Intelligence Agreement on Pro-War Think Tanks

in 2018 When the government awarded a massive $769 million contract to defense contractor Alion Science and Technology, the company promise He said the money would go to “state-of-the-art” intelligence and technological solutions that “directly support the warrior.”

The Alion contract supports work from the Center for Remote Sensing, an intelligence center that assists the military with land, sea and air intelligence. According to the records, most of the work went to subcontractors like Venntel. collects location data from smartphonesand Leidos, a technology firm serving various weapons systems and intelligence agencies.

But some of the money embedded in that contract has also flowed into the country’s leading hawkish think tanks, which regularly advocate higher Pentagon budgets and a greater projection of America’s military might.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies, or CSIS and the Pacific Forum, are just two of the independent research institutes that have subcontracted a portion of $769 million to Alion Science. (Others—the Russian Research Network Limited, the Advanced China Research Center, and the European Center for Policy Analysis—are less prominent.) Indirect funding, channeled through a contract aimed at improving the government’s combat capability, is unusual among many Pentagons. grants flowing into research institutes.

Jack Poulson, founder of Tech Inquiry, a watchdog group that spotlights the contract, noted that the intermingling of projects seems to “blur the lines between think tanks and intelligence contractors.”

Federal records show that Alion awarded CSIS money from its intelligence contract from December last year to July 2021.

CSIS spokesman Andrew Schwartz, who received just under $1 million from the Alion intelligence contract, wrote in an email that the funding was “used to help US government analysts – including but not limited to military personnel – better understand Russian decision-making. African security issues, including processes on security in the Arctic, climate impacts, China’s deepening ties to the African security sector, and internal security threats, including cyberspace. ”

“These were five separate projects using Alion as a funding tool,” Schwartz said. When asked to share specific work products related to the Alion contract, Schwartz did not respond or explain why these projects were funded through an intelligence contract designed to improve combat capability.

CSIS is doing extensive research on the issues listed by Schwartz, including recent reports detailing the supposed need for the US military. get engaged in the North Pole and resist China’s influence in Africa. Neither report mentions any Alion funds.

CSIS officials often testify on Capitol Hill and in public forums about the need to promote military spending efforts. A CSIS director wrote in a recent New York Times article on the congressional battle over military spending levels following the withdrawal from Afghanistan warned Despite the change in US policy, “the military element of national power should not diminish either”.

In July, Alion Science and Technology was acquired by Huntington Ingalls Industries, a major shipbuilder and one of the world’s largest defense firms. The company declined to comment on its ties to think tanks or how the intelligence contract was used.

The Pacific Forum did not respond to a request for comment. The organization received $586,555 from the Alion contract. There is the Pacific Forum pushed aggressively for more missile defense and naval spending.

The Department of Defense also did not respond to a media inquiry.

The Alion grant is unusual in that it directs a “fight” contract to a research institute through a proxy defense contractor. But many leading think tanks rely directly on DoD contracts, a relationship that presents a similar conflict of interest.

Sharing a military-focused contract with think tanks, the arrangement of a defense contractor provides a small window into the wider world of the Department of Defense, which finances the most prominent voices in the military policy establishment. Public disclosures of military contracts for considering tanks are almost always ambiguous; sometimes they are completely opaque.

The Hudson Institute is another hawkish think tank that relies heavily on Pentagon funding. The group has recently pushed for “pioneering developments like stealth drones” to compete with China and focus more on cyber warfare capabilities. The group received a $356,263 contract directly from the Pentagon this report/short” in aircraft defense. Last year, the group received nearly half a million dollars to produce reports and workshops on behalf of the Department of Defense.

Center for New American Security, a think tank testified It received at least $1.1 million in funding from the Pentagon before Congress this year to push for more funding for advanced battlefield military technology and a greater focus on weapons that could be used in a conflict with China.

Shai Korman, spokesperson for the Center for New American Security, noted in an email that the group maintains complete intellectual independence and receives government funding on its website, but did not respond when asked to explain which specific CNAS projects it supports. by the Ministry of Defense.

The role of think tanks in policy debates cannot be ignored. Since the mid-20th century, seemingly independent academic centers with often opaque sources of funding and ideological bent have played a huge role in advising Congress and federal agencies on key policy priorities. Media outlets often rely on think tank opinion when seeking expert opinion. And given that think tank officials rarely sign up as lobbyists, they are viewed as politically neutral experts hired to work in various presidential administrations.

Critics warn that the influx of military money has distorted the Pentagon’s public debate over funding levels and US policy.

“With so many think tanks getting their share of the Pentagon budget, it’s no surprise that the Washington think tank choir is praising the Pentagon.”

Ben Freeman, director of the Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative at the Center for International Policy, a research institute, said: “With so many think tanks taking a cut of the Pentagon budget, it’s not surprising that the Washington think tank choir is praising the Pentagon.” does not accept military funding.

“At the very least, think tanks that receive large sums of funding directly from the Pentagon or their contractors should make this clear in their written products and speaking engagements,” Freeman added.

Last year, the Center for International Policy It was reviewed Top 50 think tanks in the country. The report found broad ties between the Pentagon and military contractors with the most influential think tanks and offered further clarification. According to the report, CSIS received over $5 million in funding from government and defense contractors from 2014 to 2019.

“Hiding potential conflicts of interest in congressional testimony or in the published work of think tanks leaves the public and policy makers the impression that they are reading unbiased research or hearing from a truly objective expert; whereas, in fact, they may be listening to someone interested in their work. “This research is being funded by an organization that has a huge financial stake in this research,” said Freeman, author of the report.

Only a few major foreign policy and military-focused think tanks provided full transparency or denied military support. Specifically, Human Rights Watch noted that the group “does not receive money from governments for reporting on governments, and this may create bias or the perception that our independence is compromised. Similarly, we’re working to ban landmines, cluster bombs, and lethal robots, so we don’t want to take money from companies that make these types of weapons.”

But there is increasing pressure on think tanks to do more. cut ties with foreign funders, provide further disclosure, and proactively identify areas of potential conflict of interest.

“Advocating increasing Pentagon budgets while receiving Pentagon funding constitutes a clear conflict of interest that needs to be disclosed in corporate products that advocate defense budget increases,” said Eli Clifton, senior adviser at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft and author of the book. a final report on restoring trust in think tanks.

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