Amid the flurry of reports about the Trump administration and Russia – largely innuendo that has yielded no documented connections between the two sides – it may be instrumental to review the largely unknown history of how President Obama’s administration adopted defense budget recommendations co-authored by the Institute for Policy Studies, a radical organization known for its close associations with the Soviets during the Cold War.
In fact, throughout the Cold War, the Institute for Policy Studies, or IPS, was repeatedly accused of holding pro-Soviet positions that undermined U.S. national security and serving as a de facto Soviet propaganda institution.
Yet that same group co-authored and contributed to an annual report titled “Unified Security Budget for the United States,” an extensive yearly list of U.S. military defense spending recommendations compiled by progressive think tanks. The report seeks to re-balance the Defense Department to “strengthen our capacity to prevent and resolve conflict by non-military means,” according to one IPS description of the report.
A 2011 report on the IPS’s taskforce for the “Unified Security Budget” reveals how previous Unified reports influenced Obama administration defense proposals:
The Unified Security Budget project has contributed to this debate by outlining a set of cuts in unneeded military programs that formed the core of a proposal by the Sustainable Defense Task Force for $1 trillion in cuts over 10 years. A majority, though not a supermajority, of the members of the President’s Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform adopted the annualized figure of $100 billion, and many of the recommendations from this proposal.
The IPS’s influence over Obama administration military proposals remains largely unreported except for previous investigations by this reporter.
The annual Unified Security Budget was co-authored several times by the Center for American Progress, which was founded by John Podesta, who served as counselor to President Obama and later chairman of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign.
A sampling of the IPS’s defense spending recommending can be seen in its 2012 “Unified Security Budget” report.
That extensive report was previously summarized by this reporter:
The 2012 budget, reviewed in full by (this reporter), called on Obama to use the U.S. Armed Forces in part to combat “global warming,” fight global poverty, remedy “injustice,” bolster the United Nations and increase “peacekeeping” forces worldwide.
The budget called for massive, second-term slashes to the military budget. The savings are to be used to invest in “sustainable energy” and in fighting worldwide climate change.
The report makes clear the stated objective of transforming the U.S. Armed Forces to stress conflict resolution and diplomacy.
The report takes issue with the use of forces on the ground in various countries to secure or influence the longer-term strategic position of other nations.
It recommends scaling back all U.S. ground forces by 20 percent and reducing the Navy’s surface fleet by 20 percent, including two carriers and carrier combat air wings. It also calls for reducing the Air Force by two combat air wings while cutting standing peacetime overseas deployments in Europe and East Asia by up to 50,000 troops at a time.
The budget’s authors strongly argue for the reduction of the U.S. nuclear arsenal to no more than 292 deployed nuclear weapons and the complete elimination of the Trident II nuclear missile. It’s a process Obama already initiated in April 2010 when he signed a deal with Russia reducing stocks of weapons-grade plutonium.
The report further recommended the U.S. cease all missile defense development, among other cut backs.
Here is more of my previous summary:
The report goes through a list of current missile defense programs, including Ground-based Midcourse Defense, Airborne Laser, Kinetic Energy Interceptors and a number of others, pushing for all programs to be cut.
“It is unwise to fund more advanced systems for missile defense while current ones have yet to be proven effective against their targeted threats,” complains the report.
The military’s vital Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation program is to be cut by $10 billion across the board.
Next on the chopping block is the complete cancellation of the second SSN-744 Virginia Class submarine. While the Unified Security Budget describes the new model as “unnecessary to address any of the threats facing the United States today” and “a weapon looking for an enemy,” the SSN-774 is designed for covert collection of intelligence, transportation of special operations teams and launching of tactical Tomahawk missiles – flexible capabilities tailored to rapid responses required by the 21st-century’s conflicts with irregular combatants.
Similarly targeted for cancellation are the V-22 Osprey helicopter and the Navy and Marine Corps versions of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
A closer look at IPS, which influenced Obama administration policy, is warranted.
