Saturday, January 30, 2021

AEI President Defends Rep. Liz Cheney

American Enterprise Institute (AEI) President Robert Doar has a new piece in RealClearPolitics defending Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), who has faced blowback from her fellow Republicans for voting to impeach former President Donald Trump:

The message for Republicans should be clear: Trump alone is not enough. If conservatives want to build a governing coalition that can win elections, the self-destructive attacks on Rep. Cheney need to stop. 

If they continue, the same people responsible for the Republicans losing the Senate this time around will ensure further progressive victories in the years ahead — and bear responsibility for the policies that will inevitably result.

Rep. Cheney's mother, Lynne Cheney, is a Senior Fellow at AEI.  Rep. Cheney's father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, has been a longtime board member of the think tank.

Friday, January 29, 2021

Heritage Foundation Scoops Up Trump DHS Officials

Even though a number of former Trump Administration officials are having trouble finding jobs, the so-called "H" think tanks are scooping them up at a rapid pace.

The latest in the Heritage Foundation, which just announced it has hired three former Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials:

  • Chad Wolf, acting secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security
  • Ken Cuccinelli, deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security
  • Mark Morgan, acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection

The conservative think tank says that they will all be fellows in the Heritage Foundation's Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy starting on February 1.  Wolf will have the title of "distinguished visiting fellow" while the other two will have the title of "visiting fellow." 

Here is Think Tank Watch's comprehensive guide to the revolving door of 2021, which is tracking all the Trump officials going into think tank land and all the think tankers going into the Biden Administration.

Dark-Money Think Tanks Dominate Congressional Witness Table

 Here is more from Eli Clifton of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft:


When expert witnesses appear before congressional committees, they must disclose certain details about their funding, including federal grants or contracts or money they’ve received from foreign governments. That applies to the expert and the institution they’re representing. These Truth in Testimony rules are intended to ensure that committee members and the general public are given a full picture of the financial interests behind witness testimonies. It is a federal crime to withhold information from the committees.

Earlier this month, the House of Representatives Committee on Rules strengthened the Truth in Testimony rule requiring witnesses offering testimony to disclose whether they are the fiduciary of any entity with a financial interest in the subject matter of the hearing, a level of disclosure of potential financial conflicts of interests that was not previously required. Witnesses will also need to disclose if entities they represent received grants or contracts from foreign sources. The new changes will offer greater accountability and insight into the financial interests behind expert witnesses at congressional hearings.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that transparency will win the day. Take, for example, the House Foreign Affairs Committee. An ideologically narrow group of think tanks, many of which refuse to reveal their funding sources, have dominated the witness table, raising uncertainty about how much transparency the new rules will bring about.


The piece notes that of the 622 nongovernmental witnesses appearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee over the past two congressional sessions, think tanks were one of the most common sources of expert testimony, accounting for over one-third, or 237, of the witnesses.  Of those 237, under 30% appeared on behalf of institutions that fully disclose their donors.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Mark Green Named as New President of Wilson Center

It is officially the year of new think tank presidents.

The Wilson Center has just announced that Amb. Mark Green will be the new President, CEO, and Director of the the think tank.

Amb. Green was previously the Executive Director of the McCain Institute for International Leadership and before that he served as Administrator of the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

Consequently, the McCain Institute announced today that Amb. Josette Sheeran, a Founding Trustee of the institute, will join the institute's leadership team in the newly created position of Executive Chairman of the McCain Institute.

Amb. Green succeeds former Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), who announced last July that she would be stepping down on Feb. 28, 2021.

Here is Think Tank Watch's previous post about Harman leaving the think tank, and here is our recent piece on all the new think tank chiefs of 2021.

Think Tank Publishes Anonymous Piece Calling for Xi Jinping's Ouster

The Atlantic Council has prominently displayed an anonymous paper on its website that essentially calls for the ouster of Chinese President Xi Jinping (link here).

 "The single most important challenge facing the [US] in the [21st] century is the rise of an increasingly authoritarian China Under President and General Secretary Xi Jinping," says the paper, which lays out a number of policy proposals and says if the strategy is successfully followed, "Xi in time will be replaced by the more traditional form of Communist Party leadership."

The think tank notes that that piece, entitled "The Longer Telegram: Toward a New American China Strategy," was written by a former senior government official with deep expertise and experience dealing with China.  It does not say whether the author is a Democrat, Republican, or a foreign official.

Here is the reason the think tank gives for granting anonymity:

The author of this work has requested to remain anonymous, and the Atlantic Council has honored this for reasons we consider legitimate but that will remain confidential. The Council has not taken such a measure before, but it made the decision to do so given the extraordinary significance of the author’s insights and recommendations as the United States confronts the signature geopolitical challenge of the era. The Council will not be confirming the author’s identity unless and until the author decides to take that step.

