Task Force Reports

Independent Task Force reports offer comprehensive policy prescriptions for major foreign policy issues facing the U.S. government, developed through the deliberations of independent and nonpartisan Task Forces sponsored by CFR.

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Strategic Energy Policy Update

At the start of President Bush’s first term in office, Vice President Dick Cheney chaired a high-level government task force on energy, several months after the Council on Foreign Relations released its independent Task Force report, “Strategic Energy Policy: Challenges for the 21st Century.”  The Council’s initial report is updated here, taking into account the Bush administration’s energy policies during its first six months in office.  

See more in Energy Policy

Testing North Korea

Before North Korea decided to restart its nuclear weapons facilities in 2002, this blue-ribbon group of experts voiced its concern that North Korea would do just that. It warns in this report that progress made on the Korean Peninsula was fragile and “diplomatic gains achieved by the United States and South Korea in the past decade are not irreversible.” Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions could raise tensions and produce the kind of confrontation that almost led to war in 1994. It could also lead Pyongyang to lift its self-imposed moratorium on ballistic missile tests. To head off these dangers, the Task Force urges that the Bush administration treat North Korea as a foreign policy priority and for what it is: both a fragile and a dangerous power. The Task Force recommends that the United States and its allies in the region use both economic carrots and sticks in working with Pyongyang.

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The United States and Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia deserves more sustained attention from American policymakers than it has received in the recent past, according to this independent Task Force report. It argues that Southeast Asia has a long history of important security and economic ties to the United States and is of strategic interest. Yet the United States has benignly neglected the area and its needs and growth potential for almost two decades. With the economic crisis in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in the late 1990s, the reestablishment of U.S. diplomatic ties to Vietnam, and the recent ethnic strife and devolution in Indonesia, the region and its member nations are back on the international skyline.

See more in Asia and Pacific; International Organizations and Alliances; Politics and Strategy

Strategic Energy Policy Challenges for the 21st Century

There could be more Californias in America’s future unless the U.S. government adopts a long-term, comprehensive energy policy now, according to an Independent Task Force report cosponsored by the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy of Rice University in Houston and the Council on Foreign Relations.

See more in Energy Policy

A Letter to the President and a Memorandum on U.S. Policy Toward Brazil

Latin America in general—and Brazil in particular—is coming to the forefront of U.S. policy challenges. In response to this situation, this blue-ribbon independent Task Force sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations offers two recommendations: first, that the United States needs a focal point to its policy in South America and that Brazil become that focal point; and second, that President Bush move swiftly to establish a standing, high-level dialogue with Brazil on key issues ranging from drugs to trade, democratization, and combating terrorism and trans-regional crime.

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State Department Reform

Ten years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the military and economic instruments of American power have benefited from renewed attention and resources. However, the forward edge of American national security policy, the Department of State, is in a profound state of disrepair, suffering from long-term mismanagement, antiquated equipment, and dilapidated and insecure facilities.

See more in Organization of Government; United States; Diplomacy and Statecraft; Congresses, Parliaments, National Legislatures; History and Theory of International Relations

U.S.-Cuban Relations in the 21st Century

This independent Task Force report represents a significant step forward in deepening a bipartisan consensus for a new U.S. policy toward Cuba. While avoiding the highly politicized debate over whether to lift the U.S. embargo on Cuba, the report touches on the terms for American investment in Cuba in its recommendation for the settlement of Cuban expropriation claims. The report seeks to stimulate a discussion among those interested in crafting a creative and dynamic policy toward Cuba.

See more in Latin America and the Caribbean

Future Directions for U.S. Economic Policy Toward Japan

During the last ten years, Japan has undergone a difficult period of economic stagnation. Only now is the country showing preliminary signs of emerging from an economic slowdown. In response to its difficulties, Japan is gradually making changes to its traditional financial system—changes driven by Japan’s desire to catch up with technological innovation and to resuscitate its economy. However, many of these reforms are controversial within Japan since they aim at the heart of traditional Japanese business practices. In a three-step conclusion, this Task Force outlines how the United States may integrate into and profit from Japan’s transitioning economic framework.

See more in Asia and Pacific

Toward Greater Peace and Security in Colombia

Colombia’s rampant lawlessness, insecurity, and corruption represent one of the major threats to democracy and economic progress in Latin America. The stakes are that high, according to this independent Task Force report. Cochaired by Senator Bob Graham and General Brent Scowcroft, the Task Force recommends a four-point strategy to respond to the deteriorating situation. Toward Greater Peace and Security in Colombia calls for a multi-track approach that supports Colombia’s efforts to achieve peace and reconciliation by helping to professionalize the country’s military forces, curtail widespread human rights abuses, strengthen political, judicial, and social reform efforts, and restore the economy.

See more in Latin America and the Caribbean

Promoting Sustainable Economies in the Balkans

The conflict in Kosovo, less than four years after the brutal civil war in Bosnia, was a wake-up call to the international community. The West and others had once again underestimated the powerful forces of ethnic hatred and historical grievances in the Balkans. According to this independent Task Force report, economic reconstruction alone will not be sufficient to bring long-term peace and stability to the Balkan region, although raising living standards could foster sustainable economic growth and reduce political tensions.

