New America Foundation

New America Foundation
New America Foundation
Formation 1999
Type Public Policy Think Tank
Headquarters 1899 L Street NW, Ste. 400
Location Washington, D.C.
President Steve Coll

The New America Foundation is a non-profit public policy institute and think tank with offices in Washington, D.C. and Sacramento, CA. It was founded in 1999 by Ted Halstead, Sherle Schwenninger, Michael Lind and Walter Russell Mead.

In 2007 Steve Coll, a former managing editor of The Washington Post, succeeded Ted Halstead as President of the New America Foundation.[1] Well-known board members include political commentator Fareed Zakaria, Atul Gawande, international relations theorist Francis Fukuyama, Atlantic Monthly correspondent James Fallows, former Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Roger Ferguson, and economist Laura D'Andrea Tyson. Google's executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, is chairman of the foundation's board of directors.[2]


History and mission

The New America Foundation is a non-partisan, non-profit, public policy institute whose stated mission is to “invest in new thinkers and new ideas to address the next generation of challenges facing the United States.”[3] The organization has a staff of over a hundred employees and fellows with offices in Washington, D.C. and Sacramento, CA. New America’s early vision was embodied by The Radical Center: The Future of American Politics, (Doubleday, 2001) co-authored by Michael Lind and Ted Halstead. The book laid out the politics and policies of a radical center, arguing that America’s “moderate majority” had become increasingly alienated by the ideological extremes of America’s “increasingly dogmatic two-party system.”[4] Many of the book’s policy proposals, such as universal health care based on an individual mandate, became the founding principles behind the organization’s policy programs.[5] The organization continues to “emphasize work that is responsive to the changing conditions and problems of our 21st Century information-age economy” with “big ideas, impartial analysis and pragmatic solutions”[3] Newsweek’s Howard Fineman called New America “a hive of state-of-the-art policy entrepreneurship."[6]

Organization and structure

New America hosts talks and public events on their program topics. Pictured is author Cory Doctorow speaking about copyright, in June 2010.

The New America Foundation houses programs and initiatives focused on specific domestic, economic and global issues.[7] New America also houses a variety of fellowships.

Domestic programs

New America’s domestic policy programs focus on a wide range of issues including assets and ownership, education, health, politics and government, among other topics. Additionally, the organization has an office in California with state-specific programs focusing on health, education, and asset building. Investigative reporting by the Higher Ed Watch blog of New America’s Education Policy Program’s helped break the student loan scandal of 2007, triggering investigations by New York State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo into anti-competitive relations between student lenders and universities[8] and helped bring about reforms enacted through the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010 New America’s Health policy program actively supported health reform at both the state and federal level. The organization’s California branch was a proponent of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposals for universal coverage in California.[9] In a 2007 paper for the Economic Policy Institute, the political scientist Jacob Hacker, then a fellow at New America, outlined the framework of a public health insurance option [10] that would become a central plank of Democratic health reform proposals.[11] Len Nichols, the former director of New America’s health policy program worked with Senators Ron Wyden and Bob Bennett on their health reform plan. A strong proponent of the individual mandate,[12] Nichols also helped craft a “level-playing field” alternative to public health insurance option.[13]

New America's Open Technology Initiative (OTI) led by Sascha Meinrath has become the largest programs within the organization. Focus areas of OTI include wireless community networks building, the creation and management of an open source platform that supports broadband research tools and speed tests, the development of a technology to lower barriers for building distributed communications networks, among other projects. In the same vein of technology, New America's Future Tense initiative, a partnership with Arizona State University and Slate Magazine, explores emerging technologies and their effects on society and public policy. Central to the partnership is a series of events in Washington, D.C., that take an in-depth look at issues that, while little-understood today, could reshape the policy debates of the coming decade.

Economic programs

Several programs at New America focus on economic issues, including the Economic Growth Program and the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. In April 2010, the Committee's policy director, Marc Goldwein joined President Obama's bipartisan Fiscal Commission.[14]

Global programs

New America’s many programs and initiatives dealing with foreign policy and international issues are housed primarily under the American Strategy Program, directed by Steve Clemons. Clemons is also the publisher of ‘’The Washington Note’’, a blog that focuses on foreign policy issues, as well as general US policy debates. With the presence of journalists such as Steve Coll and Peter Bergen, New America has carved out a policy niche in the issues of Afghanistan and counter-terrorism. Bergen and colleague Katherine Tiedemann, have produced a widely cited database of U.S. Drones Strike in Pakistan.[15]

In June of 2009, Patrick Doherty, the deputy director of the Foundation's American Strategy Program, co-wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post where he argued that the result of the 2009 Iranian presidential election may not have been fraudulent, based on a poll sponsored by Terror Free Tomorrow and the New America Foundation.[16] Jon Cohen, of the Washington Post's polling department, argued for wariness "of a poll taken so far before such a heated contest, particularly one where more than half of voters did not express an opinion."[17]

Steve Clemons of the New America Foundation organised the Afghanistan Study Group, which produced a report called A New Way Forward: Rethinking U.S. Strategy in Afghanistan.[18][19] It was directed by Matthew Hoh and "included some four dozen denizens of think tanks, academics and former US government officials."[20]

Fellows program

The organization provides fellowships to “foster the next generation of thinkers and public intellectuals”—primarily through the Bernard L. Schwartz Fellows program. The Schwartz fellowship “supports talented journalists, academics and other public policy analysts who offer a fresh and often unpredictable perspective on the major challenges facing our society.”[21] Current and past fellows include, Peter Beinart, Jorge Castañeda Gutman, Jacob Hacker, Megan McArdle, Parag Khanna [22][23], Reihan Salam, Tim Wu, among many others. Additionally, New America’s Knight Media Policy Fellows focus on media policy, and its Irvine Fellows focus on issues relating to California.

