Ethics & Accountability
CSIS is a nonprofit, nongovernmental 501 (c)(3) organization. We undertake independent analysis and policy-relevant work. Our mission is to provide strategic insights and bipartisan policy solutions to the world’s greatest challenges.
CSIS does not represent outside interests. We hire experienced and innovative scholars and former government and private-sector officials to conduct analytic research and develop policy prescriptions. These scholars work with a broad array of stakeholders, inside and outside government, in the public and private sectors, and within the United States and internationally to develop objective findings and pragmatic and effective recommendations.
CSIS is governed by an independent Board of Trustees and is audited by independent auditing firms. We publicly identify our donors and provide to the public the same reports we are required to give to the Internal Revenue Service. We do not lobby or represent any government, corporate, or private interests before the U.S. Government. We have strict conflict-of-interest policies and procedures to govern the work of our staff and affiliates.
Our reputation is based on the quality and independence of our scholars’ work, as well as our ability to help policymakers, the media, and the public at large understand the most complex foreign, economic, energy, and defense policy issues of the day. Three fundamental principles have guided CSIS’s work for five decades: (1) bipartisanship; (2) scholar independence; and (3) analytic rigor.
Why bipartisanship? History shows that no enduring U.S. policy is possible unless there is a foundation of bipartisan support. This is difficult in today’s hyper-partisan climate. But we still think it is right. Every commission assembled by CSIS has a Republican and a Democratic co-chair. Every project is rigorously nonpartisan. We are committed to working across the aisle even if this appears to be a dying practice.
Second, our scholars are independent. They have one central mandate: to tell the truth, no matter how controversial, so long as their work represents honest, objective analysis. Government officials don’t listen to CSIS because we carry a political constituency behind us in the way lobbyists do. They listen because they are trying to understand an issue and know our scholars have established reputations for objective, analytic work. That requires that we talk openly with people on all sides of an issue, something we do each day.
Third, CSIS starts with the problem, not the answer. We advocate honest and effective government, not the agenda of one party or another. There is a role for think tanks that are advocates for a particular political philosophy. But that is not CSIS. We champion rule-of-law, representative government, transparent and accountable procedures, and government effectiveness. It is dangerous to American politics if government officials do not have objective, fact-based, analytic work to use as the basis of their decisions. That is the role we play.