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Public Pensions | Andrew G. Biggs
Pensions and Municipal Solvency
Many financially beleaguered cities are pushing the limits of "service insolvency," in which rising pension and health costs force unacceptable reductions in basic municipal services. Modest public-retiree benefit reductions, particularly for better-off retirees, should be on the table. This shouldn't mean open season on public employees. But governments need the right, which is taken for granted in the private sector, to alter the rate at which public employees earn future benefits.
New York Times | Posted Dec. 10, 2013
Politics | Richard L. Fox and Jennifer L. Lawless
The Future Leaders We're Losing
During the 2012 presidential election, we conducted a national survey of more than 4,200 high-school and college students. Only 11 percent reported that they might someday consider running for political office. In fact, they'd rather do almost anything else. The fact that young Americans do not want to run for office cannot be divorced from their perceptions of the political system, which could not be much worse. This should sound alarm bells about the deep, long-term, damage contemporary politics has wrought on U.S. democracy.
Washington Post | Posted Dec. 9, 2013
The Time Is Now to Fix IT Procurement
Federal CIO Steven VanRoekel called the bungled rollout of Healthcare.gov a "teachable moment." Unfortunately, it was just the latest in a long string of teachable moments for federal information-technology projects. Better would be that the disastrous Healthcare.gov rollout become a rallying moment--for lawmakers and policymakers to make long-needed fixes to federal IT procurement.
Federal Times | Posted Dec. 6, 2013
Leadership | Russ Linden
Navigating in a VUCA World
Today's turbulent environment of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity--or "VUCA," a termed coined by staff at the Army War College in the late 1990s--means new challenges for government managers and policymakers. But there are ways to cope with them.
Governing | Posted Dec. 5, 2013
Politics | Jennifer Rubin
Sorry, Abe's Not Available
Possibly the dumbest argument against a governor as the Republican presidential nominee in 2016 is that Abraham Lincoln wasnít a governor. It's the sort of jaw-dropping inanity that reminds you what happens when you stay hermetically sealed in the right-wing echo chamber. To respond: There is no Lincoln around. Honest. It is instructive to understand which personal qualities and skills make good chief executives.
Washington Post | Posted Dec. 4, 2013
Putting Military Pay on the Table
Big-ticket weapons like aircraft carriers and the F-35 fighter jet have to be part of any conversation about cutting Pentagon spending to satisfy the sequestration budget reductions. But compensation for military personnel has to be on the table too--even though no other defense issue is more politically volatile or emotionally fraught. Soldiers must be adequately compensated. But when programs across the federal government are being slashed, including those affecting the most vulnerable, no budget account can be immune from reductions and reforms.
New York Times
Dana Milbank on how compulsory military service could teach us to govern ourselves once again.
Washington Post | Posted Dec. 3, 2013
Technology Management | Linda J. Bilmes and William M. Daley
The Need to Reward Efficient Government
The plight of the Affordable Care Act website has focused attention on the absence of good management in the U.S. government. The malfunctioning HealthCare.gov is simply the latest in a long series of problems for large, complex government technology projects, failures that have cost the taxpayers tens of billions of dollars. Starting with Congress, our elected officials need to change the attitude in Washington to one that rewards efficient government.
Karen S. Evans and Julie M. Anderson on the IT management reforms that government needs.
Federal News Radio | Posted Dec. 2, 2013
Politics | David Runciman
Loving to Loathe Democracy
American democracy is going through one of its periodic bouts of self-loathing. The public disapproves of the performance of all the branches of government. Yet there is nothing new about this outburst of disgust with the workings of democracy. Nor is it distinctively American. Lamenting the failings of democracy is a permanent feature of democratic life, one that persists through governmental crises and successes alike.
Chronicle of Higher Education | Posted Nov. 27, 2013
Higher Education | Janet Riggs
The Problem with Rating Colleges
The new rating system proposed by President Obama would use federal student aid as a means of pushing students toward certain institutions of higher learning and away from others. On the surface, such a rating system might seem reasonable, but it is fraught with unintended potential negative consequences. There is no question that it is incumbent on higher education to provide students and their families with the information they need to make informed choices. But the federal government should not be in the business of using financial-aid awards as a way of pushing students toward certain institutions and away from others.
