According to its website, the Institute promotes "American leadership and global engagement for a secure, free, and prosperous future." It promotes public policy change in accordance with its stated belief that "America's unique and central role in the global system offers the best foundation for security, the defense of liberty, and assuring economic growth."
Hudson Institute was founded in 1961 by Herman Kahn, Max Singer, and Oscar M. Ruebhausen. In 1960, while employed at the RAND Corporation, Kahn had given a series of lectures at Princeton University on scenarios related to nuclear war. In 1960, Princeton University Press published On Thermonuclear War, a book-length expansion of Kahn's lecture notes. Major controversies ensued, and in the end, Kahn and RAND had a parting of ways. Kahn moved to Croton-on-Hudson, New York, intending to establish a new think tank, less hierarchical and bureaucratic in its organization. Along with Max Singer, a young government lawyer who had been a RAND colleague of Kahn's, and New York attorney Oscar Ruebhausen, Kahn founded the Hudson Institute on 20 July 1961. Kahn was the Hudson's driving intellect and Singer built up the institute's organization. Ruebhausen was an advisor to New York GovernorNelson Rockefeller.
Hudson's initial research projects largely reflected Kahn's personal interests, which included the domestic and military use of nuclear power and scenario planning exercises about present policy options and their possible future outcomes. Kahn and his colleagues made pioneering contributions to nuclear deterrence theory and strategy during this period.
Hudson's detailed analyses of "ladders of escalation" and reports on the likely consequences of limited and unlimited nuclear exchanges, eventually published as Thinking About the Unthinkable (1962) and On Escalation: Metaphors and Scenarios (1965), were influential within the Kennedy administration, and helped the Institute win its first major research contract from the Office of Civil Defense at the Pentagon.
Kahn eventually expanded the use of scenario planning from defense policy work to economics, and in 1962 became the first analyst to predict the rise of Japan as the world's second-largest economy. Hudson Institute's publications soon became popular in Japan and Kahn developed close ties to numerous politicians and corporate leaders there.
Hudson Institute used scenario-planning techniques to forecast long-term developments and became renowned for its future studies. In 1967, Hudson published The Year 2000, a bestselling book, commissioned by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Many of the predictions came to pass, including technological developments like portable telephones and network-linked home and office computers.
In 1970, The Emerging Japanese Superstate, elaborating Kahn’s predictions on the rise of Japan, was published.
After the Club of Rome's controversial 1972 report The Limits to Growth produced widespread alarm about the possibility that population growth and resource depletion might result in a 21st-century global "collapse", Hudson responded with an analysis of its own, The Next 200 Years, which concluded, instead, that scientific and practical innovations were likely to produce significantly better worldwide living standards. Maintaining this optimism about the future in his 1982 book The Coming Boom, Kahn argued that pro-growth tax and fiscal policies, an emerging information technology revolution, and breakthrough developments in the energy industry would make possible a period of unprecedented prosperity in the Western world by the early 21st century. Kahn was among the first to foresee unconventional extraction techniques like hydraulic fracturing.
In 1990, Daniels left Hudson Institute to become Vice President of Corporate Affairs at Eli Lilly and Company. He was succeeded as CEO by Leslie Lenkowsky, a social scientist, and former consultant to Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Under Lenkowsky, Hudson put an emphasis on domestic and social policy. In the early 1990s, the Institute did work on education reform and applied research on charter school and school choice.
At the initiative of Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson, Hudson designed the "Wisconsin Works" welfare-to-work program that was adopted nationwide in the 1996 federal welfare-reform legislation signed by President Bill Clinton. In 2001, President George W. Bush's initiative on charitable choice was based on Hudson's research into social-service programs administered by faith-based organizations.
Other Hudson research from this period included 1987's "Workforce 2000", the best-selling think tank study of its day, which predicted the transformation of the American labor market and workplace arising from diversification and computerization, the "Blue Ribbon Commission on Hungary" (1990) and "International Baltic Economic Commission" (1991–93), which made major contributions to the adoption of market-oriented reforms in the newly independent states of Eastern Europe, and the 1997 follow-up study "Workforce 2020".
