How do public administrators find information about the problems they confront at work? In particular, how and when do they reach across organizational boundaries to find answers? There are substantial potential obstacles to such searches for answers, especially in a system of decentralized governance such as the U.S. government. In this article, we examine the alternative mechanisms within the public sector that compensate for this dispersion of expertise, focusing on knowledge sharing across public DNA forensics laboratories. In particular, we propose that the emergence of informal interpersonal networks plays an important role in providing access to necessary expertise within a highly decentralized system. Our findings point both to the need for further research on knowledge sharing networks within the public sector as well as practical implications around the value of investments into facilitating the creation and maintenance of networks of practice.
The passage of Proposition 13 in 1978 was a watershed event that ushered in both a new era and a new fiscal regime for California’s local governments. We argue that, in the wake of follow-on initiatives, a protracted recessionary period, and the state’s use of newly authorized revenue-transfer powers, this still-evolving regime entered a new phase in the 1990s. This article analyzes the primary impacts of and responses to the changes in California’s post-Proposition 13 fiscal regime in the 1990s in five local jurisdictions. The results reveal that the most significant long-term impacts of this regime have been an altered fiscal structure and an unintended decrease in local home rule. These impacts, in turn, have led to cuts in non-essential services, the expansion of sales tax-generating redevelopment efforts, implementation of new taxes and user service fees, and increased reliance on one-time fiscal measures.
Kaufman's research on the "immortality" of public organizations has led us to believe that the population of organizations in government is very stable. The research reported here finds Kaufman's work to have some serious flaws. With a different data base and different methodology, the findings are that there was a great deal of change in the U.S. federal government in the period of 1933 to 1983.
A key debate in the study of the American presidency concerns the determinants of presidential decisions. Traditionally, decisions were seen as the result of persuasion-bargaining. President-centered factors, such as the preferences of the man who occupies the office and the relationships between his senior advisors determined presidential decisions. Recently, the field has made a transition to institution-based models, in which each president and his advisers are rational actors responding to the political and legal forces that frame the office. This essay suggests a research agenda that incorporates both approaches. The Garbage Can model of decision is used to illustrate how the foreign policy process is an organized anarchy; decision making is the intersection of four streams–choice opportunities, problems, solutions, and participants. The model helps identify both institutional and persuasion-bargaining variables and highlights their interactions as streams are connected to produce policy. Clinton administration decisions on trade with China in 1993-1994 are the focus. Overall, a useful metaphor for decision making is to see it as a game. Institutional forces establish the rules, define most of the players in the game and their relative power within the game; how the rules are used, manipulated, interpreted, or compromised depends on the idiosyncratic beliefs and political skills of the players involved. In this case, differing perceptions of China held within different institutions competed through a legal and political framework, but the ultimate outcome depended on the decision making and deal making skills of the key officials, including the president.
This article examines the intellectually and pragmatic challenges posed by the economic crisis of 2008 on public administration and public policy. It will be argued that we need to confront 5 major challenges that will,hopefully, provoke a more lively debate in the field about the substantive implications of this economic crisis. While these 5 challenges are hardly exhaustive, such challenges may force us to ask different questions that could elevate and enrich the intellectual enterprise we aspire to be.
What function does accountability serve in public-private partnerships where one partner has no authority over others and no control over results? This article aims to shed light on this question by studying participants of partnerships formed between K-12 public schools and private and/or nonprofit organizations. Findings support the notion that accountability plays a greater role in public management than indicated by the idea of answerability. Five potential functions of accountability are identified: mapping and manifesting expectations, mobilizing and motivating (ex-ante), monitoring and measuring progress and performance, modifying, and mobilizing and motivating (ex-post).
This article illustrates the concepts of morality policy and politics by examining the 1996 Title V federal grants for abstinence-only sex education. Drawing from the existing literature on morality policy and politics, it includes a theoretical framework for the study of morality policy and an analysis of abstinenceonly education as it was shaped at the federal, state, and local levels. Using the example of Title V in Kentucky, this case study well illustrates the expectations of conflict in adoption and controversy in implementation of morality policy. Furthermore, it provides an admonition for practitioners about compromise in even the most contentious morality policy battles.
