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The National Institute for Public Policy (NIPP) is a Washington, D.C.-based think tank closely associated with defense contractors as well as a family of like-minded advocacy groups that promote militarist security policies. When it was founded in 1981, NIPP served as a home for classic Cold Warriors bent on developing “winnable” nuclear war strategies. More recently, the organization has focused on potential threats from regional and non-state actors, particularly those allegedly emerging in the Middle East.
A November 2011 NIPP report titled “The Looming Middle East Crisis and Missile Defense” combined long-standing NIPP agenda items, like promoting the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. security, with a more recent U.S. national security concern, Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program. The report, authored by NIPP director Keith Payne, argued that the Obama administration’s response to Iran’s nuclear program, including purportedly “backtracking” on nuclear deterrence while emphasizing conventional defenses and current missile defenses to deter Tehran, was contributing to the creation of a “security crisis” in the Middle East. To respond to this “crisis,” the report argued that U.S. “friends and allies” should work to boost their own missile defenses: “They would do well to look toward acquiring missile defenses. In many cases, offensive missiles now have a potentially ‘free-ride’ to their territories. Missile defense is not a silver bullet, but it can enhance security by reducing vulnerability to missile strikes and thereby devaluing opponents’ offensive missiles and WMD. Perfect defenses are not necessary to introduce important and deterring uncertainties into an enemy’s offensive attack plans. Iran in particular has few reliable delivery options beyond offensive missiles and helping to shut those down as reliable military instruments would be no small advantage.”
NIPP’s mission statement, as of 2012, read: “The international environment is changing rapidly. The collapse of the Soviet empire and the rise of new, potentially hostile regional powers have transformed the strategic landscape for the United States. The static, bipolar Cold War model of international behaviour no longer holds, and the basic assumptions behind decades of U.S. foreign and defense policy need drastic rethinking. The National Institute for Public Policy devotes its agenda to assessing U.S. foreign and defense policies in this new environment.”
NIPP’s staff and advisory board have included a number of individuals with backgrounds in defense industry and right-wing advocacy. Professional staff as of March 2012 included: Keith Payne, NIPP’s president; Kathleen Bailey; Robert Joseph, an arms control official in the George W. Bush State Department; Kurt Guthe, a veteran of the notorious Deterrence Concepts Advisory Panel, set up during the George W. Bush’s first term; and Colin Gray, former director of National Security Studies at the neoconservative Hudson Institute.
Advisory board members as of March 2012 included: Henry Cooper, a defense industry executive and former head of the Pentagon’s missile defense organization; William R. Graham, head of the Bush-era EMP Commission and former executive of several defense contractors; Charles Kupperman, a former Lockheed Martin vice president who has also advised militarist pressure groups like the Center for Security Policy and the Committee on the Present Danger; retired Lieutenant General William Odom, a project director at the neoconservative Hudson Institute; and William Van Cleave, a U.S. arms control advisor since the 1970s when he worked on the Team B Strategic Objectives Panel and an advisor to a number of groups closely associated with Israel’s right-wing Likud Party, including the Ariel Center and the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies.
Despite the numerous apparent conflicts of interest between NIPP’s policy objectives and its staff and board, NIPP has grown to become a key go-to group for opinion and analysis on U.S. security policies. Initially devoted to pushing “Star Wars” missile defense ideas and producing nuclear war strategies that could theoretically guarantee a U.S. “victory” over the Soviet Union, NIPP has gradually evolved to take on apparent new threats, many of which were initially promoted by neoconservative groups like the Project for the New American Century after the demise of the Soviet threat, including regional adversaries and conflicts in the Middle East and Asia (see Right Web Profile: 1992 draft Defense Planning Guidance).
Two of NIPP’s founding figures, Colin Gray and Keith Payne, made their debut in a 1980 Foreign Policy article titled "Victory is Possible." The authors argued that the "United States must possess the ability to wage nuclear war rationally" and that "the West needs to devise ways in which it can employ strategic nuclear forces coercively, while minimizing the potentially paralyzing impact of self-deterrence." Both authors left the conservative Hudson Institute to join the then newly created National Institute for Public Policy (NIPP) in 1981. Along with figures like Albert Wohlstetter, a key early influence of many first-generation neoconservatives, Gray and Payne helped shaped Ronald Reagan's early thinking about nuclear weapons strategy.
In 2001, in anticipation of a review of U.S. nuclear posture by the incoming Bush administration, NIPP’s Payne led a team of right-wing writers and advisors who produced the controversial study “Rationale and Requirements for Nuclear Forces and Arms Control,” which served as a blueprint for the Bush administration's own Nuclear Posture Review in 2002.
The NIPP study claimed that U.S. security threats had become unknown and unpredictable and that, as a result, the United States had to not only maintain its nuclear arsenal, but also design and build new bombs. Additionally, according to the World Policy Institute, “The report asserts that conventional weapons are inadequate replacements for nuclear weapons because they do not have the same 'destructive power.' As a solution the report recommends the development of 'low-yield, precision-guided nuclear weapons'–in other words, a nuclear weapon the U.S. can actually use. The NIPP panel frowns on arms control treaties because 'U.S. policymakers today cannot know the strategic environment of 2005, let alone 2010 or 2020. There is no basis for expecting that the conditions that may permit deep nuclear reductions today will continue in the future.'"
