Rising to the Threat: Revitalizing America’s Military and Political Power


Rising to the Threat: Revitalizing America’s Military and Political Power

May 8, 2019
9:05 am - 3:00 pm

Conference segments

Video, transcript, and photos

Introduction and Welcome Remarks

Mark Dubowitz and LTG (Ret.) H.R. McMaster



Chief Executive, FDD




26th National Security Advisor
Chairman, FDD’s CMPP

Remarks by Tim Morrison

Mark Dubowitz, Tim Morrison


Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for WMD and Biodefense,
National Security Council

Conversation with Representative Mac Thornberry

Rep. Mac Thornberry, Bradley Bowman


Ranking Member, House Armed Services Committee




Senior Director, FDD’s CMPP

Winning the Great Power Competition with China and Russia

Michele Flournoy, Dr. A. Wess Mitchell, General (Ret.) Jack Keane, and Amb. Eric S. Edelman



Former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, U.S. Department of Defense
Co-Founder and Managing Partner, WestExec Advisors



Former Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, U.S. Department of State
Vice Chairman, Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA)



Former Vice Chief of Staff, U.S. Army
Chairman, Institute for the Study of War




Former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, U.S. Department of Defense
Senior Advisor, FDD
Member, CMPP Board of Advisors

Countering State and Non-State Threats: Protecting American Interests and Security in the Middle East

Dr. Kimberly Kagan, Dr. David Kilcullen, Behnam Ben Taleblu, and Kathy Gilsinan


Founder and President, Institute for the Study of War



Former Chief Strategist, State Department’s Counterterrorism Bureau
Member, CMPP Board of Advisors



Senior Fellow, FDD




Staff Writer, The Atlantic

Conversation with Representatives Elissa Slotkin and Michael Waltz

Rep. Elissa Slotkin, Rep. Michael Waltz, and Jonathan Schanzer



Representative (D-MI)



Representative (R-FL)




Senior Vice President for Research, FDD

Remarks by General Kenneth F. McKenzie, Jr.

Bradley Bowman, Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie, Jr.


Commander, U.S. Central Command

Remarks by LTG (Ret.) Edward C. Cardon

LTG. (Ret.) Edward C. Cardon


Former Commander, U.S. Army Cyber Command

The Path Forward: Recommendations for Revitalizing America’s Military and Political Power

Clifford D. May and LTG (Ret.) H.R. McMaster



26th U.S. National Security Advisor;
Chairman, FDD’s CMPP


Moderated by


Founder and President, FDD

About the conference

This conference marked the launch of FDD’s Center on Military and Political Power (CMPP), which focuses on the defense strategies, policies, and capabilities necessary to deter and/or defeat threats to the freedom, security, and prosperity of Americans and our allies.

China and Russia have worked systematically to erode U.S. military supremacy—undermining U.S. vital interests and increasing the chances for additional aggression and conflict. Meanwhile, threats from Iran and its network of proxies, North Korea, and an array of international terrorist groups persist. The geostrategic environment is as dynamic, complex, and dangerous as we have seen in decades. This conference explored the evolving nature of these threats and identified specific steps to better defend the U.S., our allies, and our interests.

Speaker Biographies

In alphabetical order by last name

Bradley Bowman

Senior Director, FDD’s CMPP

Bradley Bowman serves as Senior Director of FDD’s Center on Military and Political Power (CMPP). He has served as a National Security Advisor in the U.S. Senate to members of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees, as well as an active duty U.S. Army officer, pilot, and Assistant Professor at West Point. Bradley has nearly nine years of experience in the U.S. Senate. This includes working for two years as National Security Advisor to U.S. Senator Todd Young (IN), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Bradley served for six years as National Security Advisor (formerly Military Legislative Assistant) to U.S. Senator Kelly Ayotte (NH), Chair/Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Readiness and Management Support Subcommittee. He also worked as a Council on Foreign Relations International Affairs Fellow on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Prior to working in the Senate, Bradley served as an active duty officer in the U.S. Army for more than fifteen years, including positions as a Company Commander, “Blackhawk” pilot, Assistant Professor in the Department of Social Sciences at West Point, Congressional Affairs Officer on the Army staff in the Pentagon, and staff officer in Afghanistan.

