As the world moves quickly from the industrial age into the information age, new challenges have arisen and demands on government have increased. But the public sector has often been in a reactive mode—struggling to adapt to a rapidly evolving international, economic, social, technological, and cultural environment. Over the next decade, all sectors of society must work together to address the critical issues of protecting and advancing democracy, strengthening social and economic development, ensuring environmental sustainability, and managing technological changes. And governments at all levels must improve their operations so that they can tackle problems in new ways and earn the public’s trust.
The U.S. election system is highly decentralized. Public agencies and administrators have critical roles to play in ensuring fair and safe elections. In most cases, the nation’s counties are responsible for actually running our elections. Decentralization and lack of standardization create a number of challenges, but this structure can be a strength from a security perspective.Read More
Voting at the federal, state, and local levels is fundamental to American democracy, and citizens must have confidence in electoral systems, processes, and results.
Federal, state, and local governments all struggle to build a public service workforce that can meet the unique demands of our time.
As governments are increasingly called upon to address complex and interconnected “wicked problems,” their need for leaders, managers, technical experts, and front-line workers in the right jobs with the right skills at the right time has never been greater.Read More
In the 21st Century, no significant public problem fits entirely within one government agency, or even one level of government, and our federal system presupposes that all levels of government have an important role to play in the democratic process. Effective problem solving usually requires federal, state, and local governments to work successfully together, and often with the private and nonprofit sectors.Read More
Public administrators can play a key role in ensuring democratic values in policymaking and implementation in multi-stakeholder environments with actors from non-governmental sectors.
The United States must develop new ways to advance its national and global interests within this changing global landscape.
Even as public administration and policy issues cross national boundaries more than ever, many Americans and citizens of allied countries are questioning the value of global engagement. Many people are concerned that globalization has negatively impacted their lives and reduced their nation-state’s ability to provide protection and promote the general welfare. In this context, many of today’s international institutions—established in the aftermath of World War II, before most of the world’s population was born—are under significant stress. Given that major global issues cannot be addressed without effective international collaboration, many international institutions may need to be reformed and modernized.Read More
Social equity—a key pillar of public administration alongside economy, efficiency, and effectiveness—addresses fairness, justice, and equity within a variety of public contexts. Although the United States has made significant progress in expanding access to opportunities to more of the nation’s citizens and residents, we continue to struggle with ensuring the equitable design and implementation of public policies and programs that reduce or eliminate disparities, discrimination, and marginalization.Read More
Moving forward, public administrators and policymakers should develop a broader understanding of the elements and implications of social equity.
The national workforce system is a complex network, and getting it to work effectively to connect people to meaningful work is fundamental to individuals, communities, and the economy.
Humans have an innate quest for meaning. Our jobs and our work are a principal means for fulfilling that need—they have both instrumental and intrinsic value. Instrumentally, work provides the means by which we make a living and support our families. Work also has important implications for one’s personal identity, with much of our self-esteem deriving from it. When the work is perceived as meaningful, people have a sense of fulfillment and purpose that not only strengthens their psychological welfare, but also contributes to other aspects of life and to an individual’s overall life purpose.Read More
Across the nation, America needs resilient communities with the capacity to respond to, withstand, and recover from adverse situations. Such communities are able to bounce back from disruptions while providing a high quality of life for all residents. Resilient communities are able to address natural hazard preparedness, mitigation, and response needs, but, as the term is used here, it refers to the whole panoply of potential and actual stresses facing communities.Read More
Our nation’s communities are on the front lines of numerous challenges, including extreme weather, natural disasters, economic dislocations, and health epidemics.
Although the nation’s fiscal problems are significant, there is no shortage of proposals to begin addressing them.
The pressure of long-term structural fiscal trends at all levels of government makes it more difficult to invest in the future. For example, many Americans are concerned about the nation’s infrastructure backlog (estimated at about $2 trillion), which reduces our quality of life and hinders our ability to thrive in a global economy. Similarly, many Americans support additional investments in education (such as universal pre-K and free community college) and healthcare (such as insurance expansion). With a larger portion of government budgets going to interest payments on previously accumulated debts and legacy entitlement programs, it will be more difficult to find the resources needed to meet future needs.Read More
As the nation’s industry and population grows, it is critical that the public, nonprofit, and private sectors effectively steward natural resources and protect the environment for ourselves and future generations. America’s natural resources—including our public lands—are a rich heritage that have made enormous contributions to our economy, health, environment, and society.Read More
As issues related to sustainability, proper use, and the intrinsic value of natural places have become more complex, we must move beyond business as usual to develop new solutions to natural resource management, pollution control, and clean energy development and utilization.
From a governance standpoint, many states have a multiplicity of small water districts overseen by boards with limited subject matter expertise and oversight gaps. Legal and cultural clashes over water rights have become widespread.
Climate change, aging infrastructure, and dated governance and management structures have combined to undermine the safety and sustainability of America’s water systems. In recent years, many parts of the country have experienced drought, leading states to limit the amount of water that can be used for agricultural purposes. For example, New Mexico’s demand takes more than 80 percent of the largely arid state’s annual supply. Although that leaves 20 percent, such a narrow margin means that the state may not be able to withstand an extended drought or address an increase in demand from population or industry growth.Read More
In the digital age, the American people knowingly and unknowingly produce huge amounts of data on a daily basis, and governments at all levels increasingly rely on digital systems to manage their internal operations and deliver public services. Through widespread e-commerce, ubiquitous GPS maps, and regular social media interactions, the public transmits their sensitive financial, health, and other personal information through online platforms.Read More
Over the next decade, technology will continue to evolve, and data security programs in both the public and the private sectors will face new vulnerabilities.
AI holds great promise, but also raises concerns about bias, security, and transparency.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) allows computerized systems to perform tasks traditionally requiring human intelligence: analytics, decision support, visual perception, and foreign language translation. AI and Robotics Process Automation (RPA) have the potential to spur economic growth, enhance national security, and improve the quality of life. In a world of “Big Data” and “Thick Data,” AI tools can process huge amounts of data in seconds, automating tasks that would take days or longer for human beings to perform.Read More
These are not our organization’s Grand Challenges—they are Grand Challenges for our entire field. The Academy will work with stakeholders at all levels of government, in universities, and in the private and nonprofit sectors so that, collectively, the nation can make the needed progress. The Academy’s role is to inspire action, enhance understanding, connect stakeholders, and drive change.
For the first 20 years of the twenty-first century, the United States has been in a state of near constant change. As new challenges have arisen and demands on government have increased, however, the public sector has often been in a reactive mode—struggling to adapt to a rapidly evolving international, economic, social, technological, and cultural environment.
We all rely on government programs – from defense to infrastructure to Social Security, our federal, state and local governments provide critical support for a thriving society. But for the past few decades, the United States has been in a state of near-constant change. The world has moved quickly from the Industrial Age to the Information Age, and this transition has led to a crisis in American governance.