Turning Point

A New Comprehensive Strategy for Countering Violent Extremism NOVEMBER 14, 2016

The CSIS Commission on Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) was formed to develop a comprehensive and actionable blueprint on how to effectively combat the growing appeal of violent extremism within the United States and abroad. Specifically, the Commission considered what the next U.S. administration must do, in close collaboration with governmental and nongovernmental partners, to diminish the appeal of extremist ideologies and narratives.

This bipartisan Commission was composed of 23 public- and private-sector leaders from technology companies, civil society, the faith community, and academia. Since its public launch in February 2016, the Commission met six times and consulted with more than a hundred experts and practitioners throughout the United States, Europe, South Asia, Southeast Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. 

The Commission’s consultations were augmented by extensive research and a survey conducted in China, Egypt, France, India, Indonesia, Turkey, United Kingdom, and the United States. 

This report is the culmination of the Commission’s deliberations. It outlines a comprehensive strategy for the incoming U.S. president, combining bolstered investments in soft power alongside sustained military and law enforcement efforts, strong and steady U.S. leadership, and an expansion of public-private partnerships to scale up proven CVE interventions.

The CVE Commission and this report were made possible by generous support from founding member Mark Penn, as well as from Fred Khosravi.

This interactive report is an abbreviated version of the full report.

3 Men standing by fallen buildings

Executive Summary

The United States lost nearly 3,000 lives in the devastating terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. On that day, a problem that had been slowly festering and barely noticed in the West broke onto the world stage in a forceful and heart-wrenching way.

Those events and many that would follow have prompted trillions of dollars to be poured into military, law enforcement, and intelligence operations. Yet the problem of violent extremism has grown more severe and urgent. Despite the many efforts to extinguish the flames of violence, new and powerful extremist movements have taken root. Terrorist groups around the world have used technology, the media, religious schools and mosques, and word of mouth to sell their twisted ideologies, justify their violence, and convince too many recruits that glory can be found in the mass murder of innocent civilians.

Comments from Leon Panetta

Former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency and Former Secretary of Defense
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The spread of extremist ideologies and increasingly frequent terrorist attacks are stoking anxiety and fear across the globe. According to a survey conducted by the Commission, people are willing to try just about anything to stop the bloodshed: from military action to stronger border controls and mandatory identification cards to relinquishing privacy and accepting constraints on speech. The increasing potency and reach of terrorist groups—and a sense that governments’ response to the threat has been inadequate—is creating deep political divisions and fueling support for populist solutions.

There are no easy solutions to this problem. Neither troops nor police nor economic sanctions alone can address this threat. We cannot close our borders and hope that the problem goes away. And we cannot abandon our commitment to human rights and freedom of expression in an attempt to quell violent extremism.

Diminishing the appeal of extremist ideologies will require a long-term, generational struggle. The United States and its allies must combat extremists’ hostile and apocalyptic world view with the same level of commitment that we apply to dealing with its violent manifestations. We urgently need a new comprehensive strategy for countering violent extremism—one that is resolute, rests in soft and hard power, and galvanizes key allies and partners from government, civil society, and the private sector.

It is time for the U.S. government and its allies to go all in to prevent the radicalization and recruitment of a whole new generation. This is a problem that affects everyone. All segments of society must pull together to defeat this global scourge. Yet, they should not have to do so alone. The U.S. government, its allies, especially from Muslim-majority countries, and the private sector have an essential role to play—providing leadership, political support, funding, and expertise.

The Commission’s goal was to clearly articulate what the next U.S. administration, in close collaboration with governmental and nongovernmental partners, must do to diminish the appeal of extremist ideologies and narratives. The plan has eight major components:

  1. Strengthening resistance to extremist ideologies: The international community must forge a new global partnership around education reform to stop the teaching of extremist ideologies in schools. At the same time, we must redouble efforts to enhance respect for religious diversity, stem the spread of intolerance, and reinforce community resilience to extremist narratives.
  2. Investing in community-led prevention: Governments should enable civil society efforts to detect and disrupt radicalization and recruitment, and rehabilitate and reintegrate those who have succumbed to extremist ideologies and narratives. Community and civic leaders are at the forefront of challenging violent extremism but they require much greater funding, support, and encouragement.
  3. Saturating the global marketplace of ideas: Technology companies, the entertainment industry, community leaders, religious voices, and others must be enlisted more systematically to compete with and overtake extremists’ narratives in virtual and real spaces. It is the responsibility of all citizens to rebut extremists’ ideas, wherever they are gaining traction.
  4. Aligning policies and values: The United States should put human rights at the center of CVE, ensuring that its engagement with domestic and foreign actors advances the rule of law, dignity, and accountability. In particular, the U.S. government should review its security assistance to foreign partners to certify that it is being used in just and sustainable ways.
  5. Deploying military and law enforcement tools: The international community needs to build a new force capability and coalition to quickly dislodge terrorist groups that control territory, avert and respond to immediate threats, weaken violent extremists’ projection of strength, and protect our security and the security of our allies and partners.
  6. Exerting White House leadership: The next administration should establish a new institutional structure, headed by a White House assistant to the president, to oversee all CVE efforts and provide clear direction and accountability for results. The Commission finds that strong and steady executive leadership is essential to elevating and harmonizing domestic and international CVE efforts.
  7. Expanding CVE models: The United States and its allies and partners urgently need to enlarge the CVE ecosystem, creating flexible platforms for funding, implementing, and replicating proven efforts to address the ideologies, narratives, and manifestations of violent extremism.
  8. Surging funding: The U.S. government should demonstrate its commitment to tackling violent extremism by pledging $1 billion annually to CVE efforts, domestically and internationally. These resources are meant to catalyze a surge in investment from other governments, the private sector, and philanthropic community.

We can change the course of this threat. Doing so will require aligning all of these pieces into a comprehensive strategy and investing in CVE programs, partnerships, and policies at scale and over the next decade or more.

Blair speaks at a Commission meeting

Letter From the Cochairs

Tony Blair and Leon Panetta

Throughout both of our careers, we have personally witnessed the devastation wrought by violent extremism. The cost measures not only in the lives lost, but also in the profound toll it has taken on our sense of security, societal cohesion, and international norms and values. Since September 11, 2001, efforts to combat terrorism have been far-reaching and mostly effective in preventing another large-scale, complex attack. Yet, terrorist groups continue to gain strength and spread to new corners of the globe, threatening to derail an entire generation of Muslim youth and destabilize every country on earth.

