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Repurposing Public Administration?

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Marvin Pichla
February 29, 2020

Every day is a critical time in the field of public administration. The local, state, national and international governmental issues and challenges never decline or completely dissolve. Often it feels like those working hard at all levels are situated in an always, “Catch-up-baseball,” setting. The result is a confusing and unattractive professional area of study and employment. So then it is more than appropriate to ask, “Are we always doing what we have always done…and only getting what we have always got?” If the answer is even close to a strong, “YES,” is strategically repurposing public administration a logical innovative system action to consider?

Ok, I understand that, “Repurposing,” (altering the intended result of an action) or, “Overhauling,” (a thorough or drastic reorganization) may be too radical a measure for our historic time-tested public administration system. However, what if we go back and in an observational research way look at some of the Founding Fathers’ original designs and assignments for our base governmental system. Logically this recommendation would drive us to start with the Enumerated Powers of the United States Congress and  remember these are the powers specifically granted to the national government in the Constitution (i.e. the first 17 clauses of Article 1, Second B specify most of the enumerated powers of Congress). 

Our first example is Congress’s power to, “Coin Money And Regulate Its Value.” Think about standing in a shopping check-out line and count the number of people who use cash/coin… real money versus those that just use a piece of plastic! Has printing/coining money and regulating its value gone out of date and therefore lost its purpose? Plus with the United States trillions in debt, is the value of our dollar really real? Similarly, consider the power of Congress to, “Establish Post Offices.” How many people really mail letters today or use the Post Offices to send packages? With the capacities of social media, use of advanced technology and availability of private business package delivery systems, the purpose and value of supporting the postal system has almost disappeared. Would it not make progressive sense to approach these types of traditional public administration service areas and, “Leap-frog,” forward with an innovation-based repurpose strategy?

Next, I am not sure that everyone realizes that one of the most important Enumerated Powers of Congress is to Declare War! With all of the, “Police actions,” and the United States, “Volunteering,” as the well-intentioned World Peace Keeper over the last decades, it is easy to misunderstand where the war declaration responsibility lies. As a result, the purpose of this Constitutionally assigned responsibility has become a gray area in the field of public administration and may also benefit from a, “Repurpose .review.”

Finally let’s look at the highly structured responsibility for Congress to, “Make the laws of the land.” How individual bills are introduced and make their way through multiple Legislative Committees and eventually through the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate is a major approval process. The Founding Fathers I believe did not ever think that the process would be easy and without controversary. However, I do believe that they built Congress with the hope that laws would NOT be made by votes that predominantly follow political party lines, but instead by individual, rational, thoughtful, compromising elected LEADERS!

Now that we have taken a revealing historical observational research journey, it is time to return to the focus of this article (Repurposing Public Administration) and consider applying innovative approaches to achieve a unique form of continuous improvement in this tradition-heavy domain. 

Initially it would be very difficult to look at most governmental functions with a repurpose mindset. Additionally, it is necessary to point out that the field of public administration has shown great advancements over the years, but not with the intent of altering/reorganizing governmental roles and outcomes. Think for a moment if there was a new separate nation-wide Repurpose Government Responsibilities Congressional Assembly to strategically plan in this area? Governors and U.S. Senators could be appointed and have rotating membership seats. Party affiliation would be organizationally deflated and the agendas would focus only on progressive repurposing antiquated public administrative functions…NOT political wins or losses.

In a strategic way every Repurpose Government Responsibilities Congressional Assembly member would be required to, “Leave their day job hat at the door!”  Specifically, they would be organized as co-equal Assembly Leaders with the sole responsibility of offering innovative, non-traditional designs for repurposing public administration programs, services and funding in all areas of government. By employing an innovative, repurposing operational structure for this special Assembly, I suggest the Country may realize the following positive outcomes:

  • The non-traditional application of Constitutional principles but blended with modern day designs and tools.
  • Increased efficiency and effectiveness of public administration service expectations.
  • Attraction of new professionals to the public administration field due to repurpose challenges.
  • An increase of innovative government repurpose ideas/strategies based on the non-political Assembly structure.
  • An even greater comprehension of Constitutional principles based on their ability to be flexibly applied to 21st century challenges and opportunities.

Radical yes…rational…maybe?!


Author: Marvin N. Pichla, Ph.D., is the owner and creative adviser of Inspiring Innovations, Inc. Sharing his unique entrepreneurship and innovation in public service experience, Marv consults with public and private business, education and community organizations to develop new and different problem-solving methods through real-life, example-based learning. Email: [email protected], @TRIPLEIIITIME

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The American Society for Public Administration is the largest and most prominent professional association for public administration. It is dedicated to advancing the art, science, teaching and practice of public and non-profit administration.

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