Our History

Founded in 1982, BENS has a long history of bringing the best talent in business together with senior national security leaders to apply best practices and cutting-edge ideas to solve some of the Nations’ most complex and pressing national security challenges. Operating as a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, BENS does its work at no cost to government.

For 40 years, BENS has served as the primary nonpartisan, non-profit channel through which senior American business leaders contribute special experience and talent to help build a more secure nation. With regional offices across the country and from our headquarters in Washington, DC, our membership has earned the trust and respect of leaders in government. 

BENS’ early work focused extensively on U.S.-Soviet threat reduction initiatives and on widespread inefficiencies in support functions in the Department of Defense (DOD). These activities ultimately saved DOD billions of dollars. After championing base realignment and closure, BENS worked to find and develop opportunities at the affected bases. We have widened our focus in recent years to encompass a range of new threats that challenge American security. We have also broadened our government partnerships to include: the Departments of State, Treasury, Homeland Security (including FEMA and the Secret Service), Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and the CIA. In addition, BENS works consistently with all of military services and the combatant commands. 

BENS believes that the defining strengths of the American private sector – ingenuity, innovation, and efficiency – should be applied to our nation’s security by working with government partners to develop creative, new approaches to deal with the challenges they face today. 

BENS members engage with government partners in a myriad of ways, including conversations with national security leaders; first-hand national and international experiences with key military and civilian personnel on the ground; work with government partners to impact policy solutions to selected national security challenges; and continuing influence by pressing for implementation of BENS policy solutions over the long-term. 

Now in our fourth decade, the BENS membership continues to represent a broad range of industry sectors and political views. We remain united by a commitment to apply, pro bono, best business practices to find solutions to government’s most challenging problems. 

Our Founder

Stanley Weiss

Stanley Weiss Tribute Video

Stanley A. Weiss 1926–2021

Stanley A. Weiss was the Founding Chairman of Business Executives for National Security and former Executive and Chairman of the mining, refractories, chemicals and mineral processing company, American Premier, Inc.

After 25 years in business, he craved greater purpose, to give back to the country he loved. He became a scholar at Harvard studying the geostrategic challenges of nuclear weapons and mutually assured destruction. Soon after, he realized the purpose that would consume the next 25 years of his life and founded BENS in 1982.

It was a conference on nuclear conflict that brought Weiss’ focus to the value of business perspectives for the national security enterprise. For three days, he listened to a long parade of experts—including academics, activists, retired military officers, clergy, and politicians—when he realized that “the problem was being addressed from every professional point of view except one: No one from the business community had been asked to contribute.”

The business leaders he recruited in the following years were “risk takers, entrepreneurs with a passion for our country … who thought the business side of the Pentagon ought to run as well as the country’s best corporations.” Through his decades of leadership, Weiss and BENS would go on to make important contributions to US national security.

A former fellow at Harvard's Center for International Affairs, Mr. Weiss was the recipient of an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Point Park College in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He served on the Board of Directors for Premier Chemicals and was a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, the American Ditchley Foundation, the International Institute for Strategic Studies, and the Royal Institute in the United Kingdom.

Mr. Weiss had served on the Board of Directors of Harman International Industries; the Board of Visitors of Georgetown University School of Foreign Service; and the Advisory Boards of RAND's Center for Middle East Public Policy and the International Crisis Group.

Mr. Weiss wrote extensively on public policy matters and routinely published in The Huffington Post. His writings have also been featured in The New York TimesWall Street JournalWashington Post, and the Washington Times. His book, Manganese: The Other Uses, is the definitive work on the non-metallurgical uses of manganese.

Key Milestones

Founded 1982

BENS is founded by business executive and entrepreneur Stanley A. Weiss.

Eisenhower Awards First Celebrated: 1986

The Eisenhower Award honors the contributions of public servants and private citizens who safeguard our freedom as well as the balance, as President Eisenhower said in his prophetic farewell address over five decades ago, “between the actions of the moment and the national welfare of the future.” Since it was first presented to Tom Watson, Jr. (Chairman & CEO of IBM) and Peter Grace (President & CEO of W.R. Grace & Company) in 1986, the BENS Eisenhower Award has been presented to more than 100 of the most deserving, patriotic Americans from the business community, military and public sector.

Full List of Past Recipients

BRAC Commission: 1988

The Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC), based on a concept proposed by BENS member Bill Tremayne, is established to remove political considerations from the base closure process. BENS plays a significant role in developing the closure process of obsolete military bases, creating billions of dollars in savings and allowing local communities to put unneeded military facilities to more productive use.

Tail-to-Tooth Commission: 1993

BENS forms the Tail to Tooth Commission to seek new efficiencies in infrastructure and overhead of the Department of Defense (the tail) and to use these cost savings to prevent reductions in operational expenditures (the tooth) The Commission offered more than a dozen best business practices that joined a wave of positive reform over the following two decades that refocused the U.S. military toward combat readiness and effectiveness – helping DoD save billions and improving the tail-to-tooth ratio from 70:30 in 2001 to 55:45 today.

Delegation to Israel, April 1996

BENS sent a delegation of members to Israel in April 1996 for a series of briefings and tours of national security significance. The group met with key Israeli officials including the prime minister and ministers of defense, foreign affairs, and finance, as well as intelligence leaders. The informative and engaging trek would become a model for the BENS travel program going forward.

Base Housing: 1997

Privatization of military housing remains a top BENS issue with the publication of case studies demonstrating the cost of savings and increased efficiencies to the Department of Defense.

Reforming National Security Oversight: 2004

In partnership with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, BENS produces “Tackling the Web,” a white paper outlining specific recommendations on necessary changes to the Congressional oversight structure.

Task Force on Defense Acquisition Law & Oversight: 2009

BENS forms the Task Force on Defense Acquisition Law & Oversight to study the defense acquisition process. The Task Force concludes that bureaucratic procedure, not actual warfighter product, has become the system’s primary focus. The Task Force publishes a report, “Getting to Best: Reforming the Defense Acquisition Enterprise,” making 25 recommendations in three key areas: improving linkages between requirements determination, streamlining the budgeting and acquisition process, and removing constraints to workforce excellence, and additional emphasis on satisfying specific warfighter needs.

Ringing the Bell at NASDAQ for National Cyber Security Awareness Month 2014

In October 2014, BENS leaders were among a group of cybersecurity experts, corporate Chief Information Security Officers, and policymakers who rang the closing bell at NASDAQ in celebration of National Cyber Security Awareness Month. The bell ringing event at NASDAQ MarketSite in Times Square was underscored the following week by a panel discussion, “The Business of Cybersecurity: Lessons Learned and What’s Next,” featuring DHS Under Secretary Suzanne Spaulding and White House Senior Director for Cybersecurity, Ari Schwartz.

Commission on the National Response Enterprise: 2020

Catalyzed by the COVID-19 pandemic, BENS launched the Commission on the National Response Enterprise (CNRE) to improve U.S. response to national-scale emergencies through enhanced coordination between government, business, and civil society. The Commission is comprised of some of the United States’ most accomplished leaders on this issue—from four-star generals, admirals, and former cabinet-level officials, to past and present CEOs of some of the country’s most respected corporations—to research and analyze the many facets of an effective emergency response and identify opportunities for improvement. CNRE participants generated a series of actionable recommendations now under implementation by Congressional committees, FEMA, and other stakeholders.