In January 2021, John P. Walters was appointed president and CEO of the Hudson Institute. Walters succeeded Kenneth R. Weinstein who had been CEO since June 2005 and was named president and CEO in March 2011.
Hudson Institute was founded in 1961 by Herman Kahn, Max Singer, and Oscar M. Ruebhausen. In 1960, while employed at the RAND Corporation, Kahn had given a series of lectures at Princeton University on scenarios related to nuclear war. In 1960, Princeton University Press published On Thermonuclear War, a book-length expansion of Kahn's lecture notes. Major controversies ensued, and in the end, Kahn and RAND had a parting of ways. Kahn moved to Croton-on-Hudson, New York, intending to establish a new think tank, less hierarchical and bureaucratic in its organization. Along with Max Singer, a young government lawyer who had been a RAND colleague of Kahn's, and New York attorney Oscar Ruebhausen, Kahn founded the Hudson Institute on 20 July 1961. Kahn was the Hudson's driving intellect and Singer built up the institute's organization. Ruebhausen was an advisor to New York GovernorNelson Rockefeller.
Hudson's initial research projects largely reflected Kahn's personal interests, which included the domestic and military use of nuclear power and scenario planning exercises about present policy options and their possible future outcomes. Kahn and his colleagues made pioneering contributions to nuclear deterrence theory and strategy during this period.
Hudson's detailed analyses of "ladders of escalation" and reports on the likely consequences of limited and unlimited nuclear exchanges, eventually published as Thinking About the Unthinkable (1962) and On Escalation: Metaphors and Scenarios (1965), were influential within the Kennedy administration, and helped the Institute win its first major research contract from the Office of Civil Defense at the Pentagon.
Kahn eventually expanded the use of scenario planning from defense policy work to economics, and in 1962 became the first analyst to predict the rise of Japan as the world's second-largest economy. Hudson Institute's publications soon became popular in Japan and Kahn developed close ties to numerous politicians and corporate leaders there.
Hudson Institute used scenario-planning techniques to forecast long-term developments and became renowned for its future studies. In 1967, Hudson published The Year 2000, a bestselling book, commissioned by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Many of the predictions came to pass, including technological developments like portable telephones and network-linked home and office computers.
In 1970, The Emerging Japanese Superstate, elaborating Kahn's predictions on the rise of Japan, was published.
After the Club of Rome's controversial 1972 report The Limits to Growth produced widespread alarm about the possibility that population growth and resource depletion might result in a 21st-century global "collapse", Hudson responded with an analysis of its own, The Next 200 Years, which concluded, instead, that scientific and practical innovations were likely to produce significantly better worldwide living standards. Maintaining this optimism about the future in his 1982 book The Coming Boom, Kahn argued that pro-growth tax and fiscal policies, an emerging information technology revolution, and breakthrough developments in the energy industry would make possible a period of unprecedented prosperity in the Western world by the early 21st century. Kahn was among the first to foresee unconventional extraction techniques like hydraulic fracturing.
In 1990, Daniels left Hudson Institute to become Vice President of Corporate Affairs at Eli Lilly and Company. He was succeeded as CEO by Leslie Lenkowsky, a social scientist, and former consultant to Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. Under Lenkowsky, Hudson put an emphasis on domestic and social policy. In the early 1990s, the Institute did work on education reform and applied research on charter school and school choice.
At the initiative of Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson, Hudson designed the "Wisconsin Works" welfare-to-work program that was adopted nationwide in the 1996 federal welfare-reform legislation signed by President Bill Clinton. In 2001, President George W. Bush's initiative on charitable choice was based on Hudson's research into social-service programs administered by faith-based organizations.
Other Hudson research from this period included 1987's "Workforce 2000", the best-selling think tank study of its day, which predicted the transformation of the American labor market and workplace arising from diversification and computerization, the "Blue Ribbon Commission on Hungary" (1990) and "International Baltic Economic Commission" (1991-93), which made major contributions to the adoption of market-oriented reforms in the newly independent states of Eastern Europe, and the 1997 follow-up study "Workforce 2020".
2001 to present
After the September 11 attacks, Hudson focused its efforts on international issues such as the Middle East, Latin America and Islam. On 1 July 2004, Hudson relocated its headquarters to Washington, DC, and focused its research on national security and foreign policy issues.
Critics question the institute's negative campaigning against organic farming, since it receives large sums of money from conventional food companies. The New York Times commented on Dennis Avery's attacks on organic farming: "The attack on organic food by a well-financed research organization suggests that, though organic food accounts for only 1 percent of food sales in the United States, the conventional food industry is worried."
After it was revealed that Michael Fumento received funding from Monsanto for his 1999 book Bio-Evolution, company spokesman Chris Horner confirmed that it continues to fund the think tank. "It's our practice, that if we're dealing with an organization like this, that any funds we're giving should be unrestricted," Horner told BusinessWeek. Hudson's CEO and President Kenneth R. Weinstein told BusinessWeek that he was uncertain if the payment should have been disclosed. "That's a good question, period," he said.
The New York Times accused Huntington Ingalls Industries of using the Hudson Institute to enhance the company's argument for more nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, at a cost of US$11 billion each. The Times alleged that a former naval officer was paid by Hudson to publish an analysis calling for more funding. The report was delivered to the House Armed Services subcommittee without disclosing that Huntington Ingalls had paid for part of the report. Hudson acknowledged the misconduct, describing it as a "mistake".
White, Andrew. "New York in the 1960s". The American Prospect, October 22, 2001: 40. [Book rev. of The Ungovernable City: John Lindsay and His Struggle to Save New York, by Vincent J. Cannato (New York: Basic Books, 2001).]