The Brookings Institution began as the first private organization established to analyze public policy impact on society at the national level. It was founded in 1916 by namesake philanthropist Robert S. Brookings as the Institute for Government Research. It would eventually branch out to include the Institute of Economics and the Robert Brookings Graduate School, which was a part of Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. In 1927 they became consolidated into the Brookings Institution.
In 1952 the Brookings Institution changed managerial hands and the new president was able to procure funding for the institution from both the Rockefeller Foundation and the Ford Foundation. This established financial stability for the institution as they continued to acquire government contracts. The results of their studies were not always received with positive reaction from the governmental administrations. This funding allowed the Brookings Institution to keep its claim of political independence, though it is not clear how much influence the foundations would have as a funding source.
Political independence has always been problematic for the organization, as several of the senior fellows are employees of newspapers and other institutional publications that may present commentary and analysis on both sides of the political isle. The Brookings Institution still assesses its studies as being centrist, but several of the right-wing think tanks make "liberal" accusations in regards to public policy recommendations that are issued. In addition, pundits from both sides of the political spectrum sometimes debate policy in the media without acknowledging that both pundits are members of the same institution.
Today, high profile fellows like Richard Haas, director of the Council on Foreign Relations, specialize in certain expertise. With Haas, it is threat of global terrorism and his suggestion that terrorism is being "franchised," as he has said on national television with his symbolism of "thousands of little golden arches" springing up all over the world.
It is clear that the Brookings Institution has been instrumental from its inception in determining the course of United States public policy, beginning with the establishment of the Congressional Budget Office forward. In fact, like other think tanks, the Brookings Institute's real purpose is to justify big government for the power elite.
By coming up with seemingly reasonable solutions that include government resources, the Brookings Institution contributes to the idea that both government and private enterprise are part of the "solution." In fact, government is almost never the solution to anything; Anglosphere power elites NEED institutions like the Brookings Institution to continually buttress government involvement in private affairs. This gives the elites tools they need to continually pull government levers for their own enrichment. The strategy is called mercantilism, and think tanks such as Brookings merely enhance it.