from the UK is for its work on disinformation via its Digital Forensic Research Laboratory.  Atlantic Council also received $3,000 from the FCO in 2019 to support its work for the UK-hosted NATO policy planning talks.

Here is more from Foreign Policy:
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been actively considering the right idea: consolidating a new D-10 group of 10 leading democracies (the current G-7 members, plus South Korea, India, and Australia) for addressing both 5G mobile communications and vulnerable supply chains. While the idea behind a D-10 is not a novel one—a group organized by the Atlantic Council think tank in Washington has been promoting it for years with regular working-level meetings between officials—it has a new impetus amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Ash Jain, a Senior Fellow with the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, oversees the Atlantic Council's Democratic Order Initiative and D-10 Strategy Forum.

Atlantic Council notes that the D-10 construct has its origins in a US State Department policy planning staff initiative launched in 2008.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

Think Tanks Could Get Boost from Pledge by Top Foundations

While many think tanks have lost significant funding revenue amid the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent economic downturn, some policy shops may actually benefit from a move by several major foundations to redouble efforts to fund nonprofits.

Here is more from the New York Times:

The Ford Foundation plans to announce on Thursday that it will borrow $1 billion so that it can substantially increase the amount of money it distributes. To raise the money, the foundation — one of the country’s most well-known and oldest charitable organizations — is preparing to issue a combination of 30- and 50-year bonds, a financial maneuver common among governments and companies but extremely rare among nonprofit groups.
Four other leading charitable foundations will pledge on Thursday that they will join with Ford and increase their giving by at least $725 million.
The decision by the five influential foundations — major sponsors of social justice organizations, museums and the arts and environmental causes — could shatter the charitable world’s deeply entrenched tradition of fiscal restraint during periods of economic hardship. That conservatism has provoked anger that foundations, which benefit from generous federal tax breaks, are hoarding billions of dollars during a national emergency, more interested in safeguarding their endowments than in helping those in need.
The four other foundations are among America’s most storied: the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; the W.K. Kellogg Foundation; the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. The MacArthur and Doris Duke foundations plan to issue bonds. Mellon and Kellogg are still working out their financing plans.

All five of those foundations contribute generously to think tanks.  For example, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation has recently given grants to the Aspen Institute, East-West Center, and World Resources Institute (WRI).

The MacArthur Foundation has given to nearly every major US think tank, including the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), Aspen Institute, Atlantic Council, Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC), Brookings Institution, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Cato Institute, Center for American Progress (CAP), Center for Global Development (CGD), Center for National Policy (CNP), Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), Center for a New American Security (CNAS), Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), Economic Policy Institute (EPI), Hudson Institute, Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), Middle East Institute (MEI), Migration Policy Institute (MPI), New America, R Street Institute, Resources for the Future (RFF), Stimson Center, Truman Center for National Policy, US Institute of Peace (USIP), Urban Institute, Wilson Center, and World Resources Institute (WRI).

Think Tank Watch should also point at that think tanks are starting to consider raiding their endowments at a faster pace.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Think Tank Quickies (#379)

  • Think tank scholars attended Mike Pompeo's "Madison dinners." 
  • Absent influencers?  Women in European think tanks. 
  • Middle East Institute (MEI) opens up think tank to support DC protestors.
  • Public Citizen: Hudson Institute opposes affordable vaccines, took $300k from industry.
  • Flashback: John Goodman launches first-of-its-kind virtual think tank (Goodman Institute).
  • US think tank seeks to repeal secret deal and delist Chinese stocks.
  • 18 states fight conservative think tank effort to freeze fuel efficiency standards. 
  • German think tank guide (SWP is the "Mercedes Benz" of European think tanks). 
  • Appraising the epistemic performance of social systems: The case of think tank evaluations.
  • Build a better blob full of think tankers.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Defense Think Tank on Verge of Collapse?