Procedures intended to provide accountability in relationships between governments and nonprofit organizations often focus on ways to catch and punish mistakes rather than on ways to improve service to the public. Usually, this is because the parties create their expectations for the relationship independently. However, many public services can be improved if governments and nonprofits work together to learn what needs to be done to address public needs more effectively. Mutual accountability involves key stakeholders in dialogue to determine responsibilities, authorize discretion, establish reporting procedures, and create review processes for the relationship. Mutual accountability requires extra time and effort but may be appropriate when the parties are unclear about how best to address public problems and when they have altruistic values.
Fiscal transparency and citizen participation in budgeting processes are widely promoted as means toward the ends of democratic accountability and responsiveness in the allocation and use of public funds. In the past decade, academics and practitioners enthusiastic about e-government have emphasized the potential for using information technology to enhance democratic governance. Putting these two streams of public administration theory and practice together, the authors developed criteria for assessing e-budgeting efforts and applied them to a sample of Web sites operated by state and local governments. Although practitioners are ahead of academics in exploring the potential of e-government for improving fiscal accountability and responsiveness, practice lags behind the relevant basic recommendations of the Government Finance Officers Association. This finding leads to research and practice agendas aimed at enhancing the use of e-government to enhance fiscal transparency and participation.
The fiscal crisis encountered by state-local governments since 2008 has again made prominent the issue of how to better prepare for and stabilize expenditures during recessions. Does the economic stabilization function of government, and its theory, still hold? Previous studies focus on federal and state levels; only a few look at local governments. This article explores whether localities save and spend across the boom-bust cycle; we intend to identify determinants of local government savings and estimate the impact of savings on stabilizing expenditures. Unlike some early evidence that shows counter-cyclical stabilization properties of local unreserved general fund balance, the empirical results of our study on North Carolina counties do not support the stabilization role by localities. This study carries timely and important implications for state/local policy making and financial operations; it also adds to the literature on the stabilization function of government.
Forty years ago, Herbert Simon reminded public managers of the limits of rationality, or the bounded rationality, of the individual decision maker. New analytical techniques from the sciences of complexity now provide a means to measure the complexity in the environment of public managers using actual organizational data. Time series analysis is used to examine data from the external environment of two urban police divisions. Results of the analysis reveal that the complexities of the environment of public organizations may serve as an inhibition to rational decision making that extends beyond the limits of the individual proposed by Simon.
Public administration has regularly reached across the divide between public and private to import ideas and practices from private business, yet ideas of home rarely make their way into administrative theory. Inspired by the “city as a home” thinking of progressive-era social reformers, this article explores conceptual barriers and generative possibilities. It suggests, first, that home vivifies aspects of administration that foster caring concern for human development. Second, drawing on the work of Hannah Arendt, it argues that despite Arendt’s dim view of the household, an ontology of home furthers her vision of action—public spirited speech—in administrative practice.
The study of ethics in public administration, as evidenced by the five books reviewed here, is characterized by a number of assertions about human behavior (some of them conflicting) and at least one major omission. This essay identifies these assertions and the omission to improve our thinking about ethics and the ability to do what's right.
Link to the full paper: http://arp.sagepub.com/content/43/5/518.short
This article deals with the emerging concept of Employee Engagement (EE) and its meaning for public administration research and theory. Generically, EE reflects a positive, fulfilling, affective-motivational, work-related state of mind characterized by vigor, dedication, and absorption. In an attempt to understand whether the concept of EE is meaningful for public administration research and theory, we examine its essence and foundation using a comparative method. First, we compare EE with two well-established employee–organization relationship (EOR) concepts: Affective Commitment (AC) and Job Involvement (JI). Second, we compare EE in public versus private sector employees, and finally, we compare the concept in employees and managers in the public sector. Our study is based on an interactive sample of 593 employees and managers from both the private and public sectors in Israel. The results support several hypotheses. First, EE is an empirically distinct construct compared with other EOR concepts. Second, EE is higher among public sector employees than private sector employees. Third, EE is higher among public managers than public employees. Implications of our findings and recommendations for future theoretical and empirical studies of EE are discussed.
