APSA Public Administration Section's
Volume 2, Issue
1, Spring 2003
April 10, 2003
fellow public administration scholars!
back to the PA Section Electronic Newsletter, your vehicle for basic information
about section activities and events that are of broad interest to our community
of political scientists who study bureaucracy, administration, and management.
Each newsletter also contains a topical editorial and a number of links to important
information sources. The Electronic Newsletter is edited by Patrick
Wolf of Georgetown University, with important technical assistance provided
by Mel Dubnick of Rutgers University-Newark.
"What I Learned From James Lee Witt," by Patrick
Lee Witt was more central to a presidential election than any federal bureaucrat
since Alexander Hamilton. After all, the crucial first presidential debate of
the 2000 general election quickly and surprisingly became a contest between George
Bush and Al Gore over which candidate had spent more quality time with President
Clinton's Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. (Answer: Al Gore
overall, but not during the times that he claimed in the debate.)
we should not have been surprised that a FEMA Director was central to a political
contest. After all, FEMA is a quintessential distributive policy agency. Constituents
are seldom more vulnerable than immediately after they have been victimized by
a natural disaster. During its glory days of the 1990s, FEMA appeared as the federal
government's white knight, charging into situations of widespread human suffering
armed with fiscal and administrative instruments of relief. The agency's advantageous
political situation is further bolstered by the fact that its' constituency is
both universal and particular. Everyone in America is a potential client of FEMA
services, while people who live near, on, or -- in the case of New Orleans --
under water are most regularly in need of FEMA assistance.
Former Director Witt delivered a rousing guest lecture to my Innovations in Public
Management class. His 45-minute address touched upon a number of key points about
the history and nature of public administration, namely:
was the first FEMA Director with a background in emergency management. Prior to
1993, the leadership of the agency had been determined via the spoils system.
the FEMA mission was inherently intergovernmental, the agency typically had fostered
a "less then friendly" working relationship with lower levels of government.
the client base of FEMA was as diverse as the country, the top administrators
of FEMA had been almost exclusively middle age white males.
first task as Director was to improve the morale of FEMA employees by (1) greeting
them at the front door, (2) soliciting their opinions about how the agency could
be improved, (3) promoting qualified minorities, and (4) developing a performance
evaluation that was reciprocal - operators evaluated supervisors (including the
Director) and vice-versa.
His second task was assembling a task
force, consisting of both political appointees and careerists, to develop the
agency's strategic plan.
His third and ongoing task was to nurture
external political coalitions in support of agency policy reform efforts.
some previous FEMA Directors, he immediately traveled to the scene of any major
disasters and personally supervised the delivery of relief, which is why the question
of "who was with James Lee Witt during the Texas floods" was such an
important 2000 campaign issue.
Even this master of bureaucratic
politics met his match while trying to gain authorization for a FEMA program to
buy out and relocate people who repeatedly required FEMA flood relief. Congressman
Billy Tauzin (R, LA) torpedoed the FEMA proposal because so many of his Mississippi
delta constituents rely on FEMA funds to replace soaked carpeting each spring.
One might expect that carpet stores flourish in Tauzin's district.
was similarly chastened by the absorption of FEMA into the newly created Department
of Homeland Security (DHS). Under the DHS authorization legislation, FEMA's operational
divisions will be parceled out to various components of the new Department. The
fact that even an extremely popular and effective independent agency could lose
its autonomy and institutional integrity in a single pen-stroke struck me as evidence
of the inherent tenuousness of public agencies. The public sector seems to hardly
change one whit (so to speak) until some unforeseen event generates a strong political
consensus that drives it to change both dramatically and, perhaps, regrettably.
can't say, to paraphrase a popular book, "everything I ever needed to know
about administration in a political context I learned from James Lee Witt."
However, I did see more clearly what I already thought I knew.
ON THE VOLCKER
ON THE VOLCKER
of your generosity, the Section for Public Administration will be able to award
its first Volcker Endowment research grant(s) to junior scholars at the 2003
APSA meetings in Philadelphia. And to make this a very special occasion, we
are delighted to announce that Mr. Volcker will be joining us at the APSA meetings
to award the first grant(s). Mr. Volcker also has graciously agreed to participate
in a featured interview session immediately preceding the awarding of grants to
reception honoring Mr. Volcker for his exemplary contributions to enhancing and
promoting the practice and image of public service will follow these sessions.
thanks to the Volcker Committee of Robert Durant, Pat Ingraham, Don Kettl, George
Frederickson, and Matthew Holden for
their tireless efforts to develop the Volcker Endowment. Also, a special thanks
to Robert Durant for this update.
all IT and E-Government scholars. This season's public management conferences
are all targeted towards you.
First up will be the
2003 Government Technology Performance Measurement Summit in Ottawa, Canada,
For the details, check out http://www.performanceweb.org
not your kind of town? How about Beantown? Boston will be hosting the National
Conference on Digital Government Research, May 18-21. To check it out,
surf to http://www.dgrc.org/dgo2003/
not hooked? The International Conference on Socio Political
Informatics and Cybernetics (Pista) announces a call for papers to present
July 31-August 2, 2003, in Orlando, Florida. Pista invites authors to submit their
original and unpublished works, innovations, ideas based on analogical thinking,
problems that require solutions, position papers, case studies, etc., in the fields
of Information and Communication Technologies. For more information, go to http://www.confinf.org/Pista03
of IT, Jane E. Fountain, Associate Professor of Public Policy at Harvard's Kennedy
School of Government, has been honored with an Outstanding Academic Book award
for 2002 by Choice magazine. The prestigious award recognizes "the best of
the best in published scholarship." Jane's book, Building
the Virtual State: Information Technology and Institutional Change,
was published by the Brookings Institution Press in August 2001. In making the
award, the editors apply several criteria including excellence in presentation
and scholarship, significance of the contribution to a field, and distinction
as an important, often the first, treatment of a subject. For a review of Jane's
award-winning book, see the October 2002 issue of the Journal
of Public Administration Research and Theory (or just go out and buy
to the Harry S Truman School
of Public Affairs, University of Missouri-Columbia, for winning the 2003 Curriculum
Innovation Award from the Section on Public Administration Education of the American
Society for Public Administration (ASPA). The Section recently created the award
to recognize the innovative curriculum of a person or program in public policy
and administration. The award was presented at the Section on Public Administration
Education Annual Awards Luncheon on March 17, 2003, as part of the national conference
of the ASPA in Washington, DC.
congratulations to J. Edward
Kellough on his appointment as Graduate Coordinator and MPA Program Director
at the University of Georgia. In accepting this honor, Ed was forced to "pass"
on the offer to be the head coach of the Georgia basketball team. But, "shoot",
why only deal with madness in March went you can experience it year round?
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