Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Committee on the Present Danger

Please note: IPS Right Web neither represents nor endorses any of the individuals or groups profiled on this site.

The Committee on the Present Danger (CPD) is a neoconservative pressure group that aims "to stiffen American resolve to confront the challenge presented by terrorism and the ideologies that drive it."[1] Re-launched in 2004 to focus on the “war on terror,” the CPD was initially created during the Cold War by foreign policy hawks who promoted confrontational ant-Soviet policies. Although many of its 100-plus members continue to publish and organize, particularly around the issue of Iran and its nuclear program, the group has been largely dormant for many years.

As of late 2014, the CPD’s homepage featured a document titled “JLENS: Defense for Warfighters and the Homeland,” which was reportedly published in October 2014 and authored Chet Nagle, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and a director of the CPD. The document argued that deployment in the United States of the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System (JLENS)—described as “the most advanced U.S. Army system to detect, identify, track and engage multiple hostile targets, including cruise missiles, aircraft, ships, small boats, and land vehicles”—is necessary to “defend the American homeland against cruise missiles launched from aircraft and commercial vessels.”[2]

ThenWashington Postreported on criticism of JLENS when it was announced the system would be deployed near Washington D.C. in late 2014. “JLENS aircraft have raised privacy concerns,in part because Raytheon, which developed the program for the Army, has tested the surveillance system’s ability to use powerful, high-altitude camerascapable of seeing people and vehicles from many miles away. Those tests took place at a military facility in Utah.” Responding to concerns from privacy groups, the Army issued a statement saying that the JLENS system deployed at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland will “absolutely, 100 percent” not have video cameras.[3]

The CPD homepage is also occasionally used to plug articles published in other venues by CPD members and affiliates. One article, written by CPT member Sol Sanders in November 2014, criticized adiplomatic efforts aimed at reaching a nuclear agreement with Iran, claiming: “it is hard to rationalize the past history of this fanatical Muslim regime’s secret nuclear efforts and any hope that it would abide by such an agreement, or, indeed, that UN or other surveillance would be more effective than in the past.”[4]

History and Track Record

CPD was first founded in 1950 to win public and congressional approval for a post-World War II remilitarization and troop deployment that helped initiate the Cold War. It was then reconstituted in 1976 by a group of Cold War hawks who opposed détente with the Soviet Union.

The the CPD's leadership is dominated by erstwhile Cold Warriors and leading neoconservatives. Reagan-era secretary of state George Shultz and Clinton-era CIA head James Woolsey are CPD's co-chairs. They are joined by two honorary co-chairs, the hawkish former senators Jon Kyl and Joseph Lieberman.[5]

Other notable members include Kenneth AdelmanIlan Berman, Rachel EhrenfeldFrank Gaffney, New Gingrich, Clifford MayDaniel Pipes, Norman Podhoretz, Randy Scheunemann, Akbar Atri, and Moshe Yaalon.[6] Jeane Kirkpatrick, a CPD member before her death in 2006, said the committee's members are largely "friends of mine," and that "a number of the people involved in it are also members of Freedom House," a neoconservative-linked human-rights organization on whose board of trustees Kirkpatrick once served.[7]

Much of CPD's work is rhetorical, attempting to cast the problem of Islamic terrorism as comparable to the erstwhile Soviet threat. "The CPD has returned to confront the new 'present danger'—militant Islamism and the terrorism that it is spawning," reads the group's mission statement. "Perverting one of the world’s great religions, militant Islamists seek to bend the world to their vision. They are eager to attack—indeed, to kill—anyone who stands in their way.  In the face of this global threat, which transcends state borders and recognizes no law, complacency and ignorance are as dangerous as military weakness."[8]

CPD has been adamant about casting the "war on terror" in ideological and religious terms. In a 2010 letter to President Obama posted on the group's website (its most recent publication as of 2013) CPD protested the administration's use of the term "violent extremism"—as opposed to " Islamic extremism"—in its National Security Strategy report. "This action contradicts the accepted military intelligence doctrine to properly identify, define, and know your enemy," read the letter. "The CPD believes that militant Islamic regimes and movements represent a serious threat to the United States and other free nations. If we are to meet this challenge, we must understand the beliefs and motivations of those who have dedicated themselves to what they call a 'jihad' against 'infidels' based on their reading of the Koran."[9]

