He begins his essay noting: “Historically, the relationships between political appointees and career executives have been marked with some degree of tension, especially during a transition in leadership.” He conducted in-depth interviews in three federal agencies and found that two management reforms, the 1993 Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) and President Bush’s President’s Management Agenda (PMA) helped create a new environment in these agencies that helped bridge these tensions.
He concludes: “ . . the results-oriented management reforms embodied in GPRA and the PMA have helped to mitigate historic tensions between political appointees and career civil servants by creating a common ground around achieving mission results.”
He supports his conclusion with nine findings:
Finding 1: GPRA has created a common language for politicals and careerists, and this common language offers a number of benefits to the political/careerist relationship.
Finding 2: The GPRA process helped smooth the transition in political leadership from the Clinton to the Bush administration.
Finding 3: Updating GPRA required plans to better reflect the policy goals of the new administration during the transition of political leadership was a beneficial exercise and, in principle, has the potential to strengthen or accelerate productive relationships among careerists and political appointees.
Finding 4: Setting ambitious goals may also help improve relationships.
Finding 5: The GPRA process is perceived as being “owned” by careerists; however, it is also seen as a tool that can be used to help political leadership advance the goals and policy agenda of the current administration.
Finding 6: Generally, the political staff tends to be more focused on the President’s Management Agenda, and career staff and managers tend to be more GPRA oriented.
Finding 7: Congressional interest in GPRA may be waning.
Finding 8: Interviewees in all three agencies reported a positive shift in department culture and internal management practices and generally attributed these shifts to GPRA.
Finding 9: Under some conditions, the GPRA and PMA process may help to exacerbate tensions between political appointees and career managers.
His story sounds plausible based on what I’ve been seeing. I wonder if it holds up in the next transition?