Check out the website  Political Note #335 Biden Fight Fund, Political Note #336 GEORGIA AND THE US SENATE, Political Note #334 The Biden Transition Team, Political Note #337 Biden’s Covid-19 Task Force Political Note #338 Joe Biden’s Agency Review Teams

Democracy in action. Do not forget GeorgiaOR as Senator Jon Tester says:  Run through the f—-ing tape. 

We wouldn’t be Democrats if we didn’t have conversations, occasionally heated conversations.  A reader contacted me to say that he understood that the Defense Department’s Review Team was filled with corporate representatives.

I had one responseJoe Biden is not challenging the American power structure.  Not in the world of defense or any other area.  If he attempted to challenge the American power structure now, he would fail. The American power structure is, after all, powerful.  He is working to restore the effective operation of the agencies of government, effectiveness that has been eroded by the Trump Administration.  I’m confident, I also said, that conversations about the purposes of government will come.

This Political Note is a second response.  Let’s take a look at the appropriate Review Team to see where the members come from and, to the extent we can, something about their views.


From the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS)

The Team Leader and two other members of the Team list, as their most recent employment, CSIS.  CSISdescribes itself as a “bipartisan, nonprofit policy research organization.”  What shows up at the front of their web page? “Sustainable Infrastructure in the Amazon,” “Biden can engage Southeast Asia and still promote good governance,” “Africa reacts to the US Elections.,” “Humanitarian impacts of Sudan’s removal from the state sponsors of terrorism list.”   Words that reflect organizational goals are bolded.

Of their major funders (half million dollars or more: Gates, Carnegie, Sarah Scaife, Smith Richardson, and Niarchos foundations, Bank of American, Chevron, Pan American Energy, and Northrup Grumman, plus Japan, Taiwan, UAE and the US, one foundation (bolded) appears to be decidedly right wing and one corporation is focused on military weaponry (bolded).  The critics aren’t wrong, CSIS is largely corporate funded, but the Foundation, Corporate, and government influence seems broad rather than limiting.

Look at the Team Members from CSIS.  Team Leader Kathleen Hicks (BA Mount Holyoke, MA Maryland, PhD MIT) is a Senior Vice President.  A recent research paper discussed how the US could combat “gray zone” (less than war) attacks from China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea and the importance of protecting American constitutional tenets, economic vitality, and influence while doing that. Team Member Melissa Dalton (BA Virginia, MA Johns Hopkins) is a Senior Fellow and a deputy program director.  Recent work of hers addressed the issue of sustaining US norms regarding the internal use of the military and (in her Middle East specialty) strengthening the professionalism of the Lebanese Armed Forces).  Andrew Philip Hunter (BA Harvard, MA Johns Hopkins) is a Senior Fellow and a program director.  His specialty is the structural base of the Department.  Recent work includes a discussion of how the Department can increase its speed and agility by attracting new firms (service providers for analytics or cloud computing).

The RAND Corporation

There are also three members of the TEAM from RAND.  RAND describes itself as existing to “help policy makers make decisions based on the best available information.” They see themselves of undertaking “sober, objective research”. What shows up on the front of the website? “Does the US or China have more influence in the Indo-Pacific?” “There’s help for veterans with mental health and substance use disorders,” “How to protect army installations from emerging threats,” “Family caregivers should be included in health care teams.” Words the reflect organizational goals are bolded.

RAND does not list major donors; it does describe its history.  Originally an arm of Douglas Aircraft, it became an independent think tank providing systems analysis, largely for military decision-makers.  They developed the planning, programming, and budgeting for Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara’s staff and did policy planning for the US health care system and for affordable housing.

Look at the three Team members from RAND.  Christine Wormuth (BA Williams, MPP Maryland) is the Policy Center Director and former Under Secretary of Defense.  She was described by the Royal United Services Institute as having spent 20 years at the heart of US defense planning. Stacie Pettyjohn (BA Ohio State, MA, PhD Virginia) is a senior political scientist and a gaming center co-director.  In one work, she writes about the strengths, but also the problems of relying on wargames as a basis for decision-making.  Terri Tanielian (BA BU, MA American U) is a Senior Behavioral Scientist.  She has written about and testified to Congress about the invisible wounds of war, PTSD, the problem of veterans committing suicide.

