News / USA

Research 'Think Tanks' Have Back-and-Forth Relationship with Government

There is a back-and-forth relationship in the U.S. capital between government and 'think tanks.'
There is a back-and-forth relationship in the U.S. capital between government and 'think tanks.'

Multimedia

Washington D.C.'s research organizations -- the so-called "think tanks -- provide opinions and research on public-policy issues for lawmakers and the U.S. government's Executive Branch.  But they also serve another function.  These "think tanks" commonly house officials from previous administrations who often return to government when their political party comes back in power.

It is the beginning of a new presidential administration.  A huge turnover of Executive Branch personnel is taking place. People who worked for the last president have cleaned out their desks and departed. And ... some of the new people coming into those offices are from research organizations -- so-called 'think tanks' -- in Washington.  

Indeed, there is a back-and-forth relationship in the U.S. capital between government and 'think tanks.'  Just as a new administration draws from the ranks of researchers, those organizations also take in those who carried out policy for the last president.

Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton has seen both sides of that street.  After holding positions in the administrations of Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush in the 1980s and early 1990s, he went to the research organization American Enterprise Institute as a Senior Vice President. When George W. Bush took office in 2001, Bolton came back to government as Undersecretary of State, and then as an ambassador.  At the end of the Bush administration, he went back to AEI as a Senior Fellow.

Similarly, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger is with another Washington research organization, the Center for Strategic and International Studies.  

Also at CSIS is former Ambassador to the U.N. and to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad.  Similar examples can be found in other Washington 'think tanks.'

Ambassador Bolton says this is a normal -- and logical -- aspect of the Washington policy process.

"For people like myself who have the luxury of coming back to a research institute, it is a way to 'recharge our batteries' intellectually," Bolton said. "It is a way to think about policy without having the day-to-day responsibility of making it, or recommending it, or discussing it in the governmental context.  And, I think [that] from the point of view of the overall effectiveness of the American government, that is a very, very important contribution that the 'think tanks' make."

At The Center for American Progress, Chief Operating Officer Neera Tanden says being out of power actually caused her research organization to be created.

"Under First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, I was one of her domestic policy advisors.  And, when she decided to run for the Senate [in 2000], I worked for her then," explained Tanden. "But then, when we came out of power [with the election of Republican George W. Bush], we recognized -- Hillary recognized, [former White House Chief of Staff] John Podesta recognized, [and now former] President Clinton recognized  there was no organization that worked across issues to try and move the debate over the long term in a more progressive direction. That is one of the reasons why I, along with John Podesta, started the Center for American Progress."

While many Washington research organizations have a number of people who served in previous presidential administrations, Jeffrey Hiday says the so-called "revolving door" is smaller, and slower, at the RAND Corporation.

"In the last change of [presidential] administration [Bush - Obama], we may have lost a half dozen researchers to the Obama administration.  We may have picked up a handful [of people] from the [George W.] Bush administration.  But, bear in mind, we have close to 900 researchers. We are a quite large organization," Hiday said.

Creating and carrying out policy is a core function of government. The policy process is complicated, requiring highly experienced people who know in detail what needs to be in place. And, because of that, research organizations -- 'think tanks' -- have been, and will be ... an important, even essential, part of that endeavor.

You May Like

Multimedia Baltimore 'Victory Rally' Follows Charges in Detainee Death

Saturday's rally is largest organized gathering since state's attonrey filed felony charges in police-custody death of Freddie Gray More

UN Denies Child Sex Abuse Cover Up in CAR

UNHCR says senior official suspected of leaking report suspended for breaching rules More

Nepal Officials Slammed Over Aid Response

VOA News has compiled from various organizations complaints from across Nepal of bottlenecks at customs, repeated harassing inspections of aid convoys and seizure of goods More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
From Aleppo To Berlin: Band of Brothers Escapes Civil Wari
X
Henry Ridgwell
May 03, 2015 1:12 AM
Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the civil war in their country and journeyed to Europe by boat across the Mediterranean. It is a terrifying ordeal with dangers at every turn. A group of Syrian brothers and their friends describe their ordeal as they try to reach Germany. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports. ...
Video

Video From Aleppo To Berlin: Band of Brothers Escapes Civil War

Hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled the civil war in their country and journeyed to Europe by boat across the Mediterranean. It is a terrifying ordeal with dangers at every turn. A group of Syrian brothers and their friends describe their ordeal as they try to reach Germany. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports. ...
Video

Video Rural Nepal Suffers Brunt of Quake’s Devastation

Nepal is still coming to grips with the full extent of the devastation and misery caused by last Saturday’s magnitude 7.8 earthquake. Some of the hardest-hit communities have been cut off by landslides making it difficult to assess the precise toll. A VOA News crew has been among the first to reach a few of the smaller, remote communities. Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Sindhupolchak district, east of Kathmandu, which suffered greatly in Nepal’s worst quake in more than 80 years.
Video

