Revolving Doors between Washington, D.C., Public and Private Sectors

The term “revolving door” applies to former public servants who relocate to Washington D.C. think thanks, as well as congressmen and federal workers who move back and forth between government and the private sector. In fact, think tanks have become a kind of “government in exile” for whichever political party is currently out of power in the White House.

In early 2009, like clockwork, prominent members of the recently departed Bush administration began returning to the think tank world. The Council on Foreign Relations picked up a former Deputy National Security Advisor, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, and State Department senior advisor.

The former administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development returned to the board of trustees of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Watch for this pattern to repeat itself during the next transfer of power.

Think tanks can be a valuable tool for the civic-minded reader because they regularly issue a stream of research, analysis, and policy recommendations on all manner of subjects. In keeping with their objective of informing the debate (and spreading their own point of view), most of this material is available on the Internet free of charge.

Unlike the often dry and jargon-laden writing that is commonplace in academics, the writing produced by think tanks tends to be clear, concise, and relevant. After all, their target audience is influential congressional staffers and administration appointees, most of whom have very little spare time in their 16-hour work days. Gaining attention for an idea is the measure of success for the think tank staffer.

Staying up-to-date on what your favorite think tanks are saying about healthcare or national security is an easy way to become more informed about an issue and get ahead of the curve on what may become U.S. government policy in the future.

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