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23 November 2002

US Department of State
International Information Programs

Washington File

22 November 2002

"How U.S. Think Tanks Interact With The Military," by Michael D. Rich

(RAND official examines how services cultivated an array of sources)

(The following article by Michael D. Rich, Executive Vice President of
RAND, appeared in the latest issue of "U.S. Foreign Policy Agenda"
devoted to the topic: "The Role of Think Tanks in U.S. Foreign
Policy." This article and the rest of the electronic journal, which
was published November 20, may be viewed on the Web at: There
are no republication restrictions.)

(begin byliner)

By Michael D. Rich
Executive Vice President, RAND

(Think tanks that work with defense and intelligence agencies once
focused exclusively on regional and functional topics, but these
organizations are now also being called upon to help the military
address the new challenge of terrorism and homeland security, says
RAND Executive Vice President Michael D. Rich. RAND researchers, who
have been studying terrorism for more than 30 years, are now helping
decision-makers develop a comprehensive analytical approach to
defending against terrorist attacks and, at the same time, they are
doing an increasing amount of research on other issues for governments
around the world.)

From the beginnings of the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), think
tanks have worked closely with both the civilian and military
leadership on a wide range of issues, from new technologies to
military planning and operations, to help better protect American
interests from ever-evolving threats.

Like the DOD civilian leadership, the uniformed military services
require high-quality, objective research on geopolitical trends and
the implications of different foreign policy options. Among other
things, such research is necessary for realistic scenarios to guide
planning and program evaluations, and to develop an understanding of
probable constraints on operational flexibility.

To their credit, the military services and the Office of the Secretary
of Defense (OSD) have used and nurtured a large array of sources for
that research, ranging from small institutes, such as the Center for
Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and the Lexington
Institute, funded primarily with corporate or individual donations, to
larger policy research organizations such as the Institute for Defense
Analyses under contract to the DOD. The oldest and largest of these
research organizations is RAND, which was established with private
capital as a non-profit corporation in 1948. About half of RAND's
current work deals with national defense while the rests deals with a
wide range of domestic policy issues.

RAND operates three DOD-sponsored, federally funded research and
development centers (FFRDCs). FFRDCs are research programs operated by
private non-profit (non-commercial) organizations under long-term
contracts. They develop and maintain essential expertise and
capabilities important to their sponsors and operate in the public
interest, free from real or perceived conflicts of interest.

RAND's creation enabled the Air Force to retain and extend the
considerable civilian scientific contributions during World War II. As
part of a larger program of research on air power at RAND, the Air
Force seeded the development of a path-breaking analytical effort
aimed at understanding the Soviet Union. Some of RAND's research
addressed the development of Soviet strategy, doctrine, and military
systems. The Air Force also requested analyses of the Soviet economy,
foreign policy, science and technology programs, among many other

RAND's pioneering work was so new that it required the translation of
large amounts of fundamental Soviet writings and the creation or
refinement of numerous analytical methods that became standard
throughout the research community, including the interviewing of
émigrés whose distrust of government officials made them otherwise

Soon the Air Force, and then the Office of the Secretary of Defense,
turned to RAND for research on China, Eastern Europe, Japan, Southeast
Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, and Western Europe. Although
smaller in scale than the analyses of the Soviet Union, these studies
also provided the Air Force -- and through RAND's widely-disseminated
published reports, the rest of the U.S. government and the public --
with an independent body of research on a broad range of topics. These
included economic strength, military capabilities, insurgencies,
hegemonic intentions, and leadership succession possibilities in many
nations and regions around the world.

Over time, RAND developed complementary lines of research for the
Army, as well as for other federal clients such as the intelligence
community. And the DOD steadily increased the number and diversity of
its external sources of research, also using others in the growing
world of "think tanks" such as the Council on Foreign Relations, the
American Enterprise Institute, and the Brookings Institution.

RAND's federally funded research and development centers have a
special role in helping to meet the research and analysis needs of
their DOD sponsors. The FFRDCs are: Project AIR FORCE; the Army's
Arroyo Center; and the National Defense Research Institute (NDRI),
which primarily serves the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the
Joint Staff, and the defense agencies. Each of these centers conducts
a broad, integrated program of research that addresses emerging
security needs and their implications for the sponsoring
organizations; the development of new strategies, doctrines, tactics,
and concepts of operations; the application of new technologies; and
issues related to logistics, manpower, training, personnel, health
care, and systems acquisition.

For each FFRDC, RAND commits to developing and maintaining a set of
specified "core capabilities." This is all done with close familiarity
with the structure, doctrine, operations, and personalities of the
sponsoring organizations. Indeed, one of the strengths of FFRDCs,
whether operated by RAND or other non-profit entities, is their
stability and long-term, strategic, and close-in relationship with
their military or OSD sponsors.

