Future Security Forum reflects on the past 20 years of US security policy, what the future might bring

Arizona State University and New America recently co-hosted the seventh annual Future Security Forum. The event, taking place just after the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, reflected on the past 20 years of U.S. security policy and charted the next 20 years of national and international security trends.

The forum is the premier annual event of the Future Security project — a research, education, and policy partnership between ASU and New America that develops new models and examples for understanding and addressing new and emerging global challenges.

“This year, our forum is a little different from years past. In the midst of the pandemic, it’s important to take a pause and to rethink our definition of national security,” said Anne-Marie Slaughter, CEO of New America and distinguished professor of practice at ASU’s Thunderbird School of Global Management and Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law. “On the 20th anniversary of 9/11, we reflect, mourn and honor those who died, not only on the day, but also in the wars that followed. We must also reflect on the deaths of 4.5 million people worldwide from a virus that only arrived in the United States at the beginning of last year. It has killed more Americans than every foreign war combined since the Korean War. Hinge events like these change the way people understand the world and their concept of what leaders and institutions must do to keep the world secure.”

“I think the theme of the forum is well-suited to the ASU-New America partnership because while we’re focused on ideas, we’re also focused on acting on those ideas and finding ways to put those into practice — the kinds of projects and activities that are identified here, the new ways of moving forward,” said Jim O’Brien, senior vice president of university affairs and chief of staff to ASU President Michael Crow.

“This theme is particularly well-suited to what we’re doing here today, and it lends itself to this very unique partnership,” O’Brien told forum attendees in his opening remarks for the event. “About eight years ago when we started this, this was an experiment. Can you take an action tank and think tank and can you blend it with the nation’s largest public university, and can you do something that the two institutions couldn’t do perhaps as well alone as they can do together? And I think clearly this event today and all the activity we have underway between both organizations suggests that yes, that is entirely possible. I think we’ve charted new territory in many ways for taking on a subject like this and finding new ways of engaging and taking action going forward.”

Future Security Forum hosted by ASU and New America.

Anne-Marie Slaughter, CEO of New America and distinguished professor of practice at ASU, and Jim O'Brien, senior vice president of university affairs and chief of staff to ASU President Michael Crow, help kick off the 2021 Future Security Forum held virtually from Washington, D.C. Screenshot by Hager Sharp

The forum brought together thought leaders from government, the military, the media and academia, including many New America and ASU experts, to reflect on the legacy of America’s “longest wars,” discuss the impact of the past two decades of U.S. policy, and chart national and international security trends, with topics including conflict in space, diversity in policymaking, the future of COVID-19 and climate security.

The partnership between ASU and New America reflects the university’s commitment to promoting access to higher education while also promoting action and impact across the country.

“At ASU, we’re doing all we can to provide this access to higher education, and at the same time have this tremendous impact through research and partnerships like our partnership with New America at a national scale,” O’Brien said. “This is a fantastic forum, a fantastic gathering of people, and I think there’s much that can be achieved as a result of it all.”

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