Brookings Institution

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The Brookings Institution building near Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C.
Abbreviation Brookings
Motto Quality. Independence. Impact.
Formation 1916
Type Public Policy Think Tank
Headquarters 1775 Massachusetts Avenue NW
Location Washington, D.C.
President Strobe Talbott
Budget $ 90 million (2010)[1]

The Brookings Institution is an American think tank based in Washington, D.C.,[2] in the United States. 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.[3][4] In the University of Pennsylvania’s 2012 Global Go To Think Tanks Report, Brookings is ranked the most influential think tank in the world.[5]

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".[2]

Brookings states that its scholars "represent diverse points of view" and describes itself as non-partisan,[2][6] while the media most frequently describe Brookings as "liberal-centrist" or "centrist."[7] 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.[8] The same study found Brookings to be the most frequently cited think tank by the U.S. media and politicians.[8]

Political stance[edit]

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 and described the think tank as "liberal."[9] Yet, a 2005 academic study 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.[10] The New York Times has referred to the organization as liberal, liberal-centrist, centrist, and conservative.[11][12][13][14][15][16] The Washington Post has described Brookings as centrist and liberal.[17][18][19][20] The Los Angeles Times described Brookings as liberal-leaning and centrist before opining that it did not believe such labels mattered.[21][22][23][24] In 1977, Time Magazine described it as the "nation's pre-eminent liberal think tank".[25] Newsweek has described Brookings as centrist[26] while Politico has used the term "center-left".[27] In addition, the organization is described as conservative by the media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting.[28][29][30][31]

Some liberals argue, however, that despite its left-of-center reputation, Brookings foreign policy scholars were overly supportive of Bush administration policies abroad.[32][33] Matthew Yglesias, a liberal blogger, has pointed out that Brookings's Michael 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.[32] Similarly, Brookings fellow and research director Benjamin Wittes is a member of the conservative Hoover Institution's Task Force on National Security and Law.[34] Brookings scholars have served in Republican and Democratic administrations, including Mark McClellan,[35] Ron Haskins[36] and Martin Indyk.[37][38]

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.



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".[39]

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.[4] The three were merged into the Brookings Institution on December 8, 1927.[4][40]

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.[41] 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.[42]

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.[43]

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.[44]


Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at Brookings on 14 April 2010 whilst on a visit to the United States for the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit.

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.[45]

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 plight 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.


Brookings as an institution produces an Annual Report.[46] The Brookings Institution Press publishes books and journals from the institution's own research as well as authors outside the organization.[47] 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 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[edit]

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.[28][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.[29]

Saban Center for Middle East Policy[edit]

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 Doha Center[edit]

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.[57] 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.[58]

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[edit]

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.[59]

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.[60]

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.[60] Senior Fellow Stephen P. Cohen and Vanda Felbab-Brown[61] are also affiliated with 21CDI.[62]

Brookings Executive Education[edit]

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.[63]


