This course is about problems of public sector management, focusing on both political and technical aspects of managing and controlling public sector organizations. It’s not possible to cover every aspect of bureaucracy and its management. Hence, we’ll focus on a few areas, some of which should be known to every student of bureaucracy, and a couple of others that are not only important, but of topical interest.
Any study of American bureaucracy demands an understanding of the relationship between politics and bureaucracy. How do public managers navigate in a political environment where democratic institutions are divided and fragmented? We live in interesting times, and this class will address some of the issues that are relevant to our period. In particular, we’ll explore some of the causes that have led to failures in public management and bureaucracy today, ranging from failures in effectively implementing regulatory policy at the Securities and Exchange Commission, to problems in military equipment procurement, to disaster relief (e.g., Katrina), to name a few. These factors include managing bureaucracy in a system of fragmented political institutions in an atmosphere of conflict, trust, and change/reorganization. Why is the task of the bureaucrat in the United States different and, in many ways, more challenging than it is for bureaucrats in other countries? How do bureaucrats deal with multiple, competing political masters, and the influence of interest groups? Why is change so problematic? And why, today, are so many opinion leaders focusing on the problem of competence in our public service?