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Public Services | Feather O'Connor Houstoun
The Challenge of the Last Mile
Long-distance runners are painfully familiar with the phrase "the last mile," but technology has contributed a new meaning. In the broadband-connectivity world, the last mile refers to the final link--often the most difficult and expensive--from a telecommunications network to a customer. This challenge is a common one in public management: Often overlooked are subtle circumstances that block completion of the last mile for some portion of a public service's intended recipients.
Governing | Posted May 16, 2013
Military Personnel | Monica Medina
Four Ways to Curb Sexual Assault
The news that sexual harassment and assault in the military are more common than ever should come as no surprise to the Pentagon's leaders. There has been tough talk, but now it is time for tough action to change the attitudes of every service member in the ranks and put an end to reckless and unprofessional behavior in the military. There are four things the Pentagon could do in the next 60 days to meaningfully reduce sexual assault and aggression in our armed forces.
Washington Post | Posted May 15, 2013
Higher Education | Seth Rosenfeld
The Downfall of a Great University
Once upon a time, the University of California was a sacred trust, the top tier of a model educational system that helped lift the state to unprecedented prosperity. It was jealously protected from outside political interference. These days, UC is more often described in profane terms. The causes are complex and largely economic, but in an important way, the troubles of the nation's greatest public university can be traced to the ascent of Ronald Reagan and his brand of anti-government conservatism.
Los Angeles Times | Posted May 14, 2013
An Awesome Power Abused
Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean the IRS isn't out to get you. On Friday, an Internal Revenue Service official disclosed, by way of apologizing, that the agency had targeted conservative groups for special scrutiny during the 2012 election season. Other than the power to prosecute, the taxing authority is the most awesome power that government has. When wielded for political purposes, it is a violation of the basic contract the American people have with their government.
Wall Street Journal | Posted May 13, 2013
Public Workforce | Lara Shane
How to Drive Innovation in Government
There is much discussion these days about innovation and how important it is to making government more effective and efficient, but only 57 percent of federal workers say they are encouraged by their agencies to innovate. The Partnership for Public Service and Deloitte found that six workplace conditions drive innovation. Federal leaders can improve innovation by creating an environment in which each of these conditions thrives.
Government Executive | Posted May 9, 2013
Getting Serious about Sexual Assault
Those who thought that the military's sexual-assault crisis could not get any worse have been proved wrong. That is the depressing truth of a Defense Department study estimating that about 26,000 people in the military were sexually assaulted in the 2012 fiscal year. Transforming the military's entrenched culture of sexual violence will require new approaches and a much stronger effort than what the Pentagon has done so far.
New York Times | Posted May 8, 2013
Justice | Donald P. Wagner
Why Jurors Should Be Citizens
A bill in the California legislature would make the state the only one allowing noncitizen legal residents to serve on juries. The measure's proponents apparently find no logical connection between citizenship and the role jurors play in the American justice system. But there are good reasons why U.S. law has consistently excluded noncitizens from jury duty. It is no insult to legal residents to recognize that they are more likely than a citizen to be missing key understanding of the social contract that we expect our jurors to have.
Los Angeles Times | Posted May 7, 2013
Public Workforce | Mark Funkhouser
Public Service in an Age of Cynicism
Suburban Boston residents lined the streets applauding law-enforcement officers who had captured the surviving suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings. Police were the most visible actors in that drama, but it's important, in a time of widespread disrespect for public workers, to remember those who serve largely unseen but whose work we could not live without. More than 21 million state-, local- and federal-government workers provide many of the essential elements of the orderly world that we desire and that we too often take for granted.
Governing | Posted May 6, 2013
Averting Another Drawdown Disaster
The federal drawdown of the twenty-teens is here. Federal hiring is plummeting--down a third in the last three years--while federal retirements are exploding. The effect could be a disaster for the federal workforce and, ultimately, the public--a repeat of what occurred during the downsizing in the 1990s after the end of the Cold War, when government lost many of its most talented and experienced employees to the private sector. Congress needs to be a partner in this drawdown.
Federal Times | Posted May 3, 2013
A Pervasive Culture of Sexual Assault
Despite promises of zero tolerance, the Pentagon has nothing less than a sexual-assault crisis on its hands. In the last big health survey of active-duty American military personnel, one in five female service members said they had been subjected to unwanted sexual contact in the military. That squares with other alarming indicators of the military's pervasive culture of sexual misconduct. It also underscores the urgent need to change that culture.
New York Times | Posted May 2, 2013
Aviation Safety | Joshua L. Schank
The Wrong Way to Control the Skies
Having air traffic control and safety regulation under the same Federal Aviation Administration umbrella is a setup that creates more problems than it solves. Although ensuring the safety of the flying public through regulation is a critical task that should remain under federal control, there is no inherent reason that air traffic control needs to be in the same agency or even the responsibility of the federal government.