The organization was founded in 1963 by former government workers Marcus Raskin and Richard Barnet, both of whom were known for their ties to pro-Soviet groups and activism on behalf of communist regimes.
Discover the Networks relates that after the group was founded, “IPS headquarters quickly became a resource center for national reporters and a place for KGB agents from the nearby Soviet embassy to convene and strategize.”
Indeed, Ladislav Bittman, a former KGB agent, claimed in his book, The KGB and Soviet Disinformation: An Insider’s View that the IPS worked as a de facto Soviet disinformation operation.
Harvey Klehr, professor of politics and history at Emory University, documented the close links between the IPS and Soviet ideology in his 1988 book, Far Left of Center: The American Radical Left Today.
During the Cold War, IPS fellows “consistently maintained that the Soviet threat is largely non-existent and a product of the military-industrial complex in the United States,” he wrote. Just like their 2009 defense budget recommendations, the IPS during the Cold War pressed for the U.S. to “dangerously” downsize its military, Klehr related.
This view encouraged the IPS to demand dangerously steep cuts in American defense efforts and to claim that they would represent no danger to American security. At the request of fifty-six congressmen, IPS made a study of the federal budget in 1977. In addition to recommendations for a socialist housing program and health system, and altering capitalist control over the educational system, the IPS suggested a fifty percent cut in defense spending, an end to the American role in the Middle East, and withdrawal from NATO.
Klehr further documented numerous IPS links to alleged Soviet front groups.
IPS signed an agreement in 1982 with the Soviet’s Institute of the USA and Canada, headed by Georgiy Arbatov, for exchanges on peace and disarmament. Since then IPS has sponsored an annual meeting of American experts and Soviet officials. Although portrayed by the Soviets as an “independent” semi-academic “think tank,” the Institute of the USA and Canada has been widely identified as an instrument of Soviet foreign policy influence.
Located in Moscow, the IUSAC is nominally under the direction of the Soviet Academy of Sciences. In practice, however, it operates under the direction of the International Department of the Soviet Communist Party Central Committee. According to the testimony of John McMahon, then deputy director of Central Intelligence (during the House Selected Committee on Intelligence Hearings on Soviet Active Measures in 1982), the International Department “directs Western dialogue activities of Soviet organizations such as the USA-Canada Institute” with a view toward influencing Western perceptions of peace and disarmament.
In his book, Shadow World: Resurgent Russia, The Global New Left, and Radical Islam, author Robert Chandler further documents FBI memos describing the IPS as a pro-Soviet nerve center.
The FBI produced thousands of documents on IPS’s activities. Some are available to the public through the Freedom of Information Act. The FBI withheld hundreds of documents. The documents collected by the FBI described IPS as a Washington-based “Think Factory,” which “helped train extremists who incite violence in the United States and whose educational research serves as a cover for intrigue and political agitation” (FBI file 175-398) or “the Rand Corporation of the Left,” and “IPS apparently exercises considerable influence in the New Left Movement and may have as its goal the destruction of the United States Government.”
In this context, the mainstream media described the IPS in the 1970s and 1980s as follows: Wall Street Journal – “A funnel for disinformation,” Forbes – “A radical Washington propaganda mill,” National Review – “The perfect intellectual front for Soviet activities which would be resisted if they were to originate openly from the KGB.”
This reporter previously documented the Cold War-era anti-CIA activities of the IPS.
The IPS has been implicated in anti-CIA activity. The Center for Security Studies was a 1974 IPS spin-off and strove to compromise the effectiveness of U.S. intelligence agencies, according to Discover the Networks.
The mastheads of two anti-FBI and anti-CIA publications, Counterspy and the Covert Action Information Bulletin, were heavy with IPS members.
Further, the group’s former director, Robert Borosage, penned a book shortly out of college attacking the CIA and ran the so-called CIA watchdog, Center for National Security Studies.
The group has been particularly concerned with researching U.S. defense industries and arms sales policies.