THINK TANK CENTRAL

Your single destination for high-quality content from top think tanks around the world. Fresh reports and analysis as they are released to ensure valuable thought leadership work isn’t lost in the daily noise.

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Since the Pivot to Asia was announced on November 17, 2011, President Barack Obama has sought to refocus American diplomatic, economic, and military attention to the Asia-Pacific region. Now known as the Rebalance to Asia, the effort remains designed to refocus American policymaking on the world’s fastest growing and most populous region, following long wars in the Middle East and the 2008 financial crisis.

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It is clear, examining veteran wellness holistically, that gainful employment can provide the foundation for successful transition, offering compensation, a social network, and geographic stability. While prior efforts to improve the transition process have focused on unemployment rates and hiring, this study looked beyond initial hiring data to examine the behavior of veterans in the workforce, including retention and performance, as well as corporate perceptions of how veterans perform once hired.

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Despite numerous calls for a more cooperative relationship, U.S.-China ties appear to be on an increasingly competitive trajectory. Nowhere has this seemed more apparent than in the South China Sea, where rising tensions have been sowing concern throughout Southeast Asia about the durability of order in the Asia-Pacific region.

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Central Asia is the third largest point of origin for Salafi jihadist foreign fighters in the conflagration in Syria and Iraq, with more than 4,000 total fighters joining the conflict since 2012 and 2,500 reportedly arriving in the 2014–2015 timeframe alone. As the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) continues to lose territory under duress from U.S.-led anti-ISIL coalition activities, some predict that many may return home bent on jihad and generating terror and instability across Central Asia. Yet several factors indicate that such an ominous foreign fighter return may not materialize. Among these factors are that a majority of Central Asians fighting for ISIL and the al-Nusra Front in Syria and Iraq are recruited while working abroad in Russia, often from low-wage jobs under poor conditions making the recruits ripe for radicalization. In addition, many of those heading for jihad in Syria and the Levant expect that they are on a “one way journey,” some to martyrdom but most for a completely new life, and do not plan a return.

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This fall, a team of scholars and researchers from AEI’s Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies participated in an exercise, hosted by the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, to develop an alternative defense strategy for the United States and change the military’s capacities and capabilities accordingly. Guided by the Marilyn Ware Center’s October 2015 report To Rebuild America’s Military, the team called for a rapid reinvestment in and expansion of the US military and modeled the defense planning process over two five year periods: fiscal years 2018–2022 and 2023–2027. The presentation details the team’s conclusions and methodology.

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Thomas Donnelly’s contribution to Warriors and Citizens: American Views of Our Military, edited by Kori Schake and Jim Mattis (Stanford: Hoover Institution Press, 2016). Are we, as Michele Flournoy, former undersecretary of defense for policy, asserts, living “in an Eliot Cohen world” when it comes to civil-military relations? Although it has sworn allegiance to energetic civilian oversight of military affairs, in behavior the US defense establishment is a creature in a Samuel Huntington world, endorsing a rigid distinction between military and civilian spheres of control. In other words, what we have today is a de facto embrace of Huntington’s “objective control” model.

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This fourth report in the series continues the long-term effort to bring data-driven decision making to acquisition policy. This report demonstrates that the Department of Defense (DoD) is making continuing progress in improving acquisition. The overall series presents strong evidence that the DoD has moved—and is moving—in the right direction with regard to the cost, schedule, and quality of the products we deliver. There is, of course, much more that can be done to improve defense acquisition, but with the 5-year moving average of cost growth on our largest and highest-risk programs at a 30-year low, it is hard to argue that we are not moving in the right direction.

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There was a deeply held assumption that, when the countries of Central and Eastern Europe joined NATO and the European Union in 2004, these countries would continue their positive democratic and economic transformation. Yet more than a decade later, the region has experienced a steady decline in democratic standards and governance practices at the same time that Russia’s economic engagement with the region expanded significantly. Regional political movements and figures have increasingly sought to align themselves with the Kremlin and with illiberalism. Central European governments have adopted ambiguous—if not outright pro-Russian—policy stances that have raised questions about their transatlantic orientation and produced tensions within Western institutions. Are these developments coincidental, or has the Kremlin sought deliberately to erode the region’s democratic institutions through its influence to “break the internal coherence of the enemy system”?

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NATO faces a worsening security environment defined by Russia’s growing willingness to challenge the West and a Europe whole, free, and at peace. In this new geo-political context the Black Sea region is one of the central friction zones between Russia and NATO. While the Alliance has recently pledged to protect its eastern flank against aggression, overall capacity challenges have resulted in little increased presence in the Black Sea. “A NATO Strategy for Security in the Black Sea Region” takes stock of the security and defense challenges in the broader region and offers operational and policy recommendations for NATO to address security in the Black Sea region.

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An arc of instability stretching across Africa’s Sahel region, an area of strategic interest for the United States and its allies, is plagued by violent extremist organizations (VEOs). These organizations, including Boko Haram, al Qaeda, and other terror groups, have metastasized and present a serious threat to regional stability. Now these VEOs are transitioning. Under sustained pressure from French and regional security forces, and reeling from the loss of senior leaders, many of these groups feel backed into a corner. Despite setbacks, the groups continue to plague the region. To enhance policymakers’ understanding of these threats and how to respond to them, CSIS experts from the Africa Program and Transnational Threats Project conducted field-based and scholarly research examining the broad range of factors at play in the region. This research provides little ground for optimism. Chronic underdevelopment, political alienation, failed governance and corruption, organized crime, and spillover from Libya help foster and sustain violent extremists throughout the Sahel.

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