The Governance Challenge

Timothy B. Clark

As a first order of business, we have undertaken to analyze the leadership styles and approaches to governing the two major party candidates would bring to the White House, starting this month with George W. Bush. What Al Gore's record as Vice President and his campaign this year portend for government and the civil service will be the subject of another article next month. In the fall, we'll profile trends in public opinion about government, as they will shape the next government's opportunities for promoting new policy directions. And we will write about how the new governing team comes together, what it takes to be an effective political appointee, and steps the senior civil service should consider to prepare for a fresh set of faces at the top of virtually every federal agency.

As Dick Kirschten reports this month, Bush is not the viscerally anti-government candidate that might have emerged from the GOP. He has reached out across party lines and to the senior civil service in Texas to build his administration there. His proposal to cut 40,000 management jobs during his first term seems almost benign by comparison to what's happened on President Clinton's watch and what might have been proposed from the conservative end of the political spectrum. It would not be surprising if the Texas governor were cut from the same cloth as his father, who was known to go out of his way to recognize contributions of the bureaucracy (and after whom the CIA's Langley, Va., headquarters complex is named).

Whether Democrat or Republican, the next President will face the emerging need to redefine the federal government's role in the nation's affairs, both at home and abroad. Many scholars now say that Washington is "too small for the big problems of life, and too big for the small problems of life," as Daniel Bell wrote in a prescient analysis back in 1988. International problems demand multilateral solutions, as we are painfully learning in commerce and in war. In the World Trade Organization and peacekeeping missions in Europe and Africa, for example, American sovereignty has eroded. Governments everywhere have lost power to global communications and economic integration, and U.S. policy and diplomatic capabilities have not kept pace. In domestic policy, Washington simply doesn't have the resources or the wisdom required to make a real difference in many problems rooted in local communities and regions-from welfare to education to highway congestion.

As a result, the federal government risks finding itself in a "squeeze for relevance," as University of Wisconsin professor Donald F. Kettl writes in a paper prepared for the National Academy of Public Administration. Kettl is persuasive in arguing that the accumulation of technological, economic and policy changes over the course of two generations has produced a "fundamental transformation of governance . . . that poses substantial challenges for public institutions and how we manage them." Meeting these challenges will be the work of the next President and his successors in the early part of the new century.

Tim sig2 5/3/96
Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

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

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


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