Thursday, March 31, 2022

Kenya Think Tank Scores $15 Million Gift from MacKenzie Scott

The African Population and and Health Research Center (APHRC), a think tank based in Kenya, has just received a $15 million gift from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott and husband Dan Jewett.

Scott and Jewett have been giving away billions of dollars, and while think tanks have received a bit of that cash, they have been largely ignored by the duo.

In February, Scott gave $15 million to the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-choice research organization that describes itself as an "action-oriented think tank."

As Think Tank Watch reported last year, other think tanks that have received money from them include the Roosevelt Institute and Urban Institute.

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Ally of NYC Mayor to Launch New Think Tank

Here is more from Politico:

Tom Allon, publisher of local political website City & State, is raising money for a think tank that will align with the centrist agenda of a Democratic politician Allon counts as a longtime friend — though he vowed independence from the mayor.

A memo to potential donors, obtained by POLITICO, said the organization “anticipates evaluating a number of concrete policy ideas that were part of incoming NYC Mayor Eric Adams campaign platform and putting them through a rigorous academic analysis to assess their financial viability and ability to implement.” One such policy plan is the goal to make the city a global capital for cryptocurrency.

The think tank, which Allon is calling Five Boros Institute, is being established as a “non-profit, non-partisan clearinghouse for great urban policy ideas and pragmatic solutions to chronic problems,” according to a four-page memo.

In an interview, Allon said he has raised $250,000 so far, and hopes to amass up to $1.5 million from private funders for the outfit's annual budget. He said he plans to release the names of donors once the organization launches in early May.


Already in existence is the Five Borough Institute (5BI), a research and educational organization whose mission is to "encourage the development and implementation of sound  progressive public policies."

Monday, March 28, 2022

Think Tank Quickies (#441)

  • A Beijing think tank offered a frank review of China's technological weaknesses.  Then the report disappeared
  • CSIS launches new site for translating, interpreting, and analyzing Chinese Communist Party documents.  The project is funded by support from the Ford Foundation and Carnegie Corporation of New York.
  • China "spy think tank" (CICIR) predicts Russia sanctions will backfire.
  • Council on Geostrategy signs MoU with Ukrainian Prism, a think tank.
  • RUSI got access to Russian internal intelligence polling.
  • What think tanks are thinking about European defense and security.
  • Edward Snowden not a big fan of the think tank crowd.
  • Former Brookings scholar Emily Horne leaves NSC; White House is considering adding Brookings scholar Thomas Wright as a senior director for strategy at the NSC.
  • How well are women represented at think tank events?
  • Should think tankers be able to speak/read in the language of the foreign regions they cover?

Thursday, March 24, 2022

China Coercing Think Tanks to Alter References to Taiwan

Here is more from Foreign Policy:

Two scholars at the German Marshall Fund (GMF) released a sweeping new report on a massive pressure campaign by China to coerce international organizations and even US-based think tanks into altering their language and references to Taiwan in conferences and studies.

GMF report authors Bonnie Glaser and Jessica Drun list examples, including an instance when the Nuclear Threat Initiative and the Stimson Center "bowed to [Chinese] pressure" on how they reference Taiwan on their websites "to avoid being barred from participation in UN conferences and losing access to the UN and its affiliated agencies, which are essential to their work.


The new GMF report, which was supported financially by Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the US (TECRO), can be found here.  

In its 2021 fiscal year, the think tank received between $100,000 and $999,999 from TECRO.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

CSIS Scholar to Lead Australian Think Tank

Dr. Michael Green, a Georgetown University professor and Japan expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), will become the new head of the University of Sydney's United States Studies Centre (USSC), according to The Australian.

USSC board members have privately voiced concerns about the "new direction" of the think tank.  Among other things, some are upset about the hiring of a US citizen for the post rather than an Australian.

Board members include American Dr. Gordon Flake, the founding CEO of the Perth USAsia Centre at The University of Western Australia.  Flake was previously the Executive Director of the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Foundation, a scholar at the Atlantic Council, and a director at the Korea Economic Institute of America.

Dr. Bates Gill, another American, was CEO os USSC from 2012-2015.  He was also the Director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), as well as Freeman Chair in China Studies at CSIS.  US journalist James Fallows once held the USSC Chair in US Media.

USSC has previously been criticized for adopting an anti-Trump position, with critics saying the think tank was dominated by left-wing academics, according to the paper.

Green has been a vocal critic of Trump, but USSC has not completely shut itself off from supporters of the former US president.  Last year, USSC named former Trump chief of staff Mick Mulvaney as a non-resident senior fellow.

CSIS recently announced a new Australia Chair, which is headed by Charles Edel, who was formerly a senior fellow at USSC.  That chair was started with a $1.5 million donation from Pratt Industries.  [The company touted this fact in a June 2022 Washington Post ad.]