CPD members were enthusiastic backers of the Iraq War and advocated maintaining a long-term U.S. troop presence there. "While drawing down U.S. troop strength can have positive benefits at home," read a 2007 CPD policy paper, "such a move at this time could be seen by insurgents and sectarian militia[s] as an invitation to increase their activity."[10] In a speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee that same year, Lieberman raised the stakes even further, declaring that a troop withdrawal would represent "a victory for Iran and Al Qaeda and the cause of Islamist extremism, and a catastrophic defeat for the United States and all who desire peace and security and freedom in the Middle East and here at home."[11]

CPD members have been similarly hawkish on Iran, frequently accusing Tehran of seeking to develop nuclear weapons—an assessment not shared by U.S. intelligence agencies. "There can be little doubt that if it manages to get the bomb, the Islamic Republic will receive a new lease on life, and dramatically greater regional reach," wrote Ilan Berman in a 2008 policy paper posted on CPD's website. "Simply acquiescing to such a turn of events should not be acceptable." Berman hinted that a military confrontation would be necessary, claiming that "at least one segment of the Iranian leadership is not seeking to avoid conflict with the West, but rather to precipitate one. And that demolishes the assumption that the U.S. can expect to successfully deter the Iranian regime under any conceivable conflict scenario."[12]

Reflecting its Cold War roots, the CPD has also advocated NATO expansion and hawkish weapons programs. In October 2009, for example, the CPD held a roundtable to criticize the Barack Obama administration’s approach to missile defense and promote re-funding of such defenses. The roundtable included the showing of a trailer of an alarmist Heritage Foundation video called 33 Minutes, which promoted a number of discredited and/or far-fetched threats—including the use of nuclear ballistic missiles by terrorists groups and the danger of an electromagnetic pulse attack.[13]


The third incarnation of the CPD was officially launched on July 20, 2004 during a press conference in Washington, DC.[14]The group had earlier been listed by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) as the cosponsor of a June 16, 2004 symposium on "Iraq's Future and the War on Terrorism." In a press release about the conference, FDD described the CPD as a "venerable Cold Warrior group, now in the process of being recreated." Since its beginnings, CPD has been closely interlinked with FDD. Clifford May, FDD's president, has directed CPD's policy committee. FDD board members Steve Forbes and, before his death, Jack Kemp were also CPD members. Three of FDD's "distinguished advisers"—Woolsey, Gingrich, and Lieberman—are also CPD members.

At the official launch, former CIA director Woolsey purported that the CPD aimed to combat what he called "a totalitarian movement masquerading as a religion." Repeating old neoconservative axioms, he said: "We understand very well that this time, the danger that we must address is a danger to the United States but also a danger to democracy and civil society throughout the world, and it is very much our hope to be of support and assistance to those who seek to bring democracy and civil society to the part of the world, the Middle East extended, to which this Islamist terror is now resonant in and generated from."[15]

Also speaking at the press conference, Lieberman said CPD's objective was "to form a bipartisan citizens' army, which is ready to fight a war of ideas against our Islamist terrorist enemies, and to send a clear signal that their strategy to deceive, demoralize, and divide America will not succeed."[16]

Accompanying the CPD's official launch were full-page ads in the New York Times, Washington Post, and Washington Times. On the same day, honorary co-chairs Lieberman and Kyl published an op-ed for the Washington Post titled "The Present Danger," which likened the war against terrorism to the Cold War. They wrote: "The September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks awoke all Americans to the capabilities and brutality of our new enemy, but today too many people are insufficiently aware of our enemy's evil worldwide designs, which include waging jihad against all Americans and reestablishing a totalitarian religious empire in the Middle East. The past struggle against communism differed in some ways from the current war against Islamist terrorism. But America's freedom and security, which each has aimed to undermine, are exactly the same.”[17]

Among Lieberman and Kyl's core concerns were the rising anti-war movement and the criticism of the war by the realists and traditional conservatives. "The leaders of the Democratic and Republican parties have so far stood firm in their commitment to finish the job in Iraq and to fight to victory the war on terrorism," they wrote. "But that bipartisan consensus is coming under growing public pressure and could fray in the months ahead. Although the tide is turning in the war on terrorism, a political undertow in this country could wash out our recent gains. We must not let this happen."[18]

