July 30, 2021
July 30, 2021
Welcome to Thoughts from Our Fellows, a collection of recent activity regarding the Academy's Grand Challenge of each Month. In July, the Academy focused on Develop New Approaches to Public Governance and Engagement. Below you will find:
In November of 2020, the Academy published 3 papers on this topic as a part of its Election 2020 Project. The Working Group recommended the following actions for its first paper, Enhancing Public Governance:
The Working Group recommended the following actions for its second paper, Engaging Americans and Increasing Public Trust:
The Working Group recommended the following actions for its third paper, OMB Information Policy and Use Select Task Force:
In addition to our Election 2020 papers, which focused on recommended actions for the first year of a new administration, the Academy also asked its Fellows for advice for the first four years of the Biden Administration.
Susan E. Dudley: Introduce more rigor into understanding the distributional impacts of regulatory policies. This is especially important because well-organized and politically-connected groups have outsized influence in the regulatory process and can shape regulatory policy to benefit their interests at the expense of more diffuse interests. Developing analytical tools to estimate the opportunity costs of alternative approaches with an emphasis on how regulatory solutions affect disadvantaged, vulnerable, or marginalized communities is an important step in making regulations more accountable, transparent, effective, and just.
Robert P. Strauss: Adopt oaths of office for school board members and senior school officials which are comparable to those required in the for-profit sector. In his joint conference paper published by the Cleveland Federal Reserve Board, Severino and Strauss examine carefully, state by state, oaths of office required of school board members upon their election, demonstrate how porous and inattentive the oaths are to ensuring learning outcomes, and suggest a new oath of office. The suggested oath of office obligates school board members to allocate resources solely for the purpose of ensuring students learn to their intellectual capacity and a set of fiduciary rules which will raise the ethical bar for school board members that will reduce direct and indirect self-dealing.
John Kamensky: The federal approach to collaborative governance has evolved over the past year since the Grand Challenge white paper was written, largely driven by the pandemic. The discretionary portion of the federal budget – the part that is appropriated each year by Congress – totals about $1.7 trillion. But the various pandemic legislative packages adopted over the course of the past year, such as the American Rescue Plan, total about $5 trillion on top of the regular discretionary appropriations. The Biden Administration has adopted a “whole of government” approach to managing the implementation of these programs, rather than trying to integrate them into the regular agency-and-program structure.
The Academy’s Election 2020 white paper on new approaches to public government advocated the federal government “play a role similar to an orchestra conductor, helping coordinate and harmonize an evidence-based national strategy.” And the Biden Administration seems to have embraced this role. It has created a White House American Rescue Plan Implementation Team, with designated leaders and sub-teams in each major agency. This team oversees the $5 trillion in pandemic aid and is orchestrating implementation strategies across agencies and programs. It also works with states and localities, especially in implementing the $350 billion in aid directed to them.
In addition to using a whole-of-government approach to implementing pandemic aid, the Biden Administration is targeting other priority policy areas where it is using integrated, whole-of-government strategies that reach across agency and program boundaries. For example, its Justice40 Initiative – to invest at least 40 percent of certain programs in 20 different agencies in disadvantaged communities in order to advance environmental justice – is being overseen by a separate White House team.
These are new, but temporary, governance frameworks that dwarf the “regular” government. Are there lessons to be learned that can embed these whole-of-government, collaborative governance approaches into federal, state, and local operations once the pandemic has receded?
Route Fifty: New White House initiative seeks to lift up Asian American, Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander Communities, by Courtney Buble
President Biden signed an executive order on Friday establishing a new White House initiative to lift up Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities, such as by looking at how to increase their representation in the government workforce.
“Our nation has also seen again that anti-Asian bias, xenophobia, racism, and nativism have deep roots in our nation,” which “increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, casting a shadow of fear and grief over many AA and NHPI communities, in particular East Asian communities,” said the executive order. “The federal government must provide the moral leadership, policies and programs to address and end anti-Asian violence and discrimination, and advance inclusion and belonging for all AA and NHPI communities.”
The order establishes the White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, which will be led by the Health and Human Services secretary and another agency head chosen by the president.
Stat News: Nobody is catching it: algorithms used in health care nationwide are rife with bias, by Casey Ross
The algorithms carry out an array of crucial tasks: helping emergency rooms nationwide triage patients, predicting who will develop diabetes, and flagging patients who need more help to manage their medical conditions.
But instead of making health care delivery more objective and precise, a new report finds, these algorithms--some of which have been in use for many years--are often making it more biased along racial and economic lines.
FCW: The small federal office at the heart of Biden's equity agenda, by Natalie Alms
A civil rights office tucked inside the Labor Department is gearing up to play an outsized part in the Biden administration's work on racial equity.
The Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) might not be widely known, but it's familiar to federal contractors that fall under its purview. It has the power to check the internal human resources practices of private companies that perform work for the government.
"OFCCP, from a civil rights viewpoint, is probably the most impactful civil rights organization the government has, because it can tell contractors, 'this is how we want you to do things,'" said Anthony Kaylin, vice president at the American Society of Employers, a human resources trade association.
Route Fifty: How ranked-choice voting elevates women and people of color seeking office, by Barbara Rodriguez
One of Susan Lerner’s favorite moments of this year’s New York City mayoral race happened toward the end of a Democratic candidate debate in May, when — assuming their first choice would be themselves — the participating contenders were asked about their second choice for the job.
Of the eight candidates, four said they were still weighing their options. But the others named a combination of the three leading women candidates at the time, recognizing that under the city’s new ranked-choice voting, their answers could provide value to supporters.
NextGov: Report: Nearly half of popular federal websites fail accessibility tests,, by Frank Konkel
Federal websites are not as accessible for those with disabilities as the law mandates they should be, according to a report released Thursday by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation.
The report tested the 72 most popular federal websites and used a combination of automated tests and qualitative assessments to assess their compliance with Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act. The law requires the General Services Administration to ensure federal websites are accessible to people with disabilities, including federal employees and the public.
According to the report, 30% of the most popular federal websites did not follow modern web accessibility standards on their homepages, and 48% failed a standard test on at least one of their three most popular web pages.