The study team that produced the report included several figures who went on to serve in the George W. Bush administration, including: Stephen Hadley and Stephen Cambone, both of whom helped oversee Bush’s nuclear posture review; Robert Joseph, who oversaw counter-proliferation strategy at the National Security Council and later replaced John Bolton as the State Department’s top arms control official; and Kurt Guthe, Linton Brooks, James Woolsey, and Keith Payne, all of whom served on Bush’s Deterrence Concepts Advisory Pane.
Since the election of President Barack Obama, NIPP writers have helped spearhead criticism of the administration’s efforts to reform nuclear strategies and missile defense policies. Payne has published a series of op-eds criticizing President Obama’s arms control successes (like negotiating a new START agreement with Russia) and warning that Obama’s desire to eliminate nuclear weapons—which Ronald Reagan shared—was putting the country in grave danger.
NIPP’s Robert Joseph has also been a high-profile critic of Obama’s efforts to reform U.S. strategic policies. He has repeatedly accused the administration of being weak on defense, especially with respect to nuclear policies and missile defense. In September 2009, for example, Joseph criticized the administration’s decision to shift the focus of missile defense from continental “Star Wars” type defenses—which many independent experts have argued are expansive, unworkable projects that would ultimately decrease U.S. security—to focusing on containing potential regional threats from Iran in the Middle East and Europe. Despite the limited range of Iran’s missiles, Joseph suggested that Iran could threaten the United States, telling the New York Times, “Iran has already demonstrated it has the capability to develop long-range missiles. They have both the capability and intention to move forward.”
In May 2010, Joseph added his voice to a right-wing backlash against the new START agreement, a bilateral U.S.-Russian treaty that builds on efforts to limit warheads and delivery devices. In a 2010 op-ed for the right-wing National Review that he cowrote with Eric Edelman, Joseph urged the Senate to be cautious about the new treaty, arguing that it could limit missile defense and diminish the ability to field other strategic weapons systems. This claim, which was repeated by a number of conservative foreign policy pundits, has been vigorously rejected by many arms control specialists, who have pointed out that the new treaty places no limitations on missile defense.
During FY 2007, NIPP had net operating expenses of nearly $4 million. NIPP attracts funding from various right-wing foundations and enjoys an array of ties to military contractors, nuclear weapons laboratories, defense department officials, and other right-wing institutes. NIPP has acknowledged that its "research and educational program is supported by government, corporate, and private foundation grants and contracts." However, details of most corporate funding are not readily available.
According to Mediatransparency.com, during 1985-2007, NIPP received more than $4 million from a handful of conservative foundations, including Carthage, Earhart, Olin, Bradley, Sarah Scaife, and Smith Richardson (see http://mediamattersaction.org/transparency/).
During Bill Clinton's last year in the White House, Smith Richardson provided NIPP with several major grants to explore deployment of missile defense systems and advocate ending the ABM Treaty, both policies that the George W. Bush administration pursued. Smith Richardson funding enabled Douglas Feith, a former lawyer for Northrop Grumman who became notorious for his work as undersecretary of defense for policy in the Donald Rumsfeld Pentagon, to co-direct a NIPP conference on the legal status of the ABM Treaty in relation to "current missile defense diplomacy." For the NIPP study “Rationale and Requirements for Nuclear Forces and Arms Control,” Smith Richardson Foundation provided $300,000 and then granted NIPP another $50,000 to publicize the report. Another Smith Richardson grant financed a NIPP contract with Max Kampelman to lead an effort to develop a bilateral consensus with Russia on accepting missile defense and ending the ABM Treaty.
 Keith Payne, “The Looming Middle East Crisis and Missile Defense,” NIPP, November 2011, http://www.nipp.org/Publication/Downloads/Downloads%202011/Middle%20East%20Security%2011.11.pdf.
 Colin S. Gray and Keith Payne, “Victory is Possible,” Foreign Policy, Summer 1980, available at http://home.earthlink.net/~platter/articles/80-summer-payne.html
 See, for example, Ronald Reagan, "Address to the Nation on Defense and National Security, March 23, 1983,http://web.archive.org/web/20050306031516/http://www.reagan.utexas.edu/resource/speeches/1983/32383d.htm.
 NIPP, "Rationale and Requirements for U.S. Nuclear Forces, Volume 1," National Institute for Public Policy, January 2001,http://www.nipp.org/National%20Institute%20Press/Archives/Publication%20Archive%20PDF/volume%201%20complete.pdf.
 Michelle Ciarrocca and William D. Hartung,Axis Of Influence: Behind the Bush Administration's Missile Defense Revival, World Policy Institute, July 2002,http://web.archive.org/web/20070808095652/http://www.worldpolicy.org/projects/arms/reports/axisofinfluence.html
 Keith Payne, "The START Treaty," Pittsburgh Tribune Revew, January 31, 2010 ; Keith Payne, "Disarmament Danger," National Review, April 7, 2010.
 David Sanger and William Broad, “New Missile Shield Strategy Scales Back Reagan’s Vision,” New York Times, September 17, 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/18/world/europe/18assess.html.
 Guidestar.org, NIPP profile, http://www2.guidestar.org/organizations/54-1192424/national-institute-public-policy.aspx.