Link to the full version: http://arp.sagepub.com/content/43/5/518.short
Published 30 years ago, my article on “Public Administrative Theory and the Separation of Powers” introduced what is often called the “three perspectives” approach or framework for understanding public administration at a macro-level by viewing it through the lenses of management, politics, and law. Each of these perspectives is anchored in a function of government—execution, legislation, and adjudication respectively—which at the U.S. federal level is housed primarily in the institutional structures of the executive branch, Congress, and the courts. The article has been reprinted several times in edited works and widely cited while the textbook elaborating on it, Public Administration: Understanding Management, Politics, and Law in the Public Sector (1st ed., 1986), has gained widespread adoption. The present article reflects on what the three perspectives framework did, did not do, and whether it is useful in application to the vast changes in public administrative thought and practice that have occurred since its publication. Specifically addressed are whether the framework retains utility in the wake of reinventing government and the advent of collaborative governance as well as how it might be strengthened to inventory and cumulate public administrative knowledge in the future.
Neopragmatists in public administration (PA) consistently argue that neopragmatism upgrades regular pragmatism. This claim rests on the contention that pragmatism is host to epistemic foundationalism, which undercuts legitimacy in PA. This article provides a new refutation of the upgrade claim, dissolving the hard-link constructed between epistemology and legitimacy by articulating theory-pluralism in research methods. Haack’s “Analytic Framework” is advanced as a useful conceptualization of epistemic debates in PA, and Laudan’s philosophy of science is advanced to provide a productive conceptualization of PA’s theory competition. Theory-pluralism is then applied to a variety of research areas in PA, demonstrating the need for an approach that harmonizes PA’s competing research traditions under the broader goal of problem resolution in PA.
Over the past decade, the federal and state governments have made large financial investments to improve election administration, but there is little to no understanding of the real workings and implications of election administration finance. This article takes a first look at election administration finance by examining election expenditures in California counties for fiscal years 1992 through 2008 using a public sector cost model. Regression analysis shows that economies of scale and voting technology are significant determinants of election expenditures, as are other factors affecting the cost of the production of election administration. Factors that are expected to affect the demand for election administration are generally shown not to be significant. These results will hopefully be beneficial for policy makers as they face important decisions about changes in voting technology and election administration.
Although traditional models of bureaucratic politics have relied on the old assumption that information is expensive, information is prevalent nowadays; the monopoly of bureaucratic expertise has been undermined as interest groups have significantly developed and are professionalized. As a result, what is really important in current bureaucratic politics is not just neutral expertise, but the political capacity to affect the behaviors of information sources. Through mediating conflicts of interest and minimizing unnecessary contingencies, agencies can persuade their stakeholders not to provide information to legislators and, therefore, indirectly affect legislators’ decisions on delegation and oversight. Different from traditional principal–agent theories, this article suggests the “administrative broker” model in which politically influential agencies can block information leakage to legislators and enhance their own discretion. Moreover, the administrative brokers occasionally transform traditionally hostile principal–agent relations into more favorable ones.
The hiring of chief administrative officers, also known as city administrators, in municipalities with the mayor–council form of government has contributed to the professionalization of these city governments. Although some observers suggest that the role of city administrator is the functional equivalent of city manager, survey responses from 276 persons who have held both jobs note similarities and important differences.
Interest in performance management has never been higher. But what does actual research on this topic tell us about the effects of performance management, reform efforts, and governance more generally? Historically, the answer often seemed to be that such reforms did not work very well. This article focuses on a recent chapter in the history of performance management at the U.S. federal government, the Program Assessment Rating Tool (PART). PART was created by the George W. Bush administration, and ended by the Obama White House. PART, like many management initiatives, came and went. What distinguishes it, however, is the quality and breadth of the research it prompted—research that has increased our knowledge of performance management and reform implementation as well as a whole host of fundamental governance phenomena such as political ideology, administrative burden, performance information use, leadership commitment, and goal ambiguity.
