Category Archives: Government

Outsourcing and Organizational Performance: The Employee Perspective

Source: Gyeo Reh Lee, Shinwoo Lee, Deanna Malatesta, Sergio Fernandez, The American Review of Public Administration, Volume 49 Issue 8, November 2019
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From the abstract:
We develop a conceptual framework that integrates and extends existing explanations of outsourcing’s effects on the government workforce and organizational performance. We then test our logic using 5 years of panel data (2010-2014) from U.S. federal agencies. The evidence presents modest negative effects of outsourcing on organizational performance as perceived by employees. The analysis also reveals that outsourcing affects perceived performance through its influence on job satisfaction.

Is the U.S. Government at Risk of Failing?

Source: Molly Jahn, Gregory Treverton and David Bray, PA Times, Vol. 5 no. 1, Spring 2019
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The longest government shutdown in U.S. history got most of the media’s attention. But, something worse and more fundamental is happening. Over decades, the federal government’s workforce has been both burdened and demeaned, putting government at risk of simply failing in the face of a national crisis—or multiple domestic or foreign emergencies occurring at the same time. ….

Related:
Are Declines in U.S. Federal Workforce Capabilities Putting Our Government at Risk of Failing?
Source: Dr. Molly Jahn, Dr. Gregory F. Treverton, Dr. David A. Bray, Dr. Buddhika Jayamaha, Bill Valdez, BenCarnesLiam Hutchison, Will Mulhern, Senior Executives Association, January 2019

The Anti-Public Administration Presidency: The Damage Trump Has Wrought

Source: Charles T. Goodsell, The American Review of Public Administration, OnlineFirst, July 25, 2019
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From the abstract:
President Trump and his Administration have gravely damaged the institutions and values of American public administration. Harm has been done to the federal workforce, the policymaking process, the integrity of missions, agencies and programs, and the government’s relation to science.

Artificial Intelligence, Discretion, and Bureaucracy

Source: Justin B. Bullock, The American Review of Public Administration, OnlineFirst, Published June 18, 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This essay highlights the increasing use of artificial intelligence (AI) in governance and society and explores the relationship between AI, discretion, and bureaucracy. AI is an advanced information communication technology tool (ICT) that changes both the nature of human discretion within a bureaucracy and the structure of bureaucracies. To better understand this relationship, AI, discretion, and bureaucracy are explored in some length. It is argued that discretion and decision-making are strongly influenced by intelligence, and that improvements in intelligence, such as AI, can help improve the overall quality of administration. Furthermore, the characteristics, strength, and weaknesses of both human discretion and AI are explored. Once these characteristics are laid out, a further exploration of the role AI may play in bureaucracies and bureaucratic structure is presented, followed by a specific focus on systems-level bureaucracies. In addition, it is argued that task distribution and task characteristics play a large role, along with the organizational and legal context, in whether a task favors human discretion or the use of AI. Complexity and uncertainty are presented as the major defining characteristics for categorizing tasks. Finally, a discussion is provided about the important cautions and concerns of utilizing AI in governance, in particular, with respect to existential risk and administrative evil.

Survey: Only One-Third of Agencies Are Sending NARA Electronic Records

Source: Brandi Vincent, Nextgov, March 29, 2019

Many federal agencies could be at risk of not meeting National Archives and Records Administration’s mandate to manage (and eventually send NARA) all records electronically by December 2019, according to a survey.

An overreliance on manual processes and fallible end-users paired with a lack of manpower and implemented automation are driving that risk according to a survey of 150 government decision-makers released Thursday by AvePoint Public Sector and custom research firm Market Connections.

The survey found that while 93 percent of respondents were “very confident” or “somewhat confident” their agencies are managing records to federal standards, a “vast majority” of agencies are not presently sending all their eligible records to NARA. Only 33 transferred all eligible records to NARA in fiscal 2018. The year prior, only 22 percent of agencies transferred eligible electronic records to the administration. Still, 61 percent of respondents rated their agencies’ progress at meeting the December deadline as “good,” or “excellent.”….

Related:
New Survey Reveals Why Federal Agencies Aren’t Transferring Records to NARA
Source: AvePoint Public Sector, March 28, 2019

…. Why Agencies Aren’t Transferring Records to NARA
The 2019 NARA Readiness Report directly asks respondents their reasons for not transferring records to NARA for disposition. Findings showed:
– Too many records / a lot of work / manpower shortage / difficult to manage—42 percent
– Cost / Budget—16 percent
– Work in progress—11 percent
– Lack of appropriate oversight / mismanaged—7 percent
– Compliance / data concerns—5 percent
– Other responses / Confidential—27 percent

Fees, Fines, and Penalties: Better Reporting of Government-wide Data Would Increase Transparency and Facilitate Oversight

Source: U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), GAO-19-221, March 7, 2019

From the Fast Facts:
Federal agencies collect hundreds of billions of dollars annually in fees, fines, and penalties, such as national park entry fees and penalties for violations of federal telemarketing law.

