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

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll 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.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs