Close ties between Center for a New American Security and the White House

By Laurie Bennett

February 24, 2013 at 5:36am

Washington think tanks are often seen as administrations in waiting.

With the Center for a New American Security, there’s little waiting involved. It’s just a short walk from Defense and State to the centrist think tank, and back again.

Last week, the center announced that its new chief executive would be Robert Work, currently under secretary of the Navy. He steps into the new job on April 22.

Work is a former aide to CNAS Chairman Richard Danzig, who was secretary of the Navy under Bill Clinton.

The two co-founders of the center have held high-level positions in the Obama administration. Kurt Campbell is assistant secretary of State. (His wife, Lael Brainard, is Treasury under secretary.)

The other founder, Michele Flournoy, was under secretary of Defense until February 2012. She then served as a foreign policy adviser to the Obama re-election campaign, and was considered a top prospect to succeed Leon Panetta as secretary of Defense. (Her husband, W. Scott Gould, is deputy veterans affairs secretary.)

Michele Flournoy thanks Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Mike Mullen
Michele Flournoy thanks Michael G. Mullen, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, after a speech on Oct. 25, 2007. (Defense Department photo)

Obviously, the connections between CNAS and the White House are many.

That’s not so unusual for Washington think tanks.

But it’s impressive how quickly CNAS has established itself. Flournoy and Campbell launched the think tank just six years ago.

Together, they wrote a report called “The Inheritance and the Way Forward,” which laid out many of the concerns that have since occupied the think tank: terrorism, nuclear proliferation, Iraq and Afghanistan, climate change, energy independence and military strength.

CNAS raised more than $6 million in the fiscal year ending in June 2011, according to tax returns. Supporters, as listed on the organization’s web site, include the Defense Department and branches of the military, top defense contractors and prominent grantmakers such as the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation.

The Think Tanks And Civil Societies Program at the University of Pennsylvania last month ranked it 14th among American think tanks.

Within the crowded sphere of security and international affairs, CNAS is overshadowed by more venerable institutions such as Brookings, the Council on Foreign Relations and the Carnegie Endowment.

Nevertheless, it has staked its turf by bringing in some prominent voices, and issuing analysis that has drawn attention in the mainstream media. Recent reports have spelled out scenarios for cuts in defense spending and measured the impact of military endorsements in elections.

The Muckety map above shows some of the connections between the think tanks and the Obama administration.

For more information on the center and its contributors, see our CNAS page.

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