Millennium Musing

Timothy B. Clark

In this special issue, we look at changes our readers can anticipate in the new millennium. Nine authors peer into the future of government in the pages that follow, and while their views are diverse, it might be useful to attempt a synthesis.

The logical place to start is actually at the end of the issue. In our closing piece, Jonathan Rauch of National Journal and the Brookings Institution writes that we are at the end of government, in the sense that government is now fully formed and impervious to large-scale change. He makes a persuasive case, for Washington seems neither able to shed any of the duties it has assumed, nor willing to take on many more. I have argued that we live in a "post-policy" world, where the challenge is not so much to devise new programs as to find better ways to administer the old, and Rauch's thesis is in this mold.

The thesis deals principally with government's place in our domestic economy and society. America's role in the world beyond our borders, and the shape and potential uses of our military forces, are certainly matters for policy resolution, as Lawrence J. Korb of the Council on Foreign Relations argues in this issue. Procurement strategies and military doctrine will surely be affected as we debate the relative merits of the Clinton Doctrine of episodic intervention abroad and the Powell Doctrine of engagement only when American interests are truly at stake.

In the short term, on both the military and domestic sides of our government, operating budgets remain ex-
tremely tight, and their leaders and overseers will be insisting on greater efficiency and better performance. Making convincing cases for return on investment, will be at the heart of managers' jobs in the future, writes Government Executive associate editor Anne Laurent.

Bureaucracies are slow to change, of course, but two of the keenest academic observers of our government are optimistic about prospects for change. Steven Kelman of Harvard and Donald F. Kettl of the University of Wisconsin share the view that leadership from the top of agencies can produce real gains throughout organizations. Kelman writes with the benefit of his experience as President Clinton's top procurement policy adviser, while Kettl has researched and written extensively on federal reinvention initiatives during the Clinton-Gore years.

Looking further down the road, how should public-sector leaders adjust their own behavior and that of the institutions they guide? Our columnist Paul Light of the Brookings Institution says we should declare a "human capital crisis" and institute top-to-bottom changes in the government's approach to hiring people. Former federal union leader Robert M. Tobias sees the times as propitious for long-overdue civil service reform. David Osborne, whose 1992 book, Reinventing Government, influenced Vice President Al Gore and many other reformers, says we can see the future of reform in the United States by looking at the experience of smaller nations overseas, including England and New Zealand. And last but not least, former Reagan White House staffer James Pinkerton foresees no shortage of work for "bureaupreneurs" clever enough to pick the right occupations in the future.

This issue doesn't pretend to provide all the answers about government's future. But we hope you'll be intrigued by the questions these experts raise and the predictions they make.

Tim sig2 5/3/96
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