Downsizing the Federal Government: The Management of Public Sector Workforce Reductions

Downsizing the Federal Government: The Management of Public Sector Workforce Reductions

Downsizing the Federal Government: The Management of Public Sector Workforce Reductions

Downsizing the Federal Government: The Management of Public Sector Workforce Reductions

Synopsis

The main focus of downsizing has shifted from the private to the public sector. The cutbacks began in the Department of Defense. Now the goal is a federal civilian workforce reduction of 12 percent by the year 2000.

This pioneering study looks at the management of workforce reductions in the public sector both in theory and in practice. Three case studies -- of the Defense Logistics Agency, the Bureau of Reclamation, and the Food and Drug Administration -- illustrate the organizational, managerial, and human dimensions of attempting to improve performance with reduced resources. The author draws on extensive interviews with senior executives and middle managers in the three agencies; at the General Accounting Office, the Office of Personnel Management, and the National Performance Review; the Senior Executives Association and the Federal Managers Association; and scholars and researchers.

In a larger sense, this work pushes the boundaries of knowledge concerning organizational change and makes a significant contribution to organization theory. It offers important new insights not only for public sector managers but for organization theorists and management specialists whose work on downsizing has been presumed but not shown to be applicable to the public sector.

Excerpt

Over the years, I developed a strong interest in the complexities and dynamics of public sector organizations. My career in the federal government took me to many locations and organizational levels—at the field level outside Washington, D.C., and at headquarters levels in the nation's capital—and intensified my desire to one day formally study government operations.My opportunity to conduct research on the federal bureaucracy came when I entered my doctoral program in public administration at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs of Syracuse University in New York.This excellent program elevated my commitment to government agencies and their devoted employees and prepared me to investigate government activities. In particular, I wanted to conduct research on organizational change and management practices within federal government agencies.

During my time at the Maxwell School, the Clinton Administration introduced its 1993 "reinventing government" reforms championed by the National Performance Review (NPR). The NPR initiated tremendous change in the federal government aimed at improving the government's performance and reducing its costs.Consequently, a fortuitous opportunity existed to investigate organizational change, its effects on agencies, and the management of that change.

Of all the change pervading federal agencies, from the NPR as well as other sources, what stood out for me was the component of reinventing government to reduce the size of the federal workforce.I spent several weeks in Washington, D.C., in late 1993 and early 1994 interviewing numerous scholars at universities, the Brookings Institution, the Congressional Research Service, and the National Academy of Public Administration; government officials at the United States General Accounting Office, the United States Office of Personnel Management, and elsewhere; leaders at the Senior Executives Association and the Federal Managers Association; NPR leaders and staff officers; and directors of NPR implementation pro-

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