Academic journal article The Public Manager

The New Public Administrator: A Seasoned Practitioner Discusses Continual Downsizing, Employee Turnover, and the Inability to Attract Young Employees to Public Service and Offers Recommendations for Effective Public Management in the 21st Century

Academic journal article The Public Manager

The New Public Administrator: A Seasoned Practitioner Discusses Continual Downsizing, Employee Turnover, and the Inability to Attract Young Employees to Public Service and Offers Recommendations for Effective Public Management in the 21st Century

Article excerpt

The federal public administrators of the 21st century can no longer rely on the same staples of management their predecessors employed. Obstacles of the past two decades have created an atmosphere where today's administrators must employ dynamic strategies in order to meet their agencies' missions, which are growing ever more varied and complex. Some of these obstacles have included continual downsizing, growing levels of employee turnover, a pending mass exodus of retiring employees, and the inability of agencies to attract young employees to replace these generations of experience, knowledge, and skills. The administrators of the 1960s and 1970s never saw these obstacles coming, and some agencies have found themselves ill equipped to proactively deal with them. Instead, they are reactively developing strategies to cope, and often ill effectively.

This article first discusses some of the obstacles that have created the environment in which the 21st century public administrators are expected to manage their personnel, make decisions, and develop tactical and strategic goals to ensure the survival of their agencies. Strategies for effective administration are then presented that should be employed by all public administrators hoping to survive in this new dynamic environment. While these recommendations are primarily critical for public administrators in the federal government, they are also offered for administrators at the state and local levels.

The Age of Change

The 1990s was the decade of government downsizing. The federal workforce was reduced by an average of 2.47 percent per year from 1991 through 2000. While agencies were making efforts to make the government leaner in terms of employment levels, dual efforts were not being employed to ensure a highly skilled workforce was being maintained. Nor were efforts being made to develop strategies to fill future vacancies with highly skilled employees.

The efforts of the National Performance Review (NPR) in the 1990s transformed the federal government into a leaner entity, but not a more efficient one. Under the NPR, federal agencies were mandated to make cuts in personnel, but were not mandated to develop strategies to meet the dynamic challenges of serving the interests of its customers, the American people. Tom Shoop (1994) reported that the NPR's efforts were less of a reform movement and more of movement just to eliminate jobs. He reported, "Last October (1993) when Administration officials trooped to Capitol Hill to try to sell the NPR's initial round of legislative proposals, they talked less about systems reform and more about getting rid of twelve percent of the government's civilian employees--252,000 jobs by cutting layers of management ... On September 11 (1993), shortly after the NPR report was released, Clinton sent all agency heads a memo telling them to prepare streamlining plans by December 1, consistent with the National Performance Review's recommendation to reduce the executive branch civilian workforce by 252,000."

GAO Conclusions

The General Accounting Office (2001) concluded the following in reviewing the effects of downsizing efforts on the federal workforce:

         Today's non-postal civilian federal workforce is smaller than
    it was a decade ago. The federal workforce was reduced from
    approximately 2.3 million federal employees in fiscal year 1990 to
    fewer than 1.9 million by fiscal year 1999. At the same time,
    federal outlays grew from $1.5 trillion in fiscal year 1990 to $1.7
    trillion in fiscal year 1999. But what happened--or more
    importantly, did not happen--as this downsizing was being
    accomplished was just as significant as the downsizing itself. For
    example, initial rounds of the downsizing were set in motion without
    sufficient planning relating to the longer term effects on agencies'
    performance capacity. At the same time, the federal government
    reduced permanent new hires from 118,000 in fiscal year 1990 to
    about 74,000 in fiscal year 1999. … 
Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.