CBO’s people make the agency one of the best places to work in the federal government. Meet some of them.
Microeconomic Studies Division
I joined CBO as a new Ph.D. economist in 1980, just a few years after the agency’s founding. Since then, I have worked in many areas, depending on the needs of policy analysis: energy, taxes, financial institutions, telecommunications, and pharmaceuticals, for example. Working on new issues keeps one fresh.
CBO analysts can be confident that their work is relevant and that it will be noticed. In contrast to other settings where analysts write for narrow and specific audiences, at CBO the analysts study the substance of the Congressional agenda, and our work is read and discussed by Members of Congress, staff members, reporters in the popular press, writers in the scholarly press, and policy observers across the country. I was in the audience at a recent conference on telecommunications policy when I heard several speakers cite my most recent report. One corporate official told me he had sent the work to his company’s board of directors.
That example is not unique. Over the years, I have seen my work turned into newspaper editorials, quoted in national magazines, and featured on radio and television. I have briefed Members of Congress and Hill staffers, and floor managers have taken my reports into the House or the Senate to argue from them.
But visibility isn’t the most exciting aspect of the work. Even more important is that CBO analysts typically have access to the leading people in the field. A few years ago while I was working on a report on science and technology funding, the project was reviewed by several Nobel Prize winners. In the past, I have been briefed by leading computer designers and inventors to ensure that I understood the issues in their area.
Although some agencies may produce reports that match CBO’s work in scope and importance, CBO has a size advantage. Because CBO is small, individual analysts often can make substantive contributions to the debate. And things can move quickly: Within a month of arriving at CBO, my work was being discussed in the Congress. At another agency, I might have waited years to be in a similar position.
What inspires me at work is the possibility of making a difference. For an analyst’s work to garner attention, it must lay out the issues in a way that clarifies the policy choices facing the Congress or it must illuminate new dimensions in those issues. This desire to produce work that is beyond the ordinary, that is beyond the first cut, keeps me engaged nearly three decades after my arrival.
Academia or Not
Microeconomic Studies Division
When I finished my Ph.D. at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, I was hoping to contribute to policy discussions at the national level in a serious way. And I was hoping to do so quickly. I can think of no better place for that than CBO. I know my work has informed debates among policymakers, and it has been cited by major news outlets. It is gratifying to know that people listen to what CBO says.
Coming out of graduate school, I was faced with the decision of whether to go “academic” or not. I must say, I’ve never regretted opting out of those tenure-track assistant professor days (and nights). Besides, CBO offers a variety of outlets for its analysts’ work. Some of the projects here are longer term, giving you time to really delve into the details of an issue (an example is our 2008 paper Recent Trends in the Variability of Individual Earnings and Household Income). Other projects are shorter term and focus on answering a specific question more quickly (for instance, our 2010 issue brief Social Security Disability Insurance: Participation Trends and Their Implications). CBO is very supportive of analysts who want to publish in academic journals (as I have) and encourages participation in conferences and in the economics community overall. Since coming here, I have also taken the opportunity to teach as an adjunct professor in the Georgetown economics department. The ability to switch things up is one of the things that keeps the job fresh and interesting.
CBO has a stellar reputation for producing excellent and objective analyses of tough issues in a timely and accessible way. That’s no mean feat. We are a small agency, but the bang for the buck here is incredible. The people are smart, hard-working, dedicated, and engaged. There is at least one expert on every domestic program or policy issue. Our editorial staff cannot be beat. The support staff is fantastic. It didn't surprise anyone here that we were ranked one of the best places to work in the federal government.
The work is rewarding and interesting in its own right, but it is the people at CBO who keep things lively and fun on a day-to-day basis. CBO’ers are sailors, glass blowers, linguists, sports enthusiasts, runners, triathletes, actors—the list goes on and on. We also have people who devote time and energy to a wide variety of charities, including Race for the Cure, homeless shelters, and mentoring programs for local at-risk youth. It really is amazing—no one seems to do anything halfway around here!
Financial Analysis Division
When I joined CBO, I had already spent nearly 20 years working in the financial sector. My interest in moving to government service grew out of a search for a way I could contribute to the wider discussion of important policy issues facing that industry, particularly because of the recent housing and financial crises and the intensifying scrutiny of the effect that banks and other financial institutions were having on the federal budget and the broader economy.
After researching a variety of public- and private-sector organizations involved in the policy arena, I identified CBO as an ideal place to pursue the work I was interested in. Most important to me was CBO’s reputation as a nonpartisan voice, and the evidence of its consistent approach to examining all sides of an issue and thoroughly reviewing the pros and cons of relevant policy approaches. I also appreciated the clarity of its descriptions of the often-complex financial, economic, and procedural details that underlie its analyses.
When I arrived at CBO, I realized quickly that the agency’s reputation is just one benefit of working here. Beyond that are the impressive breadth and depth of knowledge of CBO’s staff members, their ease at welcoming new colleagues, and their willingness to share institutional knowledge. I had experienced nothing like it during my career. In addition, the agency encourages the engagement of its staff with a constellation of outside organizations—in government, business, industry, and academia—to promote fuller understanding of the issues we study.
