Daring to Defend the Federal Bureaucracy

Charles S. Clark | Government Executive | August 2, 2017

In an age where “unelected bureaucrats” is a common Washington epithet, give credit to a law professor, former college president and experienced federal manager for cutting against the grain. “The need for a robust civil service has never been greater,” writes Paul R. Verkuil in Valuing Bureaucracy: The Case for Professional Government. “To be effective, government must be run by professional managers,” says the former president of William and Mary College who served five years in the Obama administration as chairman of the Administrative Conference of the United States.

“When decisions that should be taken by government officials are delegated to private contractors without adequate oversight, the public interest is jeopardized.” Most of Verkuil’s book—researched with an array of good-government groups and scholars—was prepared before the election. So he had to rush an opening chapter on the Trump phenomenon.

In this new era, he said, “policy expertise, what professionals embody, may be something that Trump appointees do not value.” The evidence, Verkuil told Government Executive, is clear in the completed or looming employee dismissals at agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the General Services Administration, and in the Trump team’s ill-fated effort to demand the names of Energy Department employees and contractors who participated in climate change activities...