It is the first time that Think Tank Watch has ever seen a think tank grant anonymity for someone's work, particularly one that is displayed as the leading banner for its homepage.

Atlantic Council says that it does not adopt or advocate positions on particular matters, but in publishing this piece, it clearly is promoting its contents.  The think tank's President and CEO Fred Kempe says it is one of the most important pieces the Atlantic Council has ever published.

The full 80-page paper can be read here.  And here is the executive summary.  Politico has also published a column by the anonymous author.

Some have noted that the release of the paper was timed for an event that the Atlantic Council co-hosted with other think tanks in which Jake Sullivan, President Biden's National Security Advisor, was participating in.  Other co-hosts included the US Institute of Peace (USIP), American Enterprise Institute (AEI), Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Center for American Progress (CAP), Heritage Foundation, and the Hudson Institute.

Any ideas of who the author could be?  Please send any tips and ideas to Think Tank Watch. 

Updates & Reactions (updated Feb. 2, 2021): 

The Chinese Embassy is now denouncing the Atlantic Council piece.  Here is the official statement from the embassy. And here is what China's Foreign Ministry had to say.

In a Jan. 29 Global Translations piece, Politico notes that the author's name is being protected "so they and their family remain protected."

Here is Fred Kempe's CNBC op-ed on why he thinks the China piece is so significant.  The original piece published on Jan. 30 said that The Longer Telegram was written by a "former senior US government official," but on Jan. 31, the "US" was removed from the op-ed.  Does this suggest that whoever wrote The Longer Telegram is a foreign official?  [Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian of Axios has incorrectly cited the author as a "former US senior official."]

Kaiser Kuo, host of the Sinica Podcast, is convinced that Kevin Rudd is the author of The Longer Telegram.  Rudd, who has a degree in Chinese studies and is fluent in Mandarin, is the former Prime Minister of Australia.  He is, among other things, the President of the Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI) and a Senior Statesman at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).

Daniel Larison of The American Conservative bashes "The Longer Telegram," saying it is a recipe for a costly failure.

Emma Ashford, a Resident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council who previously worked at the Cato Institute, notes that in every instance except one - Russia - the piece is a "departure more hawkish than even the current consensus in DC."

Wilson Center Fellow Edward Wong, who is also a diplomatic correspondent for the New York Times, calls it a "bland analysis" of US-China policy.

In a Twitter thread, Paul Poast, an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Chicago, explains why The Longer Telegram "is a mess."

Freelance writer Phil Cunningham calls it a "sloppy, pedantic, overly-long, coyly anonymous, anti-China jeremiad."

Gregory Djerejian says that The Longer Telegram "falls flat."

Max Blumenthal, Editor of the Grayzone, says that the author sees China's embrace of Russia as a major threat to US hegemony, and urges a thawing with Russia to divide the two.  "This strategy was at the core of the triangular diplomacy conceived by Henry Kissinger, the longest-serving Atlantic Council board member," he says.  He thinks Kissinger wrote the piece.

For the record, Kissinger, who is 97 years old, joined Atlantic Councils' Board of Directors in 1967.

In a Global Times piece, Zhang Tengjun, Assistant Research Fellow at the China Institute of International Studies, calls the paper "a malicious attack on China."

SinoInsider's Don Tse and Larry Ong say that The Longer Telegram strategy is anti-China, not anti-CCP.

Paul Heer, a Distinguished Fellow at the Center for the National Interest, says The Longer Telegram won't solve the China challenge.

Dr. Tara Kartha, the former Director of India's National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS), says The Longer Telegram has a sharp message for India.

Tanner Green's new piece: "Oh God, Not Another Long Telegram About China."

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Joins Hudson Institute

The conservative think tank Hudson Institute is vacuuming up former Trump Administration officials at a rapid pace, becoming the go-to policy shop for Trump loyalists who may want to seek office in the future.

Trump's Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who could be a possible presidential contender in 2024, has just joined the Hudson Institute as a Distinguished Fellow.  In 2019, the think tank awarded him with its Herman Kahn Award for his service.  Past recipients of that award include Paul Ryan, Nikki Haley, Mike Pence, Benjamin Netanyahu, Rupert Murdoch, and Shinzo Abe.

On Jan. 25, Hudson announced that Trump's Transportation Secretary, Elaine Chao, was rejoining Hudson as a Distinguished Fellow.

Trump's former National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster joined Hudson in 2019 as the inaugural holder of its Japan Chair.

Tim Morrison, Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security in the Trump Administration, is now a Senior Fellow at Hudson.  And Jon Lerner, a Republican strategist who has advised former Vice President Mike Pence as well as Nikki Halley, is also a Senior Fellow at the think tank.

Hudson's former President and CEO Ken Weinstein was nominated by President Trump to be the US Ambassador to Japan, but he never received a full Senate confirmation vote.

John Walters officially became the President and CEO of Hudson on Jan. 1, 2021.

