The Foreign Policy Institute (FPI) of The Johns Hopkins University’s Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) was established in 1980 to unite the worlds of scholarship and policy in the search for realistic answers to international issues facing the United States and the world. 


The FPI seeks to advance practically oriented research and discussion about foreign policy. To this end, it organizes research initiatives and study groups, and hosts leaders from around the world as resident or non-resident fellows in fields including international policy, business, journalism, and academia.

FPI Fellows and Chairmen at a meeting in the 1980s.

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In 1980, Paul H. Nitze, former adviser on foreign and security policy in several White House administrations and founder with Christian Herter of the Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), established The Foreign Policy Institute (FPI). Nitze’s vision for the FPI was to unite scholarship and policy in the search for realistic answers to international issues facing the United States and the world, a vision that remains the FPI’s core mission today.


Since it was founded, the Foreign Policy Institute, housed within SAIS, has brought the expertise of SAIS academics together with the hands-on experience of policy practitioners within SAIS and the broader Washington community.


Among the FPI’s early innovations was its “Washington Roundtables,” a series of discussions among academics, other foreign policy experts, and policymakers, on leading foreign policy and security issues facing the United States. The Roundtables addressed critical issues, from broad boundary-spanning problems of the day to a subset of issues that drew on participation from experts with more specialized knowledge, organized as Embassy, Media, and Security Roundtables.


In 1984, the FPI launched its premier publication, The SAIS Review of International Affairs. Dedicated to advancing the debate on leading contemporary issues in world affairs, under its graduate student editorial staff, The SAIS Review began to publish essays aimed at straddling the boundary between scholarly inquiry and practical experience. The journal has consistently featured contributors from a wide range of backgrounds, including academics, policy analysts, leading journalists, representatives from Congress and parliamentarians, as well as senior officials from both government and non-governmental organizations. The SAIS Papers in International Affairs, papers and monographs on current international issues prepared by SAIS faculty, was another longstanding publication of the FPI. The SAIS Review continues to be a trademark publication of the graduate program today.


Also in 1984, Senators Richard Lugar and Jake Garn established The Vandenberg Seminars at the FPI. These convened prominent members of Congress and senior officials from the corporate world, the executive branch, and academia to discuss the role of Congress in foreign and national security policy. The FPI’s “Washington Briefings,” established the same year, gave foreign journalists from Western Europe, Asia, and Latin America a chance to be briefed by experts on the mechanics of US domestic and foreign policy.


In the mid-1980s, the FPI concentrated its programming on key topics in international security, including the effects of military efforts and new technologies in space; the links between the scientific/technical community and the world of politics; and Soviet bureaucratic politics as they related to strategic nuclear policy.


Two trademark programs introduced in 1986 were the Program in Diplomatic Training and a further expansion of The Washington Roundtables. The Program in Diplomatic Training allowed SAIS faculty and FPI Associates to draft, analyze, and conduct twenty-five case studies of major diplomatic negotiations, both past and current. That year, The Washington Roundtables began to focus its discussions on countries potentially threatened by significant domestic upheavals such as the Philippines, Mexico, Pakistan, Tunisia, and South Korea.


Much of the FPI’s programming in the 1990s focused on civil-military relations. A “Civil-Military Relations Discussion Group” was established as part of the US Post-Cold War Civil-Military Relations Project, a program sponsored by the John M. Olin Institute for Strategic Studies at Harvard University. Speakers throughout the decade lectured on subjects such as Congressional influence on jointness in the US military, the origins and implications of the American military paradigm, and institutional approaches to explaining US civil-military relations.


The Foreign Policy Institute additionally established discussion groups on religion in the 21st century, Asian security, “new sciences,” and new technology and international affairs. Regular programming included a “Current Issues” luncheon group led by former statesman, Zbigniew Brzezinski, and an outreach program for the mid-career professionals enrolled in the SAIS Masters of International Public Policy (MIPP).


The FPI has served as a key incubator of several new academic programs at SAIS. The South Asia Initiative, led by Ambassador Shirin Tahir-Kheli (a current FPI Fellow), became the South Asia program at SAIS. The current Director of SAIS’ Center for International Business and Public Policy, Roger Leeds, established the Corruption Project, with the mission of studying methods to combat political corruption around the globe and associated implications for US policy. Fred Brown, a former State Department official, established the Southeast Asia program in 1991 and served as its Associate Director until 2005.


Between 2000 and 2008, The Foreign Policy Institute introduced several new initiatives. The Protection Project, established at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government by FPI Fellow Laura Lederer in 1994, moved to SAIS in 2000. Its mission was, and continues to be, to promote human rights throughout the world and address trafficking in persons as a human rights violation. The Center for Transatlantic Relations was established in 2001 to strengthen transatlantic relations and address contemporary challenges. S. Frederick Starr, former White House advisor and policymaker founded and chaired, as he continues to do today, the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute, a then sub-program of the FPI that houses several leading publications on Russia and Eurasia. The SAIS Dialogue Project was founded in 2002. Early activities of the Dialogue Project included discussions on perspectives of the general populace in Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan; human rights in Iran; the influence of Western culture around the world; and literature as it relates to international affairs. The Foreign Policy Institute’s Cultural Conversations program was established in 2008 to further the Dialogue Project’s outreach efforts. The program currently focuses its work on questions related to how culture and literature shape perspectives on international dynamics around the globe. It continues the Dialogue Project’s mission of providing space for objective dialogue on the often difficult and sensitive issues of culture and human relationships.


In recent years, FPI fellows have continued to contribute to the FPI’s mission of bridging the worlds of scholarship and policy. Fellows are selected on the basis of their interest in projects that demonstrate expertise in an aspect of international relations or regional studies with a direct connection to addressing the international challenges of our time.