There, I said it. I know every likes to pretend she’s a great thinker. And I know she’s likely to be the first woman Secretary of Defense. But I literally have never heard her say anything insightful. She’s just a straight-line proponent of conventional wisdom. She has an op-ed in the Washington Post today bashing “outmoded government.” She writes:
The second wrong move would be making deep cuts in government spending without fundamentally rethinking and transforming how government does business. While the federal government has a dedicated workforce that provides a number of essential functions and services to taxpayers, no one would argue that it is a model of efficiency or effectiveness. Indeed, many federal agencies and their core business practices were designed in the 1950s and 1960s. Even agencies that have gone through periods of reinvention remain years behind the private sector in terms of performance and efficiency.
In the past decade, the most competitive and successful U.S. companies have fundamentally transformed how they do business. They have adopted new strategies to cope with a more complex, dynamic and uncertain environment. Many have gone through a process of “delayering” to streamline and empower their organizations. They have leveraged new information technologies to enhance performance, agility and competitiveness while reducing cost. And they have made strategic investments in human capital and talent management to improve performance and foster the next generation of leaders.
While some federal agencies have made good-faith attempts to become more efficient, most still carry the dead weight of unnecessary overhead, outmoded business processes, infrastructure that is no longer aligned to their mission, and underperforming organizational structures.
So, um, bullshit. Anyone who has worked in government does indeed know that there are a lot of inefficiencies. There is a lot of waste and generalized stupidity. But guess what? There is even more of that in the private sector. The notion that the private sector is more efficient generally is simply not empirically supportable.
Whether the issue is health care or, say, private vs. public prisons, there is just no compelling evidence that the private sector is more generally efficient. You’d think it would be. After all, the profit motive ought to generate more efficiency, but the reality is that while corporate management has a fiduciary responsibility to shareholders or owners in principle, in practice management is just as concerned with maximizing its own rewards.
Business justify all sorts of things on “efficiency” grounds. Business class travel and corporate jets supposedly allow managers to be more rested and work on the go and so on, but really it is about comfort and prestige, not efficiency. Lavish retreats supposedly promotes better communication and teamwork, but really is mostly about getting a paid vacation. Expensive office space and furnishings are supposed to reassure clients and set a tone of quality, but really just make more enjoyable places to work. And, of course, outsized salaries for CEOs and other senior managers are supposed to be about attracting top talent, and yet are often divorced from any objective measure of performance.
The idea that the private sector is efficient and adept at cutting waste, fraud, and abuse is just one of the empty zombie concepts that VSPs mouth mindlessly. But actually demonstrating private sector efficiency turns out to be hard to accomplish, and if you actually look at the excesses of the private sector in terms of spending on luxuries and outsized senior compensation it should be pretty obvious that the claim of efficiency is largely an empty assertion.
Flournoy just came out of government. As Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, her salary as a Level III Executive Schedule was $165,300. I’m pretty willing to be she makes a heck of a lot more as a “senior adviser at Boston Consulting Group.” But BCG is, by definition, more efficient. Did she get smarter? Is she working harder now? She’s apparently generating more value added now, right? I know that is just a little gotcha, but it is the kind of thing that might make a person think a little… if they weren’t so wedded to conventional wisdom that is.
So Michele, actually, I would argue that government “is a model of efficiency or effectiveness,” at least compared with the massive systematic waste and general incompetence demonstrated by many, many entities in the private sector.
Also, too…Michele, maybe this isn’t the smartest time in the world to be mouthing Romney-Ryan-style idiocies about how outmoded the public sector is. Remember, no matter how much you kiss ass, you’re still not gonna be Sec Def in a Republican Administration.