Promising Practices Promising PracticesPromising Practices
A forum for government's best ideas and most innovative leaders.

How Trump Can Avoid the Reorganization Trap His Predecessors Fell Into

Any day now, President Trump is expected to sign an executive order that would lay the groundwork for reorganizing the federal government. It’s a monumental undertaking, and one that could stumble on a fundamental flaw: The former businessman’s instinct is to view government vertically, with agencies and programs run from the top. But government’s biggest and toughest problems are horizontal—coordinating programs across government, and with nonprofits and private companies. As the last two administrations have learned the hard way, attacking horizontal problems with vertical strategies doesn’t work. It can also have disastrous political consequences.

The president wants to move fast, especially in reshaping the bureaucracy. This is a case, however, where charging too quickly down the wrong road can lead to disaster.

Most recent major reorganizations attempted by previous administrations, both Republican and Democratic, stalled out because they challenged the jurisdictions of Congressional committees. In his 2011 State of the Union Address, President Obama said he was going to take on the 12 different agencies that dealt with exports and five other agencies responsible for housing policy. “Then there’s my favorite example,” he said. “The Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they...

The Myth of the Alpha Leader is Destroying Our Relationships — At Work and At Home

According to a Fox News article written by Suzanne Venker, women’s achievements in the workplace are dooming their marriages. As women are increasingly “groomed to be leaders rather than to be wives, [they] become too much like men. They’re too competitive. Too masculine. Too alpha.” The author’s premise is that the husband is meant to be the alpha in the household, and cohabiting alphas are like “like two bulls hanging out in the same pen together.”

I take exception to this article, but not for the obvious reason. The contention that women’s success at work leads to marital dissolution is so laughably unsupported by facts that it’s hardly worth disputing. Divorce rates are strongly negatively correlated with women’s educational attainment and income level, as well as the rise of two-income families. While University of Chicago economists made a splash a few years back by reporting that marital satisfaction is diminished when wives earn more than husbands, a more up-to-date study paints a more nuanced picture: Unequal incomes are associated with marriage instability regardless of who earns more, but having a career decreases a woman’s probability of divorce by a whopping 25%. Equal-earning marriages...

An Old Contracting Approach Could Be Just What the New Administration Needs

The Trump administration should revisit an old, results-based approach to contracting currently prevalent in the private sector—share-in-savings, also known as gain share. Unlike other types of contracts that commit the government to funding a project upfront, a share-in-savings contract requires the government to make only a minimal, upfront investment to begin a project, paying the contractor only when agreed-upon milestones or expected results are realized.

Share-in-savings contracts begin with specific agreed-upon measures, measurement methods, targets, timing, and rewards earned from successful results. The contractor is paid if it meets or exceeds the agreed-upon targets in the specified time. Further, if savings against the established cost baseline are generated, both the government and the contractor share in the savings. This incentivizes the contractor to save the government money, and helps ensure that the government does not pay for work done poorly or not at all.

It’s not a new concept for the federal government. During the George W. Bush administration, the 2002 E-Government Act authorized share-in-savings contracts for information technology investments. The General Services Administration awarded share-in-savings blanket purchase agreement to six companies. However, by 2005, no task orders had been awarded, and the budget authority was revoked.


Americans Just Experienced Their Biggest Spike in Stress in a Decade

Americans are seriously stressed out.

After a bruising election that saw Donald Trump take the reigns of a divided nation, two-thirds of Americans—including a majority of both Democrats and Republicans—say they are stressed about the future of the country, according to a recent survey (pdf) released by the American Psychological Association (APA). Some 57% of the 1,019 respondents pointed to the current political climate as a very or somewhat significant source of stress, and nearly 49% say the same about the outcome of the election.

Unsurprisingly, Democrats were far more stressed about Trump’s election; 72% Democrats named the result of the 2016 presidential election as a significant source of stress, compared with just 26% of Republicans. But a majority of both Republicans (59%) and Democrats (76%) said the future of the country was a significant source of stress for them. Respondents were also stressed about terrorism, police violence toward minorities, and personal safety.

“When you’re asking about the future of the nation, my concerns about the future of the nation could be quite different than yours,” said Vaile Wright, a psychologist and member of the APA team that conducted the survey.

Love him or loathe...

Why Hiring Freezes Don’t Work

Team Trump rode into town determined to disrupt the federal government. One of the very first disrupters was a hiring freeze on federal employees, with a promise to reduce the size of government through attrition. That has certainly disrupted government—but it’s missed the chance for the real transformation that President Trump promised and that the federal government desperately needs.

The freeze is a clumsy tool aimed at the wrong problem. Lessons from past administrations (both Democratic and Republican) teach us that hiring freezes inevitably—and quickly—crack and thaw. Shrinking the workforce through attrition is guaranteed only to produce a federal bureaucracy badly out of step with the government we want.

Here’s why. There’s no such thing as “the federal bureaucracy.”  In fact, the bureaucracy falls into four buckets.

First, there are the big-three entitlement programs: Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. They account for 51 percent of all federal spending, but the agencies managing them employ just over 3 percent of federal employees. If you freeze employees in this group, you lose leverage over vast sums of money and open the door to waste, fraud, and abuse. In fact, each employee in the Centers for Medicare...

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

  • Cyber Risk Report: Cybercrime Trends from 2016

    In our first half 2016 cyber trends report, SurfWatch Labs threat intelligence analysts noted one key theme – the interconnected nature of cybercrime – and the second half of the year saw organizations continuing to struggle with that reality. The number of potential cyber threats, the pool of already compromised information, and the ease of finding increasingly sophisticated cybercriminal tools continued to snowball throughout the year.

  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

  • GBC Issue Brief: The Future of 9-1-1

    A Look Into the Next Generation of Emergency Services

  • GBC Survey Report: Securing the Perimeters

    A candid survey on cybersecurity in state and local governments

  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

  • eBook: State & Local Cybersecurity

    CenturyLink is committed to helping state and local governments meet their cybersecurity challenges. Towards that end, CenturyLink commissioned a study from the Government Business Council that looked at the perceptions, attitudes and experiences of state and local leaders around the cybersecurity issue. The results were surprising in a number of ways. Learn more about their findings and the ways in which state and local governments can combat cybersecurity threats with this eBook.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.