Friday, October 29, 2021

CNAS War Game: War Could Break Out Over Taiwan

Here is more from CNN:

If China were to seize one of Taiwan's outlying islands, the US would have few good options to respond without risking a major escalation and a war between the superpowers, according to the conclusions from a recent war game conducted by foreign policy and defense experts.

The scenario, outlined in a report from the Center for a New American Security, began with China using military force to take control of Dongsha, a tiny atoll in the South China Sea between Taiwan and Hong Kong, where approximately 500 Taiwanese troops are stationed.

 This type of limited aggression could be a precursor to the seizure of other islands near Taiwan or an outright invasion of the democratically governed island as Beijing seeks to test and prod Washington's resolve to defend Taiwan.


CNAS has also designed non-China-related war games.

Here is further information on think tank war games.  War games at RAND Corp. continue to show the US losing to China. 

Thursday, October 28, 2021

RAND Corp. President to Retire in 2022

Here is more from the RAND Corporation:

Michael D. Rich, chief executive and president of the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation for the past decade, announced he will retire in 2022 following a search for his successor.

Rich, 68, became RAND's fifth president in 2011. He began his RAND career as a summer intern in 1975 and went on to hold a number of senior leadership positions.

Since Rich became president RAND has seen annual revenues grow from $250 million to more than $350 million, raised more than $190 million in philanthropic gifts as part of the Tomorrow Demands Today campaign launched last year, and tackled such policy challenges as health care costs, international security, the COVID-19 pandemic, and gun policy in America. He has personally co-led research efforts to address the diminishing role of facts and analysis in American public life, known as Truth Decay.


Mr. Rich will remain in place until a successor is found.  RAND's Board of Trustees Chairman Michael Leiter will lead the search committee.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Russia Launches New Campaign Targeting Think Tanks

Here is more from the New York Times:

Russia’s premier intelligence agency has launched another campaign to pierce thousands of U.S. government, corporate and think-tank computer networks, Microsoft officials and cybersecurity experts warned on Sunday, only months after President Biden imposed sanctions on Moscow in response to a series of sophisticated spy operations it had conducted around the world.

The new effort is “very large, and it is ongoing,” Tom Burt, one of Microsoft’s top security officers, said in an interview. Government officials confirmed that the operation, apparently aimed at acquiring data stored in the cloud, seemed to come out of the S.V.R., the Russian intelligence agency that was the first to enter the Democratic National Committee’s networks during the 2016 election.


Microsoft has previously documented Russia-origin attacks against think tanks.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Think Tank Quickies (#430)

  • Annual salary of CFR President Richard Haass: $1.78 million (more than 4x what US president makes). 
  • UAE often covertly funds think tanks; gave "secret" $20 million to Middle East Institute (MEI).
  • Former USTR under Trump Robert Lighthizer is joining America First Policy Institute (AFPI) to lead its Center for American Trade; former EPA chief Andrew Wheeler to chair the think tank's environmental center.
  • Wilson Center Polar Institute director Michael Sfraga tapped by White House to be commissioner for US Arctic Research Commission.
  • Why did a peer-reviewed journal publish hundreds of nonsense papers?
  • CIGI President Rohinton Medhora stepping down May 2022.
  • Daniel Correa named CEO of the Federation of American Scientists (FAS).
  • Back to caring about the future, via CSIS's Congressional Foresight Initiative.
  • Think tanks should start prioritizing lived experience over academic credentials.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Heritage Foundation Names Kevin Roberts as Next President

Here is more from the Heritage Foundation:

The Heritage Foundation today announced Dr. Kevin Roberts will become the seventh president in the think tank’s 48-year history. Roberts will succeed President Kay C. James later this year when he takes the helm of America’s premier conservative think tank.

Roberts currently serves as the chief executive officer of the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF), an Austin-based nonprofit, nonpartisan research institute and the largest state think tank in the nation. Under Roberts’ leadership, TPPF more than doubled in size. He also expanded the Texas think tank’s influence nationwide, opening an office in Washington, D.C., so that TPPF research might better inform federal policy debates.

James, who has served as Heritage president since 2018, will continue to serve on the Board of Trustees, a role she’s held since 2005. She says she looks forward to remaining active as a distinguished visiting fellow at Heritage and in the conservative movement going forward.


RealClearPolitics writer Philip Wegmann notes that Roberts, who was chosen from a list of more than 100 names, is a "DC outsider."  

Wegmann says that former White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney was interested in the top post at Heritage but didn't make the final cut.  Former Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia and former Vice President Mike Pence were also considered for the position.

The Hill notes that while the think tank's influence waned during the Trump era, it is still a well-known conservative organization that will likely play a significant role in the 2022 midterm elections and 2024 presidential election.

Friday, October 8, 2021

Think Tank Quickies (#429)

  • Heidi Shierholz named as new president of the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).
  • Open Society Foundation is undergoing restructuring, causing a major shift in partnerships with think tanks. 
  • Cato Institute demands probe records in suit against FBI, DOJ.
  • Georgetown technology security policy think tank CSET received a $42 million grant to self-fund through 2025.  Established in 2019, the center's total funding is now over $100 million.
  • Simeon Djankov, ex-World Bank official under scrutiny on China, now works at PIIE.
  • New report: China bought influence at Indian think tanks.
  • Mattathias Schwartz: "I spent 5 years inside DC's foreign policy blob and here's why the experts keep getting the US into unwinnable wars like Afghanistan."
  • Sen. Todd Young was a low-level assistant at the Heritage Foundation on Sept. 11, 2001.
  • Pacific Forum cancelled webinar on US-Australia relations after receiving backlash for having a "manpanel." 
  • Parody site Duffel Blog: "National security think tanks launch surprise assault on Kabul."

