Project on Defense Alternatives

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Project on Defense Alternatives is a project of the Commonwealth Institute.


Since its inception in 1991, the Project on Defense Alternatives has sought to adapt security policy to the challenges and opportunities of the post-Cold War era. Toward this end it promotes consideration of the broadest range of defense options. Central to its mission is the development of "transitional security policy," which would serve to create conditions favorable to the advent of regional and global cooperative security regimes. In the Project's perspective a transitional security policy would:

  • Guarantee reliable, cost-effective defense against aggression;
  • Rely on military structures that do not contribute to interstate tensions, crisis instability, or arms racing;
  • Allow significant reductions in the level of armed forces and military spending;
  • Foster progress in arms control and in the gradual demilitarization of international relations; and,
  • Facilitate an increasing reliance on collective and global peacekeeping agencies and nonmilitary means of conflict prevention, containment, and resolution.

In its approach to security issues the Project seeks to uniquely combine pragmatism and vision. Although proceeding from a common security perspective, PDA pays careful attention to concerns about current military threats and requirements. The Project is premised on the belief that policy innovation can overcome the practical obstacles to progress toward more cooperative security postures -- however, it sees the prerequisite of innovation to be a close and critical engagement in the mainstream security policy debate.

Although PDA emphasizes the reformulation of US defense policy, it has contributed since its inception to the development of defense alternatives for NATO and has pioneered proposals for the "defensive restructuring" of armed forces in Eastern Europe, Russia, and the developing world. As part of this latter effort, the Project has designed arms control measures that would reduce the offensive character of existing conventional armed forces and reorient military assistance programs along defensive lines.

Advisory Board

  • Dr Robert Art, Professor, Department of Politics, Brandeis University, Waltham MA, USA
  • Dr Neta Crawford, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Massachusetts, Amherst MA, USA
  • Dr. Carl Kaysen, Professor Emeritus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge MA, USA
  • Dr. Philip Morrison, Institute Professor, Emeritus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge MA, USA (died 22 April 2005) obituary; tribute by Jennet Conant)
  • Dr. Lutz Unterseher, Chairman, International Study Group on Alternative Security Policy, Berlin, Germany