Washington Post | Posted Nov. 26, 2013
The Military | Michael O'Hanlon
The Army We Need
Almost every time this country finishes a major war, we cut the Army appropriately--and then we cut too much. The result after World War II was a debacle in the early months of the Korean conflict. After Vietnam, we not only downsized but allowed readiness and standards of excellence to keep declining. But we now hear talk from the Pentagon of possible cuts to 380,000 active-duty soldiers. The U.S. no longer needs to plan its combat forces for two simultaneous all-out ground wars, and it can make cuts to the Army that will be somewhat larger than for the other services. But we must not go too far.
Los Angeles Times | Posted Nov. 25, 2013
Leadership | Robert Dallek
His Real Legacy
Fifty years after John F. Kennedy's assassination, he remains an object of almost universal admiration. And yet, particularly this year, his legacy has aroused the ire of debunkers who complain that Kennedy was all image and no substance, that he was a shallow playboy whose foreign-policy mistakes and paltry legislative record undermine any claim to greatness. Such criticism not only gives short shrift to Kennedy's real achievements as a domestic- and foreign-policy leader but also fails to appreciate the presidency's central role: to inspire and encourage the country to move forward, a role he performed better than any president in modern memory.
New York Times | Posted Nov. 22, 2013
Technology Management | Clay Shirkey
HealthCare.gov and the Gulf
Between Planning and Reality
The management question, when trying anything new, is "When does reality trump planning?" For the officials overseeing the building of HealthCare.gov, the preferred answer was "Never." Every time there was a chance to create some sort of public experimentation, or even just some clarity about its methods and goals, the imperative was to deny the opposition anything to criticize. This is not a hiring problem or a procurement problem. This is a management problem and a cultural problem.
Shirkey.com | Posted Nov. 21, 2013
A Culture Unchanged?
An incident in which an off-duty Secret Service agent tried to retrieve a bullet he had mistakenly left in a woman's Washington, D.C., hotel room is more than an embarrassment to the service. It raises renewed questions about the culture at work in this critical agency--and whether reforms undertaken in the wake of the South American sex scandal that roiled the service 18 months ago have been sufficient.
Washington Post | Posted Nov. 20, 2013
Leadership | Allen C. Guelzo
The Resonance of 270 Words
The surprisingly short story of the Gettysburg Address, delivered by Abraham Lincoln 150 years ago, is that it was a surprisingly short speech--270 words or so. But the long story is that no single American utterance has had the staying power, or commanded the respect and reverence, accorded the Gettysburg Address.
New York Times | Posted Nov. 19, 2013
Management | Alexander Stevenson
Government's Lessons for Business
The public sector is quick to adopt private-sector ideas, vocabulary and even people, but rarely is the opposite true. This is odd because managing in the public sector is in many respects more challenging. Private-sector managers should be looking at ways to bring model government approaches--lessons in such disciplines as the art of persuasion, complex decision-making and crisis management--into their workplaces.
Government Executive | Posted Nov. 18, 2013
Technology Management | Jon Ortiz
The People Factor in Technology Fiascoes
As you see government-technology-gone-bad stories--and thereís always the next one--look for the human element. Itís easy to blame the software, and it's just as it's easy for the government agency and the private-sector contractor to point fingers. The people part of these tales isnít as simple to explain and presents a bigger government challenge. Procurement and process are people problems, not software shortfalls.
Sacramento Bee | Posted Nov. 15, 2013
Leadership | Tom Fox
The Tenets of Successful Management
Government works quite well most of the time, but, as federal executives know, efforts to implement federal policies can sometimes encounter obstacles and get off track. Witness the recent rollout of the Affordable Care Act. While every program has its own unique challenges and requirements, there are some basic tenets that government leaders can follow to help increase the chances of success when managing a program.
