Project on Defense Alternatives

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The Project on Defense Alternatives (PDA) is a "current project" of the Commonwealth Institute in Cambridge, Mass. According to its mission statement it has operated since 1991 and "has sought to adapt security policy to the challenges and opportunities of the post-Cold War era."

The statement continues, "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."

According to the statement, PDA's research and development activities consist of:

  • Policy analysis, which "offers critical appraisals of existing policy frameworks, options, and initiatives -- including, for instance, the current administration's 'Bottom Up Review,' the increased emphasis in military policy on air power, conventional wisdom and doctrine regarding peacekeeping and multinational operations, and specific instances of military conflict";
  • Alternative policy development, the development of practicable alternatives to existing policy;
  • Basic research, in which PDA "often conducts 'meta-analyses' that combine or relate available research in novel ways...[and] also undertakes or contracts basic research when gaps or flaws in existing studies dictate a need."

A recent monograph (February 18, 2004), Disappearing the Dead: Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Idea of a 'New Warfare' by PDA's co-director Carl Conetta, "examines the Pentagon's treatment of the civilian casualty issue in the Iraq and Afghan wars, reviews the 'spin' and 'news frames' used by defense officials to shape the public debate over casualties, and critiques the concept of a 'precision warfare' as misleading. Case studies include the Baghdad bombing campaign."

Member of the Security Policy Working Group.

Contact information

The Project on Defense Alternatives
The Commonwealth Institute
P.O. Box 398105
Inman Square Post Office
Cambridge, MA 02139, USA
Phone: (617) 547-4474
Fax: (617) 868-1267

Project on Defense Alternatives Research Advisory Board

Accessed November 2007: [1]

  • Robert Art - Professor, Department of Politics, Brandeis University, Waltham MA, USA
  • Neta Crawford - Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Massachusetts, Amherst MA, USA
  • Jonathan Dean - Adviser on International Security Issues, Union of Concerned Scientists, Washington DC, USA
  • Virginia Gamba - Deputy Director, Institute for Security Studies, Halfway House, South Africa
  • Charles F. Hawkins - President, The Military Conflict Institute, Oakton VA, USA
  • Stuart E. Johnson - Senior Scientist, RAND Corp., Washington DC, USA
  • Carl Kaysen - Professor Emeritus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge MA, USA
  • Bjorn Moller - Senior Research Fellow, Danish Institute for International Studies, Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Phillip Morrison - Institute Professor, Emeritus, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge MA, USA (died 22 April 2005; obituary; tribute by Jennet Conant)
  • Michael O'Hanlon - Senior Fellow, Brookings Institution, Washington DC, USA
  • Jane Sharp - Director, Defense and Security Programme, Institute for Public Policy Research, London, United Kingdom
  • John Tillson - Senior Researcher, Institute for Defense Analyses, Alexandria VA, USA
  • Lutz Unterseher - Chairman, International Study Group on Alternative Security Policy, Berlin, Germany
  • Celeste Wallander - Director and Senior Fellow, Russia/Eurasia Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington DC, USA
  • Cindy Williams - Senior Research Fellow, Security Studies Program, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge MA, USA

Resources and articles

Related Sourcewatch articles


  1. Project on Defense Alternatives Research Advisory Board, Project on Defense Alternatives, accessed November 8, 2007.