There are two sets of activities at the heart of the Strauss Center enterprise: the pursuit of innovative, policy-relevant research, and what we refer to as global engagement and service. We are equally proud of them, and urge you to read on to get a better sense of just what it is we do under each heading.

Research Programs

We pursue our research mission along two broad, sometimes overlapping, paths.

First, we support and magnify the research independently undertaken by our Distinguished Scholars and their graduate students, through measures such as seed money for new or existing projects and funding for workshops, conferences, and symposia. Our primary vehicle for this is the Strauss Center Research Grant program, which provides targeted financial support for research projects and research-related events. Grants are awarded on a competitive basis consistent with available funds, on a rolling basis. Strauss Center Distinguished Scholars are given preference, but other UT faculty and students are eligible to apply.

Second, the Strauss Center itself pursues an evolving array of in-house research programs, often in partnership with other parts of the UT family as well as with other institutions from beyond the 40 Acres. The focus of these efforts has shifted over time, and no doubt will continue to do so in the future; we want the door always to be open for new initiatives at the Strauss Center. Currently, our programs can largely be grouped under one of three overarching headings: Destabilizing States; Disruptive Technological Change; and Armed Conflict and Political Violence. An overview of the research programs under each of these headings appears below, before we move on to a discussion of the Strauss Center's Global Engagement and Service programs.

Destabilizing States

Challenges to international security often stem from the instability of one or more states in a region. The Strauss Center actively supports research into the causes, contributing factors, and consequences of such instability, including:

  • Climate Change and African Political Stability: Funded by the U.S. Department of Defense's Minerva Initiative, this program analyzes how climate change could impact African and international security. It does so by exploring the drivers of climate insecurity, links between climate change and conflict, national responses to shocks and conflict, and the impact of adaptation aid responses.
  • Complex Emergencies and Political Stability in Asia: This program has also been selected for funding by the U.S. Department of Defense's Minerva Initiative. The Program explores the causes and dynamics of complex emergencies in Asia and options for building government capacity to respond. The program leverages the novel methods developed under the Center's CCAPS program and adds new risk assessment methods to identify and analyze complex emergencies in Asia.
  • Mexico Security Initiative: This program explores the high-intensity violence and political disruption in Mexico in recent years, including its causes, its international dimensions, and assessments of past, present, and potential policy responses.
  • Middle East Initiative: This program seeks to understand the exact scope and location of water and energy resource stress in the region, the implications for livelihood and state security, and the required elements for stability in the face of growing resource stress in the region.
  • State Fragility: Over the last decade, ‘state fragility’—and its implications for national and international security—has driven tectonic shifts in U.S. policy and military thinking. Strauss Center research explores the factors that drive state fragility, assessing potential precursors to state fragility and possible responses to prevent and alleviate that fragility.

Disruptive Technology

Technological change can have a significant impact on international security, disrupting policy frameworks, legal architectures, and the balance of power among states. The Strauss Center sponsors several initiatives under this heading,including but not limited to:

  • Intelligence Studies Project: Jointly sponsored by the Strauss Center and UT’s Clements Center for History, Strategy, and Statecraft, this project encompasses an array of efforts to improve understanding of the U.S. Government’s Intelligence Community as well as similar institutions in service of other states—and, in some instances, in service of no state at all. Activities include an ongoing project bringing a diverse array of scholars into dialogue with the senior staff of the National Security Agency under the Chatham House Rule; extensive on-the-record interviews with those NSA officials for the benefit of the wider public (conducted in partnership with the Brookings Institution); a workshop focused on NSA issues during the 2014 SXSW Interactive festival; and a major interdisciplinary conference exploring the tension among privacy, security, and technology.
  • Energy and Security Project: This program explores the various dimensions along which developments in the energy field impact questions of international security.

Armed Conflict and Political Violence

The Strauss Center also sponsors several initiatives concerned with the evolution of armed conflict and political violence, including their strategic and legal dimensions. These include:

  • Terrorism and Counterterrorism Studies: This program encompasses research, courses, events, and speakers exploring the phenomenon of terrorism and the variety of ways in which states respond to it.
  • Transatlantic Dialogue on International Security and Law: This program, conducted in partnership with the International Committee of the Red Cross and Oxford University’s Institute for Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict, assembles leading academic, military, NGO, and government experts in international humanitarian law and human rights law in order to discuss the issues raised when these frameworks must be applied in new contexts. The first meeting occurred in 2013, with the next scheduled to occur at Oxford in July 2014.
  • National Security Law Studies: Apart from the transatlantic dialogue, we support a variety of efforts meant to improve understanding of the sharply contested legal environment surrounding the U.S. government's pursuit of national security aims. A key part of this effort is sponsorship of the National Security Law Workshop. Now entering its seventh year, this annual event integrates emerging and experienced scholars alongside leading U.S. military and government lawyers for two days of paper presentations and roundtable discussions. Jointly sponsored with the International Committee of the Red Cross, the U.S. Army JAG School, and South Texas College of Law, this year's event will take place at the JAG School in Virginia in May 2014. Other efforts include support for a major conference in Austin in spring 2014 examining the legal regulation of cyberwarfare.
  • Special Operations Forces: This program explores four recent trends that have provided an environment that is extremely conducive to the rise of Special Operations Forces. These trends include the rise of asymmetrical warfare, continuous technological leaps, heightened sensitivity to military casualties, and the professionalization of armed forces.

Global Engagement and Service

The Strauss Center is more than just a research unit. We also aim to bring the world to UT through a dynamic interdepartmental speaker series, visiting scholar and fellowship programs, and support for an array of conferences and events. And we aim to bring UT to the world by supporting and mentoring graduate and undergraduate students, convening conferences for the next generation of leaders in Texas, and supporting UT students in high-impact international development internships. Key programs under this heading include:

  • Crook Fellowships: Named in honor of the global development pioneer Ambassador William H. Crook, the program annually presents the Crook Fellowships, which are awarded to talented students doing development work in poverty-stricken states across the globe.
  • Brumley Next Generation Fellows: This program at the Strauss Center provides research training and mentorship opportunities to exceptional undergraduate and graduate students at the University of Texas at Austin. Involving students in international affairs early in their career is an important part of the Strauss Center’s mission to prepare the next generation of leaders to help develop solutions to the most pressing public policy challenges. The Next Generation Project Texas brings together the best and brightest talent from around Texas each year to discuss cutting-edge issues facing not just the state but also the nation and the world.
  • Visiting Scholars and Fellows: The Strauss Center hosts an array of visiting scholars and fellows, ranging from senior faculty or practitioners on sabbatical to up-and-coming academics at the pre-doctoral stage.
  • International Security Speaker Series: As the Strauss Center’s oldest program, this speaker series has brought a steady stream of dynamic scholars and policymakers to UT over the years, fostering a vibrant exchange of ideas and foundations for collaboration.