RAND Graduate School Launches Volcker Initiative to Improve Performance of the U.S. Government

For Release

July 2, 2003

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul A. Volcker, who heads a national commission that has proposed sweeping changes to improve the performance of the federal government, has donated $600,000 to the RAND Graduate School to fund a government reform initiative.

The RAND Graduate School is using Volcker's gift to launch the Volcker Initiative for Public Service, said Robert Klitgaard, dean of the school. The initiative will build upon the recommendations of the National Commission on the Public Service, commonly referred to as the Volcker Commission after its chair.

RAND will do advanced research on the key questions related to the commission's recommendations. Among the issues to be addressed by the Volcker Initiative are: how to make government more efficient; how to attract and retain innovative leaders; and how to measure and improve productivity.

The Volcker Initiative is designed as a three-year effort. It is also being supported by a $200,000 gift from Eugene Rosenfeld, a member of the RAND Graduate School Board of Governors.

“Volcker and RAND are two names that stand for good government,” Klitgaard said. “The Volcker Initiative for Public Service will focus the resources of the world's foremost think tank on the foremost problems of public service identified by the first and second Volcker Commissions.”

Volcker headed one government reform commission that issued a report in 1989 and a second commission that released a report last January.

“Our recommendations aren't designed just for discussion, but to point to practical ways to improve the workings of the federal government,” Volcker said. “RAND is a world leader in studying government reform. It is in the best position to find ways to turn the ideas in our report into reality.”

The latest Volcker Commission concluded that sprawling bureaucracy, rigid personnel systems, failures in training and recruitment, and inflexible compensation practices are hurting government performance. Commission members recommended a major reorganization of the federal government, including: consolidating agencies around common missions; giving managers more flexibility to manage and pay staff; and reducing the number of political appointees while seeking the best qualified.

The Volcker Initiative will have three key elements:

  • Applying RAND's wide experience with government to identify specific steps to build upon the recommendations of the Volcker Commission.
  • Creating teaching materials on government reform to be used first at the RAND Graduate School in Santa Monica, Calif., and then at other public policy schools across the nation.
  • Running problem-solving exercises to enable leaders from government and the private sector to work together on improvements in government organization and performance.

Paul C. Light, senior adviser to the Volcker Commission and director of the Center for Public Service at the Brookings Institution, which provided the staff and institutional support for both Volcker Commissions, said: “I can't think of a better place than RAND to provide the further research-based details needed to make the Commission's recommendations successful. The Commission always viewed its final report as an architectural rendering, not a final blueprint. RAND is the right place to convert that rendering into much more precise guidance.”

The first project under the Volcker Initiative is bringing together 14 RAND policy analysts, who will prepare essays that will describe ways to build upon the Volcker Commission recommendations and examine changes in the world that will affect government in the next 10 years.

The essays will be presented in draft form during a two-week RAND Graduate School course from Aug. 11-22, and the final essays will be discussed at a conference in Santa Monica in November. A government official and a non-RAND researcher will comment on each of the essays at the conference. The essays will later be published as a book.

The latest Volcker Commission noted how the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks led to a massive reorganization of federal agencies to create the Department of Homeland Security. “This was a wake-up call to the government-wide need for mission focus and managerial flexibility,” Volcker said.

Klitgaard said that the RAND Graduate School's effort will draw upon the broad experience of its research and teaching staff in improving the way the U.S. government works, as well as RAND's history in helping find ways for practitioners and scholars to work together to develop new ideas for action.

The Volcker Initiative complements the ongoing effort of the second National Commission on the Public Service to work with the Congress and the executive branch to implement the proposals of the commission. That project is being carried out in collaboration with the National Academy of Public Administration and the Center for Public Service at the Brookings Institution.

About the RAND Graduate School
For more than 30 years the RAND Graduate School has been America's leading doctoral program in policy analysis. It was founded in 1970 as one of the nation's original eight graduate programs in public policy and the only one based at a think tank.

About RAND

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