$4.5 million Koch Institute grant will support deep effort at creative approaches to a changing world

Washington, DC – February 13, 2020 – The Atlantic Council today announced the launch of a major new national security strategy effort — buoyed by a five-year, $4.5 million grant from the Charles Koch Institute — that will be aimed at generating creative, out-of-the-box foreign policy thinking designed to match the challenges of our rapidly changing times.

The effort will be driven by two, innovative initiatives within the Scowcroft Center for Security and Strategy at the Atlantic Council, both consistent with the Atlantic Council’s long-standing effort to anticipate future challenges and design often unconventional strategies and policies for sustained and effective US global engagement. They will report to Scowcroft Center director Barry Pavel.

“Our objective is to help inform US decision-makers and their global partners and allies as they navigate significant historic inflection points since the ends of World Wars I and II,” said Frederick Kempe, President and CEO of the Atlantic Council.  “Our era is defined by new major power competition, an escalating contest between democratic and autocratic forms of government, new doubts about US global leadership, existential questions about our rules-based global system of institutions, and a race for the technological commanding heights that will define our times.”

“This cannot and will not be business as usual,” said Kempe.

Said William Ruger, vice president for research and policy at the Charles Koch Institute, “We are proud to partner with the Atlantic Council to launch this new initiative to expand the conversation on foreign policy in the United States.”

“We are confident that our support for the scholars and activities of the New American Engagement Initiative will allow it to become a premier home for fresh, realistic thinking about how our country can more productively engage the world while avoiding the grave mistakes of our past. With the American public and many policymakers questioning the assumptions and theories that have guided our foreign policy over the last 30 years, the situation is ripe for new ideas and unorthodox approaches to how we can secure our national interests. The Atlantic Council is well-positioned as one of the most respected think tanks in the world to provide them.”

The first initiative, funded directly by the Koch Institute grant, will be called the New American Engagement Initiative (NAEI), and builds upon the “realist” foreign policy thinking of Brent Scowcroft, two-time US National Security Advisor and Atlantic Council chairman emeritus, that brought the Cold War to a peaceful end. It will bring five new scholars to the Atlantic Council and will be co-directed by US intelligence world veteran Mathew Burrows.

NAEI will be designed to methodically question assumptions regarding the use of military power and to design real-world solutions to urgent problems that deploy the full range of American diplomatic economic and other capabilities.

A second new effort, the Global Strategy Initiative, will take a more robust approach to remaking and revitalizing the global system of rules and institutions created by the United States and its partners after World War II. Led by the Scowcroft Center’s Matthew Kroenig, and drawn from existing and general funding, it will question overly realist approaches to the future with idealistic reminders about the power of America’s unique role and values.

“From the very outset of the Scowcroft Center, we have wanted to stress the importance of framing strategy as the first step toward developing policy,” said Barry Pavel, director of the Scowcroft Center. “It is this kind of debate that helped find solutions to the most pressing challenges of our time, and is the approach that brought a peaceful end to the Cold War. Now is the time to redouble our efforts, as there are trends in the global and domestic landscape that demand urgent strategy and policy debates.” 

This powerful new effort further builds the Atlantic Council’s reputation as the go-to think tank for framing US and allied policy and strategy choices and for driving debate around new, unconventional approaches to US foreign policy. The team of high-level experts managing the initiatives will be supported by the decades of experience Barry Pavel, Mathew Burrows, and Matthew Kroenig gained while working in senior roles at the White House, Department of Defense, and in the intelligence community.

Working with academic institutions, the business community, think tanks, and policymakers across party lines, the effort will advance its objectives and work products by convening key leaders through conferences, workshops, and task forces.

For media inquiries, please contact press@atlanticcouncil.org.

Driven by our mission of “shaping the global future together,” the Atlantic Council is a nonpartisan organization that galvanizes US leadership and engagement in the world, in partnership with allies and partners, to shape solutions to global challenges.