In related think tank news, Trump's former OMB Director Russ Vought has announced the creation of a new think tank and related lobbying arm.

Meanwhile, think tankers from the "ABC" think tanks are flooding into the Biden Administration.

Update: Mike Pompeo and former National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien will co-chair a new, monthly seminar-style roundtable discussion to consider and advance policies that maintain a balance among the world's great powers that is favorable to America's national interest.  The first meeting will be on March 2, 2021.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

New Pro-Trump Think Tank Being Launched

While many officials in the former Trump Administration are having difficulty landing jobs across the think tank world, a former Trump official has decided to establish a new pro-Trump think tank as well as a lobbying arm.  Here is more from Axios:

Russ Vought, who led Donald Trump's Office of Management and Budget, plans to announce two pro-Trump organizations Tuesday, aiming to provide the ideological ammunition to sustain Trump's political movement after his departure from the White House.

Why it matters: The Center for American Restoration and an advocacy arm, America Restoration Action, will try to keep cultural issues that animated Trump’s presidency on the public agenda, according to people familiar with the matter.

What we're hearing: Vought is teaming up in the effort with Rachel Semmel, who ran communications for Trump's OMB, and Ashlea Frazier, his former chief of staff.


Mr. Vought is the former Vice President of Heritage Action, the lobbying arm of the Heritage Foundation.

Trump's Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson announced in December that he wanted to start a think tank, although there has not been word of any launch and it is unclear if he will become affiliated with this new Trump think tank. 

In related Trump-think tank news, Trump's Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has returned to the Hudson Institute as a Distinguished Fellow.

Here is a list of think tankers that have gone into the Biden Administration.

Monday, January 25, 2021

Revolving Door Alert: Elaine Chao Returns to Hudson Institute

As liberal and moderate think tankers continue to flood into the Biden Administration, some top power players from the Trump Administration are quietly parking themselves back into the world of conservative think tanks.

It was announced today that former President Donald Trump's Transportation Secretary, Elaine Chao, is rejoining the Hudson Institute as a Distinguished Fellow.  She will lead the think tank's public policy program on labor and transportation policy and economic leadership.

Chao had joined Hudson as a Distinguished Fellow in June 2016 and was only there for a few months before being confirmed as Trump's Secretary of Transportation.

At this point, however, many more people are leaving think tanks to join the Biden Administration rather than transitioning from the Trump Administration back into think tanks.

Think Tank Watch maintains a list, which it updates almost daily, to track the White House-think tank revolving door.

Friday, January 22, 2021

The Power of One Think Tank's War Game

A war game designed at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) could be the most influential war game ever developed.  Here is more from the New York Times Magazine:


For John Podesta, the profound geopolitical challenges posed by climate change first became clear in July 2008, not long before he took charge of President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team. That month, he took part in a war game hosted by the Center for New American Security, a Washington-based research group. The room was full of people who were, like him, awaiting their chance to re-enter influential positions in the American government. Around the table in a private conference room at the Newseum in Washington, were former U.S. military officials, a former E.P.A. administrator, advisers to Chinese intelligence officials, analysts from McKinsey and the Brookings Institution and at least one European diplomat. “Let me be very clear,” Podesta told the gathering, in his assigned role as the United Nations secretary general. “Our time is running out.”

The exercise was set in 2015, with the climate crisis becoming violently apparent. A Category 5 hurricane had struck Miami shortly after a cyclone killed 200,000 people in Bangladesh. The scenario was designed by a senior fellow at the Center for New American Security named Sharon Burke, who would later become an assistant U.S. secretary of defense; her game plan suggested that a wave of climate migrants would be driven from their homes, part of the climate-caused displacement of as many as a billion people by 2050.

The game marked a turning point of sorts in how some U.S. officials viewed the security threats posed by climate change.


John Podesta is the former president and now Chair and Counselor at the think tank Center for American Progress (CAP).  He served as White House Chief of Staff to President Bill Clinton, and as Counselor to President Barack Obama.

Sharon Burke is now a Senior Advisor to the International Security Program and Resource Security Program at New America.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post on war games at think tanks.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Think Tank Quickies (#397)

  • Will pause in university Ph.D. admissions means more people applying for think tank posts?
  • GW names CFR's Alyssa Ayres as new dean for Elliott School of International Affairs. 
  • Former CISA Director Chris Krebs joins Aspen Digital, a program at the Aspen Institute.
  • Ryan Anderson becomes President of the Ethics & Public Policy Center.
  • Larry Diamond of the Hoover Institution on Leadership Now Project's Steering & Investor Group.
  • Think tank CAP's pitch to Biden: Broker a NATO bank to finance new weapons.
  • List of think tanks in each African country. 
  • JHU case study: AEI's near-death experience.
  • Pic: Real tanks surrounding think tanks in Washington, DC.
  • David Lanham is two-time defending champion of the Brookings Metro fantasy football league.
  • Hoover Institution economist Edward Lazear dies.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

