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An Agenda for the Future of Governance

As the world moves quickly from the industrial age into the information age, new challenges have arisen and demands on government have increased. But the public sector has often been in a reactive mode—struggling to adapt to a rapidly evolving international, economic, social, technological, and cultural environment. Over the next decade, all sectors of society must work together to address the critical issues of protecting and advancing democracy, strengthening social and economic development, ensuring environmental sustainability, and managing technological changes. And governments at all levels must improve their operations so that they can tackle problems in new ways and earn the public’s trust.

12 Grand Challenges in Public Administration

Protect Electoral Integrity and Enhance Voter Participation-icon

Protect Electoral Integrity and Enhance Voter Participation

Electoral integrity and voter participation are enhanced by (1) ensuring that everyone with a legal right to vote is able to do so; (2) protecting such critical election infrastructure as storage facilities, polling places, and centralized vote tabulation locations; and (3) safeguarding such information and communications technology as voter registration databases, voting machines, and other electoral management systems. Some of the relevant issues include: Foreign intervention and technology utilization. In 2016, Russian government-affiliated cyber actors (1) conducted operations to identify...

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Modernize and Reinvigorate the Public Service-icon

Modernize and Reinvigorate the Public Service

Federal, state, and local governments deliver vitally important services to the American people each and every day. If it is an important need, public agencies at one or more levels of government are likely to have an important role in meeting it, including but not limited to: Defense and international relations;Police and fire protection;Public education;Public health and housing;Transportation and other infrastructure;Mail delivery;Economic development and market regulation; andNatural resources, environmental protection, and public lands. As governments are increasingly called upon to...

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Develop New Approaches to Public Governance and Engagement-icon

Develop New Approaches to Public Governance and Engagement

Effective problem solving usually requires federal, state, and local governments to work successfully together, and often with the private and nonprofit sectors. And yet, we have not prioritized the building of collaborative capabilities to develop and implement effective policies and programs across levels of government and sectors of society. The demise of institutions such as the Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, which kept these governance issues front and center in policymaking and administration, may have contributed to this collective neglect...

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Advance National Interests in a Changing Global Context-icon

Advance National Interests in a Changing Global Context

Although the United States remains the world’s most powerful nation, the unipolar moment of the early post-Cold War years has been replaced with a much more diffuse international system and a wider array of complex issues requiring sustained attention, including: Many vulnerable nations are experiencing state breakdown, terrorism, natural disasters, and environmental degradation;The world has the largest population flows and the total number of refugees since the 1940s;Russia has aggressively challenged other countries’ borders and political systems;China’s rise has fueled...

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Foster Social Equity-icon

Foster Social Equity

Although the United States has made significant progress in expanding access to opportunities to more of the nation’s citizens and residents, we continue to struggle with ensuring the equitable design and implementation of public policies and programs that reduce or eliminate disparities, discrimination, and marginalization. Much remains to be done to address the substantial social and economic disparities in 21st Century America, such as: The nation continues to face significant racial and gender disparities in such areas as criminal justice...

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Connect Individuals to Meaningful Work-icon

Connect Individuals to Meaningful Work

Humans have an innate quest for meaning. Our jobs and our work are a principal means for fulfilling that need—they have both instrumental and intrinsic value. Instrumentally, work provides the means by which we make a living and support our families. Work also has important implications for one’s personal identity, with much of our self-esteem deriving from it. When the work is perceived as meaningful, people have a sense of fulfillment and purpose that not only strengthens their psychological welfare...

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Build Resilient Communities-icon

Build Resilient Communities

Across the nation, America needs resilient communities with the capacity to respond to, withstand, and recover from adverse situations. Such communities are able to bounce back from disruptions while providing a high quality of life for all residents. Resilient communities are able to address natural hazard preparedness, mitigation, and response needs, but, as the term is used here, it refers to the whole panoply of potential and actual stresses facing communities. Our nation’s communities are on the front lines of...

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Advance the Nation’s Long-Term Fiscal Health-icon

Advance the Nation’s Long-Term Fiscal Health

The United States faces serious current and long-term fiscal challenges at every level of government: The federal government, which spends nearly $4.5 trillion per year, has a total of. $22 trillion dollars in debt. This is 78 percent of GDP—or double the average over the past 50 years. The national debt is growing by about $1 trillion a year—despite a robust economy with unemployment in the 3 percent range. Even with interest rates at historically low levels, interest payments on...

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Steward Natural Resources and Address Climate Change-icon

Steward Natural Resources and Address Climate Change

America’s natural resources—including our public lands—are a rich heritage that has made enormous contributions to our economy, health, environment, and society. And yet, the nation continues to grapple with how to sustainably steward the nation’s forests, lakes, rivers, wildlands, mineral deposits, and fossil fuels. As demand rises for rare earth minerals and lumber, communities throughout the United States must reconcile strongly held, but sharply differing, views regarding jobs, habitat protection, private property rights, open space, recreation, and cultural values. Similarly...

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Create Modern Water Systems for Safe and Sustainable Use-icon

Create Modern Water Systems for Safe and Sustainable Use

In recent years, many parts of the country have experienced drought, leading states to limit the amount of water that can be used for agricultural purposes. For example, New Mexico’s demand takes more than 80 percent of the largely arid state’s annual supply. Although that leaves 20 percent, such a narrow margin means that the state may not be able to withstand an extended drought or address an increase in demand from population or industry growth. Some localities throughout the...

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Ensure Data Security and Privacy Rights of Individuals-icon

Ensure Data Security and Privacy Rights of Individuals

Through widespread e-commerce, ubiquitous GPS maps, and regular social media interactions, the public transmits their sensitive financial, health, and other personal information through online platforms. Americans need assurance that all sectors will keep their personal data private and safeguarded from abuse, but our data security infrastructure in both the public and the private sectors is vulnerable to exploitations, hacks, and breaches. With malevolent foreign intelligence entities, the hacking of public agencies, the infiltration of hostile agents in private organizations, and...

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Make Government AI Ready-icon

Make Government AI Ready

AI and Robotics Process Automation (RPA) have the potential to spur economic growth, enhance national security, and improve the quality of life. In a world of “Big Data” and “Thick Data,” AI tools can process huge amounts of data in seconds, automating tasks that would take days or longer for human beings to perform. The public sector in the United States is at the very beginning of a long-term journey to develop and harness these tools. Chatbots are being used...

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