As the United States prepared to inaugurate its 45th president, the U.S. Institute of Peace again held its Passing the Baton conference—a review, during the transition between administrations, of global challenges confronting our nation. USIP convened Cabinet-level and other senior foreign policy and national security figures from the outgoing and incoming administrations as part of two days of meetings January 9 and 10. They were joined by top officials from previous administrations, thought leaders and other foreign policy experts.

Stephen Hadley, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Ambassador Susan Rice

This third Passing the Baton sought vital common ground on U.S. foreign policy. In accord with USIP’s congressional mandate, it sought to advance informed, bipartisan problem-solving on threats to U.S. national interests and international peace—from wars and extremist violence to global environmental, nuclear, cyber-security and other threats. In hosting this event, USIP partnered with five prominent think tanks: the American Enterprise Institute, the Atlantic Council, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the Center for American Progress and the Heritage Foundation. Media partners for the Passing the Baton were Politico and SiriusXM Radio.

USIP first held Passing the Baton in 2001 as part of the transition between the administrations of Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush. In 2009, the conference took place as President Bush transferred power to President Barack Obama.

Passing the Baton 2017 started January 9 with private meetings, including members of the outgoing and incoming foreign policy teams. They were hosted by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, former Deputy Secretary of State William J. Burns, former national security advisors Stephen Hadley and Zbigniew Brzezinski, and National Security Advisor Susan Rice. Dinner host former Secretary of Defense William Perry was ill and was represented instead by former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Eric Edelman.

conference the following day, open to news media and on the record, featured Secretary of State John Kerry and other officials from the current and former administrations, as well as President-elect Donald Trump’s designated national security advisor, Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, and his designated deputy, KT McFarland. Speakers also included members of Congress and policy experts. During the event, National Security Advisor Rice addressed the audience before ceremonially “passing the baton” to her designated successor, Lt. Gen. Flynn.

More on Passing the Baton

Passing the Baton, a history
The Passing the Baton conference is a broad and bipartisan review of the global challenges confronting our nation during a transition between U.S. presidential administrations. It gathers senior members of the foreign policy and national security teams from outgoing, incoming and previous administrations, along with outside scholars and experts. 

Foreign Policy Priorities for the Trump Administration
In this series of brief video interviews, four U.S. Institute of Peace experts offer their recommendations. They spoke ahead of USIP’s Passing the Baton conference, which will convene Cabinet-level and other senior foreign policy and national security figures from the outgoing and incoming administrations for meetings on January 9 and 10. 

"Yes, a Bipartisan Foreign Policy Is Possible"
Even Now With dangers growing around the world, it's more urgent than ever
An op-ed from Politico Magazine jointly authored by Madeleine Albright, Stephen Hadley and Nancy Lindborg

Trump & Obama Aides, Experts Weigh America’s Global Role
A Bipartisan Consensus amid Transition: Buttress U.S. Leadership
A readout from private meetings among national security aides from the outgoing, incoming and past administraions, and independent experts.

From the Jan 10 event

Read an overview of the event, U.S. National Security Chiefs Talk Leadership, Partners

Watch an interview with Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn on New Administration’s Approach

Read recaps of the main sessions:

Related Publications

Lucy Kurtzer-Ellenbogen on the Latest with the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Lucy Kurtzer-Ellenbogen on the Latest with the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

By: Lucy Kurtzer-Ellenbogen

As Israel appears headed for another election, the U.S. has reversed its long-standing position on the legality of Israeli settlements. The decision, according to USIP’s Lucy Kurtzer-Ellenbogen, “comes after a long stream of events that’s made the possibility of bringing the parties back to the table extremely hard to imagine.”

Type: Podcast

Conflict Analysis & Prevention

In Libya, Peace is Possible if Foreign Interference Ends

In Libya, Peace is Possible if Foreign Interference Ends

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

By: Adam Gallagher

If foreign powers ceased their involvement in Libya, the country’s protracted civil war could come quickly to an end, said Mohamed Syala, the foreign minister of the Government of National (GNA), in an interview with the U.S. Institute of Peace. The role of outside powers in Libya’s conflict has garnered renewed international attention in recent weeks as Russia has ramped up its support for Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar’s forces.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & Prevention; Global Policy

A Month After U.S. Withdrawal, What is the State of Play in Syria?

A Month After U.S. Withdrawal, What is the State of Play in Syria?

Thursday, November 7, 2019

By: Mona Yacoubian

In the month since President Trump’s October 6 phone call with Turkish President Erdogan and the announced U.S. withdrawal from northeast Syria, the picture on the ground has changed immensely. Moscow has emerged as the key power broker in Syria. The Kurds, looking for protection from Turkish forces, are in Russian-brokered talks with the Assad government. These discussions could pave the way for an expanded Syrian government presence in the northeast for the first time in years. Successive agreements with Turkey negotiated first by the United States (October 17) and then by Russia (October 22) to halt Ankara’s fighting with the Kurds have been marred by violations.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Conflict Analysis & Prevention

View All Publications