Center for a New American Security (CNAS)

Two members of the Defense Department review Team come from CNAS. Ely Ratner (BA Princeton PhD Univ of Cal, Berkeley) is an expert on issues related to China.  He is Executive Vice President and Studies Director and was formerly the deputy security advisor to Vice President Joe Biden.  Susanna Blume (BA, MA Johns Hopkins, JD George Washington) is a Senior Fellow and Program Director.  She does research into the defense budget, force management, and strategic planning – stressing the importance of matching budgets with goals.


Two members of the Review Team come from university positions – one from George Washington, one from Florida International University.  Michelle Howard (BA USNA, MA US Command and General Staff College) is a Visiting Professor at George Washington and a retired four-star admiral from the US Navy.  She teaches about leadership. Frank Mora (BA George Washington, MA, PhD Miami) was the Director of FIU’s Latin American and Caribbean Center after serving as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense in the Obama administration.

Public Officials

Two public officials are in the group – one from the State of Illinois, one from the Port of Seattle. Both have Obama administration connections  Michael Negron (BS Georgetown, JD Harvard) is the Assistant Director of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Opportunity. Before serving for six years as policy chief in the Chicago Mayor’s office, he was a special counsel for the Department of Defense and a counsel for the House Oversight Committee.  Veronica Valdez (BS Ohio State, MPIA Univ of Cal, San Diego) is commission specialist for the Port of Seattle.  While she was a Truman National Security Project Fellow in DC, she was a staffer for the Department of the Navy. 

Other Team Members 

The other Team members work for various other consulting organizations. Sharon Burke directs the resource group at New America and was an Assistant Secretary of Defense in the Obama administration.  Lisa Coe is at Otherside Consulting, which coordinates outside engineering for projects.  Victor Garcia is a software engineer for start up Rebellion Defense.  Mike McCord is the Director of Civil-Miltary Programs at the Stennis Center for Public Service and a former Defense Department Comptroller.  Farooq Mitha is the President and CEO of the Imbue Group which helps contractors expand their business with the federal government.  Deborah Rosenblum is the Executive Vice President of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, an organization dedicated to reducing the possibility of a nuclear catastrophe.  Lisa Sawyer of JP Morgan previously worked at the Pentagon and for the National Security Council.  Shawn Skelly, an acquisition analyst for CACI, Inc, a high tech engineering firm.  She is a veteran and a transgender woman.  Deborah Wada, President and CEO of Senshi Ame Advisors.  She is a former Under Secretary for Manpower, before that was a Congressional Staffer working with the Armed Services Committee. She is of Asian/Pacific Islander background.  Karen Gibson is a retired Lt. General of the army who served as deputy director of national intelligence for National Security Partnerships.

Contemplating this group, I had three thoughts.

  1. If this group is representative, National Defense is women’s work. Six of the 21 members of the Team are men.
  2. This group is not, as my reader feared and some Democrats on the left fear, put together to serve corporate interests, to serve the corporations that form the military/industrial complex. The group has budget experts including a leadership figure who argues that the size of the budget is less important than ensuring that the budget is appropriate to the military’s goals.  It includes a resource expert who argues for making the military nimbler with new suppliers.  It includes researchers interested in the physical and mental health of those who serve in the military.  It includes members of start-ups and relatively smaller engineering firms that would be a far cry from the largest military suppliers.  It includes the Presidents of small consulting firms that bring new firms to the work of the Defense Department.
  3. My opening statement may be wrong. The group that has been put together to review the Defense Department just might have, as a purpose, reshaping the Defense Department, making some changes in the power structure within the Department and with the corporations that are part of the Defense Department’s network.

I have to correct an error from Political Note #338.  I mistakenly inserted Cynthia Bernstein’s picture for a second time instead of inserting the appropriate picture of Ellen Stofan, the Team Leader for Reviewing NASA.  Here is the appropriate picture.