EastWest Institute Folds, Citing Coronavirus Pandemic

Here is more from the EastWest Institute (EWI), a think tank that focuses on international conflict resolution:

After four decades of distinctive service, the EastWest Institute’s (EWI) Board of Directors has resolved to establish a partnership with the College of Charleston to preserve the legacy of EWI visionary founder and leader, the late John Edwin Mroz; transition its programs to four new organizations to secure their continuity; and discontinue operation under the current business model, effective January 31, 2021. This decision was taken at the conclusion of a four-month strategic assessment in light of increasing challenges resulting from the global pandemic and related financial challenges facing many nonprofit organizations. The Board unanimously and enthusiastically approved the transition plan.

The second element of the transition involves the transfer of EWI’s ongoing programmatic work to four highly-respected foreign policy organizations: the Stimson Center, Observer Research Foundation America, the Atlantic Council and the George H. W. Bush Foundation for U.S.-China Relations.


The New York-based EWI, originally known as the Institute for East-West Security Studies, was founded in 1980.  In addition to its New York City headquarters, the think tank also has offices in San Francisco, Brussels, and Moscow.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

RAND Scholar Received Russian-Linked Postcard After Testifying Before Congress

 Here is more from Reuters:

The FBI is investigating a mysterious postcard sent to the home of cybersecurity firm FireEye’s chief executive days after it found initial evidence of a suspected Russian hacking operation on dozens of U.S. government agencies and private American companies.

U.S. officials familiar with the postcard are investigating whether it was sent by people associated with a Russian intelligence service due its timing and content, which suggests internal knowledge of last year’s hack well before it was publicly disclosed in December.

A disinformation researcher from the Rand Corporation, Todd Helmus, received a similar postcard in 2019, based on an image of it Helmus posted to Twitter. Helmus, who studies digital propaganda, said he received the postcard after testifying to Congress about Russian disinformation tactics.


Dr. Todd Helmus is a Senior Behavioral Scientist at the RAND Corporation and a member of the Pardee RAND Graduate School faculty.

Here is a picture of the postcard that Dr. Helmus received.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Think Tankers are Flooding Into the Biden Administration

Please note: This post is being constantly updated (last update was July 26, 2021). 

The revolving door is spinning fast as the Biden Administration continues to hire think tankers from a wide swath of largely center-left Washington think tanks.

Six think tank presidents have already been tapped by the Biden Administration (Heather Boushey, Bill Burns, Thea Lee, Neera Tanden, and K. Sabeel Rahman are already in place, while Karen Donfried is awaiting confirmation), and a number of think tankers have been named to various senior positions, including:

