Intergovernmental Systems

Panel Co-Chairs: Mark Pisano & Marilyn Rubin

The Standing Panel on the Federal System considers challenges and issues related to the U.S. federal system and intergovernmental relations.

Specific interests include the dynamics of:

  • National-state, national-local, interstate, state-local, and inter-local relations in the United States;
  • Central-local relations in other countries;
  • Relationships between the governmental and nongovernmental/independent sectors in the United States;
  • Relationships betweencitizens and their government; and
  • Federal/intergovernmental systems and global developments.

Recent work (last two years) from this Standing Panel includes:

  • In December 2008 the National Academy’s Standing Panel on the Federal System  developed a transition paper on intergovernmental management in concert with state and local group leaders. The statement was delivered to President-elect Obama’s Assistant for Intergovernmental Relations, Valerie Jarrett. To read a copy of the transition statement click here.

From time to time, the Panel members invite non-Fellows to join as associate members. These individuals are invited to provide specific expertise to the Panel. If you feel that your background allows you to make a unique and significant contribution to this Panel's work contact Lisa Trahan, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (202) 204-3648.

U.S. Floods: The Necessity of Mitigation

 By Beverly A. Cigler


Floods are the costliest natural hazard events in the United States in terms of lives and property losses. The financial costs of flood disasters are unsustainable, especially for the national government, which assumes the most costs while state and local governments have the greatest ability to avoid great losses due to their influence over land use, economic policy, and other areas that can help mitigate floods and reduce the high costs of relief and recovery. This article summarizes the types, causes, and occurrence of floods in the United States and their unsustainable economic and social costs. It explains that the growing burden to taxpayers from disaster response and recovery has resulted in increased interest by national decision makers in shifting more disaster responsibilities and costs to state and local governments. The article reviews the broad tool kit of mitigation strategies available to local governments and their residents in taking greater responsibility for the impacts of flood events.

Read the Full Report 


“Big Questions” About IGR AND IGM Revisited



In 2011 John Kincaid and Carl Stenberg co-authored a concluding article on “ ‘Big Questions’ about Intergovernmental Relations and Management: Who Will Address Them?” (2011) for a symposium in the Public Administration Review symposium on the impacts of the 1996 demise of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations and assessment of prospects for restoring intergovernmental institutional capacity. Overall, the contributors’ views were pessimistic.

Kincaid and Stenberg posed 15 questions to provoke discussion about the future directions of intergovernmental relations (IGR) and management (IGM). The former was defined as a term “that encompasses all types of interactions between elected and nonelected officials of federal state, and local governments,” featuring policy-making through laws and regulations “in which elected officials and agency heads are important actors.” IGM was “a less comprehensive term, encompassing the implementation and management of intergovernmental policies…in which nonelected agency heads and street level bureaucrats are prime actors” (196). The intergovernmental landscape at that time featured local and state actions to respond to the national economic crisis together with significant federal domestic leadership initiatives such as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the Affordable Care Act.

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Transforming Infrastructure Investment for America’s 21st Century Economy

 Creating a Financial Market for Infrastructure Buildout Called-

“Partnership for Investing in America” (PIA)


The program suggestions described above have been generated by Intergovernmental Panel of NAPA and includes input from The Infrastructure Finance Education Working Group that participated in the Intergovernmental Panel.


There is political consensus around the need to renew and rebuild America’s infrastructure, and President Trump has identified this as an Administration goal. But America lacks both the funding and the governance mechanisms to meet the challenge. This proposal offers a new framework to supplement the current convoluted maze of appropriated infrastructure funding, public-private partnerships, and other sources. The new approach provides the path to creating a market with sustained “deal flow” for large-scale private-sector funding of infrastructure.  It is not predicated on a national infrastructure program but rather is driven from the bottom up relying on those public and private stakeholders at the local and regional level to “bring to market” fundable and politically viable projects. Developing a new partnership among federal, state and local governments and business creates the marketplace.

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Everybody Wants an Infrastructure Upgrade: How Can It Happen?

By Phyllis Myers

On April 12, 2017 I attended an interesting breakfast discussion on infrastructure policy with the Wall Street Journal’s Washington Executive Editor Gerald F. Seib, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Bill Clinton’s first Chief of Staff and DJ Gribbin, Assistant to the President for Infrastructure Policy.  

Gribbin said that his team is now engaged in a wide-ranging  “policy process” to shape the Administration’s infrastructure initiative.  They are reaching out to the “sprawling decision network” of governors, mayors, federal agencies, domestic and international investors, and advocacy groups who share responsibility for the nation’s infrastructure.  At this “formative” time, however, he said he couldn’t share specific details such as whether the initiative will be freestanding or packaged as part of tax reform and how it will generate the promised trillion dollars of private and public spending without increasing taxes or federal debt.  The timing is fortuitous, he noted, since polls show that infrastructure repair has wide public support.   

The main barrier to progress, he believes, is the mountain of regulations that needlessly add years of costly review and uncertainty to the project approval process.          

While Mayor Emanuel shares Gribbin’s optimism about public support, he believes that for anything to happen the federal government must add money and resources to the poiicy mix to incentivize private, state, and local partnerships.  He dismissed the Administration’s rumored reliance on federal tax credits as “fairy dust.”

Emanuel, who has led Chicago’s recent surge of transit, aviation, and riverfront infrastructure development, agrees with Gribbin that projects too often face duplicative reviews that do not add to project quality.  Interestingly, the two also said that environmental regulations were important and reflected appropriate concern about projects’ wider impacts, but that this could be accomplished without generating mountains of paper work.  Said Emanuel: in the American federal system everyone has to have a say but this should not take forever.  Certainty that a project will be appropriately vetted and completed within a reasonable time frame is key to creative private financing.

While a robust infrastructure can’t be done “on the cheap,” Emanuel argues that people will pay for infrastructure improvements if they see something new that improves the quality of their lives, if the process is transparent and honest about the dollar costs, and if it doesn’t increase profits for investors doing what they might have done without the incentives. He praised recent federal transit programs supportive of diverse experimentation in public private partnerships, especially TIFIA and RRIF, and said these should be strengthened and expanded in a flexible mix of strategies responsive to the diversity of players and resources.

Pressed for more clarity about the Administration’s thinking, Gribbin said that additional federal funds would be committed to the infrastructure program but he could not say at this time in what form and how much.