Political Instability Task Force

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The Political Instability Task Force (PITF) (formerly known as State Failure Task Force) "is a panel of scholars and methodologists that was originally formed in 1994 at the request of senior policymakers in the United States Government. The composition of the core group of scholars numbers from ten to fifteen and represents several of the country's leading research institutions; current Task Force members come from Arizona State, Columbia, George Mason, Harvard, Maryland, Minnesota, Stanford, and Texas universities. Its original, assigned task was to assess and explain the vulnerability of states around the world to political instability and state failure. Over the eleven-year course of its work, the Task Force has broadened its attention from the kind of extreme state failure that befell Somalia and the former Zaire in the early 1990s to include onsets of general political instability defined by outbreaks of revolutionary or ethnic war, adverse regime change, and genocide. More recently, the Task Force has explored matters of governance raised by our earlier research through projects that measure state capacity and model democratic transitions. In the wake of September 11, we also turned our attention to relationships between states and international terrorist groups. Even as the scope of the panel's research program has grown, however, the central objective has remained the same: using open-source data, the Task Force seeks to develop statistical models that can accurately assess countries' prospects for major political change and can identify key risk factors of interest to US policymakers.

"The PITF is funded by the Central Intelligence Agency. The PITF website is hosted by the Center for Global Policy at George Mason University and is provided as a public service...

"A list of state failures was originally prepared in 1994 by a research team directed by Ted Robert Gurr of the University of Maryland and (for genocides and politicides) Barbara Harff of the U.S. Naval Academy. The information was compiled as part of an unclassified study that was commissioned by the Central Intelligence Agency's Directorate of Intelligence in response to a request from senior US policy makers to design and carry out a data-driven study on the correlates of state failure since the mid-1950s. The study was carried out by a Task Force consisting of academic experts, data collection and management specialists from the Consortium for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN), and analytic methods professionals from Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC). It must be noted that, although the work of the Task Force was funded by the CIA's Directorate of Intelligence, none of the information contained in this Web site, associated data resources, or Task Force reports is based on intelligence reporting or classified material. Neither does the information presented represent the official view of the U.S. Government, the U.S. Intelligence Community, or the Central Intelligence Agency, but, rather, the views of the individual authors and researchers themselves." [1]


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  1. Political Instability Task Force, gmu.edu, accessed November 8, 2011.