Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Jose Andres Launches Food Think Tank

For more than a decade, celebrity chef Jose Andres has dreamed of opening a think tank for food, and that dream has finally arrived.

Here is more from a George Washington University (GWU) press release:

George Washington University and world-renowned chef, author, and humanitarian Jose Andres are announcing a historic partnership to launch a premier Global Food Institute at GW, a transformative and unprecedented collaboration that will be the world leader in food system solution delivery.

GW is uniquely positioned to drive global progress in the food space, thanks to its location in the heart of the nation’s capital, depth of academic expertise across countless disciplines, track record of leading critical conversations in the public and private sectors and partnerships with global influencers from the White House to the World Bank.

Driven by Andrés’ vision of changing the world through the power of food, the Global Food Institute at GW will work to transform people’s lives and the health of the planet, taking an interdisciplinary systems approach across three main pillars: policy, innovation and humanity.  The institute will enable faculty and students from every school and college, industry leaders, policymakers and renowned experts to work and teach across these pillars, producing cutting-edge research to create and improve domestic and global food policies, incubate and engineer innovative new technologies and entrepreneurial spirit and lead critical conversations about the impact of food on the human race.

A founding gift from Andrés made the Global Food Institute possible, and the institute’s work will be powered by philanthropy and supported by partnerships with organizations, companies, foundations, and individuals. A significant contribution from the Nelson A. and Michele M. Carbonell Family Foundation will endow the Executive Director position. The Rockefeller Foundation has also committed financial support for the Global Food Institute.


The Global Food Institute (GFI), which is not to be confused with the think tank Good Food Institute (which also goes by the acronym GFI), held a launch event on May 23. 

A search for the executive director of the Global Food Institute will commence this summer.

Here is more about GFI from the Washington Post.

Fun fact: There are other think tanks devoted to food.  For example, there is an entity called Food Tank, which calls itself a "think tank for food."  Food Tank says it's a "research and advocacy nonprofit organization devoted to storytelling that highlights how food and agriculture can be the solution to some of our most pressing environmental and social problems."

Friday, May 26, 2023

Republican Think Tanks Gearing Up for 2024

Here is more from FP:

The [Mike] Pence-backed nonprofit Advancing American Freedom released a legislative agenda that calls for canceling Chinese treasury bill holdings as COVID-19 restitution to the families of victims, accelerating the U.S. nuclear program, and advocating more tree trade, a genuinely lonely position on both sides of the aisle these days.

[The Heritage Foundation's] Project 2025 has launched an online questionnaire, asking would-be conservative wonks in a Republican  to explain their political philosophy, who influenced it, and asking them a series of questions, including whether the United Nations should have authority over sovereign countries, and whether the U.S. president "should be able to advance his/her agenda through the bureaucracy without hinderance [sic] from unelected federal officials."

Another conservative think tank to watch for potential 2024 GOP administration picks is the Hudson Institute, which seems to have effectively struck a balance between the MAGA and the more traditional wings of the Republican party with its own cast of conservative foreign policy heavyweights.


Here is a previous Think Tank Watch post on the Heritage Foundation's plans to staff a Republican administration in 2024.

Thursday, May 25, 2023

How China has Infiltrated US Think Tanks

Here are some think tank-related excerpts from the book Spies and Lies by Alex Joske, the youngest-ever analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI):