  • Antony Blinken, who was a director at the University of Pennsylvania's Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Public Engagement, is the new Secretary of State.
  • Former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen, a Distinguished Fellow in Residence for Economic Studies at the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy at the Brookings Institution, has been tapped to be Biden's Treasury Secretary. 
  • Ron Klain, who served on the board of the Center for American Progress's (CAP) political action arm, is Biden's chief of staff.
  • Jake Sullivan, a former Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, was named as Biden's National Security Advisor.
  • John Kerry, a Visiting Distinguished Statesman at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, was named as as the Special Presidential Envoy for Climate. 
  • Jen Psaki, former Vice President for Communications and Strategy at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, was named as White House Press Secretary.
  • Denis McDonough, who was a nonresident scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, serves as the Secretary of Veterans Affairs.  He was also a Senior Fellow at CAP from 2004-2006.
  • Amanda Sloat of Brookings named as NSC Senior Director for European Affairs.
  • CSIS's Kathleen Hicks named as Deputy Defense Secretary.
  • Susan Rice, a former Brookings Institution fellow and former members of CNAS's Board of Advisors, is the Director of the Domestic Policy Council (DPC).
  • Colin Kahl, who was formerly a Senior Fellow at CNAS and a Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) International Affairs Fellow, has been named as Undersecretary of Defense for Policy.  He was also a strategic adviser at the Penn Biden Center.
  • Kurt Campbell, the co-founder of CNAS, has been named for the top Asia position at the NSC. 
  • Avril Haines, a former member of CNAS's board of directors, in the Director of National Intelligence (DNI).  She was also a Nonresident Senior Fellow at Brookings.
  • Susanna Blume, Director of CNAS’s Defense Program, will serve as Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Defense Performing the Duties of the Director, Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE).
  • Lauren Rosenberger, Senior Fellow and Director of the Alliance for Securing Democracy at the German Marshall Fund (GMF), has been named as Senior Director for China at the NSC.
  • Elizabeth Rosenberg, Director of CNAS’s program on Energy, Economics and Security, will serve as Counselor to the Deputy Secretary of the Treasury.
  • Rush Doshi, who was Director of the Brookings China Strategy Initiative, will work on China affairs at the NSC.
  • Julian Gewirtz, a Senior Fellow for China Studies at CFR, will become China director at the NSC.
  • Atlantic Council board member Wendy Sherman named as No. 2 person at State Department.  She also served of CNAS's Board of Advisers.
  • Former CNAS CEO Victoria Nuland named as No. 3 at State.  She was also a nonresident senior fellow at Brookings.
  • Emily Horne, Vice President of Communications at Brookings, was named as an NSC spokesperson.
  • Peter Harrell, who has served as an Adjunct Senior Fellow at CNAS, was named as Senior Director for International Economics and Competitiveness at the NSC.
  • Caitlin Durkovich, a Nonresident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council's Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, was named as Senior Director for Resilience and Response at the NSC.
  • Tarun Chhabra, who was previously a Fellow with the Project on International Order and Strategy at Brookings, was named as Senior Director for Technology and National Security at the NSC.
  • Andrea Kendall-Taylor, who was a Senior Fellow and Director of the Transatlantic Security Program at CNAS, was named as Senior Director for Russia and Central Asia and the NSC. [But she is apparently remaining at CNAS.]
  • Shanthi Kalathil, a Senior Director at the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and former associate with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, was named as Coordinator for Democracy and Human Rights at the NSC. 
  • Cara Abercrombie, who was a former Visiting Scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, has been named as Senior Director for Defense at the NSC. 
  • Bonnie Jenkins, a Nonresident Senior Fellow at Brookings, has been named as Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security Affairs.
  • Wally Adeyemo, a former Non-Resident Senior Adviser at CSIS, was named as Deputy Secretary of Treasury.
  • Jennifer Molina, was has worked at the Center for American Progress (CAP) and its Action Fund, was named as Senior Director of Coalitions Media.
  • Michael Fuchs, a Senior Fellow at CAP, has been named as Deputy Chief of Staff to the Vice President.
  • Cecilia Rouse, Chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisors (CEA), was a member of the Board of Trustees at CFR.
  • Jared Bernstein, formerly of CBPP and EPI, was named as a member of the Council of Economic Advisors (CEA).
  • Reema Dodin, a former term member of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), was named as Deputy Director of the White House Office of Legislative Affairs.
  • Evan Ryan, who was named as Biden's Cabinet Secretary, is a member of CFR.
  • Joelle Gamble, a former Senior Advisor to the President and CEO of the Roosevelt Institute, has been named as Special Assistant to the President for Economic Policy.
  • Thomas Zimmerman, who worked at the Pacific Council on International Policy and Center on International Cooperation, and used to work as visiting scholar at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, was named as Special Assistant to the President for Presidential Personnel.
  • Sonia Aggarwal, who co-founded the think tank Energy Innovation, has been named as Biden's senior advisor for climate policy and innovation.
  • Jeffrey Prescott, a Senior Fellow at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, will be deputy to the US Ambassador to the UN.
  • Ely Ratner of CNAS will be special assistant to the Secretary of Defense.
  • Michael Chase, a political scientist at RAND Corp., will be Deputy Assistant Secretary (China) at the Department of Defense.
  • Michael Linden, a Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, will be a Senior Advisor to the Director of the OMB.
  • Topher Spiro, a health policy researcher at CAP, will be head of health programs at the OMB.
  • Jason Leibenluft, a Senior Fellow at CAP, will be Counselor to the Treasury Secretary.
  • Ben Miller, Vice President for Postsecondary Education at CAP, will be temporary Senior Adviser to Sheila Nix, who was named chief of staff to Education Secretary nominee Miguel Cardona.
  • Salman Ahmed, who was a Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, will be Director of Policy Planning at the State Department.
  • Derek Chollet, Executive Vice President for Security and Defense Policy at the German Marshall Fund, will be State Department Counselor.  He has also been a fellow at CNAS, Brookings, and CSIS.
  • Kayla Williams, Director of CNAS’s Military, Veterans and Society Program, will be Assistant Secretary of Veterans Affairs for Public and Intergovernmental Affairs.
  • David Cohen, an Adjunct Senior Fellow at CNAS, will be Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
  • Avia Aron-Dine, who was VP for health policy at CBPP, is now executive associate director of the OMB.
  • Aparna Mathur, formerly a Resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), announced in late Jan. 2021 that she will continue to work at the CEA in the Biden Administration.
  • Louis Lauter of CSIS is going to the Department of Defense.
  • Melissa Dalton of CSIS is going to the Department of Defense.
  • Mieke Eoyang, the SVP for National Security at Third Way, will be Deputy Assistant Secretary for Defense for Cyber Policy.
  • Jenny Yang of the Urban Institute will be Director of OFCCP at the Department of Labor.
  • Desiree Cormier Smith, who was a member of the 2019 class of Next Generation National Security Leaders Fellowship at CNAS, will be Senior Advisor in the Bureau of International Organizations at the State Department.
  • Zach Vertin, a Nonresident Fellow at Brookings, will become Senior Advisor to the UN Ambassador.
