This piece was originally published in the American Mind.
In November, the Biden Administration released the President’s Management Agenda Vision, outlining its agenda to overhaul the federal workforce and its operations. At the top level are some goals all Americans should like, such as improving how citizens interact with the federal bureaucracy and rebuilding domestic industrial capacity. Other goals, as well as the methods of achieving them, reflect an expressly progressive ideology. If fully implemented, this risks further entrenching partisan politics into the machinery of the federal bureaucracy, undermining the ideals of a meritocratic and nonpartisan civil service, and misdirecting agency funding and activity away from their fundamental missions and toward costly ideological goals such as eliminating climate change. If we stay on this course, we will soon find it impossible to reform wasteful programs and inefficient institutions, even when principled advocates of limited government are elected.
This landscape heightens the urgency to understand management policy, one of the most consequential yet least-studied domains of public policy. This is a particular challenge on the political Right. Modern Republican administrations have attempted to reform the management of the federal government. Yet the executive branch remains poorly managed and, all too often, unaccountable to Congress and the American people. Despite this longstanding and widely recognized challenge, most top right-of-center think tanks either ignore management policy, offer research that merely tweaks or reinforces the status quo, or promote ideas that are too theoretical for practical implementation. To address this gap, we need thorough research, bold yet practical policy playbooks, and a talent pipeline with the right managerial skill sets. Otherwise, even if they win elections, conservatives risk being like the dog that catches the car, lacking the specific knowledge to command the federal bureaucracy and implement their governing agenda.
This disinterest in management policy is unfortunate, because much is at stake. First, management policy governs the use of trillions of taxpayer dollars and the management of millions of federal workers in one of the largest, most complex organizations in history. Second, management policies can build or deteriorate the people’s trust and confidence in the competence of government, whether in handling routine business, administering elections, protecting our national security, or responding to emerging crises.
Click here to read the full piece in the American Mind.