USSC was jointly established in 2006 by then-Prime Minister John Howard as a joint venture among the Australian government, the New York-based American Australian Association, and the University of Sydney.  

At that time, it received a $25 million endowment.  Now, close to half of its funding comes from student tuition fees, and another 30% comes from member contributions.  Only around 3% comes from corporations.

Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Mininum Salaries Raised to $48K at CAP After Union Negotiations

Here is more from the Nonprofit Professional Employees Union (NPEU):

The more than 90 members of the Center of American Progress (CAP) Union overwhelmingly voted to ratify a new collective bargaining agreement, raising salaries for employees in all job classifications as well as codifying other workplace improvements. This agreement is the third union contract for employees of CAP, who formed a union with the Nonprofit Professional Employees Union (NPEU) in 2016.

Here is what the new contract includes:

  • Increases to all job classifications’ minimum salaries, with an organization salary floor of $48,000 in the first year of the contract, $49,000 in the second year, and $50,000 in the final year of the contract.

  • Guaranteed annual raises of 2.5% for those making less than $68,000 and guaranteed annual raises of 2% for those making over $68,000.

  • A 360-review process at mid-year and end-year performance reviews.

  • A minimum of four weeks for severance pay, which includes health/dental coverage for three months. 

  • Procedures to limit overtime work.

  • Provisions to encourage internal hiring.

  • Credit for union members’ contributions to a work product, including by being listed as an author, co-author, or included in the acknowledgements.


Workers at CAP has been threatening to strike amid a fight over salaries at the liberal-leaning think tank. 

Update: Here is a Politico piece entitled "The 20-somethings Scaring Liberal Think Tanks," which notes that left-leaning think tanks, fearful of bad PR, are embracing staff unions.

It notes, among other things, that staff at New America has recently formed a union and the think tank is expected to formally recognize it.

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Think Tank Quickies (#440)

  • Kenneth Weinstein, a distinguished fellow at the Hudson Institute and former president and CEO of the think tank, is now a senior adviser at Brunswick Corp.
  • CSIS identifies North Korea base likely intended for ICBMs.
  • Third Way launches Sheild PAC to defend moderate Democrats.
  • Higher Education plays a key role in diversifying think tanks and public policy research.
  • Scholars from USIP, Quincy Institute, and Sejong Institute want to try something different for North Korea.
  • Halifax Security Forum, a pro-democracy think tank and conference organizer, began a video campaign tied to the Olympics to shame China for its human rights abuses. 
  • Yale to evaluate policies on gifts and donors.
  • New Lines Institute for Strategy and Policy, a think tank "working to enhance US foreign policy based on a deep understanding of the geopolitics of the different regions of the world and their value systems" that was founded in 2019 by Dr. Ahmed Alwani.
  • Flashback: CSIS's new project trying to poll North Koreans who live in North Korea.
  • Update on the Brookings cafeteria; Brookings Cafeteria podcast ends 8.5 year run.

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

AEI Being Ignored by Republicans?

Here is more from National Review:

But one longstanding bastion of mainstream conservative thought, the American Enterprise Institute, has been moving in a different direction, according to hawkish foreign-policy hands. Under the think tank’s new foreign-policy director, they say, AEI has distanced itself from the rest of the movement’s approach.

Kori Schake, a former State Department and Pentagon official, took the reins of the think tank’s storied foreign- and defense-policy arm in 2019 amid a period of change. She took the job under then-newly appointed AEI president Robert Doar, a welfare-policy expert without a foreign-policy background, following a successful stint at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. Around Washington, she is a generally well-regarded expert on defense issues.

But two years into her tenure, hostility to Schake’s stances is percolating in some conservative circles. The critics take issue with her defenses of the Iran nuclear deal, opposition to sanctions to kill Russia’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline, and criticism of Republicans for speaking out against critical race theory in the military. “What she’s done is genuinely made the Hill ambivalent about AEI,” a senior congressional Republican staffer told National Review. “No one pays attention to their events, and no one reads their newsletters.” Several other Republican aides echoed that sentiment during interviews about their interactions with AEI, with one senior staffer saying that AEI research gets a “presumption of denial” when it comes across his desk.


AEI was founded in 1938 and had revenues of $43.5 million in 2020.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Competing Think Tank-Led Letters on How to Address No-Fly Zone in Ukraine

Here is more from Politico:

A group of 78 experts signed an open letter opposing a no-fly zone in Ukraine, adding heft to the argument against putting U.S. troops in direct engagement with Russians.

“[G]oing to war with Russia, a nuclear peer of the United States, would expose Americans to vast and unnecessary risks. A war that expands beyond Ukraine’s borders could also inflict damage across Europe and weaken America’s NATO allies. We call upon the administration to avoid such a gambit and continue to use appropriate diplomatic means and economic pressure to end the conflict,” wrote the experts, led by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s STEPHEN WERTHEIM and the American Institute for Economic Research’s WILLIAM RUGER.