  • America's think tanks have long been of interest to Chinese intelligence agencies.  Numerous spies from both the Ministry of State Security (MSS) and People's Liberation Army (PLA) have held posts as visiting scholars in DC think tanks with varying degrees of transparency and awareness about their backgrounds.  Even before the MSS was created, Chinese intelligence analysts were compiling open-source studies of influential think tanks in the Reagan era.
  • To many scholars and policymakers, the think tank China Reform Forum brings to mind dreams of change and liberalism to China.  Led by Zheng Bijian, the think tank touted unmatched access to China's leadership, superior pedigree through its affiliation with the Party's highest training academy, and a track record of policy influence.  It was cocaine for China watchers from Washington to Tokyo and Paris, manufactured in Beijing by the MSS.
  • Other think tanks envied the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace's unusual connections to Beijing.  After several years of collaboration with China Reform Forum, Carnegie could now reveal it had inked a deal to deepen that partnership and set up Carnegie's first Beijing office within the premises of China Reform Forum.  It was the first American think tank with a permanent presence in Beijing.  Carnegie thought it was expanding its influence within China, blind to the fact that it was taking part in an MSS influence operation.
  • The Carnegie Endowment was far from the only American think tank that unwittingly wrapped itself up in the MSS's influence operations.  Two China representatives for the Asia Society were named as members of China Reform Forum's council.  Washington, DC's Center for Strategic and International Studies was often a host for visiting China Reform Forum delegations, as was the Brookings Institution.
  • MSS quickly homed in on RAND Corporation as a priority for influence and espionage operations.  It surely helped that RAND is headquartered in California, the state with the most mature MSS networks.  Through China Reform Forum, RAND also had some of the strongest and longest-running ties to the MSS of any American institution.  RAND continued to help China Reform Forum access the United States even after it was warned that the group was a MSS front.
  • Like every other major American foreign policy institution, Brookings had already been engaging with China Reform Forum, hosting Zheng Bijian and the MSS as they tested out the "peaceful rise" theory on its target audience.  Brookings chairman John L. Thornton unwittingly fell into the sights of an MSS influence operation.
  • Nicolas Berggruen's Berggruen Institute helps connect the China Institute for Innovation and Development Strategy (CIIDS) to global elites and is key to its success.
  • China Institute of Strategy and Management (CISM) started its existence as the internal think tank of the PLA's Academy of Military Science (AMS).
  • The China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations (CICIR) was originally established to give Chinese intelligence a channel for engaging internationally, and it actively helps the rest of the MSS target and recruit foreigners.  It holds dialogues and conferences with think tanks like the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).
  • Maurice Greenberg was a leading donor to American foreign policy think tanks and once threatened to pull funding from the Heritage Foundation after one of its analysts wrote a paper calling for tougher policies on China.


Here is a list that Think Tank Watch compiled of former Intelligence Community (IC) officials that now work at think tanks.

One of the most interesting facts from the book: Windsurfing was invented by one of RAND Corp.'s engineers.

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Think Tank Quickies (#475)

  • Brookings and staff union reach initial one-year agreement.
  • GOP think tank wonks trying to get their party not to detonate the debt limit bomb. 
  • CGD is not an "eat what you kill" think tank.
  • NYT: There are military contractors and even analysts at think tanks who have some level of security clearance.
  • Scottish Tory MSPs launch "think tank of sorts" at conference.
  • Think tanks find out information about Chinese police stations in the US before FBI?
  • Casey Michel: "Biden is letting think tanks and dodgy foreign funders get cozy again."
  • Ember: "An independent energy think tank."
  • Stephen Walt, a former think tanker, on how to succeed in the foreign policy blob.
  • DJ Khaled spoke at MBS's personal think tank.

Tuesday, May 23, 2023

Leaked Docs Show Lockheed Martin CEO About to Join CFR Board

Here is more from the Eli Clifton, a senior advisor at the Quincy Institute and Investigative-Journalist-at-Large at Responsible Statecraft:

Members of the Council on Foreign Relations are currently voting on a slate of ten board candidates put forth by the “Nominating and Governance Committee.” That slate includes what is arguably the world’s largest arms dealer, the chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin, James Taiclet, according to a document circulated to CFR members and obtained by Responsible Statecraft.

The board of directors of CFR, a New York-based think tank that focuses on U.S. foreign policy and international relations, isn’t a stranger to embracing the weapons industry. CFR’s chairman is David Rubenstein, a co-founder and co-chairman of the private equity firm and defense-industry-focused Carlyle Group, and the board currently includes Raytheon board member Meghan L. O’Sullivan, and Frances Townsend, a director at Lenoardo Systems, a Virginia based weapons systems company. (CFR’s biography of Townsend omits any mention of her role at the weapons firm but Leonardo Systems lists her CFR board membership in her biography on their website.)


