12 March 2010

The Strauss Center co-hosted two important events in Washington, DC, last week, strengthening existing ties with the policy community there and developing new partnerships.

On Wednesday, March 3, the Strauss Center co-sponsored a discussion forum on Climate Change and African Political Stability (CCAPS) with the Africa Center for Strategic Studies at National Defense University and Meridian International Center. The forum gave the Strauss Center's CCAPS research team an opportunity to present its research design and discuss what policymakers want to know about climate change in Africa. It also enabled the team to establish a community of interest around this issue with government officials, think tank representatives and other members of the Africa policy community.

Ambassador Vicki Huddleston, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Africa, gave opening remarks. She noted that climate change is a transnational threat to Africa and suggested that it will challenge the ability of governments, many of them in formative stages, to govern effectively. She asked the researchers to lay out the road ahead in terms of where threats are most severe and what the Defense Department, the military, the private sector and governments can do to address them.

"The diverse group of participants who attended the forum played a valuable role in building new partnerships around this critical topic," said Ambassador Gregory W. Engle (Ret.), Associate Director of the Strauss Center. "The members of our CCAPS team were particularly appreciative of participants' willingness to help inform our research agenda moving forward."

The following day, the Strauss Center took part in the second one-day assembly of the Next Generation Project. In partnership with The American Assembly at Columbia University, the Center for a New American Security and Meridian International Center, the Strauss Center hosted guests from government, the military, NGOs, academia and the private sector to discuss issues related to grand strategy in the Obama administration.

"The Next Generation Project is influential in so many ways," said Strauss Center Director Francis J. Gavin. "In discussing topical issues with key figures in government, we better understand the challenges officials face on a daily basis and can respond with practical research and solutions."

One of many distinguished guests, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for the Middle East Colin Kahl, discussed strategic considerations in Afghanistan, while Vikram Singh, Senior Defense Advisor to the Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, gave his perspective on how policymakers function without a written grand strategy.

Anne-Marie Slaughter, Director of Policy Planning for the Department of State, delivered a keynote address focusing on the importance of intergovernmental networks. She encouraged government officials to collaborate across divisions and also with non-governmental agencies, recognizing that given the magnified influence of non-state actors, private groups and other entities, the landscape is complicated.

Participants in breakout discussion sessions expressed general concern over the lack of a formal national security strategy and recommended establishing a clearer narrative for America's role in the world.

The Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law is a non-partisan research center at The University of Texas at Austin dedicated to promoting policy-relevant scholarship on the problems and opportunities created by our increasingly globalized and interconnected world. For more information on the Strauss Center, please visit www.StraussCenter.org.