Surprisingly, it’s the unanimous opinion of those 50 think tanks that we need still more military spending. Imagine that. From Cassandra Stimpson at responsiblestatecraft.org:
Think tanks shape discourse and policy through testimony and media coverage, and employ experts who claim to be unbiased — simply putting forth ideas to win out in the free market. This market, however, is rigged.
It’s well known that Pentagon contractors spend hundreds of millions each year on lobbying, but the other powerful weapon contractors wield to influence U.S. national security priorities — think tanks — is often ignored. A report released today from the Foreign Influence Transparency Initiative, or FITI, at the Center for International Policy, where I work, reveals more than $1 billion in defense contractor and U.S. government funds flowing to the top 50 most influential U.S. think tanks from 2014-2019.
It is part of a think tank’s role to recommend policy, and putting ideas forth into debate can be a public good. However, when these ideas are linked to specific defense companies who stand to gain billions of dollars by promoting their systems — and play into the Pentagon’s narrative — think tanks have an obligation to let consumers of their work know if it is funded by those who will profit from their recommendations. Instead, in far too many cases, these funding links are obscured.
The Pentagon’s recent Naval expansion strategy, named “Battle Force 2045,” is a case in point of why this funding matters, as many of the think tanks backing this plan are incentivized to do so because they receive money from those who will benefit most from the plan. Prior to Defense Secretary Mark Esper’s release of the naval strategy at one think tank, CSBA, it was developed in large part by another think tank, the Hudson Institute, and was teased for release at a separate think tank: the RAND Corporation. In addition to these policy shops, which also receive government and defense contractor funding, the Center for a New American Security, or CNAS, has long advocated for and justified additional military investments.