There are two sets of activities at the heart of the Strauss Center enterprise: the pursuit of innovative, policy-relevant research, and what we refer to as global engagement and service.

Research Programs

We pursue our research mission along two broad, sometimes overlapping, paths.

First, we support and magnify the research independently undertaken by our Distinguished Scholars and their graduate students, through measures such as seed money for new or existing projects and funding for workshops, conferences, and symposia. Our primary vehicle for this is the Strauss Center Research Grant program, which provides targeted financial support for research projects and research-related events. Grants are awarded on a competitive basis consistent with available funds, on a rolling basis. Strauss Center Distinguished Scholars are given preference, but other UT faculty and students are eligible to apply.

Second, the Strauss Center itself pursues an evolving array of in-house research programs, often in partnership with other parts of the UT family as well as with other institutions from beyond the 40 Acres. The focus of these efforts has shifted over time, and no doubt will continue to do so in the future; we want the door to always be open for new initiatives at the Strauss Center. Currently, our programs can largely be grouped under one of three overarching headings: Destabilizing States; Security Institutions and Technology; and the James Baker Chair Program on Law and Security.

Sources of Instability

Challenges to international security often stem from the instability of one or more states in a region. The Strauss Center actively supports research into the causes, contributing factors, and consequences of such instability, including:

  • Mexico Security Initiative: This program explores the high-intensity violence and political disruption in Mexico in recent years, including its causes, its international dimensions, and assessments of past, present, and potential policy responses.
  • Middle East Water: This program seeks to understand the exact scope and location of water and energy resource stress in the region, the implications for livelihood and state security, and the required elements for stability in the face of growing resource stress in the region.
  • State Fragility: Over the last decade, ‘state fragility’—and its implications for national and international security—has driven tectonic shifts in U.S. policy and military thinking. Strauss Center research explores the factors that drive state fragility, assessing potential precursors to state fragility and possible responses to prevent and alleviate that fragility.
  • Climate Change and African Political Stability: Funded by the U.S. Department of Defense, this program explores the security consequences of climate-related events in Africa, with an emphasis on tracking, mapping, and analyzing conflict events and other challenges to the stability of African government institutions.
  • Complex Emergencies and Political Stability in Asia: This program has also been selected for funding by the U.S. Department of Defense's Minerva Initiative. The Program explores the causes and dynamics of complex emergencies in Asia and options for building government capacity to respond. The program leverages the novel methods developed under the Center's CCAPS program and adds new risk assessment methods to identify and analyze complex emergencies in Asia.
  • Armed Conflict and Social Conflict: The Armed Conflict Location and Event Database (ACLED) provides real-time data on political violence in Africa and South and Southeast Asia, enabling detailed analysis of conflict patterns, actors, and dynamics. The Social Conflict Analysis Database (SCAD) tracks protests, riots, strikes, inter-communal conflict, government violence against civilians, and other forms of social conflict, covering all of Africa, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean.

Security Institutions and Technologies

Technological change can have a significant impact on international security, disrupting policy frameworks, legal architectures, and the balance of power among states. The Strauss Center sponsors several initiatives under this heading,including but not limited to:

  • Intelligence Studies Project: Jointly sponsored by the Strauss Center and UT’s Clements Center for History, Strategy, and Statecraft, this flagship effort encompasses an array of efforts to improve understanding of the U.S. Government’s Intelligence Community as well as similar institutions in service of other states—and, in some instances, in service of no state at all. Activities include an ongoing project bringing a diverse array of scholars into dialogue with the senior staff of the National Security Agency under the Chatham House Rule; extensive on-the-record interviews with those NSA officials for the benefit of the wider public (conducted in partnership with the Brookings Institution); a workshop focused on NSA issues during the 2014 SXSW Interactive festival; and a major interdisciplinary conference exploring the tension among privacy, security, and technology.
  • Integrated Cybersecurity Studies: Our cybersecurity program includes (i) a trailblazing effort to cross-train graduate students not just in computer science but, also, relevant aspects of law, business administration, and public policy, and (ii) research and events focused on the tension between the demands of national security and privacy considerations.
  • Artificial Intelligence: Under the title Consortium on Law and Ethics of A.I. and Robotics (CLEAR), this program brings together leaders in the academy, industry, and government to promote a better understanding of the legal, ethical, and policy challenges posed by strong artificial intelligence and increasingly sophisticated robotics.
  • Energy and Security Project: This program explores the various dimensions along which developments in the energy field impact questions of international security.

James Baker Chair Program on Law and Security

The Strauss Center also sponsors several initiatives concerned with the evolution of armed conflict and political violence, including their strategic and legal dimensions. These include:

  • Transatlantic Dialogues: This yearly program, conducted in three different cities and in partnership with other leading academic and international institutions on both sides of the Atlantic, addresses timely topics in the areas of international security and law, terrorism trials and investigations, and surveillance in an international context.
  • National Security Law Studies: Apart from the Transatlantic Dialogues, we support a variety of efforts meant to improve understanding of the sharply contested legal environment surrounding the U.S. government's pursuit of national security aims. A key part of this effort is sponsorship of the National Security Law Workshop. Now entering its 8th year, this annual event integrates emerging and experienced scholars alongside leading U.S. military and government lawyers for two days of paper presentations and roundtable discussions. Jointly sponsored with the International Committee of the Red Cross and the South Texas College of Law, this year's event took place at the South Texas College of Law in Houston in May 2015. Other efforts have included support for a major conference in Austin in spring 2014 examining the legal regulation of cyberwarfare.

Global Engagement and Service

The Strauss Center is more than just a research unit. We also aim to bring the world to UT through a dynamic interdepartmental speaker series, visiting scholar and fellowship programs, and support for an array of conferences and events. And we aim to bring UT to the world by supporting and mentoring graduate and undergraduate students, convening conferences for the next generation of leaders in Texas, and supporting UT students in high-impact international development internships. Key programs under this heading include:

  • Crook Fellowships: Named in honor of the global development pioneer Ambassador William H. Crook, the program annually presents the Crook Fellowships, which are awarded to talented students doing development work in poverty-stricken states across the globe.
  • Brumley Next Generation Fellows: This program involves highly-competitive fellowships for both graduate and undergraduate students at UT Austin. Graduate students are selected on a program-specific basis, and become involved in research relating to that program under the mentorship of UT faculty. The undergraduates, for their part, are enrolled in a unique class focused on building professional and research skills relevant to the world of policy.
  • International Security Speaker Series: As the Strauss Center’s longest-running program, this speaker series has brought a steady stream of dynamic scholars and policymakers to UT over the years, fostering a vibrant exchange of ideas and foundations for collaboration.
  • Understanding China: This program features both a speaker series on campus at UT (focused on improving understanding of China's evolving role in the international system) and a planned research-and-conference series examining China's human rights record.
  • Visiting Scholars and Fellows: The Strauss Center hosts an array of visiting scholars and fellows, ranging from senior faculty or practitioners on sabbatical to up-and-coming academics at the pre-doctoral stage.
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