‘A Future of Failure?: The Flow of Technology Talent into Government and Civil Society’ was just published by Freedman Consulting, a progressive policy consultancy run by former staffers of Democrat administrations. This important report was sponsored by the MacArthur and Ford Foundations, organizations that are much in tune with leftwing causes and central planning. It recognizes failures – most notably healthcare.gov - by all levels of government to understand, incorporate, and operate systems that have a high technology component.
The report is timely, given what has happen and what portends for Americans as the federal government continues to stumble and bumble in such efforts to inject themselves more and more into our lives and fortunes. Through extensive interviews with government and “civil society” (i.e. NGOs and non-profits) officials and management, the authors conclude that governments are woefully lacking in STEMM (they add ‘medicine’ for the extra ‘M’) knowledge and expertise. RR readers will not be surprised by any of the factual aspects and even most of the conclusions in the report.
But back to the report. Given the bent of the report’s authors and sponsors, their ginger treatment of established and systemic government ineptitude is understandable. For example they observe that the reason qualified STEMM people leave government in droves and opt for private industry is that for-profit companies “may” provide higher compensation, a more stimulating work environment, and advancement based on merit. No $h!t Red Ryder.
In spite of such softballing, the report is well written and accompanied by informative tables and graphics. Its key findings that explain government IT related failures are summed as –
• The Current Pipeline is Insufficient (not enough people are being educated/trained in IT and STEMM fields while our students continue to “slip” – more here),
• Barriers to Recruitment and Retention Are Acute (no competent practitioner wants to work with C students managed by double dummies),
• A Major Gap between the Public-Interest and For-Profit Sectors Persists (it seems that the private sector fosters “a culture of innovation, openness, and creativity that (is) seen as more appealing to technologists.” Gasp!),
• A Need to Examine Models from Other Fields (Yep, about time they try finding out what work is like where the motto on the wall is something other than ‘CYA all the way!’),
• Significant Opportunity for Connection and Training (they mean connecting and being trained in the thinking and ways of dispensing largesse from government on high),
• Culture Change is Necessary (correct, but well-nigh impossible in environments that worship stasis, eschew risk, and depend on altruistic ‘go along to get along’ behavior).
All that being said and done, this report should be viewed as an intra-progressive communication that seeks to explain a continuing and now growing stream of government failures in a world becoming ever more technology dependent. It doesn’t and can’t come right out and say that things are as they are because such bureaucracies with perverse embedded feedback systems can only be tolerated by people who are either scheming climbers or stupid and/or ignorant. The basic message of this remarkable document reinforces the fundamental progressive precept that a growing gush of proactive public policies, based on central planning by an expanding government, are required to deliver an acceptable quality of life to Americans.