Robert Reischauer, the well-respected economist and former head of the Congressional Budget Office, was chosen last week to replace long-serving president William Gorham at the head of the Urban Institute.

Reischauer is a known quantity at the 370-person policy shop, having served as senior vice president for five years during the early 1980s, and is seen as a strong appointment for Urban. He is a budget policy expert, with an interest in entitlement programs and health care.

The tank has been looking for a new president since Gorham announced his pending retirement last year. Gorham, a former Johnson administration official, has headed the tank from its creation in 1968.

Urban's gain is the Brookings Institution's loss. Reischauer will be leaving his post as a senior fellow there after four years. His new position is effective Feb.1.

The Urban Institute has an operating budget of $61 million. About half the institute's funding comes from government contract work.

THINK TANK ROW: Right now, the vacant lot at 1750 Massachusetts Ave. still just sports a sign: future home of the Institute for International Economics.

But come mid-2001, it will house the heavyweight economic think tank in its very own modern, glass-fronted building, designed by the same firm that did the new World Bank building.

IIE's board firmly believes "every great institution should have its own building," said economist-about-town and tank head C. Fred Bergsten. He notes that tanks get more credit when their sponsored events take place in their own facilities rather than an endless series of generic hotel ballrooms.

The tank is obtaining the last stamps of approval for the 25,000-square foot building, after purchasing the lot for $2.8 million last year. IIE folks hope to break ground in mid-2000.

Just because IIE is moving to new digs doesn't mean Bergsten is going to bulk up on staff beyond the current 40 employees. Bergsten purposely keeps the organization lean and "non-bureaucratic." So lean he has no full-time public relations person on staff, instead putting scholars out there to do their own promotional work.

Standing at the window of his new home, IIE's head will be able to look out at Brookings, a tank that many hoped Bergsten (himself a Brookings alumni) would head when the top job last opened up in the mid-1990s. Bergsten was interested, but eventually withdrew himself from consideration.

MOVES: Not everyone goes for this "do your own press" thing. The Cato Institute just hired a new vice president for communications, Joe Lehman, from a Michigan state think tank, the Mackinac Center; the Progress and Freedom Foundation brought on Shelley Obringer from the American Enterprise Institute to handle press; and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities hired Jim Jaffe, a former Ways and Means press secretary, as communications director.

The Center also scored by snaring Jim Horney from CBO, where he was chief of the budget projections unit. He'll now use his government budget-scoring credentials as a senior fellow working on budgetary policy and process.

PFF also recently brought on local communications lawyer Randy May as director of communication policy studies, and promoted Thomas Lenard from senior fellow to vice president for research.

The National Policy Association is bringing on Susan Ariel Aaronson as a senior fellow for international programs. Aaronson also will direct NPA policy committees on global economics and North American issues.

And at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Staci Warden is the new deputy director of the economic reform project. Warden comes from the Harvard Institute for International Development.

THE BIG BUCKS: The Chronicle of Philanthropy last week released its annual Philanthropy 400 survey, listing the nonprofits that raised the most from private sources in 1998. One area think tank made the list. We'd ask you to guess, but it's not much of a challenge: the Heritage Foundation, which finished at No. 235 and reported raising $41.8 million from private donors last year.

Heritage also reported spending 51 percent of its total income on program services and 8 percent on fund-raising. The tank moved up from last year's ranking of 289. The tallies include cash raised from individuals, corporations and foundations but exclude government grants or contracts, or fee-for-service earnings.

Topping the list for the seventh time in a row was the Salvation Army, based in Alexandria, which reported raising a cool $1.2 billion from private sources in 1998.

BEAM ME UP, SCOTTY: The stratospherically over-the-top Weekly World News tabloid recently posted this scoop on its Web site: "Washington Think Tanks are Riddled with Space Aliens." We hate to name names, but Brookings is in fact the only tank specifically mentioned (apparently the tank's "out-of-this world ideas" have otherworldly origins). According to the News, "of the 26 major think tanks in the United States, 18 include at least one alien--and some have as many as five onboard." So that's why they have pointy heads.

Have news about think tanks, policy-oriented foundations, or nonprofits? E-mail it to ideas@washpost.com