LTG (Ret.) Edward C. Cardon

Former Commander, U.S. Army Cyber Command

Lieutenant General (Ret.) Edward C. Cardon is a retired three-star general who served for over 36 years in the United States Army. General Cardon’s service to our nation spans nearly four decades where he honed his profession both domestically and internationally including work in Germany, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iraq, and the Republic of Korea. Most recently, he led the task force that helped create Army Futures Command, which is responsible for modernizing the Army. The foundation of this work enabled the reorganization of the Army’s command structure and created the Army’s first new major Command since 1973. General Cardon has extensive experience establishing, leading, and transforming organizations. He has created an entirely new brigade to a strength of more than 4,000 Soldiers and deployed to Iraq. While commanding one of the Army’s premier Infantry Division’s located in the Republic of Korea, he led the merger of disparate multi-national organizations with distinct and contrasting missions into a single, unified organization. He both transformed Army Cyber Command into a world-class cyber force, while simultaneously standing up new cyber organizations to meet the demands of this contested domain. General Cardon is an advisory board member at FDD’s Center on Military and Political Power.

Mark Dubowitz

Chief Executive, FDD

Mark Dubowitz is the chief executive of FDD. He is an expert on Iran’s nuclear program and global threat network, and is widely recognized as one of the key influencers in shaping sanctions policies to counter the threats from the Iranian regime. According to The New York Times, “Mark Dubowitz’s campaign to draw attention to what he saw as the flaws in the Iran nuclear deal has taken its place among the most consequential ever undertaken by a Washington think tank leader.” Mark was featured as one of the key “financial warriors” in the book The Iran Wars. Politico magazine featured Mark as one of Washington’s leading policy experts challenging Iran’s illicit behavior, observing that he is “… constantly thinking up – and promoting – new ways to squeeze the regime…” OZY Media labeled Mark and FDD the “politicians’ brain trust on Iran sanctions… carv[ing] a niche in the charged debate on Iran with intensive research and sheer intellectual firepower.” Mark has advised the Trump, Obama, and Bush administrations and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle on Iran issues and testified more than twenty times before the U.S. Congress and foreign legislatures. A former venture capitalist and technology executive, Mark co-founded FDD’s Center on Economic and Financial Power and FDD’s Center on Military and Political Power.

Amb. Eric S. Edelman

Former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, U.S. Department of Defense; Senior Advisor, FDD; Member, CMPP Board of Advisors

Ambassador Eric S. Edelman retired as a career minister from the U.S. Foreign Service on May 1, 2009. He is a Senior Advisor at FDD, a member of its Advisory Board on Turkey and FDD’s Center on Military and Political Power. As the Undersecretary of Defense for Policy (August 2005-January 2009) he oversaw strategy development as DoD’s senior policy official with global responsibility for bilateral defense relations, war plans, special operations forces, homeland defense, missile defense, nuclear weapons and arms control policies, counter-proliferation, counter-narcotics, counter-terrorism, arms sales, and defense trade controls. He served as U.S. Ambassador to the Republics of Finland and Turkey in the Clinton and Bush Administrations and was principal deputy assistant to the vice president for national security affairs. He is currently a distinguished fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a visiting scholar at the Philip Merrill Center for Strategic Studies at the Johns Hopkins University, and a senior associate of the International Security Program at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University.

Michèle Flournoy

Former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, U.S. Department of Defense; Co-Founder and Managing Partner, WestExec Advisors

Michèle Flournoy is Co-Founder and Managing Partner of WestExec Advisors. Michèle previously served as the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy from February 2009 to February 2012. She was the principal advisor to the Secretary of Defense in the formulation of national security and defense policy, oversight of military plans and operations, and in National Security Council deliberations. She led the development of the Department of Defense’s 2012 Strategic Guidance and represented the Department in dozens of foreign engagements, in the media and before Congress. Prior to confirmation, Michèle co-led President Obama’s transition team at the Defense Department. In January 2007, Michèle co-founded CNAS, a bipartisan think tank dedicated to developing strong, pragmatic and principled national security policies. She served as CNAS’ President until 2009, and returned as CEO in 2014. In 2017, she co-founded WestExec Advisors, a strategic advisory firm. Previously, she was senior advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies for several years and, prior to that, a distinguished research professor at the Institute for National Strategic Studies at the National Defense University (NDU). Michèle appears frequently in national and international media.

Kathy Gilsinan

Staff Writer, The Atlantic

Kathy Gilsinan is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where she covers national security. She previously served as The Atlantic‘s international editor. She completed her master’s in international policy at Stanford University, where her research focused on counterterrorism and the war in Afghanistan. She has reported from several countries, including time as an English editor at Pajhwok Afghan News in Kabul, Afghanistan.

