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Paul Light, NYU: Ways to Create a 'High-Performance' Government

July 6, 2011

A new national blueprint for reform by Professor Paul Light and Fellows from NYU Wagner -- "Creating High Performance Government: A Once-in-a-Generation Opportunity" -- was released in Washington, D.C. With its specific recommendations, the report is based on the simple premise that the time for small-scale reform has passed, and Congress and the president have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to improve government for the long-term.

The full report is available at http://wagner.nyu.edu/governmentreform/index.pdf.

Confidence in the federal government’s ability to respond effectively to national and international, economic and political problems continues to dwindle. Some of these complaints are a clear reaction to political ideology, deepening polarization, and the recent budget battles, but they all reflect a core of reality.

American’s remain divided on what the federal government should do in these difficult, uncertain times, but are increasingly convinced that the federal government must work better, and at lower cost. The question is what can be done to both design and implement a comprehensive reform agenda that would create the high performance government Americans want and so desperately need.

This report provides an overview of the accountability, efficiency, and productivity challenges facing Congress and the president as they consider a broad “overhaul” of the federal bureaucracy, and offers possible reforms that might improve performance as part of a package of comprehensive action, as well as a discussion of one method for bipartisan legislative implementation. The report also provides estimates of the potential savings involved in such a package with the caveat that better performance also involves investment in the basic resources needed for improvement.

This report is built on the simple premise that the time for small-scale reform has passed. Congress and the president have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to improve government for the long-term. It has been seventy years since the last comprehensive review of the federal government’s basic structure and operations. There is simply no time for another blue-ribbon commission of the kind chaired by former president Herbert Hoover during the late 1940s and early 1950s. Moreover, as Appendix A to this report shows, there are already plenty of good ideas for action circulating through Congress and the executive branch. The challenge is to push

The study, representing a year's work by Prof. Light and the Wagner Fellows, was underwritten by Volcker and the Robertson Foundation.

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