The Coronavirus pandemic “starkly illustrates some of the weaknesses that have existed in our government for decades,” the Partnership for Public Service has said.
“Good government—with skilled public servants and competent leaders—is essential to the health, safety and economic well-being of every person living in the United States,” it said.
“Unfortunately, as a nation, we have for years tolerated, ignored or encouraged a culture that has eroded federal institutions. We have starved federal entities of resources, diminished their importance and criticized failures without investing in the success of the government, its employees and its leaders. We are now paying a steep price in lives and economic loss.”
The Partnership’s newly published annual report notes that many of the issues arising in the pandemic relate to ongoing initiatives of that group—as well as other good-government groups—in areas including leadership development, customer experience, innovation, technology and employee engagement.
For example, it said that by forcing office closings and putting unprecedented numbers of employees into telework status, the pandemic underscored that agencies to “need to find innovative new ways to interact with their customers and provide good customer service . . . while trust in government currently remains near an all-time low, providing better experiences for customers who interact with government can help rebuild that trust.”
Agencies also need to be more innovative, it said, citing as a positive example the VA’s use of its 3D printing capacity to “design face masks, shields and other protective facial gear, much of it approved for clinical use.”
However, while the government “has an urgent need to bring in new talent” with technical or other specialized expertise for pandemic response, it “has been stymied by cumbersome hiring practices,” long a source of frustration to all involved.
It adds, “For many supervisors and leaders across government, the shift to remote work represents a new way of doing business that poses many challenges, including how to keep employees engaged when they are physically isolated . . . Once we are through the immediate crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic, there will likely be a call for Congress to assess federal agencies’ performance.”