Policy Implementation Is The President's Job, Too
In his Dec. 17 Federal Diary column, "Americans Are Less Pleased With U.S. Services," Stephen Barr reported that the recently released American Customer Satisfaction Index scored federal government services at 67.8, on a 100-point scale, 6.2 points below "private-sector services."
Traditionally, when the executive branch fails, presidents blame the executive branch. Blame, however, does not solve problems. The next president must shift time from public policy creation -- proposing legislation, engaging in budget fights and crafting regulations consistent with the president's political agenda -- to public policy implementation.
The heavy lifting -- setting goals, monitoring performance, designing information technology systems, providing leadership -- has been delegated to career civil servants. But lacking the day-to-day support of the president, civil servants have not done the job as well as they know it can be done.
Delegating makes sense if public policy implementation does not matter. But we have discovered that it does matter whether bridges fall down, food and drugs are safe, imports are free of lead, Federal Emergency Management Agency trailers are free of toxic gas and levees hold.
The next president should accept responsibility for policy implementation by scheduling regular meetings with Cabinet secretaries on their department's performance and holding them accountable for meeting performance goals. Presidential exhortations for executive branch action must be replaced by presidential action.
ROBERT M. TOBIAS
Director, Public Sector Executive Education