Committee on the Present Danger

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Logo of the committee on the Present Danger.

The Committee on the Present Danger (CPD) is the name used by a succession of American neoconservative[1] and anti-communist foreign policy interest groups. Throughout its four iterations—in the 1950s, the 1970s, the 2000s, and 2019, it has tried to influence all the presidential administrations since Harry S. Truman,[2] achieving notable success during the Reagan administration.


The committee first met in 1950, founded by Tracy Voorhees, to promote the plans proposed in NSC 68 by Paul Nitze and Dean Acheson. It lobbied the government directly and sought to influence public opinion through a publicity campaign, notably a weekly radio broadcast on the Mutual Broadcasting System throughout 1951.[3] This iteration was effectively disbanded after 1952, following the appointment of Voorhees and others to senior positions in the administration.[4]

It was privately revived in March 1976 to try to influence the presidential candidates and their advisors.[citation needed] After Jimmy Carter won the election, CPD went public again and spent the next four years lobbying, particularly against détente and the SALT II agreement. Its hawkish conclusions influenced the CIA's future reporting on the Soviet threat.[citation needed] This iteration of the CPD provided 33 officials to the Ronald Reagan administration, plus Reagan himself.[5]


First CPD (1950s)[edit]

On 12 December 1950, James Conant, Tracy Voorhees and Vannevar Bush announced the creation of the committee on the Present Danger.[3] The group was formed in order to support the Truman Administration's remilitarization plans contained within NSC 68.[3] The 'present danger' to which the group's title referred was "the aggressive designs of the Soviet Union", the CPD announced.[3]

Members of the First CPD[edit]

Second CPD (1970s)[edit]

On 11 November 1976, the second iteration was announced. The name of this version of the committee was "borrow[ed]" from the 1950s version, and was not a direct successor.[6]

Some of its members lobbied for, and were members of, the 1976 Team B, providing an opposing view to the CIA's Team A.

Thirty-three officials of the Reagan administration were CPD members, including Director of Central Intelligence William Casey, National Security Advisor Richard V. Allen, United States Ambassador to the United Nations Jeane Kirkpatrick, Secretary of the Navy John Lehman, Secretary of State George Shultz, and Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Perle. Reagan himself was a member in 1979.

Founding members of the second CPD[edit]

Third CPD (2004)[edit]

In June 2004, The Hill reported that a third incarnation of CPD was being planned, to address the War on Terrorism.[7] This incarnation of the committee was still active as of 2008. The head of the 2004 CPD, PR pro and former Reagan adviser Peter D. Hannaford, explained, "we saw a parallel" between the Soviet threat and the threat from terrorism. The message that CPD will convey through lobbying, media work and conferences is that the war on terror needs to be won, he said.[7]

Members of the 2004 CPD included Vice President for Policy Larry Haas, Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, former CIA director R. James Woolsey Jr., former National Security Advisor to President Reagan, Robert C. McFarlane, and Reagan administration official and 1976 Committee founder Max Kampelman.[7] At the July 20, 2004 launching of the 2004 CPD, Lieberman and Senator Jon Kyl were identified as the honorary co-chairs.[8]

Fourth CPD (2019)[edit]

The fourth CPD was established on March 25, 2019, branding itself "Committee on the Present Danger: China" (CPDC).[9] Members include both China-focused specialists and others without specific experience related to the country,[10] and are predominantly conservative.[11]

Members of the Fourth CPD[edit]


The fourth iteration of CPD, focused on China, has been criticized as promoting a revival of Red Scare politics in the United States, and for its ties to conspiracy theorist Frank Gaffney and conservative activist Steve Bannon.[9][12] David Skidmore, writing for The Diplomat, saw it as another instance of "adolescent hysteria" in US diplomacy, as another of the "fevered crusades [which] have produced some of the costliest mistakes in American foreign policy".[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bronner, Stephen Eric (2005). Blood in the sand: imperial fantasies, right-wing ambitions, and the erosion of American democracy. Lexington, Ky.: University Press of Kentucky. ISBN 0-8131-7168-7. OCLC 65562600.
  2. ^ Christopher I., Xenakis (2002). What happened to the Soviet Union?. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002. ISBN 978-0-275-97527-2.
  3. ^ a b c d Sanders, Jerry (1983). Peddlers of Crisis: The Committee on the Present Danger and the Politics of Containment. South End Press. pp. 54. ISBN 0896081818.
  4. ^ Wells, Samuel F. (1979). "Sounding the Tocsin: NSC 68 and the Soviet Threat". International Security. 4 (2): 116–158. doi:10.2307/2626746. ISSN 0162-2889. JSTOR 2626746. S2CID 155072379.
  5. ^ Shribman, David; Times, Special To the New York (1981-11-23). "Group Goes from Exile to Influence". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-05-01.
  6. ^ Kampelman, Max M. (1984). Tyroler, II, Charles (ed.). Alerting America: The Papers of the Committee on the Present Danger. Pergamon Brassey's. pp. xviii. ISBN 0080319254.
  7. ^ a b c Kirchick, James (June 30, 2004). "Cold warriors return for war on terrorism". The Hill. Archived from the original on 2006-12-19.
  8. ^ Lieberman, Joe and Jon Kyl (July 20, 2004). "The Present Danger". The Washington Post.
  9. ^ a b Swanson, Ana (2019-07-20). "A New Red Scare Is Reshaping Washington". The New York Times. Retrieved 2019-07-21.
  10. ^ Wu, Wendy (26 March 2019). "Cold War is back: Bannon helps revive U.S. committee to target 'aggressive totalitarian foe' China". Politico. Retrieved 12 July 2020.
  11. ^ Rogin, Josh (10 April 2019). "China hawks call on America to fight a new Cold War". The Washington Post. Retrieved 12 July 2020.
  12. ^ a b Skidmore, David (July 23, 2019). "The US Scare Campaign Against China: The political calculations behind exaggerating the 'present danger' – from the Cold War to today". The Diplomat. Retrieved December 31, 2020.

Further reading[edit]

  • Boies, John, and Nelson A. Pichardo (1993–1994). "The Committee on the Present Danger: A Case for the Importance of Elite Social Movement Organizations to Theories of Social Movements and the State". Berkeley Journal of Sociology 38: 57-87. JSTOR 41035466.
  • Singh, Robert. "Neoconservatism in the Age of Obama", in Inderjeet Parmar, ed., Obama and the World (Routledge, 2014). pp. 51–62.
  • Vaïsse, Justin (2010). "Chapter 5: Nuclear Alarm: The Committee on the Present Danger". Neoconservatism: The Biography of a Movement. Belknap. ISBN 978-0-674-06070-8.
  • Walker, Martin (1995). The Cold War: A History. Chapter 11: "The Death of Détente and the Change of the Western System"; and Chapter 12: "The New Cold War". Macmillan. ISBN 0-8050-3454-4.

External links[edit]