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Gates Forums

In December 2022, the Gates Forum, which was hosted by the Gates Global Policy Center in partnership with William & Mary’s Global Research Institute (GRI), brought to Williamsburg prominent policymakers and officials, alongside experts from government, higher education, journalism, and the private sector.

Under the leadership of Chancellor Robert M. Gates, the forum engaged participants with a singular focus: what concrete actions can the United States take to reimagine its strategic communications capabilities in an era of resurgent great power competition?

Conferees included:

  • Hon. Robert M. Gates, Chancellor, William & Mary
  • U.S. Senator Chris Coons 
  • U.S. Senator Todd Young
  • Sophia Lafargue, Staff Director of the House Foreign Affairs Committee
  • Elizabeth M. Allen, Senior Official, Office of the Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs
  • Admiral John Kirby, National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications
  • Dr. Mara Karlin, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy, Plans, and Capabilities
  • Dr. William Prillaman, Chief of Analytic Strategy, Central Intelligence Agency
  • Brigadier General Patrick Ryder, Press Secretary, Department of Defense
  • Brent Colburn, Senior Vice President of External Relations and Communications, University of California Office of the President
  • Tom Gjelten, Former NPR News Correspondent
  • Thom Shanker, Director, Project for Media and National Security
  • Vivek Varma, Chief Executive Officer, Emes Project LLC

Conferee bios are available here.

To inform their policy recommendations, the conferees drew upon eight original research papers  to understand historical, comparative, and forward-looking perspectives on strategic communication and public diplomacy as tools of foreign policy. The papers were produced by AidData, a research lab at the Global Research Institute and the research partner for the first Forum, and external experts under the leadership of Samantha Custer, AidData’s Director of Policy Analysis.

As a critical bridge drawing leaders across the political spectrum, Gates Forums produce policy recommendations informed by the best available evidence. Each respective Gates Forum will focus on issues where improved data and analysis helps participants diagnose the policy problem, weigh the merits of possible solutions, and increase the credibility of the final menu of policy recommendations.

The next Gates Forum will tackle a different subject and is scheduled to take place in fall 2023.