Washington Post | Posted May 1, 2013
Homeland Security | Michael O'Hanlon
Keeping the Bombers at Bay
In the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, FBI Director Robert Mueller predicted that the United States would soon face the kinds of frequent small-scale bombings perpetrated frequently abroad. For a decade, Mueller was wrong, and I'm sure he was more than happy about it. Boston, however, has sadly and belatedly proven him right, at least to a degree. How can we lower the odds of similar attacks in the future? While we do not need another big push to harden the country and beef up internal defenses--we continue to spend three to four times as much per year on such efforts as we did prior to 9/11--some targeted improvements are in order.
Daily Beast | Posted April 30, 2013
Education | Robert C. Bobb
School Reform and a Culture of Corruption
An exploding culture of corruption imperils public education in the United States. Financial misconduct and outright theft are depleting and misdirecting resources critical for the nation's children. These issues have been ignored by many education reformers. The reformers must begin to examine governance structures and the quality of management in our public schools.
Washington Post | Posted April 29, 2013
The Presidents of Civility
Few nations would be able to witness an event like the one that occurred in Dallas yesterday at the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum. The current president and four former ones gathered to praise one of their own. No politics of personal destruction. No mudslinging. All civility. This historic conclave served as a reminder of how a democracy both defines political differences and can also heal them--if enough politicians exhibit charity, respect and perhaps even friendship toward those with opposing views.
Christian Science Monitor | Posted April 26, 2013
Efficiency | D.B. Grady
for Foggy Bottom
The Department of State has not had a permanent, Senate-confirmed inspector general since 2008--the longest vacancy of any of the 73 federal inspector-general positions--and the effects are all but impossible to ignore. Whether it's the boondoggle that is the Jeddah New Consulate Compound or the tragic attacks in Benghazi, the department's "systemic failures and leadership and management deficiencies" (as an independent panel called it) are in need of repair. That's not going to happen until an IG candidate is found, vetted and installed.
The Atlantic | Posted April 25, 2013
Public Health | Neal Peirce
The Fat of the Land
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's ban on sales of extra-large soda drinks remains in limbo, shelved by a judge's order, and Mississippi state legislators think they've scored political points with a law barring local governments from restricting the size of soft drinks--no matter that Mississippi is already America's most overweight state. Looking ahead, the impact of unhealthy foods is likely to ricochet alarmingly, with obesity escalating public-health and pension costs, making military and police forces less fit, and adding huge fiscal burdens on such programs as Medicaid and Medicare.
Citiwire.net | Posted April 24, 2013
Higher Education | William E. Kirwan
Social Equity and the American Dream
America's level of postsecondary-education attainment, once the highest in the world, is not keeping pace with our global competitors and is not sufficient to meet the workforce demands of the coming decades. A child born into a family in the lowest quartile of income has a less-than-8-percent chance of earning a degree. This makes social equity the most compelling element of what has rightly been called the "college completion imperative."
Chronicle of Higher Education | Posted April 23, 2013
Homeland Security | Juan C. Zarate
When to Call It 'Terrorism'
President Obama came under some criticism when he initially refrained from using the word "terrorism" to describe the Boston Marathon bombing. There are several reasons that any president--and particularly Obama--would rightfully exercise restraint in using the word. The term has legal and national-security implications. It also has political ramifications for an administration that has used the idea of a receding threat to explain the winding down of U.S. military involvement overseas. But a terrorist attack on U.S. shores damages that narrative.
Washington Post | Posted April 22, 2013
Leadership | Les McKeown
The Power of Not Being in Charge
Many leaders can only operate in one of two modes: in charge, or not there. In other words, once they join their teams, the teams instantly defers to them and they take the lead. Truly great leaders have a third mode: the ability to sit with their teams without needing to be in charge, using their subject-matter knowledge just the same way as any other person around the table would.
Inc. | Posted April 19, 2013
Runaway Spending's Real Culprits
Congressional lawmakers talk a good game when it comes to cost-cutting, but don't be fooled: The truth is, they are--and always have always--the chief culprits behind runaway federal spending. Congress has steadfastly refused to take the steps the Postal Service needs to solve its financial crisis and help get it out of the red. The Pentagon has argued for years that it needs to shut more bases to streamline operations and save billions, but Congress has refused. And the Obama administration has asked for a fast-track government-reorganization effort. Congress has refused that as well.
Federal Times | Posted April 18, 2013
Immigration | Roberto Suro
and Jorge G. Castaņeda
Immigration Reform's Crucial Missing Player
Everyone, it seems, is remaking the U.S. immigration system. The Senate and the House have their respective gangs of eight; labor and business groups have their talks; and the White House has its say, along with lobbyists and advocacy groups. But there is one critical player missing from the effort: Mexico. No reform can be successfully devised or implemented without the willing participation of the Mexican government and public, so why not get them involved from the start?
Washington Post | Posted April 17, 2013
Efficiency | Cass R. Sunstein
9 Billion Reasons to Simplify Government Paperwork
How many hours do you think Americans spend on government paperwork every year? The answer is staggering: 9.14 billion. At $20 an hour, that works out to an annual reporting cost of more than $180 billion on the American people. Dozens of government agencies impose significant paperwork burdens, but one stands above all others: the Department of the Treasury. For all the talk about tax simplification, Congress has paid disappointingly little attention to Americans' paperwork burdens. But Democrats and Republicans should be able to agree that nine billion hours are far too many.