Current approaches are insufficient to cope with this intensifying threat. We urgently need a new paradigm—one that recognizes violent extremism as the global, generational challenge that it is and leverages all tools available to defeat it. In this fight, military and law enforcement solutions are essential. We will need to continue to take terrorists off the battlefield, disrupt plots, and safeguard our borders. But we will never eradicate the violence caused by these groups until we defeat their ideologies.

We must be clear-eyed about the nature of the enemy. This Commission focused on terrorist organizations that claim the religion of Islam as their motivating source and to justify their nefarious goals. Due to their perversion of Islam and their targeting of Muslims as both recruits and victims, a peaceful and honorable religion is under attack. This is an ideological threat that requires a confident and robust response from the West and our Muslim allies. We also need civil society and the private sector to step up and challenge extremist narratives. The United States must lead but cannot face this challenge alone.

We are at a turning point. Continuing to address extremist ideologies sporadically and on the cheap guarantees that terrorist attacks—and the related bloodshed—will continue indefinitely. To defeat the scourge of violent extremism, the United States and its allies need a new comprehensive strategy that has weight, is capable of building the right alliances, and can be a practical guide for policymakers. This report offers such a strategy, so that nations, faiths, and cultures can live in peace and stability with each other, and so that our citizens can live free from the fear of terrorism that has taken the lives of so many innocents.

Soldier standing in open door way


Fifteen years after September 11, 2001, violent extremism has spread, gained favor among a new generation, and now casts an ever-larger shadow over the globe. From all corners of Africa to Europe, from the Caucasus to South and East Asia, from North to South America, the threat of violent extremism continues to evolve in real and virtual spaces, enticing thousands of recruits and inciting the sympathies of many more. 

Terrorist Incidents 2012 - 2015 

Source: National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START). Global Terrorism Database. Retrieved here 
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The repercussions of violent extremism are acute and wide-ranging. Humanitarian crises, persecution of human rights defenders, destruction of sacred historical and cultural sites, threats to religious diversity, eradication of educational and development gains, and fear and insecurity in communities are all exacerbated by the spread of extremist ideologies. Today’s catastrophic global refugee and migrant crisis—resulting in an unprecedented 65 million people displaced—has largely been driven by state violence alongside the rise of ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Violent extremists are even altering the political landscape and erasing national borders, and in so doing, destroying evidence of people, history, and cultures.

The Nature of the Threat


A major political fault line for CVE has been what to call the threat we are facing. Some argue vociferously for using language like “radical Islamic extremism” to describe the phenomenon and its connection to Islam. Others argue equally passionately that a lexicon that uses Islamic terms is deeply problematic because it can cause confusion; alienate critical partners and allies; reduce complex religious concepts to narrow, typically negative associations with violence; and lend support to terrorists’ claims to legitimacy. 

Terrorist Incidents in 2015 

 Source: National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START). Global Terrorism Database. Retrieved here 


Hover over each point to view the number of terrorism incidents per country in 2015.

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In determining what language to use throughout this report, the Commission was guided by three principles: 1) the need to be explicit about the nature of the enemy and ideologies we are confronting at home and abroad; 2) the need to appeal to partners who are instrumental in advancing our common goals; and 3) the need to ensure that we do not reinforce narratives put forth by our adversaries. 

Therefore, throughout this report, we use the general term “violent extremism” to refer to the subset of violent extremist organizations that claim the religion of Islam as their motivating source and to justify their nefarious goals, and the term “extremist” to describe the ideologies and narratives deployed by these groups. Although there is great diversity among such violent extremist groups, the general features of their ideologies include:

  • A willingness to use force and violence to return society to “a pure form” of Islam and create their version of an ideal global community;
  • Declaring Muslims who do not share this vision as “unbelievers,” subject to torture or death;
  • Appropriating Islamic texts, teachings, and traditions to justify their rule and support their narratives; and
  • Selectively using theology to legitimize violence and compel “true believers” to target their governments, Western powers, and even civilians.

The Commission focused its analysis and recommendations on this form of violent extremism as it presents the most immediate transnational and national security threat to the United States, its allies, and communities across the globe. Groups like ISIS, al Qaeda, Boko Haram, the Taliban, and others are unique in their global ambition: they seek to reshape borders; define the identity and beliefs of Muslims around the world; undermine international values; and normalize abhorrent behavior like human slavery, rape, and wanton violence against civilians. In pursuit of these goals, violent extremists specifically target Muslims to fill their ranks and incite conflict around the world. 

Violent Extremism Presents a Growing Global Threat 

Source: Views From Around the Globe | Countering Violent Extremism 


Overall, around two-thirds see violent extremism as being a major problem in their country.

The Commission noted that these terrorist organizations do not operate in a vacuum—they derive strength and momentum from other extremist groups, including on the right and the left. Thus, while focusing on groups that claim to represent or draw inspiration from Islam, this report offers broader recommendations for addressing growing intolerance and hatred.

The Need for a New Comprehensive Strategy

The United States and its allies have devoted massive human and financial resources to bolstering security and countering terrorism since September 11. These measures have made us safer in some respects. For example, it is more difficult for terrorists to get into the United States and, if they do, harder for them to pull off a complex attack. However, as long as individuals throughout the world are attracted to violent extremist groups and the revolutionary ideologies they espouse, we will not achieve lasting security.

We need a new comprehensive strategy to address the ideological battle with vigor, unity of effort, and persistence over the next generation. Such a strategy must focus on significantly reducing the number of people worldwide who are drawn to and recruited by violent extremist organizations and ensuring that such groups and their ideologies cannot gain purchase in the United States and around the globe.

Success will require undermining the appeal and legitimacy of extremist narratives and offering meaningful alternatives to young people so they do not turn to violent extremist movements to find the meaning, belonging, and dignity they seek. This strategy must leverage soft and hard power approaches proportionally and enable the international community to address extremist ideologies and their manifestations directly, consistently, and at scale—outpacing the efforts of violent extremists. By necessity, such an effort must appeal across the political spectrum and attract diverse allies and partners from civil society, the philanthropy community, and the private sector. And it must engender strong leadership from Muslim countries and communities, the vast majority of whom have no sympathy for ISIS, al Qaeda, or any other terrorist organization.