Dr. Kimberly Kagan

Founder and President, Institute for the Study of War

Dr. Kimberly Kagan is the founder and president of the Institute for the Study of War. She is a military historian who has taught at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Yale, Georgetown, and American University. Kimberly served in Kabul for seventeen months from 2010 to 2012 working for commanders of the International Security Assistance Force, General David H. Petraeus and subsequently General John Allen. Admiral Mike Mullen, as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recognized her for this deployment as a volunteer with the Distinguished Public Service Award, the highest honor the Chairman can present to civilians who do not work for the Department of Defense. She previously served as a member of General Stanley McChrystal’s strategic assessment team, comprised of civilian experts, during his campaign review in June and July 2009. She also served on the Academic Advisory Board at the Afghanistan-Pakistan Center of Excellence at CENTCOM and conducted many regular battlefield circulations of Iraq while General Petraeus and General Raymond T. Odierno served as the MNF-I Commanding General. She is the author of The Eye of Command (2006) and The Surge: a Military History (2009), and editor of The Imperial Moment (2010). She has published numerous essays and co-produced The Surge: The Whole Story, an hour-long oral history and documentary film on the campaign in Iraq from 2007 to 2008.

General Jack Keane

Commander, U.S. Central Command

General Jack Keane, US Army (Retired), is president of GSI Consulting. He serves as chairman of the Institute for the Study of War and the Knollwood Foundation, executive chairman of AM General, a director of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments and the Smith Richardson Foundation, a member of the Commission on National Defense Strategy, and a former and recent member of the Secretary of Defense Policy Board. In 2018, General Keane was the first military leader to be honored with the Ronald Reagan Peace Through Strength Award. General Keane, a four-star general, completed over 37 years of public service in December 2003, culminating in his appointment as acting Chief of Staff and Vice Chief of Staff of the US Army. He was in the Pentagon on 9/11 and provided oversight and support for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Since 2004, General Keane spent a decade conducting frequent trips to Iraq and Afghanistan for senior defense officials. General Keane appears before Congress regularly, offering testimony on matters of foreign policy and national security. General Keane is a career infantry paratrooper, a combat veteran of Vietnam, decorated for valor, who spent much of his military life in operational commands where he commanded the famed 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) and the legendary 18th Airborne Corps, the Army’s largest war fighting organization.

Dr. David Kilcullen

Former Chief Strategist, State Department’s Counterterrorism Bureau; Member, CMPP Board of Advisors

Dr. David Kilcullen is Professor of Practice in the School of Politics and Global Studies at Arizona State University, and is CEO and President of Cordillera Applications Group, a research and operations firm providing geopolitical analysis, remote observation, fieldwork and related support to government, industry and NGOs. David is a theorist and practitioner of guerrilla and unconventional warfare and counterterrorism, with extensive operational experience over a 25-year career with the Australian and U.S. governments as an Army officer, analyst, policy adviser and diplomat. He served in Iraq as senior counterinsurgency advisor to U.S. General David Petraeus, was senior advisor to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and has served in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Libya and Colombia. He has led several concept design projects for the U.S. and allied governments, and currently works with national and city-level governments in the United States, Australia, Latin America and Europe on urban public safety and counterterrorism. He worked for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Afghanistan, and continues to work with advanced research agencies focused on future conflict. He is a lead researcher for NATO’s ongoing Urbanization Program, and is conducting fieldwork on urban and economic development in Africa on behalf of the Brenthurst Foundation in Johannesburg. He is an advisory board member at FDD’s Center on Military and Political Power.

Clifford D. May

Founder and President, FDD

Clifford D. May is the founder and president of FDD. Cliff has had a long and distinguished career in international relations, journalism, communications, and politics. A veteran news reporter, foreign correspondent, and editor (at The New York Times and other publications), he has covered stories around the world including datelines from Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Israel, the West Bank, Jordan, Egypt, Turkey, Sudan, Kazakhstan, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Chad, Mexico, Northern Ireland, China and Russia. A former syndicated columnist for Scripps Howard News Services, he is currently the weekly “Foreign Desk” columnist of The Washington Times. He is a frequent guest on national and international television and radio news programs, providing analysis and participating in debates on national security issues. From 2016 to 2018, Cliff served as a commissioner on the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), an independent, bipartisan U.S. federal government commission that makes policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and Congress in order to advance the pivotal right of religious freedom around the world and integrate religious freedom into America’s foreign policy.

General Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr.