A list of CFR's current board members can be found here.

Monday, May 22, 2023

Susan Rice Will Not be Next President of Brookings Institution

Here is more from Politico:

Susan Rice has made it clear she’s not interested in becoming the Brookings Institution‘s next president, three people familiar with the situation told POLITICO’s Alex Ward and Daniel. Buzz spread throughout the think tank after the White House announced Rice was stepping down as the domestic policy adviser, leading to rumors that she might be a natural pick for the role. But she made clear to people in Brookings’ orbit that the board, which aims to make a decision in the summer, should consider other candidates. A Brookings spokesperson declined to comment, and a spokesperson for Rice said, “This is urban legend. No one involved with the search at Brookings has contacted Ambassador Rice about this opening.”

Ms. Amy Liu remains as Interim President of Brookings while the search continues.

Friday, May 19, 2023

Atlantic Council Says Its Scholar Possibly Poisoned by Russian Intelligence

This week the Atlantic Council said that John Herbst, Senior Director of the think tank's Eurasia Center, may have been poisoned by Russian intelligence officers.

Here is more from an Atlantic Council statement:

Though Ambassador Herbst has recovered to full health, in April 2021 he grew ill and experienced symptoms that could have been consistent with poisoning, including elevated levels of toxins in his blood. Medical professionals treated Ambassador Herbst effectively at the time but could not definitively conclude there was poisoning involved. 

The Atlantic Council worked with federal law enforcement on this matter, who later also took a blood sample from Ambassador Herbst, and the lab results failed to detect toxic compounds. “The health and safety of our staff is the highest priority,” said Frederick Kempe, president and CEO of the Atlantic Council. “We were in touch with authorities immediately at the time of Ambassador Herbst’s illness, but due to the results of the test we decided not to make the incident public.” 

Ambassador Herbst and the Eurasia Center, working alongside other colleagues at the Atlantic Council, have been among the leading voices in the United States analyzing and responding to Russia’s threats to the United States and Ukraine, including its ongoing war, and advocating for Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence, and freedom. 


Herbst was US Ambassador to Ukraine from 2003-2006.  His think tank work can be found here.

Russia has previously made known its disdain for Atlantic Council, and back in 2019 it blacklisted the think tank, saying that the activities of the organization "pose a fundamental threat to the constitutional order and security" of Russia.

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

White House Stops Requesting Think Tank Dislosures of Foreign Funding

Here is more from The New Republic (TNR):

At some point over the past few years, the Biden administration revoked one of the few progressive policies that Trump-era officials implemented in the effort to bring greater transparency to foreign influence in Washington. The New Republic has learned that with little fanfare, and with even less explanation, the White House has stopped requesting that American think tanks disclose funding from foreign governments. “This is not the policy of the U.S. State Department,” an agency spokesperson said last month.

The policy initially emerged in 2020, when then–Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the State Department would finally request that think tanks “disclose prominently on their websites funding they receive from foreign governments, including state-owned or state-operated subsidiary entities.” As Pompeo continued, “The unique role of think tanks in the conduct of foreign affairs makes transparency regarding foreign funding more important than ever.” He added that State Department staff would “be mindful of whether disclosure has been made.”


TNR notes that a forthcoming report from the Human Rights Foundation will show how the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has "perfected the art" of transforming US think tanks into lobbying vehicles.

Monday, May 15, 2023

AI Botches Think Tank Analysis

Here is more from the Washington Post, which asked Microsoft's Bing AI dozens of questions to evaluate the chatbot's answers and sources:

Another problem suggested by our results: When the AI chooses a source, is it adequately understanding what it has to say? In a different answer to that same question about immigrants, Bing cited the Brookings Institution. However, Bing’s AI wrote that Brookings said immigrants may “affect social cohesion or national identity” and push down wages for native-born workers — a claim Brookings never made.

“We are flattered that chatbots like Brookings content, but the response is not accurate,” said Darrell West, a senior fellow in the Center for Technology at Brookings. He said Bing not only failed to adequately summarize that one article, but it also missed the organization’s more recent writing on the topic.

