Independent Task Forces

The Council on Foreign Relations launched the Independent Task Force Program in 1995 with a Task Force on nuclear nonproliferation, chaired by Stephen J. Hadley, who most recently served as the national security adviser in the George W. Bush administration. More than seventy reports later, Task Forces have become a trademark of the Council.

The Council sponsors an Independent Task Force when an issue of current and critical importance to U.S. foreign policy arises, and it seems that a group diverse in backgrounds and perspectives may nonetheless be able to reach a meaningful consensus on a policy through private deliberations. Once formed, Task Forces are independent. Task Force chairs, directors, and members are solely responsible for the content of their reports.

As Task Forces are intended to help shape the public debate on critical foreign policy issues, the Council mobilizes its resources to maximize the impact of Task Force reports, both at the time of the initial release and as developments warrant. In addition to media outreach, the Council supports the efforts of Task Force chairs and members to reach influential practitioners in the executive branch, in Congress, and beyond.

For a complete list of Council-sponsored Independent Task Force reports online, click here.

For more information on Independent Task Forces, please contact Anya Schmemann, director of the Independent Task Force Program, at 202.509.8502 or aschmemann@cfr.org or Veronica Chiu, assistant director, at 202.509.8569 or vchiu@cfr.org.

Current Independent Task Force Projects

Independent Task Force on U.S. Strategy in the Arctic

Chairs: Admiral Thad W. Allen, and Christine Todd Whitman, President, The Whitman Strategy Group
Director: Esther Brimmer, Adjunct Senior Fellow for International Institutions
June 2016—March 2017

With the Arctic warming at twice the rate as the rest of the planet and melting sea ice opening up the resource-rich region to new trade routes and commercial activities, the Arctic offers both opportunities and challenges for the United States and other countries.

Composed of twenty experts from a wide range of backgrounds, the Independent Task Force on U.S. Strategy in the Arctic was convened to assess U.S. interests in the region in the face of changing conditions there. Released in March 2017, the group's report, Arctic Imperatives: Reinforcing U.S. Strategy on America's Fourth Coast, concludes that the region is of growing economic and geostrategic importance and proposes specific actions to improve the United States’ strategic presence in the Arctic, including bolstering infrastructure investment, defending national borders, protecting the environment, and maintaining U.S. scientific and technological leadership. 

The project was co-chaired by Admiral Thad W. Allen, former commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard, and Governor Christine Todd Whitman, former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency and governor of New Jersey, and directed by Esther Brimmer, CFR adjunct senior fellow for international institutions and former assistant secretary of state for international organization affairs.