Commander, U.S. Central Command

General Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr. is the Commander of the United States Central Command. General McKenzie was commissioned into the Marine Corps in 1979. As the Commanding Officer of the 22d MEU, he led combat deployments to Afghanistan in 2004 and Iraq in 2005-2006. In 2006-2007 he served as the Military Secretary to the 33rd and 34th Commandants of the Marine Corps. In 2007, he served on the Joint Staff as a Deputy Director of Operations within the National Military Command Center. The next year, he was selected by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to be the Director of the Chairman’s New Administration Transition Team. In 2009, he reported to the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul, Afghanistan to serve as the Deputy to the Deputy Chief of Staff for Stability. Upon his return, he was assigned as the Director, Strategy, Plans, and Policy (J-5) for the U.S. Central Command. He then served as the Marine Corps Representative to the Quadrennial Defense Review. In June 2014, he was promoted to LtGen and assumed command of U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Central Command. He was then assigned to the Joint Staff to serve as the Director, J-5, Strategic Plans and Policy, Joint Staff. In 2017, he was named the Director, Joint Staff. General McKenzie was promoted to his current rank and assumed command of U.S. Central Command in March 2019.

LTG (Ret.) H.R. McMaster

26th U.S. National Security Advisor; Chairman, FDD’s CMPP

Lieutenant General (Ret.) H.R. McMaster serves as the Chairman of the Board of Advisors at FDD’s Center on Military and Political Power. General McMaster was the 26th assistant to the president for National Security Affairs. He served as a commissioned officer in the United States Army for thirty-four years before retiring as a Lieutenant General in June 2018. From 2014 to 2017 General McMaster designed the future army as the director of the Army Capabilities Integration Center and the deputy commanding general of the US Army Training and Doctrine Command. As commanding general of the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, he oversaw all training and education for the army’s infantry, armor, and cavalry force. His extensive experience leading soldiers and organizations in wartime includes commander of the Combined Joint Inter-Agency Task Force – Shafafiyat in Kabul, Afghanistan; commander of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment in Iraq; and Commander of Eagle Troop, 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment in Operation Desert Storm. General McMaster also served overseas as advisor to the most senior commanders in the Middle East, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He is author of the award-winning book, Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Lies that Led to Vietnam.

Dr. A. Wess Mitchell

Former Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, U.S. Department of State; Vice Chairman, Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA)

Dr. A. Wess Mitchell previously served as Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, where he was responsible for diplomatic relations with the 50 countries of Europe and Eurasia, and the institutions of NATO, the EU and the OSCE. As Assistant Secretary, Mitchell played a principal role in forming Europe strategy to support the National Security Strategy, led the Interagency in shaping instruments to counter Russian and Chinese influence, and spearheaded new diplomatic initiatives for Central Europe, the Eastern Mediterranean and Western Balkans. Prior to State Department, Mitchell was co-founder and president and CEO of the Center for European Policy Analysis. He is the author of three books, including most recently Unquiet Frontier: Vulnerable Allies, Rising Rivals and the Crisis of American Power (with Jakub Grygiel) and The Grand Strategy of the Habsburg Empire. He holds a doctorate in political science from Freie Universität in Berlin and a master’s in German and European Studies from Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service. Mitchell serves as vice chairman of the board of directors at CEPA, senior advisor at the U.S. Institute of Peace, and senior advisor to the Secretary of State.

Tim Morrison

Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for WMD and Biodefense, National Security Council

Tim Morrison joined the National Security Council in July 2018 and serves as the Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Weapons of Mass Destruction and Biodefense. In this role, he oversees and coordinates the development of national policies and programs to reduce global threats from nuclear, biological and chemical weapons including biological threats from naturally occurring, deliberate, or accidental sources; detect, identify, secure and eliminate nuclear materials; prevent proliferation; manage arms control; and, prevent the use of emerging technology for the development of WMD. Prior to his appointment, Tim served as the Policy Director on the House Armed Services Committee.  In that role, he coordinated the Committee’s activities regarding the National Defense Policy of 2018.  He also served as the Staff Lead of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee, which authorizes National Security Space systems of the Department of Defense, Missile Defenses, Nuclear Command and Control and Continuity of Government programs and policies, and Department of Defense and Department of Energy nuclear weapons programs.  He has served in a variety of other staff positions in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.  He also serves as an officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve.

Representative Elissa Slotkin (D-MI)

Representative Elissa Slotkin is honored to serve the residents of Michigan’s 8th Congressional District. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which took place during her first week of graduate school in New York City, Rep. Slotkin knew that national service would define her career. She was recruited by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to be a Middle East analyst and went on to devote her career to protecting the United States from national security threats. In her role at the CIA, Rep. Slotkin worked alongside the U.S. military during three tours in Iraq as a militia expert. In between her tours in Iraq, Rep. Slotkin held various defense and intelligence positions under President Bush and President Obama, including roles at the White House and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. In 2011, Rep. Slotkin took a senior position at the Pentagon and, until January 2017, she served as Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs. In this role, Rep. Slotkin oversaw policy on Russia, Europe, the Middle East, and Africa at the Pentagon and participated in negotiations on some of the country’s most pressing national security issues.

