Brookings Institution

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The Brookings Institution
File:Brookingslogo sm.png

Brookings Institute DC 2007.jpg
The Brookings Institution building near Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C.
Abbreviation Brookings
Motto Quality. Independence. Impact.
Formation 1916; 106 years ago (1916)
Type Public policy think tank
Headquarters 1775 Massachusetts Avenue NW
  • Washington, D.C.
Strobe Talbott
Revenue (2014)
Expenses (2014) $98,984,000

The Brookings Institution is an American think tank based on Embassy Row in Washington, D.C.,[1] USA. One of Washington's oldest think tanks, Brookings conducts research and education in the social sciences, primarily in economics, metropolitan policy, governance, foreign policy, and global economy and development.[2][3] In the University of Pennsylvania's 2014 Global Go To Think Tanks Report, Brookings is ranked the most influential think tank in the world.[4]

Its stated mission is to "provide innovative and practical recommendations that advance three broad goals: strengthen American democracy; foster the economic and social welfare, security and opportunity of all Americans; and secure a more open, safe, prosperous, and cooperative international system".[1]

Brookings states that its staff "represent diverse points of view" and describes itself as non-partisan,[1][5] while the media most frequently describe Brookings as "progressive" or "left-centrist".[6][not in citation given] An academic analysis of Congressional records from 1993 to 2002 found that Brookings was referenced by conservative politicians almost as frequently as liberal politicians, earning a score of 53 on a 1–100 scale with 100 representing the most liberal score.[7] The same study found Brookings to be the most frequently cited think tank by the U.S. media and politicians.[7]

Political stance

As a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, Brookings describes itself as independent and non-partisan. A 2011 study examining think tank employee donations from 2003 to 2010 showed that 97.6% of Brookings's employees' political donations went to Democrats.[8] A 2005 academic study by UCLA concluded it was centrist in that it was referenced as an authority almost equally by both conservative and liberal politicians in congressional records from 1993 to 2002.[7] The New York Times has referred to the organization as liberal, liberal-centrist, centrist, and conservative.[9][10][11][12][13][14] The Washington Post has described Brookings as centrist and liberal.[15][16][17][18] The Los Angeles Times described Brookings as liberal-leaning and centrist before opining that it did not believe such labels mattered.[19][20][21][22] In 1977, Time Magazine described it as the "nation's pre-eminent liberal think tank".[23] Newsweek has described Brookings as centrist[24] while Politico has used the term "center-left".[25] In addition, the left-wing, media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting describes it as conservative.[26][27][28][29]

Some liberals argue, however, that despite its left-of-center reputation, Brookings foreign policy scholars were overly supportive of Bush administration policies abroad.[30][31] Matthew Yglesias, a liberal blogger, has pointed out that Brookings's Michael E. O'Hanlon frequently agrees with scholars from conservative organizations such as the American Enterprise Institute, The Weekly Standard, and the Project for a New American Century.[30] Similarly, Brookings fellow and research director Benjamin Wittes is a member of the conservative Hoover Institution's Task Force on National Security and Law.[32] Brookings scholars have served in Republican and Democratic administrations, including Mark McClellan,[33] Ron Haskins[34] and Martin Indyk.[35][36]

The Brookings Board of Trustees includes mainly prominent Democrats, such as Laura Tyson, former chair of the Council of Economic Advisers under Bill Clinton, but also a few centrist Republicans such as Kenneth Duberstein, a former chief of staff to Ronald Reagan. Aside from political figures, the board of trustees also includes leaders in the business industry, including Philip H. Knight, Chairman of Nike, Inc.



Brookings was founded in 1916 as the Institute for Government Research (IGR), with the mission of becoming "the first private organization devoted to analyzing public policy issues at the national level".[37]

The Institution's founder, philanthropist Robert S. Brookings (1850–1932), originally financed the formation of three organizations: the Institute for Government Research, the Institute of Economics, and the Robert Brookings Graduate School affiliated with Washington University in St. Louis.[3] The three were merged into the Brookings Institution on December 8, 1927.[3][38]

During the Great Depression economists at Brookings embarked on a large scale study commissioned by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to understand the underlying causes of the depression. Brookings's first president Harold Moulton and other Brookings scholars later led an effort to oppose President Roosevelt's New Deal policies because they thought such measures were impeding economic recovery.[39] With the entry into World War II in 1941, Brookings researchers turned their attention to aiding the administration with a series of studies on mobilization.