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Think Tankers Joining New Group Focused on Emerging Technology

Here is more from Politico:

ERIC SCHMIDT, the former Google CEO, is launching a new initiative called the Special Competitive Studies Project — inspired by the Rockefeller Special Studies Project of the late 1950s — to “make recommendations to strengthen America’s long‐term global competitiveness for a future where artificial intelligence (AI) and other emerging technologies reshape our national security, economy, and society,” according to a news release.

Joining Schmidt on the SCSP’s board are ROBERT WORK, former deputy secretary of Defense and National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence co-chair; Schadlow, former deputy national security adviser for strategy; MICHÈLE FLOURNOY, former undersecretary of Defense for policy; and MAC THORNBERRY, former House Armed Services Committee chair. YLLI BAJRAKTARI will be the SCSP’s chief executive officer.


Nadia Schadlow, former Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategy, will also be joining the board.  Schadlow is a Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute.

Robert Work is the Distinguished Senior Fellow for Defense and National Security and the Center for a New American Security (CNAS).  He previously spent one year as CEO of the think tank.

Michele Flournoy co-founded CNAS, and Mac Thornberry recently joined RAND Corporation as an Adjunct Senior Fellow.

Here is more on SCSP in a piece from Air Force Magazine entitled "As National AI Panel Shuts Down, New Think Tank Emerges to Continue Its Work."

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Think Tankers Exploiting Loopholes in Congress's New Conflict of Interest Rules

Here is an excerpt from The New Republic (TNR):

I recently reached out to more than two dozen nongovernment witnesses who testified in the first eight months of 2021, contacted 14 House committee staffers, and analyzed all of the accessible witness disclosures online. I found that even the enhanced [disclosure] rules continue to have significant loopholes that undermine the push for greater transparency. It’s still all too common for think tank–affiliated witnesses to sidestep the enhanced disclosure rules by claiming they’re not representing their organizations but merely testifying on their own behalf, thereby bypassing the need to disclose any federal or foreign funding that might influence their testimony.

[New America CEO] Anne-Marie Slaughter is hardly alone in this regard. Three other witnesses affiliated with New America also claimed to represent themselves, not the think tank, in testimony before House committees this year. The same is true for many of their peers at other think tanks who have testified in 2021. This despite the fact that House Democrats, to better identify potential conflicts of interest, in January strengthened the rules about what nongovernment witnesses must disclose prior to their testimony, now requiring that they divulge their ties with all relevant organizations, including any foreign or federal funding those organizations received that is related to the subject matter of the hearing.


The article notes that the US House first adopted the Truth in Testimony rule in 1997 as part of a conservative led effort to identify witnesses dependent upon federal funding.  At that time, the rule only asked witnesses to disclose any grants or contracts they had with the federal government.  It was amended in 2015 to require witnesses to also disclose any foreign funding that they or their organization had received.  The Truth in Testimony rule was further tightened in Jan. 2021.

The US Senate currently does not have any rule requiring nongovernmental witnesses to disclose potential conflicts of interest before they testify.

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Think Tanks Distance Themselves from Hungary Money

Here is more from the New York Times:

Last year, two prominent foreign policy think tanks in Washington severed ties with the Hungary Foundation, a group funded by the Hungarian government, amid concerns about its connections.

To finance some of the efforts in the US, [Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor] Orban’s government authorized the creation and funding of a nonprofit group in 2012 that would come to be known as the Hungary Foundation.

It has donated more than $5.2 million through the end of last year to think tanks, conservative groups, colleges and Hungarian-American organizations.  
[Hungarian Foundation] executive director Anna Smith Lacey appeared at exclusive gatherings with US officials overseeing Central Europe organized by recipients of foundation grants, including the Atlantic Council and the Center for European Policy Analysis, each of which had received more than $200,000 from the Hungary Foundation.


The article goes on to note that in 2020, Atlantic Council returned a $158,000 grant and ended its relationship with the Hungary Foundation.  CEPA also ended its relationship with the foundation amid concerns about its ties to Mr. Orban as well as a potential conflict between diplomat Kurt Volker's role as a board member of the foundation and a fellow at CEPA.

Here is a previous Think Tank Watch piece about Hungary sponsoring English-language think tanks to promote Orban.

Friday, October 1, 2021

Think Tank Quickies (#428)

  • The America First Policy Institute (AFPI) names former SBA Administrator Linda McMahon as chair of its new Center for the American Worker.
  • "Think Tank 2022 Rally of Hope," hosted by Universal Peace Federation (UPF), held on 9/11.
  • Ken Cuccinelli is now senior fellow for immigration and homeland security at the Center for Renewing America, the think tank run by former Trump OMB Director Russ Vought.
  • Carnegie launches Indian Ocean Initiative. 
  • James Steinberg named new dean of SAIS at Johns Hopkins University.
  • Third Way is out with a $750,000 campaign praising 11 House members for their work on clean energy job creation and combating climate change.
  • Patrick Costello named new CEO of American Security Project after 11 years at CFR.
  • Defense Priorities: "A think tank urging military restraint."
  • Rush Doshi: "Kurt Campbell has mentored enough Asia hands over the last 25 years to staff a half dozen think tanks."
  • Father Lazlow Ladany was a Hungarian-born Jesuit priest and one-man think tank who spent a lifetime poring through official [Chinese] Party sources.