  • Jung Pak of Brookings will be Deputy Assistant Secretary for East Asian & Pacific Affairs.
  • Mira Rapp-Hooper, a former Senior Fellow for Asia Studies at CFR and formerly with CNAS and CSIS, will be a Senior Advisor on China in the Policy Planning shop at the State Department.
  • Brad Setser, a CFR fellow, will join the administration in a trade-related role, according to Politico, which notes that he has been a major part of the transition team's decision to shift China trade policy away from emphasizing China's opening its capital account and more toward worker interests.
  • Kimberly Jackson of the RAND Corporation has become the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Force Readiness.
  • Stephanie Leutert, who as formerly a Research Associate at CFR, will be working on migration issues at the State Department.
  • Ian Wallace of the German Marshall Fund, will be a Senior Advisor to the Office of the Coordinator for Cyber Issues at the State Department.
  • Ellison Laskowsky, a former German Marshall Fund Senior Fellow, will join the State Department's Policy Planning staff.
  • Steve Ricchetti, who briefly served as Managing Director of the Penn Biden Center, is Counselor to President Biden.  He also served on the board of CAP.
  • Samantha Vinograd, who was a senior adviser at the Biden Institute, will be Senior Counselor for National Security at DHS.
  • Jonathan Finer, who was an adjunct fellow at CFR, serves as Deputy National Security Adviser.
  • Matt Lee-Ashley, who was previously a fellow at CAP, will be Senior Director for Lands and Interim Chief of Staff at the White House Council on Environmental Quality.
  • Luke Knittig, who was a senior director of comms at the McCain Institute, is now the Washington-based comms and external relations lead for Power Africa at USAID.
  • Daleep Singh, a former adjunct senior fellow at CNAS, is a Deputy National Security Adviser.
  • Hady Amr, a former adjunct senior fellow at CNAS, is Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Israeli-Palestinian Affairs.
  • Rebecca Zimmerman, a former researcher at the RAND Corporation, has become Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Central Asia.
  • Melanie Hart, a former Senior Fellow at CAP, will be China policy coordinator serving the undersecretary of state for economic growth, energy and the environment.
  • Shannon Ricchetti, an alum of the Aspen Institute and the daughter of White House Counselor Steve Ricchetti, is now deputy associate director of the office of the Social Secretary at the White House.
  • David Livingston, who was a Nonresident Senior Fellow at Atlantic Council, is joining the State Department to handle the intersection of climate and trade issues.
  • Ariane Tabatabai, who was formerly at the German Marshall Fund, is now a Senior Advisor to the Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security.
  • Jamie Fly, a Senior Fellow and Senior Advisor to the President at GMF, is returning to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) as president and CEO.
  • Julianne ("Julie") Smith, a former Adjunct Senior Fellow at CNAS, has joined the State Department as a senior adviser.
  • Janelle Jones, who was an economic analyst at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), is the chief economist at the Department of Labor.
  • Lindsey Ford, a Fellow at Brookings, has been selected to serve as Assistant Secretary of Defense for South and South East Asia.
  • Mara Karlin, a Nonresident Senior Fellow at Brookings, has been selected to serve as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs.
  • Molly Montgomery, a Nonresident Senior Fellow at Brookings, has been selected to serve as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs.
  • Richard Nephew, a Nonresident Senior Fellow at Brookings, has been selected to serve as Deputy Special Envoy for Iran.
  • Terri Tanielian, a Senior Behavioral Scientist at RAND Corp., has been named Special Assistant to the President for Veterans Affairs.
  • Daniel Benaim, a former Senior Fellow at CAP, joined the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs as a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State.
  • Nellie Liang, formerly a Senior Fellow in Economic Studies at Brookings, is the new Under Secretary for Domestic Finance at the Treasury Department.
  • Saharra Griffin, a CAP alum, is now Special Assistant to the Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers.
  • Brian Deese, head of Biden's National Economic Council (NEC), was a CAP senior analyst from 2003-2005.
  • Carmel Martin, Deputy Director of the White House's Domestic Policy Council (DPC) for economic mobility, was an EVP at CAP as well as a distinguished fellow. 
  • Kelly Magsamen, chief of staff to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, served at CAP as vice president for national security and international policy.
  • Jacob Leibenluft, a former CAP senior fellow, is Counselor to US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.
  • Esther Olavarria, a former CAP senior fellow, is deputy director of the DPC for immigration.
  • Sam Berger, who served as VP for democracy and government reform and as a senior advisor at CAP, is director of strategic operations and policy for the White House COVID-19 Response Team.
  • Tom Jawetz, who was CAP's VP for immigration policy, is deputy general counsel at the Department of Homeland Security.
  • Christine Wormuth of the RAND Corp. will likely be nominated as the Army Secretary.
  • Robert Santos, Urban Institute Vice President, will be nominated as director of the Census Bureau.
  • Melanie Nakagawa, a Loomis Council member of the Stimson Center, is now Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Climate and Energy.
  • Solomon Greene, an Urban Institute Senior Fellow, will be Assistant Secretary of Housing and Urban Development for policy development and research.
  • Erika Poethig, VP for the Research to Action Lab and chief innovation officer at the Urban Institute, is now at Domestic Policy Council (DPC) as a special assistant for housing and urban policy.
  • Alanna McCargo, VP for housing finance policy at the Urban Institute, is now at HUD as a senior advisor for housing finance.  
  • Aaron Shroyer, a policy associate for the Research to Action Lab at the Urban Institute, is now at HUD as a special assistant to the assistant secretary for policy development and research.
  • Mark Mazur, who was the Robert C. Pozen director of the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center and vice president for tax policy, is at Treasury as the deputy assistant secretary and acting secretary for tax policy.
  • Kilolo Kijakazi, formerly an institute fellow at Urban Institute, is now deputy commissioner of retirement and disability policy at the Social Security Administration.
  • K. Sabeel Rahman, who was the president of Demos, is now a senior counselor at the Office of Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs within OMB.
  • Susan Hennessey of Brookings will join the team at the Justice Department's National Security Division. 
  • Lina Khan, the new head of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), was a fellow with the Open Markets Program at New America.
  • Shannon Ricchetti, deputy associate director of the office of the White House social secretary, used to work at the Aspen Institute.
  • Sarah Donilon, who works on the White House National Security Council, used to be a fellow at the McCain Institute.
  • Linsay Gorman, a Senior Advisor for Technology Strategy at the White House, formerly worked at the German Marshall Fund.
  • Tamara Cofman Wittes of Brookings has been nominated to be Assistant Administrator for the Middle East at the USAID.
  • Jeffrey Feltman, the new US special envoy for the Horn of Africa, was a Visiting Fellow at Brookings.
  • Frank Rose, who has been nominated for principal deputy administrator for national nuclear security at the US Department of Energy, was a Senior Fellow at Brookings.
  • Elizabeth Economy, who will likely join the US Commerce Department as an advisor to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, is a scholar at CFR and the Hoover Institution.
  • Judd Devermont, Director of the Africa program at CSIS, is joining the NSC.