In 1948, Brookings was asked to submit a plan for the administration of the European Recovery Program. The resulting organization scheme assured that the Marshall Plan was run carefully and on a businesslike basis.[40]

In 1952, Robert Calkins succeeded Moulton as president of the Brookings Institution. He secured grants from the Rockefeller Foundation and the Ford Foundation that put the Institution on a strong financial basis. He reorganized the Institution around the Economic Studies, Government Studies, and Foreign Policy Programs. In 1957, the Institution moved from Jackson Avenue to a new research center near Dupont Circle in Washington, DC.[41]

Kermit Gordon assumed the presidency of Brookings in 1967. He began a series of studies of program choices for the federal budget in 1969 entitled "Setting National Priorities". He also expanded the Foreign Policy Studies Program to include research in national security and defense. After the election of Richard Nixon to the presidency in 1968, the relationship between the Brookings Institution and the White House deteriorated; at one point Nixon's aide Charles Colson proposed a firebombing of the Institution. Yet throughout the 1970s, Brookings was offered more federal research contracts than it could handle.[42]


Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at Brookings on 14 April 2010 whilst on a visit to the United States for the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit.
José María Figueres, former President of Costa Rica, speaking at Brookings Institution

By the 1980s, the Institution faced an increasingly competitive and ideologically charged intellectual environment. The need to reduce the federal budget deficit became a major research theme as well as investigating problems with national security and government inefficiency. Bruce MacLaury, fourth president of Brookings, also established the Center for Public Policy Education to develop workshop conferences and public forums to broaden the audience for research programs.[43]

In 1995, Michael Armacost became the fifth president of the Brookings Institution and led an effort to refocus the Institution's mission heading into the 21st Century. Under Armacost's direction, Brookings created several interdisciplinary research centers such as the Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy (now the Metropolitan Policy Program, led by Bruce J. Katz), brought attention to the strengths of cities and metropolitan areas, and the Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies, which brings together specialists from different Asian countries to examine regional problems.

Strobe Talbott became president of Brookings in 2002. Shortly thereafter, Brookings launched the Saban Center for Middle East Policy and the John L. Thornton China Center. In October 2006, Brookings announced the establishment of the Brookings-Tsinghua Center in Beijing. In July 2007, the Institution announced the creation of the Engelberg Center for Health Care Reform to be directed by senior fellow Mark McClellan, and then in October 2007, the creation of the Brookings Doha Center directed by fellow Hady Amr in Qatar.

In 2015, Brookings found itself at the center of controversy over the fiduciary obligation of brokers to savers. A nonresident senior fellow, Robert Litan, presented a study to Congress in July 2015 that contained a cost/benefit analysis regarding a new agency rule. He resigned that position as a result of a firestorm, months later in September 2015, kicked up by Senator Elizabeth Warren charging Litan—who had testified against a fiduciary obligation rule. Mr. Litan was unaware of the brand new rule when he presented, and settled with the Brookings Institute immediately after the presentation when they brought it to his attention. Litan's defenders continue to point out that he did disclose, and that Warren's real motive was to silence a reasonable concern over the cost/benefit balance.


Brookings as an institution produces an Annual Report.[44] The Brookings Institution Press publishes books and journals from the institution's own research as well as authors outside the organization.[45] The books and journals they publish include Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, America Unbound: The Bush Revolution in Foreign Policy, Globalphobia: Confronting Fears about Open Trade, India: Emerging Power, Through Their Eyes, Taking the High Road, Masses in Flight, US Public Policy Regarding Sovereign Wealth Fund Investment in the United States [46][47] and Stalemate to name a few. In addition, books, papers, articles, reports, policy briefs and opinion pieces are produced by Brookings research programs, centers, projects and, for the most part, by experts.[48][49]

Policy influence

Brookings traces its history back to 1916 and has contributed to the creation of the United Nations, the Marshall Plan, and the Congressional Budget Office, as well as influenced policies of deregulation, broad-based tax reform, welfare reform, and foreign aid.[50] It is ranked the number one think tank in the U.S. in the annual think tank index published by Foreign Policy,[51] and number one in the world in the Global Go To Think Tank Index;[52] of the 200 most prominent think tanks in the U.S., the Brookings Institution's research is the most widely cited by the media.[26][53] In a 1997 survey of congressional staff and journalists, Brookings ranked as the second-most influential and first in credibility among 27 think tanks.[54] Moreover, “Brookings and its researchers are not so concerned, in their work, in affecting the ideological direction of the nation” and rather tend “to be staffed by researchers with strong academic credentials”.[54] Along with the Council on Foreign Relations and Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Brookings is generally considered one of the most influential policy institutes in the U.S.[27]

Saban Center for Middle East Policy

In 2002, the Brookings Institution established the Saban Center for Middle East Policy in order "to promote a better understanding of the policy choices facing American decision makers in the Middle East".[55] The Center is directed by Tamara Cofman Wittes.[56]

Brookings-Tsinghua Center for Public Policy

In 2006, the Brookings Institution established the Brookings-Tsinghua Center (BTC) for Public Policy as a partnership between the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. and Tsinghua University's School of Public Policy and Management in Beijing, China. The Center seeks to produce high quality and high impact policy research in areas of fundamental importance for China’s development and for U.S.-China relations.[57] The BTC is directed by Qi Ye.[58]

Brookings Doha Center

Based in Qatar, the Brookings Doha Center undertakes independent, policy-oriented research on socioeconomic and geopolitical issues facing Muslim-majority states and communities, including relations with the United States.[59] The center was formally inaugurated by H.E. Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr Al-Thani, prime minister and minister of foreign affairs of the State of Qatar, on February 17, 2008. Salman Shaikh is the Center's Director.[60]

In pursuing its mission, the Brookings Doha Center undertakes research and programming that engages key elements of business, government, civil society, the media, and academia on key public policy issues in the following three core areas: (i) Democratization, political reform and public policy; (ii) Emerging powers in the Middle East; (iii) Conflict and peace processes in the region.

