Jordan Tama

American University
School of International Service

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Washington,, D.C.
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My research agenda focuses on understanding the politics, institutions, and processes of U.S. foreign and national security policy making. I have carried out a major research project on the role of blue-ribbon government advisory commissions in policy making, which has generated findings about how commissions can shape government reforms and why some commissions are more influential than others. Currently, I am working on two other major research projects. One of them examines the politics and process of government strategic planning, with a focus on quadrennial strategy reviews conducted by government agencies. In this project, I am examining why government agencies conduct major strategy reviews and what, if anything, results from them. My other major current project examines the partisan and inter-branch politics of contemporary U.S. foreign policy making. In this project, I am examining the extent to which partisanship shapes congressional activity on foreign policy and the character of congressional-executive relations on foreign policy issues.

Tama, Jordan. "Does Strategic Planning Matter? The Outcomes of U.S. National Security Reviews." Political Science Quarterly. (Forthcoming in Winter 2015-16)
Abstract: Over the past two decades, periodic strategic reviews have become a mainstay of U.S. national security policy making, as government officials have instituted quadrennial reviews at all of the major national security agencies. The outcomes of these reviews may influence whether or not the government is prepared for important challenges. Yet we have known little about whether quadrennial reviews lead the government to do anything differently. In this article I evaluate the outcomes of several quadrennial reviews by national security agencies, analyze the factors that have shaped their outcomes, and consider the value of formal strategic reviews more generally. I find that, in the absence of significant presidential involvement, quadrennial reviews rarely generate major strategy shifts or transformational reforms, but these reviews can help the leaders of agencies institutionalize their priorities by creating bureaucratic buy-in for incremental policy and organizational changes.
Tama, Jordan. 2016. The Politics of Strategy: Why Government Agencies Conduct Major Strategic Reviews. Journal of Public Policy. (Published online May 2015; Forthcoming in print).
Abstract: In recent years, United States (US) policymakers have instituted quadrennial strategy reviews in several major policy areas. In this article, I examine why policymakers have initiated these large strategic reviews, and why a particular model for them has diffused from the US Defense Department to other government agencies. I find that policymakers have initiated the reviews principally to spur organisational change in agencies and influence the relationship between agencies and the Congress, and that policymakers have replicated the Defense Department’s review model because of that department’s strong political support. My findings suggest more generally that formal strategy activities are often driven more by legislative-executive and bureaucratic politics than by a search for new strategic ideas. Commonalities between the diffusion of quadrennial reviews in the US and the diffusion of other strategy and planning processes internationally underscore the broader applicability and significance of these findings.
DOI: 10.1017/S0143814X15000148
Tama, Jordan. 2013. "From Private Consultation to Public Crusade: Assessing Eisenhower's Legislative Strategies on Foreign Policy." Congress and the Presidency 40 (1): 41-60.
Abstract: Existing scholarship describes Congress as deferring to Dwight Eisenhower on foreign policy during the majority of his presidency. In this article, I demonstrate that Congress resisted key elements of Eisenhower’s foreign policy agenda throughout his presidency, and that Eisenhower needed to employ a variety of sophisticated strategies to obtain congressional backing. On foreign aid—one of his top presidential priorities—Eisenhower launched a multifaceted and innovative campaign to build congressional support, which included the establishment of White House-funded private advocacy groups to educate the public about the issue. Eisenhower’s approach on foreign aid reveals that he was willing to depart from his “hidden-hand” leadership style when necessary to advance a top priority, but that even when going public, Eisenhower relied in part on others to deliver his message.
Tama, Jordan. 2014. "Crises, Commissions, and Reform: The Impact of Blue-Ribbon Panels." Political Research Quarterly 67 (1): 152-164.
Abstract: Scholars have found that, even when a crisis creates demand for reform, a focal point is often necessary to overcome obstacles to change. I argue that, with surprising frequency, U.S. blue-ribbon commissions use their bipartisan political credibility to provide this focal point and thereby catalyze postcrisis government reform. Since commission-inspired reform is often designed to integrate or centralize policy making, I further explain that commissions can be useful presidential tools for asserting power over agencies. I test my argument on an original data set that includes new measures of commission influence.
Hathaway, Robert, and Jordan Tama. 2004. "The U.S. Congress and North Korea during the Clinton Years: Talk Tough, Carry a Small Stick." Asian Survey 44 (5): 711-733.
Abstract: This essay explores the striking gap between Republican rhetoric and congressional action on North Korea between 1995 and 2001, when the GOP held majorities in both houses of Congress. While historical in nature, this inquiry offers lessons for President Bush -- or, if elected, John Kerry -- as he struggles to meet the North Korea challenge.
Tama, Jordan. 2011. "The Power and Limitations of Commissions: The Iraq Study Group, Bush, Obama, and Congress." Presidential Studies Quarterly 41 (1): 135-155.
Abstract: This article uses a case study of the 2006 Iraq Study Group to illustrate the policy-making power and limitations of blue-ribbon commissions. I argue that the distinct political credibility of commissions can enable them to shape public opinion and drive policy change, but that commissions usually cannot bridge partisan divides on highly salient issues marked by intense polarization. The case study reveals that the Iraq Study Group influenced public views of George W. Bush's Iraq policy, placed significant pressure on Bush to change his Iraq strategy, and shaped the Iraq plan of Barack Obama?even though the commission was unable to forge agreement between Bush and Democratic congressional leaders.rn
Tama, Jordan. 2011. Terrorism and National Security Reform: How Commissions Can Drive Change During Crises. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Abstract: Terrorism and National Security Reform demonstrates that blue-ribbon commissions can be powerful vehicles for policy change, overturning the conventional wisdom that views them only as devices for passing the buck. Jordan Tama explains how the unique political credibility of commissions can enable them to forge bipartisan consensus on tough policy challenges. He also shows that commissions are most valuable during a crisis, when policymakers face pressure to make changes but frequently cannot agree on what to do. Using an original database, case studies, and more than 200 interviews of policymakers and commission participants, Tama reveals how commissions have shaped Barack Obama's plan for ending the Iraq War, spurred the largest government and intelligence overhauls since 1947, and driven many other elements of U.S. counterterrorism policy. In an era of unrelenting partisanship and extreme polarization, this book shows that commissions are increasingly valuable policymaking tools.

Substantive Focus:
Governance PRIMARY
Defense and Security SECONDARY
International Relations

Theoretical Focus:
Policy History
Policy Process Theory PRIMARY
Agenda-Setting, Adoption, and Implementation SECONDARY
Public Opinion