Innovation At All Levels of Government

Concern over a lengthy economic recovery and the growing national debt has led to lean times for the federal government, and has put a spotlight on spending.  In an effort to avoid “waste and duplication” in government, President Obama issued a memorandum to the heads of executive departments and agencies last week as a reminder that “we cannot win the future with a government built for the past.”  In order to confront this problem, the President aims to install a Chief Performance Officer (CPO) to work at the Office of Management and Budget to root out redundancy and streamline the system.

A report issued by the Center for American Progress (CAP) pointed to the multitude of agencies that deal with competitiveness as an indicator of this problem.  The report contrasted America, where “the closest analog in the U.S. federal bureaucracy to a lead department for competitiveness is the Department of Commerce,” with other industrial nations that have more focused approach.

Unlike the federal government, States must run a clean balance sheet every year, and the public battles in Wisconsin highlight the dynamic between balanced budget requirements and providing core services.  Michigan governor Rick Snyder, whose state faces serious economic problems, issued a call for innovation in state and local government.  In his campaign, Snyder promised to “bring innovation to government,” and his first budget proposes tax cuts to business and less funding for schools in a move he calls part of a “shared sacrifice” to create a sustainable model.

Calls for innovative techniques extend to local governments as well, and the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota recently chose winners for its annual Local Government Innovation Awards that salute revolutionary ideas for cooperation and coordination between agencies.  Humphrey Senior Fellow Jay Kiedrowski noted that winners typically saved money and provided more effective service to constituents, traits that are more important than ever in today’s cost-cutting climate.

Innovation is only part of the picture, however, and Kiedrowski stressed that “clearly, there’s more pressure today to innovate, but at the end of the day innovation is 20 to 30 percent of the solution. The public shouldn’t be misled that there’s a magic innovation or redesign bullet out there that all you have to do is find it, because there isn’t.”

Posted by: John Coit

Sources: Center for American Progress,,, Minneapolis Star Tribune,,

Photo Credit: State House courtesy of Flickr user HarshLight


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