A Brief History

At the height of the Cold War in 1962, Admiral Arleigh Burke and David Abshire founded the Center for Strategic and International Studies at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. The institution was dedicated to the simple but urgent goal of finding ways for the United States to survive as a nation and prosper as a people.

David M. Abshire (left) and Arleigh A. Burke (right), CSIS cofounders.

Since its founding, CSIS has been at the forefront of solutions to the vexing foreign policy and national security problems of the day. In 1966, CSIS research triggered House hearings on the watershed Sino-Soviet split. In 1978, CSIS convened the first public hearing on Capitol Hill on the Cambodian genocide, sparking major changes in congressional and executive branch perceptions of the tragedy.

In 1985, a CSIS panel led to the Goldwater-Nichols legislation to reform the Defense Department and Joint Chiefs of Staff. In 1998, it was a report from a CSIS retirement commission that became the bipartisan benchmark of the Social Security reform debate. In 2007, the CSIS Smart Power Commission provided a diagnosis of America’s declining standing in the world and offered a set of recommendations for a smart power approach to America’s global engagement. These are but a few of the highlights.

Today, CSIS is one of the world’s preeminent public policy institutions on foreign policy and national security issues. The Center’s over 240 full-time staff and large network of affiliated scholars conduct research and analysis and develop policy initiatives that look to the future and anticipate change. CSIS is regularly called upon by Congress, the executive branch, the media, and others to explain the day’s events and offer recommendations to improve U.S. strategy.

An independent not-for-profit organization since 1987, CSIS marked its first half-century of existence by moving into a new state-of-the-art headquarters in downtown Washington, DC. With its traditional defense and security programs, initiatives focused on global challenges such as health and energy, and research projects dedicated to every corner of the globe, CSIS is well positioned for another 50 years of providing strategic insights and policy solutions to the world’s decisionmakers.