September 25, 2019

CNAS Selected by Defense Department to Conduct Congressionally Mandated Study on U.S. Strategy in the Indo-Pacific

By Cole Stevens

The Center for a New American Security (CNAS) today announced that it was selected by the Department of Defense to conduct a study on the future of U.S. policy in the Indo-Pacific. CNAS will provide a whole-of-government strategy that includes dozens of specific and actionable recommendations, with a particular focus on how the United States can more effectively compete with China.

As part of the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the U.S. Congress mandated the study to assess the geopolitical conditions necessary in the Indo-Pacific for the successful implementation of the National Defense Strategy (NDS) and National Security Strategy (NSS). The effort will culminate in a final CNAS report to the Committee on Armed Services and the Committee on Foreign Affairs/Relations in both houses of Congress before the end of 2019.

“Successful implementation of the National Defense Strategy will require a whole-of-government approach,” said Senator James Inhofe (R-OK), Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “This geopolitical study will take into consideration diplomatic, economic and military efforts in the Indo-Pacific region, and should help ensure that America’s efforts in this priority Department of Defense theater are properly integrated, aligned and synchronized.”

Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, added, “The geopolitical assessment CNAS is conducting will set forth specific recommendations on how to effectively counter Chinese aggression in the Indo-Pacific. We must take a whole-of-government approach to the Indo-Pacific and CNAS experts will be assessing a wide array of issues—including diplomacy, economics, trade, and technology. For too long, we have relied on our defense relationships to ensure access and influence in Asia. This lopsided approach to the region has left us at a significant disadvantage. This assessment should provide a blueprint for smarter investments in the important work done by agencies other than the Defense Department to ensure a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

Led and directed by CNAS Executive Vice President and Director of Studies Ely Ratner, this Center-wide intitiative will examine critical vectors of the U.S.-China competition in the Indo-Pacific, including economics, diplomacy, technology, defense, information, governance, and human capital.

“U.S. military strategy in the Indo-Pacific requires a comprehensive understanding of the region’s geopolitical and economic trends to succeed," said David Helvey, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian & Pacific Security Affairs. “CNAS’ findings in this study will play an important role in shaping the department’s approach to forward defense, assured access, and alliance formation in this complex region.”

Richard Fontaine, CEO of the Center for a New American Security, said, “CNAS is honored to have been selected to conduct the U.S. government’s premier independent study on U.S. strategy in the Indo-Pacific. Nearly every program at the Center is working on some aspect of the China challenge, and this initiative demonstrates our commitment to equipping U.S. leaders to tackle the biggest geopolitical challenges of our time.”

CNAS will present its findings throughout the year in public and private forums. A comprehensive report will be released publicly in early 2020.

For more information or to schedule an interview the project leaders, contact Cole Stevens at or (202) 695-8166.


  • Cole Stevens

    Former Communications Officer

    Cole Stevens is a former Communications Officer at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS). In this role, he led the Center's press and public affairs strategy to advanc...