Comments from Jesse Morton 

Research Fellow at George Washington University’s Program on Extremism
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In this report, the Commission offers such a comprehensive strategy, incorporating lessons learned over the past decade and aligning all of the programs, policies, and capabilities that will be needed to transform the conditions and mindset that nourish violent extremist groups. This strategy is based on the following principles:

  • Go all in. The United States and its allies must build an around-the-clock operation to confront violent extremism, with the right personnel, financial support, and accountability structures. To date, CVE has been ad hoc and undervalued compared to the military, law enforcement, and intelligence aspects of the fight. We must significantly increase the resources and attention dedicated to challenging extremists’ narratives and creating new pathways for those vulnerable to radicalization and recruitment. 
  • Take a global approach. The threat of violent extremism can be found throughout the world. ISIS is the most recent and brutal manifestation of the problem—but certainly not the last if we do not change course. Even as it focuses on destroying ISIS in Syria and Iraq, the international community must keep pressure on other terrorist groups, including al Qaeda, Boko Haram, Hezbollah, and al Shabaab, which continue to execute devastating attacks. However, combating existing terrorist organizations is not sufficient. We must address the spread of extremist ideologies to Africa, Europe, South and Southeast Asia, the Caucuses, Russia, and elsewhere to prevent terrorist groups from regenerating in new forms. 
  • Forge dynamic partnerships. The nature of the enemy—decentralized, globalized, committed, and crowdsourced—requires intensive and adaptable partnerships between and among governments, the private sector, and civil society. This demands more than sporadic engagements and pilot programs, which have dominated the last decade and a half. Instead, it requires harnessing the talent, expertise, and ingenuity that exist outside of government. 
  • Embrace experimentation. Although we have learned a great deal about how and why extremist ideologies are appealing, terrorists’ tactics are constantly evolving. Therefore, rather than searching for a single solution, we must flood the zone with alternative narratives and ideas, allowing the strongest to win. Programs will not always be successful, but we must encourage calculated risk-taking and innovation, and make a more concerted effort to learn from practitioners’ successes and failures. Such an approach requires careful monitoring to ensure that the process is not captured by proponents of the very ideologies that we are trying to defeat. 
  • Avoid reactions that play into violent extremists’ hands. Terrorism thrives on a disproportionate response to perceived and real threats. ISIS, for example, has an explicit aim of creating rifts between governments and their people, as well as between Muslims and non-Muslims in Western countries. Attacks provoke fear and often lead to a rise in anti-Muslim sentiment, which terrorist recruiters then exploit. A former al Qaeda recruiter in the United States explained, “radicals and recruiters love Islamophobia. It drives recruitment.” In the face of this dynamic, it is important for governments to avoid rhetoric and responses that estrange Muslim communities. In the United States, such an approach would necessitate redoubling efforts to engage with Muslim communities and address their concerns about stigmatization, surveillance, entrapment, and hate crimes. Abroad, this tenet would require the United States to convince its partners to shun counterterrorism approaches that alienate Muslim communities.  
Man looking over destroyed city

Defining the Problem

The unique challenges and opportunities facing Muslim youth, who are growing up immersed in social media in the post-September 11 world, make them a particular target for violent extremist recruiters. There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world today—a number that is expected to grow to nearly 2.8 billion in 2050. This increase is due to the youthful nature of the global Muslim population and fertility rates that exceed the world’s average. In the Middle East and South Asia, nearly two-thirds of the population is younger than 30 and increasing rapidly. 

While the vast majority of Muslim youth are peaceful and hopeful, tectonic cultural, political, and social changes—brought on by September 11 and its aftermath, globalization, the erosion of traditional societies and influencers, the rapid evolution of technology, widespread displacement, and urban migration—have created an opening for violent extremists to shape their world view. These dynamics are expected to transform the trajectory of Muslim-majority and non-Muslim majority countries over the next few decades. If we fail to act, we could lose an entire generation and see communities and countries ripped apart. However, with concerted action and resources behind the strategy proposed in this report, we can dramatically reduce the appeal of extremist ideologies and enable youth to harness their immense potential, advancing prosperity, innovation, and peace within their societies.

Motivations and Drivers

Nearly 15 years of research has shed light on why some people are attracted to violent extremism while others are not. Experts have identified intersecting “push” and “pull” factors often operating within fragile, oppressive, or conflicted-affected environments that help to explain this phenomenon. Structural conditions, including real and perceived marginalization, grievances, and experiences of injustice or corruption, may push individuals into joining a violent extremist organization, while radical recruitment narratives, propaganda, and social ties to extremist networks work to pull them in. Psychological factors, such as impulsive, thrill-seeking behavior or a desire to exact revenge or right perceived wrongs, are also thought to play a role in the radicalization process.

Comments from Farah Pandith

Former Special Representative to Muslim Communities and Adjunct Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations
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Unfortunately, radicalization models cannot predict who will become a terrorist. There is no single pathway into terrorism and no archetypal violent extremist. Violent extremists are not simply marginalized misfits. They are no more likely to suffer from mental illness than the average person. Many are married and have children. Contrary to popular perceptions, violent extremists are often well-off, employed, and educated. Nor is violent extremism simply rooted in religious devotion. Religious fluency, in fact, can help individuals challenge extremist ideas and narratives. 

Comments from Scott Atran 

Directeur de Recherche, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and Founding Fellow, Centre for the Resolution of Intractable Conflict, University of Oxford
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In spite of the diversity of paths that may lead a person to take up the banner of violent extremism, there does appear to be a common thread. Throughout the world, many Muslim millennials suffer from a profound identity crisis. From Boston to Paris, Nairobi to Dhaka, young Muslims are struggling to find purpose and belonging and overcome an unshakable sense of emptiness or “otherness.” Joining a violent extremist movement is, for many, an aspirational social act – an opportunity to gain power, prestige, and status; to address the abuses suffered by their co-religionists; or to participate in a utopian effort to remake the world. 

Recruitment Process

Charismatic recruiters fuse local grievances, both real and perceived, with emotion to fill their ranks. Recruitment tends to proceed in two phases.
 First, they cast a wide net, using general grievance narratives to attract sympathizers and potential supporters. Then, local and online recruiters methodically monitor what potential sympathizers are saying in their social circles and online, evaluate their economic opportunities, and assess their mental state, looking for some weakness to exploit.

Comments from Imam Magid 

 Imam, All Dulles Area Muslim Society and Chairman, International Interfaith Peace Corps
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Former extremists interviewed by the Commission emphasized the importance of making a human connection when recruiting. Individuals rarely graduate from passively consuming propaganda to active support without direct engagement from a third party. Recruiters provide the personal touch, showering potential recruits with attention and supplying critical information about how to contribute to the extremist cause.