21st Century Defense Initiative

Adm. Michael Mullen speaks at the Brookings Institution

The 21st Century Defense Initiative (21CDI) is aimed at producing research, analysis, and outreach that address three core issues: the future of war, the future of U.S. defense needs and priorities, and the future of the U.S. defense system.[61]

The Initiative draws on the knowledge from regional centers, including the Center on the United States and Europe, the Center for Northeast Asian Policy Studies, the Thornton China Center, and the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, allowing the integration of regional knowledge.[62]

P. W. Singer, author of Wired for War, serves as the Director of the 21st Century Defense Initiative, and Michael E. O'Hanlon, serves as the Director of Research.[62] Senior Fellow Stephen P. Cohen and Vanda Felbab-Brown[63] are also affiliated with 21CDI.[64]

Brookings Executive Education

Under Brookings President Bruce MacLaury's leadership in the 1980s, the Center for Public Policy Education (CPPE) was formed to develop workshop conferences and public forums to broaden the audience for research programs. In 2005, the Center was renamed the Brookings Center for Executive Education (BCEE), which was shortened to Brookings Executive Education (BEE) with the launch of a partnership with the Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis.[65]

Public policy tools

On its website, the Brookings Institution provides an interactive web tool called "The Fiscal Barometer." The tool shows spending trends for the federal government and local and state governments. The tool displays data among ten "indicators", such as the "Fiscal impact measure" which analyzes the impact of government spending on economic growth.[66]


As of 2014 the Brookings Institution had assets of $496 million.[67] Its largest contributors include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Hutchins Family Foundation, JPMorgan Chase, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, David Rubenstein, State of Qatar, and John L. Thornton

Funding details

Foreign funding

An investigation by The New York Times, reported on September 6, 2014, found the Brookings Institution to be among more than a dozen Washington research groups to have received tens of millions of dollars from foreign governments in recent years, while producing policy papers, hosting forums, and organizing private briefings with U.S. officials to encourage support for policies aligned with those foreign governments' agenda.[68]

The New York Times published documents showing that Brookings Institution accepted grants from Norway with specific policy requests and helped the country gain access to U.S. government officials, as well as other "deliverables".[69][70] In June, Norway agreed to make an additional $4 million donation to Brookings.[68] Several legal specialists, who examined the documents between the Norway government and Brookings at The Times's request, told the paper that the language of the transactions "appeared to necessitate Brookings filing as a foreign agent".[70]

The Qatari government was named by The New York Times as "the single biggest foreign donor to Brookings", having reportedly made a $14.8 million, four-year contribution last year.[68] A former visiting fellow at a Brookings affiliate in Qatar reportedly said "he had been told during his job interview that he could not take positions critical of the Qatar government in papers".[68] Brookings officials denied any connection between the views of their funders and their scholars work, citing reports that questioned the Qatari government's education reform efforts and criticized its support of militants in Syria. However, Brookings officials also reportedly acknowledged that they meet with Qatari government officials regularly to discuss the center's activities and budget, and that the former prime minister of Qatar currently serves on the center's advisory board.[68]


The main building of the Institution was erected in 1959 on 1775 Massachusetts Avenue. In 2009, Brookings acquired a building across the street, a former mansion built by the Ingalls family in 1922 on a design by Jules Henri de Sibour. This extension now houses the office of the President of the Brookings Institution.


Canadian academic Evert Lindquist has described the Institute for Research on Public Policy, a Canadian think tank, as “Canada’s equivalent to the Brookings Institution.”[71]

See also


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  12. Marshall A. Robinson, 83, Former Foundation Chief, Dies by Wolfgang Saxon, The New York Times, January 13, 2006
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  14. The Way to Save The New York Times, February 20, 2006
  15. Mr. Obama's Jobs Plan The Washington Post, December 9, 2009
  16. Stumping for Attention To Deficit Disorder by Lori Montgomery, The Washington Post, June 21, 2007
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  54. 54.0 54.1 War of Ideas: Why Mainstream and Liberal Foundations and the Think Tanks they Support are Losing in the War of Ideas in American Politics by Andrew Rich, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Spring 2006
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  • Abelson, Donald E. Do Think Tanks Matter?: Assessing the Impact of Public Policy Institutes (2009)
  • Critchlow, Donald T. The Brookings Institution, 1916–1952: Expertise and the Public Interest in a Democratic Society (1985)
  • Weidenbaum, Murray L. The Competition of Ideas: The World of the Washington Think Tanks (2011)

External links