‘Reinventing government,’ 25 years later

We are coming up next year on the 25th anniversary of the country’s first and perhaps only governmentwide management reform program organized around a coherent theme: the Clinton administration’s “reinventing government” effort.

In 1993, the first year of the Clinton administration, I went on leave from my job at Harvard University’s Kennedy School, where I was a professor of public management, to take a Senate-confirmed position in the Office of Management and Budget as administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy. That office of 30-odd civil servants did not buy anything itself but had the lead role in formulating governmentwide procurement policy.

At the beginning of the 1990s, the thinking about how to manage well in government began to turn toward performance. As political scientists William Gormley and Steven Balla have written, “The concept of performance came to rival accountability as a standard for evaluating executive branch agencies.”

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