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. It lets this wide body of policy officials and specialists share ideas and experiences to contribute to a more thoughtful and efficient transition.

National Security Advisor Michael Flynn shaking hands with Former National Security Advisor Susan Rice

The U.S. Institute of Peace convened the first Passing the Baton conference in 2001 as part of the transition between President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush. Eight years later, it enlarged the conference for the transition from the Bush administration to that of President Barack Obama.

On January 9 and 10, USIP convened Passing the Baton 2017.

Why USIP?

A peaceful transition of power is essential to a functioning democracy and has been a hallmark of the United States since its founding. Recognizing the many challenges facing our country, including national security, recent presidents all have advocated a smooth, efficient transition between administrations. The U.S. Institute of Peace is a national institution independent of any given administration, founded by Congress “to serve the people and the Government” in reducing violent conflicts abroad and pursuing peace education at home. USIP conducts research and facilitates dialogues to assist and improve U.S. policymaking on many international challenges. At the time of a U.S. presidential transition, it uses those capacities to facilitate discussion and information-sharing among policymakers and other experts, to help prepare incoming leaders for the responsibilities that lie ahead.

USIP and Passing the Baton: A History

1984 – Congress passes the United States Institute of Peace Act, directing the new institute to conduct education, training, research and information services “to promote international peace and the resolution of conflicts … without recourse to violence.” President Ronald Reagan signs the act into law. Meeting later with USIP’s first board of directors, Reagan tells them that “this institute, we think, will be a valuable source of scholarly research and information on ways in which we can promote peace with freedom. … As you begin your work for peace in the great American tradition, you have my best wishes and those of the American people.”

2001 – The Institute convenes national security officials, including aides and the national security advisors of outgoing President Bill Clinton and incoming President George W. Bush. The conference, called Passing the Baton, begins a USIP practice of hosting current, former and incoming national security leaders as U.S. administrations conduct their transitions of power. Discussions at the 2001 conference include attention to the challenges of establishing a partnership with Russia, the continued instability in the Balkans following the collapse of Yugoslavia, and how to provide a more secure peace in Korea and Northeast Asia.

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

 

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

 

Brent Scowcroft, national security advisor to Presidents Gerald Ford and
George H. W. Bush, speaks at the 2001 Passing the Baton.
National Security Advisor Sandy Berger passes the baton to his successor,
​Condoleezza Rice, at the 2001 conference.

2009 –USIP hosts current and former U.S. foreign policy leaders, and nearly 1,900 others, for its second Passing the Baton conference at the transition from the administration of President George W. Bush to that of President Barack Obama. The conference examined the state of U.S. policy challenges in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and nuclear proliferation, among others.

2017 – USIP again will convene outgoing and incoming national security leaders, along with officials of former administrations and other experts, to examine America’s role in the world in light of the foreign policy challenges facing the incoming administration of President-elect Donald J. Trump.

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.

Related Publications

Violent Conflict and Vital Interests: Keeping Focus

Violent Conflict and Vital Interests: Keeping Focus

Thursday, February 16, 2017

By: Fred Strasser

Over the next decade, the United States can expect to face complex foreign challenges from terrorism, insurgencies and internal conflicts fanned by external sponsorship, but the threat of conventional state-on-state wars, including direct assaults on the American homeland, have significantly diminished, according to retired Lt. General Douglas Lute, the former ambassador to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Global Policy; Conflict Analysis & Prevention; Civilian-Military Relations

China’s Kashmir Policies and Crisis Management in South Asia

China’s Kashmir Policies and Crisis Management in South Asia

Thursday, February 9, 2017

By: I-wei Jennifer Chang

China’s policy on the Kashmir conflict between India and Pakistan has a significant impact on regional stabilization and crisis management efforts in South Asia. Beijing also plays an important third-party role in helping deescalate hostilities between the two countries. This brief discusses the evolution of China’s Kashmir policies over the past several decades and examines Chinese cooperation with the United States during periods of crises between the South Asian rivals. 

Conflict Analysis & Prevention; Global Policy

Pakistani Party Chief Voices Concerns Over Entry Curbs

Pakistani Party Chief Voices Concerns Over Entry Curbs

Thursday, February 2, 2017

By: USIP Staff

“I do hope that this issue is sorted out very soon, because it is sending the wrong message and it’s shrinking the space for those of us out there fighting Islamic extremism on the front lines,” he told an audience of policy specialists, civil society leaders and others, in an event co-sponsored by the Heritage Foundation. Bhutto Zardari, the son of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, is chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party, the largest opposition party in parliament. 

Violent Extremism; Global Policy; Democracy & Governance

View All Publications