The research agenda-setting process is an iterative one that begins
with the development of a long-term research plan that is revised
annually. Continuous discussions between RAND research leaders and
general officers or civilians of comparable rank enable RAND to
develop an annual research program of individual studies, which is
then approved by a high-level advisory board. In the case of Project
AIR FORCE and the Arroyo Center, the advisory boards are chaired by
the services' vice chiefs of staff; in the case of NDRI, the chair is
the principal deputy under secretary of defense for acquisition,
technology, and logistics. Individual studies are typically
commissioned by one or more senior officers or officials, who help
shape the scope, phasing, and timetable of the research -- providing
comments, suggestions, and critiques along the way.

As an example, one such study was a multi-year Project AIR FORCE study
on Chinese defense modernization and its implications for the Air
Force. Although it was developed against the backdrop of extensive
interactions between RAND and the senior Air Force leadership, the
specific contours of the study were worked out with then-Commander of
the Pacific Air Forces, General Michael Ryan, and Air Force
Headquarters' Deputy Chief of Staff for Air and Space Operations,
Lieutenant General John Jumper (now Air Force Chief of Staff). Both
officers, as well as their successors, were active participants during
the course of the analyses. The research team reached out to numerous
others including experienced members of the Foreign Service and
specialists in academia.

Once the study objectives were agreed upon, RAND assembled a disparate
team of researchers under the leadership of Zalmay Khalilzad, a former
senior official in both the Departments of State and Defense who was
then at RAND. Khalilzad is now a member of the National Security
Council staff and also Presidential Envoy to Afghanistan. In addition
to China specialists, there were other regional specialists, as well
as experts in defense strategy, air power, intelligence, and

The team was augmented by several Air Force officers serving at RAND
as federal executive fellows. During the course of the research, the
study team reviewed work in progress with an advisory group composed
of a wide variety of current and former senior federal officials in
both Democratic and Republican administrations, including former
national security adviser Brent Scowcroft and three former secretaries
of defense: Harold Brown, Frank Carlucci, and William Perry.

This project produced numerous interim briefings to senior Air Force
officers and other DOD officials, and written products, as well as a
final report and derivative issue paper that were published and
circulated widely. In a manner that characterizes much of the research
of FFRDCs, the project involved close and continuing interaction with
the Air Force at all levels. Most important, the work was of practical
value to the Air Force senior leadership and was widely read and used
elsewhere in the U.S. government and in the region.

Every RAND product undergoes a rigorous quality assurance process and
this report was no exception. In addition to internal peer reviews,
the manuscript was reviewed before publication by I. Lewis Libby, a
former principal deputy secretary of defense and State Department
official, and David Shambaugh, professor of political science and
international relations and director of the China Policy Program at
The George Washington University.

This study is one of several done by RAND's FFRDCs during the past few
years that have examined issues at the heart of U.S.-China relations.
Other FFRDC studies at RAND during the same period examined critical
problems involving such nations as North Korea, Indonesia, India,
Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, and Colombia. Each of these studies
drew on the same RAND strengths as the study on China: a
multi-disciplinary team of researchers, extensive contacts overseas,
and close working relationships with the military sponsor.

The work in and on individual countries has enabled RAND to carry out
detailed analyses of security issues on a regional level in East Asia,
South Asia, the Middle East, and the Persian Gulf. In fact RAND is
doing an increasing amount of work for governments around the world.
The pattern of detailed country studies and broader regional analyses
has been especially effective in work on Europe. RAND has a
substantial presence in Europe, with three offices and research
programs in both defense and non-defense fields. A series of analyses
of conventional arms control using advanced combat models, and of the
related question of limits on air power, had substantial influence on
the U.S. position and ultimately on the resulting Conventional Forces
in Europe (CFE) Treaty. Moreover, much of the early thinking about the
rationale for alternative paths toward NATO expansion was done at RAND
and other think tanks.

Think tanks are now called upon to contribute to a new challenge: the
emergence of terrorism as a worldwide threat and of homeland security
as a national priority of the highest order. RAND researchers have
been studying terrorism for more than 30 years, and are today helping
the United States government develop a comprehensive analytical
approach to defend against terrorist attacks. Bigger bombs, better
guns, and new weapons systems alone are not enough to defeat
terrorists, who operate far from traditional battlefields. We also
need a better understanding of who terrorists are, how they operate,
what motivates them, and what can be done to stop them from expanding
their ranks. And we need a better understanding of our nation's
vulnerabilities and how to reduce those vulnerabilities. RAND's
research and analysis is playing an important role in helping to
improve government policy and decision-making in these vital areas.

Since the attacks on America on September 11, 2001, the RAND FFRDCs --
like those of the other FFRDCs operated by other institutions, such as
the Center for Naval Analyses, that regularly assist the DOD -- have
been called upon by their sponsors to modify their research agendas.
The legacy of past work and resulting capabilities, coupled with the
flexibility of the institutional arrangements and close working
relationships between sponsors and researchers, operators, and
analysts, have equipped the FFRDCs for these new dimensions in the
nexus of foreign policy and defense planning.

The "old" issues haven't gone away, of course. They have simply been
joined and complicated by the more recent ones. RAND's experts on a
broad range of national security issues have been helping America's
armed forces defend the nation for more than 50 years, dealing both
with threats that are now part of history and with threats that will
be on tomorrow's front pages.

(end byliner)

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