Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

Reinventing Government at the Federal Level: The Implementations and the Prospects

Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

Reinventing Government at the Federal Level: The Implementations and the Prospects

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

The National Performance Review (NPR) was the centerpiece of the Clinton administration. When it came out March 1993, responses to it e varied (Gazell, 1997a). Some saw it as a huge step to improve the federal government. Some regarded it as another fad and others praised it but saw too many obstacles for its successful implementation. This article focuses on the implementation of NPR from the following aspects: its historical roots, major themes, and its differences from the previous government reforms. Then the article discusses the achievements of NPR, its implementation issues, and some concerns for its long-term effect.

INTRODUCTION

The National Performance Review (NPR) was the centerpiece of the Clinton administration. When it came out March 1993, responses to it varied (Gazell, 1997a). Some saw it as a huge step in improving the federal government. Some regarded it as another fad while others praised it but saw too many obstacles for successful implementation. Now that the Clinton administration has ended, how well has NPR been implemented and what effect will it have on the national government's performance are interesting questions.

This article focuses on the implementation of NPR. It first reviews the NPR from the following aspects: its historical roots. Its major themes, and its differences from the previous government reforms. Then, the article discusses the achievement of NPR, its implementation issues, and some concerns for the long-term effect.

HISTORICAL ROOTS

While reinventing government (REGO) was a hot topic in the 1990s, it really has a long historical root in the literature regarding management science and in other attempts at improving government performance (Hollings, 1996). It has its root in the literature of public choice (Kamensky, 1996).

According to Hollings (1996:4), "Reinventing government comes after a number of books dealing with the need for change in business management philosophy." During the 1980s, numerous authors proposed that the business community needed a basic change (Peters and Waterman, 1982; Peters and Austin, 1985; Naisbit and Aburdene, 1985; Champy and Hammer, 1983).

"While the 1980s was the decade of 'excellence' in business, the 1990s will be the decade of 'excellence' in government" (Hollings, 1996:4). In the early 1990s, the literature regarding reinventing business was brought to the public sector. Numerous authors explored how to change the ways government operate (Osborne and Gaebler, 1992; Barzelay, 1992; Ingraham and Kettle, 1992; Meehan, 1993; Wheeler, 1993). The most popular work is Osborne and Gaebler's Reinventing Government: How the Entrepreneurial Spirit is Transforming the Public Sector (1992). In this book, the authors advocate smaller, flatter, more entrepreneurial, and responsive government.

The current reinventing government movement also has historical precedence in the previous numerous attempts at improving and at "reinventing" the bureaucracy. In the 20th century alone, there were eleven such attempts as illustrated below:

1905 Commission on Department Methods (Keep Commission)

1910 President's Commission on Economy and Efficiency (Taft Commission)

1921 Joint Committee on Reorganization

1936 President's Committee on Administrative Management (Brownlow Committee)

1947 First Hoover Commission

1960 Task Force on Government Reorganization

1969 Advisory Council on Executive Organization (Ash Council)

1977 Carter Reorganization Effort

1982 President's Private Sector Survey on Cost Control (Grace Commission)

1987 National Commission on the Public Service (Volcker Commission)

1993 National Performance Review (Gore Commission)

These attempts have had limited and varying success. Although some of the recommendations made by these task forces were adopted, they have not produced long-lasting impacts on government performance. …

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