April 19, 2011
James A. Thomson, who has served as president and CEO of the nonprofit RAND Corporation for more than two decades, announced today that he will step down from his post in the fall. A search for his successor will begin immediately.
"James Thomson has been an extraordinary leader who has helped RAND increase the breadth of its world-leading research and expanded its research efforts around the globe," said Paul G. Kaminski, chairman of the RAND Board of Trustees. "He leaves a strong legacy and a vital organization for his successor to build upon."
Thomson, 66, became RAND's fourth president in 1989 and has served in the post longer than any of his predecessors. Under his leadership, the organization's annual budget has grown from $91 million to more than $250 million and its staff has grown from 1,050 to more than 1,700 people in offices across the globe.
"I feel privileged to have led RAND for the past 22 years, and have always said this was the best job in the world for me," said Thomson, a nuclear physicist who worked on European security and arms control before joining RAND's research staff in 1981. "It is now time for change and I look forward to helping my successor make a smooth transition."
Members of RAND's governing board praised Thomson's leadership.
"Jim's dedication to quality and objectivity in research, and to making a difference in policy and practice, helped make him the ideal leader of RAND during this period of growing political polarization," said Kaminski, chairman and CEO of Technovation, Inc., and a former undersecretary of defense. "The RAND trustees have always been proud of RAND's fierce non-partisanship and dedication to the truth. We will miss him."
"During my time on the board, Jim launched and completed a major shift in strategy, leading to expansion, diversification of clients and a growing international presence, all while strengthening relations with our strategic clients in the Pentagon," said Ann McLaughlin Korologos, immediate past chair of the RAND board and a former U.S. secretary of labor. "Jim has been a model of what a leader should be."
RAND's research findings spanned a broad array of issues under Thomson's leadership.
Over the last two decades, RAND analysts have helped improve the efficiency of government. They produced detailed acquisition recommendations for fixed-wing aircraft, submarines, aircraft carriers, missiles, engine and avionics subsystems. Such work, together with research on the effectiveness and efficiency of the military logistics and personnel systems, have helped save billions of taxpayer dollars.
Seminal work during Thomson's tenure also includes: examining the psychological and cognitive health of soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, guiding the sharp drawdown of forces after the end of the Cold War, quantifying the quality of health care received by Americans, providing the basis for expanding NATO, establishing the cost-benefit foundation for early childhood interventions, demonstrating how European governments can confront the economic and social challenges posed by declining fertility rates and aging populations, helping the government of Qatar redesign its education and health care systems, creating a vision and roadmap for an independent Palestinian state, and analyzing terrorism and devising counterterrorism policies.
Thomson became president of RAND as events in Eastern Europe signaled an end to the Cold War analysis for which RAND had become renowned. He helped RAND redefine itself as a research organization that serves policy and decision-makers at all levels of government, and reaches beyond government to the private and nonprofit sectors. Thomson also led an effort to make RAND a philanthropic priority for individuals and institutions that value objective policy analysis. Over the past two decades, philanthropic gifts to RAND increased significantly, helping the organization's endowment grow from $42 million to $197 million.
RAND greatly expanded its international presence under Thomson's leadership, and research outside the United States now accounts for nearly 10 percent of RAND's revenue. The organization now has nearly a dozen offices, including a substantial presence in Europe and the Middle East.
The organization moved into its new headquarters in 2004 — completed on time and under budget — and the building has been acclaimed for both its aesthetic design and its environmentally friendly features.
Thomson also oversaw major changes to the Pardee RAND Graduate School — now the largest Ph.D. program in policy analysis in the world, and the only one located within a nonprofit research institution. During Thomson's tenure the program has grown to serve 100 doctoral students and occupies a wing of RAND's Santa Monica headquarters.
Kaminski said he will lead a special committee of the RAND Board of Trustees that will conduct a search for Thomson's successor.