This letter comes just two days after an Atlantic Council-led group of 27 experts openly advocated for a “limited no-fly zone” in Ukraine — an argument the new grouping of experts take head on. “Some of those calling for even a ‘limited’ no-fly zone admit that they are willing to see the United States and its NATO allies wage war against Russia in defense of Ukraine,” reads the letter. “A no-fly zone would expand the war, not stop it.”


The Atlantic Council-led letter has since added more signatories.  The think tank gets a large chunk of its funding from European countries, including NATO members.

Tom Enders, the former Airbus CEO and current president of the German Council on Foreign Affairs, recently made the case for a NATO-enforced no-fly zone over western Ukraine.

In other think tank/Ukraine news, the Institute for the Study of War issued a warning that recent Russian statements could be part of an effort to lay the groundwork for Moscow's use of chemical or biological attacks in Ukraine.

In a NYT op-ed, Wang Huiyao, president of the Center for China and Globalization, a Beijing think tank that advises the Chinese government, said that "we are now in an escalatory spiral and mounting pressure on Vladimir Putin will likely make the situation more dangerous."

Monday, March 14, 2022

DoD's Internal Think Tank Violated Federal Rules

Here is more from Politico:

The Pentagon’s internal think tank violated a series of federal rules in awarding contracts, according to an investigation by the DoD inspector general, including failing to establish oversight measures to ensure it was getting what it paid for.

The Office of Net Assessment, which conducts long-term assessments of trends to help the military prepare for future conflicts, did not follow a series of guidelines, according to the report, including using contracting officers with the proper clearances. The multiple failures led to the inappropriate approval of at least $10 million in contracts, the IG found.

The office also didn’t follow oversight guidelines on the projects. “Without established and documented surveillance measures for ONA service contracts, ONA may not have received all services outlined in contractor’s statements of work,” the report concluded.


The Office of Net Assessment (ONA) was founded in 1973 and provides long-term comparative assessments of trends, key competitions, risks, opportunities, and future prospects of US military capability to the Secretary of Defense and Deputy Secretary of Defense.

Wednesday, March 9, 2022

Think Tank Quickies (#439)

  • Third Way urging fellow Democrats to respond to Capitol riot with "the size, scope, and seriousness of a presidential campaign."
  • Andre Perry Twitter thread on how think tankers can write for impact. 
  • What would happen if Davos disappeared? And would anyone miss think tanks if they disappeared?
  • New America seeking program manager for its #ShareTheMicInCyber project. "A first-of-its kind program, the project, will create a fellowship, research and event series, all designed to provide cybersecurity professionals from diverse backgrounds with an opportunity to conduct policy analysis, explore critical cyber security issues, and explore questions on diversity and the human side of cybersecurity."
  • Former DC mayor Anthony Williams and Alice Rivlin of Brookings formulated a goal to increase DC's population by 100,000.
  • An explanation of why scientists continue to publish poor studies. 
  • Why bridging the gap between policymakers and academics is so hard.
  • Why research papers have so many authors.
  • Think tank resorts: For some developers and hoteliers, it's no longer enough to build a hotel - you have to create an ideas community.
  • The Fog of Peace (via Vanity Fair): "Reagan created USIP in 1984, as a sop to the anti-nuclear movement.  Before long, Congress gave it a new, $111 million building just off the Mall, making it untouchable.  So how's the mission going?"

Monday, March 7, 2022

Trump Not Invited to AEI's Annual Meeting

Here is more from the Washington Times:

A private gathering of big Republican Party donors and conservative leaders will include a top Biden White House official and several critics of former President Donald Trump but not Mr. Trump, according to a report. 

The former president was not invited to the off-the-record event hosted by the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative-leaning think tank, CBS News reported.

Among the expected attendees: Biden economic adviser Brian Deese; Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican; Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican; Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican; and Sen. Tim Scott, South Carolina Republican. It was not clear whether former Vice President Mike Pence will attend.

AEI’s annual World Forum will be held this week at The Cloister at Sea Island, Georgia. Past attendees have included billionaire executives from manufacturing, energy and financial companies, according to the report.


In the past, picketers have greeted attendees of AEI's meeting.

Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Polish Think Tank Opens Washington Office

Think Tank Watch has learned that the Polish Institute of International Affairs (PISM) has opened an office in Washington, DC.   

Here is more about the history of PISM from Wikipedia:

PISM was established by the Parliament of the Republic of Poland in 1947.  In 1972, the institute gained the right to confer doctoral degrees, of which the first recipient was Jerzy Robert Nowak.  In 1993, the institute was closed and an “Office of International Studies – Institute of International Affairs” was created under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In 1996 the institute was reactivated, this time under the name Polish Institute of International Affairs. PISM is funded principally from the Polish state budget and it works closely with the Polish foreign and defense ministries.


PISM has already been collaborating with other think tanks, such as the Heritage Foundation.