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

Extraordinary Gift to Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center to Launch Cyber Security Project

January 19, 2016

Cambridge, MA – Harvard University announced today that Robert and Renée Belfer, along with their son Laurence, are investing an additional $15 million to advance the work of the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard Kennedy School in addressing the world’s most critical security issues.

Reflecting their philanthropic mission to build a more secure, peaceful world, the Belfer family’s gift puts the Belfer Center on the front lines of what CIA Director John Brennan calls the greatest threat to U.S. national security in the decade ahead: cyber threats. In particular, it launches a major new Cyber Security Project, which seeks to help create the conceptual arsenal for strategists to confront this growing challenge.

“The Belfer family’s remarkable generosity ensures that the resources of the entire University can be brought to bear on this vital threat to global security,” said Harvard University President Drew Faust. “For more than 40 years, the Belfer Center has served as an important hub for scholarship and teaching that has global impact. We are honored by the Belfers’ continued support for Harvard and share their determination to secure a more peaceful, prosperous world.”

The Kennedy School’s new dean, Douglas Elmendorf, said the gift will empower students for decades to come. “This is a pivotal period in the school’s history,” Elmendorf remarked. “As we set concrete foundations for the transformation of our physical campus today, we pay tribute to visionaries like Bob who enable us to continue to produce ideas that will help to make the world safer and more prosperous in the years ahead.”

Elmendorf said the gift makes possible new initiatives that will draw on the talents of people across Harvard and beyond. “On behalf of everyone who will benefit from the generosity of the Belfer family, in both the near term and the distant future, I want to express our deep gratitude,” he said.

“Leveraging science, technology, and policy to confront hard problems and better people’s lives has been the aim of my family’s philanthropy for decades,” said alumnus Robert Belfer, J.D. ’58, chairman of Belfer Management LLC, a private investment firm. “At Harvard Kennedy School and the Belfer Center, this aspiration becomes achievement. Year after year, under Graham Allison’s leadership, the Center mobilizes the very best minds to make the world a safer place for our children and grandchildren. Today, as we face a major new security risk from cyber attacks, I am counting on Harvard to again rise to the challenge.”

“Bob and his family know all too well the importance of facing global threats early and often,” said Graham Allison, Douglas Dillon Professor of Government and director of the Belfer Center. “Two decades ago, his support helped the Center meet the challenge of nuclear security in the post-Cold War world. Today, his gift signals confidence in our ability to serve elected officials, policy makers, and the public they are entrusted to protect with cutting-edge research on one of our era’s defining challenges.”

The Belfer Center’s new Cyber Security Project, to be led by former Pentagon official Michael Sulmeyer, will bring together some of the best minds at Harvard and beyond, including Joseph Nye, Venky Narayanamurti, Jack Goldsmith, Michael Chertoff, Jim Miller, David Sanger, James “Sandy” Winnefeld, and James “Hoss” Cartwright. The project is a key element in the Center’s wider Cyber Initiative under the auspices of Daniel Schrag, director of the Science, Technology, and Public Policy program. The Belfer family’s gift establishes a New Initiatives Fund to ensure that the program’s unique teaching, research, and policy impact at the interface of science, technology, and global security stays abreast of the times. It also helps Harvard deepen its commitment to training the next generation of global leaders at HKS.

The Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs – named for Robert and Renée Belfer in 1997 – is the hub of Harvard Kennedy School's research and training in international security and diplomacy, environmental and resource issues, and science and technology policy. In 2014, the Belfer Center was ranked the world's #1 University Affiliated Think Tank by the University of Pennsylvania's Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program. The Center has a dual mission: (1) to provide leadership in advancing policy-relevant knowledge about the most important challenges of international security and other critical issues where science, technology, environmental policy, and international affairs intersect; and (2) to prepare future generations of leaders for these arenas.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation:Extraordinary Gift to Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center to Launch Cyber Security Project.” News, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School, January 19, 2016.