Thursday, February 11, 2021

New Report Examines Conflicts of Interest at CNAS

The Revolving Door Project (RDP), a project of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), has published a new report examining the conflicts of interest at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), a national security-focused think tank that is expected to have outsized influence in the Biden Administration.  Here is more from a press release:

A new report from the Revolving Door Project (RDP) examines conflicts of interest at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), a Washington, DC think tank from which more than a dozen former staffers or affiliates have been selected to join the Biden administration. The report finds that, despite various public statements to the contrary, CNAS has made multiple policy recommendations that would directly benefit some of the think tank’s donors, including military contractors and foreign governments.

The RDP report notes that while CNAS leaders see no problem with taking defense industry money while writing broadly about defense issues, they admit that conflicts arise when the organization talks about specific products produced by organizational donors. Nevertheless, CNAS has violated their own standard by making specific recommendations that benefit its funders on multiple occasions.

In 2018, CNAS released a report suggesting that the US Air Force purchase “another 50 to 75” B-21 bomber jets.” The report did not disclose that the maker of the B-21, Northrop Grumman, was one of CNAS’s largest donors and would stand to gain $33–$49 billion dollars in sales from this recommendation. Yet in the almost four months since this conflict of interest has been identified, CNAS has not added a disclaimer.

In another case, first exposed by The Intercept in 2017, the UAE paid CNAS $250,000 to produce a private “UAE Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) Study,” advocating for changes to the legal regime for the export of military-grade drones in the midst of the UAE and Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen. After receiving approval from the Emirati embassy, CNAS published some of that study’s findings in a public report, urging the Trump administration to “loosen restrictions on drone exports,” and “consider targeted exports of uninhabited aircraft, including armed uninhabited aircraft, to close partners and allies provided that they agree to the principles for proper use.” No disclosure was made of their financial arrangement with the UAE.


Here is the full report.  Here is a recent Axios piece about how a small number of think tanks and consulting firms housed Biden's foreign policy "brain trust."

Here is a recent interview of CNAS CEO Richard Fontaine by CNAS adjunct Jordan Schneider.  In that interview, Fontaine notes that CNAS currently has an annual budget of around $11 million and around 35 full-time employees.

Here is Think Tank Watch's list of all the think tankers that have gone into the Biden Administration.