"Despite the splashy media launch," observed Tom Barry, "CPD got off to a shaky official start. On its second day, CPD Managing Director Peter Hannaford was asked to resign from the board after complaints from the Anti-Defamation League and concerns from CPD members that Hannaford was registered as a lobbyist for the nativist Austrian Freedom Party, then headed by the right-wing nationalist Jörg Haider, who has spoken highly of the orderly practices of the Third Reich."[19]


Writing about the membership of CPD and its links to the 1970s version CPD, Jim Lobe of Inter Press Service observed: "A number of members of the new CPD, including [Max] Kampelman, Kemp, Kirkpatrick, [Joshua] Muravchik, Gaffney, and Woolsey himself, overlap with the membership of the advisory boards of the Likud-oriented Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), the Middle East Forum, or the U.S. Committee for a Free Lebanon. In addition, a husband-and-wife team who played key roles in the evolution of neoconservatism from the late 1960s to the present and who also were associated with both CDM [Coalition for the Democratic Majority] and CPD-2, former Commentary editor Norman Podhoretz and his spouse, Midge Decter (who co-chaired the Committee for the Free World with [Donald] Rumsfeld during the Reagan administration), have also joined the new CPD.”[20]

The original CPD, formed at the prodding of the State Department in the years after World War II, was a committee of prominent citizens—Democrats and Republicans—including presidents of universities, foundation directors, and corporate leaders who aimed to engender congressional and public support for the coming Cold War. It aimed to defuse postwar isolationist sentiment within the Republican Party and on the political left by raising fears of a communist incursion.[21]

The second CPD, in contrast, was formed by Democratic Party hawks in opposition to the increasing consensus in favor of détente and arms control agreements within government and among the leadership of both political parties. While it incorporated liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, the Scoop Jackson Democrats—who would later join the Reagan administration and identify themselves as neoconservatives—were the second CPD's driving ideological and operational force. Like its third incarnation, the second CPD was hawkishly “pro-Israel.”

The third and current CPD has a narrower political base than either of its predecessors, despite its best efforts to represent itself as nonpartisan. Although it has managed to incorporate some major political figures, such as George Shultz, this CPD has few real connections to corporate America, the leadership of either party, or such social sectors as labor, churches, or ethnic groups.

Share RightWeb

Please note: IPS Right Web neither represents nor endorses any of the individuals or groups profiled on this site.


[1] CPD, "Mission," http://www.committeeonthepresentdanger.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=50&Itemid=54.

[2] CPD, “JLENS: Defense for Warfighters and the Homeland,” http://www.committeeonthepresentdanger.org/index.php.

[3] Craig Timberg, “Army now says it won’t put cameras on surveillance aircraft in Maryland,” The Washington Post, September 3, 2014,http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2014/09/03/armys-eyes-in-the-sky-built-to-spot-people-from-5-kilometers-away/.

[4] Sol Sanders, “The Persian Thread,” The Committee on The Present Danger, http://www.committeeonthepresentdanger.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3286&catid=4&Itemid=91.

[5] CPD, "Our Team," http://www.committeeonthepresentdanger.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1744&Itemid=89.

[6] CPD, "Our Team," http://www.committeeonthepresentdanger.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1744&Itemid=89.

[7] James Kirchick, "Cold Warriors Return for War on Terrorism," The Hill, June 30, 2004.

[8] CPD, "Mission," http://www.committeeonthepresentdanger.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=50&Itemid=54.

[9] CPD, " COMMITTEE ON THE PRESENT DANGER URGES PRESIDENT OBAMA TO KEEP "ISLAMIC EXTREMISM" IN NATIONAL SECURITY STRATEGY," April 28, 2010, http://www.committeeonthepresentdanger.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2042&catid=4&Itemid=102.

[10] CPD, "Moving Forward in Iraq," July 11, 2007, http://committeeonthepresentdanger.org/Portals/4/Activity/Files/IRAQ%20policy%20paper-%2010%20Reccomendations.pdf.

[11] Joseph Lieberman, "A Speech to the AIPAC National Conference," CPD, March 12, 2007, http://www.committeeonthepresentdanger.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1749&catid=4&Itemid=101.

[12] Ilan Berman, " How To Think About The Iranian Bomb," Journal of International Security Affairs," Fall 2008,http://www.committeeonthepresentdanger.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=86&catid=4&Itemid=102.

