Announcement - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

Belfer Center Annual Report 2019

| Jan. 02, 2020

From the Director

As we approach the turn of the decade, I’m more convinced than ever that the most potent levers of change to the security and prosperity of our world are science and technology. That’s why the Belfer Center is committed to advancing policy-relevant knowledge and training the next generation of leaders in this arena. On both these elements of our core mission, our faculty, fellows, students, and staff are confronting, adapting to, and setting in motion new waves of change.

The past year has challenged age-old assumptions about foreign policy, triggering debates about America’s place in the world. Increasingly competitive relationships with traditional European allies and more aggressive actions from China and Russia have led to a reevaluation of U.S. global priorities. After nearly two decades of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States is resetting its strategic posture in the greater Middle East. Through its research, exercises, convenings, and Track II diplomatic engagements, the Center has spent much of the past year developing policy analyses to better understand and positively shape these monumental shifts.

There is another global paradigm shift occurring in the emerging technology space. In 2019, the so-called “techlash” increasingly challenged the perception that technology is apolitical and stirred public skepticism about the intentions of leading innovators. As society struggles to reconcile its gadgets with its values, policymakers and experts are working to craft boundaries through laws and norms. In this area, as in cybersecurity, climate, and a host of other sectors where science and technology intersect with public policy, the Belfer Center is working to bring about thoughtful outcomes through deliberate and inclusive expertise. In an encouraging sign of our utility, the Center was named in 2019 (and for the sixth year in a row) the No. 1 university-linked think tank in the world by the University of Pennsylvania’s annual Go To Think Tank Index.

Expanding Horizons

The global challenges we face evolve rapidly. So does our research portfolio. The Belfer Center has launched or reinvigorated several projects over the past year to better align our work with the needs of the policy community.

At the intersection of great power competition and emerging technology, the new China Cyber Policy Initiative led by Julia Voo is assessing digital sources of military and economic power that Beijing wields. Voo’s team is developing a unique cyber power index to better measure the cyber capabilities of nation states and has run important Track II dialogues with senior Chinese cyber officials.

The renewed Economic Diplomacy Initiative (EDI) led by Executive Director Aditi Kumar examines the impacts of emerging economic tools and capabilities on national security. Kumar organized a major crisis simulation exercise in the JFK Jr. Forum this fall, convening fintech experts and former Cabinet officials to explore the national security implications of a new sovereign digital currency. The simulation attracted major notice among policymakers and journalists, including coverage in The Wall Street Journal.

Belfer Senior Lecturer in International Security Juliette Kayyem, who already directs our Homeland Security Project, launched the Security and Global Health Project this year. Drawing on expertise from Harvard Kennedy School and Harvard Medical School, the Project will examine critical issues at the nexus of health and security, including health intelligence, bioterrorism, pandemics, armed conflict, climate-related disasters, and mass migration.

The Center’s existing projects, meanwhile, also enlarged their work in 2019. Let me give just two examples. First, International Security, “IS: Off the Page.” Featuring in-depth conversations with the authors of recent journal articles, the podcast helps America’s leading peer review quarterly journal of security affairs transcend its academic roots and broaden into the heart of contemporary policy debate. Second, the Technology and Public Purpose Project (TAPP), led by Laura Manley, has responded to requests from members of Congress and other policymakers by publishing a series of factsheets about emerging technologies. These factsheets are definitive primers on consequential innovations, including solar geoengineering, machine learning, genome editing, and the Internet of Things. Each factsheet helps policymakers not only grasp the “what” of the technology but also grapple with its “why”—with a focus on privacy, safety and security, transparency and accountability, and inclusion.

Outside the Classroom and Around the World

Students play a prominent role in advancing our mission. In April, TAPP enlisted students and staff to organize a training session for congressional members and their staff on Big Tech competition, regulation, and anti-trust enforcement. Students working on EDI helped design the digital currency crisis and played Chiefs of Staff to Cabinet officials in the simulation. And in preparation for the 2020 primary campaign, the Defending Digital Democracy Project led by new director Maria Barsallo Lynch sent students to engage state and local officials on election management practices in key battleground states. We’re grateful for the outstanding contributions students make to our work, and we are committed to teaching and mentoring this next generation of policy professionals far beyond the four walls of a classroom.

