Since 2001, the U.S. Institute of Peace’s Passing the Baton conference has commemorated the peaceful transition of power from one administration to the next by gathering top foreign policy and national security leaders for candid, bipartisan discussions about the national security challenges facing the United States. Convening senior members from outgoing and incoming administrations, along with outside scholars and experts, Passing the Baton offers a platform to discuss the most pressing peace and security challenges that will define the next four years and reaffirms the importance of bipartisan problem-solving in foreign policy.


USIP is a national, nonpartisan, independent institute, founded by Congress and dedicated to the proposition that a world without violent conflict is possible, practical, and essential for U.S. and global security. During U.S. presidential transitions, USIP’s nonpartisan platform and convening power promotes discussion and information-sharing among policymakers and other experts. For the past 20 years, the Institute has convened Passing the Baton to bring together national security leaders from both sides of the aisle to improve U.S. policymaking and honor the American tradition of a peaceful transfer of power.

Passing the Baton 2021: Securing America’s Future Together

Held in the wake of the violent January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, 2021’s Passing the Baton affirmed the peaceful transfer of power, the bipartisan character of American foreign policy, and the indelible role that democratic principles play in sustainable peace. USIP welcomed President Biden’s National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and President Trump’s former National Security Advisor Ambassador Robert O’Brien for a discussion moderated by Secretary Condoleezza Rice, 66th Secretary of State and former National Security Advisor to President George W. Bush.

Read the event coverage

Passing the Baton 2017: America's Role in the World

USIP convened Passing the Baton with outgoing national security leaders in President Barack Obama’s administration and incoming national security leaders of President Donald J. Trump’s administration, along with officials of former administrations and other experts. The conference reviewed America’s role in an increasingly complex world and sought vital common ground on how to address threats to U.S. national interests and international peace.

Stephen J. Hadley welcoming remarks at the 2017 conference

A Conversation with Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) at the 2017 conference

Passing the Baton 2009: Foreign Policy Challenges and the Opportunities Facing the New Administration

USIP hosted current and former U.S. foreign policy leaders, and nearly 1,900 others, for its second Passing the Baton at the transition from the administration of President George W. Bush to that of President Barack Obama. The conference examined U.S. policy challenges in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and nuclear proliferation, among others.

David Petraeus, Former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency

General David Petraeus of the U.S. Central Command speaks on Afghanistan at the 2009 Passing the Baton conference

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright addresses the 2009 conference on policies to prevent genocide.

Passing the Baton 2001: Challenges of Statecraft for the New Administration

USIP launched its first Passing the Baton in 2001, when President Clinton’s national security advisor Sandy Berger passed the baton to President Bush’s national security advisor Condoleezza Rice. The inaugural Passing the Baton began a USIP practice of hosting current, former, and incoming national security leaders to commemorate the peaceful transition of power between administrations. The 2001 conference considered the challenges of establishing a partnership with Russia, continued instability in the Balkans, and how to provide a more secure peace on the Korean Peninsula.

General Brent Scowcroft, United States National Security Advisor under U.S. Presidents Gerald Ford and George H. W. Bush

Brent Scowcroft, national security advisor to Presidents Gerald Ford and George H. W. Bush, speaks at the 2001 Passing the Baton.

Samuel Richard "Sandy" Berger, United States National Security Advisor for President Bill Clinton passing the baton to then-incumbent Condoleezza "Condi" Rice who served United States Secretary of State under of President George W. Bush

National Security Advisor Sandy Berger passes the baton to his successor, ​Condoleezza Rice, at the 2001 conference.

Latest Publications

Reactions to the Quad Leaders’ Summit

Reactions to the Quad Leaders’ Summit

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

By: Daniel Markey, Ph.D.; Carla Freeman, Ph.D; Brian Harding; Mirna Galic; Vikram J. Singh

On September 24, President Biden hosted Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga at the White House for the first-ever in-person Quad Leaders’ Summit. The event marked a milestone for the group, which started as an ad hoc coordination mechanism for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. The four leaders unveiled a slate of new initiatives on a range of pressing global issues — from climate change and COVID-19 to technology, infrastructure and education — as well as formalized plans to meet annually. USIP’s Carla Freeman, Brian Harding, Daniel Markey, Mirna Galic and Vikram Singh consider international reactions to the Quad and implications for the Indo-Pacific region.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Global Policy

Taliban Seek Recognition, But Offer Few Concessions to International Concerns

Taliban Seek Recognition, But Offer Few Concessions to International Concerns

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

By: Andrew Watkins; Ambassador Richard Olson; Asfandyar Mir, Ph.D.; Kate Bateman

Since taking power in August, the Taliban have repeatedly expressed the expectation that the international community will recognize their authority as the new government of Afghanistan and have taken several procedural steps to pursue recognition. But the group has done very little to demonstrate a willingness to meet the conditions put forward by Western powers and some regional states. USIP’s Andrew Watkins, Richard Olson, Asfandyar Mir and Kate Bateman assess the latest Taliban efforts to win international recognition, the position of Pakistan and other key regional players and options for U.S. policy to shape Taliban behavior and the engagement decisions of other international partners.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Global Policy; Reconciliation

Are There Lessons from Vietnam for U.S. Reconciliation with the Taliban?

Are There Lessons from Vietnam for U.S. Reconciliation with the Taliban?

Monday, September 27, 2021

By: Andrew Wells-Dang, Ph.D.

The Taliban’s rapid victory in Afghanistan evoked many comparisons to the collapse of the South Vietnamese regime and U.S. evacuation from Saigon in 1975. Ironically, during the same week in late August that the last U.S. forces were withdrawing from Kabul, U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris carried out a remarkably successful visit to Hanoi. U.S.-Vietnam relations have arguably never been better — a stark contrast to the scent of failure in Afghanistan.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Peace Processes; Reconciliation

Zambia’s New Leadership and the Stakes for Africa

Zambia’s New Leadership and the Stakes for Africa

Friday, September 24, 2021

By: USIP Staff

Weeks after his election to lead his southern African nation, Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema vowed to reverse his country’s recent erosion of democracy and good governance, and to stabilize an economy in recession—all despite the burdens of COVID, environmental shocks, and a dangerous “mountain” of debt accumulated in recent years.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Democracy & Governance

View All Publications