The National Academy of Public Administration launched its Grand Challenges initiative to tackle the most critical problems facing the nation.
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.
One hundred years ago today, following decades of delay, Congress approved the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guaranteed women the right to vote. The Amendment was finally ratified by three-fourths of the states in August 1920, after a tough fight that ended only after one legislator in the last state of Tennessee switched his vote to support women’s suffrage. This victory marked the end of a 72-year struggle to guarantee women a constitutional right to vote and participate in our democratic system. The fight for women’s suffrage offers many important lessons still applicable today.
Today is the one-year anniversary of the Trump Administration’s president’s management agenda. While this milestone may not be celebrated with cake and balloons, it is nonetheless important to recognize the progress that has been made over the past 12 months.
The Merit Systems Protection Board is a small agency with a critical task: protecting the nonpartisan nature of the federal career civil service. For the first time in its 40-year history, the board, as of March 1, has no Senate-confirmed board members. The cause? The Senate for years has been unable to approve board nominees.
The last two decades have marked a period of near-constant change for the United States. As new challenges have arisen and demands on government have increased, however, the public sector has often been in a reactive mode. Government has been stuck in 20th century structures and processes while struggling to adapt to the international, economic, social, technological and cultural changes of the 21st century.
Conflict over the government workforce has never been greater. From fighting to protect federal jobs to making it easier to fire poorly performing employees, political battles over the government workforce have grown increasingly fierce.
Our government is beset by problems. Not all of them are “people problems,” but none can be fixed without reforming the government’s network of human capital—the federal civil service system.
In recent weeks, Government Executive has published a sampling of chapters from the book Building a 21st Century Senior Executive Service, published by the National Academy of Public Administration. We hope that in so doing, policymakers and legislators may realize there is a crisis at hand.
I didn’t start adulthood envisioning a life of public service. I accepted an appointment to West Point as a way to pay for college and make sure I had a job when I graduated. This, I thought, was a very practical, but not particularly altruistic, logic. My plan to serve out my five-year commitment and then move on to a civilian career went awry somewhere along the line, and I found myself, after 20 years of exciting, rewarding and challenging assignments, retiring from the Army.