Our research teams also took to the field. The Harvard Project on Climate Agreements participated in the 25th Conference of the Parties (COP) of the UNFCCC in Madrid, Spain in December 2019, while the Project on Managing the Atom travelled to Moscow and Rome to meet with high-level Russian officials to explore ways to revive arms control.

Unmatched Convening Power

Recruiting and retaining top talent was one of my highest priorities as Secretary of Defense. It’s also one of my most important responsibilities today as Director of the Belfer Center. I was so pleased that we were able to enlist three of America’s finest military officers to join the Center as Senior Fellows in 2019 after their dedicated (and highly decorated) service to the United States Armed Forces. General Joseph Dunford, General Vincent Brooks, and General Joseph Votel all enthusiastically signed on to help mentor our students and contribute their insights to our work on national security. Their new phase of service continues a long tradition at the Center of integrating the wisdom and expertise of public service leaders.

The Center welcomed cyber-related project directors Maria Barsallo Lynch, Lauren Zabierek, and Julia Voo to respectively head the Defending Digital Democracy Project, the Cyber Project, and the China Cyber Policy Initiative. We appointed Paul Kolbe, a former CIA station chief, as our new Intelligence Project Director. Lastly, Morgan Kaplan joined the Belfer Center as Executive Editor of International Security.

We were proud to convene an extraordinary set of speakers in 2019. Through Director’s Lunches, Board Meetings, Forums, and other events, we hosted the 26th Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis; former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson; former National Security Advisor Susan Rice; former Directors of National Intelligence Dan Coats and Jim Clapper; former U.S. Senators Claire McCaskill, Heidi Heitkamp, and Bob Corker; U.S. Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun; former President of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf; former Prime Minister of Australia Kevin Rudd; former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers; Recode Editor-in-Chief Kara Swisher; Gen. (Ret.) Lori Robinson; former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson; former Vice President Al Gore; former South African member of Parliament Lindiwe Mazibuko; technologists Eric Schmidt, Kai-Fu Lee, and Katie Rae; and CNN journalist Brooke Baldwin.

Making Marks

Our community continued to publish prolifically for academic and policy audiences, as well as the general public. Center scholars published 26 books or book chapters, including three memoirs: Samantha Power’s The Education of an Idealist, Susan Rice’s Tough Love: My Story of the Things Worth Fighting For, and my own book, Inside the Five-Sided Box. Each reflected on our respective careers in government leadership and the institutions we served. Other major titles included Daniel Poneman’s Double Jeopardy: Combating Nuclear Terror and Climate Change and Erica Chenoweth’s Civil Action and the Dynamics of Violence.

As a whole, the Center also published over 50 research reports. To highlight a few, Ambassadors Nicholas Burns and Douglas Lute co-authored “NATO at Seventy: An Alliance in Crisis,” which they presented at the 2019 Security Conference in Munich, Germany. Laura Manley testified before the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology on the findings of her report, “Building a 21st Century Congress: Improving Congress’s Science and Technology Expertise.” Henry Lee and Qinyu Qiao analyzed a growing issue of importance to China’s climate policies in their report, “The Role of Electric Vehicles in Decarbonizing China’s Transportation Sector.” Marcus Comiter greatly advanced the field of AI studies with his report, “Attacking Artificial Intelligence.”

With each year, the Belfer Center adds to its remarkable history of exemplary scholarship. Our faculty, fellows, students, and staff are constantly pushing the frontiers of knowledge to shape policy for a safer and more prosperous world. Eric and I are grateful to advance these noble goals with you all, and we look forward to an exciting year in 2020.

Ash Carter

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Carter, Ash.“Belfer Center Annual Report 2019.” Announcement, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School, January 2, 2020.