Improving Government Performance: An Owner's Manual

Brookings Institution Press
Free sample

The Clinton administration's National Performance Review of the federal government (also called the Reinventing Government Initiative) is the eleventh effort this century to improve the executive branch and reform the federal service. Most previous efforts have faltered. How can present and future recommendations avoid the same fate?

This book provides practical and timely guidance to those trying to improve government performance. The focus of successful attempts, the authors argue, should be sustained evolution, not bursts of invention aimed at sweeping transformation. Specific proposals address ways to change government over the long term, ways to streamline bureaucracy, attract more resourceful and innovative workers, and make agencies more responsive to their customers, the citizens.

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About the author

John J. Dilulio, Jr., Frederic Fox Leadership Professor of politics, religion, and civil society at University of Pennsylvania and a nonresident senior fellow at Brookings, was a former assistant to the President and has served as a consultant for the National Institute of Justice and the National Institute of Corrections. He has authored and coauthored numerous books, including What's God Got to Do with the American Experiment? (Brookings, 2000), Body Count: Moral Poverty... and How to Win America's War Against Crime and Drugs (Simon & Schuster, 1996), Inside the Reinvention Machine: Appraising Governmental Reform (Brookings, 1995), Making Health Reform Work: The View from the States (Brookings, 1994), and No Escape: The Future of American Corrections (Basic Books, 1991). Gerald Garvey was a professor of politics at Princeton University. He focused on American politics, public policy, public administration and political theory, writing about these subjects in 11 books and numerous articles. Donald F. Kettl is the Robert A. Fox Leadership Professor at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is also director of the Fels Institute of Government and a professor of political science. Kettl is the author or coauthor of numerous books, including System under Stress: Homeland Security and American Politics (CQ Press, 2nd ed., in 2007) and The Global Public Management Revolution (Brookings, 2nd ed., in 2005).

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Additional Information

Publisher
Brookings Institution Press
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Published on
Jun 29, 2001
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Pages
108
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ISBN
9780815723288
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Language
English
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Genres
Political Science / American Government / General
Political Science / Public Affairs & Administration
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Most people talk about red tape as thought it were some kind of loathsome disease or the deliberate product of a group of evil conspirators or the result of bureaucratic stupidity and inertia. It is rarely discussed rationally, dispassionately, and analytically; most of us rage about it when it comes up.

In this book, Kaufman attempts a detached examination of the subject to find out why something so universally detested flourishes so widely and enjoys such powers of endurance. Part of the explanation is the protean character of the term "red tape"; each of us applies it to our own pet grievances, not realizing that other people's grievances are often quite different from our own. Underlying this variance, however, is a common core of meaning, and the first part of the book identifies that shared understanding.

The second part searches for the origins of the despised phenomenon in the federal government, and finds the source not in a clique of fools or villains, but in all of us. Red tape, according to this analysis, springs largely from the diversity of values to which people in our society subscribe, from the demands on government to which these values give rise, and from the responsiveness of the government to the demands. In this sense, red tape is of our own making.

Consequently, getting rid of it entirely—rewinding the spools, as it were-is a hopeless quest. The major proposals for eliminating it are found wanting in this regard (though there may be other reasons to favor some of these reforms); they may even generate as much red tape as they cut. That being the case, Kaufman concludes that a more fruitful policy would be to concentrate on relieving the worst of red tape's irritants so as to make bearable what we cannot end, and he explores several steps he believes will have this effect.

Although many readers will find this book depressing, most will probably acknowledge the persuasiveness of its argument. And some, like the author, will take heart from the analysis on the grounds that relief measures rooted in reality are much more likely to succeed than proposals for improvement based on delusive optimism and false hope.

From six-time #1 New York Times bestselling author, FOX News star, and radio host Mark R. Levin comes a groundbreaking and enlightening book that shows how the great tradition of the American free press has degenerated into a standardless profession that has squandered the faith and trust of the American public, not through actions of government officials, but through its own abandonment of reportorial integrity and objective journalism.

Unfreedom of the Press is not just another book about the press. Levin shows how those entrusted with news reporting today are destroying freedom of the press from within: “not government oppression or suppression,” he writes, but self-censorship, group-think, bias by omission, and passing off opinion, propaganda, pseudo-events, and outright lies as news.

With the depth of historical background for which his books are renowned, Levin takes the reader on a journey through the early American patriot press, which proudly promoted the principles set forth in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, followed by the early decades of the Republic during which newspapers around the young country were open and transparent about their fierce allegiance to one political party or the other.

It was only at the start of the Progressive Era and the twentieth century that the supposed “objectivity of the press” first surfaced, leaving us where we are today: with a partisan party-press overwhelmingly aligned with a political ideology but hypocritically engaged in a massive untruth as to its real nature.
In the flush of enthusiasm to make government work better, reformers from both left and right have urged government to turn as many functions as possible over to the private sector and to allow market competition instill efficiency and choice. In fact, government has been doing just this for years: every major policy initiative launched since World War II has been managed by public-private partnerships. Yet such privatization has not solved government's problems. While there have been some positive results, thee has been far less success than advocates of market competition have promised.

In a searching examination of why the "competition prescription" has not worked well, Donald F. Kettl finds that government has largely been a poor judge of private markets. Because government rarely operates in truly competitive markets contracting out has not so much solved the problems of inefficiency, but has aggravated them. Government has often not proved to be an intelligent consumer of the goods and services it has purchased. Kettl provides specific recommendations as to how government can become a "smart buyer," knowing what it wants and judging better what it has bought.

Through detailed case studies, Kettl shows that as market imperfections increase, so do problems in governance and management. He examines the A-76 program for buying goods and services, the FTS-2000 telecommunications system, the Superfund program, the Department of Energy's production of nuclear weapons, and contracting out by state and local governments. He argues that government must be more aggressive in managing contracts if it is to build successful partnerships with outside contractors.

Kettl maintains that the answer is not more government, but a smarter one, which requires strong political leadership to refocus the bureaucracy's mission and to change the bureaucratic culture.

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