Jonathan Schanzer

Senior Vice President for Research, FDD

Jonathan Schanzer is senior vice president for research at FDD, where he oversees the work of the organization’s experts and scholars. He is also on the leadership team of FDD’s Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance. Jonathan previously worked as a terrorism finance analyst at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, where he played an integral role in the designation of numerous terrorist financiers. He has held previous think tank research positions at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and the Middle East Forum. Jonathan has written hundreds of articles on the Middle East, along with more than a dozen monographs and chapters for edited volumes. He testifies often before Congress and publishes widely in the American and international media.

Behnam Ben Taleblu

Senior Fellow, FDD

Behnam Ben Taleblu is a senior fellow at FDD where he focuses on Iranian security and political issues. Behnam previously served as a research fellow and senior Iran analyst at FDD. Prior to his time at FDD, Behnam worked on non-proliferation issues at an arms control think-tank in Washington. Leveraging his subject-matter expertise and native Farsi skills, Behnam has closely tracked a wide range of Iran-related topics including: nuclear non-proliferation, ballistic missiles, sanctions, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the foreign and security policy of the Islamic Republic, and internal Iranian politics. Frequently called upon to brief journalists, congressional staff, and other Washington-audiences, Behnam has also testified before the U.S. Congress and Canadian Parliament. His analysis has been quoted in The Washington PostThe Wall Street JournalReutersFox NewsThe Associated Press, and Agence France-Presse, among others. Additionally, he has contributed to or co-authored articles for Foreign AffairsForeign PolicyFox NewsThe HillWar on the RocksThe National Interest, and U.S. News & World Report. Behnam has appeared on a variety of broadcast programs, including BBC NewsFox NewsCBS InteractiveC-SPAN, and Defense News. Behnam earned his MA in International Relations from The University of Chicago, and his BA in International Affairs and Middle East Studies from The George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs.

Representative Mac Thornberry (R-TX)

Ranking Member, House Armed Services Committee

Representative Mac Thornberry is the Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee. He served as Chairman of the Armed Services Committee from January 2015 to January 2019. Widely respected as an innovator and strategic thinker, Rep. Thornberry was one of the first in Congress to recognize the need to confront terrorism. He has consistently been on the leading edge of critical national security issues, has written widely on defense matters, and appeared on all major cable and network television channels providing congressional insight on national security issues. In addition to being a member of the Armed Services Committee Rep. Thornberry previously served on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, the Budget Committee, Resources Committee, the Select Committee on Homeland Security, and the Joint Economic Committee. He also chaired the Task Force on Cybersecurity in 2011 and 2012. Rep. Thornberry believes that defending our country is the first function of the federal government. In a time of unprecedented security challenges, he is committed to ensuring that the United States has the military capability and agility to protect the nation and our interests around the world. He believes that the men and women who serve deserve to have the best training, equipment, and support that our country can provide.

Representative Michael Waltz (R-FL)

Representative Michael Waltz represents Florida’s 6th congressional district. Previously, Rep. Waltz served over 20 years in the U.S. Army. After being commissioned as an Army lieutenant, he graduated Ranger School and was selected for the elite Green Berets. He has served all over the world as a decorated Special Forces officer with multiple combat tours in Afghanistan, the Middle East, and Africa. He later served as a defense policy director for Secretaries of Defense Rumsfeld and Gates and in the White House as Vice President Dick Cheney’s counterterrorism advisor. During his time as a policy adviser, Rep. Waltz continued his military service and directly implemented the strategy he helped devise. His experiences as a soldier and a policy advisor inspired him to write his own book, “Warrior Diplomat: A Green Beret’s Battles from Washington to Afghanistan,” the proceeds of which continue to benefit the Green Beret Foundation. Following his time in the White House, he co-founded a small business that supports the Departments of Defense and Treasury with analysis of terrorist financing and specialized training. A former Fox News Channel contributor, he has provided expert commentary on foreign policy and defense issues to viewers around the world.


Introduction and Welcome Remarks
Remarks by Tim Morrison
Conversation with Representative Mac Thornberry
Winning the Great Power Competition with China and Russia
Countering State and Non-State Threats: Protecting American Interests and Security in the Middle East
Conversation with Representatives Elissa Slotkin and Michael Waltz
Remarks by General Kenneth F. McKenzie, Jr.
Remarks by LTG (Ret.) Edward C. Cardon
The Path Forward: Recommendations for Revitalizing America’s Military and Political Power


China Iran Iran Global Threat Network Jihadism Military and Political Power Russia The Long War U.S. Defense Policy and Strategy