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Gordon Adams

Former Fellow


    September 1, 2006 — May 1, 2007

    Professional affiliation

    Professor of the Practice of International Affairs, Elliott School of International Affairs, The George Washington University

    Wilson Center Projects

    "Buying National Security: Transforming the U.S. Resource Planning Process"

    Full Biography

    Throughout much of my career I have focused on the ways in which policy, institutions, and resource planning mesh in the field of national security. My work originally began in an academic environment, with a focus on Europe and the emergence of trans-European and trans-Atlantic institutions concerned with national security policies, procurement, and industry relations. That interest turned to a concern with the way the United States government buys national security. Initially, my focus was the procurement practices of the Defense Department and the close relationship between government, the Congress and the defense industry (the "iron triangle") in the defense procurement process, which led to a landmark study published in 1981.I came to Washington, D.C. in 1983 and established a think tank focusing on defense budgeting (the Defense Budget Project), which later became the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment. The Project became one of the leading centers for defense budget research in the capital, and continues to be today. After ten years, I did a five-year tour in government as the White House's senior national security budget official at the Office of Management and Budget. There my interest and education in resource planning expanded to include foreign policy, foreign assistance, and intelligence budgets, in addition to my responsibilities for defense budgets. The national security associate director at OMB is one of the few officials in government who brings together all of these elements of the national security portfolio in one office. After nearly two years in London, where I focused on global and trans-Atlantic defense industry and policy issues, I returned to the U.S. as Director of Security Policy Studies at the Elliott School of International Affairs, The George Washington University. There I continued my concern with the broad agenda of national security policy and resource planning, expanding one of the nation's leading security studies programs and introducing the first ever course on the totality of national security budgeting. It is through that teaching and research, and a growing awareness that the national security resource planning processes in the U.S. government are not operating effectively, that this project has emerged. It will be the first such study to focus on the full range of national security resource planning processes, from foreign policy and assistance, to defense, to intelligence, to homeland security. Each of these budgetary stovepipes is flawed or broken today and, together, they do not effectively confront the cross-cutting agenda of national and global security. The text and case studies that emerge through this project will hopefully make an important contribution to reforming the national security resource planning system.


    B.A. (1963) Political Science, Stanford University; Diploma (1964) College of Europe, Bruges, Belgium; M.A. (1966) Political Science and European Studies, Columbia University; Ph.D. (1970) Political Science, Columbia University


    Defense Budget,Homeland Security,Intelligence,International Security,U.S. Foreign Policy


    • Visiting Professor and Professor of the Practice of International Affairs, Director of Security Policy Studies, Elliott School of International Affairs, The George Washington University, 1999-2006
    • Deputy Director, International Institute for Strategic Studies, London, 1998-99
    • Associate Director for National Security and International Affairs, Office of Management and Budget, Washington, D.C., 1993-97
    • Director, Defense Budget Project, Washington, D.C., 1983-93
    • Director of Military Research, Council on Economic Priorities, New York, 1976-82
    • Assistant Professor of Political Science, Columbia University, 1970-72








    National security policy, policymaking, and resource planning; trans-atlantic defense policy and industry relations

    Major Publications

    • Transforming European Militaries: Coalition Operations and the Technology Gap (with Guy Ben-Ari), (London: Routledge Press, 2006)
    • The Role of Defense Budgets in Civil Military Relations (Washington, D.C.: Defense Budget Project, 1992)
    • The Iron Triangle: The Politics of Defense Contracting (New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Press, 1981)