Charles M. Kupperman, a longtime defense contracting executive, has been associated with a number of influential militarist think tanks and institutions, including the Center for Security Policy (CSP), the Committee on the Present Danger (CPD), Empower America, and Missouri State University's Department of Defense and Strategic Studies. He served in a number of official posts during Ronald Reagan's presidency, including as executive director of the General Advisory Committee on Arms Control and Disarmament.
Kupperman's ascent among hawks in Washington began in the late 1970s, when he served as a policy advisor to the Committee on the Present Danger, a neoconservative-led advocacy group that aimed to undo détente and replace it with an aggressive anti-Soviet posture (see GroupWatch Profile: Committee on the Present Danger). In 1980, Kupperman served on the Reagan-Bush campaign team and was part of what became known as the "October Surprise Group," whose objective was to prepare for "any last-minute foreign policy or defense-related event, including the release of the hostages, that might favorably impact President Carter in the November election." The group was instrumental in pushing the Iranian hostage crisis to the forefront of the election in an attempt to tarnish the presidency and campaign of Jimmy Carter. Other members of the October Surprise Group were reported to be Richard V. Allen, Thomas H. Moorer, Eugene V. Rostow, William R. Van Cleave, Fred C. Iklé, John Lehman, Robert G. Neumann, Laurence Silberman, and Seymour Weiss. Richard Perle and Michael Ledeen were among the group's outside advisors.
Shortly after Reagan—an honorary member of the CPD—became president, Kupperman was appointed director of the General Advisory Committee on Arms Control and Disarmament. Kupperman was one of many young conservative hawks who were given posts in the first Reagan administration. Commenting on this period, Kupperman once told the New York Times that he and other young right-wingers had helped bring "better balance to the bureaucratic debate, and that's a healthy development." Kupperman served in a number of other capacities in the Reagan administration, including as the executive assistant to the director of the Office of Personnel Management and an assistant to the administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.
In September 2015, after remaining out of public attention for many years, Kupperman signed a Center for Security Policy Letter denouncing the July 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and calling on President Obama to revoke it. The letter stated in part: "How can this be considered to be anything other than a bad deal?" Kupperman's co-signers included former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton, former George W. Bush administration official Douglas Feith, hawkish former Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Paul Wolfowitz , hardline former CIA director James Woolsey, and former Dick Cheney-advisor David Wurmser.
Defense Industry Apparatchik
At the end of Reagan's presidency, Kupperman became an executive at McDonnell Douglas, the first in what would become a succession of high-level jobs with defense contractors. In 1991, he was named president and CEO of Xsirius Superconductivity, a firm that during Kupperman's tenure received research contracts from the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization, the Pentagon department tasked with R&D on a space-based missile defense.
At the time of Kupperman's appointment, William Graham, a fellow missile defense enthusiast and former Reagan administration official, was named chairman of the Xsirius board of directors. Kupperman later served as vice president of Lockheed Martin's missile defense sector and then as vice president of Boeing's strategic operations and missile defense operations, a post he retired from in 2006.
Throughout his career in the private sector, Kupperman has boosted of several organizations that promote hardline defense policies. Along with a number of other like-minded defense executives, Kupperman has served on the board of directors of the Center for Security Policy, a group led by the conspiracy-minded Frank Gaffney that promotes aggressive missile defense programs and militarist policies. Reporter Jason Vest called CSP's roster of advisors "an A-list of influential conservative hawks," adding, "Gaffney and CSP's prescriptions for national security have been fairly simple: Gut all arms control treaties, push ahead with weapons systems virtually everyone agrees should be killed (such as the V-22 Osprey), give no quarter to the Palestinians and, most important, go full-steam ahead on just about every national missile defense program."
Kupperman is a member of the board of directors of the National Institute for Public Policy (NIPP), an organization that promotes hawkish strategic defense programs, including missile defense and nuclear weapons policies. NIPP, founded by Reagan administration nuclear strategist Keith Payne, played an influential role in advancing the policies of the George W. Bush administration in abrogating the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and in establishing the blueprint for the Bush administration's new nuclear weapons policy.
In 2003, Kupperman joined a prominent group of neoconservative writers and politicians to restore the mothballed Committee on the Present Danger to promote the policies of the war on terror. The revamped group was co-chaired by Sen. Jon Kyl(R-AZ), Sen. Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), and former CIA director James Woolsey. Kupperman was quoted on the CPD website as saying at the time, "Winning the war against global terrorism is fundamental to international security in the 21st Century and we must be relentless in rooting out the terrorist network."
In 2005, Kupperman was one of many rightist political figures who signed an open letter in support of the nomination of the John Boltonas U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. The nomination, which failed to win the support of the Senate, met fierce opposition, both domestically and abroad. A July 23, 2006 New York Times article by Warren Hoge reported deep scorn for Bolton among UN ambassadors, even from countries close to the United States. According to Hoge, "[M]any diplomats say they see Mr. Bolton as a stand-in for the arrogance of the administration itself." By contrast, Kupperman and the other letter signatories argued that Bolton was uniquely suited to the post, writing, in part, "His tenure as the Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations during the administration of George H.W. Bush and as Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security during [the George W. Bush] presidency have honed Mr. Bolton's indisputably impressive intellect and robust diplomatic skills in ways that will serve the nation well at the UN."
Kupperman was also an advisor to the Independent Working Group on Missile Defense. Pointing to group members and their sponsors, missile defense expert Theresa Hitchens quipped: "'Independent Working Group' is … a bit of a misnomer." In addition to the IWG, Kupperman also advised the Space Relationship, and the 21st Century—a task force of conservative foreign policy ideologues who insisted that, "Consolidation of the preeminent U.S. position in space is akin to Britain's dominance of the oceans in the 19th century." Sponsors of the task force included the American Foreign Policy Council, the Claremont Institute, Missouri State University's Department of Defense and Strategic Studies, the George C. Marshall Institute, Heritage Foundation, High Frontier, and the Institute for Foreign Policy Analysis.