In October 2011, ASPA Past President Paul Posner and several members of the Society met with Controller of the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Danny Werfel to explore ways that ASPA could enhance its role in shaping public policy. The concept they explored was how ASPA could assist OMB by analyzing the impact of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) on local communities.
ASPA, as an organization of professional public administrators and academicians, is a perfect vehicle for federal, state, and local public organizations to form a collaborative partnership in order to find policy solutions to the difficult, challenging public problems of the 21st century.
ASPA President Tom Liou, the Central Florida Chapter of ASPA, and the University of Central Florida School Of Public Administration adopted ASPA’s goal as a project priority. Using a graduate public policy course offered through the UCF School of Public Administration, a student team was formed to analyze how two primary goals of ARRA were accomplished by projects and programs ARRA funded in the State of Florida. The student team, consisting of Margaret Mickler, Sharinta Hester, Natia Ravazishvili and Samuel Weekley, analyzed the effectiveness of ARRA in accomplishing the goal of creating jobs, and, how transparent ARRA expenditures and programs are to the general public.
The team completed an analysis of several ARRA funded programs in the State of Florida, and on April 18, 2012, a video conference was conducted where the student team presented their report to officials from OMB. Their analysis concluded that ARRA has been effective in adding jobs to the Florida economy and the transparency of information provided through Recovery.gov was unprecedented in providing comprehensive information about ARRA expenditures and programs to citizens in Florida. Their analysis, which included a survey of citizens that are politically involved, as well as citizens who are not politically involved, gave OMB high marks for the transparency of information provided through Recovery.gov. Team leader Margaret Mickler stated ”working on an analysis for OMB was unprecedented and a valuable experience for us as students and future public administrators.”
ASPA President Tom Liou believes the model set by this project will strengthen ASPA’s role in assisting federal, state and local government with important policy analysis. Reviewing the outcome of the team analysis Liou stated “ASPA, as an organization of professional public administrators and academicians, is a perfect vehicle for federal, state, and local public organizations to form a collaborative partnership in order to find policy solutions to the difficult, challenging public problems of the 21st century.”
Officials from OMB were very proactive in assisting the students. The contact with OMB, Amanda Valerio, provided the team with statistical information on the Recovery Act, and served as a resource as the team completed their analysis.
Past ASPA President Paul Posner reflected on how this project had its gensis through a meeting in 2011 between ASPA and NASPAA members, as well as officials from OMB. “Danny Werfel, the senior official from OMB, approached ASPA and NASPAA to get help from faculty and students on some of the challenging public management issues OMB is wrestling with in implementing federal programs. Werfel has a strong appreciation for the role that academic analysis can play in informing and elevating public policy deliberations. As federal officials seek to use evidence as a basis to sort out claims in hard budgetary times, the alliance with academics and professionals in public administration benefits all of us as citizens and taxpayers.
ASPA Vice President Alan Rosenbaum was one of the ASPA officials who helped make the liaison between ASPA and OMB. “This is a very important form of collaboration and one that needs to be further developed and nurtured by ASPA. There are many important insights into the policy implementation process that its university participants gain in looking at real world policy problems. In turn, they can bring to such situations a sense of perspective and analytic capacity that will enable practicing public administrators to better address the very real policy complexities with which they must deal every day.”
ASPA member Michael Abels is an instructor at the School of Public Administration University of Central Florida. He is also the instructor for the graduate class in public policy that performed the analysis of Recovery Act programs in Florida for OMB. Email: Michael.Abels@ucf.edu