Evidence suggests that recruiters are more successful when they have strong social, familial, or business ties with their target. Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, and al Shabaab have long relied on personal connections to facilitate recruitment. Indeed, social ties and personal relationships may help explain why some extremists cross into violence while others do not. For instance, one study estimates that peer-to-peer recruiting accounts for more than 80 percent of ISIS recruits.

Bar chart on Divergent Perceptions of the causes of Violent Extremism

Social media is not the cause of violent extremism, then, but a powerful amplifier and accelerant. Digital platforms and increased access to smart phones and internet connectivity help facilitate radicalization and recruitment. According to CIA director John Brennan, the internet provides violent extremist groups with tools to “coordinate operations, attract new recruits, disseminate propaganda and inspire sympathizers across the globe.” Violent extremists’ exploitation of digital platforms allows would-be terrorists to seek inspiration and information online—and rally around a terrorist group as a brand, an idea, or a methodology—without ever leaving their homes. The widespread use of social media has also made violent extremists’ plans more difficult to disrupt. Security agencies have to track a much larger number of potential plotters, giving terrorists more space to plan large, complex operations against a higher background level of activity.

Assessing Efforts to Date

The multifaceted nature and scope of violent extremism today presents a profound challenge to current strategies. Extremist ideas threaten to draw in an entire generation that is exasperated with the status quo and seeks to change it—through revolutionary or violent means if necessary. Developing an effective response requires that we first appreciate the conceptual, organizational, and resource shortcomings that have hindered CVE endeavors to date.

Conceptual Challenges

Successive U.S. administrations, foreign governments, and other actors have devoted considerable resources trying to understand and respond to violent extremism. From the beginning, these efforts have been stymied by a host of conceptual challenges:

  • U.S. policymakers have severely underestimated the allure of violent extremism, which has constrained the allocation of funding and manpower to deal with it. 
  • Successive U.S. administrations have failed to provide leadership and vision for addressing the ideological dimension of the threat.
  • The U.S. government has struggled with how to tackle an ideology that “hides” within Islam without getting entangled in issues of religious interpretation or alienating Muslims.
  • U.S. policymakers have viewed violent extremism as either a phenomenon contained to the Middle East or to a specific group, rather than the global, generational struggle that it is today.
  • Government actors have tended to separate domestic and international CVE efforts, although in the era of social media, ideology clearly does not recognize borders.
  • Proponents and practitioners of CVE are not unified in their efforts. There is no consensus on the basic parameters or goals for the field—how to define CVE, or violent extremism for that matter; how to target, sequence, and calibrate efforts; whether and how to synchronize CVE initiatives with intelligence, military, and law enforcement efforts; and how to measure success.
  • Researchers are still seeking definitive answers regarding the radicalization process, the most salient drivers and how those drivers interact with each other and the environment in which radicalization occurs, and the most effective strategies for breaking the cycle of radicalization and recruitment.
  • Civil society actors are unclear about whether violent extremism is primarily a military and law enforcement challenge—to which they have little to contribute—or a social, political, and economic problem.

Persistent controversy has hindered CVE efforts, particularly in the United States, obscuring the original purpose of moving away from a purely securitized approach and focusing on prevention. In large part because law enforcement agencies have led domestic CVE efforts, many Muslim activists in the United States perceive CVE as a cover for counterterrorism operations. They argue that it has resulted in securitizing their relationship with the government, stigmatizing entire communities, and coaxing youth into committing criminal acts that they would not have without external influence.

Comments from Rabia Chaudry 

Jennings Randolph Senior Fellow at the United States Institute of Peace
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Globally, there is momentum behind a broad, developmental approach to prevent violent extremism. The UN Secretary General’s Plan of Action on Preventing Violent Extremism epitomizes this thinking, offering a comprehensive approach for addressing the underlying conditions that make individuals vulnerable to radicalization and recruitment. Yet, it too has its critics. Human rights groups have expressed concern that it risks securitizing and contaminating development and peacebuilding efforts and suggests that governments’ human rights obligations are subordinate to CVE. Academics and practitioners have argued that taking such an expansive approach will not result in a decline in support for violent extremist groups, as it conflates many different types of threats and responses. Some foreign governments, particularly those in the Middle East, have complained that CVE efforts ignore the impact of U.S. and Western foreign policy and military action on support for violent extremism. Finally, civil society actors have criticized the U.S. government’s inconsistency in speaking out about the backsliding, hypocrisy, and abuses of corrupt regimes, who are often counterterrorism partners.

As a result of this polarization, many key actors, including the private sector, philanthropic community, nongovernmental organizations, religious leaders, pop culture icons, and others have failed to mobilize around CVE the way they have to address other major global crises like climate change, HIV/AIDS, or trafficking in persons. 

Organizational and Funding Challenges

Political leaders often speak of their commitment to “win the battle of ideas,” particularly after high-profile attacks, but no consensus has emerged on the strategies, resources, tools, and partnerships needed to effectively counter extremist ideologies and narratives. The following organizational, operational, and funding challenges have hindered a coherent response:

