Center for the National Interest Appoints Paul Saunders as New President


Washington, D.C. – January 8, 2024

The Center for the National Interest is pleased to announce the appointment of Paul J. Saunders as its new President. With a deep background in foreign policy, national security, and energy, and a proven track record of leadership at the institution, Saunders brings diverse expertise and a strong commitment to advancing pragmatic approaches to America’s top challenges.

Saunders served as Executive Director of the Center for the National Interest from 2005 to 2019 and was a State Department Senior Advisor from 2003 to 2005. He was one of the Center’s first employees at its founding in 1994 and became Director in 1997. After leaving the Center staff, he became President of Energy Innovation Reform Project, a research and advocacy organization promoting practical, bipartisan solutions in U.S. energy and climate policy. During his three-decade career in Washington, Saunders has built broad expertise and a wide network in the United States and internationally.

“We are excited that Paul Saunders will return to the Center for the National Interest as its new President,” stated Drew Guff, Chairman of the Center’s Board of Directors. “His experience and expertise will be essential in reorienting the Center’s work to address the critical problems that America faces today, both abroad and at home.”

Saunders will work to elevate the Center’s role in policy and public debates on key issues, including national security, energy, technology, trade, and finance, as well as strategic regions, including the Indo-Pacific, Europe, and the Middle East. He will also oversee the Center’s highly successful online magazine, The National Interest (

“Paul Saunders is well prepared to adapt the Center’s long-standing mission to promote strategic realism to twenty-first century realities,” remarked Graham Allison, a Center Board member and Douglas Dillon Professor of Government at Harvard University. “His vision will position the Center to play an even more important role at this pivotal time for America.”

“I am excited and honored to lead the Center for the National Interest and to build upon and modernize its legacy,” said Saunders. “The Center and The National Interest are essential voices for realism and for American international leadership during a complex transitional era in international affairs. I am especially pleased to work with their outstanding team, including TNI’s editor and executive editor, Jacob Heilbrunn and Harry Kazianis.”

The Center for the National Interest remains steadfast in its mission to promote strategic realism in U.S. foreign policy, the enlightened pursuit of U.S. national interests, and American leadership in maintaining a stable international order.

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About the Center for the National Interest

The Center for the National Interest is a non-partisan public policy institute dedicated to advancing pragmatic approaches to U.S. foreign policy. The Center was established by former President Richard Nixon in 1994 and has published The National Interest since 2001.

Follow the Center for the National Interest on X (Twitter) at @CFTNI and The National Interest at @TheNatlInterest.