[13] Heritage Foundation, 33 Minutes, http://33-minutes.com/33-minutes/.

[14] "Committee Borrows Old Name to Fight New Danger," CPD press release, July 20, 2004.

[15] Quoted by Tom Barry, " US: Danger, danger everywhere," Asia Times Online, June 23, 2006, http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Front_Page/HF23Aa01.html.

[16] Quoted by Tom Barry, " US: Danger, danger everywhere," Asia Times Online, June 23, 2006, http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Front_Page/HF23Aa01.html.

[17] Jon Kyl and Joe Lieberman, "The Present Danger," Washington Post, July 20, 2004, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A63067-2004Jul19.html.

[18] Jon Kyl and Joe Lieberman, "The Present Danger," Washington Post, July 20, 2004, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A63067-2004Jul19.html.

[19] Quoted by Tom Barry, " US: Danger, danger everywhere," Asia Times Online, June 23, 2006, http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Front_Page/HF23Aa01.html.

[20] Jim Lobe, "They're Back: Neocons Revive the Committee on the Present Danger, This Time against Terrorism," Foreign Policy In Focus, July 21, 2004.

[21] Jerry Sanders, Peddlers of Crisis: The Committee on the Present Danger, South End Press, 1983.

Share RightWeb

Committee on the Present Danger Résumé


Peter Hannaford

CPD Board Member

E-mail: commpresdanger@aol.com

Stephanie Robson

CPD Liaison

E-mail: Stephanie@committeeonthepresentdanger.org

Website: http://www.committeeonthepresentdanger.org/


2004 (with earlier incarnations in 1950 and 1974)

Mission (as of 2014)

"The Committee on the Present Danger is a non-partisan organization with one goal—to stiffen American resolve to confront the challenge presented by terrorism and the ideologies that drive it."

Board of Directors (as of 2014)

  • George P. Shultz, co-Chairman
  • R. James Woolsey, co-Chairman
  • Kenneth L. Adelman
  • Rachel Ehrenfeld
  • Peter Hannaford
  • Clifford May
  • William Van Cleave

Members (as of 2014)

  • Kenneth Adelman
  • Edmond Alphandery
  • Akbar Atri
  • Jose Maria Aznar
  • Morris Amitay
  • Michael Auslin
  • Zeyno Baran
  • Anne Bayefsky
  • Mark Benson
  • Ilan Berman
  • Walter Berns
  • Karna Small Bodman
  • William Brock
  • Peter Brookes
  • Gary Burkhart
  • Debra Burlingame
  • Henry Cooper
  • Jack David
  • Jacquelyn Davis
  • Midge Decter
  • Candace de Russy
  • Joseph diGenova
  • Mark Dubowitz
  • Rachel Ehrenfeld
  • Richard Fairbanks
  • Alvin Felzenberg
  • John Fonte
  • Steve Forbes
  • Gerald Frost
  • Frank Gaffney
  • Jeffrey Gayner
  • Jeffrey Gedmin
  • Farid Ghadry
  • Benjamin Gilman
  • Newt Gingrich
  • Lawrence Haas
  • Peter Hannaford
  • Victor Davis Hanson
  • Jerome Hauer
  • Amoretta Hoeber
  • Michael Horowitz
  • Peter Huessy
  • Saad Al-Din Ibrahim
  • Zuhdi Jasser
  • Kenneth Jensen
  • Avi Jorisch
  • John Joyce
  • Phyllis Kaminsky
  • Robert Kendall
  • John Kester
  • Robert Kogod
  • Anne Korin
  • Charles Kupperman
  • Robert Lieber
  • Gal Luft
  • Barton Marcois
  • Dana Marshall
  • Clifford May
  • Andrew McCarthy
  • Dave McCurdy
  • Robert McFarlane
  • Brett McGurk
  • Edwin Meese
  • Hedieh Mirahmadi
  • John Norton Moore
  • Joshua Muravchik
  • Laurie Mylorie
  • Chet Nagle
  • Kamal Nawash
  • Michael Novak
  • Mark Palmer
  • Robert Pfaltzgraff
  • James Phillips
  • Daniel Pipes
  • Danielle Pletka
  • Norman Podhoretz
  • David Pryce-Jones
  • Bruce Ramer
  • Samantha Ravich
  • Peter Rosenblatt
  • Nina Rosenwald
  • Nicholas Rostow
  • Edward Rowny
  • Sol Sonders
  • Pedro Sanjuan
  • George Sawyer
  • Jonathan Schanzer
  • Randy Scheunemann
  • Richard Schifter
  • Ken Schwartz
  • Peter Schweizer
  • Nina Shea
  • John Shenefield
  • Max Singer
  • Rob Sobhani
  • Jeffrey Stein
  • James Strock
  • Helen Szamuely
  • Raymond Tanter
  • Kenneth Timmerman
  • Victoria Toensing
  • Arnold Trebach
  • Robert Turner
  • Charles Walker
  • Ben Wattenberg
  • John Whitehead
  • Elie Wiesel
  • Michael Wildes
  • Richard Williamson
  • George Wittman
  • Francisco Wong-Diaz
  • Moshe Yaalon
  • Dov Zakheim


