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.