Douglas C. Lovelace, Jr.
This paper discusses the role of think tanks in foreseeing, understanding,
and explaining changes in the international security environment and
recommending modifications of security strategy to senior policy makers. It
illuminates some useful think tank attributes and offers thoughts on how the
think tank community might advance its collective interests.
There are several attributes that a think tank must possess to
substantially influence national security planning and the international
security environment. First and foremost, an institute must have a well
thought-out vision, charter, and mission statement that guides, focuses, and
organizes it. The vision, charter, and mission should be effectively
communicated to institute members and to prospective consumers of the
institute's products. Ranking second in importance is the need for sufficient
independence to perform and communicate critical strategic analysis. For an
institute to have such independence, its funding must be assured regardless of
the content of the institute's analysis. Another attribute of a successful think
tank is the ability to identify key strategic issues sufficiently in advance to
permit timely, relevant analysis. Think tanks are successful when they foresee
strategic issues early enough to produce research products that are available to
the practitioner when needed. To have the impact it desires, a think tank also
must identify, in priority order, the specific audiences it seeks to reach.
Furthermore, the think tank must develop thorough understanding of how members
of each key audience accesses information. Only then will the think tank be able
to craft the most effective product line for communicating its analysis.
Finally, the think tank must have a self-evaluation feedback mechanism to
determine its effectiveness.
In closing, the paper offers some final thoughts. The author believes great
research and analysis synergy can be achieved through better think tank
interaction, both within our various nations and internationally. For example,
increased interaction would allow for better peer review of our research and
analysis and better dissemination of our research products. Furthermore, if we
were better informed of one another's research plans, we could tailor our
individual institute's research programs more effectively and efficiently.