Video Black Families Use Baltimore Case to Revisit 'Police Talk'

Following Freddie Gray’s death in police custody this month, VOA interviewed black families throughout the eastern U.S. city of Baltimore about how they discuss the case. Over and over, parents pointed to a crucial talk they say every black mother or father has with their children. Victoria Macchi has more on how this conversation is passed down through generations.
Video

Video Middle East Atheist Channel Defies Taboo

In Egypt, a deeply religious country in a deeply religious region, atheism is not only taboo, it is dangerous. It is sometimes even criminal to publicly declare nonbelief. Despite the danger, one group of activists is pushing back with a new online channel that defends the right not to believe. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Nepal Quake Survivors Tell Their Stories

Against all hope, rescuers have found a few more survivors of the devastating earthquake that hit Nepal last Saturday. Mountain climbers and hikers trapped in remote places also have been airlifted to safety, and aid is finally reaching people in the areas closest to the quake's epicenter. Survivors and rescuers are now recounting their experience. Zlatica Hoke has this story.
Video

Video Lessons for Germany, Europe Remain on Anniversary of WWII's End

The 70th anniversary of the end of World War II will be marked May 8-9 in all European countries except Germany, which lost the war. How is the war viewed there, and what impact is it still having? From Berlin, VOA’s Al Pessin reports.
Video

Video 'Woman in Gold' Uses Artwork as Symbol of Cultural Identity

Simon Curtis’ legal drama, "Woman in Gold," is based on the true story of an American Jewish refugee from Austria who fights to reclaim a famous Gustav Klimt painting stolen from her family by the Nazis during World War II. It's a haunting film that speaks to the hearts of millions who have sought to reclaim their past, stripped from them 70 years ago. VOA's Penelope Poulou reports.
Video

Video Nepal Town Destroyed By Quake Counts Itself Lucky

Foreign search teams on Wednesday began reaching some of the communities outside Kathmandu that suffered worse damage than Nepal’s capital from last Saturday’s massive earthquake. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman is in Sankhu - a town of about 10,000 people - where there is relief the death toll is not higher despite widespread destruction.
Video

Video First Surgical Glue Approved for Use Inside Body

While medical adhesives are becoming more common, none had been approved for use inside the body until now. Earlier this year, the first ever biodegradable surgical glue won that approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on the innovation and its journey from academia to market.
Video

Video Somali Hotel Chain Owner Strives to Make a Difference

Many in the Somali diaspora are returning home to make a new life despite the continuing risks. Since 2011 when a military campaign against Al-Shabab militants began making progress, members of the diaspora community have come back to open hospitals, schools, hotels, restaurants and other businesses. Abdulaziz Billow in Mogadishu profiles the owner of a chain of hotels and restaurants who is helping to bring change to the once-deadly Somali capital.
Video

Video Study: One in Six Species Threatened with Extinction

Climate change is transforming the planet. Unless steps are taken to reduce global warming, scientists predict rising seas, stronger and more frequent storms, drought, fire and floods. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, a new study on species extinction underscores the need to take action to avoid the most catastrophic effects of rising temperatures.
Video

Video Taviani Brothers' 'Wondrous Boccaccio' Offers Tales of Love, Humor

The Italian duo of Paolo and Vittorio Taviani have been making movies for half a century: "The Night of the Shooting Stars," "Padre Padrone," "Good Morning, Babylon." Now in their 80s, the brothers have turned to one of the treasures of Italian culture for their latest film. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver reports.
Video

Video Child Migrants Cross Mediterranean Alone, Face Unknown Future

Among the thousands of migrants making the deadly journey by boat to Europe, there are unaccompanied girls and boys. Some have been sent by relatives to earn money; others are orphaned or fleeing war. From a shelter for young migrants in the Sicilian town of Caltagirone, VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Baltimore Riots Shed Light on City’s Troubled Past

National Guard troops took up positions Tuesday in Baltimore, Maryland, as authorities tried to restore order after rioting broke out a day earlier. It followed Monday's funeral of a 25-year-old black man who died while in police custody earlier this month. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Challenges Await Aid Organizations on the Ground in Nepal

A major earthquake rocked Nepal on Saturday and killed thousands, injured thousands more and sent countless Nepalese outside to live in makeshift tent villages. The challenges to Nepal are enormous, with some reconstruction estimates at around $5 billion. Aid workers from around the world face challenges getting into Nepal, which likely makes for a difficult recovery. Arash Arabasadi has the story from Washington.

Poll: Baltimore Police Charged

Poll archive

VOA Blogs