In 1980 Michael Lipsky published “Street-level Bureaucracy,” arguing that public policy is often vague and imprecise, and relies on frontline workers to make sense of it on the ground in delivering public services. At the same time, the book is critical of frontline workers for not complying with policy in their use of discretion. Lipsky’s approach has influenced a great deal of subsequent analysis of public service provision, but continues to contain an unresolved tension at its core. If policy is vague, how can discretion be judged non-compliant against it? The street-level bureaucracy approach has tended to seek to resolve this tension by assuming that all public services are fundamentally the same and that all public service workers should use discretion in a particular way. While street-level bureaucracies—front line public services—are similar in that they are subject to policies, operate under conditions of inadequate resources, and afford frontline workers discretion in their work, there are also significant differences between types of public services in the ways they work with policy and the nature and extent of discretion of staff delivering the service. Different services do different things; the nature of the policy they work with varies, and the logic of provision and priorities vary between services. Policy, for instance, may refer to a precise set of instructions, or to setting out particular concerns or broad-brush commitments. Some services, such as benefits provision, are specified in detailed policy which not only sets out what they can do but also how decisions should be made. Others services, such as policing, are subject to a range of policies and concerns often expressed as conflicting demands that have to be balanced and managed in the particular circumstances of their application. And others, mainly human services, are primarily thought of in terms what the professionals within provide, and assumes a logic of service provision to be located in those providing the service. Policy is sometimes more explicit and discretion narrower; it is sometimes looser and relies more on discretion. It may, in some circumstances, be sufficient to refer to policy to understand what services are supposed to do; in other circumstances, policy alone provides a poor picture of what’s expected. Street-level bureaucracy analysis is too broad-brush and cannot capture the range of ideas of compliance in public services. It tends to equate policy with instruction and judgement with organizational thinking, and to see non-compliance as endemic in the use of discretion. In doing this, it fails to appreciate the variety of relationships between policy and public services; the varied extent of discretion in different settings, and the range of concerns and ethical commitments in different public services. Compliance in policy implementation needs to be sensitive to different types of public services and the subsequent variety of commitments and concerns of street-level bureaucrats in those public services.
The importance of the risk portfolio managed by business continuity management professionals challenges us to think beyond the field’s current state of existence to the purposeful establishment of an academic discipline that can underpin a recognized profession of business continuity management. Viewing and extending professional practice within, and beyond, baseline expectations based on a rich body of relevant scholarly literature is necessary to this effort. The relevant scholarly literature is distributed across dozens of disciplines and is often not identified or recognized as being within the parameters of business continuity management’s body of knowledge. The lack of a clearly defined body of knowledge is an impediment to the development of an academic discipline. An academic discipline of business continuity management would provide a platform to examine, support, and enhance practice in addition to supporting professionalization efforts. Recognized professions that base practice on a specialized body of knowledge and expertise are afforded the tenets of authority, autonomy, and monopoly. These tenets enhance the profession’s ability to elevate practice and serve its constituents and organizations. The importance of business continuity management discipline development and professionalization advancement efforts cannot be overstated. These efforts are key to both enhanced organizational resilience and greater societal resilience.
Joel J. Sokolsky
The profession of arms shares with other professions a certain universality, in terms of both time and place. This transnational “corporateness” helps to foster strong military-to-military ties on a bilateral and multilateral basis between and among the armed forces of states. Through senior international professional education and the operations of its global network of unified Combatant Commands (COCOMs), the United States seeks to develop and reinforce a web of relationships with military leaders as an element of its national security strategy. These professional and operational linkages create an international fraternity of the uniform. The fraternity of the uniform, by providing an additional military avenue of communication between the United States and foreign states, one that at times seems to skirt and compete with normal diplomatic and political relations, can be viewed as a challenge to liberal-democratic norms in civil–military relations both at the national and international level. That is to say it can be used by foreign military leaders as a “shirking” tactic employed to reduce the inequality inherent in the civil–military dialogue. The challenge for governments, then, is to leverage the advantages afforded by having their militaries join in the fraternity, while not allowing such membership to undermine proper civil–military relations. In doing so, the international fraternity of the uniform contributes to the operational effectiveness of American-led military multilateralism and the mutual security of its participants.
The historical development of American public administration has evolved through four eras: clerks, civil service, administrative management, and under siege. During its early years government staffing was very sparse. A gradual thickening of the government workforce occurred during the 1800s, which was the era of clerks. Some were one-person agencies consisting of an elected official with administrative duties; others were patronage appointments by the candidate winning the presidency (or governor or mayor) rewarding supporters with jobs. After the Civil War, Union veterans increasingly populated nonpatronage positions. The assassination of President Garfield in 1881 by a disappointed office seeker crystalized public dissatisfaction with patronage, whether in Washington or by corrupt urban political machines. In 1883, the U.S. Congress passed a bill to create a merit-based civil service system. This began a second era of American public administration, that of civil servants. The original law only covered about 10% of all federal employees, but it set the precedent for gradual expansion of an apolitical civil service. Presidents came and went, but expert civil servants were unaffected. The rise of civil service also necessitated having employees to oversee them. These apolitical and expert managers led to the new profession of public administration, a development that required not only qualified practitioners but also credentialed faculty to train them. The 1932 election of Franklin Roosevelt as president triggered a third era, that of administrative management. This was a term used by FDR’s reorganization planning committee partly because it connoted a high-level focus on the president’s managerial needs. The concept encompassed both line and staff roles. Line officials ran bureaus and were accountable to the president. Staff functions, such as budgeting, HR, and planning facilitated effective management. In the post-FDR decades, especially after the 1960s, there was a gradually growing backlash against his kind of public administration. This became the fourth era, of government employees under siege. The election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 epitomized it. Government was not the solution, he liked to say, government was the problem. Politicians now ran for office against government. Increasingly, the bureaucracy at all levels of government was viewed with hostility, an enemy needing to be controlled and reduced. Bureaucrats became the bad guys in America’s ongoing political narrative. After the election of President Donald Trump, a more ominous term came into use: the deep state. Supposedly, the bureaucracy now had a life of its own and could even destroy a president if it wanted to. Presumably, a fifth era of American public administration will eventually succeed this age of hostility toward all things governmental. If American history tells us anything, the outlines and themes of the fifth era will likely be surprising and unexpected. Nonetheless, government in a democracy will always need some form of public administration. No matter its precise outline, future public administration will likely retain the core values that government cannot be run like a business, that government’s purpose is to promote the public interest, and that public administration cannot be perfect. Mistakes will always happen, but these can be learning experiences for improvement rather than excuses for increasingly dysfunctional bureaucratic behavior.