National Security and Defense Program

The National Security and Defense program aims to enhance the peace and prosperity of the United States and its allies by enhancing public understanding of the threats we face and the options we have for responding to them. In the post–9/11 world, threats to the national interest come from a greater variety of sources than ever before: traditional nation-states—not least the "rogue" variety—remain potential adversaries in conventional conflicts, while non-state actors—especially transnational terrorist organizations, insurgencies, and drug cartels—have become more effective than ever in asymmetrical warfare. CFR's national security fellows work to develop the policies, strategies, and tactics needed to minimize security vulnerabilities in our rapidly changing global environment.

Complemented by more focused CFR programs in cyber- and energy security, the National Security and Defense program examines the cornerstones of national security: diplomacy, intelligence, security, and the military. Through books, article, blog posts, media outreach (both mainstream and social), congressional testimony, roundtables, and face-to-face meetings, fellows bring their hard-earned expertise to bear on the vital policy debates of the day.


The stakes are high. The long-term outcomes of the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq are far from decided; Egypt and Syria are in turmoil; and the future of the region in the wake of the Arab Spring remains an open question. Iran is working on acquiring nuclear weapons; North Korea has them already. China's power is growing, while Al Qaeda spreads its franchises across the Middle East. The war on terror continues to push the limits of U.S. military and intelligence capabilities, while raising difficult questions for international and domestic law. The military faces the twin challenge of maintaining its combat advantage in the information age while accepting the budget constraints of the age of austerity.

Dealing with these threats and many others requires informed policymakers and an informed electorate. The National Security and Defense program aims to help both audience—both experts and ordinary, informed Americans—to better undertand the security issues which will affect our longterm interest both at home and abroad.

Roundtable Series

Roundtable Series on National Security Affairs

Director: Max Boot, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick Senior Fellow for National Security Studies
July 2007—Present

This series focuses on issues, primarily military, that affect American national security. The series begins withan early focus on the war on Iraq, and later roundtables examine issues relating to the transformation of the American armed forces to cope with warfare in the information age.

Roundtable on U.S. Defense Policy and Strategy

Director: Stephen D. Biddle, Adjunct Senior Fellow for Defense Policy
October 2006—Present

This roundtable series focuses on issues that influence U.S. defense policy, such as the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, civil-military relations, and debates about the transformation of the U.S. military and the future of warfare. It is made possible by the generous support of Roger Hertog.

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Featured Publications

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National Security Experts