Washington Post | Posted Nov. 14, 2013
The Grim Economics of Food Stamps
The day after Halloween, the federal government rolled back food-stamp benefits by 5.5 percent for all 47.6 million people who receive them, ending one of the last remaining stimulus efforts. The callousness displayed in cutting vital safety-net benefits at a time when millions lack the resources to feed their families adequately has been much discussed. What has gotten less attention is cutting food stamps is not good economic policy either.
Los Angeles Times | Posted Nov. 13, 2013
The Military | Kirsten Gillibrand
Protecting Our Troops
from Sexual Assault
Since the Tailhook scandal two decades ago, the Pentagon has pledged zero tolerance for sexual assault in the military. But the results of the Pentagon's leadership's efforts show there has been zero accountability. It is long overdue to strengthen our military readiness and give victims of sexual assault a fair shot at justice--to move the authority over whether these serious crimes should go to trial out of the hands of the chain of command and into the hands of independent, trained military prosecutors.
Defense One | Posted Nov. 12, 2013
Getting the IT Right
The problems with HealthCare.gov have highlighted the need for broad reform in how the federal government uses technology. As of July, the government reported that about 21 percent of its technology projects under development posed significant concerns or needed management attention. These failures point to poor project management and an over-reliance on contractors. The government could address some of these problems by directly hiring more programmers, designers and other technologists.
New York Times | Posted Nov. 8, 2013
Leadership | Scott Eblin
How to Build (Or Break) Trust
It's a bad sign when a leader gets to the point where both friends and foes are asking, "What did he know and when did he know it?" That's where President Obama now finds himself with lots of questions being raised about the HealthCare.gov launch and the NSA's eavesdropping on German Chancellor Angela Merkel's phone conversations. The problems the president is experiencing now are representative of the interplay of three critical ways that leaders either build or break trust with their followers: sincerity, credibility and competence.
John Yemma on how to know whether a new leader is really an agent of change.
Christian Science Monitor | Posted Nov. 7, 2013
Public Officials | Phil Keisling
The Wrong Ways to Elect Our Mayors
Yesterday's voting brought an end to the 2013 election cycle, with 10 of America's 30 largest cities electing mayors this year. America's local elected officials still enjoy far higher citizen trust than their state (and, especially, their national) cousins, so it's worth asking why so many local governments continue to risk their relatively favored status by structuring their election systems to virtually guarantee abysmal voter turnout, essentially disenfranchising huge numbers of citizens.
Governing | Posted Nov. 6, 2013
Voting | Joe Nocera
Invigorating the Electorate
It's Election Day. Virginians are electing a new governor, New Yorkers are choosing a new mayor, and all over the country other local races are being decided. Because this is an off-year election with no federal races, voter turnout is going to be abysmal. We all know that. There are five reforms that could both invigorate the electorate and encourage more responsive, and less extreme, political candidates: Move elections to the weekend. Establish term limits for the Supreme Court. Open up primaries to allow anybody to vote for any candidate. End gerrymandering. And bring back the small donor.
New York Times | Posted Nov. 5, 2013
The Military | Thomas E. Ricks
A Failure to Learn
After the Vietnam War, the U.S. Army soberly examined where it had fallen short. That critical appraisal laid the groundwork for the military's extraordinary rebuilding. Today, after more than a decade of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, no such intensive reviews appear to be underway. The military continues largely unchanged despite many shaky performances by its top leaders. That is unprofessional. It doesn't encourage adaptive leaders to rise to the top, and it enables a "stab-in-the-back" narrative to emerge as generals ignore their missteps and instead blame civilian leaders for the failures in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Washington Post | Posted Nov. 4, 2013
Social Policy | Nicholas D. Kristof
Preschool or Prisons?
Congress is often compared to pre-K, which seems defamatory of small children. But the similarities also offer hope, because an initiative that should be on the top of the national agenda has less to do with the sequester than with the ABCs and Big Bird. Growing mountains of research suggest that the best way to address American economic inequality, poverty and crime is through early education, including coaching of parents who want help. It's not a magic wand, but it's the best tool we have to break cycles of poverty.
New York Times | Posted Nov. 1, 2013
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