On April 12, it was reported that the Biden Administration was considering appointing Matthew Rojansky, head of the Wilson Center's Kennan Institute, as Russia director of the NSC.  However, the Biden team has decided against bringing him on board.

The Trump Administration pulled its think tank talent largely from policy shops beginning with the letter "H" - such as the Heritage Foundation, Hoover Institution, and Hudson Institute.  And those are the think tanks that are now scooping up former Trump officials.

Elaine Chao, who was the Transportation Secretary in the Trump Administration, is returning to the Hudson Institute as a Distinguished Fellow.  And Trump's Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is also joining Hudson as a Distinguished Fellow.

Alex Wong, who served as Deputy Special Representative for North Korea and the Deputy Assistant Secretary for North Korea in Trump's State Department, is now a Senior Fellow at Hudson. 

Amb. Marshall Billingslea, who most recently was former President Trump's chief arms control negotiator, is joining the Hudson Institute.

Three of Trump's Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Chad Wolf, Ken Cuccinelli, and Mark Morgan, have joined the Heritage Foundation as fellows.

Former Vice President Mike Pence has also joined Heritage as a Distinguished Visiting Fellow. 

Former Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie has joined Heritage as a Visiting Fellow.

Tim Murtaugh, who was a communications director for the Trump campaign, is now a visiting fellow for communications at Heritage.

David Schenker and Andrew Tabler, who both worked at the State Department in the Trump Administration, have returned to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP).

John Costello, who resigned from a Commerce Department position in the Trump Administration, has joined CNAS as an Adjunct Senior Fellow in the Technology and National Security Program.

Brent McIntosh, who was Undersecretary of the Treasury for International Affairs in the Trump Administration, is now an Adjunct Senior Fellow at CFR.

Justin Muzinich, former Deputy Treasury Secretary in the Trump Administration, is joining CFR.

Matt Pottinger, who was the Deputy National Security Advisor in the Trump Administration, is now a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution.  He is also a senior advisor at the Marathon Initiative.

Trump's Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson has started his own think tank.  He follows in the footsteps of Trump's OMB chief Russ Vought, who is launching his own think tank and sister lobbying arm.

The Biden Administration is pulling its talent from what Think Tank Watch calls the "ABC" think tanks - including Atlantic Council, Brookings, CAP, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, CFR, CNAS, and CSIS.

Business Insider reported in March that CAP has stocked the Biden Administration with 56 policy wonks.

The American Prospect asks what happens to Biden's personal think tank now that he is president.