Microsoft told us it couldn’t reproduce that result. “After consulting engineering, we believe you encountered a bug with this answer,” Manfre said.


The newspaper concluded that nearly 1 in 10 answers/sources were inadequate or inaccurate.

Tuesday, May 9, 2023

Think Tank Quickies (#474)

  • The McCain Institute announced Politico and CBS as its media partners for its 2023 Sedona Forum.
  • Open Secrets: "One of the main issues tracking money that's funding think tanks is there's no legal requirement for them to disclose their donors."
  • Jason Greenblatt, who served in the Trump Administration, has joined the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs as a senior director for Arab-Israel diplomacy.
  • The US Global Leadership Coalition has announced the creation of the Conservative Foreign Policy Study Group, which consists of a group of conservative foreign policy and national security experts who served in the Trump Administration.
  • The Washington Policy Center has hired state Rep. Chris Corry (R-Yakima) as the new director of the Center for Government Reform.
  • New RAND report examines where and how the US, China, and Russia are likely to be competing for influence. 
  • Peruvian government is lobbying think tanks.
  • Overton analyzes the think tanks that publish the most on the topic of computer security.
  • China's "official think tanks to watch," via Cheng Li.
  • Event a Chatham House: The role of think tanks amid political uncertainty.

Monday, May 8, 2023

Beijing Curtails Overseas Access to Chinese Data After Reading US Think Tank Reports

Here is more from the Wall Street Journal: 

A recent campaign to restrict overseas access to China-based data sources was partly triggered by a drumbeat of U.S. think tank reports on sensitive Chinese practices that alarmed Beijing, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter.

Increasingly worried about perceived Western threats, Beijing in recent weeks expanded an anti-espionage law and stepped up pressure on foreign companies specializing in collecting information, such as auditors, management consultants and law firms. In addition, access to Chinese databases including Shanghai-based Wind Information has tightened for foreign think tanks, research firms and other nonfinancial entities.

The wider scope of the campaign is intended to ensure the party-state’s control over narratives about China. The part of it focused on restricting overseas access to databases began in earnest after some reports based on publicly available information set off alarms among senior Chinese officials, according to the people with knowledge of the matter.

The reports, these people said, included analyses written by the Center for Security and Emerging Technology at Georgetown University and the Center for a New American Security, co-founded by Kurt Campbell, the White House’s coordinator for the Indo-Pacific.


The article notes that one of the think tank reports that got Chinese officials' attention is a CSET policy brief published in June 2022 entitled "Silicon Twist: Managing the Chinese Military's Access to AI Chips."  Another CSET report that got their attention was one called "The Chinese Talent Program Tracker." 

The article also notes that China cut off the Center for Strategic and International Studies' (CSIS) access to Chinese data provider Wind Information.

Friday, May 5, 2023

Bastian Giegerich Named as Next Director-General of IISS

Here is more from the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS):

The Board of Trustees of The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), chaired by Bill Emmott, is delighted to announce that following a global search it has appointed Dr Bastian Giegerich as the next Director-General and Chief Executive of the IISS. Dr Giegerich will assume the role on 1 October 2023, in succession to Dr John Chipman CMG who will move to a newly created part-time post as Executive Chairman of the IISS.

Dr Bastian Giegerich has served as the Director of the Defence and Military Analysis Programme (DMAP) at the Institute since 2015. In this role he has overseen the rapid expansion of DMAP's research output and corporate advisory services, and the development of the Military Balance+ database. In 2021, alongside his DMAP role, Dr Giegerich served as Interim Executive Director of IISS-Europe to establish the new IISS office in Berlin. From 2010 to 2015 he held senior research and policy roles in the Federal Ministry of Defence of Germany. He is the author and editor of several IISS Adelphi books and IISS Strategic Dossiers and holds a PhD in International Relations from the London School of Economics (LSE). He first joined the IISS in 2005 on a post-doctoral Fellowship funded by the Volkswagen Foundation, working on European security and defence matters.


