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. Policy Toward North Korea

Chairs: Mike Mullen, President, MGM Consulting, LLC, and Sam Nunn, Co-Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Nuclear Threat Initiative
Director: Adam Mount
December 2015—September 2016

For over forty years, the Korean Peninsula has been trapped in a familiar cycle of provocation. Yet in some ways, developments of the past year have altered the North Korea problem in important ways, offering the next U.S. president new opportunities to halt the cycle of provocation and increase pressure on North Korea to resolve its nuclear and human rights problems.

Over the past several months, the Council on Foreign Relations has sponsored an Independent Task Force on U.S. Policy Toward North Korea—co-chaired by retired Admiral Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn, co-chairman and chief executive officer of the Nuclear Threat Initiative—to assess current U.S. policy and offer plausible policy guidance for U.S. leaders in face of this uniquely challenging threat. Directed by Adam Mount, senior fellow at the Center for American Progress and former CFR Stanton Nuclear Security fellow, the Task Force released a report of its findings and recommendations, A Sharper Choice on North Korea: Engaging China for a Stable Northeast Asia, in September 2016.

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—Present

With new challenges and opportunities presented by the changing Arctic, the Independent Task Force on U.S. Strategy in the Arctic will examine recent developments as they pertain to U.S. strategic interests, including security, economic, and environmental concerns.

The project is 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. 

The Task Force aims to produce a consensus report later this year that will offer guidance on plausible policy options to leading decision-makers, particularly as the United States continues its chairmanship of the Arctic Council through 2017.