After the September 11 attacks, Hudson focused its efforts on international issues such as the Middle East, Latin America and Islam. On 1 July 2004, Hudson relocated its headquarters to Washington, DC, and focused its research on national security and foreign policy issues.
Vice PresidentMichael Pence used the think tank as his venue for a major policy speech on China on 4 October 2018, noting that "Beijing is employing a whole-of-government approach, using political, economic, and military tools, as well as propaganda, to advance its influence and benefit its interests in the United States".
Based on the conviction that the internet must also follow the core requirements for a functioning market, the Center for the Economics of the Internet focuses its program on research and debate intended to show the importance and use of property and contract rights throughout the digital world. The center rejects "internet exceptionalism", where property rights, contract rights, and competition are not important, where "ordinary principles of economics do not apply", and where the government has a responsibility to regulate with unusual intensity and without limitations. The center is directed by Harold Furchtgott-Roth, joined by senior fellow Robert M. McDowell.
Center on Islam, Democracy, and the Future of the Muslim World
Led by Director Hillel Fradkin, the Center on Islam, Democracy, and the Future of the Muslim World conducts a variety of research programs and convenes public conferences covering a wide range of topics such as religious culture and intellectual developments affecting Islamic countries and Muslim-minority populations worldwide. The center's goal is to identify and encourage moderate and democratic alternatives to sectarian radicalism. One of the center's core projects is "Current Trends in Islamist Ideology", published since 2005. It is edited by Hillel Fradkin and Hudson senior fellows Husain Haqqani and Eric Brown, along with Hassan Mneimneh, Senior Transatlantic Fellow for MENA and the Islamic World at the German Marshall Fund.
Center for Religious Freedom
Founded in 1986 and housed at Hudson Institute since January 2007, the Center for Religious Freedom works with a broad range of experts in order to promote religious freedom as an integral element of U.S. foreign policy. When U.S. foreign policy is lagging behind in that regard, the center strives to defend persecuted believers and to promote religious freedom worldwide.
From its inception in 1986, the center has sponsored investigative field missions, published reports on the religious persecution of various individuals and groups, and taken action on their behalf in the media and with relevant officials in Congress and the executive branch. During the Cold War, the Center's efforts were focused on helping religious believers that were persecuted under communism. Today, the center has broadened its efforts to promote religious freedom for citizens in autocratic regimes of any sort, especially in the Muslim world. The center is directed by Nina Shea and includes among its scholars senior fellows Paul Marshal and Samuel Tadros, and adjunct fellow Lela Gilbert.
Center for Global Prosperity
The Center for Global Prosperity is focused on creating awareness among opinion leaders and the general public about the crucial role of the private sector (both for-profit and not-for-profit) as a main source of countries’ economic growth and prosperity. The center's signature product is the annual Index of Global Philanthropy and Remittances, which details the sources and amounts of private giving to the developing world. The center’s work is rooted in support for free societies—functioning capital markets, private property, free trade and press, the rule of law, good governance, and human rights—as the principal basis for economic prosperity and well-being. Its pilot study, Philanthropic Freedom, was the first comprehensive analysis of global philanthropic freedom, examining barriers and incentives for individuals and organizations to spend resources on social causes. The center is headed by Carol Adelman, and its staff includes senior fellow Jeremiah Norris.
Initiative on Future Innovation
Dedicated to sustaining America’s ability to develop welfare-increasing technological innovations, Hudson Institute's Initiative on Future Innovation sponsors original, problem-solving research to improve the basis for productive scientific inquiry and for the rapid implementation of new discoveries and inventions. The initiative is directed by Christopher DeMuth, a distinguished fellow at Hudson and former president of the American Enterprise Institute.
Obesity Solutions Initiative
Directed by senior fellow Hank Cardello, the Obesity Solutions Initiative focuses on improving policies and developing solutions to address the global obesity epidemic. The initiative's main focal point is the development of market-based solutions taking into consideration the interests of the public health community, consumers, regulators, and the private sector. It criticizes current obesity approaches as having a one-sided perspective, suffering from a lack of pragmatism, and being ineffective and costly.