While studies in public management have identified personal attributes, job characteristics, and organizational rewards as key factors that influence affective organizational commitment, limited attention has been paid to the influence of social networks on affective commitment. Given that organizational attitudes and behaviors are often socially constructed, this paper argues that employees’ affective commitment is influenced by their social networks in an organization. What are the social network configurations that lead to affective organizational commitment? This study attempts to answer this question by focusing on nonlinear relationships between several network dimensions (i.e., network centrality, tie strength, and structural holes) and affective commitment. These relationships are empirically tested by using both social network data and employee survey data collected from two local governments in South Korea. Results of the study show that employees’ network centrality has an inverted U-shaped relationship with affective commitment and structural holes have a U-shaped association with affective commitment, controlling for certain organizational rewards and individual attributes. However, the relationship between a tie strength and affective commitment is not statistically significant. The practical and theoretical implications of the study findings are discussed.
The purpose of this study is to probe the main determinants of organizational trust, as identified in the relevant literature: cognition-based (i.e., rational) trust and affect-based (i.e., relational) trust. This study explores the nature of trust among public employees and identifies important antecedents and moderating conditions based on systematic and rigorous empirical research. Using large data sets from Merit Principles Survey (MPS) and Best Places to Work (BPTW), as well as drawing upon the scholarly works from several disciplines, this study develops an antecedent-trust model and analyzes the different types of antecedents of organizational trust in the public sector at a hierarchical and multilevel ordering structure. The focus of the study is empirically testing the effects of vertical and shared leadership behaviors and work motivation attributes on organizational trust within U.S. federal agencies. In addition, the moderating impact of leadership on the relationship between work motivation and organizational trust is examined. This research finds that some of these predictors and moderators (e.g., vertical and shared leadership behaviors) play significant roles in fostering organizational trust directly and indirectly. Based on a discussion of the main findings, research and practical implications for public management theory and practice are provided.
Do agency officials hold influence over the policy decisions made by state legislators and governors? For years, scholars have asserted the important informational role that bureaucrats play within the U.S. policy-making process. However, we have only limited knowledge of the theoretical mechanisms that may allow for this influence, or ultimately, whether this influence matters to public policy outcomes. We theorize that the political oversight of the bureaucracy by elected officials not only constrains the bureaucracy but also provides a pathway for agency officials to advance their preferences by communicating their policy expertise. We assess this argument with survey data from almost 600 state agency heads, drawn from the 50 states and across all agency types. Using a multilevel model, we find that the “oversight mechanism” is a key driver of agency influence over gubernatorial policy decisions; however, it does a poor job explaining agency policy influence within state legislatures. These results suggest that oversight allows agency leaders greater success in lobbying governors than more diffuse and diverse state legislatures.
The aging of the Baby Boom generation, combined with the success of the New Public Management in downsizing the federal government, has led to a rapidly aging federal service, a reduced flow of new blood with creativity and updated skills (Lane, Wolf, and Woodard, 2003), and a looming “tsunami” of retirements that is forcing the federal service to reconsider many of its human resource practices. The difficulty of obtaining good data has severely restricted our ability to measure the extent of the problem in the state government workforce. We examine the changing age distribution of that workforce using the 1980, 1990, and 2000 Census 5% Public Use Microdata Samples and the 2001-07 American Community Surveys, and find that state workforces are even older and have aged more than the federal civil service, suggesting that they may experience the retirement tsunami sooner. We also examine the effects of this aging on institutional memory, race/ethnicity/gender diversity, and educational qualifications.
Although much has been written about interlocal agreements for the delivery of services, few studies have examined the factors that influence the establishment of different types of multilateral agreements (MLAs). To address this lacuna, the authors draw a distinction between an adaptive and restrictive MLA and seek to understand why local governments enter into one type of arrangement over the other. The authors build our theoretical argument on the basis of previous research that suggests agreements are designed to minimize the uncertainties associated with transaction risk. On the basis of this premise, the author’s general proposition is that the decision to establish an adaptive MLA is shaped by the asset specificity and measurability of the goods and services of the transaction. The authors utilize data on public safety agreements among municipal and county governments in the state of Florida. Findings suggest that local governments are more likely to form an adaptive MLA when goods and services are relatively high in service measurability difficulty and when both high and low asset specificity exit.