Statecraft December Roundup
And some hints about next year's interviews
First of all, thank you all for your support for this newsletter! In just over three months, Statecraft has crossed 3000 subscribers and the growth curve is trending upward. If current trends continue, Statecraft is on track to reach infinite subscribers at some point in mid-April 2024 🚀
In all seriousness, we have some excellent interviews queued for the next year. They cover things like:
How to break up the organ procurement monopoly
How to pass a major bipartisan bill
How to lead the implementation of a major bipartisan bill
How to design and administer Operation Warp Speed
How to save the American chestnut
In the last month, we published four great interviews:
“If the FDA seems to drag its heels on getting a medicine approved, Congress will question why these medicines are available sooner overseas. On the other hand, they'll get beaten up if a drug comes to market and is unexpectedly found to be far more toxic than it was known to be during the approval process. Congress will then ask, ‘What were you thinking? Couldn't you tell this medicine was dangerous?’”
“And then I tried something new. I invited the FDA’s director of the neuropharmacology division — Paul Leber's predecessor, Tom Hayes — to our meeting. You don’t usually mix those worlds — industry and FDA — but I did. He was right there, hearing all our discussions.”
“The DARPA model is very program manager-driven. We come up with ideas, build those ideas into programs, “sell” those programs, basically pitch those programs to our leadership, and, if they sign off on it, then you have your budget, your mandate, and you're off to the races.”
“If no programs are ever failing, then we're not taking enough risks: that's what we say at DARPA. There should be some high fraction of failures if we're taking the appropriate level of risk.”
“Sometimes cash money is the driver for headlines, coverage, and the way in which the public gets attention, but sometimes the most powerful incentives for the entrepreneurs or solvers themselves isn't just the money. It might be the glory, the hardness of the problem.”
“One of the best tips is to come in with your point of view and your ideas about what should get done, to have those [ideas] written down, and to have those written down in a variety of lengths that are appropriate for different audiences. The one sentence version, the one paragraph version, the two pager. There's nothing more powerful than a two- to three-page memo, well written, that proposes an idea up a policy chain.”
“The interesting thing about Santa is that he almost always takes off at the same time, usually around 6 a.m. Eastern time every December 24th. But his route does vary. He's never had the same route twice. Our assumption on that is that his naughty or nice list is different every single year, and so he follows a different pattern to hit all the good boys and girls.”
“Rudolph's red nose does show up on the infrared spectrum. So we can track Rudolph. When he goes around to other places, like Kenya or New Zealand, we're tracking him via those two means, and then we still maintain our satellite queuing of him when he comes across North American airspace, specifically Canada and the United States.”
What We’re Reading
On his blog,warns that our way of approaching federal funding is often self-defeating, making the government work worse.
At Foreign Affairs, Philip Zelikow addresses The Atrophy of American Statecraft.
“…on almost every issue, whether they like the Americans or resent them, people in the world look to the U.S. government for help, if only in organizing the work. The Americans cannot meet this demand. Their supply of effective policies is limited. The United States does not have the breadth and depth of competence—capabilities and know-how—in its contemporary government.”
At,has a new series: administrative histories of specific DARPA/ARPA projects. Caution as it may be catnip to readers of this series.
If you would like us to interview someone in particular in 2024 for Statecraft, let us know!
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!