  • Coordination within government. To date, U.S. government efforts to deal with violent extremism have been fragmented. There has been insufficient coordination across government silos—international and domestic, civilian and military, law enforcement and social service delivery. As a result, efforts to respond to the array of challenges facing Muslim communities in the United States or align diplomatic, development, and strategic communications initiatives overseas have suffered. The creation of the interagency CVE Task Force—hosted by DHS with overall leadership provided by DHS and the Department of Justice (DOJ) —and the Bureau of Counterterrorism and Countering Violent Extremism at the Department of State to coordinate CVE efforts domestically and internationally, respectively, are steps in the right direction. However, public diplomacy and messaging efforts led by the Global Engagement Center fall outside both of these structures. Even more problematically, responsibility at the National Security Council (NSC) is diffuse and unclear. There are currently three separate directorates at the NSC, in additional to other regional and functional directorates, that are responsible for some aspect of CVE, and they report to different deputy national security advisers. Unified leadership and commitment starting at the White House is needed to leverage all relevant assets and enhance accountability for results. 
  • International cooperation with other governments. Many of our partners and allies have pioneered promising CVE efforts in their own countries, including on the emerging challenge of deradicalizing, rehabilitating, and reintegrating fighters that are returning from conflict zones or those whose prison sentences for terrorism-related crimes are coming to an end. While we are still seeking to evaluate the impact of these programs, the U.S. government can and should benefit from their experiences. There are several forums for information sharing, notably the Global Counterterrorism Forum (GCTF), which brings together experts and practitioners from around the world to share expertise and develop tools and strategies on combatting terrorism. Through its CVE Working Group, GCTF is also supporting the development of national CVE action plans. However, the exchange of best practices has been sporadic and is often at too senior of a level to sustain and benefit those actually responsible for implementing CVE policies or programs. In addition, these forums do not typically focus on stemming the spread of extremist ideologies and narratives. The United States needs to strengthen mechanisms for collaboration, at multiple levels, with key allies throughout the world, specifically geared toward reducing the appeal of violent extremism.
  • Collaboration with nongovernmental partners. There is incredible room for innovative partnerships to counter violent extremism and its manifestations; this is because CVE and preventive efforts require engagement with a broad range of stakeholders. However, to date, public-private partnerships and private-private partnerships have been characterized by ad hoc or hastily assembled coalitions. Technology sector representatives, entertainment industry executives, and civil society leaders complain of erratic outreach, broad statements of interest in collaboration with few concrete asks, and little follow-through from U.S. government officials. Developing meaningful, sustainable, long-term partnerships will require rebuilding trust between the government and partner communities and better defining the scope of collaboration. 
  • Measurement. Political leaders and congressional appropriators have largely focused on the issues that can be measured. The number of terrorists killed or the number of troops deployed fit into metrics that more easily satisfy government oversight bodies. Accountability and results are important. However, the old dictum of “what gets measured gets done” can unfortunately distort the kinds of interventions implemented. Long-term efforts to stop cycles of radicalization and recruitment resist quantification, requiring greater patience and more creative ways of assessing attitude and behavioral changes over time. 
  • Funding. Despite the rhetorical commitment to preventing and countering violent extremism over the past decade, programmatic resources for the effort have failed to materialize. Within the U.S. government, the Office of Community Partnerships at DHS, charged with liaising with and supporting the work of local partners, has a mere $10 million in FY 2016 for grant programs and roughly $3 million for staffing and other operational expenses. This in comparison to the $2 billion that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) spent in FY 2016 on counterterrorism investigations alone or the $7.3 billion at the TSA’s disposal in FY 2016. 

The resources available for international efforts are similarly lacking. Although precise figures are hard to come by given the definitional challenges mentioned earlier, State and USAID had roughly $100 million to $150 million in FY 2016 for CVE programming and staffing. The administration requested $187 million for international CVE efforts in its FY 2017 budget (nearly double the FY 2015 request), although convincing Congress of the merits of investing in preventative efforts remains an uphill battle. Even marshaling the resources to fully respond to the humanitarian fallout from Syria has been difficult. The United States has contributed $5.9 billion to support Syrian refugees and internally displaced persons since 2011—and that barely scratches the surface of the need. In contrast, the United States spends over $50 billion annually on intelligence efforts and nearly $60 billion a year for defense activities related to combatting terrorism.

All told, U.S. expenditures for “soft power” initiatives to confront extremist ideologies, domestically and abroad, total roughly 1/10th of 1 percent of the resources dedicated to military, law enforcement, and intelligence efforts to combat terrorism.

Outside of the U.S. government, the picture is equally bleak. Attempts to get the private sector and foundations to fund CVE have been very disappointing, largely because of concerns about working on issues linked to counterterrorism and being perceived as agents of the U.S. government. Some companies and foundations are stepping up to support local efforts, and the technology sector has piloted several promising initiatives to combat hate speech with positive speech. Yet, significant funding shortfalls severely restrict the ability of credible community and civil society actors to mobilize against violent extremists and confront them with the flexibility, consistency, and strength required.

People holding up signs

Comprehensive Strategy

Strengthen Resistance to Extremist Ideologies

Violent extremists seek to impose their vision of religion and governance on society, by force if necessary. For over a generation, private donors in the Gulf and elsewhere have contributed to the spread of extremist ideologies by funding mosques, schools, and various types of media that reject local religious, cultural, social, or political customs or understandings that contradict their own. In addition to fueling sectarianism and violence in the Middle East and North Africa, we see the influence of these ideologies in settings as diverse as North America, South and Southeast Asia, Central Asia, Europe, the Horn of Africa, and the Sahel. 

To strengthen societal and individual resistance to extremist ideologies, the United States and its allies should:

Stem the export of extremist ideologies. Financial support for extremist ideologues and groups must be curtailed, without jeopardizing funds to legitimate, peaceful civil society organizations.

Inculcate respect for diversity and tolerance. The United States and its allies must work together to ensure that education systems and materials do not contribute to the intolerant attitudes, “us versus them” narratives, and prejudices that fuel violent extremism.
Reinforce local resilience. Communities and individuals that are able to resolve conflicts peacefully, have a strong group identity or sense of self, and have opportunities to interact with each other positively are better able to resist extremist entreaties. These protective factors should be reinforced.

Addressing Violent Extremism Requires a Comprehensive Approach 

Source: Views From Around the Globe | Countering Violent Extremism 
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Invest in Community-Led Prevention

Historically, efforts to counter extremist ideologies and narratives have been reactive. Rather than anticipating emerging threats, appropriate resources and expertise are often deployed after the fact. The public health field offers some important lessons for breaking this reactive cycle. A public health-based approach to CVE would entail detecting and interrupting a behavior before it becomes dangerous and spreads, changing the thinking of those most at risk, and, in time, reshaping the social norms that exacerbate those risks.

Comments from Mossarat Qadeem 

Founder and Director of the PAIMAN Alumni Trust
Remote Visualization

To invest in community-led prevention, the United States and its allies must:

  • Build trust among key communities and potential partners. The United States and its allies need to build bridges with a wide range of grassroots actors and invest in relationship-building and ongoing communication.
  • Improve detection and referral.  Systematizing the identification of local warning signs, raising awareness, and intervening before extremist ideologies spread is vital to a more effective strategy. 
  • Raise awareness about radicalization and recruitment.  Within the United States, the government should work with civil society and the private sector to expand community awareness programs and organize safe spaces for parents, students, and teachers to learn about how terrorists radicalize and recruit youth, on and offline.
  • Increase investment in intervention, rehabilitation, and reintegration efforts in frontline communities. Long-term, flexible investments in community-level responses are essential to preventing radicalization and recruitment and reintegrating those who succumb to extremist narratives. 