Think Tank Watch will continue to track all revolving door movements as think tankers move into the incoming administration and as Trump Administration officials seek employment at think tanks.

Know of any names not on the list?  Please email tips to Think Tank Watch.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Think Tank Quickies (#396)

  • President Donald Trump "refused to kowtow to the elites" who run think tanks.
  • CNAS Task Force on the Future of Coercive Economic Statecraft releases new report on US coercive economic statecraft.
  • Think tankers' secret to the perfect Zoom bookshelf?
  • Private support of think tanks "is not the culture of Japan."
  • Israel's INSS releases annual risk assessment. 
  • Taiwan's president makes the virtual rounds at DC think tanks.
  • How one Berkshires town is distancing itself from a local libertarian think tank's manifesto on herd immunity.
  • Appeals court upholds bribery conviction for Chinese think tank official linked to Hunter Biden.
  • Kyiv School of Economics (KSE) plans to launch new think tanks in 2021.
  • Nick Waters of Bellingcat: Quincy Institute publishing a convicted child molester.

Monday, January 11, 2021

Carnegie Endowment President to be Next CIA Director

Bill Burns, the President of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, has been selected by President-elect Joe Biden to be his Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director.

Here is more from the New York Times:

President-elect Joseph R. Biden has selected William J. Burns, a career State Department official who led the U.S. delegation in secret talks with Iran, to run the Central Intelligence Agency.

In selecting Mr. Burns, Mr. Biden is turning to an experienced diplomat with whom he has a long relationship. The two men have worked together on various foreign policy issues, not just during the Obama administration, but also while Mr. Biden led the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Mr. Burns has also long worked with Jake Sullivan, Mr. Biden’s pick for national security adviser, and has been influential in helped foster the younger man’s career.


Assuming Burns is successfully confirmed by the US Senate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a think tank which focuses on foreign policy, will need to choose a new leader. 

As Think Tank Watch has reported, several other think tanks have either announced new presidents in recent weeks or are currently searching for new presidents.

Friday, January 8, 2021

Worst Think Tank Prediction of 2020?

What was the worst prediction from a think tank in 2020?  In a piece entitled "The Worst Predictions of 2020," Politico outlines a prediction made by Hudson Institution's Richard Epstein on March 16 and March 23:

Epstein, a noted constitutional scholar affiliated with the Hoover Institute, made a bold claim on March 16: Even as Covid cases were exploding in the United States, the virus would take the lives of just 500 Americans. His estimate, published at Hoover’s website, quickly won allies in Trump world, many of whom began circulating his numbers as a sign that coronavirus panic was overblown. But there was a problem with his numbers, as Epstein noted in updates a few days later: his estimate of 500 dead was 10 times too small; the more accurate projection was 5,000 dead Americans at most.

As of late-December, more than 333,000 Americans have died from Covid-19.


Epstein is the Peter and Kirsten Bedford Senior Fellow at Hudson.  He is also the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of Law at New York University Law School, and a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

CFR President: Post-America Era Started Jan. 6, 2021

Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), one of the US's most respected foreign policy think tanks, said that the post-American era likely started on Jan 6., 2021 when hundreds of Donald Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol and occupied parts of the building for several hours.

Here is a tweet from Haass:


Eurasia Group founder Ian Bremmer said that "100 years after the founding of CFR, its president declared the end of the American-led order."  

CFR was founded in 1921 and it is celebrating its 100 years of existence.  Here is a list of what the think tank says is its most significant contributions over the last century.

Here is a look at how CFR, which currently has 5,099 members, has grown its membership since 1921.

Interesting fact: No CFR members reside in four states: West Virginia, Mississippi, South Dakota, and North Dakota.

Meanwhile, Brookings Institution President John Allen has called on Vice President Mike Pence to lead the cabinet in invoking the 25th Amendment to remove President Trump from office.

Cato Institute President Peter Goettler said mob rule is not the path to liberty.

Monday, January 4, 2021

Think Tank Quickies (#395)

  • Progressives list 100+ candidates, including think tankers, that they want to see join the Biden Administration.
  • Wilson Center's Polar Institute launches a new Arctic Infrastructure Inventory containing 8,000 projects.
  • WaPo's Jennifer Rubin: Think tanks need to do an internal review of the Trump years.
  • US-based China scholar reminds former Chinese Vice FM that USG cannot control think tanks.
  • Presentation: Think tanks in the MENA region.
  • China's Global Times: Media and think tanks need to play a more active and constructive role in impasse of Australia-China relations.
  • Two Boston think tanks urge Gov. Charlie Barker to reject the Transportation and Climate Initiative.
  • Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft: Russian "Pearl Harbor" is threat inflation of the worst kind.
  • PhDs who work in think tanks love talking about the value of vocational training.
  • "New hobby is googling the think tanks affiliated with every rabid anti-China op-ed writer, and then looking up how much weapons contractors have contributed to them lol."