Committee on the Present Danger News Feed

Griffith: Clear and present danger in the mainland - Trinidad GuardianWA Legislators Are Wisely Trying to Repeal Faith-Healing Exemptions from the Law - PatheosLesbian feminist tells Tucker Carlson how transgenderism puts real women in danger - LifesiteDe-energize and DERs: The tough options wildfires pose for California utilities - Utility DiveA deeper look at proposed Minnesota gun legislation - Mesabi Daily NewsPOLITICO Playbook PM: Pence plans Venezuela trip to pressure Maduro - POLITICOTrump’s ‘national emergency’ plan reveals real crisis in America [Editorial] - Houston Chronicle Honda Confirms Plan to Leave Britain as Brexit Looms - The New York TimesSettlement mayor petitions elections committee against name of Gantz-Lapid united party - The Times of IsraelThe intelligence community understands the threats facing the nation. Does the president? - Hartford CourantLawmakers kill legislation to protect student journalists - Tacoma News TribuneThe Latest: China says dialogue only way to Venezuela peace - Seymour TribuneHouse Opens Inquiry Into Proposed U.S. Nuclear Venture in Saudi Arabia - The New York TimesFatalities from police chases climbing, could be higher than records indicate - McClatchy Washington BureauNorth Carolina panel says every school should have a police officer on campus - American School & UniversityDockless e-bikes could be coming to the City of London very soon - MyLondonTennessee bill would allow police, courts to remove a person's firearms and ammunition - nbc16.comRenewing the Fight For and Against Red Flag Legislation, Impact of Suicides - WestwordCardinal Mueller deserves a standing ovation for his Manifesto - Lifesite90 Progressive Leaders and 20,000+ Activists Ask Candidates: "Do You Support Our Populist 'Economic Agenda for Good Jobs, Sustainable Prosperity and Economic Justice?" - Common Dreams

Right Web is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

The Right Web Mission

Right Web tracks militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy.

For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

François Nicoullaud, the former French ambassador to Iran, discusses the ups and downs of Iran-France relations and the new US sanctions.

Effective alliances require that powerful states shoulder a far larger share of the alliance maintenance costs than other states, a premise that Donald Trump rejects.

The new imbroglio over the INF treaty does not mean a revival of the old Cold War practice of nuclear deterrence. However, it does reveal the inability of the West and Russia to find a way to deal with the latter’s inevitable return to the ranks of major powers, a need that was obvious even at the time the USSR collapsed.

As a presidential candidate, Donald Trump appeared to recognize the obvious problem of the revolving door. But as the appointment of Patrick Shanahan, who spent 30 years at Boeing, as the Trump administration’s acting secretary of defense reveals, little has changed. America is indeed great again, if you happen to be one of those lucky enough to be moving back and forth between plum jobs in the Pentagon and the weapons industry.

Domestic troubles, declining popularity, and a decidedly hawkish anti-Iran foreign policy team may combine to make the perfect storm that pushes Donald Trump to pull the United States into a new war in the Middle East.

The same calculus that brought Iran and world powers to make a deal and has led remaining JCPOA signatories to preserve it without the U.S. still holds: the alternatives to this agreement – a race between sanctions and centrifuges that could culminate in Iran obtaining the bomb or being bombed – would be much worse.

With Bolton and Pompeo by his side and Mattis departed, Trump may well go with his gut and attack Iran militarily. He’ll be encouraged in this delusion by Israel and Saudi Arabia. He’ll of course be looking for some way to distract the media and the American public. And he won’t care about the consequences.