At the end of 2004 the Brookings Institution had assets of $258 million and spent $39.7 million, while its budget has grown to more than $80 million in 2009.[64] Its largest contributors include the Ford Foundation, the Gates Foundation, Sen. Dianne Feinstein and her husband Richard C. Blum, Bank of America, ExxonMobil, Pew Charitable Trusts, the MacArthur Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation, and the governments of the United States, Japan, Qatar, the Republic of China, the District of Columbia, and the United Kingdom.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Brookings Institution on Charity Navigator". Retrieved March 4, 2012. 
  2. ^ a b c "About Brookings". Retrieved 2010-04-29. 
  3. ^ Brookings Institution Encyclopædia Britannica.
  4. ^ a b c "Robert Somers Brookings – Brookings Institution". Retrieved 2010-04-29. 
  5. ^ "2012 GLOBAL GO TO THINK TANKS REPORT AND POLICY ADVICE". University of Pennsylvania. 21 January 2013. Archived from the original on August 23, 2013. 
  6. ^ "Brookings Research | Brookings Institution". 2003-06-25. Retrieved 2013-08-27. 
  7. ^ Silicon Valley's New Think Tank Stakes Out 'Radical Center' by Neil A. Lewis, ‘’New York Times’’, May 15, 1999
  8. ^ a b "A Measure of Media Bias, The Quarterly Journal of Economics, November, 2005, Issue 4" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-08-27. 
  9. ^ Kurtzleben, Danielle (2011-03-03). "Think Tank Employees Tend to Support Democrats, U.S. News & World Report, March 3, 2011". Retrieved 2013-08-27. 
  10. ^ "A Measure of Media Bias, The Quarterly Journal of Economics, November, 2005, Issue 4" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-08-27. 
  11. ^ [1], Closing Guantanamo.
  12. ^ Next Generation of Conservatives (By the Dormful) by Jason DeParle, ‘’New York Times’’, June 14, 2005
  13. ^ ECONOMIC VIEW; Friedman And Keynes, Trading Pedestals by Tom Redburn, ‘’New York Times’’, September 24, 2000
  14. ^ Marshall A. Robinson, 83, Former Foundation Chief, Dies by Wolfgang Saxon, ‘’New York Times’’, January 13, 2006
  15. ^ Air Force's Newest Jet Fighter Is in Fierce Fight, in Capitol by Elizabeth Becker, ‘’New York Times’’, September 8, 1999
  16. ^ The Way to Save ‘’New York Times’’, February 20, 2006
  17. ^ Mr. Obama's Jobs Plan "The Washington Post", December 9, 2009
  18. ^ Stumping for Attention To Deficit Disorder by Lori Montgomery, ‘’The Washington Post’’, June 21, 2007
  19. ^ The Unbelievable Karl Rove by Dan Froomkin, ‘’’’, November 13, 2006
  20. ^ 2003 Budget Completes Big Jump in Spending by Glenn Kessler, ‘’The Washington Post’’, April 15, 2002
  21. ^ [2], "Left-leaning" or "Nonpartisan"?.
  22. ^ Parties Suggest They'd Yield for Stimulus Pact by Maura Reynolds and Richard Simon, ‘’Los Angeles Times’’, January 17, 2008
  23. ^ U.S. Won't Say Who Killed Militant by Josh Meyer, ‘’Los Angeles Times’’, February 2, 2008
  24. ^ A green light to genocide by Goldberg, ‘’Los Angeles Times’’, July 24, 2007
  25. ^ The Other Think Tank Time Magazine, September 19, 1977
  26. ^ Economists Agree: Unemployment Will Stay High Through November, "Newsweek", May 25, 2010
  27. ^ Reid J. Epstein, Jon Huntsman veers campaign to Brookings POLITICO November 14, 2011
  28. ^ a b Study Finds First Drop in Think Tank Cites by Michael Dolny, ‘’FAIR’’, May/June 2006
  29. ^ a b Sam Husseini, "Brookings: The Establishment's Think Tank," Extra!, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (November/December 1998).
  30. ^ Lawrence Soley, "Brookings: Stand-In for the Left," Extra!, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (1991).
  31. ^ Michael Dolny, "Think Tanks in a Time of Crisis," Extra!, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (March/April 2002).
  32. ^ a b Very Serious Indeed by Matthew Yglesias, Atlantic Monthly, August 24, 2007
  33. ^ The Truth Behind the Pollack-O'Hanlon Trip to Iraq by Glenn Greenwald,
  34. ^ "Yoonited States of America". Retrieved 2010-04-29. 
  35. ^ Mark B. McClellan. "Mark B. McClellan | Brookings Institution". Retrieved 2013-08-27. 
  36. ^ Ron Haskins. "Ron Haskins | Brookings Institution". Retrieved 2013-08-27. 
  37. ^ "Martin S. Indyk | Brookings Institution". Retrieved 2013-08-27. 
  38. ^ The Brookings Institution Experts.
  39. ^ Brookings Institution History Brookings Institution.
  40. ^ Critchlow, 1985
  41. ^ Brookings History: The Depression.
  42. ^ Brookings History: War and Readjustment.
  43. ^ Brookings History: Academic Prestige.
  44. ^ Brookings History: National Doubts and Confusion.
  45. ^ Brookings History: Setting New Agendas.
  46. ^ "Brookings Annual Report". Retrieved 2010-04-29. 
  47. ^ "Brookings Institution Press". Retrieved 2010-04-29. 
  48. ^ "Brookings Press Blog". Retrieved 2010-04-29. 
  49. ^ "Brookings Institution Press: Books". Retrieved 2010-04-29. 
  50. ^ [3], Brookings Institution History.
  51. ^ [4], Foreign Policy: The Think Tank Index.
  52. ^ "Global Go To Think Tank Index, 2011". January 23, 2012. Retrieved October 10, 2012.. 
  53. ^ "A Measure of Media Bias" by Tim Groseclose and Jeff Milyo, December 2004.
  54. ^ a b 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
  55. ^ About Us, Saban Center for Middle East Policy, Brookings Institution
  56. ^ "Tamara Cofman Wittes | Brookings Institution". Retrieved 2013-08-27. 
  57. ^ About Us, Brookings Doha Center, Brookings Institution
  58. ^ "Salman Shaikh | Brookings Institution". Retrieved 2013-08-27. 
  59. ^ "21st Century Defense Initiative - Brookings Institution". Retrieved 2010-04-29. 
  60. ^ a b "About the 21st Century Defense Initiative at Brookings". Brookings Institution. Retrieved November 1, 2011. 
  61. ^ Vanda Felbab-Brown. "Vanda Felbab-Brown | Brookings Institution". Retrieved 2013-08-27. 
  62. ^ "21st Century Defense Initiative: Experts". Brookings Institution. Retrieved November 1, 2011. 
  63. ^ "About Brookings Executive Education". Brookings Institution. Retrieved November 1, 2011. 
  64. ^ "Annual Report 2010". Brookings Institution. Retrieved November 1, 2011. 


  • 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[edit]