Government-wide data could help Congress identify trends in collections and significant changes that could be an indication of an agency’s performance. Currently, there is no comprehensive, government-wide report that identifies specific fees, fines, and penalties.

We made 4 recommendations to enhance the Office of Management and Budget’s current reporting on these collections, such as making more specific data publically available.

Related:
Highlights
Recommendations
Podcast

The shutdown: Drowning government in the bathtub

Source: William E. Nelson, The Conversation, February 12, 2019

…. Shuttering the government for the third time since Trump took office remains possible, but is less likely now, given Monday’s progress towards a deal in Congressional talks over securing the border. Meanwhile, bipartisan support, including among prominent Republicans like Sens. Chuck Grassley, Lisa Murkowski, Lamar Alexander and Rob Portman, is rising for bills that would prohibit shutdowns.

The president’s observable objective in this political conflict is getting money from Congress to build the border wall.

As legal scholars who have spent much of our careers analyzing the interaction between government and society, including the economy, we believe that intentionally or not, the shutdown also was consistent with a goal long sought by a subset of the Republican Party – not to be confused with traditional, moderate Republicans – that wants to dismantle the government.

Starve the beast

These advocates of limiting government’s size have a traffic cop theory of the state, featuring a minimalist state focused on safety and security.

Many believe that government is at best superfluous and at worst a drag on a free market. It has long been their aim to cut taxes to “starve the beast.” ….

Are Declines in U.S. Federal Workforce Capabilities Putting Our Government at Risk of Failing?

Source: Molly Jahn, Gregory F. Treverton, David A. Bray, Buddhika Jayamaha, Bill Valdez, Ben Carnes, Liam Hutchison, Will Mulhern, Senior Executives Association, January 2019

Has the U.S. Federal Government reached a point where critical operations might fail in stressful events that are likely to occur? This was this project’s animating question. Based on the data collected in this study, it appears the answer to these critical questions is yes.

A weakening in the capacity of the government’s workforce and its organizational structures is plainly evident, and so is a perceptible loss of collective resilience to detect and respond to adverse events. To test this conclusion, this study considered workforce trends given several dozen potential scenarios, ranging between those that are virtually certain to occur in the next year to other scenarios that are highly plausible in the near term.

The U.S. Executive Branch has hardly grown in sixty years – there were 1.8 million civilian employees in 1960, and 2.1 million in 2017. Yet over the same period the amount of money spent by the federal government has grown fivefold. To be sure, contracts and grants have filled part of the gap, but, still, both the amount and range of work required of the federal workforce has continued to go up, just as the scope and complexity of executive branch functions have also increased. Government contractors, widely used to plug the holes in our government, can only take up so much of the slack. ….

….Six critical themes run through our study:
• All three branches of the U.S. Federal Government have failed to keep up with a rapidly changing world, opening enormous vulnerabilities and attack surfaces.
• Many private sector positions are vastly better remunerated and often more stable relative to public service, particularly at the senior most ranks of the civil service.
• The increasing polarization of Congress is visible in any number of objective measures, resulting in dysfunctional deliberations and an inability to perform legislative functions.
• An increasingly polarized polity, resulting in part from campaign financing changes, have made money more important in our politics.
• An increasing replacement of what was non-partisan Senior Executive roles with political appointees for at least the last half century.
• The ever-present stress of major cyber threats, combined with new hybrid threats including misinformation, disinformation and other concerns, with the potential to disable substantial parts of government and discredit public processes: witness the recent ransomware attack on the City of Atlanta in 2018.

The study’s findings point toward the more extreme plausible explanations for current trends and their future implications. Perhaps U.S. Federal Government civil servants are the canaries in the mines of the Nation, telling us that the air is growing dangerously foul. Perhaps not just the capacity of the U.S. Federal Government to respond to domestic and foreign crises is at risk, but also our civic norms and constitutional order. ….

Federal Workers: Shutdown and Out

Source: Saurav Sarkar, Labor Notes, January 18, 2019

What would you do if management could force you to work without pay, lock you out with no consequences, and fire you for going on strike?

That’s the situation facing 800,000 federal workers—and their unions—during the longest government shutdown in U.S. history.

Forty percent of the government’s civilian workforce besides postal workers are being deprived of money to pay for rent, gas, groceries, and car and student loan payments.

They include 420,000 workers who are being forced to work without pay and 380,000 who are locked out…..