Saturate the Global Marketplace of Ideas

Violent extremists have thrived by coopting local grievances and conflicts and grafting them onto a universal narrative of “us versus them.” ISIS, for example, has succeeded at recruiting foreign fighters because it crafted tailored messages that resonated with its target audiences and provided a simple, affirmative solution for whatever ailed them – “join us and help build an ideal society where you will always belong.” Similarly, al Qaeda offered a narrative of empowerment, an opportunity to strike back at “foreign aggressors.” To protect youth from being radicalized, we must not only ensure they understand how and why violent extremists are targeting them, but also disrupt recruiters’ efforts to make these linkages. It is not enough to merely counter these messages. We have to put our own affirmative vision forward, amplifying many different kinds of ideas and voices.


Bar chart on Violent Extremism Deserves Greater Attention

To saturate the global marketplace of ideas, the United States and its allies must:

  • Reboot strategic communications efforts. The United States and its allies need to fundamentally rethink the scale and delivery of “counternarratives.” Strategic communications efforts will not be effective if messages are designed from foreign capitals, detached from reality, reactive, or solely focused on what we are against. Rather, narratives must be organic, embedded in local peer networks, delivered by credible messengers, and articulate a positive vision for society.
  • Engage the private sector to produce and deliver compelling narratives across media platforms.  The storytelling and technical know-how of leading technology and digital media companies, when paired with local knowledge and perspectives, can professionalize and amplify efforts to promote alternative narratives.
  • Create alternative opportunities for young people to achieve meaning and status. Helping youth channel their energy and passion in a positive direction is essential for decreasing the potency of extremist ideologies and narratives. 


Comments from Naif Al-Mutawa 

 Clinical Psychologist and Creator of THE 99
Remote Visualization

Align Policies and Values

The most compelling message violent extremists can deploy against the United States and its allies is the charge of hypocrisy. When the United States abandons bedrock principles, such as keeping suspected terrorists indefinitely detained at Guantanamo Bay or torturing prisoners at Abu Ghraib, we not only undermine our own credibility, but also supply violent extremists with fodder for their narratives. We must do better. The Commission acknowledges that foreign policy is often driven by pragmatic requirements and that there are occasionally competing priorities that cannot be easily reconciled. Yet, that is no excuse for the United States not to press its allies and partners to take meaningful steps to improve respect for human rights.

Comments from Shannon N. Green

Senior Fellow and Director, CSIS Human Rights Initiative
Remote Visualization

To better align policies with values, the United States and its allies must:

  • Prioritize rule of law and human rights. We must elevate strengthening the rule of law, stemming corruption, and addressing injustice as part of a long-term investment in undermining support for violent extremism.
  • Resolve tensions between counterterrorism objectives and human rights. Too often, human rights concerns are subordinated to other foreign policy priorities, including the need for counterterrorism cooperation. These tradeoffs should be minimized to avoid charges of U.S. hypocrisy that feed extremists’ propaganda. 
  • Protect and enlarge civic space as a foreign policy priority.  Civil society — and citizens’ voices — must be protected in order to address the grievances and narratives that drive radicalization and recruitment. 


Comments from Sanam Naraghi 

Co-Founder and Executive Director of ICAN
Remote Visualization

Deploy Military and Law Enforcement Tools

Preventing the radicalization and recruitment of young people and dealing with the physical manifestations of extremist ideologies will require mobilizing all elements of national and international power, including military and law enforcement tools. While the Commission believes that CVE must be kept separate from counterterrorism in terms of the tactics, agencies, and actors involved, an effective strategy will require soft and hard power operating at scale and in tandem.

Comments from Andrew Shearer 

Senior Adviser on Asia-Pacific Security, CSIS
Remote Visualization

To effectively deploy military and law enforcement tools as part of a comprehensive strategy, the United States and its allies must:

  • Utilize counterterrorism tools as part of a broader political and diplomatic strategy. The United States and its allies will need to continue to conduct military and law enforcement operations to avert and respond to immediate terrorist threats, dislodge extremist groups that control territory, assist and support other nations engaged in the fight against terrorism, and discredit terrorists’ assertions of invincibility and momentum. 
  • Strengthen counterterrorism capabilities.  The United States should deepen partnerships with frontline states and strengthen its own and its partners’ operational capabilities to address today’s global terrorist threats. 
  • Build rapid response teams. Militaries and law enforcement agencies should use their unique assets and training to protect civilian populations and important religious, cultural and historical sites at risk from violent extremist groups. 
Photo of  The White House


A strategy—no matter how comprehensive—is destined to fail without the right implementation plan. Operationalizing this strategy will require: empowered and qualified leadership and personnel; devoted budgets; and much greater coordination within the U.S. government, among domestic and foreign affairs agencies, civilian and military authorities, and law enforcement and social service delivery officials. It will also hinge on the ability to massively increase flexible funding for civil society groups and community actors operating in the United States and abroad. 

The Commission recommends a new institutional structure for CVE, headed by an assistant to the president based in the NSC. S/he would be situated between and working closely with the assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism and the deputy national security adviser. This person would be responsible for managing the execution of the comprehensive strategy for CVE and be held accountable for producing results.

Comments from Juan Zarate

Former Deputy National Security Adviser for Combatting Terrorism and Senior Adviser, CSIS 
Remote Visualization

Under this new position, the Commission recommends a tripartite leadership structure. The CVE Task Force should remain the domestic policy lead to leverage the coordination mechanisms it recently established. To make this arrangement sustainable, the task force should be given permanent office space, dedicated personnel, and a line-item budget to fund its operational costs. The international policy lead should continue to be the State Department Bureau for CT and CVE, as it has the policy influence and relationships needed to drive CVE efforts overseas. 

Image of Proposed U.S. Organizational Structure for CVE

Expanding the Ecosystem for CVE

Governments cannot and should not be the main face of CVE efforts. The private sector and civil society have tremendous contributions to make, if given sufficient resources, guidance, and backing. For the past 15 years, the U.S. government has seeded a variety of networks and initiatives—from Generation Change, a global network of young leaders building community resilience and cohesiveness, to Peer-to-Peer: Challenging Violent Extremism, an effort to enlist technology-savvy university students in developing strategic messaging campaigns. It is time to build on these efforts and ensure that U.S. investment into existing programs and people is reinvigorated. There is no need to reinvent the wheel—we must be aware of all of the tools at our disposal and use them to the best of our ability.

