Thursday, January 26, 2012

Mordecai Lee on the Reorganization of Federal Government

On January 21, 2012 the Milwaukee, Wisconsin Journal Centennial picked up the Texas A&M University Press author Mordecai Lee’s Op-Ed on President Obama’s recent plan for reorganizing the federal government.

“As a professor of public administration, I wholeheartedly support efforts to make the bureaucracy more efficient. But as a professor of public administration history, I am apprehensive that the president is making some fatal first steps.” –Lee

Over the past hundred years, every president from Taft to Johnson has proposed reorganization of the executive branch, and Lee believes that if President Obama were to study up on these histories, he could learn two valuable lessons. One, the president needs supporters in Congress to push for his bill, despite the opposition of parochial committee chairs and the external support of a civic constituency to neutralize the frantic lobbying of special interest groups and two, the president needs to make clear that the main purpose of reorganization is not to cut costs (efficiency), but to improve public administration (effectiveness).

Lee who holds a Ph.D. from Syracuse University, is a professor of governmental affairs at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee. Previously, he served as a state senator as well as legislative assistant to a U.S. Congressman and is the author of Institutionalizing Congress and the Presidency: The U.S. Bureau of Efficiency, 1916–1933 and Nixon's Super-Secretaries: The Last Grand Presidential Reorganization Effort (Texas A&M University Press).

The Watergate scandal of 1973 claimed many casualties, political and otherwise. Along with many personal reputations and careers, President Richard Nixon’s bold attempt to achieve a sweeping reorganization of the domestic portion of the executive branch was also pulled into the vortex. Lee asserts that Nixon’s reorganization effort represents a significant event in the evolution of the managerial presidency and public administration, Nixon’s Super-Secretaries presents the most comprehensive historical narrative to date concerning this reorganization attempt. The author has utilized previously untapped original and primary sources to provide unprecedented detail on the inner workings, intentions, and ultimate demise of Nixon’s ambitious plan to reorganize the sprawling federal bureaucracy.
Lee’s complete Op-Ed can be found in following link.