Nov. 20th, 2011

forbidding_archivist: The Terrible Trivium (Default)
"Governments should be results-oriented--guided not by process but guided by performance. There comes a time when every program must be judged either a success or a failure. Where we find success, we should repeat it, share it, and make it the standard. And where we find failure, we must call it by its name. Government action that fails in its purpose must be reformed or ended."
- George W Bush campaign speech, 2000

Bush2 was all about eliminating was and efficiency by making government more results-driven. The use of performance data to make budgetary and programmatic decisions became the foundatiion of his President's Management Agenda (PMA), which was really the conservative ideological blueprint for improving the management performance of the bureaucracy. It's main tenets were:
1) strategic management of human capital
2) competitive sourcing through extensive use of privatization
3) improved financial performance
4) expanded electronic government
5) budget and performance integration; budget expansion, maintenance, and detraction would be completely dependent on performance for the previous year.

Contrast this with Clinton's National Performance Review (NPR), which had the following tenets:
1) employee empowerment
2) restructurement and avoiding privatization
3) performance budgeting
4) enhanced use of information technology
5) identify performance goals and set customer service standards

Sound just about the same, right? Wrong. The NPR and PMA were two entirely different animals, constructed with completely opposed ideologies. Here's a break-down by the numbers:

#1: The PMA's interpretation of "strategic management of human capital" was interpreted by Bush2 and his administration as top-down management of employees, with little-to-no decision-making on the part of the employees of the bureaucracy. Clinton's "employee empowerment", on the other hand, put considerable latitude on how things would be run in the hands of those same employees.

#2: Speaks for itself. Bush favored privatization, Clinton favored reinvention and modification.

#3: Clinton's NPR issued budgets based on how well the division was performing. The more performance goals reached, the larger the budget available would be. Thus, employees had a high incentive from top-down to make sure that performance goals were met. Bush2's PMA was strictly financial in design; make everything run the same way, just cheaper. Increase workloads, keep the pay the same. Etc, etc. There was no relation to performance.

#4: This is the only point in the plan that is the same. This created the e-government items we have today.

#5: Clinton's NPR dictated that an agency or department should formulate it's performance goals, determine the standards of customer service that should be provided, and then attempt to reach them. Bush2's PMA changed this; public agencies became managed like corporate departments. Customer service numbers aren't met? Time to fire people! This differed from the NPR #3 as budget expansions were offered to those who managed to do things like double workloads or reduce headcount by 10%, as opposed to actually rewarding those who met performance goals.

The results clearly speak for themselves:

Clinton's NPR: Levels of service provided by government were at an all-time high. Size of the government bureaucracy decreased to 60% of the levels of the Reagan years. Efficiency was at its highest level since the founding of the USA. Spending on public administration programs declined dramatically, as the efficiency led to less wastage.

Bush2's PMA: The size of the bureaucracy TRIPLED. Efficiency levels declined dramatically as outsourcing and privatization led to communications breakdowns and failure to deliver. Customer service levels declined precipitously. The amount of federal spending and public debt increased more than under any other president since Franklin D Roosevelt in the 1940s.

Here's something else; the tenets of the Bush2 PMA are still the tenets of conservatives today, regardless of whether they are mainstream Republican, fiscal conservatives, or social conservatives. My question is, how are they going to make those tenets work when they have failed so badly so far?

Pro-tip: Obama uses the PMA tenets, not the NPR tenets. More proof that he's really a centrist rather than a liberal.

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The Forbidding Archivist

November 2011

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