IISS announced the search for a new director-general of the think tank in January 2023.

Thursday, May 4, 2023

UK Getting New China-Focused Think Tank

Here is more from Politico:

The China Strategic Risks Institute (CSRI), set to launch on May 10 at an event in the U.K. House of Lords, aims to focus the debate on China around the risks and opportunities of its global rise, and away from the split between China hawks and Golden Era supporters, its Deputy Director Andrew Yeh said.

Recent years have seen a host of advocacy groups flood the zone in Westminster. The Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC) and Hong Kong Watch have made real inroads. But Yeh, a co-founder of Labour Friends of Taiwan, says CSRI will aim to focus on research and briefings.


In terms of funding, CSRI is reportedly targeting grant-making organizations funding research into foreign policy as well as private donations.

Wednesday, May 3, 2023

ChatGPT Explains What a Think Tank Is To a 3-Year-Old

Think Tank Watch asked ChatGPT to explain what a think tank is to a three-year-old.  Here is what it came up with:

Okay, imagine you have a big box of toys that you like to play with. Now, imagine if you and your friends had a special place where you could go to think about new games to play with your toys. That special place is called a think tank!

In the think tank, grown-ups get together to think about big ideas and try to come up with ways to make things better. They might talk about things like how to make schools better, how to make people healthier, or how to make the environment cleaner.

Just like how you and your friends use your imaginations to come up with new games to play, the people in a think tank use their imaginations and ideas to come up with new ways to help the world.

While ChatGPT thought a 3-year-old working at a think tank was way too young, it did suggest a hypothetical think tank that could be designed for them: "Playtime and Learning Ideas Group," a think tank focused on finding fun ways for children to learn and play.

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Think Tank Quickies (#473)

  • Bipartisan Policy Center hosted a ceremony to present its Patriot Award to former President George W. Bush at National Harbor, Maryland. 
  • Elbridge Colby, a former fellow at CNAS and founder a the Marathon Initiative think tank, is close to Heritage Foundation President Kevin Roberts.
  • Former US Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings now heads think tank Texas 2036.
  • Israeli, Ethiopian think tanks sign national security MOU.
  • Texas taps think tanks as co-counsel in Biden lawsuits.
  • Kazakhstan's leading think tank outlines its achievements for its 30-year anniversary.
  • Third Way President Jonathan Cowan, MoveOn Executive Director Rahna Epting and Center for American Progress Action Fund CEO Patrick Gaspard team up for a fiery op-ed in WaPo to rail against No Labels' effort to build a unity ticket for the 2024 election. 
  • The Foundation for Government Accountability, a Florida-based think tank and lobbying group, drafted state legislation to strip child workplace protections.
  • Think tanker quits career to join pronatalism movement.
  • Book flashback: "The Shadow Government: The Government's Multi-billion-dollar Giveaway of its Decision-making Powers to Private Management Consultants, 'Experts,' and Think Tanks."

Monday, May 1, 2023

Russia Blocks Western Think Tanks

Here is more from Canada's Global News:

The March edition of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute magazine, Inside Policy, called Russia’s invasion of Ukraine criminal, unprovoked, unjustifiable, and aggressive.
An Ottawa-based think tank made up of academics, activists and former diplomats and politicians, the MLI has been a leading voice against the Russian war in Ukraine.

Two weeks ago, President Vladimir Putin’s government hit back: it blocked the MLI website in Russia and ordered the company that hosts it to shut it down.


Russia has reportedly taken the same action against the US's Wilson Center and Britain's Chatham House

MLI was blacklisted by Russia in 2022, along with senior fellows such as Marcus Kolga, Sarah Teich and Shuvaloy Majumdar.  Russia blacklisted Chatham House the same year.

The Atlantic Council and German Marshall Fund have also been blacklisted by Russia, and so has the Jamestown Foundation.

In 2021, China sanctioned the Mercator Institute for China Studies (MERICS) and several scholars, and China recently sanctioned the Hudson Institute and its leadership. 

Chinas has also been blocking Western think tank websites, such as the one from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).