See more in Kosovo; Yugoslavia; Economic Development

Nonlethal Technologies

The U.S. approach to international conflict in the post–Cold War period—how we think about them and what actions we take—is enormously affected by America’s capabilities to quell conflicts by diplomatic, economic, and military means. To date, the United States has been trapped between classic diplomatic table-thumping and indiscriminate economic sanctions on the one hand, and major military intervention on the other hand. However, nonlethal weapons may offer an innovative and effective middle option that could lend weight to U.S. crisis diplomacy and offer new capabilities for pressuring adversaries or fighting wars with minimal loss of life.

See more in Defense and Security

Safeguarding Prosperity in a Global Financial System

The international community will not make real headway in crisis prevention if private creditors—and particularly large commercial banks—can escape from bad loans to emerging economies at relatively low cost, according to this independent Task Force report. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) should therefore return to smaller rescue packages for country crises that do not threaten the performance of the global financial system. In extreme cases, the IMF should also require as a condition for its own emergency assistance that debtors be engaged in serious and fair discussions on debt rescheduling with their private creditors.

See more in International Law

U.S. Policy Toward North Korea

This report argues that, in spite of tenisons, the United States should continue to support South Korea's engagement policy and keep the comprehensive Perry proposal on the table. The Task Force recommends that North Korea might be further opened by certain symbolic changes in U.S. economic sanctions policy. However, the Task Force warns that while diplomacy with the North should not be cut off because of another missile launch, the United States and its allies would be forced by a launch to take a new approach to Pyongyang.

See more in Asia and Pacific

Reconstructing the Balkans

The last of the six Balkan Wars of the twentieth century is over, but it is by no means certain that a durable peace is at hand. After vast death, destruction, and savagery lasting almost a decade, can the peoples of the former Yugoslavia live together again in peace? If so, the region will require sustained help and support from the West, which is in the midst of mustering the necessary resources and political will. The purpose of this report is to provide a broad political approach and to highlight the three key components of a comprehensive, long-term strategy that focuses on security, continental integration, and economic and political reform.

See more in International Law

U.S. Policy Toward Northeastern Europe

During the Cold War Northeastern Europe was a strategic backwater and received relatively little attention in U.S. policy. However, since the end of the Cold War, the region has become an important focal point of U.S. policy. The Clinton administration gave Northeastern Europe high priority and viewed the region as a laboratory for promoting closer regional cooperation and reknitting Europe, both East and West, into a more cohesive economic and political unit. Its policy was also designed to reach out to Russia and to include Russia in regional cooperation arrangements in Northeastern Europe.

See more in Europe; Politics and Strategy

The Future of Transatlantic Relations

Notable opportunities exist for the U.S.-European relationship to help mold the twenty-first century’s international system. Despite the absence of the Soviet threat, the two sides of the Atlantic continue to share enduring vital interests and face a common set of challenges both in Europe and beyond. These challenges are so many and diverse that neither the United States nor the allies can adequately address these regional and global concerns alone, especially in light of growing domestic constraints on the implementation of foreign policy. Thus, promoting shared interests and managing common threats to the West in the years ahead will necessitate not only continued cooperation, but a broader and more comprehensive transatlantic partnership than in the past.

See more in Europe; United States; Politics and Strategy

U.S.-Cuban Relations in the 21st Century

Having contained Cuban support for revolution in Latin America and perceiving signs of strong stirrings of a new civil society in Cuba, the United States should take steps to “contribute to rapid, peaceful, democratic transition in Cuba while safeguarding the vital interests of the United States.” This policy conclusion and a set of specific actions were recommended by an independent Task Force made up of both liberals and conservatives and chaired by Bernard W. Aronson and William D. Rogers.

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After the Tests

The spring 1998 Indian and Pakistani nuclear tests made South Asia and the world a more dangerous place, says this independent Task Force report. It recommends that the immediate objectives of U.S. foreign policy should be to encourage India and Pakistan to cap their nuclear capabilities at or near their current levels and to reinforce the global effort to stem the horizontal and vertical proliferation of nuclear weapons and advanced delivery systems. At the same time, the Task Force emphasizes that the United States has important interests in South Asia in addition to those relating to proliferation. Those include preventing conflict, promoting democracy, expanding economic growth, trade, and investment, and cooperating with India and Pakistan on global challenges.

See more in India; Pakistan; Proliferation

Managing Change on the Korean Peninsula

The Korean peninsula remains one of the most heavily armed and dangerous places in the world. Despite its deteriorating economy, North Korea retains a standing army of over one million men and an enormous arsenal of artillery and missiles, most of them as close to Seoul, the South Korean capital, as Dulles Airport is to downtown Washington, DC. In 1994, the United States and North Korea almost went to war over the North’s nuclear program. Since then, Washington and Seoul have attempted to cap North Korea’s nuclear ambitions through the Agreed Framework, but the threat from the North remains.

See more in South Korea; North Korea