Blue-Ribbon Panel

Blue-Ribbon Panel

Blue-Ribbon Panel (sometimes called a Blue Ribbon Commission) is an informal term generally used to describe a group of exceptional persons appointed to investigate or study a given question. The term generally connotes a degree of independence from political influence or other authority, and such panels usually have no direct authority of their own. Their value comes from their ability to use their expertise to issue findings or recommendations which can then be used by those with decision-making power to act.

A blue-ribbon panel is often appointed by a government body or executive to report on a matter of controversy. It might be composed of independent scientific experts or academics with no direct government ties to study a particular issue or question, or it might be composed of citizens well known for their general intelligence, experience and non-partisan interests to study a matter of political reform. The "blue-ribbon" aspect comes from the presentation of the panel as the "best and brightest" for the task, and the appointment of such a panel, ad hoc, is meant to signal its perspective as outsiders of the usual process for study and decisions.

The designation "blue-ribbon" is often made by the appointing authority, and may be disputed by others who might see the panel as less independent, or as a way for an authority to dodge responsibility.

Recent examples of high-level so-called blue-ribbon panels in the United States would be the Warren Commission investigating the Kennedy Assassination, the 9/11 Commission investigation the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the Iraq Study Group assessing the Iraq War and the Clinton Administration's panel on health care reform. In each case, the panel did not have authority to indict or legislate, and their brief was to investigate and issue a report on the facts as they found them with recommendations for changes for government policy in the future.


*See Chapter One, "Presidents and the Blue-Ribbon Option," in Kenneth Kitts, [ "Presidential Commissions and National Security: The Politics of Damage Control"] (Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2006).

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