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Grand Challenges: The Election 2020 Project

About the Election 2020 Project

The Academy formed a series of Working Groups of its Fellows to address Grand Challenges in Public Administration. These Groups were charged with producing one or more papers to advise the Administration in 2021 (whether reelected or newly elected) on the key near-time actions that should be taken to begin addressing Grand Challenges. A new action plan will be released every Wednesday morning throughout the 2020 summer.

*NEW* Steward Natural Resources and Address Climate Change

America’s natural resources—including our public lands—are a rich heritage that have made enormous contributions to our economy, health, environment, and society. It is critical that the public, nonprofit, and private sectors effectively steward natural resources and protect the environment for ourselves and future generations.

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Advance National Interests in a Changing Global Context

Although the United States remains the world’s most powerful nation, the unipolar moment of the early post-Cold War years has been replaced with a much more diffuse international system and a wider array of complex issues. This in turn is unsettled in unparalleled ways by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Advance the Nation's Long-term Fiscal Health

Recent federal budgeting has been characterized as a series of deals between the Administration and the Congress to raise the spending caps imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011 and to lessen the magnitude of the spending controls included in that statute. Adding to the fiscal stress resulting from that additional spending, a package of tax reduction measures was enacted that have had the effect of substantially increasing the size of annual budget deficits.

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Build Resilient Communities

The threats to our nation are multiple – climate change and its resulting impacts in serious weather-related natural disasters, our reliance on telecommunications and the Internet that is threatened by cyber criminals and state actors, and the continued threats in future or continued pandemics. The time is now to identify the paths to resilience, which will allow us to withstand these threats.

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Connect Individuals to Meaningful Work

Today, connecting individuals to meaning work has societal urgency; it is the means by which we can address growing unemployment, disconnection from the current and future economy, and growing income disparities. Not since the Great Depression has the need to facilitate connecting individuals to meaningful work been central to the work of public administration. This working paper offers actionable recommendations to leverage existing programs as well as to develop new initiatives to connect individuals to meaning work and economic opportunities.

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Create Modern Water Systems for Safe and Sustainable Use

Across the nation, America needs collaboration from all levels of government to address the pressing issues of climate change and create new water plans to ensure safe drinking water and efficient distribution of water to industry, agriculture, and the general public. While each aspect of the country’s water systems needs attention, the Administration in 2021 can make an immediate impact on the quality of life of its citizens and foster social equity through improving the public’s access to clean drinking water and sanitation systems. Clean water across every community is essential to improving Americans’ health, for achieving social equity, and for developing the economy.

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Develop New Approaches to Public Governance and Engagement

In addition to the long-term trend of declining trust in government, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted near-term weaknesses in our governance structure to work collaboratively across agencies, levels of government, and sectors of society. The literature shows that collaboration is founded, in part, on trust. The pandemic’s exposure of this weakness gives us further reason to try to reimagine the way the federal government and its partners can jointly address large-scale challenges.

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Ensure Data Security and Privacy Rights of Individuals

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. Americans need assurance that all sectors will keep their personal data private and safeguarded from abuse, but our data security infrastructure in both the public and the private sectors is vulnerable to exploitations, hacks, and breaches.

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Foster Social Equity

Over the past 60 years, significant progress has been made toward promoting social equity in both the public and the private sectors in the United States. But continued progress remains uneven and, in some cases, has regressed. Social equity can be advanced by building a strong federal platform that would include increased awareness, rigorous measurement, formal evaluation and consistent application.

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Make Government AI Ready

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.

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Modernize and Reinvigorate the Public Workforce

The federal government faces unprecedented workforce challenges that put agency missions – including national and homeland security – at risk. When the public needs government to respond to a crisis, it is essential that government has the ongoing capability and capacity to respond to the crisis. After years of lamenting the problem and doing little to solve it, the next President must act. There truly is no time to wait.

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Protect Electoral Integrity and Enhance Voter Participation

Immediate Actions Must Be Taken to Ensure an Accessible, Fair, and Safe Election. In this critical time when threatened by COVID-19, we urge federal, state and local governments to take immediate action to adjust our electoral processes in ways that will allow every eligible citizen to participate in the 2020 elections while ensuring the integrity of the election process and the health of citizens and election workers. 

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More Articles Coming Soon

Election 2020 action plans will focus on each of the 12 Grand Challenges in Public Administration. Check back every Wednesday morning for a new action plan.

Read More About The Grand Challenges