This week I’m going to write another personal contribution post because I have finally reached a stage in my work for FDD in which I can see the fruits of my labor. Without being too specific for fear of breaking a non-disclosure agreement, I have a meeting tomorrow morning with my supervisor and one other analyst from FDD and an executive agency of the federal government. The topic regards the project I had been working on for most of my time at FDD and the main deliverable is something that I have produced entirely from scratch. Therefore, why I was not entirely convinced of the worked I was doing this summer, and to some extent am still not, I finally have something to show for it and an opportunity to gauge its demand. While it remains to be seen how my work is received, it is good to know that there is at least something that I did to affect policy this summer.
However, my bigger takeaway from this experience is mostly a further evolution of my understanding of what it is exactly that think-tanks do and the role they play in our government and society. While it certainly has not changed my stance regarding going to the private sector, I understand how they interact with government on a much more practical level. As the title of this post suggests, I have come to view think-tanks as sort of quasi-government agencies filled with quasi-government employees. Since my work this summer was essentially fulfilling a direct request for help with a particular issue from a government agency, I have essentially just been “hired” to complete a task. While I do not work directly for the agency in question, I am playing a material role in the execution of their mission. Plus, since my hypothetical salary would not be paid by the government and instead by a private donor, it is essentially a way for wealthy individuals to donate to the continuing function of the United States government with the added bonus of maybe nudging policy in a preferred direction along the way.