Stephen Barr's article "Another Volcker Report, Another Shot at Reform" (The Washington Post, January 12, 2003), reported on the findings of Paul Volcker, chairman of a private commission on public service:
The notion of public service, once a noble calling proudly pursued by the most talented Americans of every generation, draws an indifferent response from today's young people and repels many of the country's leading private citizens . . . Those who enter the civil service often find themselves trapped in a maze of rules and regulations that thwart their personal development and stifle their creativity. The best are underpaid. . . . Too many of the most talented leave the public service too early.
The Volcker report further states that: "The simple reality is that federal public servants are constrained by their organizational environment. Changes in federal personnel systems will have limited impact if they are not accompanied by significant change in the operating structure of the executive branch." The commission recommends, in part, a reorganization of the U.S. government, higher pay for judges and federal executives, a cut in the number of political appointees, and the elimination of the white collar pay schedule.
As Stephen Barr points out, this second commission report follows a Volcker commission report in 1989 that stated:
There is evidence on all sides of an erosion of performance and morale across government in America. Too many of our most talented public servants—those with the skills and dedication that are the hallmarks of an effective career service—are ready to leave. Too few of our brightest young people—these with the imagination and energy that are essential for the future—are willing to join.
Have we progressed very far since 1989 in addressing this human capital problem? Many believe that we have not! Perhaps the formation of the new Department of Homeland Security will trigger a more detailed look at restructuring the government as a whole. In President Bush's blueprint for government reform (http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/usbudget/blueprint/budix.html), three major themes are highlighted: a citizen-centered government, a results-oriented government, and a market-based government. For making the government more citizen-centered, the reform initiatives cited were:
Flatten the federal hierarchy
Use the Internet to create a citizen-centric government
Create an E-Government fund.
For making the government more results-oriented, President Bush's reform initiatives are (http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/usbudget/blueprint/budix.html):
Link budget and management decisions to performance
Ensure financial accountability
Reduce erroneous payments to beneficiaries and other recipients of government funds
Use capital planning to improve performance
Eliminate duplicative and ineffective programs
Expand the use of performance-based contracts
Incorporate successful private sector reforms throughout the federal workforce
To make government market-based, the reform initiatives cited by the White House are (http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/usbudget/blueprint/budix.html):
Make e-procurement the government-wide standard
Open government activities to competition