New York Times
Cyrus R. Vance Jr. on why your tax return isn't safe
Wall Street Journal | Posted April 15, 2013
Doing Better by Our Vets
It is shameful that veterans of the United States military have to wait months, and sometimes more than a year, to begin receiving the benefits they are owed. Yet that is the case: Almost 900,000 veterans currently have claims pending for disability, pension or education benefits; nearly 600,000 of those claims are considered backlogged by the Department of Veterans Affairs, having already taken more than 125 days to process. V.A. Secretary Eric Shinseki has vowed that by 2015 no one will have to wait more than 125 days. But 2015 is two years from now, and 125 days is still an unacceptably long time.
Los Angeles Times | Posted April 12, 2013
Public Safety | Zachary Elkins
A New Second Amendment?
The elementary-school shootings in Newtown, Conn., produced two polar public reactions: fear among some Americans that the federal government will restrict gun rights and hope among others that it will actually do so. Opinion polls suggest that a majority recognizes a right to bear arms, subject to reasonable regulations protecting public safety. This strong dual commitment, if it were to be clarified and entrenched in our Constitution, could reassure most, though not all, of us. Before you mock the idea of a constitutional amendment, consider that hardly anyone is happy with our unstable status quo.
New York Times | Posted April 11, 2013
Politics | Glen Weldon
A Malleable Man of Steel
On April 18, Superman will turn 75. Although still faster than a speeding bullet and more powerful than a locomotive, he's showing his age. Yet, for a septuagenarian, he remains remarkably spry. In the decades since the first Superman comic book appeared in 1938, writers have inserted him into political and social debates from World War II to Vietnam, from race relations to the war on terrorism. As a result, Superman's political and cultural sensibilities have proved a lot more malleable, for better or worse, than you'd expect from a man of steel.
Washington Post | Posted April 10, 2013
Leadership | Paul Johnson
The Iron Lady's Triumph
Margaret Thatcher, the former British prime minister who died Monday, had more impact on the world than any woman ruler since Catherine the Great of Russia. Not only did Thatcher turn around the British economy--decisively--in the 1980s, but she also saw her methods copied in more than 50 countries. "Thatcherism" was the most popular and successful way of running a country in the last quarter of the 20th century and into the 21st. Thatcher's strongest characteristic was her courage, both physical and moral.
Wall Street Journal | Posted April 9, 2013
Lawmaking | David Perera
A Congressional Distaste for Facts
The need for Congress to have unbiased research and facts would seem self-evident, except that it's not. The budgets of two key information sources for lawmakers, the Congressional Research Service and the Government Accountability Office, which already were spartan, have declined even further. Sequestration and the general mood of austerity are responsible for some of that, but so also is the indisposition of some within Congress toward objective information.
FierceGovernment | Posted April 8, 2013
Taxation | Lawrence A. Zelenak
Why We Should Love the 1040
Americans rushing to file their tax returns by April 15 are unlikely to pause to celebrate the centennial this year of the 16th Amendment, which authorized the federal income tax. But we should. The defining feature of the federal income tax is that it requires most Americans to do something--preparing and filing a return--beyond merely parting with some money. If, as Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. said, "taxes are what we pay for civilized society," the filing of Form 1040 draws our attention to our duties as citizens in a way that no other levy could.
New York Times | Posted April 5, 2013
Risky Business: Posting Feds' Finances
Congress should shelve plans under last year's STOCK Act to make the personal financial information of as many as 28,000 senior federal officials publicly available online. A new independent review of the plan confirms the fears of many that doing so could harm federal missions and put affected employees at risk.
Federal Times | Posted April 4, 2013
Defense | Robert Knisely
Arming to Fight Today's Enemies
As warfare evolves, America must evolve with it. The across-the-board cuts to the military budget from sequestration will neither save substantial sums nor maintain our security. We need to be prepared for the wars of today and tomorrow and stop funding preparations for the wars of yesteryear.
GovManagement.com | Posted April 3, 2013
Infrastructure | Charles Chieppo
How Bad Is Our Infrastructure, Really?
The American Society of Civil Engineers says the nation's energy networks and road, bridge, rail and water systems will require about $1.6 trillion more by 2020 than current spending levels provide for to bring them up to snuff. A report by the Reason Foundation paints a more optimistic picture. But while civil engineers who would benefit handsomely from more infrastructure spending and a free-market think tank that espouses limited government might find some areas of agreement, none of this addresses the critical question of how to spend infrastructure dollars.
Governing | Posted April 2, 2013
One Nation's Model for Ending Gridlock
When does a nation, after experiencing enough self-inflicted suffering, finally seek reform? In Washington, the years of political gridlock in Congress have yet to lead to such a moment of reforming remorse. But perhaps the United States should look to a possible model--just to its south. Since December, when Mexico's three main political parties pledged to seek 94 reforms, that country has been on a turnaround from stalemates and policy misdirections. Gridlock was finally seen as simply too costly.
Christian Science Monitor | Posted April 1, 2013
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