Shake-Up Underway at Prominent Washington Think Tank

CSBA president Andrew Krepinevich speaks to attendees at a forum hosted by the U.S. Naval War college, in Newport, Rhode Island on June 16, 2015.

U.S. Navy photo by John P. Stone

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CSBA president Andrew Krepinevich speaks to attendees at a forum hosted by the U.S. Naval War college, in Newport, Rhode Island on June 16, 2015.

The departures of Andrew Krepinevich, the longtime president of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, and budget analyst Todd Harrison follow a decline in government grants to the non-profit organization.

A major shake-up is under way at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, an elite Washington think tank that has seen a precipitous decline in Pentagon grant funding.

Andrew Krepinevich, who has been president of CSBA since 1993, has begun telling colleagues and friends that he will retire from the think tank in March. Todd Harrison — perhaps the capital’s premiere defense-budget analyst — is decamping as well, heading for the nearby Center for Strategic and International Studies.

While Harrison’s move was quietly announced by CSIS last month, the news of Krepinevich’s departure follows a meeting of CSBA’s board of directors last week. Krepinevich could could be reached for immediate comment.

Nelson Ford, the former Army undersecretary who chairs CSBA’s board, issued this statement on Thursday evening: “While Andy will remain my dear friend and CSBA’s mission will continue unabated, it’s true we’re losing his monumental leadership, and the incomparable skills of Todd. We’re using the months we have, working with Andy, to find a suitable replacement, while employing CSBA’s tremendous remaining talent to inform and tackle today’s pressing national security issues.”

CSBA is considered the preeminent think tank for U.S. defense-budget issues. Its reports have been must-reads for defense officials, lawmakers, businesses and reporters, especially as Pentagon spending has come under tighter scrutiny after a decade of record highs.

But the non-profit organization has been taking in less money from contributions and government grants, and instead propping up its bottom line with more corporate consulting work, according to CSBA’s latest financial disclosures. The total value of contributions and grants fell from $4.6 million in 2011 to $2.6 million in 2013, that latest year for which figures are available. Meanwhile, its corporate consulting revenue grew from $257,294 in 2011 to nearly $2.2 million in 2013. Much of that work is for a major defense firm, according to people with knowledge of the contracts who declined to speak publicly.

The fall in government grant revenue is attributed to a decline in work from the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment, a Defense Department organization that studies the future of war and reports directly to the defense secretary. Andrew Marshall led the secretive organization from 1973 until January. Over the years, many CSBA employees have had ties to the Net Assessment office. Krepinevich worked there near the end of his 21-year Army career, as did Jan van Tol, a retired Navy captain who is now a senior fellow at CSBA. About 40 percent of CSBA’s annual revenue had come from the Office of Net Assessment, the Washington Post reported in 2012.

The think tank, which has about 15 employees, had total revenue of just under $5.5 million in 2013. That year, Krepinevich earned $828,553 in salary and compensation, according to CSBA’s latest financial disclosure forms. Jim Thomas, the think tank’s vice president and director of studies, was its second-highest paid employee, earning $644,351 in salary and compensation.

Harrison, a former Air Force officer, is well-respected across the Pentagon’s comptroller workforce. He will join CSIS in September as the director of defense budget analysis and senior fellow in the International Security Program.

“I’ve really enjoyed working with my colleagues at CSBA for the past six years,” Harrison said in an email. “I’ve learned a lot from them that I will carry with me the rest of my career. And I’m excited to working with a great group of scholars at CSIS where I can continue to grow and learn.”

Numerous current and former senior Pentagon officials have worked for CSBA, including Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work and Mike Vickers, the undersecretary for intelligence who recently retired. Eric Edelman, a former undersecretary for policy in the George W. Bush administration is among several former Pentagon officials that currently do work for the think tank.

https://admin.govexec.com/media/gbc/docs/pdfs_edit/csba990_2.pdf

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