Published articles

Articles by numerous New America Foundation members have appeared in leading publications. The Atlantic Monthly has had extensive coverage in several issues from New America Foundation writers, expounding on their analyses and proposing solutions to persistent US problems. Board members and fellows have written cover stories for a large number of periodicals, including Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, The Wilson Quarterly, Wired, The New Republic, The New York Times, The National Interest, The American Conservative, The New Yorker, The American Prospect, and Mother Jones.


New America operates with a decentralized funding model, with heads of programs and initiatives usually responsible for their own funding.[24] The test for success at the program level and below has often been less ideological than the ability to raise funds. It is best to examine the ideological orientation (and funding sources) of each program and initiative individually rather than as part of a New America brand.[24] The list of organizations and individuals who supported New America in 2010 includes more than 100 contributors.

Board of Directors

The New America Foundation's Board of Directors consists of 22 members and is chaired by Eric Schmidt - Executive Chairman, Google, Inc. who succeeded founding Chairman James Fallows in 2008. Other members include Laurene Powell Jobs - President of the Board, College Track, Zachary Karabell - President, River Twice Research, Kati Marton - Author & Journalist, Bernard L. Schwartz - Retired Chairman and CEO, Loral Space & Communications Ltd.

Leadership Council

New America's Leadership Council, chaired by Scott Delman, recognizes those individuals who contribute $25,000 or more to the Foundation each year. As members of the Leadership Council, they participate in the intellectual life of the Foundation in numerous ways. For instance, they are invited to attend a special annual retreat with New America senior staff, Fellows and Board of Directors, as well as a series of salon dinners across the country. The Leadership Council currently has 16 members, which includes Craig Newmark - Customer Service Rep and Founder,, Leo Hindery, Jr. - Managing Partner, InterMedia Partners, and Neal Baer, M.D. - Executive Producer, Law & Order: SVU.[25]


  1. ^ New America Foundation, Steve Coll Named Next President of New America Foundation, 23 July 2007, accessed 5 May 2010
  2. ^ New America Foundation, Board of Directors, accessed 11 May 2010]
  3. ^ a b New America Foundation, About New America, accessed 23 June 2010
  4. ^ Halstead, Ted; Lind, Michael, ‘’The Radical Center: The Future of American Politics’’, page 3. Doubleday,
  5. ^ Lind, Michael. (15, April 2010). ‘’The Radical Center: A Decade Later – The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly’’. Retrieved 23 June 2010 from
  6. ^ Fineman, Howard, Living Politics: Election Gave '04 Brokers More Clout ‘’Newsweek’’, 13 November 2002
  7. ^ New America Foundation, Programs and Issues, accessed 23 June 2010
  8. ^ Inside Higher Ed, Shaking Up Loan, 13 April 2007, accessed 23 June 2010
  9. ^ New America Foundation, New America Foundation’s Statement on Gov. Schwarzenegger’s New Health Care Proposal, 8 January 2007,
  10. ^ Hacker, Jacob, Health care for America, 11 January 2007, accessed 23 June 2010
  11. ^ Noah, Tim, Obama: Soft on Health Insurance?, ‘’Slate’’, 6 March 2009
  12. ^ "Ask the Experts: Individual Mandates". Kaiser Family Foundation. January 31, 2008. 
  13. ^ Bertko, Jon; Nichols, Len, A Modest Proposal for a Competing Public Health Plan, 8 January 2007, ‘’New America Foundation’’
  14. ^ Froomkin, Dan, "Obama's Fiscal Commission: What’s Going On In There?", The Huffington Post, 5 May 2010
  15. ^ New America Foundation, The Year of the Drone
  16. ^ Ballen, Ken; Patrick Doherty (2009-06-15). "The Iranian People Speak". Washington Post. Retrieved 2009-06-21. 
  17. ^ "About those Iran Polls". Behind the Numbers (Washington Post). 2009-06-15. Retrieved 2009-06-21. 
  18. ^ Afghanistan: The war on terrorism or permanent occupation? |
  19. ^ A New Way Forward | Report of the Afghanistan Study Group
  20. ^ The Afghanistan Study Group Challenges US Strategy, With Flawed but Useful Report | The Nation
  21. ^ New America Foundation, The Bernard L. Schwartz Fellows Program
  22. ^ New America Foundation, "Parag Khanna," Retrieved January 29, 2008.
  23. ^ Parag Khanna, "Waving Goodbye to Hegemony," New York Times Magazine, January 27, 2008.
  24. ^ a b
  25. ^

External links

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