Here is more from Forbes:

A few days ago, the cash-strapped non-partisan Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA), a “premier institution for understanding the future of international competition and conflict,” announced the appointment of a new Senior Fellow, Dr. Chris Bassler. A former Chief Strategy Officer for the F-35 Lightning II Joint Program Office, Bassler will need to hit the ground running because CSBA, despite this new appointment, is steadily losing money, people and influence.
According to tax documents filed by the think tank, CSBA’s balance sheet is in dire straits, and, over the past few months, many researchers, including a number of maritime researchers that made CSBA a buzz-worthy center of innovation in maritime strategy, have departed for more secure, albeit more ideologically charged institutions.
CSBA’s troubles put a number of efforts to facilitate engagement between Washington’s national security stakeholders at risk. While it will be unfortunate for the Department of Defense if CSBA is unable to right the ship, CSBA’s slow-motion collapse is an opportunity for other institutions to move forward and seize a prestigious D.C. niche in the non-partisan engagement and influencing of key Washington national security stakeholders.
To obscure the departure of senior researchers, CSBA has taken something of a page from the gig economy, bulking up their shrinking staff page with 11 Uber-like “Non-Resident Senior Fellows.” CSBA’s big cadre of Non-Resident Senior Fellows appear to only be loosely associated with the think-tank, and, in the main, Non-Resident Senior Fellows are either in the process of departing CSBA or have full-time jobs elsewhere, supporting CSBA on the side. Ironically, one of the five Senior Fellows listed on CSBA’s website (as of early June), is a non-resident, living near Monterey, California

The author of the piece, Craig Hooper, suggests that the US Navy has leaned heavily on CSBA to amplify its work and may have to rethink its think tank strategy.  Among other things, he suggests that the "center of Washington's technical maritime debate" could move to the Hudson Institute.

Others that could benefit from CSBA's decline include the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and the US Naval Institute.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch piece about a major CSBA shakeup that took place in 2015.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Cato Institute Vandalized in DC Protests

Think tanks were already struggling with the COVID-19 crisis, and now they are facing even more problems amid the protests in Washington, DC.

Here are some pictures of the Cato Institute, including one with tanks outside the libertarian think tank:

Another showing a broken window at Cato after the protests:

Another showing Cato boarded up:

More coming later...

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

The End of In-Person Think Tank Events?

The era of in-person think tank events may be over, or at least paused for a very long time.  That lovely shrimp buffet at American Enterprise Institute (AEI) or swanky cocktail reception at the Brookings Institution?  Sorry, not happening anytime soon.

Every major US think tank has halted public, in-person think tank events, which often draw dozens and sometimes even hundreds of people.  Instead, think tanks have moved events almost entirely online, leaving those who depend on think tank lunches for sustenance in a very dire place.

Right now, think tanks are drawing up plans for how they can eventually return to normal, but it is still too early for most think tanks to even begin to plan when they'll hold their next public event.  Instead, most think tanks continue to grapple with how and when to bring their own employees back to work.

In the meantime, think tanks are struggling with how to attract and maintain audiences.  With everyone doing online conferences (corporations, universities, consulting firms, trade associations, embassies, think tanks, etc.), supply may be outpacing demand.  Moreover, "Zoom fatigue" appears to be another problem facing think tank events, as the relative novelty of online video conferencing fades with the increased use of such tools and services.

It is one thing to attend a think tank event in person and meet the speakers and guests and network (and dine on filet mignon and crab cakes), but it is another to sit inside your house and watch speakers drone on for hours and hours, particularly now that the competition for content and interesting speakers is so robust.

The new normal raises a number of questions.  Have think tanks become less important or influential in the coronavirus-era?  Will the crowds that once thronged think tank conference rooms ever return to their pre-coronavirus levels?  Does it make sense for think tanks to even have a physical presence, or can they exist solely online? Will any major think tank collapse due to the global economic crisis?  Will any think tanks think outside the box and do some type of unique pivot to become a dominant force?

While Think Tank Watch continues to ponder these questions and many others, we really are only sure of one thing right now: that lovely lobster dinner on Think Tank Row will instead be taking place in pajamas on a sofa for the foreseeable future.