Funding CVE

Counterterrorism budget

Implementing this vision will require approximately $1 billion from the U.S. government on an annual basis. While that is a huge figure—and a significant increase for CVE funding—it is orders of magnitude less than the trillions required in military and law enforcement spending and the billions needed for humanitarian aid if violent extremist groups are able to gain traction. This number is the least amount required to scale up CVE efforts to match the seriousness of the threat and catalyze further investment. The United States cannot do this alone, but this commitment is the first step in the right direction.

A guy talking maybe at a panel

About the Commission


Tony Blair

Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

Tony Blair served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1997 to 2007. Since leaving office he has spent most of his time on work in the Middle East, in Africa and on the fight against religiously-based extremism. The Tony Blair Faith Foundation and its Centre on Religion and Geopolitics track extremism across the world, providing thought leadership and education programs to counter extremist ideology.

Leon Panetta

Former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency and Former Secretary of Defense 

A U.S. Congressman for 16 years, Leon E. Panetta was named Director of the Office of Management and Budget for the Clinton Administration in 1993 and then Chief of Staff to the President. Later, as Director of the CIA, he oversaw the operation that brought Osama bin Laden to justice. Named Secretary of Defense in 2011, Secretary Panetta led the effort to develop a new defense strategy, conducted critical counterterrorism operations, strengthened U.S. alliances, and opened up opportunities for everyone to serve in the military.

Senior Advisers and Commissioners 

Farah Pandith

Former Special Representative to Muslim Communities and Adjunct Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations

A diplomatic entrepreneur and foreign policy strategist, Farah Pandith is a member of Secretary Jeh Johnson’s Homeland Security Advisory Council, an Adjunct Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, and a Senior Fellow at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. As a political appointee in the George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, and Barack H. Obama administrations, she has served in positions at the National Security Council, U.S. Agency for International Development and U.S. Department of State, most recently as the first-ever Special Representative to Muslim Communities. A CVE pioneer and author, she has traveled to nearly 100 countries and launched global youth-focused initiatives and networks to counter violent extremism and continues to do so from outside government most notably co-founding Halcyon, an innovative global organization dedicated to mobilizing youth against extremist ideologies.

Juan Zarate

Former Deputy National Security Adviser for Combatting Terrorism and Senior Adviser, CSIS 

The Honorable Juan Zarate is a Senior Adviser at CSIS, the Chairman and Co-Founder of the Financial Integrity Network (FIN), and the Chairman and Senior Counselor for the Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance (CSIF) at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Mr. Zarate also serves as the Senior National Security Analyst for NBC News and MSNBC and is a Visiting Lecturer of Law at the Harvard Law School. Mr. Zarate served as the Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Combating Terrorism from 2005 to 2009, was the first-ever Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes, and is a former federal prosecutor. Mr. Zarate sits on several boards, including the Vatican's Financial Information Authority, and is the author of multiple publications, including his most recent book, Treasury's War: The Unleashing of a New Era of Financial Warfare (2013).


Ahmed Abbadi

Secretary General, Mohammadian League of Scholars, Morocco

Dr. Ahmad Abaddi is Secretary General of the Mohammadian League of Religious Scholars (Rabita Mohammadia des Oulémas). He was a professor of Islamic studies, comparative history of religions, tafsir, and Islamic thought at the Faculty of Arts and Humanities in Marrakesh, and a professor of sociology of North Africa in the program of cooperation between Cadi Ayyad University and the University of De Paul in Chicago. Dr. Abaddi has been appointed to a number of councils in Morocco including the Economic, Social and Environmental Council, the National Council for Human Rights, and the Higher Council for Education.

Scott Atran

Directeur de Recherche, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and Founding Fellow, Centre for the Resolution of Intractable Conflict, University of Oxford

Professor Scott Atran is Senior Research Fellow, Harris Manchester College, University of Oxford and Co-Founder of ARTIS Research and of the Centre for the Resolution of Intractable Conflict at Oxford. He is tenured as Research Director in Anthropology at France’s National Center for Scientific Research, Institut Jean Nicod-Ecole Normale Supérieure, in Paris. He also holds positions as Research Professor of Public Policy and Psychology, University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, and currently serves as a member of the UN Security Council Advisory Board on Youth, Peace, and Security.

Monika Bickert

Head of Product Policy and Counterterrorism, Facebook

Monika Bickert is Facebook’s head of product policy and counterterrorism. Bickert joined Facebook in 2012 as lead security counsel, advising the company on matters including child safety and data security. She was a formal federal prosecutor with the U.S. Department of Justice for over a decade.

Ambassador (ret.) Nicholas Burns

Professor, Harvard Kennedy School

Nicholas Burns is Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Relations at the Harvard Kennedy School. He serves on Secretary of State John Kerry's Foreign Policy Advisory Board. In a long diplomatic career, he was U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, U.S. Ambassador to NATO and to Greece, and State Department Spokesman. He also served on the National Security Council staff for Presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush.

Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg

Chairman, Spitzberg Partners, LLC; Distinguished Statesman, CSIS; and Former Minister of Defense of Germany

Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg served as German Federal Minister of Defense and as Federal Minister of Economics and Technology in the cabinet of Chancellor Angela Merkel. As Minister of Defense, he led the most significant structural reform of the German armed forces since the Bundeswehr’s founding in 1955. Baron zu Guttenberg is a Distinguished Statesman at CSIS as well as Chairman and Founder of Spitzberg Partners, an international advisory and investment firm that focuses on new technologies and geopolitics.

Stephen Hadley

Former National Security Adviser and Chairman, United States Institute of Peace

Stephen J. Hadley is a principal of RiceHadleyGates LLC, an international strategic consulting firm founded with Condoleezza Rice, Robert Gates, and Anja Manuel. Mr. Hadley is also Board Chairman of the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), and executive vice chair of the Board of the Atlantic Council. Mr. Hadley served for four years as the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs from 2005 - 2009. From 2001 to 2005, Mr. Hadley was the Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor, serving under then National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice.

Sherman Jackson

King Faisal Chair of Islamic Thought and Culture, University of Southern California

Sherman Jackson is the King Faisal Chair in Islamic Thought and Culture and Professor of Religion and American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California and an Adjunct Scholar and a Member of the Board of Advisors at ISPU. He is the author of a plethora of books, including Islam and the Blackamerican, the Boundaries of Theological Tolerance in Islam, and Islamic Law and the State: The Constitutional Jurisprudence of Shihab al-Din al-Qarafi. 

