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George P. Shultz Award for Distinguished Service

  • Conversation with Andrew Marshall, four-decade director of the Pentagon’s “internal think tank,” the Office of Net Assessment. 
  • Introductory Remarks by Andrew D. May, Office of Net Assessment
  • Moderator: Samantha Ravich, FDD CSIF board member and former Deputy National Security Advisor to the Vice President

FDD presented its George P. Shultz Award for Distinguished Service to Andrew Marshall, a legendary figure in American statecraft. Mr. Marshall  headed the Office of Net Assessment – the Pentagon’s internal think tank – from its inception in 1973 until his retirement in January of this year at age 93.

Introducing the recipient, ONA Acting Director Andrew D. May praised Marshall for strengthening U.S. security by producing countless detailed assessments of the long-term strategic threats and opportunities facing the country. Marshall, he said, was never satisfied with “easy answers to easy questions” and always inspired those working for him to delve deeper.

The session was moderated by Samantha Ravich, a board member of FDD’s Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance and former Deputy National Security Advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney. Ravich lauded Marshall as a “provider of justice, wisdom, and analytic and professional skills, with the ability to apply these talents to policy.” She said that while in Washington, the phrase “long-term” often means until the next election, “‛long-term’ in the Office of Net Assessment is 20 years, 30 years, even 50 years into the future.”

Accepting the award, Marshall said that in forecasting future opportunities and threats, he put particular value on historical research – looking back several decades to understand adversaries’ strengths, weaknesses and motivations.

“Iran is clearly highly motivated to get nuclear weapons,” he said, adding that the Islamic Republic views weapons of mass destruction as a trump card in ensuring regime survival. Allowing the Iranians to develop such arms, he warned, would “change the whole region,” sparking a race to acquire equivalent capabilities by regional rivals like Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt. Nonetheless, he added, defense analysts need to conduct far deeper research into how countries choose to use their nuclear weapons if they hope to accurately predict nuclear-armed states’ behavior.

“You’re an original and remarkable fellow,” Ravich concluded. She then asked Marshall his thoughts on his nickname – Yoda, the Star Wars character renowned for his wisdom on the application of force.

“I was puzzled,” Marshall replied. “I had no idea who Yoda was.”