The nature of the work itself has exceeded my expectations. In particular, I appreciate having had the opportunity to participate in projects that span a spectrum of federal financial programs—in my case, involving everything from housing to agriculture to energy. I cannot imagine another organization providing as diverse a set of opportunities for analysts to enhance their skills and knowledge.
Making a Difference
|M.P.A., Public Management|
Budget Analysis Division
Finding a job you like is always tough.
I’ve always been interested in problem solving and trying to make a difference in the world. That led me to pursuing degrees in both economics and public policy, which eventually led me to CBO—a place where problem solving helps to make a difference in the world. I found my way to CBO in 2001, when my senior adviser at Morehouse put a CBO internship information sheet in my hand (and told me to apply). I took a chance and landed an internship in the Health and Human Resources Division working on unemployment insurance issues. Because of the work I’d done in the summer, I was invited to intern for the rest of the year in the Budget Analysis Division and had the opportunity to work on issues ranging from fugitive felons to Alaskan bush pilots.
After entering my graduate program, I began to look for jobs that would both fit and enhance my newly acquired skill set. Given what I knew about the people and the quality of the work, the only place that came to mind was CBO. As an intern, I’d gained insight on CBO's environment and the type of work produced at CBO, but what led me back was the fact that I would immediately be responsible for specific policy areas.This is often a concern for new graduates; no one wants to take a job where your work doesn’t matter. Lucky for me, at CBO, all of the work matters.
I accepted a job in the Defense, International Affairs, and Veterans Affairs Unit of the Budget Analysis Division and work on issues relating to veterans’ disability compensation, pensions, and related issues. Having always wanted to work in a sector dealing with people, something difficult to do when you work in budgeting, this particular job suits me well: I deal directly with issues that affect millions of disabled veterans of the U.S. military.
Working at CBO provides me with the opportunity to work in a fast-paced environment, yet gives me plenty of time to enjoy all that the Nation’s Capital has to offer. There are days when the work is challenging and you need to get 12 things done in an hour, but the supportive management team and staff always find a way to help you accomplish everything—and do it well.
Health, Retirement, and Long-Term Analysis Division
As a graduating senior who majored in economics with a concentration in public health, I was looking for a job that would allow me to apply economic analysis to health-related topics of particular interest to me. I also wanted a position that would help me gain experience compiling, conducting, and publishing research. My hope was to work for an organization that produced research that would be used by others and ultimately have some kind of impact on public policy. As an assistant analyst in CBO’s Health, Retirement, and Long-Term Analysis Division, I have found a job that meets all of those requirements.
I typically work on several projects at a time that deal with issues pertaining to health care. In addition to compiling research from academic literature, I am often asked to conduct independent research on topics such as the availability of, and access to, health care. From time to time, I analyze proposed health-related legislation to see if it will have an impact on the private sector, and I also fact-check documents that are almost ready for publication. I have even presented research to the director and other managers at CBO. Upon starting at CBO, I received training in how to use statistical software programs such as SAS and Stata to “clean” or analyze data. Being able to develop such technical skills and to expand upon my academic training in a professional environment have proved invaluable to me.
I have been pleasantly surprised to see that assistant analysts are given a great deal of responsibility and respect at CBO. People often say that the work environment here is very “flat” as opposed to bureaucratic, and I have found that to be true. I am given a lot of choice about the kind of projects I work on and need only to speak up if I feel over- or underworked. I am encouraged to learn as much as possible and often attend health policy panels and forums in the D.C. area during my regular workday. This has been an amazing opportunity, and I have learned a lot about the complex issues affecting the health care industry. I am also surrounded by extremely smart people: engaging them in conversation about various topics—whether related to health care, research methodology, or some other issue—can be very helpful and thought-provoking.CBO also values work-life balance, which is very important to me. I am rarely asked or expected to work beyond the normal work schedule, and breaks during the day are encouraged. CBO is also located near the National Mall, which is a great place to take a lunchtime walk or sit and “people watch.” CBO offers great benefits, such as reduced gym memberships and ample vacation time. I feel extremely lucky to have obtained a job at CBO right out of college. The experience has been very informative and will undoubtedly affect my future in a positive way.
|M.P.A., Health Policy and Management|
Budget Analysis Division
I first was introduced to CBO as an intern in the Budget Analysis Division during the summer between my first and second year of graduate school. During my internship I was able to apply my professional and academic experiences to exciting and extremely relevant projects in health policy. I conducted qualitative and quantitative analysis of cost trends for prescription drugs and collaborated with the agency's analysts to help create models for predicting growth in drug expenditures, constructing cost estimates, and informing baseline projections of the federal budget.
Interning at CBO provided a great opportunity to gain substantial experience in policy analysis and to work with and learn from an extremely intelligent group of hard-working people. It was a pleasure to work as an intern for the agency, which offers not only an intellectually challenging workplace but a comfortable and collegial environment.
I was extremely fortunate to have been offered a position as a full-time analyst in the same unit after graduation. I jumped at the opportunity to come back to CBO and work on the incredibly important and challenging issues facing our health care system. But I was also thrilled to return to an organization and team that really cares about its employees. Since returning, I've realized just how much CBO actually does to support the Congress and the important role individual analysts' play. At times this transition could have felt overwhelming, but having collaborative coworkers and supportive managers makes being "new" much less scary.