Fred Khosravi

Co-Founder and Partner, Incept, LLC and Board Member, CSIS 

Fred Khosravi is the Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Incept, LLC, a health sciences and medical technology development company. Mr. Khosravi is a Silicon Valley medical device entrepreneur who has, over the last 25 years, pioneered development of life-saving technologies such as stents and angioplasty devices for coronary artery interventions, minimally invasive implantable heart valves, and life-improving technologies such as intraocular lenses for treatment of cataracts. A co-founder of 14 medical companies, Mr. Khosravi also held senior management positions in large medical device companies such as Guidant Corporation (now part of Abbott), Boston Scientific Corp, and Alcon Surgical Corp and is the author or coauthor on over 160 issued or filed patent applications, involving unique and novel medical devices.

Nancy Lindborg

President, United States Institute of Peace  

Nancy Lindborg has served since February 2015 as President of the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), an independent institution founded by Congress to provide practical solutions for preventing and resolving violent conflict around the world. Prior to joining USIP, she served as the assistant administrator for the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance (DCHA) at USAID. From 2010 through early 2015, Ms. Lindborg led USAID teams focused on building resilience and democracy, managing and mitigating conflict and providing urgent humanitarian assistance. 

Mohamed Magid

Imam, All Dulles Area Muslim Society and Chairman, International Interfaith Peace Corps

Imam Mohamed Hagmagid is the Executive Director of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS), the Chairperson of the International Interfaith Peace Corp (IIPC), and the former President of the largest Muslim organization in North America, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). Imam Magid has a long history of commitment to public service through organizations such as The Peaceful Families Project, Annual Twinning of Mosques and Synagogues, Fairfax Faith Communities in Action, Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington Assembly and the Buxton Interfaith Initiative. He also has extensive experience in public health advocacy, development, countering violent extremism, and peace building in West Africa.

Martha Minow

Morgan and Helen Chu Dean and Professor, Harvard Law School

Martha Minow, the Morgan and Helen Chu Dean and Professor of Law, has taught at Harvard Law School since 1981, where her courses include civil procedure, constitutional law, family law, international criminal justice, jurisprudence, law and education, nonprofit organizations, and the public law workshop. She served on the Independent International Commission Kosovo and helped to launch Imagine Co-existence, a program of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, to promote peaceful development in post-conflict societies. 

Vali Nasr

Dean and Professor, Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies

Dr. Vali Nasr is Dean and Professor at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies. He is a Middle East scholar, foreign policy adviser, and commentator on international relations. He is the author of The Dispensable Nation: American Foreign Policy in Retreat and The Shia Revival. He served as a Special Adviser to the President’s Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan from 2009 to 2011.

Mark Penn

President and Managing Partner, The Stagwell Group

Mark Penn served as White House Pollster to President Bill Clinton for 6 years and was a key adviser in his 1996 reelection and second term in office. Mr. Penn also served as Chief Strategist to Hillary Clinton during her Senate campaigns and her 2008 Presidential run. He was also Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer at Microsoft, where he was responsible for working on core strategic issues across Microsoft’s products, value propositions, and investments and leading the company’s competitive research and analysis, and is the author of the best-selling book, Microtrends. 

Dina Powell

Head of Global Impact Investing, Goldman Sachs, and Former Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs and Deputy Undersecretary of State for Public Affairs and Public Diplomacy

Dina Powell is head of Goldman Sachs’ Impact Investing business and president of the Goldman Sachs Foundation. She also serves as global head of the Office of Corporate Engagement and is a member of the Partnership Committee. Ms. Powell joined Goldman Sachs as a managing director in 2007 and was named partner in 2010. Prior to joining Goldman Sachs, she had an exemplary career in government, serving as Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs and Deputy Undersecretary of Public Affairs and Public Diplomacy. Ms. Powell also served as a member of the senior staff of the White House as Assistant to the President for Presidential Personnel.

Jane Rosenthal

Executive Chair of Tribeca Enterprises and Co-Founder of the Tribeca Film Festival and the Tribeca Film Institute 

Jane Rosenthal is Executive Chair of the multi-platform media company Tribeca Enterprises, which operates a diverse network of branded entertainment businesses, including the Tribeca Film Festival, Tribeca Studios, and Tribeca Film Festival International. A distinguished producer, Rosenthal cofounded the Tribeca Film Festival following the attacks on the World Trade Center, evolving from an annual event to spur the economic and cultural revitalization of lower Manhattan into one of the foremost innovative storytelling events in the United States. She is a member of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences and sits on the boards of the Tribeca Film Institute, the National September 11 Memorial & Museum at The World Trade Center, the Child Mind Institute, and the NYU Tisch School of the Arts Dean’s Council, and Interlude.

Brad Smith

President and Chief Legal Officer, Microsoft

Brad Smith is Microsoft’s President and Chief Legal Officer, responsible for the company’s corporate, external, and legal affairs. In addition to his work at Microsoft, Mr. Smith is active in several civic and legal organizations and in the broader technology industry. He works to advance several significant diversity and pro bono initiatives, serving as Chair of the board of directors of Kids in Need of Defense (KIND) and as Chair of the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity (LCLD).

Frances Townsend

Executive Vice President for Worldwide Government, Legal and Business Affairs, MacAndrews and Forbes Incorporated 

Frances Fragos Townsend is an Executive Vice President for Worldwide Government, Legal and Business Affairs at MacAndrews and Forbes Incorporated and President of the Counter Extremism Project. From 2004 to 2008, Ms. Townsend served as Assistant to President George W. Bush for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism and chaired the Homeland Security Council. She also served as Deputy National Security Advisor for Combatting Terrorism from May 2003 to May 2004.

Kent Walker

General Counsel, Google

Kent Walker serves as Senior Vice President and General Counsel for Google. Before joining Google, he was Deputy General Counsel of eBay Inc., where he managed corporate legal affairs, litigation, and legal operations. Earlier in his career, Mr. Walker was an Assistant U.S. Attorney with the United States Department of Justice, where he specialized in the prosecution of technology crimes and advised the Attorney General on management and technology issues.

Jay Winik

Author and Historian

Jay Winik is one of the nation's leading historians. He is the author of three consecutive New York Times bestsellers, most recently 1944 and April 1865. He is a Member of the Council on Foreign Relations, an elected Fellow of the Society of American Historians, and served on the Governing Council of the National Endowment for the Humanities, a presidential appointment, as well as the boards for American Heritage magazine and the journal, World Affairs.

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