CPOST was founded in 2004 by Dr. Robert A. Pape as the “Chicago Project on Suicide Terrorism” to support his research into the causes, conduct, and consequences of suicide terrorism campaigns and to establish, maintain, and update the first-of-its-kind Suicide Attack Database, that remains the most comprehensive database of suicide attacks and attackers available.
Pape’s work on suicide terrorism – his discovery that military occupation and not religion caused suicide terrorism campaigns – had immediate relevance to US foreign policy at a time of expanding US military presence in the Middle East. The rigor of his analysis coupled with the transparency of the suicide attack data had a tremendous impact in Washington policy debates on both sides of the aisle. His work has now been funded by both republican and democratic administrations, from Bush to Obama to Trump.
CPOST’s signature innovation was to support faculty-led research with teams of dedicated graduate and undergraduate research assistants from the University of Chicago to collect, catalog, and code data. These student researchers – as many as 40 at any given time – made it possible to advance research on multiple projects at the same time. It also provided hands on research experience to future generations of scholars, policymakers, and community leaders. Over the years, Pape applied the CPOST model to a growing number of research projects – from militant group strategy and counterinsurgency to humanitarian intervention and US-China relations.
CPOST was renamed the “Chicago Project on Security and Threats” in 2014 in recognition of the significant changes since its founding more than a decade ago. Under director Robert Pape’s leadership, CPOST has added new faculty associates – Paul Staniland and Ben Lessing, and later Austin Carson, Bobby Gulloty, Paul Poast, and Rochelle Terman – leading scholars of national and international security at the University of Chicago, expanding the center’s expertise and reach. CPOST also has a board of external advisors of leading local and national figures in government and the private sector, including former CIA director Mike Morell and Chicago-area business leader John DeBlasio – to help the center to continue to grow.
As CPOST continues to grow into a world-class center for national security research in the heart of the American Midwest, one factor remains constant: CPOST’s commitment to producing the highest levels of peer-reviewed scholarship with real-world policy impact.