The initiative's overall objective is to build the business case for healthier, lower-calorie foods by illustrating the financial and marketing benefits of such products.
The center is developing policies that are based on tax incentives to lower the number of calories being sold, and the balancing of marketing budgets in order to educate consumers about portion control and nutrition.
Bradley Center for Philanthropy & Civic Renewal
The center values small, local and often faith-based grassroots associations as core elements of a vital civil society and aims to encourage foundations and charitable donors to put more emphasis on supporting these organizations. Through research, publications, and seminars, the center examines the current giving practices of American foundations. According to the center, U.S. foundations tend to support larger, expert-driven projects while largely ignoring smaller civic associations.
The center conducts discussions about these issues throughout the non-profit sector and also advises donors on creating grant-making programs that support a renewal of civil society. Hudson senior fellow William A. Schambra has directed the Center since its launch in 2003. The Center was named after its longtime principal donor, the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, and also for the National Commission on Philanthropy and Civic Renewal of 1996–97.
Center for American Seapower
The Center for American Seapower works for the promotion of public dialogue on America's shrinking maritime power and provides arguments and strategies in order to strengthen the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard as well as the American shipbuilding industries.
Directed by senior fellow Seth Cropsey and adjunct fellow Bryan McGrath, the center works on developing alternative maritime strategies, makes detailed evaluation of the threats posed by the rise of local and potential global maritime competitors, and takes into account both historical and current events in order to assess the longer-term impact of diminishing U.S. sea power on the country's national security.
Center for Substance Abuse Policy Research
The Center for Substance Abuse Policy Research is searching for ways to build sustained public awareness of the dangers of substance abuse, and supports new strategies verified by science, medicine, and actual practice. In the center's view, U.S. federal drug policy is in disarray, challenged by budgetary constraints and unclear goals. Currently, U.S. drug abuse is on the rise, as are the associated secondary consequences, and core policy principles are being threatened. As a result, the center aims to correct misinformation, document the harm done by drug abuse, present scientific countermeasures, and present necessary and relevant information to key federal, state, and local policymakers. The center is directed by John P. Walters, Hudson Institute's COO, and senior fellow David W. Murray.
The Kleptocracy Initiative (KI) investigates the increasing threats posed to Western democracies by autocratic regimes. KI analyses the financial practices of autocratic governments and their leaders, and focuses on designing new and effective policies in order to prevent hostile foreign actors from secretly stealing their nations' assets and using those assets against their own citizens, the U.S. and its allies. The initiative is led by Executive Director Charles Davidson and Media Director Julie Davidson.
Critics question the institute's negative campaigning against organic farming, since it receives large sums of money from conventional food companies. The New York Times commented on Dennis Avery's attacks on organic farming: "The attack on organic food by a well-financed research organization suggests that, though organic food accounts for only 1 percent of food sales in the United States, the conventional food industry is worried."
After it was revealed that Michael Fumento received funding from Monsanto for his 1999 book Bio-Evolution, company spokesman Chris Horner confirmed that it continues to fund the think tank. "It's our practice, that if we're dealing with an organization like this, that any funds we're giving should be unrestricted," Horner told BusinessWeek. Hudson's CEO and President Kenneth R. Weinstein told BusinessWeek that he was uncertain if the payment should have been disclosed. "That's a good question, period," he said.
The New York Times accused Huntington Ingalls Industries of using the Hudson Institute to enhance the company's argument for more nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, at a cost of USD$11 billion each. The Times alleged that a former naval officer was paid by Hudson to publish an analysis calling for more funding. The report was delivered to the House Armed Services subcommittee without disclosing that Huntington Ingalls had paid for part of the report. Hudson acknowledged the mistake.
White, Andrew. "New York in the 1960s". The American Prospect, October 22, 2001: 40. [Book rev. of The Ungovernable City: John Lindsay and His Struggle to Save New York, by Vincent J. Cannato (New York: Basic Books, 2001).]